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Veteran stories

Read stories about local war veterans.

Albert Bate

Albert Bate was born 21 September 1881, at Heathcote, one of twelve children to Walter and Grace Bate (nee Hill).

Walter Bate moved his family to Separation (Mernda) around 1894, where Albert attended the Mernda State School, participating in the local cricket and football teams. He played for the Bourke-Evelyn Football Association and was a member of the Mernda Rifle Club. After completing his schooling he was employed as a blacksmith's improver.

Albert joined the First AIF on 13 September 1915, however he served only 36 days, being discharged on 18 October deemed unfit, due to a hernia. He successfully re-enlisted on 8 July 1916 and was allocated to the 57th Infantry Battalion 6th Reinforcements. He arrived in France as Lance Corporal on 30 December 1916.

Albert was admitted to hospital in on 16 May 1917, suffering from Influenza. He was transferred to England where he was diagnosed with fever. He was transferred to various hospitals until finally he received medical treatment for venereal disease. Recovered, Albert returned in April to participate in the counterattack at Villers-Bretonneux.

In October Albert was admitted to hospital with a strained shoulder and invalided to England. He was admitted to Town Hall Hospital at Torquay with a gunshot wound to the left shoulder. He was discharged and granted furlough November 25th, the war had ended.

The Mernda Welcome Home Committee organised a social evening held on 7 June in the Mernda Mechanics Institute, in honour of Lance-Corporal Albert Bate and Private John Giddens. Around 200 people attended. The returned soldiers were presented with a gold medal on behalf of the residents and certificate on behalf of the Whittlesea Shire Council.

The 1919 Electoral Roll records Albert Bate living at Mernda, occupation carpenter. Between 1931 and 1954, Albert is recorded as living at Flowerdale, occupation carpenter.

Albert Bate passed away 15 February 1955, aged 73 years. He was buried at Preston Cemetery. Albert is commemorated on the Mernda State School Honour Board, Mayfield Presbyterian Church Mernda Honour Board, Mernda District Honour Roll, and Doreen State School Honour Board.


Albert Leslie Owens

Albert Leslie Owens was born on 20 May 1891 in Mernda, one of eleven children to John and Margaret Owens (nee Murphy). Like his father and some of his brothers, Albert was employed with the Metropolitian Board of Works. He enlisted with the First Australian Imperial Force on 21 February 1916 and was allocated to 38th Battalion C Company.
Private Albert Leslie Owens arrived in England on August 10th. A week after arriving in Englandmhe was admitted to hospital with the measles. He spent 11 days in hospital before being discharged on 29 August.
On 22 November he proceeded overseas to France with the 38th Battalion, and on 28 November was transferred to the 10th Australian Light Trench Mortar Battery, on the front line of the Western Front.
On May 6 1917 Private Owens was wounded by a gunshot to the left eye and admitted to hospital. He developed retinitis and was transferred between hospitals, returning to Australia on 15 December. A euchre dance was held at the Mernda Mechanics Hall on New Year's Eve to welcome him home. Owens was discharged as medically unfit on 5 February 1918 and granted a war pension.
Albert resided in Mernda after the war. On the 26 January, he married Ethel Amelia Benson. Albert and Ethel had a son Jack in 1933. Between 1931 and 1949 Albert returned to work at the Metropolitan Board of Works.
Albert Leslie Owens died in 1977, aged 85 years. His cremated remains were interred at Springvale Botanical Cemetery. When the tenure of his grave expired, his remains were scattered in an undisclosed location within the cemetery. Albert is commemorated on the Mernda State School Honour Board, Mernda District Honour Board, Mernda Presbyterian Church Honour Board and the Roll of Honour of Employees of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works.


