The Irwin District and World War I

12th Reinforcements, 16th Battalion. Taken at Belmont Racecourse.
12th Reinforcements, 16th Battalion.
Belmont Racecourse, Perth. 16 December 1915.

Men and women from the Irwin District who served in World War I are being documented by the Society.

Our researcher, Anne Jefferys, has now disovered 130 men and women who enlisted 41 of whom were killed. Australia lost about 60,000 men in World War I, about 1.3% of the population. The Irwin District's population was about 400 in 1914, so the loss of 41 lives of young men and women, which amounted to 10% of the population, took a huge toll on the community.

Each year we will add the known volunteeers from 100 years ago.

Below are the stories of the 1917 volunteeers, the 1915 volunteers are here, and the 1916 volunteers are here and the 1918 volunteers are here.



1917

John Lewis Broad

Lewis John Broad, son of Edward and Ellen (Oliver) Broad was born in 1894, one of seven sons and one daughter in the family. Edward farmed at Manarra Station, some 16 Kilometres north east of Mingenew. The farm was named after a pool found on the property, when Edward first established the place as a young man. The property covered approximately 9000 acres and carried about 3000 sheep and 80 head of cattle.

John L. Broad
John Lewis Broad

Lewis gave his occupation as farm hand when he enlisted on 12 January 1916. His brothers Frank (6781), Albert Irwin (2032) and Edward Lockier (127) also enlisted, leaving the younger brothers and one sister to help their parents run the property. Lewis left Fremantle per Aeneas on 14 May 1916 and after a short spell in hospital in England by the end of August had joined the 11th Battalion on the battlefields of France.

William travelled by train from Geraldton to Blackboy Hill to enlist in early January 1916. His brother John Gerald Beckett enlisted the next week and another brother Frederick Joseph Beckett enlisted a few weeks later in March. William was almost 32 years of age, 6 feet tall and weighed 163 lbs. Lewis John Broad, another Mingenew man was one of his best mates.

On 10 April he received a gunshot wound to his right knee and on recovery re-joined the unit on 6 May, 1917. This incident was reported in the Geraldton Guardian on 3 May 1917, noting also that three other brothers were also on active service.

Lewis was appointed Lance Corporal on 9 February 1917 and Corporal on 25 July 1917. He fought on the battlefields of France as a member of the 11th Battalion, and was killed in action on 20 September 1917, his body never found, and his name is listed on the Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres.

The Midlands Advertiser Friday 26 October 1917.

Killed In Action
Somewhere in France
Corporal Lewis Broad age 23 11th Battalion.
Inserted by his bereaved parents, sister Toria, brothers Pte Bill and Lance Corp Frank on active service, Charlie, Jim, Ted and sister in law May.
Somewhere in France he is lying
He answered his country's call
He died an Australian hero
Fighting to save us all.

This notice also appeared in The Western Mail Friday 2 November 1917 and again on Friday 16 November.


Norman Leslie Carter

Norman Leslie Carter (Norm), son of George (Ned) and Phoebe (Criddle) Carter was born at Irwin in 1895 and educated at the State School, Dongara. Norman appeared to be a diligent and popular student, attending the Methodist Sunday School. At a Methodist Church Annual Exhibition in 1908 he won a prize for the best blackened boot. This skill would hold him in good stead while in training after he enlisted.

Norman L. Carter
Norman Leslie Carter

In April 1915, having been a scholar at both the state and Sunday schools, Norman was called upon to make a presentation to Miss Hughes, on the occasion of her forthcoming marriage and departure to live at Wannamal.

Norman was fine footballer as is evidenced in reports of matches played when he was in his late teens. In a football game reported in the Geraldton Guardian Norman 'played admirably' despite Dongarra losing the game by five points.

In June 1914 he injured his shoulder playing football, caused by an opponent colliding against him. Dr Bartlett attended and it was some days before he was able to use his arm. This did not deter him in the Naraling game a few weeks later. At this game the Naraling club donated a Woodrow hat as a trophy to the best all round player to be judged by two outsiders. This lot fell to Norman Carter of the Dongara team and the judgement was received with satisfaction by the onlookers as well as the players. (Geraldton Guardian 04/08/1914)

Norman enlisted on 12 January 1916, just two days after his brother Percy. As a farm hand he would have been able to handle horses and been a fine shot. He departed Australia per Aeneas on 17 April, 1916 and like many soldiers was struck down with illness for a time after arriving in England. He shipped to France on 27 August 1916, became ill again and did not re-join the regiment until early in 1917

He was wounded in action on 25 February, 1917 - gunshot wounds to his back, leg and face and spent six weeks recovering. He returned to the front on 17 April and a few weeks later was killed in action on the Somme at Bullecourt, on 6 May, 1917.

Sadly he has no known grave and his name is remembered with honour on the Australian Memorial at Villers Bretonneux. On Friday 8 June 1917, the Irwin road Board resolved to send a letter of condolence to his parents. His war medals were forwarded to his father and his mother received a pension of 40/- fortnightly. His brother Percy returned home later in the Great War, having been awarded the Military Medal for heroism in the line of duty.


