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 1918 volunteeers, the 1915 volunteers are here, the 1916 volunteers are here. and the 1917 voulnteers are here.



1918

George Brown

George Brown was born in Fremantle in 1881 to parents Edward and Amelia Brown. Nothing is known of his early life and he is first seen in Dongara in 1909, at the helm of the fishing smack Fleetwing which was involved in an accident when one of the crew members fell overboard and drowned, 35 miles south of Dongara.

In 1913 George was charged In Dongara Court, with being disorderly in a public place; he pleaded not guilty, but the case was proved and he was fined 20/- and costs in default of 14 days' hard labour. George then asked the Bench (Delmage and Mitchell) to place him on the prohibited list which they did for six months.

In 1913 the Fleetwing was involved in the rescue of the Norwegian vessel Victor, whose captain and some crew members had died. It is not known if George was still a member of the crew.

George left Dongara by train in early January 1916 for Perth where, with JG Beckett, ES Fitzgerald, AT Wrench, WG Revelle, Thos Shanahan, HF Matheson, F Payton and MC Sorenson, he enlisted. (Geraldton Guardian 04/01/1916).

He left for Egypt in May, arriving in mid-June and was docked eight days pay for drunkenness a month later. He sailed to France and was injured with a sprained ankle in August, and a gunshot wound to the right fore arm on 3 November 1916.

For the next several months George was ill, saw action and had furloughs in England. During this time he forfeited 14 days' pay for being absent for three hours on 16 August 1917. On 1 June 1918 he re-joined the unit and was killed in action on 9 August 1918. He was initially buried at Villers Bretonneux, but his remains exhumed and re-buried at Adelaide Cemetery, Villers Bretonneux.

George wrote his will in favour of Harry Money of Dongara. Perhaps George had worked for Harry as a seaman at around the time Harry's two sons drowned at sea. George's brother wrote to the Defence Department on 16 August 1917, enquiring about his brother's effects, as he had 'heard George had been killed from outside information." The brother thought George had been killed in late 1916, and Base Records replied George had re-joined the unit on 19 January 1918.

George gave his next of kin as his mother Mrs Amelia (Millie) Brown, Bridgetown. But in 1922 Mrs Brown appeared to be living in the Midwest, as she requested any information to be sent to Murloo Station 'Wuraga' Mullewa line.

George's name is inscribed on the Dongara War memorial and also at the Fremantle War memorial.



George Oriel Cousins

George Oriel Cousins (Oriel) was born in 1892 and one of the many children of George and Frances Hannah (Pell) Cousins. His grandfather Robert was the foreman for Ben Mason, contractor for the construction of the jetty at Port Denison, 1867.

George Oriel Cousins
George Oriel Cousins

Oriel gave his occupation as a stockman when he enlisted in September 1916. His next of kin was Harriet Brady, his sister as both parents had died. George appeared to have an understanding with Elsie Pascoe, who with her mother ran the post office at Strawberry for many years. Oriel made his will in favour of Elsie, who never married.

Oriel departed Fremantle in November 1916, arriving in England in the deep mid-winter of the northern hemisphere. Fortunately he did not suffer any illness or injury while in England or France. He was docked 4 days' pay for being absent from parade on 16 November 1917.

The 51st Battalion was involved in the now legendary attack to dislodge the enemy from Villers Bretonneux in April, 1918. Oriel was killed in this battle on Anzac Day, 25 April, 1918.

As the post mistress at Strawberry it is likely Elsie saw the telegram when it came through.

The West Australian Thursday 23 May 1918

Cousins. Killed in action somewhere in France on April 25 Private Oriel George Cousins, dearly loved brother of Robert and brother in law of Rose.
We prepared your safe return
We longed to clasp your hand
But God postponed our meeting
Till we meet in a better land.
Inserted by his sorrowing brother Robert and sister in law Rose Cousins, Dongarra

Cousins - Killed in action somewhere in France on April 25, Private Oriel Cousins.
Link by link the chain is broken
One by one our heroes fall.
Inserted by his loving sister and brother in law Ada and Alex Ramsay Boundary Road, Midland Junction.

