Sunday, 8 March 2015


In December the word of the month from Oxford Australia is Billzac, a term for a typical Australian soldier. It was formed from Billjim and Anzac and first appeared in the newspapers in 1916.

Billjim, first recorded in 1898, was a term for typical man in the street. I have found an early use of the word through Trove digitised newspapers in the North Queensland Register of 13 March 1899.

The earliest mention of ANZAC I have found in a Trove search is 7 June 1915, when the Adelaide Register and other newspapers reproduced the text of a cable from Major-General Sir Ian Hamilton to the Minister for Defence, Mr Pearce:  "I received information from Anzac that enemy reinforcements had been seen advancing from Maidos towards Krithia. Consequently Gen. Birdwood arranged to attack the trenches in front of the Ginn's post at 10 p.m."

In Avoca, the term Anzac was used by the Avoca Mail in December 1915 in an advertisement for the programme of the Navarre annual races:
Advertisement for Navarre Annual Races appearing in the Avoca Mail of 21 December 1915.
The patriotically inspired names for the races in the programme for the Navarre meeting helped to distinguish it from a race meeting to be held at Lexton only  a few days before hand. Both meetings advertised that they would donate the proceeds to patriotic funds.

In November 1915 the Avoca Mail reported on hospitals at Anzac: at that time the term Anzac meant the place, not the soldier. The first reference in the Avoca press to Anzac as a term for a soldier was not until January 1916, in the Avoca Mail.

The word 'Billjim' appears only once in the Avoca Free Press in 1918. I have found no matches for 'Billzac'. Neither term shows up in a search of the Avoca Mail.

The Avoca Mail does not appear to use the term digger for soldier in the issues that have been digitised (all issues for 1915 through to the end of 1918). The term was used by Corporal Bob Harrowfield in a letter published by the Avoca Free Press on 28 September 1918:
We marched (?) leisurely along, and passed thousands of American troops. They are fine lads, very enthusiastic, and gave us a hearty greeting. There, is a very friendly feeling between us, despite chaffing by both sides. The American dislikes "Sammy, '' so we call him "Teddy," and he knows that "Digger" will always do us.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Letter from Mr Reg. Johnson

Reginald Campbell Johnson (1895-1984), known as Reg or Rege, enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 18 August 1914. He was a farrier, aged 19. On 19 October 1914 he sailed with F Company of the 8th Infantry Battalion on HMAT Benalla. A number of other men from Avoca were in the same Company and also on board the Benalla.

The camp at Mena near Cairo, Egypt, photographed 1915. Photograph in the collection of the Australian War Memorial ID A02741.

On 30 January 1915 the Avoca Free Press published a letter from Reg to his parents  dated 13 December 1914. In his letter Johnson mentions:
  • Watty, probably his brother Walter Henry Clarence Johnson (1888-1953), who enlisted at the same time and was also serving with the 8th Battalion
  • Dave, probably Dave Summers (1893-1916), who had played with Johnson in the Avoca Brass Band.
  • Billy French's accident to his knee; French was repatriated early in 1915 because of it.
  • camping near Cairo only about half a mile from the great pyramids pyramids at Giza. Johnson mentions the Sphinx, an Indian wounded by Arabs, two New Zealanders being stabbed, and two men who died falling from the pyramids.

THE EXPEDITIONARY FORCE. (1915, January 30). Avoca Free Press and Farmers' and Miners' Journal (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 2. Retrieved January 4, 2015, from

Johnson fought at Gallipoli and was wounded on 25 April 1915 with gunshot injuries to his face. He spent five months in a Manchester hospital and returned to Australia later in 1915. (National Archives of Australia: Australian Imperial Force, Base Records Office; B2455, First Australian Imperial Force Personnel Dossiers, 1914-1920; Johnson Reginald Campbell : SERN 679 : POB Avoca VIC : POE Surrey Hills VIC : NOK Johnson Henry, page 12)

Related posts:

Friday, 26 December 2014

The Great War during December 1914 from an Avoca perspective

No men from the Avoca had been killed or wounded yet and the war seemed a long way away. Might the conflict actually bring the district some good? Wine growers thought so. The annual report of the Viticultural Society of Victoria pointed out that though exports had been held up by the first mobilisations, causing a glut of dry reds and whites on the local market, the 1914--15 French and German vintages would be greatly reduced. The British navy guarded the seas, and with space on steamers bound for Europe, there would be no difficulty meeting what would be a strong demand for Australian wines. Moreover, brandy imports had been interrupted by the war and this would increase local demand for the Australian product.