Frederick William Collins

Frederick William Collins, son of James and Sarah Collins, was born in Dongara in 1897. At some stage the family moved to Geraldton, as his father gave his address as next of kin - Eleanor St, now Chapman Road.

Frederick was a labourer and also served in the Citizen Military Forces, most likely a cadet as part of the compulsory military training for males, adopted by the Australian Government in 1911. Boys aged 12 had to join the junior cadets, which were mainly school based, and did not wear uniform. From 14 to 18 years they became members of the uniformed senior cadets.

Fred, at just over 18 years of age was a minor and had to obtain his parents' permission to enlist. Interestingly it was his mother who wrote the letter sanctioning the enlistment of her son on 12 March 1915.

As an exuberant teenager, Fred must have viewed the war as a great big adventure. By August 1915 he was in Egypt, only to be shipped home at the end of that month. He wrote to his mother from Lang Warren Hospital, Melbourne stating he had "been kicked in the head by an Arab, as he was going over to see the dead city. He was sent to Melbourne for treatment and expected to be sent to Egypt in a fortnight."

Fred's army record tells a different story - he was sent home with VD, having experienced some of the seamier side of Cairo life.

Fred left Melbourne in July 1916 and that same month was in trouble again, this time with his superiors. He was charged with using obscene language to an NCO and interfering with an NCO in performing his duty. The result was 24 hours detention.

By 18 September 1916 Fred was in France, having joined the 59th Battalion. In November 1916 Fred wrote to his mother, telling her he was well and had one trip to England, although did not get to London. There was no prospect of getting home this Christmas, but hoped to be home for the next if he had any luck.

In December of that year he was charged with being unshaven on parade; the detention was four hours pack drill.

Nothing is known of his movements in the field until he was killed in action on 11 May 1917 during the second battle of Bullecourt, two weeks of bitter trench fighting which eventually, and at the cost of 2250 Australian casualties, cleared part of the Hindenburg Line. This battle was fought between 3 and 15 May 1917 and was a continuation of the British 1917 spring offensive north and south of Arras.

"The second Bullecourt (battle) was in some ways the stoutest achievement of the Australian soldier in France." Charles Bean, official historian.


Herbert Melbourne Criddle

H M Criddle
Herbert Melbourne Criddle

Born on 29 September 1886, Herbert Melbourne (Mel) Criddle was one of a family of eight sons and three daughters of James and Emma (Pell) Criddle and one of over 600 descendants of William and Elizabeth Criddle. William arrived in the Swan River Colony in 1829, Elizabeth eight years later.

Mel's father James was a builder and erected a combined butcher shop and bakery on the corner of Waldeck and Smith Streets Dongara. It was here Mel was born with his parents operating the combined business. James diversified and leased a farm from Francis Pearse and it was here the boys learned the farming business.

When the Naraling district was opened for farming the Criddle family moved to the area. Mel continued to work as the butcher at the Dongara shop. During this time his leisure activities included playing football and contributing to the Dramatic and Comedy Company in Dongara (May 1909).

As one of six Criddle sons to enlist Mel and his brother Arthur enlisted just days after their brother David sailed from Fremantle. Mel left for overseas on 18 July 1916 for Plymouth England. The phenomenal loss of life on the French battlefields meant the training was fast tracked and Mel had hardly gained his land legs before being sent to Etaples on the French coast.

Duties for the 16th Battalion included the construction of a light railway to ferry machinery and men towards the Front. The battalion moved at the end of November to Delville Wood. Mel had a dose of Trench Feet in December 1916 and spent that Christmas in a London hospital. His severe case of Trench Feet took months to heal. He was sufficiently recovered to wear boots by early February and subjected to electrical treatment and hot baths; his circulation was still poor in March and treatment continued until the end of April when he took a long furlough.

By September he was back with the battalion in Belgium, as part of the re-inforcements. Mel was killed in action on 20 October 1917, in a zig zag trench, not enough to save him from a direct hit from an enemy shell. His name is listed on the Menin Gate, a victim of war and French mud.


Herbert Leslie Hood

Herbert Hood was born in Dongara, in 1891 to parents William Thomas and Emma (Pickersgill) Hood, who had married in Bunbury in 1877. Herbert was one of a large family of 14 children, who were born between 1878 -1900, six of whom died in early childhood. It seems the family was resident in Dongara between 1887 and 1891, the year Herbert was born. William was a boot and shoe maker, eventually setting up his business in Wellington St, Perth.

During his teenage years Herbert and his brother Percy were in trouble with the law. From newspaper reports we learn the boys were charged with sleeping rough in 1904 and received 10 strokes of the birch. In 1910 Herbert was sentenced to 16 months imprisonment for the theft of copper wire and then trying to sell it.

Herbert enlisted as number 96 in the 27th Battalion on 9 February 1915, at Keswick, South Australia. However when the troopship Geelong sailed on 9 March 1915 Herbert was missing and declared a deserter on 25 June 1915. He then enlisted again in Perth, this time as 3364 and transferred from 27th Battalion to 11th Battalion and arrived in Egypt in September 1915.

