Monthly Archives: July 2017

130. W Browney

William BROWNEY (1071)
5 Divisional Ammunition Column KiA 28/7/1917

Wllliam Browney was born in Ipswich, Queensland. The details of his background are sketchy. In his file there is extensive correspondence about the distribution of his medals. This was because before the AIF was prepared to give them to his foster mother they needed to be sure that there were no surviving male family members who, in terms of the legislation, had a more substantial claim. Correspondence from the foster mother – Susan Adelaide Beadmore – offers a brief account of the boy’s childhood:

I took W Browney 15 [this was subsequently corrected to 25] years ago he was then 7 years old. His mother was dead & I have not heard of any living relations since infact I dont think he had any bros or sisters I was the only one that had anything to do with him & he looked to me as a mother. 3/1/1921

The foster mother resided at Korumburra and William Browney – also known as William Beadmore – attended the local state school there. When he enlisted, he did so at Foster and he gave his address as that of his foster mother at Korumburra. She also recorded on the (National) Roll of Honour that the place with which he was ‘chiefly connected’ was Korumburra.

At the same time, William Browney had a definite connection to the Shire of Alberton. His death – 28/7/17 – was written up in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 17/8/17:

We learn with much regret that Driver W. Browney, of Wonyip, was killed in action in Flanders, France on 31st July [sic]. He was one of the oldest residents in that district, the adopted son of Mrs. Beadmore. When he enlisted 19 months ago [it would have been closer to 30 months earlier] the residents gave him a send-off at Ryton Hall.

The reference to William Browney being one of the ‘oldest residents’ points to the fact that Wonyip was not really opened up for settlement until the turn of the century. William must have gone there for work after he finished his schooling.

Even though he was working and living in the Wonyip district he was not identified as someone from the Shire of Alberton. His name is not recorded on either the Roll of Honor or the Soldiers’ Memorial. It appears that his connection to the Shire of South Gippsland was seen as stronger. As indicated, his foster mother linked him to Korumburra and his name is recorded on the roll of honor for the South Gippsland Shire.

William Browney enlisted as a 27 yo on 7/1/15. He was single and he gave his occupation as labourer. His religion was listed as Church of England. He left Australia as reinforcements for 9 Light Horse Regiment. However, in Egypt in May 1916 he transferred to the artillery and joined 5 Divisional Ammunition Column. He left the Middle East in August 1916.

Not long after he reached France he was hospitalised with influenza for 2 weeks, in September 1916. Then in November 1916 he was hospitalised again, with ‘cattarh’.  It appears that this general condition was subsequently re-diagnosed as another bout of influenza, and also asthma, and he was transferred to hospital in England in December 1916. It appears that there was further illness, again influenza, in February 1917. His general health was clearly problematic. He did not return to the front line in France until the end of June 1917. He was killed in action one month later on 28/7/17.

There is no Red Cross file for Driver Browney but there is some information in the war diary of the 5th Australia Divisional Ammunition Column. At the time, the unit was working in the Poperinghe area, just over the border with Belgium, near Ypres. The main work appeared to be the rebuilding of ammunition dumps which had been destroyed by enemy shell fire. For example, 3 days before the death of Driver Browney, the diary records:

Forward Dump in Cambridge Road destroyed by enemy shell fire. 2 Officers and 100 Other Ranks sent out to re-establish dump, which was completed by dawn on 26.7.17.

Then for 28/7/17 the entry reads:

Another Forward Battery Dump destroyed. The working party despatched to re-establish same reported work complete by dawn 29.7.17

and, for the same day:

1 Other Rank Killed and 1 O.R Wounded by explosion of enemy bomb dropped from aeroplane.

Driver Browney was of the very few members of the AIF killed by enemy aerial bombing.

The body was recovered and Driver Browney was buried in the nearby Vlamertinghe New Military Cemetery, Vlamertinghe, Flanders.

His mother was advised by cable dated 2/8/17, less than a week after he had been killed.

In April 1918 his meagre personal kit – 2 Wallets, Photos, Cards, Blank disc, 2 Religious books – was returned to his foster mother at Korumburra.

