Category Archives: Overall Lists

201. Railway warrants 1914-1918

The official designation of the list below, which I have referred to as the list of railway warrants, was:

Australian Imperial Force
List of Recruits who enlisted with the President of the Shire of Alberton
1914. 1915. 1916, 1917, 1918

The list was hand-written by the Shire Secretary (George C Black) who was delegated to issue the railway warrants for the men to travel to Melbourne to complete the enlistment process.

The list was obviously completed over the full course of the War. The last warrant or ‘pass’ (474) was dated 11/11/18. The list also includes additional notes: ‘killed’, ‘killed in action’, ‘re-enlisted’, ‘prisoner’ etc.

The original list is held by Yarram & District Historical Society.

In compiling the list, Secretary Black allocated numbers 1 – 474. Another 21 men whose names appear on the list, normally with the note ‘re-enlisted’ were not assigned a number. This gives an overall figure of 495 names on the list.  Again, many on the list (approx. 60 ) failed the medical in Melbourne. Also, many men enlisted in other regional centres or directly in Melbourne and therefore did not apply for railway warrant, or at least  a railway warrant from the Shire of Alberton.

For all the qualifications, the list is yet another example of a record where the names of those men who ‘answered the call’ – or at least tried to do so – were entered in a routine manner over the course of the War.

On the face of it, the list would have been a very valuable resource when it came to determining a complete reckoning at the end of the War of all those served in the AIF. As noted, in itself it was not a complete record but, obviously, it could have proved a very useful resource for any master list. However, it appears that it was not used. Such an omission seems odd because the person with responsibility for drawing up the WW1 honor roll for the Shire was the Secretary (G C Black) who also drew up this particular list of warrants issued. Whatever the explanation, the list below includes the names of 79 men who were issued with a railway warrant in Yarram, who then completed the enlistment process in Melbourne and went on to serve in the AIF, who are not included on the Roll of Honor for the Shire of Alberton. The characteristics of this group of omissions will be examined in more detail later but, essentially, the group takes in unskilled workers, young immigrant workers from the UK and itinerant workers. This group of 79 omissions again raises the issue of who was considered ‘local’.

 

Page 1 (numbers 1 – 26)

Page 2 (numbers 27 – 58)

Page 3 (numbers 59 – 89)

Page 4 (numbers 90 – 120)

Page 5 (numbers 121 – 152)

Page 6 (numbers 153 – 185)

Page 7 (numbers 186 – 217)

Page 8 (numbers 218 – 246)

Page 9 (numbers 247 – 276)

Page 10 (numbers 277 – 309)

Page 11 (numbers 310 – 240)

Page 12 (numbers 341 – 369)

Page 13 (numbers 370 – 401)

Page 14 (numbers 402 – 432)

Page 15 (numbers 433 – 461)

Page 16 (numbers ? – 474)

 

 

200. ‘Recruits Rejected by Local Doctors’

The list reproduced below was located in the archives of the (former) Shire of Alberton. The list is headed, ‘Recruits Rejected by Local Doctors’. There was no additional information to explain its genesis. However, the second page of the hand-written document suggests that it might have been prepared for the ‘Recruitment Unit’. We know that from 1916 recruiting parties involving AIF personnel converged on Yarram to run various recruiting drives. These outside initiatives were in addition to the efforts of the local Recruiting Committee.

As has been noted previously, there are indeed many names on this list who did succeed in enlisting, after one or more additional attempts, either in Yarram or in Melbourne. Moreover, the list only covers medical rejections in Yarram. Men were rejected in Melbourne and other regional towns where they tried to enlist. It is important to highlight such qualifications and note that it is not a comprehensive list of all those who had an association with the Shire of Alberton who were rejected on medical grounds.

There is also reason for believing that the list itself is not complete. In the archives there is a bundle of enlistment forms [File 703B] which includes men – approximately 8 – who failed the medical with the local doctors (Drs Horace Pern and John H Rutter) but whose names are not on the list.

Unfortunately, there is no date recorded to indicate when the list was compiled. However, it does appear to cover medical rejections to at least the start of 1918.  Consider number 126 (of 136) on the list, Gilbert Jones. Next to his entry is a note, ‘deferred by Dr Pern for 6 mns. 7/1/18’. At the time – January 1918 – Gilbert Jones was an 18 yo ‘labourer’ living and working at Jack River. Just over 6 months later he did in fact enlist (30/8/18) but it was in Hobart. It appears that he returned there to live with an aunt. When he enlisted he acknowledged that he had been rejected: ‘chest measurement’.  So it appears that the list does cover rejections through to at least January 1918.