As in civilian life, so in the military life Herbert seemed to be in trouble regularly with his superiors. After a long spell of 85 days at the Dermatological Hospital Abbassia, he returned to duty in mid-March 1916. Three times during that year he was declared absent without leave, incurring heavy penalties. At some time during 1916 the battalion was shipped to France. Late in the year he was again AWOL with 60 days' detention as punishment.

Herbert re-joined his unit in early 1917, and was killed in action on 6 April, 1917. His death notice in The West Australian on 4 May 1917 belies Herbert's troubled youth and his problems with those in authority. His family loved him, as is evidenced by that notice and In Memoriam notices a year later.

The West Australian 4 May 1917.

Hood. Killed in action somewhere in France, on April 2, Private Herbert Hood, 11th Battalion, dearly loved son of William and Emma Hood of West Perth, brother of Louie, Percy and Willie, Mrs Bush, Mrs Maddock, Mrs Penny and Mrs Hobbs, aged 23 years. His duty nobly done.

The West Australian 6 April 1918

In Memoriam

Hood, in loving memory of our dear son and brother Herbert Leslie Hood, 11th Battalion 11th Reinforcements, killed in action somewhere in France April 6 1917. Rest dear Herbert in your distant grave, beloved by those whom you died to save. Such was the mission of God's dear Son, you followed in his footsteps, and his will be done.

Inserted by his loving father, mother and brothers, Stone St West Perth.

Hood. In sad but loving memory of our dear brother Private Herbert Hood 11th Battalion 11th Reinforcements, killed in action somewhere in France on April 6 1917.

No mother was there to soothe his brow
No brother to say a last goodbye
No sister to take him by the hand
When death was drawing nigh
Inserted by his loving sisters Mrs Maddock and Mrs Hobbs.

Robert Francis Fitzgerald

Robert Francis Fitzgerald, son of James and Margaret (Hunt) Fitzgerald was born at Strawberry in 1891, the youngest but one in a family of 13 children. His parents married at Irwin River in 1870; his father was firstly a tenant farmer at The Grange before purchasing Geraldina Farm and becoming the first post master at Strawberry. James Fitzgerald later took up a pastoral lease at Mt Magnet.

After her husband James died in 1907, Margaret moved to Midland. Her son Robert joined the West Australian Police Force in 1912, serving in Perth, Roebourne and Tableland.

It was during his term as a policeman in Perth that Robert was involved in a case of selling alcohol on a Sunday in Victoria Park. A lengthy report of the case appeared in the Daily News, 23 August 1912, when Robert was a very new police constable. A further case, this time at Roebourne and reported in the Northern Times, Carnarvon, Saturday 17 May, 1913 also involved selling liquor after hours.

Robert resigned from the police force on 31 December 1915 and enlisted on 1 March 1916. While on leave Robert was a witness to a fatal car accident when a pedestrian was run over in Midland in September 1916. Before leaving Fremantle on Clan McGillivray on 18 September 1916 he had been promoted to Corporal.

By December 1916 he had reverted to the ranks, but no reason is given in his record for the demotion. In January 1917 Robert committed the crime of falling out of line of march when on active service without permission and received 3 days detention.

Robert's army record is brief. No indication is given of his whereabouts, only that he was killed in action on 15 April, 1917 in France, and his name is listed on the Villers Bretonneux Memorial. His mother had not heard from him and wrote seeking information on 28 May, only to be told he had died, in a letter to her sent in June 1917.

Further correspondence regarding her son's fate was received on 27 March 1918 in reply to her letter sent 10 days earlier. The T&G Prudential Company requested the death certificate on 16 May 1917 and probate was granted on 1 August 1918. Robert's estate of ₤ 2270/3/4 was left to his mother. His medals were received by his mother on April 1 1923.


Alexander Johnstone

Alexander Johnstone was born in Dongara to Alexander and Annie Elizabeth (Whitehurst) Johnstone in 1883, the 4th child of 11 in the family. His father had arrived in the colony in 1861, married Annie in 1874 and farmed in the Dongara area from 1876-1879. Little is known of his parents and early life; at some time after all the children had been born the family moved to Youanmi in the Murchison Goldfields. This town was situated 661miles (750km approx.) from Perth and was reached by train to Sandstone, the last 60 miles (75km) covered by car or horse. The family may have been involved in timber cutting (sandalwood) or pit props for the many gold mining shafts in the area.

Alexander was 37 when he enlisted at Blackboy Hill on 27 March 1916, 5'5" tall, 10 stone 7 lbs, fair complexion and brown hair. His eye colour was not listed, just 'a fair amount of vision.' He joined the 11th Battalion, sailing from Fremantle per Miltiades on 9 August 1916 and by December was in France.

An infected foot saw Alexander in hospital in January 1917; by the end of the month he had re-joined his unit. He received a gunshot wound to his right arm and wrist on 11 April 1917 and was hospitalised in England at the 3rd Southern General Hospital on 24 April, transferred to 3rd Auxiliary Hospital Dartford in early May. On recovery he took leave and returned to France in June, re-joining his unit on 14 July 1917.