Apart from the correspondence in the file to do with the issuing of the medals there is nothing else that throws light on this man’s story. It appears that it was inevitable that his personal history would fade, and certainly the recognition of his presence in the Shire of Alberton did not last, even to the end of the War. Others from Wonyip were remembered and celebrated but William Browney, also known as William Beadmore, was not.

Driver William Browney, also known as William Beadmore, Wonyip. Courtesy of Australian War Memorial


Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

National Archives file for BROWNEY William 1071
Roll of Honour: William Browney
First World War Embarkation Rolls: William Browney



128. Enlistments in the first half of 1917: background characteristics Part 2 – religion, units and service history

This post continues the analysis of

Post 23: Enlistments to the end of 1914: background characteristics Part 2 – religion, units and service history

Post 57:  Enlistments in the first half of 1915: background characteristics Part 2 – religion, units and service history

Post 63: Enlistments in the second half of 1915: background characteristics Part 2 – religion, units and service history

Post 83: Enlistments in the first half of 1916: background characteristics Part 2 – religion, units and service history

Post 103: Enlistments in the second half of 1916: background characteristics Part 2 – religion, units and service history

It continues the ongoing work to describe and interpret the essential character of all those associated with the Shire of Alberton who enlisted in WW1.


The table below gives the religious affiliation of all those enlisting from the Shire over the period August 1914 to the end of June 1917. It also shows the equivalent figures for males in the 1911 Census for the county of Buln Buln.

The numbers are small and variations of 1 or 2 can have a dramatic impact on the percentages.With only 3 of the cohort of 31 recorded as Roman Catholic it is arguable that the level of enlistments from this group was in decline. At the same time, with so few enlistments taking place, the local population would have noted, against an increasing level of anti-Catholic sentiment, that at least some Roman Catholics were still coming forward to enlist.


Most of this cohort of enlistments went to reinforce the infantry. There was a small group of enlistments who never made it out of camp:  2 men were discharged as medically unfit and another deserted. Of the men – and one woman –  who did embark, 55% went to reinforce the infantry battalions. As before, there was a small group of light horse reinforcements and the rest of the enlistments were spread across specialist units, including the Australian Army Nursing Service and the Australian Army Veterinary Hospital.  The largest single group of enlistments (22%) went to 7 Battalion. This figure reflected the efforts of Lt Crowe and other recruiting officers in the district in May 1917 when they organised specific recruiting demonstrations calling for volunteers to join the “Sportsmen’s 1000” or “Sportsmen’s Unit

It is worth recalling that while at the time the success of Lt Crowe was widely publicised and celebrated in the local area, the reality was that for every 3 men he managed to ‘recruit’, only 1 went on to become a successful enlistment. The other 2 failed the medical – either in Yarram itself with Dr Rutter or at the follow-up medical in Melbourne – or their parents would not give consent.

Service History

Again, the size of this cohort is far smaller than the previous ones and the percentages more problematic. This is strikingly obvious with the death rate. Only one of this cohort – Frank Harrison DoW 19/5/18 – died on active service. Yet the figure of 3% could hardly represent the death rate across the entire cohort of enlistments in the AIF in this specific period (the first half of 1917). As we will see, there was still a considerable loss of life to come, in the second half of 1917 and well into 1918.

Where the death rate for each of these successive cohorts of enlistments appears to be falling, the rate of medical discharge appears to have settled round 40%. Conceivably, after such horrific casualty levels in 1916, military commanders had become less reckless with the lives of their men and improved strategies, tactics and training were reducing the overall levels of casualties. Also, presumably, improved medical services and training were reducing the overall death-in-combat levels. However, while this line of argument could explain the declining death rate it hardly accounts for the observation that there does not appear to have been an equivalent decline in the rate of men being discharged as medically unfit.

It is obviously a complex area. However, it is worth re-visiting an observation raised in Post 103. There the point was made that, increasingly, men were accepted in the AIF even though their overall health and fitness were questionable. This, inevitably, led to more men being discharged on health grounds. As already indicated, some were discharged on medical grounds in camp in Australia, before they even left for overseas service. Others were discharged in the UK in training before they were sent to France. Overs saw service in France but their overall poor health was exacerbated by their service at the front and they had to be repatriated to the UK and thence to  Australia where they were discharged as medically unfit. Moreover, the general health of men who had enlisted, earlier in the War, was bound to deteriorate the more they were exposed to battle, even if they managed to escape being wounded. In other words, ‘medical discharge’ did not relate solely to those wounded in battle. So it is conceivable that even if battle field casualties – gunshot and shrapnel wounds, being gassed, trench fever, shell shock – declined, even if only slightly, the overall level of medical discharges stayed high because the general health of all those in the AIF, including especially those who would not previously been accepted, continued to deteriorate.

