22 – Whitfields 1915

Posted originally on February 14, 2015 by Neil

This series of posts is the most comprehensive I have done on family history. I am doing them backwards here so that in due course they will appear sequentially.

According to Joan Beaumont’s excellent Broken Nation: Australians in the Great War (2013):

On 6 August [1914], the British government asked the Australian and New Zealand governments to mount expeditions to capture the wireless stations in [German] Samoa, New Guinea, Nauru and Yap, in the Pelew Islands (Palau). Well aware of the strategic and  potential commercial importance of these German colonies, the Australians quickly cobbled together an expeditionary force of some 1000 infantry, 500 naval reservists, and signals and medical personnel. In command was a militia officer, Colonel William Holmes… The navy, whose role in World War I is often overlooked, provided support in the form of the Australia, the new light cruiser Sydney, the cruiser Encounter (on loan from the Royal Navy), three destroyers, Warrego, Parramatta and Yarra, and Australia’s only two submarines, AE1 and AE2.

My father’s cousin Norman Whitfield, then living in Wollongong, was a member of that expedition. I have posted about him several times, including 1914-1918, One hundred years ago or thereabouts…, More Whitfield family history.

My father’s cousin, Norman Harold Whitfield.

I recently found on Trove an item from the South Coast Times and Wollongong Argus 12 March 1915: “On Tuesday evening the N.W. L.S.and S. Club [North Wollongong Surf Club] entertained their club members of the New Guinea expedition who have returned to Wollongong at a welcome social. Alderman Lance, President of the Club, presided. The guests of the evening were J. Young, J. Mitchell, N.. Whitfield, G. Walklate, A. Hosking, A. K. Tregear….” (I always find it odd seeing what could be my own name like that!)

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NOTE: Norman Whitfield went on to win the Military Cross and bar; I also note 17 May 1917 “WOLLONGONG, Wednesday. Captain Geo. Walklate, who won the Military Cross at the Somme, arrived home last night and was accorded a civic reception in the Town Hall.” See Illawarra Volunteers.

Norman Whitfield had a brother, Thomas Harold Whitfield, also in that New Guinea expedition? Or is that an error?

See also Illawarra Boys in the AN-MEF – first action of WW1 – New Guinea. See Norman Whitfield’s paperwork on Discovering Anzacs: he seems to be the same age as that Thomas. The family tree lists as siblings: Stanley Thomas Whitfield (b. 1888), Elsie Sophia W (b. 1890), Norman Harold W (b. 1896) and Keith Frederick W (b. 1902). No Thomas Harold. 

That mystery I cleared up in a later post.

The matter of Thomas Harold Whitfield was taken up by Kerrie Anne Christian of the Bulli History site Black Diamonds, whose post “Illawarra Boys in the AN-MEF…” I referred to last time. It does seem clear that Thomas Harold and Norman Harold are one and the same – for starters they share the same number, 684.

 

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23 –- 1915 — Christisons

Posted originally on February 15, 2015 by Neil

This series of posts is the most comprehensive I have done on family history. I am doing them backwards here so that in due course they will appear sequentially.

My maternal grandfather, Roy Hampton Christison, continued as a country school teacher through World War I: see More tales from my mother 2 — Felled Timber Creek and More tales from my mother 3 — Braefield NSW 1916-1923.

The War still raged and Dad could not be accepted by the Army as he had only one eye, the result of an accident at 10 years of age playing soldiers: the boy in front of him with a stick to his shoulder instead of a gun poked Dad’s eye out. Strangely he became a teacher by clerical error because when he went for his medical check-up on joining the Department the clerk placed his name on the wrong list and it was not discovered until after he had already been successfully teaching for some years.

He had a brother though: David Belford Christison.

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His life was short. He married Flora Fletcher 1n 1907 and had three children, all daughters as far as I have been able to find out. According to one source Flora died as recently as 1971. I never met her. David died four years after returning from World War 1.