A further qualification is that there are only 10 names after Gilbert Jones and yet we know from newspaper accounts that there were more than 10 men rejected at various recruiting functions in Yarram after January 1918. Moreover, the names of the men who were rejected on medical grounds at these various recruiting functions tend not to appear on this list. Presumably it was a peremptory medical, with the rejection just as speedy. It is also possible that the medicals at these special recruiting functions were conducted by medical staff attached to the visiting recruiting unit and the local doctors were not even involved.

Putting all these facts together it seems reasonable to suggest that the list below does cover the full course of the War. However, it does not cover every case of rejection for men who were examined by the local doctors in Yarram. It appears that at the various formal recruiting functions held in Yarram in 1918 – and earlier in 1917 and even 1916 –  a number of volunteers would answer the call and step forward, and then be failed – virtually on the spot – but their names were not added to this list.

All the preceding discussion points to the significant qualifications that attach to historical evidence. At the same time, it is worth noting the historical significance of the list.

Its existence shows how completely the experience of the War affected all aspects of life in the local community. In this case, the local doctors were acting as de facto recruiting agents. They were performing key roles in ensuring the supply of suitable recruits. They were hardly neutral and their ongoing work demonstrated their support of the local recruiting committee, and their own patriotism. Their local standing as key professionals in the community reinforced the general level of support for the War. Moreover, they had first hand knowledge of those who had tried to enlist but failed. They even compiled – or assisted in the compilation of – lists of these men. Such lists could be used to assist recruiters to focus more precisely on the ‘eligibles’. It is yet another example of the extent to which communities in WW1 were preoccupied with drawing up lists: of those who volunteered and served; of those who tried to enlist but were rejected; of those who applied for exemption; of those who needed to be targeted by the recruiting agents. Every male in the local community was on one of the lists. Everyone was judged by their level of support for the War.

 

Archives, Shire of Alberton

File: Correspondence etc of Recruiting Committee Formed April 26th 1917.
Box 379

File 703B:  Recruiting & Enlisted men
Box 398

Accessed on 8/5/2013

 

199. The rejected

This post is an attempt to give an indication of the number of men who were ‘rejected’ in their attempt(s) to enlist in the AIF. The focus is on the Shire of Alberton. The 181 men are listed in the table below.

The overall focus of the research for this blog has been on the identification of all those men who had an association with the Shire of Alberton who did enlist in WW1. As already indicated the total number comes to 815. With this group of 815 there has been a comprehensive effort to identify all relevant characteristics, both of their background and their service in the AIF.

In the research there have been many cases where an individual was at first rejected on medical grounds but was then successful at a subsequent attempt. These men are included in the cohort of 815 because, ultimately, they did enlist and serve in the AIF. At the same time, there were men who, irrespective of the number of attempts they made – and in many instances there were multiple attempts – were never accepted for the AIF. This particular post focuses on such men and represents an attempt to give some indication of the number involved.

However, there are some significant problems associated with trying to research this particular group of ‘rejected’ men. The basic problem of course is that 100 years ago all efforts were devoted to identifying and commemorating those who enlisted and served, rather than those who were rejected. Moreover, while there are some records which I have been able to uncover and use they tend to be both indirect and incomplete. The records employed come from the process of enlisting men at the local level, and it is important to understand this process.

The process of enlistment for volunteers in country and regional areas has been covered in earlier posts. Briefly, in the early months of the War the process could effectively be completed at the local level. In the case of the Shire of Alberton, the locus of ‘local’ was restricted precisely to the town of Yarram. The local doctor(s) in Yarram examined the volunteers and passed them as medically fit. The individual volunteer took the oath and signed the attestation papers in Yarram. The Shire Secretary then issued a railway warrant for travel from Alberton to Melbourne so that the person could report to the AIF.