Some of the men in this group of enlistments illustrate the general argument. E B Skinner, the solicitor from Foster, enlisted in January 1917. He had had hearing problems before he enlisted but he managed to pass the medical. He never left Australia. After a series of ear infections he was eventually discharged as ‘medically unfit’ in October 1917. George Trusler, the 20 year-old motor driver, managed to pass the medical at Yarram with Dr Rutter. However, he had already been rejected – ‘varicocele – a year earlier. He too never left Australia. He had hernia problems in camp but refused to give his permission for an operation and in the end was discharged as medically unfit in April 1918. Frederick Godfrey enlisted as a 39 yo in April 1917. He passed the medical, even though it was noted that he required ‘extensive dental treatment’. He made it to the UK but then, after hospitalisation there,  had to be repatriated to Australia in September 1918 and discharged with ‘chronic bronchitis’. Lastly, the case of Arthur Forder, the married 25 yo from Blackwarry, is rather remarkable. Initially he was rejected because of his teeth. Then in September 1915 he managed to pass the medical and enlisted. He served overseas but then had to repatriated to Australia in May 1916 with ‘pulmonry TB’ and was discharged as medically unfit. Incredibly, he was able to re-enlist in February 1917. Again he went overseas. He embarked on 11/5/16 but was hospitalised with influenza from 17/6/17, at the very end of the voyage. He managed to come through the influenza and must have made it to the front at some point because his record shows him wounded: gsw rt knee. He was returned to Australia (3/3/18) and then discharged for the second time on 25/4/18 as medically unfit.

All the cases point to the complexities associated with men’s health in the AIF. Health issues went beyond wounds received in battle.

It is also worth pointing out again that the measure of men discharged as medically unfit – in this cohort is was 42 % – does not accurately reflect the true level of all those whose health was compromised by their service. In this cohort, irrespective of whether they were or were not discharged as ‘medically unfit’, 15 (54%) of the 28 who went overseas on active service were wounded and 22 (71%) of the full cohort were hospitalised, at least once, in Australia or overseas. The implications of these levels were to be played out after the War.

It is difficult to explain but another distinctive feature of this particular cohort appears to be the number of men who were ‘gassed’. In all 9 (32%) of the 28 who saw active service were reported to have been ‘gassed’. At some point, it will be necessary to consider this figure in relation to those for previous cohorts. Presumably it has something to do with the fact that those who enlisted later in the War had more chance of experiencing battle in the corresponding later stages of the War, when gas became a more common weapon.


As with the previous cohort – the 6 months to the end of 1916 – the most distinctive features of this group are the ever-reducing number and the continuing decline in overall levels of fitness and health


129. E N Lear

Eric Nightingale LEAR (10966)
3 Divisional Train  DoW 24/7/1917

Eric Nightingale Lear’s name appears on the honor roll for Won Wron SS. However, it does not appear on either the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor or the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial. His link to the shire is complex and hard to uncover.

Eric Nightingale Lear was born in Fryerstown in 1891. It appears that his father – D’Arcy Connor Lear – who had been a teacher at Tarraville, shifted to Fryerstown, near Castlemaine, in 1890. The father had been born in the district (Tarraville, 1862) and was a prominent local. He held many civic offices – Secretary, South Gippsland Rifle Club; Treasurer, Tarraville Mechanics’ Institute … – and was even said to have been one of the organisers behind the development of the local football association. He was also the convenor of the local union of state school teachers. He married Florence Mary Nightingale in 1890, the same year he shifted to Fryerstown. Florence Nightingale was also definitely local. Her family was also from Tarraville. Her younger brother, Charles Frederick Nightingale, would in time become one of the local councillors for the Shire of Alberton. When the local paper – Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative – reported (10/8/17) the death of Sergeant Eric Lear, it made the connection between the 2 local families:

Yesterday, Cr. Nightingale received word that his nephew, Sergeant Eric N. Lear, son of Mr. D’Arcy Lear, had died of wounds. … Mr. Lear has lost his oldest son.