Alexander was wounded in action in Belgium on 20 September 1917, dying of his wounds that day. He had taken part in the 11th Battalion's offensive which became known as the Third Battle of Ypres. He is buried at Menin Road South Military Cemetery Belgium.

Confusion of similar names probably caused the authorities to send photographs of the wrong grave to the family in 1920, and it was some years before his father was sent his son's medals (1923). In 1953 the Public Trustee, Perth wrote to Base Records in Canberra requesting Alexander's death certificate in order to finalise his estate.

Alexander's brothers also served in the AIF. Charles Duncan Johnstone, 6281, born 26 November 1885 enlisted on 11 April, 1916. He was wounded, captured and spent some time as a prisoner of war at Limburg, (now southern Netherlands) before being repatriated to England on 20 November 1918 and returning to Australia in 1919.

Wallace Samuel Johnstone, 2428, born 1892, was a member of the 3 Company Camel Corps, transferring from 10th Light Horse. He too returned to Australia safely.


Charles Joseph Byro Nairn

C J Byro (Byro) Nairn was born on 25 March 1889 to William John and Sara Ann (Pell) Nairn. He was born at Byro Station, Murchison and used Byro as his name for his entire life. William and Sara Nairn lived first at 'Stonehurst' Dongara, moving to Byro in 1884. Their family already numbered six children when the move was made, with five more being born at Byro. The family returned to Dongara about 1914, time enough for Byro to enjoy life in the town as a cricketer and scout master of the very new Boy Scout movement. Byro courted Winifred Hughes and won her hand.

Charles J B Nairn
Charles J B Nairn

The wedding attracted a lengthy report in the Geraldton Guardian of 10 April 1915, after the news of the betrothal was announced in that paper on the 20 March. In what sounds like the social event of the year Byro and Winifred were married in the Methodist Church Dongara, with a sumptuous wedding feast for invited guests at Beach House Port Denison. Two children were born of the marriage, Frederic Byro in 1916 and Beulah in 1917.

Byro enlisted on 12 April 1916 in Perth and departed Fremantle in October of that year. Not long after arriving in England he developed a severe case of mumps and he took several weeks to recover. It was not until the end of March 1917 he was sufficiently well enough to resume military duties and proceed to the Western front.

On 8 October 1917 he was reported missing in action and later it was determined he had been killed in action at Zonnebeke Ridge Belgium. He is buried at Tyne Cot Cemetery, Passchendaele, Belgium.

Winifred commenced correspondence with the Defence Department in an effort to locate her husband. It was in vain; he had given his life for his country.

Leslie Gordon Norley

Leslie Gordon Norley was born in 1893 in London to William and Eliza Norley. Nothing is known of his early life but he came to Australia at the age of 18, and appears to have been well travelled. He had substantial funds in the State Savings Bank of Victoria, his will was drawn up by a solicitor in Sydney and made in favour of his brother William Percival Norley, London.

Leslie may have tried his hand at farming in the Great Southern district of West Australia, and not found it to his liking, as an advertisement in the Sunday Times of 7 June 1914

"Katanning agricultural area, Lot 319 containing 160 acres at 8/- per acre being LG Norley's forfeited homestead farm No 17012/74(Plan 416B/40E1). This block is three miles from Woodanilling and is a very mixed block. The best land is fair red loamy soil, the remainder varying from poor gravelly to moderate sandy soil. The timber is white gum, mallet and prickly scrub. About 100 acres are coated with York Road and prickly poison."

Leslie next appears in Dongara as the Licensee of the Dongarra Hotel. (he is barely 22.)

Midland Advertiser 4 June 1915.

Application to Licensing Court for Moora District. I Leslie Norley being the Licensee of the Dongara Hotel, Dongarra, do hereby make application for a transfer of rights and privileges of the General Licence held by me in respect of the said premises, to Minnie Turner, widow and I the said Minnie Turner do hereby concur in such application and request that the transfer be made.
Dated this day 31st May 1915.
Leslie Norley
Signature of proposed transferor
Minnie Turner
Signature of the proposed transferee

Midland Advertiser 18 June 1915
Dongarra Hotel. The transference of the Licence of the Dongarra Hotel from L Norley to Minnie Turner was granted, on application of Mr O'Brien.

When Leslie Norley enlisted at Blackboy Hill on 26 January 1916, he gave his occupation as labourer and home address as Dongarra. However his signature appears to be that of someone who may have had several years of formal education in England, before coming to Australia.

Like many Australian soldiers arriving in the northern hemisphere in winter, he spent his first few weeks ill in hospital. He attended artillery school from 11 March to 6 April, 1917.

Over the next few months Leslie rose through the ranks from Private on enlistment to Sergeant on 31 July 1917, a rank he held on his death when he was killed in action on 14 September 1917. Leslie seemed to have packed a lot of life into his short 24 years.


Francis William Pascoe

F W Pascoe
Francis W. Pascoe

Francis William Pascoe was born in 1890 in Dongara to Joseph and Elizabeth (Jewell) Pascoe. Joseph Pascoe was born in Cornwall and married Elizabeth in England before sailing to South Australia. The couple moved to Western Australia c 1871 and settled first in the Mingenew district, then within the Irwin Road Board at Willow Green Strawberry. After land became available at Nolba, Upper Chapman the family moved in 1911, Joseph also becoming the postmaster.