Cousins- Killed in action somewhere in France on April 25 1918, Private G O Cousins.
We prayed that God would keep him
And shield him in the fray
But alas our hopes were blighted
When the sad news came that day.
Inserted by his loving sister Harriett and brother in law Robert (on active service) and nieces Jean, Frances, Dora, Rose, Ivy and Teresa Brady of Irwin Siding Midland Railway.

Vaughan Edgar Foss

Born in Dongara in 1884 Vaughan Edgar Foss was the son of Charles Denroache Vaughan Foss and Alma (Ridley) Foss. Alma was his second wife; Charles married Joanna Brockman in 1868 - she died in 1871 and is buried at Greenough. The Foss family arrived at Swan River in 1849, when Charles' father had charge of 300 migrants who had arrived on the Stag.

At the time of Charles' first marriage he was a grazier at Irwin House in partnership with Charles Fane. He was manager at Irwin House from 1871 to 1882. Foss and Fane also had a cattle station at Gooroonoo on the east branch of the Irwin River. Before moving to Carnarvon Foss sold all his Irwin rights to Charles Fane.

Charles Foss was also the Resident Magistrate at Irwin and it was the position as Itinerant Magistrate that Charles accepted in 1882 at Carnarvon, living in the Gascoyne region for 33 years. His duties involved a good deal of horse travel and telegraphic communication once the telegraph line arrived in Carnarvon in 1884.

Charles was appointed Resident Magistrate in 1895 and the family continued to contribute to the welfare of the growing town. On 7 July 1907 Alma Foss laid the foundation stone of St George's Church of England church in Francis Street Carnarvon and she also officiated at the unveiling of the Soldier's Memorial Cenotaph, on which her son's name would have been inscribed. Charles Foss served one year as Mayor of the Town of Carnarvon. Both the Foss and Fane families have streets named in their honour in Carnarvon. Charles Foss retired as Resident Magistrate in 1915, and continued to live in the town.

The Foss family had a holding of 150,000 acres adjoining Middalya in December 1906, the brothers Gerald and Dudley running the property. Vaughan worked for Dalgety and Co in Carnarvon prior to signing up in the AIF. He was a founding member of the rifle club in 1905, returning good scores over the next few years. When the rifle club opened in January 1906 Mrs Foss fired the first shot - 'a very fair shot'. Vaughan also played cricket in the town.

Vaughan Edgar Foss, born 1884, when his mother was probably visiting her Dongara family, farmers at Irwin. He enlisted at Belmont on 23 May 1916 and embarked from Melbourne in November 1916, arriving at Plymouth in January 1917, spending Christmas at sea. On arrival in England Vaughan developed measles, then mumps, so his departure to the front was delayed until 1 September 1917.

Vaughan was promoted to Gunner in the 2nd Division Artillery, and was killed in action on 11 August 1918. He is buried at Heath Cemetery Harbonnieres.

Saturday 31 August 1918.
For King and Country.

The sad news came through on Tuesday of the death in action of Vaughan Foss, second son of Mr CDV Foss Late Resident Magistrate and ex-Mayor of Carnarvon. Vaughan was born in Carnarvon * and most of his life was spent in this district, where he was known and esteemed by practically all. He enlisted in May 1916 and joined the artillery and has been in France for some 18 months. The deepest sympathy is felt for Mr and Mrs Foss and family in their sad bereavement. Thus one more of our noble boys who have risked their all in the great fight to save us from the forces of barbarism and to assure us the right to live in peace has made the supreme sacrifice.
Church services at St George's Church on Sunday 1 September held a special commemoration for the late Vaughan Edgar Foss.
(Ed: *Vaughan Foss was born at Irwin.)

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

News of Vaughan's death was reported in the Geraldton Guardian on 10 September 1918.
The sad news came through recently of the death in action of Vaughan Foss, second son of Mr CDV Foss, late Resident Magistrate and ex-mayor of Carnarvon. Vaughan was born in Carnarvon*. He enlisted in May 1916 and joined the artillery and has been in France form some 18 months. He fell on 11 August, just three days after his 30th birthday.
*Ed: Vaughan Foss was born at Irwin.

Western Mail 4 October 1918
Foss. Vaughan Edgar, late of the 23rd Reinforcements, 8th Battery AIF and second son of CDV Foss of Carnarvon, killed in action on 11 August in France.