Aubrey Fowler Sharp

Aubrey Fowler Sharp was born 10 April 1888 in Kew, one of three children to Frank William and Lydia Sharp (nee Slater). In the early 1900's the Sharp family moved to Yan Yean. Aubrey's father Frank, a Musician, was well known in the district as a music teacher and conductor of the Whittlesea Presbyterian Church Choir. Aubrey's mother Lydia was much respected for her charitable work during the war years and was secretary of the Mernda branch of the Red Cross.

Following his education at the Mernda State School, Aubrey attended the University of Melbourne and attained a degree in Engineering.

Aubrey enlisted in the First Australian Imperial Forces on 27 March 1916. Allocated to the 3rd Australian Pioneer Battalion B Company, her arrived in England 26 July 1916. He was transferred to the 11th Field Company Australian Engineers and deployed to France on 25 November. The unit took over the care of bridges and roads on the Lys River, around Armentieres and Houplines near the Belgian border.

Private Sharp was wounded in action on 6 March 1917, suffering a gunshot wound to his right arm. He re-joined his unit on March 20th. His conduct was such that he was appointed Lance Corporal on October 4th. Two days later he was injured by a gunshot wound to right leg and admitted to hospital. He re-joined his unit in Rouelle, France on 20 December.

During early 1919, Aubrey received several promotions whilst in France, including Acting Corporal and Temporary Sergeant, before he reverted to Second Corporal on 11 March 1919. He returned to the UK on 17 March and was granted leave with pay until 26 July, to attend Surveying at the Ordnance Survey Department at Kings College in London.

Sharp returned to Melbourne on 27 October. He was discharged from the AIF on 19 December.

Employed as a Civil Engineer and living in Wollert, on 15 January 1920 he married Jane Moffat Smith. Aubrey and Jane moved to Queensland where Aubrey was employed as Assistant Engineer for the Queensland Water Supply Department. They had a son Francis Wilston who served with RAAF during WW2

Aubrey Fowler Sharp passed away in Queensland on 26 Nov 1957, aged 69 years. He was buried in Albany Creek Memorial Park Cemetery, Bridgeman Downs Queensland. Aubrey Sharp is commemorated on the Mernda State School Honour Board, Mernda WW1 Honour Board, and Epping Presbyterian Church Honour Board.


David Francis Gillespie

David Gillespie was born in the Royal Melbourne Zoo, where his mother was employed to run the kiosk. He preceded his twin brother Doug on December 13, 1887, and the pair would later play for Carlton – a feat emulated only by the Hanton twins Hal and Alex, who represented the Blues in the mid-1940s.Over the next 11 years David’s and Doug’s parents, Glaswegians James Gillespie and Mary Gallagher, would raise another three sons and three daughters as the clan settled in the Carlton district.

Doug and David each pursued their respective careers – Doug as a gardener, David as a constable of police – and David would follow Doug from the Gillespie home in Gatehouse Street to the Carlton ground on Royal Parade. When David’s father died in 1913, his mother Mary was left to fend for her eight children. A year later, following the outbreak of World War I, Mary was then placed in the harrowing position of having to farewell each of her five sons, for all of them answered the call.

Sergeant Doug Gillespie, a gardener by profession, was 26 years old when he enlisted in December 1914. Promoted to sergeant in Egypt in March 1916, he was later struck down with illness and transferred to France in June 1917, before securing leave to Australia in December the following year. All five Gillespie brothers – Doug, Gordon, Robert, William and David – were struck down with serious illness or wounded. David fatally. As with his twin brother Doug, David was an early volunteer for front line military service. Upon joining the 59th battalion, he soon found himself a part of the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign. Having somehow survived the campaign, the now-promoted Sergeant followed his battalion into the unspeakable horror that was trench warfare on France’s Western Front. It was March 1916, and by the following May, David’s outstanding leadership qualities were again acknowledged, with a further promotion to the rank of Company Sergeant-Major. But his all-too-short existence was nearing its tragic end.

