14. Those who failed the medical: Yarram, Sept. 1914

The last 3 posts have covered recruiting in the Shire up to 21 September 1914. There was a large group of men who enlisted in Yarram on 16 September, and then left for Melbourne on 21 September, and there was a smaller number of men who enlisted outside the Shire, most commonly in Melbourne, by the same date (21/9/14). To conclude this section on the initial recruiting phase, this post looks at the 7 men who failed the AIF medical examination in Yarram at this time.

Reports from the local paper (18/9/14 & 23/9/14) which were covered in an earlier post made it clear that on 16 September when the men were medically examined, 5 were not passed as fit: 45 men presented themselves for examination by the local doctors at the shire hall last Wednesday, of whom 40 passed as physically fit. Fortunately, the names of the 5 men who failed appeared in the archives of the Shire of Alberton. It appears that the doctors on the day collected all the enlistment forms for the men they did not pass as medically fit and bundled them together. Further, they kept not just the forms for the first 5 men they failed but all such forms up to May 1915. This collection of forms indicates that 2 more men failed the medical on 21 September. Presumably they were late recruits who had hoped to leave for Melbourne with the large group. The names of the 7 men, and other information taken from their enlistment forms, are included in the table below. The last 2 men are the ones examined on 21 September. Future posts will look at the men who failed the medical from 21 September through to the end of 1914 and into the first half of 1915.

Unfortunately, the doctors (Drs Pern and Rutter) did not record the reason(s) why the men failed the test. The doctors merely changed the word ‘fit’ to ‘unfit’ on the section of the enlistment form that required them to state they found the applicant ‘fit for active service’. The only specific medical condition referred to in relation to this group was ‘bad teeth’, for James Lindsay.

The two local doctors were paid 2/6 per medical examination and they donated this amount to the local Red Cross. They obviously saw the work as part of their support for the War. However there was trouble coming, and future posts will show that the medical assessments of recruits by country doctors became a highly contentious issue, so much so that in April 1915 both Drs Pern and Rutter threatened to withdraw their service over what they saw as attacks by the AIF hierarchy on their professional credibility. For its part, the AIF was convinced that country doctors were too accommodating in their assessments of the mens’ medical suitability and, overtime, the process was tightened up: medical examinations by rural doctors were followed up with another medical in Melbourne; and the formal enlistment process was not finalised until the applicant had passed the second medical.

What is obvious from the table is the effort men made to enlist. They were not prepared to accept the result of the initial medical assessment. Only 2 of the 7 men did not try to enlist again, and one of the two was 44 years old and definitely at the extreme end of the age profile for recruits (the range was 18-45). Two tried again but were rejected for a second time. One of the two – Llewellyn Sutton Jones – featured in an earlier post: The Defence of the Nation: Junior and Senior Cadets. He was the character, John Bull who appeared in the patriotic concert held at Yarram at the end of September. He appeared in a Imperial tableau with Miss M Bodman as Britannia, and he sang Rule Britannia. At that point he would have already have failed his medical. He tried again (9/11/15) but was unsuccessful. The medical problem appeared to be ‘cardiac trouble’. Of the 3 who were successful in their second attempt at re-enlistment, one – James Carmichael Lindsay – managed to re-enlist at Yarram as early as late November 1914. The second to re-enlist was Frederick Arthur Newberry who enlisted in Melbourne on 17/7/15. The third was Leonard Ambrose Kenney who re-enlisted on 27/9/15 also in Melbourne.

A future set of posts will look in detail at the background and service history of the complete group men who enlisted up to the end of 1914. It will cover those who enlisted in the Shire and those who enlisted outside it, most commonly in Melbourne. However, the following brief analysis looks at just the 3 men who failed their medical in Yarram in September 1914 but then managed to re-enlist. Because each of them generated more than the usual number of enlistment forms it is possible to go a little deeper into their backgrounds, particularly in relation to the all-important issue of their work history.