As well as the connection to his mother’s family (Nightingale) in the local district, Eric Lear had many cousins in the wider Lear family in the Shire of Alberton.

Notwithstanding the obvious sets of family connections to the Shire of Alberton from his parents’ generation, it is difficult to uncover the precise links to the district that Eric Lear had. As indicated, he attended the state school at Won Wron but, surprisingly, it does not appear that his family was in the district at the time. It appears that the parents and other 5 younger children were in Fryerstown. Possibly, for some reason or other, he was sent to live with his uncle – Charles Frederick Nightingale – and during this period he attended the school at Won Wron. It remains a mystery but the reality is that there was only one E N Lear who enlisted in the AIF and that person was Eric Nightingale Lear who was born at Fryerstown in 1891 and whose name appears – as killed – on the honor roll of Won Wron SS.

Eric Lear enlisted on 17/5/16. Prior to enlistment he was serving with the senior cadets at Carlton and according to his enlistment papers he held a commission in his unit. There are also forms in his file indicating that prior to enlistment he applied and was recommended for a commission in the AIF. This was in February 1916. However, he left Australia (3/6/16) with rank of driver, in the  3rd Divisional Train and was not promoted to the rank of sergeant until June 1917.

When he enlisted in Melbourne, Driver Lear was 24 yo and single. However, he married – Annie Lear – before he embarked for overseas. His wife’s address was South Yarra. His occupation was given as clerk in the Federal Public Service. He gave his religion as Church of England. There are other references in his file which show that he had been a student at Wesley College and that he had been a ‘scholarship’ student. His family also spoke of his sporting – cricket and rowing – prowess.

As indicated, Eric Lear married just before embarking for overseas service. In his file there is a communication written on behalf of his wife which highlights the way that such women had to come to terms with the real possibility that the husband would be killed. The letter was written by Rev J T Lawton, the Presbyterian clergyman at South Yarra, the church where the wife worshipped.

Mrs. Lear, a member of my congregation, desires me to request that you will be good enough to notify me in case of death of her husband

No. 10966 E. N. Lear
1st Co
22 A.S.C
3rd Div. Train

and to prevent any mistake such instruction might be inserted on his attestation sheet.

The letter also pointed out that the husband had probably given his religion as Church of England [he had]. Hence the need to adjust the record to reflect the wife’s wishes. The requested changes were made.

Driver Lear reached England in July 1917 and after further training eventually proceeded overseas to France in February 1917. By this time he held the rank of sergeant. In France, the 3rd Divisional Train was responsible for ensuring the movement of supplies to the front line. At the time the 2 basic modes of transport were the ‘trench tramways’ and ‘pack transport’, with mules. The latter was a more dangerous proposition because the mules were used to carry the essential supplies closer to the front line. There is no Red Cross report for Sgt. Lear but the relevant unit diary – Supplies & Transport, 3rd Australian Divisional Train – indicates that on 15/7/17 Sgt. Lear was detached to serve with pack transport. This was in the general area of Messines. The same diary records his death over the period 23-25 July:

No. 10966, Sgt. Lear, E. N., admitted to No. 2 A.C.C.S., 24-7-17, suffering from G.S.W


No. 10966, Sgt. Lear, E.N., died of wounds at No. 2 A.C.C.S., 24-7-17, and struck off N.C.O’s., supernumerary strength.

Another record describes the wounds as: GSW. R. Axilla, arm, thigh, buttock, knee, calf.

From the same unit diary, it appears that the supplies Sgt. Lear was transporting to the front line at the time he was wounded included 60 duckboards, 4,000 sand bags and 60 small A-frames. The diary also gave a breakdown of casualties – including the mules – for the month of July: 4 mules killed and 4 wounded and 5 men killed and 15 wounded.

The cable advising those back home of the death was dated 31/7/17. Presumably, the information was delivered by Rev. J T Lawton.

Interestingly, the amount of personal kit returned was considerable. It came in 3 lots.

