This is the final list of all those, with an association to the Shire of Alberton, who enlisted. It covers 86 individuals with surnames T to Z. This takes the overall total to 816. Strictly speaking, there were 813 men and 3 women, all nurses (Alice Cocking, Elsie Engbloom and Ethel Horton).
It is also important to acknowledge 3 additional names:
- John James Lord
- A B Nuttall
- Ernest George Mitchell
These men left the Shire of Alberton to work as munition workers in the United Kingdom. At least two of the three – Lord and Mitchell – had been previously rejected for the AIF on medical grounds.
The overall figure of 816 men is dramatically at odds with the total of 446 names for the Honor Roll of the Shire of Alberton (Post 24. Honor Roll of the Shire of Alberton).
Overall, there appear to be 3 critical reasons for the discrepancy. The first is that the current list includes all those identified on the many honor rolls of local state schools. Obviously, there were cases where former students had, by the time of the War, left the district and enlisted outside the Shire and even, in some cases, in another state. Notwithstanding the fact that such individuals were no longer ‘local’ in the strict sense of the term, they were clearly still sufficiently ‘local’ to be included on the school honor roll, which sought to honour them as past students of the ‘local’ school. It is also relevant in this context that, given the young ages of enlistment for many of the cohort, even if they were no longer living in the Shire of Alberton, their association with the Shire was often very recent.
The second critical consideration is that this current list includes all those who initiated the enlistment in process in Yarram – most commonly with a medical and the signing of the attestation papers in the presence of the Shire Secretary – and who were then recorded as having been given a railway warrant to travel to Melbourne to complete the enlistment process. Often there were men in this group who were itinerant workers and who were not well known in the district. They might have only been there for a short period of time. It is often very difficult to uncover background information on such men. At the same time, they were definitely there in the Shire and must be included for an accurate overall picture.
The third main reason for the discrepancy relates to the accuracy of the original Honor Roll of the Shire of Alberton. There are many cases where this record failed to pick up someone who was ‘local’. For example, men who lived and worked on the boundaries of the Shire – for example, Gormandale – were sometimes omitted, even though the local paper featured a farewell or a welcome home for them. Equally, there were cases where a young English immigrant, who had been working for a local farmer for a year or less, enlisted and went overseas. Some, but definitely not all, slipped from the collective memory of the local community, particularly if they opted to be demobbed in the United Kingdom. It is also important to note that, at the time, across Australia as a whole, attempts to compile the local tally of all who enlisted were often ad hoc and not as rigorous as they needed to be. Also, after the War there was a degree of ‘war weariness’ that compromised such local record keeping.
The extensive data set that sits behind this list of 816 names is very significant. As far as I have been able to pursue the research, the data set represents the complete and comprehensive picture of the AIF involvement of the total male population of one regional area of Victoria in WW1.
This final list features the 5 Willis siblings from Alberton. Two of the brothers were killed – David and Henry – and another brother – Sydney – received a medical discharge (gsw 2/10/17).
So well done Philip, it makes me wonder if this research was harder/bigger than you ever imagined it would be? I have enjoyed reading every blog so much that I think I may have become addicted. Is that it now or have you more you want to say? Thank you.
Thanks for this. Yes, there is still a lot to cover. The challenge of a blog is that you’re always playing catch up. For example, I need to go back and have a look at the work of Rev George Cox and, specifically, the local history he wrote pre, during and after WW1. He essentially gave the locals a sense of their (European) history at that critical period. There’s also still a lot on the immediate period after the War and if I have the time a fair bit on soldier settlement in the district. Plus I’m still trying to sort out how best to present and give people access to the data set sitting behind all this research. So, there’s still a lot to go!