On July 19, 1916, David was leading his men in an assault on German positions near Armentieres when an artillery shell exploded close behind him. Shrapnel tore into his lower back and one arm, inflicting grievous injuries. Miraculously still alive, David was evacuated to a hospital behind the lines and quickly repatriated to England. A series of operations followed, but it was obvious that his spinal cord had been shattered, and his stomach and intestines were irreparably damaged. Returning to Melbourne aboard the hospital ship Wiltshire on the eve of the New Year – December 31, 1916 – the mortally wounded soldier was slowly stretchered down the gangway. From there he was taken to Caulfield Military Hospital where, despite the best efforts of the medical staff, he succumbed to peritonitis.

David Gillespie died in the Australian General hospital in Caulfield, on March 27, 1917. The Carlton Football Club was well-represented when David was laid to rest with full military honours at Coburg cemetery, and the players wore black armbands in tribute at their next match. A little under seven years later, David’s grieving mother Mary was laid to rest in the same grave. A touching memorial to David Gillespie (and other soldiers of the district lost in wartime) stands on tranquil ground on Royal Parade, not far from the Carlton ground where he and twin brother Doug once played.


Albert George Winward

Albert George Winward was born 1886 at Yan Yean, Victoria, the fourth of seven children to James and Mary Jane (nee Wheeler).

Albert was 30 years old when he enlisted in the 1st AIF on 28 March 1916. His name is recorded as George Albert on his attestation papers. He was allocated to the 3rd Reinforcements 2nd Pioneer Battalion. On May 13th a send-off was held for Private George Winward at the Mechanics Institute in Mernda. Councillor Walter Thomas presented him with a fine soldier's belt and wallet. Private Winward arrived in England on 26 September 1916.

He arrived in Estaples, France on November 3rd, and from 11 November was promoted to Acting Corporal at 2nd Australian Divisional Base Depot, however four days later he was admitted to hospital suffering from mumps. Restored to the field he reverted to Private. He returned to hospital in August 1917 with a fever. Recovered from his illness, he was classified for permanent base duties by the Medical Board and sent to the No. 2 Convalescent Depot at Weymouth, England.

On 11 January 1918 he was returned to Australia and discharged from the AIF on 8 April.

The Preston Leader 6 July 1918 reported: "A most enthusiastic welcome home to Mernda boys who have recently returned from the front was given in the Mernda Mechanics hall on Wednesday evening, June 26. The Rev. Mcllroy, the popular Methodist minister, who spent over two years on active service with the men, made a splendid chairman, and presented each of the returned men with a gold medal, suitably inscribed. Congratulatory speeches were also made by Rev. Bruce (Whittlesea), Cr. Leslie Clarke (shire president), and Cr. Walter Thomas… The boys welcomed back were Privates Winward, McKay, Owens and McCaffery, the last mentioned being unavoidably absent. The hall was crowded and every family in the district was represented."

Albert married Lillian Shanks in 1926 and moved to Preston where he was employed as a carter.
He died 23 October 1960, aged 74 years. Albert's name is commemorated on the Mernda School No.48 Honour Board, and Mernda District WW1 Honour Board.

Harold Joseph Mason

Harold Joseph Mason was born 29 June 1898 at Mernda, the eldest of four sons to Joseph and Mabel Harriet Mason (nee McLaughlin).
The Mason family are notable pioneers of the Mernda area. In 1853 Harold's Grandfather John Mason purchased 320 acres of land at Yan Yean. In 1874 John’s hand was cut off in an accident involving a threshing machine, and sadly in 1881 he committed suicide. The property was purchased by his son Joseph (Harold's father). Masons Road, formerly Masons Lane, in Mernda was named after this family.

Harold attended the Mernda State School and was serving with the school cadets when he joined the 1st AIF on 1 February 1917. During training his rank was changed to Driver with the 2nd Field Artillery Brigade.

Harold landed in Devonport, England on 20 July. On 6 November Harold proceeded overseas to France and served here and in Belgium. Harold was present at the third battle of Ypres, Messines, the third battle of the Somme, and was also in action covering the advance to Hindenburg to Le Chateau. During his service he was promoted to the rank of Captain.
On 2 June 1919 Harold was admitted to hospital and treated for venereal disease. Recovered from his illness Harold returned to Australia on 22 September 1919.