April 1918: 2 Discs, Knife, Cigarette Holder, Pencil, Pipe, Match Box Cover, 6 Coins, Card, Photos, Lanyard, Whistle, Post Office receipts, French Book, Note-Case, Pocket Book, metal Cigarette Case, Wallet, Gospel, Metal Watch.

April 1918: 1 Suit Case, 2 Keys, Tunic, Mirror (damaged), Pipe Rack, Cigarette Case, Badges & Shoulder Titles, Tie Pin, Razor strop, piece Cobblers Wax, Wallet, Shaving Paper Case, Canvas Bag, Letters, Unit Colors, Cards, Photos, 3 Brushes, pr. Spurs, Photo Wallet, London Guide, Suit Pyjamas, Pipe, Burnisher, 2 Kt bag Handles, Note Book refills, Testament, 3 Handkerchiefs, 2 Collars, 2 Neck Ties, Razor Hone, Notebook, Pin, 2 pencils, 2 match Box Covers, book (Novel), Sam Browne Belt.

May 1918: 2 Pipes, Pouch, Razor in Case and Blades, Razor Strop, Knife, Fountain pen, Belt, 1 pair Leather Gloves, Metal Wrist Watch (damaged), and Strap, Electrical Torch, Combination Knife, Fork and Spoon in Case, Comb.

Both the size and specific contents – eg Sam Browne Belt – suggest an officer’s kit rather than a NCO’s. Probably some of the kit reflected his time as a officer in the senior cadets (60th Infantry). It is also possible that those serving in a Divisional Train were better able to manage the logistics of holding and moving greater amounts of personal kit.

Sergeant Lear was buried at Trois Arbres Military Cemetery, Steenwerck, Nord Pas de Calais.

On the (National) Roll of Honour, his wife gave Parkville as the location with which he was ‘chiefly connected’.

A brief death notice appeared in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 10/8/17:

LEAR – Died of wounds at the front on 24th July, Eric Nightingale Lear, eldest son of D’Arcy Lear, North Melbourne. Age 26 years.

As reported in the local paper (7/8/18), his name was read out at the unveiling of the Won Wron school honor roll on 31/7/ 18.


Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

O’Callaghan G (Comp) 2006, Clonmel to Federation: Guide to people in the Port Albert area 1841-1901, Vol 2, The Alberton Project

National Archives file for LEAR Eric Nightingale 10966
Roll of Honour: Eric Nightingale Lear
First World War Embarkation Rolls: Eric Nightingale Lear

126. Enlistments in the first half of 1917

This post presents the table of all those with an association with the Shire of Alberton who enlisted in the first half of 1917. It builds on the work of 5 earlier posts that have analysed enlistments, in six-monthly intervals, from 1914:

Post 21: Enlistments to the end of 1914: identifying the ‘locals’ ,

Post 55: Enlistments in the first half of 1915 ,

Post 61: Enlistments in the second half of 1915 

Post 81. Enlistments in the first half of 1916.

Post 101. Enlistments in the second half of 1916.

The number of those who enlisted in the first half of 1917, with a clear link to the Shire of Alberton, was only 31. Included in the group was Nurse Elsie Engblom. This takes the total number of such enlistments from the start of the War to 724.

The following summary shows enlistments from 1914. It shows how dramatically enlistments fell off in the second half of 1916. It also shows that by early 1917, the actual rate of enlistments was effectively in some kind of ‘free fall’. The most obvious interpretation of the figures is that by early 1917 the pool of available recruits from the Shire of Alberton had been largely depleted. However, as future posts will continue to show, there was always the conviction that there were still some local families who were ‘holding back’.

To the end of 1914: 138 enlistments
First half of 1915: 102
Second half of 1915: 200
First half of 1916: 183
Second half of 1916: 70
First half of 1917: 31

As has already been pointed out, the ‘quality’ of recruits was also down. Post 123 showed that when men came forward at various recruiting demonstrations 2 groups dominated: those who could not meet the medical standard – and most of these had already been rejected at least once – and the ‘minors’ who needed their parents’ permission to enlist. Moreover, many of those who passed the medical with Dr Rutter in Yarram were subsequently rejected in Melbourne.