Francis worked on the family farm, played football during the 1914 and 1915 seasons before travelling to Perth to enlist on 31 July 1915 and then sailing to Egypt.

Francis' records are sketchy with lengthy periods unaccounted for. On 13 September 1916 he transferred from 28th Battalion to 51st Battalion and proceeded from Alexandria to Marseilles. He was appointed a transport driver on 13 September 1916 and continued in this role in northern France and Belgium. There is no record of him taking leave during the next year, but was killed in action at Ypres on 26 September 1917, just three days after his brother Frederick. Francis has no known grave; his name is listed with 56,000 others on the Menin Gate, Ypres.

The Daily News reported on 8 November 1917 he had been wounded in action, dying of his wounds and listed on the 353rd Casualty List.

Joseph Pascoe was a member of the Upper Chapman Road Board, a farmer and kept the Nolba post office. He would have received the telegrams regarding the deaths of both his sons, then had the sad task of informing the rest of the family.

Geraldton Guardian Thursday 8 November 1917
In Memoriam
Pascoe - In loving memory of Driver Frank Pascoe, who was killed in action in France on September 26th, 1917, second son of Mr and Mrs J Pascoe and brother of George, May, Hilda and Idey.
Geraldton Guardian Saturday 22 December 1917
The Late Private F Pascoe
Lieut F R Brown of the 51st Battalion writing form the 3rd General Hospital, Wandsworth London to Mr J Pascoe, Nolba gives him particulars of how his son Private F W Pascoe was killed in action on September 26th. He says "I was his platoon officer and am able to give you a few details of his death which took place in my presence. He was killed with two other lads, by the bursting of a shell while he was standing in a trench, the explosion taking place on the parapet above him. It was as successful attack and we were back in the reserve trench at the time. I must offer you my sincere condolence and sympathy in the loss of such a manly son, and I also hope that pride will replace your grief when I mention that your son died a noble and heroic death. He was fine soldier and his loss is greatly deplored by his mates and by myself as his officer. He was at all times cheerful and generous and I could always depend on him as one of my most reliable men. I am thankful to be able to say he felt no pain as he passed peacefully away instantly. I personally saw him buried on Westhoek Ridge in the Ypres sector."

Frederick James Pascoe

F J Pascoe
Frederick J. Pascoe

Frederick James Pascoe, born 1895 at Dongara was the second youngest child of Joseph and Elizabeth (Jewell) Pascoe. His parents had married in England and settled in South Australia before moving to Strawberry and thence to Nolba, Upper Chapman in 1911.

Enlisting at Geraldton on 11 October 1915, Frederick was under age and required the permission of his parents to enlist. This was given and by January he was in Egypt, having joined the 28th Battalion.

The Battalion moved to France and Frederick's record show he sustained a serious gunshot wound to his stomach on 19 July 1916, and transferred to the City of London War Hospital on 9 August 1916. His father was advised on 15 September of his son's injuries.

Frederick was discharged at Tidworth and given leave before re-joining the unit on 7 March 1917. He was appointed Lance Corporal on 29 March and attended Bomb School in May.

Such was the casualty rate of Australian soldiers in that year, that Frederick was promoted to Corporal on 6 August 1917 and temporary Sergeant the same day.

The 3rd Battle of Ypres killed several Dongara men. September 20 was an especially heavy and sad day for Dongara folk. Five local men were killed in this huge battle. Frederick was wounded on 20 September 1917 with shrapnel wounds to his head and shoulders and a compound fracture of the skull. He died from his wounds on 23 September and is buried at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery Belgium.

The Geraldton Guardian reported on 6 October 1917 "The Rev JG Jenkin was informed by the military yesterday afternoon that Sergeant F J Pascoe, son of Mr J Pascoe of Nolba had died of wounds on 23 September 1917."

Frederick was listed in the 343rd list of Killed in Action in The West Australian on 20 October 1917.

Just three days later Frederick Pascoe's older brother Francis William Pascoe was killed at Ypres. As their father was Postmaster at Nolba, he would have received the tragic telegrams within days of each other.



Claudius Claremont Pell

C C Pell
Claudius C. Pell

Claudius Claremont (Claude) Pell was born in Dongara in 1891 to George and Elizabeth Pell, a pioneer family who were early settlers, farming in the Irwin district from the 1860s. Claude found work as a farm hand in and around Mingenew. He had a very close relationship with his sister Gertrude (m. Rowland) who he named as his next of kin on his enlistment papers.

Claude enlisted on 10 January 1916 and arrived at Suez per Aeneas on May 14 1916, continuing on to England. His records show he embarked for France from Perham Downs on 9 August 1916 and he seemed to alternate between France and England with dental problems, pneumonia and pleurisy and fighting in the trenches.

Re-joining the unit in the French battlefields on 30 May, Claude was appointed Lance Corporal on 4 September 1917. He was killed in action just a few weeks later on 20 September 1917, just 26 years old, and is buried at Hooge Crater Cemetery, 2 miles due east of Ypres.

