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28 February 2010

Private Jesse Strange of Cherry Gardens

Jesse Strange was a son of Henry Strange and Charlotte Strange (nee Ricks). He was born in Cherry Gardens in 1887 and attended the local public school. As a teenager he won prizes for his garden produce at the local agricultural shows in 1901 and 1902. He then worked as a gardener in Cherry Gardens, and under the leadership of his father, became an active member of the Independent Order of Rechabites, a friendly society that encouraged temperance.

He enlisted on 2 June 1915 at the age of 27, and joined the 4th reinforcements to the 27th Battalion. After a stint in Keswick Hospital with measles he sailed to Egypt and joined A or 'Ack' Company of the battalion at Tel-el-Kebir in late January 1916. After another stint in hospital he sailed to France but was found to have contracted the mumps and was hospitalised in Marseilles on arrival. He caught up with the battalion on 23 April 1916. The 27th Battalion took part in its first major battle at Pozieres between 28 July and 5 August 1916. On the final day of that battle Jesse received a gunshot wound to his right arm and was evacuated back to England.

Jesse's wound was mild and he recuperated quickly, rejoining the battalion in France in early December 1916. The unit participated in minor attacks during the German withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line in early 1917. Jesse reported sick with influenza in early September 1917 and did not rejoin the battalion until early January 1918. After two weeks leave in England in February 1918 he returned to the battalion. In April 1918 the battalion fought to turn back the German spring offensive, and in May Jesse returned to hospital for a further month, again with influenza.

He rejoined the 27th Battalion on 4 June 1918, and the following day the battalion entered the frontline near Sailly-le-Sec. On 10 June 1918 the battalion attacked and captured German trenches around Morlancourt. Sometime on 11 June 1918 Jesse was killed in action, probably during heavy German shelling of the forward posts the 27th Battalion established after the attack. His cousin Charles Ricks, who was also serving with the 27th Battalion, had been killed on the first day of the attack. Despite the efforts of Jesse's brother Arthur, the Red Cross were unable to find out any details about Jesse's death.

Jesse's body was never located, and as a result his name is on the Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux, along with many other Australians with no known grave. His photograph was displayed in the Cherry Gardens Public School after the war alongside other former students that died in the war. His name is inscribed on the Cherry Gardens War Memorial and the State National War Memorial.
Photograph: Courtesy Don Watton

The War Graves Photographic Project

As a result of the article in the recent Mitcham Community News, I was contacted by South Australian members of the War Graves Photographic Project. This project is aimed at photographing every war grave, individual memorial and family memorial of military personnel from WW1 to the present day. They now work in a joint venture with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and make the photographs available through their website (linked through the title of this blog entry).

A brilliant resource. They have already visited and photographed cemeteries in the Cherry Gardens area, and are hoping to visit other cemeteries in Blackwood and surrounding districts later this year.

Well done to everyone involved!

27 February 2010

The Tunnellers research website

As result of some research I was doing on the Broadbent boys from Cherry Gardens, I came across 'The Tunnellers' research website at Some brilliant work has been done my those responsible, including a nominal roll of members of the Mining Corps (which included the Tunnelling Companies). So far Neil Campbell and Andrew Thomas of Blackwood and Marshall Broadbent of Cherry Gardens all belonged to the 3rd Tunnelling Company, so I expect more will turn up as I go.

Well done to John Reading and crew.

14 February 2010

Driver George Tuckey Wray of Blackwood

George Wray was born in Eastwood, SA in 1898 and attended Unley High School. He served for four years in the senior cadets and one year in the Citizen's Forces, and after leaving school was apprenticed to the Union Engineering Company in Adelaide for four years.

He enlisted on 4 May 1917 at the age of 19 and was allocated to the Mechanical Transport Reinforcements. His older brother Frank Hewett Wray had enlisted two years earlier and was serving with the 3rd Australian General Hospital. After a couple of months training at Mitcham Camp (in modern-day Colonel Light Gardens), he was transferred to Broadmeadows Camp on the outskirts of Melbourne, Victoria. His reinforcements embarked at Melbourne on 30 October 1917. George arrived in England just after Christmas 1917 and after two months driving duty in London was sent to France in March 1918. He initially drove siege artillery ammunition trucks before being detached from the 6th Mechanical Transport Company to General Monash's Australian Corps Headquarters, probably as a staff car driver. He served out the rest of the war on this detachment.

After a two week leave in England in early February 1919 he had a stint in hospital before he was shipped back to Australia in June 1919. His brother Frank ended the war as a staff sergeant with the 3rd Australian General Hospital and was once mentioned in dispatches. George was discharged in August 1919 and lived with his parents in Fullarton.

In 1924 George married Frances Ethel Clark and they lived in Netherby where they raised their two children Margaret and Granville. Frances died in August 1936. In 1939, George moved to Main Rd, Blackwood and married Daisy Hewett and they had one child, Helen who was born in 1940. During the 1940's George and his brother-in-law Harry Hewett laid the piping for the irrigation of the Blackwood Bowling Club in Simla Pde. George and Harry looked after the irrigation of the Bowling Club for many years, and George served for many years as Treasurer, also serving terms as Vice President and President of the Club. A motor mechanic by trade, George was a manager at the Adelaide Cooperative Society garage until 1957, then at Hannan Brothers until he retired. The family lived in the district until the 1980's, and throughout that time George was a very active golfer, lawn bowler and keen member of the Blackwood RSL. His daughters remember him as a very kind and loving father with a great sense of humour, who was well respected in the community. George died in 1981 at the age of 83 and was cremated at Centennial Park. His name is inscribed on a window in St Saviour's Anglican Church, Glen Osmond, on the Myrtle Bank Memorial and the Unley Town Hall honour roll.

Photo: Courtesy of Margaret Herbstreit and Helen Ashby (George's daughters)
Colour Patch of the Mechanical Transport Companies: Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial

10 February 2010

Back at it...

A short hiatus whilst I settled in to a new job. Back at it now. Today I received a quote from State Records for digitising some of the photos from their WW1 collection. An incredibly cheap $7.30 plus postage etc for as many pics as I want on CD. Insane, but good.
So tomorrow morning my order goes in the post for the first 37 photos, to be closely followed by lots of blog posts, as many of the pics are of men I have already done the basic research on.
Last week I also took delivery of three battalion and regimental histories I ordered from Regimental Books, 'Second to None' (32nd Battalion AIF), 'Hurcombe's Hungry Half Hundred' (50th Battalion AIF) and 'The Story of the 3rd Australian Light Horse Regiment' (obviously 3rd Light Horse...). Still waiting on the 48th Battalion AIF history. And when I can afford it, the 10th and 27th Battalion histories ($150 each or something...). The ones I got are great, and are helping with placing individual stories in the context of their unit.