However, very early on, the AIF authorities came to doubt the ‘integrity’ of the medical examination at the local level and formed the opinion that local doctors, overly influenced by patriotic sentiment, were not as diligent as they needed to be. The AIF concern, not surprisingly, was that men with compromised health or below the set standards of the time, no matter how keen and patriotic, would inevitably end up being an unnecessary drain on resources and potentially undermine the War effort. This was particularly the case in the early months when there was no shortage of volunteers and the AIF could be selective. As already noted, when the local doctors in the Shire of Alberton found out that their medical judgement was being questioned by the AIF – along with all other country doctors – there was much outrage and even a refusal, for a time, to conduct the relevant medical examination. However, by 1915 the process effectively involved 2 medicals: the initial local one was followed by one in Melbourne itself; and the enlistment only proceeded if the second medical was satisfactory.

One of the pieces of evidence used to compile the table below is the list of railway warrants issued by the Shire Secretary. The list of railway warrants is a hand-written record entitled Australian Imperial Force. List of Recruits who enlisted with the President of the Shire of Alberton. 1914.1915.1916.1917.1918. It was created and completed by the Shire Secretary (G W Black) and it recorded the name of the recruit and the ‘date of pass’ (railway warrant). Additionally, the Shire Secretary recorded occasional comments against individual recruits such as ‘killed’ or ‘killed in action’ , ‘wounded’, ‘prisoner of war’, ‘died of illness’ , ‘rejected in Melbourne, and ‘re-enlisted’. An example of a railway warrant is included at the end of this post. A copy of the original list of railway warrants will shortly be included as a resource on the blog, under Resources.

It is essential to note that not every volunteer associated with the Shire requested a railway warrant or enlisted locally – that is, via Yarram. Many simply made their own way to Melbourne. Others enlisted via other regional centres. The discrepancy between the number of railway warrants (474) and the total number of enlistments that I have identified as having an association with the Shire of Alberton (815) points to the large number who enlisted ‘outside’ the Shire, or, more correctly, enlisted at a location other than Yarram.

The list of railway warrants issued by the Shire Secretary highlights the significance of the second medical in Melbourne. On the table below there are 64 men who did receive such railway warrants – and who therefore had passed an initial medical at Yarram and formally commenced the enlistment process – who do not have a service record and who therefore must have failed the second medical in Melbourne. Effectively, this suggests that roughly 13% of recruits who were assessed as medically fit by the local doctors were rejected, principally on medical grounds, in Melbourne. It suggests that AIF concerns about local doctors had some validity.

But this rejection figure of 13% needs to be seen in the context of the other key record that has been used to compile the table below. This second key piece of evidence is another hand-written list entitled Recruits Rejected by Local Doctors. Again, it appears to have been prepared by the Shire Secretary. It also will appear shortly on the blog under the category of Resources. It is not clear why the list was prepared or when but it appears to relate to the earlier years of the War. The list simply records the names of the 136 men who failed the medical administered by the local doctors. In about a dozen cases there is a very brief, added comment, most commonly: ‘afterwards enlisted’, ‘afterwards accepted’ and ’afterwards passed in Melbourne’. My additional research suggests that of the 136 men on the list, a significant number – 44 – did subsequently enlist. The fact that we do not know the specific period covered by this list means that we cannot give a definitive number for those who failed their initial medical in the Shire – at Yarram – over the course of the War. However, it does seem fair to argue that contrary to what the AIF authorities in Melbourne might have believed, the local doctors – at least in Yarram – did fail significant numbers of recruits on the basis of the prescribed health standards. Moreover, the situation did not change as the War progressed. Indeed, earlier posts have noted that throughout 1917 and 1918, when special, high-profile recruiting drives were held in the Shire, there was invariably a newspaper report that highlighted both the small number of volunteers who came forward and also the very high number who were rejected because they failed the medical. Even as the medical standards came down, the failure rate remained high. Overall, while Melbourne standards might have been higher, local doctors certainly did reject recruits on medical grounds.

Overall, we have evidence that for the enlistment process centred on Yarram a significant number of volunteers did not meet the medical standards, either initially in Yarram or subsequently in Melbourne. In fact, the table below, based principally on the 2 pieces of evidence described, suggests that the total figure for cases where the enrolment did not proceed is close to 200 men. But, as noted, this figure really only covers the Yarram process and many men enlisted – or tried to enlist – either directly in Melbourne or in some other regional centre (Traralgon, Sale, Toora, Warragul …. ) so, doubtless, there were others rejected on medical grounds elsewhere and the figure of 200 would have to be seen as a minimum number.