As his next of kin, Gertrude commenced a series of correspondence with the Defence Department in regard to Claude's death certificate and will. It was with some reluctance the department despatched Claude's medals and commemorative plaque to his sister who had to sign a Statuary Declaration, promising to look after the medals.

These medals and plaque are now housed in the collection of Irwin District Historical Society, donated by Gertrude's grandson, John Rowland.





Walter Samuel Pettit
Walter S. Pettit
Walter S. Pettit

Walter Samuel Pettit was born on 2 September 1887, at Mingenew, son of William and Mary Jane (Ellis). The wider family farmed at Brushwood, Dongara, having been among the early settlers of the Irwin district. Walter's father died in 1893 at Dongara and his mother married William Steven and moved to Strawberry.

alter enlisted on 26 July 1915, giving his occupation as horse breaker. At almost 28 years of age he stood at 5ft 8inches, with grey eyes and brown hair. He was one of seven grandsons of Robert and Mary Anne Pettit who were serving in the Expeditionary Forces.

Embarking at Fremantle on 13 October 1915 per HMAT A32 Themistocles, Walter arrived in Egypt in midwinter and developed bronchitis which took some months to throw off. His illness probably spared him being part of the late Gallipoli campaign.

Having recovered, he re-joined his regiment and shipped to France, still in the grip of mid-winter, with knee deep water and mud to contend with in the trenches. A temporary shoeing smith with the 10th Light Horse, Walter still saw combat and was killed in action on the Somme on 10 February 1917.

Villers Bretonneux saw action in August 1914 and the continual movement of British, Australian and French troops over the next four years. In keeping with all the soldiers' records, Walter was killed 'somewhere in France'. His name is listed, with several other Dongara men on the Australian Memorial at Villers Bretonneux.

Also, in keeping with most other families who had lost sons, Walter's mother had a lengthy wait for any effects belonging to her son and it was not until August 1920 that Mary Jane Steven received her son's Bible. The soldier's medals finally arrived in February 1923.



Charles Johnson Rowland

. Charles J Rowland
Charles J Rowland

Charles Johnson Rowland, born 1885, was the youngest son of Michael and Rebecca (Owens) Rowland and a member of a large farming family. He was a descendent of Richard and Elizabeth Rowland who had arrived at the Swan River Colony on 12 January 1830 per the Tranby.

Michael farmed in partnership with his brother Richard during the 1860s before moving to a Dongara farm in the 1870s.

Charles was one of several Rowland brothers and cousins who enlisted in the AIF. He was a tall man, just over 6ft in height and weighing 165 lbs, and one of a group of Dongara men who were farewelled and piped to the railway station by Mr Wayland, after a send-off in the Dongara Hall on 18 August 1915. Charles, a member of the 16th Battalion embarked at Fremantle on 17 December per Ajana for England.

Charles saw action in France on 14 August 1916 and was wounded in the knee, recuperating in England. He transferred to the 48th Battalion and returned to France and the Somme, where he was killed in action on 10 April, 1917, aged 32. He has no known grave; his details are listed on the Villers Bretonneux Memorial, France.

Michael Rowland, Charles' father had passed away in 1912; his mother then became the next of kin. Both Rebecca and oldest brother Frank then commenced a lengthy correspondence related to Charles' final resting place, death certificate and pension applications. Charles left his estate to his brother Arthur Rowland and a pension of 40/- fortnightly was paid to their mother from 29 June 1917. Some correspondence, including regarding Charles' death was erroneously sent to South Australia, further prolonging the process.

During the 1920s solicitors Altorfer and Stowe of Geraldton continued the correspondence, but it was not until 1947 the estate was settled, by which time Arthur had passed away.



George Forrestor Rowland

. George F Rowland
George F Rowland

George Forrester Rowland was the son of William Arthur and Rachel Amy (Ridley) Rowland who married in 1889. George was born in 1892 at Dongara. George's father was a farmer and miller, and a descendent of Richard and Elizabeth Rowland who arrived in the Swan River Colony on 12 January 1830.

Like many of Dongara's young men George probably left school as soon as he could and became a labourer, the occupation he gave on his attestation papers. He enlisted on 9 August 1915, and departed for overseas, arriving in Egypt in early 1916. Like many Australian soldiers, arriving in the northern hemisphere in midwinter, he contracted influenza and was hospitalised at Heliopolis for a week's recovery.

On 21 March 1916 George boarded the Oriana for Marseilles and entrained to the battlefields of northern France.

A report in the Daily News on 22 June 1916 listed as George as seriously wounded, but that report was incorrect. However he did survive a year in the trenches of the Somme before being killed in action on 12 March 1917, aged 25. He was buried at Martinpuich Cemetery, Albert, northern France.

George's brother William was killed two days later.

In late March 1917 George's mother, who was living in Gregory St, Geraldton "and formerly of Irwin received during the week the distressing news that her two only sons were killed in France. Private George Rowland was killed on 12th March and Private Will Rowland on the 14th. The double calamity was confirmed in a wire to the Rev J G Jenkin from the Commandant. One of the sons had been at the front for twelve months, whilst the other had only been in the trenches three days."