After the war Harold moved to Nambrok in Victoria where he took up farming. He was a member of the Nambrok Football Club in 1923 and received a prize for most consistent player. He was Vice President of the club in 1926, and Captain in 1929. He was elected a trustee of the Nambrok Recreation Reserve in 1924.

Harold married Mary Grace Barr and the couple had four children.
Harold Joseph Mason passed away on 8 January 1977, aged 78 years, and is buried in the Sale Cemetery with his wife Mary Grace (1899-1944). He is commemorated on the Mernda State School Honour Board, Mernda District Roll of Honour, and Whittlesea Memorial (WW2).

John Bartholomew Ryder

John Bartholomew Ryder was born 26 September 1891, the seventh child of ten children to Bartholomew and Clarice Winifred Ryder. In 1908 the family had moved to Yan Yean where Bartholomew was employed as a labourer with the Metropolitan Board of Works. John attended the Mernda School.

John was employed as Head Teacher at Krambruk North State School when he enlisted in the on 16 March 1916. allocated to the 58th Battalion.

He was promoted to Acting Sergeant of 6/37 Battalion before landing in England on 18 February 1917. He was sent to be Corporal of the 14th Battalion in Wilshire. From here he went to Sutton Mandeville and in April to the 10th Training Battalion at Durrington where he reverted to Private. In September he was drafted to the 2nd Anzac Corps Headquarters and arrived in Rouelles, France.

He embarked for England on 26 September to No.2 Command Depot at Weymouth. In November he was attached for duty with Australian Army Pay Corps. In January 1918 he returned to Weymouth. On 14 May he was appointed Corporal to complete establishment.

Staff Sergeant Ryder returned to Australia on September 5 and was discharged from the AIF at Melbourne on 26 October as medically unfit, the cause being chronic otitis media (inflammatory diseases of the middle ear).

In 1924 John returned to his former occupation as a teacher and married Clarice Winifred Easton in 1925. They had two sons, Desmond and John. John retired from teaching in 1962 and moved to Hurstbridge where he died on 29 May 1970, aged 78 years. He was buried at Fawkner Memorial Park Cemetery. Clarice died in 1969.

John Bartholomew Ryder's name is commemorated on the Mernda School (No.488) Honour Board, Colac District Honour Roll and Apollo Bay & District Honour Roll (First World War).


Richard Lewis Weir

Born 24 January 1894, Richard Lewis was the eldest son of William Adam Weir and his second wife Catherine Otto (nee Crosswell). Richard had four younger brothers and three older step siblings.

For many years the Weir family lived in Doreen, before moving to their 182 acre Bundoora estate. Richard attended Greensborough Primary School and Mernda State School. Between 1906 and 1911 the Weir brothers are noted as owners of Alma Bank in Yan Yean, where they farmed the land and bred sheep, poultry, draught horses and mares.

Richard enlisted on 26 September 1914. He was assigned to the 21st Infantry Battalion and arrived in Gallipoli on 21 August 1915. During 1917 he was in France and promoted to Corporal and Temporary Sergeant. He was sent to Estaples Training Camp as an Instructor, and later promoted to Sergeant.

In 1917 Richard was at Ypes with the 21st Battalion and awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for conspicuous gallantry at Broodseinde on October 9th. On 1 June 1918 Sergeant Weir was appointed Temporary Lieutenant Cadet and posted to General Infantry Reinforcements in France. For his courage and bravery at Villiers-Bretonneux on July 4, Richard was awarded a Military Cross.