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Perhaps that was inserted by Roy; the wording is a touch odd as other family members are not mentioned. A Return Thanks on 14 July 1923 reads: “The Members of the FAMILY of tho late DAVID BELFORD CHRISTISON (ex A.I.F.), desire to sincerely THANK his friends, fellow-employees, and the Rev. G. A. Craike, for their kindly expressions of sympathy in the hour of sorrow and trial occasioned by his untimely and lamented death.”

His military record is available. He was a sapper.

Engineers, also known as sappers, were essential to the running of the war. Without them, other branches of the Allied Forces would have found it difficult to cross the muddy and shell-ravaged ground of the Western Front. Their responsibilities included constructing the lines of defence, temporary bridges, tunnels and trenches, observation posts, roads, railways, communication lines, buildings of all kinds, showers and bathing facilities, and other material and mechanical solutions to the problems associated with fighting in all theatres.

In civilian life he had been a postman.  He managed to get himself blown up by an exploding shell in 1918 leaving a permanent knee injury.

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24 – Whitfields – 1917-1919

Posted originally on February 16, 2015 by Neil

This series of posts is the most comprehensive I have done on family history. I am doing them backwards here so that in due course they will appear sequentially.

This man was for sure my favourite Whitfield uncle – well, the only one I ever met in fact. [There was Uncle George of course, but he was “by marriage”.] But he was a really good man, as I recall, with snowy white hair and a crack shot with a rifle – he had competed in that sport. See my April 2014 post Shellharbour.

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Kenneth Ross WHITFIELD (b.1897  d. 1967) m 1920 Esma H. EAST (b. 1895 d. 24 Mar. 1971)

There was a family legend that he lied about his age to get into the army in World War I, but that doesn’t seem to be true; he was 20 when he enlisted. Maybe he had tried before and failed. He did also serve in World War II.

The story I heard too was that he was a machine gunner. That may be true. However, his service with the 3rd Battalion was cut short somewhat by illness. He returned to Australia invalided quite late in 1919.

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See Embarkation Roll and Discovering Anzacs, from which the records above are taken.

Things could have been a lot worse for Uncle Ken though:

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Gassed Australian soldiers awaiting treatment near Bois de L’Abbe outside Villers-Bretonneux 1918.

25 – more on WW1 soldier Norman Whitfield

Posted originally on February 17, 2015 by Neil

This series of posts is the most comprehensive I have done on family history. I am doing them backwards here so that in due course they will appear sequentially.

My father’s cousin, as you may recall. In my last post about him I wrote:

Norman Whitfield went on to win the Military Cross and bar; I also note 17 May 1917 “WOLLONGONG, Wednesday. Captain Geo. Walklate, who won the Military Cross at the Somme, arrived home last night and was accorded a civic reception in the Town Hall.” See Illawarra Volunteers.

Norman Whitfield had a brother, Thomas Harold Whitfield, also in that New Guinea expedition? Or is that an error?

See also Illawarra Boys in the AN-MEF – first action of WW1 – New Guinea. See Norman Whitfield’s paperwork on Discovering Anzacs: he seems to be the same age as that Thomas. The family tree lists as siblings: Stanley Thomas Whitfield (b. 1888), Elsie Sophia W (b. 1890), Norman Harold W (b. 1896) and Keith Frederick W (b. 1902). No Thomas Harold.

The matter of Thomas Harold Whitfield was taken up by Kerrie Anne Christian of the Bulli History site Black Diamonds, whose post “Illawarra Boys in the AN-MEF…” I referred to last time. It does seem clear that Thomas Harold and Norman Harold are one and the same – for starters they share the same number, 684.

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Under the name of Thomas Harold we are told he is 20 as at 11 August 1914. So he lied about his age there; maybe also that is the reason for calling himself Thomas! He was actually 17.  In Norman Harold Whitfield’s paperwork is a note from his mum:

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So maybe that set things right. Later on the occasion of Norman’s rather bizarre and untimely death in 1950, the Illawarra Mercury reported:

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During World War 2 he became Director-General of recruiting. Broken Hill’s Barrier Miner carried a profile of him in 1941.