The table makes it clear that the majority of rejections involved medical concerns. At the same time, there were cases where age – too young or too old – was a related issue. With those under 21 yo there was also the issue of parental permission. With those in their forties there could be an issue with dependent children. There was also a handful of cases towards the end of 1918 where the enlistment was, effectively, no longer required. In this group there is even the case of James Wenworth Davis – the last entry on the list of railway warrants – whose pass was dated 11/11/18. Lastly, there were ‘one-off’ rejections. For example, Frederick O Gerstenberger – dated 19/7/15 – who was ‘rejected in Melbourne as father is German’.

There are 5 cases on the table below where there is a major discrepancy, in the sense that the name of the rejected person also appears on a memorial of some kind commemorating those who served. E B Couston appears on the honour roll of the Presbyterian Charge, but there is no equivalent record of military service. Similarly, S Wheildon – Won Wron – and David Ross – Blackwarry – appear on local honour rolls but there does not appear to be any evidence that either enlisted. Even more striking, there are 2 names on the table that also appear on the Honor Roll of the Shire of Alberton : Fred Toyne and S C H Emmerson. There does not appear to be any evidence that these men enlisted; although there is the outside chance that there was an enlistment under an alias.

One issue worth touching on was what it meant to be rejected. Any number of previous posts have shown that in the local community there was a strong expectation that men would enlist. Men therefore who wanted to enlist but who were rejected faced a double bind. There was the frustration that they could not enlist and ‘do their part’ and serve with their ‘mates’. They were not ‘good enough’. But there would also have been the self-awareness that they stood out in the local community as not having enlisted. Admittedly they had tried and failed, and this situation would have been known to family and friends but, equally, they would also have often been placed in the awkward situation of justifying to others the fact that they were not serving in the AIF. Moreover, how many times did they have to test their status – ‘rejected’ – by re-taking the medical. If they had been rejected in 1914 was there a community expectation they would try again in 1915, and then again in 1916…. We also know that in the early months of the War there was sympathy for those who tried to enlist but failed the medical. Names of such people were often published in local news reports. They were accorded some form of intermediate status and there was even talk of them being given some sort of ‘badge’ they could wear to show their patriotic commitment. It is also significant that in the table below there were even names included on a school honour roll – Carrajung South SS – with the designation ‘Rej’.

Even some rejected men, known in the community, were singled out for the ‘white feather’. Also, an earlier post (Post 153) has covered the story of Charles Allum an 18 year-old who was prosecuted for impersonating a soldier. In the trial it was claimed that he had tried to enlist many times but was always rejected because of a ‘weak chest’. He claimed that after he was constantly pestered to enlist he invented the fiction of being a returned soldier.

In the early days after the War when various peace celebrations were held – well before the troops returned home – rejected men were accorded special recognition. But, inevitably, as the RSL grew and matured, along with the heroic reputation of the returned men, the status and fate of the men rejected mattered less and less. What counted was war service, not rejection. It might not have been the rejected men’s fault that they had not been in the Middle East or on the Western Front; but the telling fact was that they had not been there. Besides, those in the AIF knew that many of those initially rejected had managed to get round the system and enlist. The rejected men hoped that people, in their local community and family, accepted that the rejection was genuine. The issue of family acceptance in this context is important. In the table there are 27 cases where at least one brother enlisted. Clearly, there were many families that had to come to terms with the fact that not every brother or son made the same sacrifice: some served and died on active service; some served and returned wounded or with some other major health issue(s); some served and, apparently, escaped unscathed; and others never even served because they had been rejected on medical grounds. All these variations could apply – even all in the one family – and they represented realities that could not be ignored in the years, and even generations, after the War. The fortunes of the rejected men were truly mixed.

Shire of Alberton Railway Warrant (Pass)

198. List of those not able to be traced

I have spent the last few months trying to finalise the complete list of all those men who had a recognised association with the Shire of Alberton and who enlisted and served in W W 1. At this point the list numbers 826 men. Additionally, there is another list of 182 men who tried to enlist but were rejected, most commonly on health grounds.

The list included in this post is of the 100 men I have not been able to trace. The suggestion – or direct claim – is that they did enlist but I have not been able to tie them definitively to a specific AIF service record.

The names of the men on the list have appeared on honor rolls for state schools or against railway warrants issued to them as part of the enlistment process. In other instances there has been a reference in the local paper – Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative – which indicated that they had just enlisted – the name appeared in a report of a farewell or presentation for them –  or they were serving overseas. There are even cases where the name appears on the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor. As well, some names appeared on the list of enlistees which was published by another local paper, the South Gippsland Chronicle. In all such instances, after examining a wide range of sources, I have not been able to identify the individual himself or, if I have been able to identify him, I have not been able to tie him to a specific AIF service record.