Geraldton Guardian Saturday 31 March 1917.



Silas John Rowland

. Silas J Rowland
Silas J Rowland

Silas John Rowland, born 28 March 1887 was the son of John and Caroline (Edwards) Rowland. John Rowland was a policeman and assisted with the return of the remains of the Clarkson brothers who had died in the Murchison, back to Greenough for burial. In later years John was a much respected member of Irwin Road Board. The Rowland family has a long history of residence in the Irwin district. Silas was a descendent of Richard and Elizabeth Rowland who arrived in the Swan River Colony on 12 January, 1830 per Tranby, and taking up land in the Irwin when it was opened to farming in the 1860s.

It is presumed Silas attended the local state school, on the site where Dongara Police Station now stands. He probably left school in his early teens and became a farm labourer. Silas married Gertrude Pell on 28 February 1912 and two sons were added to the family, Ivo John in 1912 and Vivian George in 1915.

On 23 May 1914 the Geraldton Guardian reported Mr Silas Rowland had purchased a farm from Mr Jacques at Carnamah. The purchase included 18 horses and plant, all purchased at a satisfactory price. No record has been found of this farm being taken up, or if the sale fell through.

On 24 November another item in the Guardian reported "Mr Silas Rowland was driving a mob of cattle belonging to Mr W B Mitchell to the coast for pasturage on Friday, when one of the animals rushed at him and he narrowly escaped injury. The affair took place at Herbert's corner and those who witnessed the incident say that the animal was exceedingly furious and chased Mr Rowland, who was on horseback, a good distance."

Silas enlisted in the AIF and was farewelled in September 1916, "during a long leave home from camp. The social event took place at the Hall, with Rev Robins in the chair, whilst musical and elocutionary items were rendered by Misses Parker, Carter and Driscoll, Master Leonard Harrop and Mr G A Kempton. Speeches were made by Messrs Hughes, Forwood, Mitchell and the chairman, all of whom bore testimony to Private Rowland's sterling qualities and wished him God speed and a safe return to home and family. Dainty refreshments were served by the ladies, after which the National Anthem and Auld Lang Syne were sung, bringing a very enjoyable evening to a close."

Maybe not so enjoyable for wife Gertie, no mention of her presence. Silas was one of the few married men who enlisted as almost every single man had previously gone.

Embarking Fremantle per Suffolk on 10 October 1916, Silas arrived in England in early December and spent Christmas in hospital at Codford. He was sufficiently well enough to go to France in February, then contracted bronchitis and admitted to the General Hospital Rouen.

He re-joined the unit on 25 April, 1917 and was killed in action a few months later on 16 August 1917 at Messines and is buried not far from where he fell at Le Plus Deuve Farm Cemetery, Messines.

Gertrude and her sons Ivo and Vivian faced a life without Silas at East End Dongara.

The Geraldton Guardian reported Silas as killed in action in the 25 September issue and in the same edition the Irwin Road Board resolved to send letters of condolence to both his widow and father. Gertrude received a pension from the Department of Defence, of 40/- fortnightly from 15 November 1917, with 20/- fortnightly for Ivo and 15/- per fortnight for Vivian.

Death notices were lodged in the West Australian and Western Mail newspapers. For years afterwards, Gertrude lodged In Memoriam notices in the West Australian.

West Australian Saturday 29 September 1917.

Rowland. In sad and loving memory of Private Silas John Rowland, killed in action, on 26 August 1917. Dearly loved husband of Gertrude Rowland of Dongarra, dear daddy of Ivo and Viv.

Rowland. Killed in action, somewhere in France, on August 26, 1917, Private Silas J Rowland, dearly loved third son of Mr and Mrs John Rowland of Dongarra, fond brother of Clarence, Jim, Tom, Bessie, Minnie, Amy and Dorrie. Peace perfect peace.

Rowland. In loving memory of Private Silas J Rowland killed in action somewhere in France, August 26, 1917. A dear brother at rest. Inserted by his loving sister and brother in law B & J Rhode, Meekatharra.



William Joseph Rowland

. William J Rowland
Wiliam J Rowland

William Joseph Rowland was the older son of William Arthur and Rachel Amy (Ridley) Rowland who married in 1889. William was born in Geraldton on 20 January 1890 and grew to 6'2" and 173 lbs and as a policeman would have had a 'presence'.

Will joined the West Australian Police Force on 18 August 1913 as a Probationary Constable, rising to Constable 2nd Class on 21 November 1913. He served in Perth (twice), La Grange, Broome, and Ora Banda (twice). He had probably seen more of Western Australia than some of his fellow enlistees when he resigned from the Force on 1 June 1916 to join the AIF on 26 June 1916. While in camp at Blackboy Hill he contracted measles, where he was hospitalised from 27 June to 9 August 1916. On recovery Will was posted to the 44th Battalion.

He departed Fremantle per Port MacQuarie on 13 October 1916 arriving in Plymouth UK on 12 December 1916 and thence to France per Invicta.

