Monthly Archives: March 2016

61. Enlistments in the second half of 1915

This post presents the table of all those with an association with the Shire of Alberton who enlisted in the second half of 1915. It builds on the work of 2 earlier posts, Post 21: Enlistments to the end of 1914: identifying the ‘locals’ and Post 55: Enlistments in the first half of 1915.

One of the overall intentions of the blog is to build the complete profile of all those associated with the Shire of Alberton who enlisted over WW1. This work is being done in intervals of 6 months. To the end of 1915, the total number of enlisted men with a link to the Shire of Alberton is 436.

As pointed out in the earlier posts, the actual ‘link’ to the Shire of Alberton could take several forms. There were some who had been born, grew up and went to school in the district and who were still living and working in it at the point they enlisted. Doubtless, this description fits with common perceptions of what being ‘local’ involved. However the complete picture was far more complicated.

For a start, there were very many itinerant farm workers – a sub-set of this group involved underage, English immigrant workers – who were living and working in the Shire of Alberton at the time they enlisted.  Most of this group never returned to the district to receive a farewell and, allowing for some significant exceptions, most never returned to the district after their service in the AIF. Effectively, they only ever had a short-term, work relationship with the Shire, and they quickly disappeared from its history. However, it is precisely the transient existence of this group of itinerant workers that makes their story so critically important from the perspective of social history.

Another important group included in the research covers those men the community chose to acknowledge as ‘their own’, even though they were no longer living in the district. There were many variations involved, but the most common group was made up of those who had been to local (state) schools. 100 years ago, without the aid of Trove or the Internet, these small local communities and townships went to considerable effort to work through school registers and identify all past students who enlisted in the AIF. They also sought to identify specifically those who made the ‘supreme sacrifice’. The names were recorded on honor rolls displayed in the schools and the unveiling of the honor roll was a very solemn and defining moment in the community’s history. All these past scholars were claimed as ‘local’. In many cases it had only been a short period of time after finishing school before the eighteen or nineteen year-old enlisted, but in other cases a good number of years had passed and the ‘school boy’ was by then living well outside the Shire of Alberton, in another regional centre, in Melbourne or even interstate. Importantly, in this situation the passage of time was not the defining issue. The community was identifying and honouring all its past (school) ‘boys’. It was claiming them as part of its history.

It is also important to acknowledge that no amount of classification and grouping can ever cope with the many ‘hidden’ associations between place and person that such historical research uncovers.  WW1 did not respect any conventional notion of ‘local identity’. Two examples from the table below will illustrate. The first involves Thomas Calvert Lawson. On the face of it, there is nothing to link him to Yarram and district. His name is not included on any local honor roll. He is not on the Electoral Roll and nothing in his enlistment papers ties him to any local address. He enlisted in Melbourne and his mother was living at Moonee Ponds. But Thomas Calvert Lawson was the son of John William Lawson, on the Electoral Roll as builder, Yarram.  He was in fact the brother of Wilfred Lawson, the footballer who was badly injured – he subsequently died from the injury –  at the violent football match played at Port Albert in May 1914.  See Post 1: Death of a Footballer. Similarly, there is nothing apparent to tie Harold McCheyne Raymond to the local district. He had been born in Brighton, (Melbourne), went to private colleges in Melbourne and Geelong, worked as a bank clerk and enlisted in Brisbane. But he was also the son of Rev. Arthur Raymond who was appointed as Church of England minister to Yarram in early 1917. The son was killed in action in April 1917 and the news of his death was conveyed to Rev Raymond and his wife by Rev. Tamagno, the Methodist minister in Yarram.

The table below needs to be seen as incomplete.  There could also be inaccuracies. In some cases, many of the names being researched are too common (Wilson, Smith, Johnson etc) and, for example, if all you have is a railway warrant in the name of H Campbell,  it is virtually impossible to track the individual. There are about 10 cases for the second half of 1915 like this. At the same time, as the research progresses it is always possible that some additional piece of evidence will identify someone who, as yet, remains only a ‘possibility’.

On the important issue of process, when additional men are identified I add them at the end of the relevant table. As the numbers are not great, I am not making any changes to the  analysis that goes with each table. At some point in the blog’s development, I will combine the six-monthly tables of enlistments into a single, comprehensive database. To this point, the complete database looks like it will cover some 800 + men. This large number of men, associated with just one local government area in Gippsland, Victoria should provide a solid basis for the critical analysis of WW1’s impact on a rural community, acknowledging that the rural community itself featured a large and very significant component of itinerant labour. One of the themes of the blog’s ongoing historical research is the inherent contradiction and tension that underpin any notion of ‘local history’. More specifically, this particular variation covers the ‘local history of commemoration’.

As before, the following records are the ones used in the table to establish the connection to the Shire:

The Shire of Alberton Honor Roll

The list of railway warrants issued by the Shire Secretary

The Shire of Alberton Medallion

The Shire of Alberton War Memorial

The honor rolls of state schools in the Shire of Alberton

Community honor rolls in the Shire of Alberton

Newspaper accounts (Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative)

As noted in Post 55 , after the Gallipoli campaign  there was a surge in volunteers. This higher rate of enlistment is clearly reflected in the table: the second half of 1915 saw a doubling in the number of enlistments over the first 6 months of 1915. Recruiting in the second half of 1915 will be covered in an upcoming post.