When you browse through the list you will see some of the challenges. In many cases, the name is too common, even when one or two initials are included. There is also the possibility that the spelling of the name or the initials provided – and often the record has been transcribed – are incorrect. However, even where the name of the person is known – and correct – you can face the situation where there is no corresponding service record or, more commonly, it is not possible to identify the relevant service record because there are too many possibilities. Without a great deal of supporting evidence  – where the individual was born, date of birth, parents’ names etc – the task of identifying someone is extremely difficult.

It is also possible that some of these men did not enlist. For example, they may have been given a railway warrant in Yarram to travel to Melbourne to complete the enlistment process, but they changed their mind or, alternatively, they failed the second medical in Melbourne. However, in relation to the latter possibility there should still have been a basic service record indicating that the enlistment had been terminated.  It is also possible that some of those on the list are already included, in the sense that they are on the list of the 826 who did enlist but with a slight variation in name.

It is worth noting the sheer size of the list. The whole exercise is a classic illustration of just how difficult it can be to uncover history at the level of the individual person. Yet, in this instance, the individual does count, precisely because, at the time, the community felt the need to identify and celebrate each and every one of them.

I am hoping that by making this list available there is some chance that current locals might be able to shed some light on the names.

If anyone can provide information in relation  to any of those on the list I would appreciate if they contacted me directly:

pcashen@bigpond.net.au

 

 

 

 

 

 

24. Honor Roll of the Shire of Alberton

Framed Honor Roll: Alberton Shire

Framed Honor Roll: Alberton Shire

 

Detail: Alberton Shire Honor Roll

Detail: Alberton Shire Honor Roll

The Roll of Honor of Alberton Shire lists the names of 446 men who served in the AIF and identifies (*)  62 of these who were ‘killed’.

The names are printed on parchment which is framed under glass. The measurements are approx. 78 cm x 67.5 cm. The Honor Roll is held by the Yarram & District Historical Society.

The Honor Roll was prepared in early 1920. It is based on a hand-written list prepared by the Shire Secretary under the title: Shire of Alberton. Roll of Honor. Men who enlisted and went overseas, or who were in camp at the signing of the armistice preparing for active service. 1914-1918. This list is also held by the Yarram & District Historical Society.

The table below features the full names of the 446 men. In a few cases it has not yet been possible to identify a person listed on the Honor Roll. Work is continuing in this regard and when the identities are uncovered the table will be updated.

There are some striking shortcomings with the Honor Roll. To some extent the problems came in the process of transcription from the hand-written list. For example, family names and first names have been transcribed incorrectly: GEARING on the list became GEDRING in transcription and GOULDEN became GOULDER. Also, the apparently idiosyncratic order of the names came from the hand-written list. Apparently what was meant as a working document became the de facto formal list.

At the same time there are shortcomings that go beyond transcription. Probably the most serious is the identification of those ‘killed’ on active service. The table below shows the extent of the problem. First, 2 men (Loriman and Pulbrook) were identified as having been killed when in fact they were not. There is a slight possibility that in one case this could have been another transcription error, but whatever the cause, the seriousness of the error is obviously of a high order and it is hard to understand how it occurred or why it was not picked up.  Second, the Honor Roll did not identify another 27 men who died or were killed on active service. It seems remarkable that a public memorial such as this could be so wrong on this point, particularly given that 9 of the 27  names not acknowledged as ‘killed’ on the Honor Roll were in fact featured on the Shire War Memorial in the main street of Yarram, under the inscription: These men Gave Their Lives For Their Country.

The accuracy and completeness of memorials is a complex issue.  There were problems with transcription and there were also significant slippages of time, for example while the Honor Roll was created in early 1920, the names of the dead were not added to the War Memorial for nearly another 10 years. But beyond such technical considerations, there are deeper issues to do with perceptions of how the efforts and sacrifices of those who served in WW1 were to be honoured and, more importantly, who precisely was to be ‘named’. The ongoing research indicates that the 446 names on the Shire of Alberton Honor Roll is not an accurate count of the real number of men from the Shire who enlisted in the AIF and that the real number is more than 600. The research also suggests that most of those missing from the memorials came essentially from the rural working class.