On the issue of parents’ permission for under-age recruits, it seems that some recruiting officers were very, if not over, zealous. For example, in this particular group Cecil Holman was an 18 yo from Yarram. His parents had previously refused to give their permission for him to enlist. He was one of those Lt Crowe – see Post 123 – recruited for the ‘Sportsmen’s Thousand’ in Yarram in early May 1917. His enlistment date was 5/5/17 but the parents’ permission was dated 26/5/17. Presumably, he and his recruiter put the parents in a position were they had little choice but to agree.

Another example, from this group, of the lengths recruiting officers were prepared to go to secure under-age recruits involved Harold Berreen Elliott. He was a 19 yo working for a coach builder/blacksmith in Yarram. His father’s whereabouts was said to be ‘unknown’ and it appears that the mother was in some kind of institutional care. There was an older sister living in Melbourne at Fitzroy. The papers for this young man’s enlistment state: Lieut. Crowe who enlisted this man originally took this [the Application to Enlist form, dated 5/5/17] personally and had it signed by the lad’s sister whose signature is hereon written.

Once again, it is often hard to see the logic in the way men were, and were not, included on various honour rolls and other commemorations.  For example, Frank Lionel Harrison enlisted as a 19 yo in May 1917. He was another young immigrant from the UK and was working as a farm labourer for H P Rendell at Devon North. He had his medical in Yarram and was issued with a railway warrant by the Shire Secretary for the travel to Melbourne. He died of wounds on 19/5/18. At least one in memoriam was published for him in the local paper  and when his father, back in England, supplied the information for the (National) Roll of Honour, he gave Devon North as the location with which his son was ‘chiefly connected’. His name is included on the Roll of Honor for the Shire of Alberton. It is also included on the honor roll for the local Methodist Circuit. However, his name is not included on the Soldiers’ Memorial in the main street of Yarram.

The Table below shows that in most cases there were several items of evidence to link the individual to the local area. At the same time, in a few cases it was only the individual’s inclusion on the honour roll of a local school that linked him to the district. For example, the only link for the single female – Nurse Elsie Engblom – was her enrolment at 2 local state schools, Yarram and Alberton. However, she would certainly have been well known in the district. There was a brother – Charles William Engblom – who had also attended Yarram SS. He enlisted in September 1914, served at Gallipoli, was wounded and then discharged as medically unfit in early 1916. Even though the family was no longer living in the district, he was certainly regarded as a local and according to the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative (24/6/16) he attended at Yarram and handed out the Shire Medallion to a group of volunteers who were leaving for overseas service. The father had been a tailor in the town.

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

The Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor

The list of railway warrants issued by the Shire Secretary

The Shire of Alberton Medallion

The Shire of Alberton (Yarram) War Memorial (Alberton Shire Soldiers’ 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)

127. Enlistments in the first half of 1917: background characteristics Part 1 – movement, occupation, age and marital status

This post continues the analysis, in six-monthly intervals, of several key characteristics of all those with a link to the Shire of Alberton who enlisted in WW1. The relevant previous posts in the sequence are:

Post 22: Enlistments to the end of 1914: background characteristics Part 1 – movement, occupation, age and marital status

Post 56: Enlistments in the first half of 1915: background characteristics Part 1 – movement, occupation, age and marital status

Post 62Enlistments in the second half of 1915: background characteristics Part 1 – movement, occupation, age and marital status.

Post 82: Enlistments in the first half of 1916: background characteristics Part 1 – movement, occupation, age and marital status

Post 102: Enlistments in the second half of 1916: background characteristics Part 1 – movement, occupation, age and marital status

The specific characteristics covered in the attached table are: the place of birth, the place of enlistment, the address of the next-of-kin at the time of enlistment, the address of the individual volunteer at the time of enlistment, the occupation at the time of enlistment, and age and marital status at the time of enlistment. For a more detailed account of the methodology and sources refer to the earlier posts.


Once again, the cohort is characterised by a very high level of mobility.

The table below shows that only 5 of the cohort of 31 (16%) had been born in the Shire of Alberton. The majority of the group had been born outside the Shire but moved to it at some point before they enlisted. Most had been born in other Victorian regional towns or centres. Three had been born interstate.