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He had been in that cause even before the war, as this picture from 1938 shows.

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So there he is seated at the table in the photo on the left. Finally, I might just mention a connection with Bulli that he probably would rather have forgotten…

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Illawarra Mercury 21 June 1929

Some items of interest about Norman Harold Whitfield’s connection with the Australian People’s Party are 6 July 1929 and 18 September 1929. He was its president. He was also in 1935 Captain of The Lakes Golf Club in Sydney.

In response:

Neil, it was wonderful to assist in your uncovering more information of Norman. He, like a number of Wollongong boys, was quick to enlist in WW1 in August 1914. Initially serving with the AN & MEF in New Guinea, before he re-enlisted in 1915, to serve in other theatres, demonstrating leadership and bravery, so rising through the ranks. You must be very proud of him. Kerrie Anne Christian. President Black Diamond Heritage Centre Bulli & Illawarra Family History Group.

26: Whitfields, Christisons, and more — 1915

Posted originally on February 18, 2015 by Neil

This series of posts is the most comprehensive I have done on family history. I am doing them backwards here so that in due course they will appear sequentially.

In Shellharbour the home front for my family was a sad place in 1915, as posted in More Whitfield family history last year.

My uncle, Colin Whitfield

Obviously I never knew him, nor he me, though when I was in high school I used an Algebra textbook that was in our house, inscribed with his name. This is such a sad story. I had never before seen this detailed version, though it confirms the oral accounts I have had of that dreadful tragedy back in Shellharbour in 1915. Illawarra Mercury 9 April 1915.

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My grandfather and grandmother had already lost two other sons, Aubrey (1893-1906) and Thomas W (1906-1906).

They went with…

As well as giving basic enlistment and embarkation information, the AIF Project also has rolls of the units soldiers belonged to. Norman Whitfield was in Australian Naval & Military Expeditionary Force (Tropical Unit), F Company in August 1914, but listed as Thomas, then 1st Battalion, 7th Reinforcement in July 1915. David Bellford (sic) Christison was in 1st Field Company Engineers, Reinforcement 13 from Sydney, New South Wales on board HMAT A35 Berrima on 17 December 1915.

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HMAT A35 Berrima

Ken Whitfield in 3rd Battalion, 25th Reinforcement leaving Sydney 31 October 1917.  One name among his companions leapt out at me: ULM, Charles Thomas Phillippe, Mosman, New South Wales.  Yes, that Charles Ulm, later friend and colleague of Charles Kingsford-Smith, pioneer aviators.

Charles Thomas Philippe Ulm (1898-1934), aviator, was born on 18 October 1898 at Middle Park, Melbourne, third son of Emile Gustave Ulm, a Parisian-born artist, and his Victorian wife Ada Emma, née Greenland. Charles was educated at state schools in Melbourne and Sydney (after his family moved to Mosman) and began work as a clerk in a stockbroking office. Emulating his grandfather and uncle who had fought in the Franco-Prussian War, as ‘Charles Jackson’ he enlisted in the 1st Battalion, Australian Imperial Force, on 16 September 1914: his height of almost six feet (183 cm) gave credence to his stated age of 20. He embarked for Egypt in December and was among the first troops to land at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. Wounded in action that month, he was returned to Australia and, as a minor, discharged from the A.I.F. at his parents’ request. In January 1917 he re-enlisted under his own name; while serving with the 45th Infantry Battalion on the Western Front, in July 1918 he was badly wounded and evacuated to Britain before being demobilized in March 1919…

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Kingsford-Smith and Ulm

Sad letter

In this letter the mother of a relative, killed at Gallipoli, of one of my friends from City Diggers* acknowledges receipt of her son’s effects. “Died of wounds, 2.30 am, 14 July 1915. Buried at sea, 3 miles off Gaba Tepe.”

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January 1918! Painfully slow?

  • Neville Permezel is still with us at 91 as of 7 May 2017.