Second Lieutenant Richard Lewis Weir was killed in action by a machine gun bullet to the stomach at Villers-Bretonneux on 26 July 1918. He was 24 years old. Later reinterred at Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery, Somme, France, his headstone reads, "In memory of my beloved son who gave his life that we might live"

Richard Lewis Weir's name is located at panel 95 in the Commemorative Area at the Australian War Memorial. His name is commemorated on the Mernda School Honour Board, Greensborough Fallen Soldier's Memorial, Greensborough State School Honour Board, Epping RSL Honour Board, and the Crosswell family grave at Yan Yean Cemetery


Stanley Ralph Joblin

Stanley Ralph Jobling was born 24 April 1899 at Gillieston, Victoria, one of six children to Thomas and Edith Jobling (nee Dodd). Stanley completed his education at Melbourne High School, and in 1916 was appointed probationary teacher at Mernda State School. He transferred to Whittlesea State School the following year, where he was living as his father was Head Teacher.

At 19, Stanley enlisted in the First AIF on 27 April 1918. He was allocated to the 12th General Service Reinforcements and sent to the Broadmeadows Camp for training. He was then transferred to the 58th Battalion. He arrived in England on 14 November (just 3 days after the Armistice). Stanley's service record is sparse, but he proceeded overseas to France on 25 February 1919 and was transferred to the First Australian Company. In April Stanley was transferred to Australian Corps as mechanical transport driver before being taken on by the 2nd Australian Motor Transport Company. He returned to Australia on 22 September 1919. He was discharged from the AIF on 7 October.

After the war Stanley returned to his previous occupation as a school teacher, and was given the position of Head Teacher at the Chiltern State School. He remained there until 1941 when he was transferred to the Gembrook South State School. In 1953 he was relocated to the Eltham State School where it was reported that his service was outstanding. In 1956 he was appointed Head Teacher at Clayton State School where it was noted that he rendered excellent service in building up a new school.

In 1941 Stanley married Edith Joan Dodd. Stanley passed away on 16 February 1962, aged 62 years. His cremated remains were collected from the Springvale Botanical Cemetery, and their location are unknown. Stanley's name is commemorated on the Mernda State School Honour Board and Whittlesea War Memorial.


Thomas Henry McCarthy

Thomas Henry McCarthy was born 12 July 1895 in Dobie (near Ararat), Victoria, the son of Patrick and Mary Ann McCarthy (nee Lynch). After completing his education at Melbourne High School, he was appointed probationary assistant teacher at the Mernda State School, on 17 May 1915. He resided with his parents at the Epping Railway Station but there was no train service convenient for him, so he applied for and was granted a transfer to the Northcote Primary School.

Thomas enlisted on 7 September 1916 and was allocated 'Driver' to the 15th Field Company Engineer Reinforcements and sent to the Camp at Seymour for initial training where he was promoted to Acting Corporal. On 13 January 1917 he was transferred to the Engineers Depot at Moore Park in Sydney. He was promoted to Acting Sergeant on 1 May.

On 2 August he was promoted to Sergeant for the voyage to Scotland, arriving in Glasgow on 2 October, where he reverted to Driver. He also acted in the role of Corporal for a short period attached to the Royal Engineers School of Instruction at B'lingsea, England.

Thomas was admitted to the General Military Hospital at Colchester on 24 December with synovitis to his right knee, caused while playing football, and spent a month recouping. Recovered from his knee injury, he proceeded overseas to France as Driver with the Engineer Details Unit to the Australian Base Depot at Rouelles on 26 April 1918. In January 2019 he transferred to the 15th Field Company Engineers. Driver Thomas Henry McCarthy returned to Australia on 20 August 1919. He was discharged from the AIF on 19 September.

After the war Thomas returned to teaching at Northcote State School, Madalya State School and as head teacher at Nullan State School until his retirement on April 14th 1924.

Thomas married Doris Margaret Dea on 12 January 1924, at St. Peter's Church, Epping. They moved to Minyip where they took up farming and had 4 children. The family later moved to Ascot Vale where electoral rolls show that Thomas's occupation was recorded as 'munitions', and later, 'driver'.