Hurtle Henry Fergusson

Hurtle Henry Fergusson was born in Dongara in 1896 to Alexander and Emma Louise (Osborn) Fergusson. Alexander was born in Adelaide and came to Western Australia at the age of 19 and started a saddler's business in Dongara, where he married Emma Osborn in 1894. A few years later, with his wife and family he went to York where he embarked on a butchering business. The large family of ten children eventually settled in Boscabel, near Kojonup in 1913. Alexander became a member of the Kojonup Road Board for 20 years and was a highly respected member of the community. Emma passed away in 1936, Alexander just two years later.

Hurtle Henry was the eldest son of six boys and four girls. He was under age when he enlisted in the AIF and required his parents' permission. He left Fremantle per Argyllshire on 9 November 1916, arriving in England in early January 1917. Like many Australian soldiers the northern winter took its toll and Hurtle developed mumps in February, then a hernia in May before being classed as unfit at Perham Downs on 7 June 1917.

A week later it was decided he was fit and reclassified, ready for overseas service. Before that happened he went Absent Without Leave at Tidworth, and fined a day's pay. Hurtle proceeded to France on 17 September 1917 and was wounded in action in Belgium a month later with a shrapnel wound to the right arm. He was repatriated to England to Dartford Hospital to recover and returned to France on 2 February 1918, re-joining his unit a week later.

Hurtle was killed in action on 1 April 1918, aged 21, and is buried at Hebuterne Communal Cemetery, France. His death came as a shock to the family, but no newspaper reports of his death have been found.

Robert Pell

Robert Pell, son of George and Elizabeth Pell was born in 1889, brother of Claude (died, France 1917) and brother in law of Silas Rowland, (died France, 1917). He was living in the Goldfields at the time of his enlistment and underwent his medical examination at Kalgoorlie on 22 August 1915, then proceeding to Blackboy Hill, enlisting on 1 September 1915, giving his occupation as a miner. He allotted part of his army pay to Edith Mulholland and child, but her identity and whereabouts remains a mystery. An Edith Mulholland was living at Ora Banda at the time, attending various social functions in the area in 1916.

Robert Pell
Robert Pell

Robert left Fremantle per Medic on 18 January 1916. By August he was in hospital recovering from a gunshot wound to the head. On release he returned to camp at Perham Downs where he went AWOL from 30 September to 3 October and docked seven days. A further three lots of detention between October and December, 1916, then AWOL again for 20 days in January, 1917 resulted in 20 days detention and forfeiture of 45 days' pay. It would seem Robert had problems with the discipline of Army life. And so his record continued, alternating between illness and detention until he was shipped to France.

On 3 October 1918 he was wounded with a gunshot wound to the chest, dying later that day at the 50th Casualty Clearing Station, France. He was buried at Tincourt Cemetery, France.

Robert's eldest brother William received his medals and memorial scroll. Edith Mulholland remains a mystery.

Geraldton Guardian 29 October 1918.

News has been received of the death, killed in action of Private Robert Pell. He was the youngest brother of Charles, Clarrie and Claude Pell and Mrs Silas Rowland, who also lost her esteemed husband fighting in France.

The Midlands Advertiser Friday 26 October 1917.

Robert Pell of North Fremantle, previous reported as wounded, died of wounds. This information also appeared in the Western Argus Kalgoorlie on 3 December 1918.

West Australian Friday 6 December 1918.

Pell. In sad and loving memory of my dear brother Private Robert Pell, 7/28th Battalion who died of wounds on October 3.
The midnight stars are gloaming
On his face so pure and bright
Far away where comrades laid him
Died for heaven's sake tonight.
Inserted by his loving brother Clarence.

West Australian Thursday 12 December 1918

Pell. In sad and loving memory of my dear brother Private Robert Pell 28th Battalion who died of wounds on October 3, 1918.
Weep not, the angels whispered
Our loved ones shall be restored
We take them but to plant them
In the garden of the Lord
Inserted by his loving sister G Rowland, Dongarra.


Charles Purcell

Charles Purcell, son of William and Ruth (Browning) Purcell was born in 1889 in Dongara. His father died in 1906, leaving a large family of eight children in the care of his widow.

Enlisting on 22 June 1915, Charles had a long war, before illness claimed him. He embarked from Hobart on 1 September 1915 and while in Egypt contracted mumps on 28 April 1916. On his recovery he sailed to Marseilles on 13 June 1916 and entrained to northern France where he was appointed Driver on 1 July 1916.

Over the next few months Charles was absent without leave for 3 hours and drunk, for which he forfeited 15 days' pay. By November 1916 he was ill in hospital with bronchitis and his rank reverted to Gunner.

In March 1917 Charles again forfeited several days' pay for "using insubordinate language to his superior officer, in that he used obscene language". Later that year he resumed as a Driver, but on 1 May 1918 remustered as a Gunner, attending Musketry School on 19 May 1918.

On 23 June 1918 Charles was admitted to hospital with pneumonia where he died on 28 June 1918 "of pneumonia attributable to exposure while on military duty". He was buried at Longuenesse St Omer Souvenir Cemetery, after three years and five days of Military Service.

The West Australian 13 September 1918
Purcell. In loving memory of our dear son, brother and nephew, Private Charles Purcell who died on 28 June 1918 of pneumonia whilst on active service abroad.
No one knows the silent heartache
Only those can tell
Who have lost the best and dearest,
Without a last farewell.
Inserted by his sorrowing mother Mrs Ruth Purcell, Dongarra, sisters Eva, Joanna, Florence, Phoebe, Daisy and Hilda, brother John and uncle John and brothers in law.
Geraldton Guardian Tuesday 16 July 1918.
Death has claimed its twentieth victim on our honour roll in the person of Private Charlie Purcell, a Dongarra born soldier, who was claimed as one of the many victims of pneumonia, caused no doubt from the cold exposure that they are subjected to in the trenches. We began to believe that after three years safety from disaster at the war that they must bear a 'charmed existence', and that they will really come home again to us again. Such was not the case of the above named and we extend sincere sympathy to his mother and sister who reside here.

John Eardley Walker

John Eardley Walker was born in Dongara in 1898, the year his parents Sydney Harry (also known as George) and Harriet Ray (White) Walker married in Perth. The family moved back to Perth and John became a pupil at Cottesloe State School. After leaving school John took a job as a store assistant, the 'Trade or Calling' given on his enlistment papers. He was just 18 on enlistment, departing Fremantle on the troopship Miltiades on 29 January 1917, arriving in England in March.

By August 1917 John was in France as part of the 11th Battalion. In December he went Absent Without Leave and was fined one day's pay and confined to barracks for seven days.

During 1918 John suffered several injuries. He was wounded in action on 1 April, then gassed on 3 April, taking three weeks to recover. He was wounded once more in August, this time knee and leg injuries, but by 1 October had recovered sufficiently to re-join his unit. The Daily News, Perth on Saturday 5 October 1918 listed John as wounded for the second time.

On 31 October he was granted leave in England and during this time he was arrested and tried by civil powers at the Guildhall Police Court London for drunkenness and assault. He was fined 30/-. John returned to Europe, as part of the post-war forces.

On 5 February 1919, John was admitted to hospital with diphtheria. Ten days later he was dangerously ill with pneumonia and died on 15 February 1919. He was buried at Charleroi Communal Cemetery, Belgium.

The Defence Department had some difficulty in tracing John's father as he seemed to change his address regularly. However by 1923 John's medals had been sent to his father.

The West Australian Friday 15 February 1919

Walker. In loving memory of Private John Eardley Walker 11th Battalion, who died at Charleroi, February 15 1919, Inserted by his loving mother, father and sisters.

The West Australian Friday 20 February 1920

Walker. In loving memory of our dear son Private John Eardley Walker A Company 11th Battalion who died at Charleroi Military Hospital February 19, 1919. They dream of home. Inserted by his sorrowing mother and father, sister Amy and little Molly.

The West Australian Thursday 23 February 1923

Walker. In loving memory of our dear son and brother Private John Eardley Walker 11th Battalion AIF who died at Charleroi Belgium February 15, 1919. Inserted by his father, mother and sisters Amy and Mollie.