Six of the group had been born in the UK. This is more than the total of those born in the Shire itself. In the main, this group was in their late teens or early twenties and individuals would have only been in the Shire for between 3 to 5 years. The UK immigrant worker has been a striking feature of enlistments from the Shire from the very outbreak of the War. Their youth, status as single men and their British background would have made them prime targets for recruiting officers. Commonly, they enlisted at the recruiting demonstrations held in Yarram in early 1917. It would have been difficult for them to reject the appeals to their patriotism, bravery and youthfulness.

Obviously, with such a high level of mobility as a feature of the working class of the time, people also moved from the Shire. In this particular cohort, 10 (32%) are recorded on the honor rolls for local schools. Yet half of this number (5) had shifted out of the Shire before they enlisted. Either they had left with their family or they had left individually, presumably looking for work. We only know about them because the local schools went to such an effort to record the enlistments of all their previous students.


The number of men linked to the ‘family farm’ in this cohort is only 2: Hitchcock and Jeffs, both at Carrajung. There are another 5 men who described themselves as ‘farmer’ but this was in districts outside the Shire and there is no simple way of establishing if in fact they held land in their own right or they were working as farm labourers, either on a family farm or for some other land owner. Judging solely by their ages, at least half of them were most likely working on the family farm.

The relatively low number of those ‘tied to the land’ in this cohort highlights the extent to which this particular cohort was made up of  workers – farm labourers, railway employees, blacksmith (workers), postal assistant  … – who typically followed itinerant employment. Even more high status clerical positions – for example, bank clerk – could see young men transferred from one regional centre to another.

One volunteer whose employment certainly stands out in this cohort was Evelyn Skinner, the solicitor from Foster. His link to the Shire of Alberton came through his wife, Irene Skinner, nee Devonshire. She was the daughter of Frederick Augustus Devonshire, a very substantial grazier and merchant from Yarram. When her husband went into the AIF, it appears that she returned to her parents at Yarram and hence the address of the next-of-kin appears as Yarram. At the same time, Evelyn Skinner himself must have been known locally because his enlistment and visits to Yarram, presumably to see his wife, were written up in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative. Moreover, his name appears on the honor roll for the Yarram Club. Skinner was 35 yo and he had hearing problems even before he enlisted. He was discharged as medically unfit because of his hearing in early October 1917. He was another example of someone who in the earlier stages of the War would not have been accepted as a recruit.


The table below shows the ages for this cohort.

Ages of volunteers – first half of 1917
ages                      %
18-20        14       45
21-25          8       26
26-30          2         6
31-35          3       10
36+              4       13
total         31       100

The following table shows variations in the age profile from 1914 to the end of June 1917.

Admittedly, the cohort is much smaller than previous ones, but the distribution of ages does appear striking, with its concentration on the 2 extremes, in terms of enlistment, of the very young and the very old. Nearly half the group were ‘minors’ and there was a concentration of men over 30 yo. Moreover, of the 7 men over 30 yo, 5 were married. Arguably, this particular profile reflected the efforts of the likes of Lt Crowe and other recruiters. Those most likely to attend recruiting demonstrations held in the local area would have been the very young and those older, married men, who, previously, would not have been expected to enlist.

Marital Status

Seven of the men (22%) were married when they enlisted. This is a much higher percentage than for previous cohorts.


It is clear that enlistments had fallen off dramatically by the first half of 1917. Obviously, given that 700+ men had already enlisted, the pool of potential recruits was considerably diminished.  But those charged with recruiting at both the local and state level were convinced that there were still ‘eligible’ men to be recruited. However, their efforts seemed only able to draw in the very young and older – and now increasingly married – men; and in many cases the overall health of this latter group was problematic.

In some ways the experience of Leonard Moser sums up the story of recruiting at that time. He was a 33 yo engine driver. His wife was living at Bacchus Marsh. He was one of those who stepped forward at a recruiting function in Yarram in May 1917. He was passed as medically fit by Dr Rutter and was given his railway warrant and despatched to Melbourne where he passed his second medical. The problem was that he had already enlisted – at Wangaratta in March 1916 – and been discharged as medically unfit, in May 1916. He did not reveal this critical information on his second enlistment. He was again discharged as medically unfit on 3/8/17. For all the effort, the AIF was increasingly recruiting the wrong men.


Embarkation Roll

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative