Tag Archives: Combridge

It’s A Small World

I didn’t think I would ever see the names Harman and Combridge together in a newspaper article.  Harman,  is my maternal great-grandmother’s family name and Combridge, my paternal grandmother’s family name.  One is from the west of the Western District and the other family was predominately from around Geelong, but my paternal grandmother’s own family moved across to South Gippsland.  Also, I thought that not until my parent’s marriage in 1967, would Harman and Combridge descendants have stood together in a church, but in fact 53 years before in Kyneton, Central Victoria they did.

The Harman in question was Nina Harman (who you have met before when she appeared in the Australian Women’s Weekly with her carpet, a royal inspiration).  The Combridge in question was John Robert Combridge (1868-1934), brother of my gg grandfather, Herbert Combridge.

Nina Harman, then 19, was in Kyneton back in 1914 because her father, Walter Graham Harman had moved the family there from Port Fairy in the early 1900s.  John Combridge, a Church of Christ minister, was finishing a stint at the Kyneton Church of Christ, before moving to Horsham, the deepest any Combridge had ventured into Western Victoria. The purpose of the gathering at the Kyneton Church of Christ was to farewell John and his wife, Julia Mill, and wish them luck for their time in Horsham.  Not only was Nina a member of the congregation, she played the piano alongside Julia on the organ.

Nina wasn’t the only Harman in church that Sunday evening.  Mr and Miss Harman sang the hymn “Look up to Christ” accompanied by Nina and Julia.  Mr Harman would have been Nina’s father Walter and the Miss Harman, one of Nina’s sisters, either Elise or Nellie.  John then launched into his final sermon at Kyneton Church of Christ.

While it was a smaller world in 1914, I’m still surprised the families met and I can only wonder how well they knew each other.

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THE CHURCH OF CHRIST. (1914, June 30). Kyneton Guardian (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 2. Retrieved November 21, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article129618902

THE CHURCH OF CHRIST. (1914, June 30). Kyneton Guardian (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 2. Retrieved November 21, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article129618902


Riddiford Centenary

In 1846, the Bristol Mercury reported that Aaron Riddiford of North Nibley, Gloucestershire had died aged 92.  He had lived his entire life on the farm where he was born and only ever travelled a few miles from his home.

That same decade a young cousin of Aaron, my ggg grandfather Charles Riddiford,  said goodbye to Gloucestershire and moved to Buckinghamshire.  He married Elizabeth Richardson Cooke and started a family, but he was looking for more.  By 1851, he had taken the family to Clerkenwell, London and worked as a tailor. Shortly after he was off to Bedfordshire as a Police Constable.  After his discharge for poaching, he packed up the family and moved back to Buckinghamshire, joining the Haddenham constabulary.

A son of Charles, Thomas Cooke Riddiford inherited the wandering gene.  In 1872 he took his family to Ontario, Canada looking for the promised land.  He didn’t find it and three years later the family returned to Buckinghamshire.  They spent some time in London and then back to Bucks.  His wife Emma Piddington died in 1883 and by 1891, Thomas had left his children aged 13 to two at the time of Emma’s death, and moved to Lancashire. He remarried twice and remained in Lancashire until his death.

Thomas William Cooke Riddiford, my great-grandfather, a son of Thomas snr. and Emma Piddington was born at the Crown Inn, Cuddington, Buckinghamshire in 1875  and was eight when his mother died.  Like his father and grandfather he was looking for something more.  That desire took him to Canada, back to England and finally Australia aboard the “SS Commonwealth“, with his wife Caroline and four sons, including my grandfather Percy, 100 years ago today, on September 15, 1913.

Thomas jnr. followed in his father’s footsteps and took up butchering.  In 1891 he was living at the Plough Inn, Haddenham, Buckinghamshire and working as a butcher’s assistant.  He then made his way to London.  At Lambeth, London on  February 7, 1896,  he married 17 year-old Caroline “Queenie” Celia Ann Kirkin,  daughter of railway worker Frederick John Kirkin and Amy Maria Webb, at St Barnabas Church.

It may have been a short courtship prior to the marriage in February, as the birth of first child William, was registered in July 1896 at Lambeth.  His baptism was at St. Barnabas on August 2, 1896 .

Over the next 17 years, the Riddiford family lived at all points of the compass around London.  Thomas may have followed work or was looking for the perfect place to raise his growing family.  The following Google Map shows the four different residences of the Riddifords during that 17 year period, from Lambeth to Notting Hill, to Leytonstone and finally Edmonton, the last known residence before their departure to Australia.

The family suffered a loss in 1903 with the death of two-year old Horace.  The year 1906, was the only time the family were apart when Tom took a trip to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, presumably with the thought of moving there.  He didn’t find what he was looking for and returned to London.

In 1913, the Riddifords took their chances and joined other assisted immigrants aboard the “SS Commonwealth” and sailed for Australia via South Africa, dropping passengers at Adelaide.

ASSISTED IMMIGRANTS. (1913, August 8). The Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 - 1929), p. 6. Retrieved September 14, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article60056064

ASSISTED IMMIGRANTS. (1913, August 8). The Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 – 1929), p. 6. Retrieved September 14, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article60056064

SHIPPING NOTES. (1913, September 10). Daily Herald (Adelaide, SA : 1910 - 1924), p. 6. Retrieved September 14, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article105592344

SHIPPING NOTES. (1913, September 10). Daily Herald (Adelaide, SA : 1910 – 1924), p. 6. Retrieved September 14, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article105592344

GENERAL NEWS. (1913, September 12). The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1931), p. 18. Retrieved September 14, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5801205

GENERAL NEWS. (1913, September 12). The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 – 1931), p. 18. Retrieved September 14, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5801205

They docked at Victoria Harbour, Melbourne on September 15.  The family then consisted of five boys – William Thomas Frederick (17), Cyril Victor (15), Ernest Arthur (14), Percy Ronald (10) and Reginald Leonard (3)

SHIPPING INTELLIGENCE. (1913, September 16). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 14. Retrieved September 14, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article7233086

SHIPPING INTELLIGENCE. (1913, September 16). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 14. Retrieved September 14, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article7233086

SHIPPING INTELLIGENCE. (1913, September 16). Bendigo Advertiser (Vic. : 1855 - 1918), p. 6. Retrieved September 14, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article91019708

SHIPPING INTELLIGENCE. (1913, September 16). Bendigo Advertiser (Vic. : 1855 – 1918), p. 6. Retrieved September 14, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article91019708

SS COMMONWEALTH.  Image Courtesy of the State Library of South Australia.  Image No, b69878  http://images.slsa.sa.gov.au/mpcimg/70000/B69878.htm

SS COMMONWEALTH. Image Courtesy of the State Library of South Australia. Image No, b69878 http://images.slsa.sa.gov.au/mpcimg/70000/B69878.htm

By early 1914, the Riddiford’s had settled at Smeaton, a small town north of Ballarat.  Thomas took up work as a farm labourer and was later the pound keeper.

SHIRE COUNCIL. (1915, December 3). Creswick Advertiser (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 2. Retrieved September 11, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119523460

SHIRE COUNCIL. (1915, December 3). Creswick Advertiser (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 2. Retrieved September 11, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119523460

After London, life must have been very different, especially for Caroline who had spent 34 years living in London, most of that time in Lambeth, with smog, pea-soupers, crowding, slums and noise.  Imagine how quiet it must have seemed for her…ah the serenity.

After six boys, the family welcomed the first girl, Lillian Ivy, to the family in 1914.  Maybe it was the fresh air.  If Thomas was looking for wide open spaces, he had arrived. However the serenity was soon shattered with the onset of WW1.  If they were feeling settled, that would change.

Fundraising on the home front started and the first newspaper reference I have about Grandpa, Percy Riddiford, refers to a Belgian Fund Concert at Smeaton.  He, along with other children sang and conducted games as part of their performance.

SMEATON. (1915, April 20). Creswick Advertiser (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 2. Retrieved September 10, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119521368

SMEATON. (1915, April 20). Creswick Advertiser (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 2. Retrieved September 10, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119521368

Soon after,  the first of Thomas and Caroline’s sons would enlist.  While Thomas had unwittingly removed his family from the direct threat of war, over the next four years, three of his sons would enlist taking them into its midst.  Their decisions to enlist must have been different to other local lads, who may have been second or third generation Australian.  Bill, Cyril and Ern, had already had their adventures and travel, surely their greatest thoughts would have been of England.

Bill enlisted on September 2, 1915, and arrived in France in March 1916 with the 12th Battalion, but after just five months he was hit by an ambulance, suffering a fracture to his femur.  While in the 7th General Hospital his condition was listed as “dangerously ill”.  His injury resulted in a lifelong disability.

As soon as he was 18, Cyril enlisted, on April 4, 1916, joining the 8th Battalion in France in September that year.  Ern, a butcher, also enlisted as soon as he was 18,  on February 5, 1918 with the 59th Battalion.  He arrived in France on February 1, 1919.

Despite Bill’s injury, the boys returned home safely, their service remembered in the Creswick Shire Avenue of Honour, also known as the Kingston Avenue of Honour.

In 1922, at 43 years of age, Caroline gave birth to Stanley Gordon at Smeaton.  The family was now complete with an age span of 26 years from the oldest to youngest child.

Around 1927, the Riddifords moved into Ballarat, taking up residence at 619 Humffray Street South.  Thomas returned to the butchering trade, operating a business in Peel Street South.  The older boys were getting married and starting families.  The three boys that served were living in  Melbourne.  Ern and Cyril married Jessica Prideaux and Amelia Romeril, respectively, from Port Melbourne.  They had two children each.  Bill married Creswick girl, Florence Bowley but they lived in Port Melbourne near to Ern and Cyril.  Bill and Florence moved to Creswick in their later years where they remained until their passing.  They had no children.

The Riddiford family of Ballarat

The Riddiford family of Ballarat

The photos (above) and (below) have an interesting story that can be read in the R is for…Riddiford post.  The photo below has “Clunes” written on the back, but the date of the photo would be the 1930s by which time the Riddifords were in Ballarat.  The shop may have been in Peel Street South Ballarat and if so, it no longer exists.

RIDDIFORD

Aside from some time in Geelong, Reg also remained in Ballarat and followed his father’s trade as a butcher.  He married Mavis Goldby in 1932 and they had two daughters.

Stan enlisted in WW2 and on his return built a house next to his parents in Humffray Street, He married Amy McBain and worked as a carpet layer.  They had two children.

HOMES OF TOM & QUEENIE (left) AND STAN & AMY (right), Humffray Street South, Ballarat.

HOMES OF TOM & QUEENIE (left) AND STAN & AMY (right), Humffray Street South, Ballarat.

Lil married Ernest Horgan and had one son.  She remained in Ballarat.

Dad remembers family get-togethers in the 1950s with singalongs with songs such “Knees up Mother Brown” .  That song was recorded in the 1930s but thought to be an old Cockney song and was, for a time, sung at matches by West Ham supporters.  There were also visitors from England to Humffray Street, including Caroline’s parents and cousins of Tom.

The move to Humffray Street in 1927, in the suburb of  Mt. Pleasant, was Thomas and Caroline’s last move remaining there until their deaths in 1957 and 1962.  Thomas must have found the promised land, his Shangri- La.  Maybe if his father had travelled to Australia in 1876 instead of Canada, Thomas jnr. may have reached his destination earlier and Thomas snr. would too have found what seems to have alluded him.

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HEADSTONE OF THOMAS AND CAROLINE RIDDIFORD, BALLARAT NEW CEMETERY

My grandfather Percy, went on to work as a tram conductor in Melbourne and Ballarat.  He married Mavis McLeish in Melbourne in 1932 and they had four sons.  Mavis passed away in 1943 and in 1944  Percy married my grandmother, Mavis Combridge.  They returned to Ballarat and they had three more sons.

Dad recalls during the 1950s when they were living in Forest Street, Wendouree,  Grandpa would clear out the dining room and call square dances with up to 10 couples involved.  At one time the younger boys attended Redan Primary School and Grandpa was on the committee and worked there as a cleaner.  He also worked on the gate at the Ballarat trots and one of my last memories of him was there…as we called by the trotting track one night, on our way home to Hamilton, to say goodbye to Grandpa.  He died in 1974 when I was six.

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MEMORIAL STONE OF PERCY & MAVIS RIDDIFORD, BALLARAT CREMATORIUM

Tom, Queenie, Bill, Cyril, Ern, Percy, Reg, Lil and Stan…this one’s for you.


Trove Tuesday – Unspoken Memories

Troving never ends. As newspapers come online it’s necessary to check them… just in case.  Often I have filled the gaps in a story or found evidence that supports earlier findings because a “new” paper has arrived on the scene.

That was the case when the Lang Lang Guardian (1914-1918) came online recently.  For the 2013 Anzac Day Blog Challenge, I wrote about my grandfather Les Combridge so it was pleasing to find the following article from June 21, 1918,  that adds to his story .  It is a report on the return home of two Grantville “fighting men” Trooper Cole and Lance Corporal Combridge.   Aside from what I learnt about Les, this article paints a lovely picture of a small town gathering during that time.  There is the decorated hall, singing and of course supper…ladies a plate please.

So what can I glean from this article.   Firstly, there is confirmation that Les was on the troop ship “Southland“.  Also the chair for the night was his future father-in-law, Culmer White.  There is a reference to the difficulties faced by returned serviceman and lack of Government support, giving us an idea of the tone of public opinion during those times.

The horrors of war were mentioned but not elaborated upon and it is clear that Les preferred not to speak of his experiences . He was not the only one.  Mr Bartells  said his boys would not speak of their time in service.  He quipped that it was only those that hadn’t been away that would talk about the War.

The saddest part of this article is the speech by Mr Bartells.  He told Les that he could “spin yarns” about the bombing of the “Southland” when he was an old man.  Les never became an old man.  He died 19  years after that night in the Grantville hall, aged 40.  He would have take those yarns to the grave.

Despite feeling  sad for Les, my mood lifted when I reached the last paragraph.   The final item on the agenda was supper and one of the helpers was Miss White.  Les married a “Miss White”, Myrtle Rose, daughter of Culmer White.  This could have been any one of Myrtle’s three sisters that were also “Miss White” in 1918, but it is nice to think that it could have been Myrtle.  That may have been the beginnings of their courtship.  They probably went to school together but with Les having been away at war for a couple of years they may have looked at each other differently as they each reached across the supper table for a cucumber sandwich.  Les and Myrtle married  15 months later on September 16, 1919.

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GRANTVILLE SOLDIERS' WELCOME HOME. (1918, June 21). Lang Lang Guardian (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 3. Retrieved August 6, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119515605

GRANTVILLE SOLDIERS’ WELCOME HOME. (1918, June 21). Lang Lang Guardian (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 3. Retrieved August 6, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119515605


What Was “Lost” is Now Found

The subject of my 2013 Anzac Day post was great-grandfather Les Combridge.  I wanted to include a photo of Les and I couldn’t get one of Grandmas’ photos in time, but I knew I had a large envelope with information Grandma’s sister Jean had sent me.  There were photos in the envelope but I couldn’t remember if there was one of Les.  Well, I searched everywhere for that envelope and I couldn’t find it.   That’s right, I’m not an organised genealogist and to qualify that, I recently joined a Facebook group The Organized Genealogist.  I doubt it will help me.

Over the past weekend I stumbled across the envelope.  It wasn’t lost.  I always knew it was somewhere.  I just had to find that somewhere.

The envelope has a treasure trove of information about the Combridge family and should have demanded my immediate attention when Auntie Jean first sent it to me.  But you know how easy it is to get sidetracked.  There were no photos of Les.  Instead there was one of his father Herbert John Combridge.

Herbert was born in Geelong in 1873, the youngest of 12 children of John Combridge and Martha Baker.  John and Martha had arrived in Geelong in 1855 from England.  Herbert married Jane Wyatt in 1895 at Kyneton. The minister was Herbert’s brother John Robert Combridge, Church of Christ minister at Kyneton at the time .  Herbert and Jane went back to the Geelong district and my great-grandfather Leslie Herbert Combridge was born in 1897 at Steglitz, west of Geelong.  By 1900, Herbert, Jane and Les had moved to Grantville in Gippsland where the remaining three children to the couple were born.

Herbert Combridge2

HERBERT JOHN COMBRIDGE

On the back of the next photo someone had written”Les and Claude”.  Claude was the younger brother of Les.  However Auntie Jean had written underneath “not Les and Claude”.

Combridge2

She seemed fairly emphatic about that and I do agree with her.  The photo is too early for Les and Claude and there was a 10 year age difference between the two.  Given the photos came from the same source, a cousin of Auntie Jean, and there was also information about the Geelong Combridge’s, Auntie Jean was probably given the photo for a reason.  I suspect this is another photo of Herbert Combridge.

The first step was to follow-up on the  photographer, “Wilmot of Malop Street, Geelong” to establish a time frame.  The Geelong District Local and Family History site includes a useful Geelong and District Photographers Database.  “Wilmot” was George Wilmot, in business in Geelong from 1865-1923.  He started off with William Keys in 1865-1886, then went out on his own in 1886, first in Fyans Street, then from 1891 to 1923 in Malop Street.

From Trove photographs, I knew that when in business with Keys, the business name at the bottom of the photo was “Wilmot and Keys”.  The logo on the border changed a lot over the years and I only found one other with a coat of arms, that being from around 1907.  The photo was likely taken after 1891 when George moved his business from Fyans Street to Malop street.  Herbert was 18 in 1891.

The boy on the right looks younger and I suspect they are brothers.  If  it is Herbert, he’d be on the right as he was the youngest child in the family.  Benjamin was the next eldest by two years.    Benjamin would have been 20 in 1891.  If Herbert, the photo would be from before his marriage in 1897 when Herbert was aged 24.  The time frame would then be 1891-1897.  What do you think?

I know that while I have learnt a lot about Ladies fashion writing seasonal posts that have proved useful when trying to date photos, I don’t know a lot about men’s clothing, so that’s penciled in for a future post.

Of course this may not be Herbert at all.

You may remember from the Anzac Day post that Herbert’s wife Jane died in 1909 as a result of childbirth.  In Auntie Jean’s envelope were two cemetery receipts, a sad reminder of that year.  The first receipt, from July 27, is for the interment of a stillborn baby.  The charge 17/6.  Then from December 14, a receipt for the burial of Jane.  The charge £1.

Combridge1

Now, you’ll be pleased to know,  all the gems in Auntie Jean’s envelope are scanned and the originals in a safe place.  I suppose that’s one step toward being more organised.


From Six Bob Tourist to Souvenir

This is the third year I have posted for the Trans Tasman Anzac Day Blog Challenge.  For 2013, I share the story of Leslie Herbert Combridge.

When Billy Hughes spoke to the people of Australia on January 21, 1915, something must have stirred inside Les Combridge.  It may have been pride, anger, guilt or simply his sense of adventure.

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"WE WANT MORE MEN". (1915, January 22). The Ballarat Courier (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 3 Edition: DAILY.. Retrieved April 23, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article73915492

“WE WANT MORE MEN”. (1915, January 22). The Ballarat Courier (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 3 Edition: DAILY.. Retrieved April 23, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article73915492

On February 2, he travelled the 40 kilometres from Grantville to Wonthaggi and enlisted in the Australian Infantry Forces.  He had nothing to lose.  He was 18½ and working on a farm in a rural area so the chance to get out and be paid to see the world must have been some incentive.  Why wouldn’t it be an adventure?  The papers were full of stories of soldiers enjoying the sights of Egypt, the Great Pyramids and the market places.  Besides, it probably would be all over by the time he got there.

WANTED—100,000 MEN.—STILL THEY COME. (1915, January 6). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 7. Retrieved April 20, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article1488026

WANTED—100,000 MEN.—STILL THEY COME. (1915, January 6). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 7. Retrieved April 20, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article1488026

After enlisting with his father’s consent, Les was assigned to the newly formed 21st Battalion.  After training at  Broadmeadows, the Battalion left Port Melbourne on May 10, 1915 aboard the HMAT Ulssyss.

This article from the Euroa Advertiser by “One Who Witnessed It” describes the arrival of the troops at the dock, boarding and departure.

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DEPARTURE OF A TROOP-SHIP. (1915, May 14). Euroa Advertiser (Vic. : 1884 - 1920), p. 2. Retrieved April 20, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article70371657

DEPARTURE OF A TROOP-SHIP. (1915, May 14). Euroa Advertiser (Vic. : 1884 – 1920), p. 2. Retrieved April 20, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article70371657

That account was a little different to that of A.M McNeil in his book The Story of the 21st He writes

“Embarkation was quietly carried out.  There was no fanfare of trumpets, and that night we slipped from the pier, down the bay…” (p. 7)

HMAT Ulysses  Image Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial ID NO: PS0154. Photographer Schuler, Phillip Frederick Edward  http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/PS0154/

HMAT ULYSSES. Image Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial ID NO: PS0154. Photographer
Schuler, Phillip Frederick Edward http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/PS0154/

A.R McNeil  described the voyage as “smooth” and a highlight was the arrival at the Suez Canal.

“…glorious trip through Suez Canal in daylight.  Here we saw troops on active service for the first time, as the “line” was then right on the Canal bank (p8).

Egypt lived up to the reports back home

“Our first stay in Egypt is one of our happiest memories,  In spite of the heat, and the not too good tucker, we enjoyed our time off thoroughly”  “Cairo 20 minutes by electric tram and the sights, sounds and smells of our new surroundings interested us”. (p.8)

HINDMASH PATRIOTIC FUND. (1915, January 23). The Mail (Adelaide, SA : 1912 - 1954), p. 9. Retrieved April 23, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article59302494

HINDMASH PATRIOTIC FUND. (1915, January 23). The Mail (Adelaide, SA : 1912 – 1954), p. 9. Retrieved April 23, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article59302494

Private Dusting of Portland, with the 21st, wrote home of the sights he had seen at Columbo, Port Said and Cairo.  Like others, he was keen to get to the Dardanelles.

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Soldier's Letter. (1915, August 18). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved April 23, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63974309

Soldier’s Letter. (1915, August 18). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved April 23, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63974309

Bugler G.  Barett wrote of the training the 21st Battalion were carrying out before they moved on to Anzac Cove.  The food was good too, and a 8 pence a day allowance allowed for extras like tinned fruit and pickles.

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Our Men at the Front. (1915, August 21). Brighton Southern Cross (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 3. Retrieved April 23, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article75045296

Our Men at the Front. (1915, August 21). Brighton Southern Cross (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 3. Retrieved April 23, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article75045296

It was during this time that the term “Six Bob a Day Tourists” evolved to describe the Australian diggers.  They could earn six bob a day and see the World.

"SIX BOB A DAY TOURISTS.". (1915, June 7). The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 - 1950), p. 3 Edition: THIRD EDITION. Retrieved April 25, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article81003870

“SIX BOB A DAY TOURISTS.”. (1915, June 7). The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 – 1950), p. 3 Edition: THIRD EDITION. Retrieved April 25, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article81003870

Despite the sightseeing, the boys were keen to get into action and on August 30, the 21st boarded the Southland bound for Anzac Cove.  On September 2, 1915, the troops of the 21st Battalion, including Les Combridge, got their first taste of the reality of war.  A German submarine torpedoed the cruiser and the call came to abandon ship.  Men rushed to life boats, some spent hours in the water while others drowned and they would be noted in history as the victims of the first Australian ship struck by a torpedo.  There were 14 casualties in total.

Men of 11 Platton 21st Battalion C Company IMAGE COURTESy of the Australian War Memorial.  ID No. A00746 http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/A00746/

Men of 11 Platton 21st Battalion C Company IMAGE COURTESy of the Australian War Memorial. ID No. A00746 http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/A00746/

The Southland after the torpedo attack.

The Troopship Soutland.  Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial Id No.A00737http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/A00737/

The Troopship Soutland. Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial Id No.A00737http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/A00737/

Neil C. Smith in the Red & Black Diamond: the History of the 21st Battalion mentions letters home were censored after the event and the story was not officially released until two months later.  This article from November 15, 1915 was one of the first reports of the attack.

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THE GENERAL'S PRAISE. (1915, November 21). Sunday Times (Perth, WA : 1902 - 1954), p. 1 Section: First Section. Retrieved April 23, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article57829146

THE GENERAL’S PRAISE. (1915, November 21). Sunday Times (Perth, WA : 1902 – 1954), p. 1 Section: First Section. Retrieved April 23, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article57829146

After their rescue, the 21st Battalion spent a couple of days at Lemnos Island in the Aegean Sea.   They then resumed their journey to Anzac Cove and their next big adventure began.

21st BATTALION AFTER ARRIVAL AT GALLIPOLI, MARCHING UP MONASH GULLY.  Image courtesy of Australian War Memorial ID No: A000742 http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/A00742/

21st BATTALION AFTER ARRIVAL AT GALLIPOLI, MARCHING UP MONASH GULLY. Image courtesy of Australian War Memorial ID No: A000742 http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/A00742/

Letters home described the rough terrain and the risk of Turkish snipers. At some of the posts, ropes raised soldiers up and down the steep embankments.

Our Boys at Gallipoli. (1915, December 14). Port Pirie Recorder and North Western Mail (SA : 1898 - 1918), p. 1. Retrieved April 23, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article95346962

Our Boys at Gallipoli. (1915, December 14). Port Pirie Recorder and North Western Mail (SA : 1898 – 1918), p. 1. Retrieved April 23, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article95346962

Private Fred Ware of East Gippsland also wrote home of the terrain and gave an account of the trip on the Southland.

SOLDIERS' LETTERS. (1915, December 24). Gippsland Mercury (Sale, Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 3 Edition: morning. Retrieved April 23, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article89277160

SOLDIERS’ LETTERS. (1915, December 24). Gippsland Mercury (Sale, Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 3 Edition: morning. Retrieved April 23, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article89277160

Les Combridge, with C Company, found himself stationed at Steele Post.  He  would stay in the trenches for weeks.  Steele Post looks as though it was one of the posts where ropes were necessary.

STEELES POST, GALLIPOLI 1915.  Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial ID No:  P01580.015 http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/P01580.015

STEELES POST, GALLIPOLI 1915. Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial ID No: P01580.015 http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/P01580.015

Conditions were harsh.  From the 21st Battalion Unit Diary on September 13, 1915 -

“Trenches infected with vermin, fleas and lice…Sanitary arrangements with regard to this Section need particular care and every endeavour is being made to perfect same”

This was no holiday.

On September 21, Les was charged with disobeying am NCO, the first of several charges during  his years of service.

On September 30 the Unit Diary recorded that,

A large percentage of the men are suffering from diarrhea of dysentery …This Battalion has been in the trenches for 23 days...”

On that day, Les was charged for being absent from his place of duty.  Maybe he was making use of the limited sanitary arrangements available to him, given the diary entry for that day.

Another charge for Les came on October 18 of sleeping at his post while sentinel, but he was found not guilty.

During December 1915,  as blizzards began to hit the coastline, the 21st Battalion was evacuated from Gallipoli with the other Australian troops and they began to make their way back to Alexandria.  They spent some time at Imbros Island and Christmas and New Year at Lemnos Island where Christmas billies from home were enjoyed.

On January 4, 1916 they began the last leg to Alexandria.

When the 21st returned to Egypt, they spent time on the banks of the Suez Canal but when the 2nd Pioneer Battalion was raised soon after, Les joined their ranks on March 16, 1916.  They sailed for Marseilles, France and began to make their way to the north of France, by train and foot.

After arriving in Morbecque, France on March 31, 1916,  the Pioneers received a demonstration about Poison gas and Weeping gas as recorded in the  2nd Pioneer Unit Diary.  They were now at the Somme, preparing to do the work the Pioneers were formed for, while still fending off the perils of war.

The Chief Engineer of the Australian Pioneers wrote of the work the 2nd Pioneers did near Ypres. He mentions the Battalion had suffered heavy losses.

The Chronicle. (1918, July 20). Williamstown Chronicle (Vic. : 1856 - 1954), p. 2. Retrieved April 24, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article69681288

The Chronicle. (1918, July 20). Williamstown Chronicle (Vic. : 1856 – 1954), p. 2. Retrieved April 24, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article69681288

Colonel E.J.H. Nicholson wrote of the Pioneers in 1919.

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Nicholson had the greatest respect for the pioneers and considered the 2nd Pioneers “the most respectable, steady, well conducted battalion…”

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AUSTRALIAN ENGINEERS AND PIONEERS. (1919, May 16). The Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 - 1929), p. 7. Retrieved April 24, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article62198709

AUSTRALIAN ENGINEERS AND PIONEERS. (1919, May 16). The Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 – 1929), p. 7. Retrieved April 24, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article62198709

2nd Pioneer Battalion near Bapaume.  Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial ID No:  E00343 http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/E00343/

2nd Pioneer Battalion near Bapaume. Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial ID No: E00343 http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/E00343/

The work of the Pioneer Battalion was described in the Williamstown Chronicle.    The Pioneers were give the nickname “Souvenirs” while the Engineers were “Ginger Beers”.  The “Souvenirs” not only had to do  hard labouring work but were prepared to fight if need be.  They often worked with gun fire and bombing going on around them and as a result there were often casualties.

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A PIONEER BATTALION. (1918, July 13). Williamstown Chronicle (Vic. : 1856 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved April 24, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article69681256

A PIONEER BATTALION. (1918, July 13). Williamstown Chronicle (Vic. : 1856 – 1954), p. 3. Retrieved April 24, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article69681256

On July 14, 1916, Les was transferred to the newly formed 2nd Tunnelling Company.   On July 19, near Fromelles, the 2nd Tunnellers detonated a mine, the largest in its’ operational history, designed to shield the 32nd Battalion as they moved across No Man’s Land.

NEWS OF THE DAY. (1916, July 22). The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954), p. 6. Retrieved April 25, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article1023967

NEWS OF THE DAY. (1916, July 22). The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), p. 6. Retrieved April 25, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article1023967

Les only had to endure digging underground for two months because on September 30 he moved back to the Pioneers, then at  Le Torquet, to continue digging above the ground.

On October 18, Les racked up another offence, charged with drunkenness.  As a result he lost two day’s pay.

On January 27, 1917  Les took sick and was transferred to hospital by the 13th Field Ambulance.  They took him to Allonville and the 39 Casualty Clearing Station.  He was then transferred on to the No 14 Stationary Hospital at Boulogne where he recovered from mumps.

Out of hospital, Les marched into the 2nd Australian Divisional Base at  Estaples on February 24, 1917, marching out again on February 27, 1917 to re-join the 2nd Pioneer Battalion on March 3.

From June 9, 1917 Les spent some time training with the 5th Army Musketry School and on August 4 he was promoted to Lance Corporal.

The 2nd Pioneers moved on to Ypres in October, 1917.  The following photo shows the 2nd Pioneer doing what they did best.  During the months of October and November, 1917 at Ypres the Battalion built water channels, stables and constructed a plank road as seen below at Chateau Wood.

2nd Pioneer building plank road at Chateau Wood, Ypres, Sept 26, 1917 Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial ID NOl P08577.002  http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/P08577.002

2nd Pioneer building plank road at Chateau Wood, Ypres, Sept 26, 1917 Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial ID NOl P08577.002 http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/P08577.002

An article in the Cairns Post on December 29, 1917 included stories from the front.  One of those mentioned was of a Sergeant from one of the Pioneer Battalions, lying injured in hospital.  The Sergeant described the work his Battalion were doing on the roads near Ypres.

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BATTLE STORIES FROM THE WEST FRONT. (1917, December 29). Cairns Post (Qld. : 1909 - 1954), p. 8. Retrieved April 24, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article40273100

BATTLE STORIES FROM THE WEST FRONT. (1917, December 29). Cairns Post (Qld. : 1909 – 1954), p. 8. Retrieved April 24, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article40273100

In July 21, 1919 the work of the Australian Pioneer Battalion was remembered in this article from the West Australian.

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ENGINEERS, PIONEERS, AND TUNNELLERS. (1919, July 21). The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954), p. 9. Retrieved April 24, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article27611735

ENGINEERS, PIONEERS, AND TUNNELLERS. (1919, July 21). The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954), p. 9. Retrieved April 24, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article27611735

On  November 2, 1917, Les was wounded, receiving a bullet to his right elbow.  The injury was described as severe.   The 3rd Australian Field Ambulance,  then stationed in Wippenhoek, took him to the 3rd Casualty Clearance Station.  The 2nd Pioneer Unit Diary states that one “OR” was wounded on that day.

The following day, Les was transferred to the 5th General Hospital at Rouen France, but it was necessary to move him to England and he arrived at the 5th South General Hospital at Portsmouth on November 8.

On Februay 8, 1918 Les  was  transferred to 3rd Auxiliary Hospital at Dartford for just under a week.  Patients with war related nervous conditions were treated there.  Then on to Weymouth, Dorset to convalesce until his departure on April 10, 1918

So Les was on a ship home.  But what was going on at home, who had he left and who had arrived?

ON THE HOMEFRONT

Les Combridge was the son of Herbert John Combridge and Jane Wyatt.  Jane passed away in 1909 at Grantville,  presumablyas a result of childbirth leaving Les, aged 12 and Horace Claude (known as Claude), aged two,  the only children remaining from five pregnancies.

In 1913,  Herbert married widow Sarah Hade (nee Jackson), already a mother of a large family.  In February 1914, Herbert and Sarah welcomed Verena May.  When Les left Australia 12 months later, Sarah was pregnant again and in July 1916 Harold Herbert was born.

Herbert had given his son his consent, maybe with even a hint of envy.  In 1916, after the age for enlistment was raised, the then 43-year-old Herbert himself enlisted.  After a short time at Royal Park, he was discharged due to a weak heart.

It seems that in each story I write for Anzac Day, rumours made their way home about the welfare of a soldier abroad.  The Combridges had their own taste of this, leading to Herbert writing to the  Army requesting information about Les.

On August 30, 1915, Herbert penned a letter to Colonel Hawker.  At the same time, in Egypt, Les was three days away from boarding the Southland to Gallopoli.

“…I have had one letter from him since he arrived in Egypt and since then I have not heard there is two other families around here had sons went away at the same time and they have sent letters home stating that my son lost the use of his legs since he landed and then contracted pneumonia and was to be invalided home and as I have not heard from him I thought you may be able to give me some information about him as I am anxious and if he is unable I think some one ought to let us know I have only him and a lad of 7 years out of 5 from my first marriage losing 3 and his mother in a few years so trusting you will do me the kindness of letting me know what you can about him…”

Herbert writes with little punctuation but the worry he was feeling is not lost.  He mentioned the children and wife he lost and the thought of losing another after such a short time must have been excruciating.

On September 7, 1915, a Lieutenant H Mackintosh, officer from Base  Records, responded to Herbert to ease his mind  somewhat.  He advised Herbert that no official notification had come through about Les, but if Herbert was to send any evidence he may have to the contrary with the full details of the informant etc etc.  A typical government letter.

Herbert replied, to let Lieutenant Mackintsh know that Les had since written and all was well.  He had been in hospital with pleurisy and bronchitis but had returned to his Company.  He went on to thank Mackintosh and apologised for the trouble he may have caused.  He explained:

“..,it was sent to two different parties about him and I thought if he was to be sent back I ought have heard…”

On November 16 1917, two weeks after it occured, Herbert received the notification he had expected two years earlier.  Les had been wounded.  It was two weeks later, on December 1, that he learned that Les had been shot and was in the 5th Southern General Hospital at Portsmouth.  Almost two weeks later he heard that Les was improving.  It was looking like Christmas 1917 would be a little happier than was thought at the beginning of the month.

Herbert’s next official notification of Les’ health was mid March 1918.  Les was “progressing favourably”.

When Les returned home in May 1918, he reunited with his father and Claude and met his two-year old brother for the first time.  His step mother was pregnant again with a third child to Herbert.

POST WAR

In September 1919, Les married local Grantville girl Myrtle Rose White, daughter of Culmer Thomas White and Alice Elizabeth Hunt.  On November 12, 1920 their first child, daughter Mavis Ayleen was born at Wonthaggi.  Over the next 16 years, they would have a further three girls and a son.

Les farmed first at Grantville and  later took up a property “Hazelbrook” at nearby Alumurta .  He became involved with the Blackwood Forest Football Club.

COUNTRY NEWS. (1926, April 21). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 26. Retrieved April 24, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3746499

COUNTRY NEWS. (1926, April 21). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 26. Retrieved April 24, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3746499

By 1937, and almost 20 years after his return from Europe, it seem that Les had got on with his life.  But on June 28, Les died suddenly at Wonthaggi from heart failure.  He was only 40 years old.

' OTHER DISTRICTS. (1937, July 3). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 21. Retrieved April 24, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article11115412

‘ OTHER DISTRICTS. (1937, July 3). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 21. Retrieved April 24, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article11115412

The loss of Les at such a young age must have hit hard.  Myrtle had the five children, aged from two to 17 and a farm.  Also Herbert was faced with the death of yet another child.

How do I know about Leslie Herbert Combridge.  He was my great-grandfather.  His eldest daughter Mavis was my Grandma and never in the 39 years I knew her, did I realise how much his death had an effect on her.  Not until I started reading newspapers at Trove, that is.  Then I found  “In Memoriam” notices she had submitted, right up until 1947, 10 years after his death,  herself then married and raising a family, living hours away from her beloved Bass Valley.

(1943, June 28). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 10. Retrieved April 25, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page625813

(1943, June 28). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 10. Retrieved April 25, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page625813

(1944, June 28). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 12. Retrieved April 25, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page628551

(1944, June 28). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 12. Retrieved April 25, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page628551

Family Notices. (1947, June 28). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 11. Retrieved April 25, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article22436539

Family Notices. (1947, June 28). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 11. Retrieved April 25, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article22436539

I can’t say how much WW1 played a part in the premature death of Les Combridge, but given the work he did, particularly with the Pioneers and the exposure to gas in France and the overall wear  the conditions must have had on a body, it cannot be dismissed.  Although with Herbert’s weak heart, hereditary factors were also at play, but Herbert, who didn’t serve, lived to 66, dying 18 months after Les, in 1939.

The places Les went read like a Contiki itinerary, but the hard working Pioneer was no tourist and for the most time, the sights he saw would be unforgettable but for all the wrong reasons.  His time spent collecting his nerves at Dartford before his return to Australia giveing some clue to the mind-set he was in but how much this continued to be a part of his life is not know.  If it was still there he must have kept it deep inside .

The early death of Les robbed him of time with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  He gave so much of his heart to Australia, there was little left for his family.

LEST WE FORGET

SOURCES

Australian War Memorial

Finlayson, Damien (2010). Crumps and camouflets : Australian tunnelling companies on the Western Front. Big Sky Publishing, Newport, N.S.W

MacNeil, A. R & 21st Battalion (A.I.F.) Association (Melbourne, Vic.) (1971). The Story of the twenty-first : being the official history of the 21st Battalion, A.I.F. 21st Battalion Association, Melbourne

National Archives of Australia

Smith, Neil C (1997). The red and black diamond : the history of the 21st Battalion 1915-18 (1st ed). Mostly Unsung Military History Research and Publications, Gardenvale, Vic

Trove Australia


Trove Tuesday – From the Heart

Not only do I have Western District families, I have West Gippsland families.  The Combridges, Hunts and Whites resided around Grantville and Wonthaggi.

My great great grandfather was Culmer Thomas White, born in Thanet, Kent, England in 1857.  Culmer  descended from the Culmer and White familes, well-known in Kent for their boat building businesses at Broadstairs.  The two families came together around 1714 when John White married Mary Culmer.  Culmer’s father, great grandfather and and gg grandfather were all named Culmer White.  There are several other Culmer’s including my gg uncle Culmer William White and William Culmer White, Culmer’s 2nd cousin 1 x removed, who also immigrated to Melbourne, and his son Culmer Reuben White.

Almost everything I have found in the newspapers about Culmer Thomas White has been a treasure.  None more so than this heartfelt letter written to Reverend Henry Howard in 1927 which was then passed on by the Reverend to the West Gippsland Gazette.  Culmer was 70 at the time of writing.

Rev. Henry Howard. (1927, July 5). West Gippsland Gazette (Warragul, Vic. : 1898 – 1930) , p. 1 Edition: MORNING.. Retrieved September 30, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article68643758

It is a touching letter as Culmer gives his thanks to Reverend Howard, shows his pride in his children and expresses his feelings at that time in his life, happy but at times lonely.

Culmer’s wife, my great great grandmother, was Alice Elizabeth Hunt, daughter of  William Henry Hunt and Margaret Beatty, immigrants from Middlesex, England.  Alice was born at Chilwell, Victoria in 1857.

Culmer died in 1938 at Wonthaggi and Alice in 1940 at Bass.  They are buried together at the Grantville cemetery.

Culmer and Alice’s youngest child, Myrtle Rose White, married Les Combridge in 1919.  They had five children, four daughters and one son.  One of those daughters was my Grandma, Mavis Combridge, later to marry Percy Riddiford.

Grandma passed away in 2007, but I did get to ask her about her grandparents Culmer and Alice, prior to her death.  She told me the story of how she and her three younger sisters would stay at their grandparent’s house.  Culmer would pick them up in a horse and cart and they would sit in the back as he drove them to his house.  He was a “lovely man” according to Grandma.  As is the way, there is still so much I would like to ask her about them.

I am very lucky as I still have a living link to Culmer and Alice, via my great Auntie Jean.  I have also spoken to her about her grandparents and she reiterated Grandma’s words that Culmer was a “lovely man”.  When I found this letter, I printed it out and sent it to Auntie Jean. She was thrilled.  I have sent her some of the other articles I have found about him and she has enjoyed being taken back in time.  I wish Grandma could have seen this wonderful letter.


Surname Saturday Meme: Names, Places and Most Wanted Faces

Following the lead of U.S. genealogist Thomas MacEntee and  in turn Australian genealogist Jill Ball, I decided to take part in this meme.  It interested me more than others I had seen, because not only would I get my names “out there”, I also got the chance to do a stocktake.  What an interesting exercise it was.  With some names, I did not have to look up the details as I knew them so well, others I had to refer back to my tree, and for one name, I had basically nothing.

It’s easy to develop favourite families, with some just oozing information making them more compelling to research.  The Harmans are an example of that.  The Riddiford line was probably my least favourite  and despite it being my family name, I tended to pass it by. When I did starting seriously researching them, I found loads of information.  This avoidance was probably due to them being 20th century immigrants and my history interests lie in 19th century Australia.  I had no choice but to delve into 18th and 19th century English history and I have really enjoyed it and learnt a lot and I continue to do so.  I am glad I got over my previous mindset.

I also have more Irish links than I normally given myself credit for and I can now clearly see the branches I have been neglecting.

I have included the surnames of my great great grandparents, but I have taken the places and dates back a little further.  If not, I would have had entries with just a single place in Australia with no indication of where the family originated from.

To take part, just do the following at your own blog, then post a  link in the comments at Thomas’ blog post

1. List your surnames in alphabetical order as follows:

[SURNAME]: Country, (State or County, Town), date range;

2. At the end, list your Most Wanted Ancestor with details about them.

MY NAMES, PLACES AND MOST WANTED FACES:

BISHOP:  England (Dorset, Weymouth) 1825-1850; Australia (South Australia, Adelaide) 1850-1854;  Australia (Victoria, Byaduk)1854-1950

COMBRIDGE:  England (Huntingdonshire) 1833-1855;  Australia (Victoria, Geelong 1855-1935);  Australia (Victoria, Grantville) 1900-1950

DIWELL:  England (Sussex) 1825-1852;  Australia (Victoria, Casterton) 1852-1893;  Australia (Victoria, Hamilton) 1893-1940

GAMBLE:  England 1808-1840;  Australia (Victoria, Geelong) 1840-1850;  Australia (Victoria, Colac), 1850-present

HADDEN:  Scotland (East Lothian) 1823-1852;  Australia (Victoria, Geelong) 1852-1865;  Australia (Victoria, Cavendish) 1865-1975;  Australia (Victoria, Hamilton) 1900-present

HARMAN:  England (Cambridgeshire, Melbourn) 1800-1854;  Australia (New South Wales) 1852-1857;  Australia (Victoria, Port Fairy) 1852-1863;  Australia (Victoria, Byaduk) 1863-present

HODGINS:  Ireland (Fermanagh) 1816-1853;  Australia (Victoria, Colac) 1853-1940

HUNT:  England (Middlesex, Poplar) 1834-1854;  Australia (Victoria, Geelong) 1854-1865; Australia (Victoria, Collingwood) 1867- ;  Australia (Victoria, West Gippsland) 1880-1936

JELLY:  Ireland (Down, Drumgooland) 1815-1845;  England (Lancashire, Manchester) 1845-1854;  Australia (Victoria, Casterton) 1854-1900

KIRKIN:  England (London, Lambeth) 1859-1940;

MORTIMER:  England (Berkshire, White Waltham) 1823-1852;  Australia (Victoria, Cavendish) 1865-1930

PIDDINGTON:  England (Buckinghamshire, Cuddington) 1700s-1880

RIDDIFORD:  England (Gloucestershire, Thornbury) 1600s-present; England (Buckinghamshire, Cuddington) 1846-present;  England (London, Lambeth) 1896-1913; Australia (Victoria, Ballarat) 1913-present

WEBB:  England (Surrey, Clapham) 1845-1878; England (London, Lambeth) 1878-1900

WHITE:  England (Kent, Broadstairs) 1857-1876;  Australia (Victoria, Grantville) 1876-1950

WYATT:  ???

MOST WANTED ANCESTOR:

When I started this I thought my most wanted ancestor would be gg grandmother Mary Jane HODGINS.  She was born in Ireland around 1849, immigrated with her parents West HODGINS  and Martha BRACKIN in 1853 aboard the “Marion Moore” . She married Matthew GAMBLE in 1871 at Colac.  That is all I know except for the accident which saw Mary Jane loose the top of her finger, as mentioned in the post Misadventures, Deaths and Near Misses.

However, when I looked at the completed list it seemed clear it had to be Jane WYATT, another gg grandmother and second wife of Herbert John COMBRIDGE.

I had previously found a birth for a Jane Wyatt born 1882, St Arnuad but this did not really add up, mainly because my Jane Wyatt married Herbert Combridge in 1895 in Gippsland.  If I searched the Australian Death Index 1787-1985, I find the death of Jane COMBRIDGE in 1909 at Grantville but with no approximate birth year or parents.

As I was writing this post, I decided to have a look around for Jane again.  I checked for people researching Combridges at Ancestry.com and found a reference to Jane’s birth in 1873.  I searched again with this birth date and that threw up something interesting.  There is a Jane Wyatt listed on the Victorian Index to the Children’s Register of State Wards, 1850-1893.  Her birth date is given as 1873, but no birth place.  This could be my Jane and it could explain the lack of parent names  and birth year on the Death index.

So, thanks to this exercise, I may have come a step closer to finding Jane Wyatt, but if she was a ward of the state, I may not be able to find anything else about her.  So if anyone has information on Mary Jane HODGINS and her family, I would love to her from you!


Misadventures, Deaths and Near Misses

You have found your ancestor’s date of death, but you are wondering how they died.  You could buy a death certificate, but a certificate for all relatives can be a costly business.  Newspapers are the answer.  With the growing number of Australian newspapers available to search at Trove, there is a good chance you may find an article on your relative’s demise.  In turn, it may lead to an obituary which can also be a wealth of information, but I will discuss those in a future post.

When I began reading old newspapers, I was amazed at the number of deaths and accidents reported, compared to today’s papers.  It seemed even the smallest of accidents could make newspapers right around Australia.  Death reports were explicit and sparing little detail.  However, despite the nature of these reports, I do find them intriguing reading and they can show when, where and how a family member died.  Also accident reports show information that you may never have found otherwise.  I may never have known that my great great grandmother lost the top of her finger or my great great aunt was bitten by a snake.

Horse related accidents were naturally common whether  falls or buggy accidents.  As the years passed, motor cars where the culprits, with many stories of them rolling or hitting trees.  The increasing number of  motor cars also caused some problems for those still using horses as their main source of transport.  Fire was also a common cause of death or accidents.  Candles, coppers and fire places all increased the risk of burns.

Following are some examples of deaths and accidents involving my family members found in the papers at Trove:

Charles Bishop worked at Weerangourt Station, Byaduk,  but I found he also died there.  While chopping wood in 1916,he suffered heart failure and died at the age of 60.   I found this reported in four newspapers.

I feel sorry for poor James Elston.  He died at only 21.  The first article I found on him was in 1901, eight years before he died.  James had broken his leg, but this was the fifth break in two years.  He was sent to the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne.  The Barrier Miner published in Broken Hill reported the accident as a possible record breaker.

A Marino Boy Puts Up a Record. (1901, August 29). Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW : 1888-1954), p. 2. Retrieved June 4, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article44302344

In March, 1908, James was back in hospital.  He had been thrown from a buggy and fell on a fence.  As a result he fractured his spine between the shoulder blades and was crippled, his condition critical.  In January 1909, it was report that James had succumbed to injuries at the Hamilton Hospital.

Robert McClintock died from heart strain and tetanus as a result of chasing a fox.  This was in 1913 and Robert was only 18.  I decided to search Trove with the phrase “chasing a fox” and it threw up many articles about  deaths and accidents incurred while chasing foxes.  Some had fallen from horses, others accidentally shot by themselves or others died  the way of Robert McClintock.

Jane Diwell’s death in 1909 demonstrates the dangers women faced doing simple housekeeping tasks.  Married to Samuel Hazeldine,  Jane was in a back shed at their home in Murtoa boiling up beeswax and turpentine, when her clothes caught fire.  Despite desperate attempts by her husband to save her, she died from her burns.  Samuel received severe burns to his hands.

Frederick Hazeldine of Murtoa, was watching the eclipse of the sun in 1910, when the 10 year old slipped off a fence and broke his arm

Frank Coulson was only 17 when he met his fate in 1935.  His body was found near Digby.  He had sustained a fractured skull and his pony’s saddle and bridle were lying close by.  Different articles tried to offer and explanation to his death from having been kicked in the head by the pony or haven fallen awkwardly as the pony jumped a fence.

George Gamble lost his life after a cave in at the Colac Brick Works in 1910.  He was dug out but later died at the Colac Hospital,

Mary Jane Hodgins(Mrs Matthew Gamble, below), my great great grandmother,  lost the top of her finger in an accident involving a horse.  Notice that this took place in Colac, Victoria, but was reported as far away as Maitland, New South Wales

GENERAL NEWS. (1877, September 1). The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843-1893), p. 7. Retrieved June 4, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article18829977

In 1906, Amy Margaret Bubb, Mrs Benjamin Combridge, was bitten by a snake which had hidden in a mattress.  Her daughter Amy was darning the mattress and noticed something she thought was mice, moving inside.  She called her mother who hit the mattress and was bitten by a black snake on the wrist.  Young Amy ran to the neighbours’ house almost a kilometre away through paddocks and returned with a Mrs Arklay.  By this time, Amy snr’s arm was black.  Mrs Arklay made an incision and drew black blood from the wound which saved Amy.  This article ran in Tasmania and Adelaide as well as The Argus.

I had known that my great, great, great grandfather William Diwell had died in a fall at the Merino Flour Mill in 1871, but I have since found that he was severely injured three years earlier.  In 1868, the Merino school-house verandah was falling down, so William volunteered to remove it.  Part of the verandah fell on him and his was pulled out suffering a severe head injury.  By all accounts if the full verandah had of fell on him he would have been crushed to death.  He was 43 at the time and I think he may have been lucky to make it 46 when he did die.

The most gruesome article I have ready about one of my family members, is that of my great, great, great grandmother Ellen Barry, Mrs Gamble.  Ellen was a feisty Irish woman, often in the courts and rather fond of a drink.  One night in January 1882, Ellen was home alone in her cottage in Colac, when a fire broke out.  The next day, the coroner found that due to Ellen’s propensity for a tipple, it was most likely she had knocked a candle which started the fire.

A WOMAN BURNT TO DEATH. (1882, January 26). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848-1954), p. 8. Retrieved June 5, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article11530343

These few examples prove how much you can find out about  your ancestor’s death, not to mention their life before death.  If you are using Trove, it is useful to search  all the papers available because as Mary Jane Hodgins’ accident  shows, incidents can be reported interstate.  You can use filters to narrow your search down, particularly if you have a specific date.

In a future post I will share some of the other articles I have found which don’t relate to my family, but show the value of these stories in developing an understanding of  how precarious life could be for those living in the 19th and early 20th century.  We can also learn how death was considered in those times by the style of writing and the depth of description.  Most importantly for family historians, our ancestors become more than just a one-dimensional date on a page.


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