After only three days in the trenches of the Somme, Will was killed in action on 14 March 1917. He was buried at Cite Bonjean Military Cemetery, Armentieres, Lille. The writer of this essay visited his grave in July 2014 and laid red roses at the foot of his headstone, on behalf of the Irwin District Historical Society.

In late March his mother who was living in Gregory St Geraldton, 'and formerly of the Irwin, received during the week the distressing news that her two only sons were killed in France. Private George Rowland was killed on 12th March and Private Will Rowland on the 14th. The double calamity was confirmed in a wire to the Rev J G Jenkin from the Commandant. One of the sons had been at the front for twelve months whilst the other had only been in the trenches three days.'

Geraldton Guardian 31 March 1917
Further information was published in the Geraldton Guardian 12 April, 1917
Much sympathy is felt for Mr and Mrs W A Rowland in the sad loss of their two fine sons. These boys were natives of Dongara and it is only five short months since we met to say farewell to Private Will Rowland. He was a fine man, in the prime of life, well respected by all who knew him. He gave his all.

William Whelan (Wheelan)

William Whelan was born in 1886 to Edward and Harriet (Smith) Whelan. The surname is spelt variously, but for the purpose of this essay, Whelan will be used.

The family of six children lived in Geraldton. William's father died in 1897 and after his death a fund raising event was held for the widow and children at the rotunda on the band stand near the wharf.

W Whelan
William Whelan

However Harriet, William's mother remarried and abandoned the children. The three boys lived in the sand hills around Geraldton and Dongara, while the girls were sent to an orphanage in Victoria Square, Perth.

As a young man William acquired an interest in the Mugga Gold Mine seven miles (10 kilometres) south west of Gullewa. In 1914 it was reported he and his partners had averaged 1.5 ounces of gold to the tone of stone. It was hard work and by May 1915 the mine was hoping to yield 5 to 6 ounces of gold per ton.

William enlisted in the AIF on 23 March 1916 and six months later was on his was to England, arriving in Plymouth on 24 September 1916. He was in France by Christmas and wounded in action on 5 May 1917 with gunshot wounds to his head and shoulder. A telegram to his sister Amy described his condition as 'dangerous'. He did not recover from his wounds and died on 17 May 1917, in the 7th Canadian General Hospital, Le Treport and buried at Etaples Military Cemetery.

William's older brother Robert was also wounded and survived, later taking up land and farming at Yandanooka, Mingenew.

William's next of kin, sister Amy, had considerable difficulty in obtaining information from the Defence Department. Original documents pertaining to William's death were lost when the mail steamer was sunk on 10 August 1917. Amy moved addresses and also married, adding further complications to the correspondence issue. In 1922 the Defence Department wrote to Amy trying to ascertain the whereabouts of the oldest living brother, who according to regulations was eligible to receive any medals and awards due to William. By this time Robert was farming at Yandanooka.

In 1927 Amy was still trying to clear up the estate of ₤ 495/7/0, proceeds of the sale of Mugga Mine, Gullewa.

Despite the problems of early childhood, the family must have somehow remained in contact, as is evidenced by the large number of the death notices, after William's death.

West Australian Monday 4 June 1917.
Whelan. On May 17, died of wounds, Private William Whelan 11th Battalion, aged 29 years.
Always happy and cheerful
With a heart that knew no fear
He stood to face life's battle
For those he loved so dear.
Inserted by his sorrowing brothers and sisters and brother in law Robert (on active service) Patrick, Amy, Mrs and Mr Smith, North Perth.
Western Mail 9 June 1917
Whelan, on May 17 died of wounds, Private William Whelan 11th Battalion, aged 29.
Inserted by his sorrowing brothers and sisters and brother in law, Robert (on active service) Patrick, Amy, Mrs and Mr Smith, North Perth.
Geraldton Guardian 12 June 1917
News was recently received in Geraldton on the death of Private William Whelan from wounds received in France. Deceased was well known in the Geraldton and Gullewa districts. He was a partner in the Mugga King Mine at Gullewa and sold his interest to Mr T Pigeon. He enlisted last year, was 29 years old and very popular.
Geraldton Guardian 9 June 1917
It would seem that mining on this old field is again to look up. One party has just pegged out a show with good prospects of getting molybdenite in payable quantities and the others are out trying the country for the same mineral.
Lang and Whelan have just cleaned up a nice parcel of stone that resulted in an average of over 1.5 oz of gold to the ton. There is every likelihood of this show turning out well. There is 400 feet of a line of reef on which seven shafts have been put down to a depth of 30 feet, carrying the same ore with a width of from three to four feet.
Geraldton Guardian 22 May 1915.
Gullewa News
Mining has been a dead letter here for a long time but now Messrs Lang, Whelan and Pigeon have finished erecting their machinery the old place seems to look up again. The above show, known as the Mugga King Mine is one of the best mines that I have seen, as the gold improves with depth. At about 65 or 70 ft the reef is 3ft 6in wide and carries gold visible at a distance of four feet, or in other words 5 to 6 ounces to the ton. Their machinery is in full swing now and everything is going satisfactory under the supervision of Mr Chas Williamson, the engineer. Messrs Lang and Whelan have battled hard to get their mine going and now I am sure success is in their grasp.