James Carmichael Lindsay featured on the electoral roll as a farmer of Port Albert. His father was dead and his mother was Mary Elizabeth Lindsay. The mother also appeared on the electoral roll, as ‘home duties’ of Port Albert. Both mother and son also appeared in the Shire rate book: he with 61 acres and she with 73 acres of Crown land at Alberton East. The rates were very low ( £1/10/- combined) so whatever they were doing – his occupation was variously described as grazier and farmer – would have been modest in scale. There is no evidence of any older siblings but there was at least one younger sibling – Ronald Miles Lindsay – who enlisted at 18 on 8/2/16. The younger brother’s occupation was given as ‘grocer’s assistant’ which suggests that his wages were being used to supplement family income and again suggests that the family farming was only a modest venture. When James Lindsay returned from the war he took up soldier settlement land in the district (200+ acres), including a few acres with a house from his mother. It appears though that the younger brother, who also survived the War, pursued work in Melbourne when he returned. While the 2 brothers survived the War, both were wounded – James three times – and both were discharged as ‘medically unfit’. Both appear on the Alberton Shire Honor Roll.

Frederick Arthur Newberry had been born at Yarram and attended North Devon SS. He was obviously was living and working in the district when he tried, unsuccessfully, to enlist in September 1914. However by the time he re-enlisted in July 1915 he was living in Daylesford. He noted on his second lot of enlistment forms that he had undertaken a painting apprenticeship at Yarram, but his occupation at this time of re-enlistment was given as grocer. Neither he nor his mother – Mary Ann Newberry – appear on the electoral roll. However there is a Robert Edward Harding Newberry who does appear as a painter of Yarram. Presumably this person was related in some way and, again presumably, provided the painting apprenticeship to Frederick. Frederick married overseas after the War – Sarah Ann Carrington, in Birmingham (10/4/19) – and was eventually repatriated to Australia and discharged as ‘medically unfit’ on 4/1/20. It appears he was living in Melbourne after the War. Interestingly, even though he was born and grew up in the district, worked in the district and even tried to enlist in the district, he is not included on the Alberton Shire Honor Roll. He is however on the honor roll for the Methodist Circuit and also the one for Devon North SS.

Leonard Ambrose Kenney (Kenny) was also born at Yarram and attended the state school there. His attempt to enlist was a real struggle. He was rejected on 16/9/14 at Yarram. Then he tried again in Melbourne on 27/9/15 and was successful. At this point he gave his occupation as jockey and his address as Bruthen. However he did not last long. He was discharged as ‘medically unfit’ on 23/10/15, less than one month later. Then 4 months later, now nearly 19 yo, he tried again and was again successful. This time he enlisted at Sale, on 22/2/16, and his address was now Traralgon. On both occasions when he re-enlisted, he did note that he had been rejected, both times, for ‘under specification’. As he gave his occupation as jockey it might appear that he had failed the height requirement but, according to him, the specification not met was ‘chest measure’. Paradoxically, despite his apparently desperate determination to join the AIF, his behaviour, once enlisted, was decidedly oppositional and non-compliant. Within 2 months of enlisting for the second time he was being charged with AWL offences and also ‘insubordination’ for the likes of talking and smoking on parade. He was obviously not suited to military life. Or perhaps, as desperate as he was to join, he wanted to serve on his own conditions. He was, after all, just 19 years old, a volunteer and someone who had made a real effort to enlist. In any case, in less than 3 months of enlisting he disappeared and was charged with desertion, from 17/5/17. There is nothing in the AIF files to indicate what happened after that. He is also not on the Alberton Shire Honor Roll, but he is on the equivalent roll for Yarram State School.

Admittedly, there are only 3 cases here but, yet again, it is clear that a person’s identity in the local area was shaped significantly by the nature – and transience – of their work. It is also apparent that at this point of the War men appeared very keen to join the AIF.

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative
‘Recruits For The War. Forty-Five Examined At The Shire Hall. Forty Pass. First Squad Leaves On Monday’ 18 September 1914, p.2
‘Recruits for the War. Farwelled At The Alberton Railway Station’ 23 September 1914, p.2

The original correspondence and forms are from the Archives of the Shire of Alberton, examined in Yarram in May 2013:
Shire of Alberton
Archive One
File Number 703B
Recruiting & Enlisted Men (Box 398)
Bundle of papers headed: Defence Department. Enlisting Recruits 1914-15-16.
Tied bundle of attestation forms.

 

 

 

 

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