Thomas Henry McCarthy died on 16 May 1986 aged 89 years and was buried at Fawkner Memorial Park Cemetery. Doris died 13 Sep 1997, aged 101 years. McCarthy is commemorated on the Mernda State School Honour Board and the Epping Honour Board.


Walter Leslie Young

Walter Leslie Young was born 30 July 1896, one of nine children to Andrew Nimmo and Christina Young (nee Bate). Walter attended the Mernda State School and became a carpenter after leaving school.

Walter enlisted in the 1st AIF on 29 September 1917. On enlistment Walter was described as 5 feet 4 inches tall, weighing 120 pounds, with blue eyes and fair hair. Private Young was allocated to the 4th Australian Light Horse Regiment 31st Reinforcements and sent to the Seymour Camp for training.

On 7 March 1918 Walter embarked from Australia on the "SS Ormonde", disembarking at Suez, and marched into Moascar Egypt on April 4th. His service record is scant and provides very little detail until he was admitted to hospital in Tripoli suffering jaundice on January 21st 1919. Private Young embarked on HT Essex at Kantara, Egypt, for Australia on 15 June 1919. He was discharged from the AIF on 17 August 1919.

In 1920 it is recorded that his parents were living at "Preston Hall", Mernda, a charming bluestone building that stands to this day opposite St. Joseph's Catholic Church on Plenty Road.
In 1924 Walter married Ivy Rachael Collins, and they had 2 known children, Ivy (Joyce) and Walter (Jack). Electoral rolls of 1934 reveal Walter, a Farmer, living at Wollert. In 1953 Walter is mentioned in the Probate of his father Andrew as, Tally Ho Poultry Farmer.

Walter passed away at Heidelberg on 23 August 1977, aged 81 years. He is buried with his wife Ivy (died 1993) at Springvale Botanical Cemetery. Walter Young is commemorated on the Mernda State School Honour Roll, Mayfield Presbyterian Church Mernda Honour Board, and Mernda District Roll of Honour.


William Wheeler

William Alfred Wheeler was born in 1893 in Mernda, the third of nine children to James and Susan Wheeler. He assisted his father on the land and milked cows.
William enlisted in December 1914, and was allocated to the 13th Light Horse Regiment and landed in Egypt, June 29 1915. The 13th Light Horse Regiment were sent to Gallipoli, without their horses, on 11 September 1915, and were involved in manning the trenches at Lone Pine. The regiment returned to Egypt on December 20.

On 11 March 1916 William was transferred to 2nd Divisional Ammunition Column where he was appointed Acting Driver. On 27 March he was sent to France and mustered as Driver.
On June 3rd, William reported to the 5th Field Ambulance suffering from varicocle (enlargement of the veins within the skin of the scrotum). He was transferred to the Divisional Rest Station before rejoining his unit on 22 June. He was then transferred to the 5th Field Artillery Brigade and posted to the 13th Battery.
Varicocle was not the only health complication William experienced. Suffering from acute bronchitis, William was admitted to hospital several times. In December 1918 he was also admitted with neuralgia (pain in a nerve pathway) which led prolonged hospitalisation. He was officially discharged as medically unfit from the AIF on 9 July 1919.

William received 132 acres of land at Toorourrong under the Victorian Soldier Settlement Scheme. He married Jessie Alexandra Duffy in 1919. The Argus, 14 April 1931, reported they lost a son, "Albert Victor Wheeler, aged three years, of Coolamert, Whittlesea, was drowned today in the aqueduct which connects the Toorourrong and the Yan Yean reservoirs. The aqueduct is about half a mile from the child's home. The child was missed by his mother, Mrs. William Wheeler, shortly after 3 o'clock, and about half past 3 o'clock the body was recovered from the aqueduct by Senior-constable J. Crawford."

William died 29 August 1969, aged 76 years. His cremated remains are interred in the Fawkner Cemetery, next to his wife Jessie.