THE WINE INDUSTRY. (1914, December 5). Avoca Free Press and Farmers' and Miners' Journal (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 3. Retrieved December 26, 2014, from
The war had been underway for four months and the slaughter in the trenches had begun, but the news from France seemed not to affect Avoca. Even so, the pupils of Avoca State School and their friends continued to help with with the war effort by making clothing for the soldiers.

No title. (1914, December 12). Avoca Free Press and Farmers' and Miners' Journal (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 2. Retrieved December 26, 2014, from
 On Wednesday 16 December the students of the Avoca State School held a successful concert in aid of the Patriotic Fund. (No title. (1914, December 19). Avoca Free Press and Farmers' and Miners' Journal (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 2. Retrieved December 26, 2014, from

The Warrenmang correspondent of the Avoca Free Press reported on 19 December 1914 that Percy Tuck, formerly of the Avoca district but now with the Sydney Fire Brigade had enlisted. Percy Tuck enlisted on 26 November 1914. He had been born at Warrenmang and was 24 years old. He served with the 4th Battalion and on 1 May 1915 died of wounds received in action on Gallipoli. His death was reported in the Avoca Free Press on 26 June 1915:
Our Fallen Heroes. (1915, June 26). Avoca Free Press and Farmers' and Miners' Journal (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 2. Retrieved December 26, 2014, from
No title. (1915, August 18). Sydney Mail (NSW : 1912 - 1938), p. 25. Retrieved December 26, 2014, from
Further reading:

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Norman Alfred Frean

Norman Alfred Frean is remembered on the Australian Natives' Association soldiers' honor board which was unveiled at the Avoca Shire hall on 21 September 1920. (Avoca Free Press 25 September 1920)

Frean enlisted at South Melbourne on 19 August 1914. He was 22 years old, unmarried, and his occupation was bicycle builder. He had been born in South Melbourne. He married on 3 September 1914.

Frean served as a sapper with the 1st Signal Troop (1st Light Horse Brigade). He sailed on 20 October 1914 aboard the HMAT Karroo A10.

Troops on board HMAT Karroo (A10) prior to departure with well-wishers on the wharf holding paper streamers connecting them to men on the ship. 18 September 1916. Australian War Memorial ID PB0507

On 31 May 1915 Frean was wounded by shrapnel at Gaba Tepe, Gallipoli. He was wounded again in June and repatriated to Melbourne. He was discharged from the AIF in early 1916.

It is not clear from his dossier held by the National Archives of Australia what his connection to Avoca was. (National Archives of Australia: Australian Imperial Force, Base Records Office; B2455, First Australian Imperial Force Personnel Dossiers, 1914-1920; Frean Norman Alfred : SERN 26 : POB Melbourne VIC : POE Melbourne VIC : NOK Frean Mrs E A)

There are also no clues in the digitised newspaper collection at  However, on the 1919 electoral roll Norman Alfred Frean, mechanic, was recorded as living at Bealiba, a town 38 kilometres north of Avoca. His post-war connection to the Avoca community meant that he was remembered on the A. N. A. soldiers' honor board.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

William Randall

On 29 September 1914 Will Randall, born in Avoca, enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. He was  a labourer, thirty-two years old, and unmarried. Will Randall gave his next of kin as his father Edward, also of Avoca. (National Archives of Australia: Australian Imperial Force, Base Records Office; B2455, First Australian Imperial Force Personnel Dossiers, 1914-1920; RANDALL William : Service Number - 532 : Place of Birth - Avoca VIC : Place of Enlistment - Avoca VIC : Next of Kin - (Father) RANDALL Edward )

Randall wrote to his father and the Avoca Free Press reproduced his letter on 28 November 1914.

No title. (1914, November 28). Avoca Free Press and Farmers' and Miners' Journal (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 2. Retrieved November 11, 2014, from

Randall was assigned to the 14th Battalion with the regimental number 532. He sailed on 22 December 1914 with the 14th Battalion on HMAT Ulysses A38.

LETTERS FROM OUR SOLDIERS. (1915, March 10). Avoca Free Press and Farmers' and Miners' Journal (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 3. Retrieved November 11, 2014, from

No title. (1915, April 17). Avoca Free Press and Farmers' and Miners' Journal (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 2. Retrieved November 11, 2014, from

On 28 April 1915 Will Randall was wounded in the arm by shrapnel at Gallipoli. He wrote a report of his experiences to his father.

LANDING AT THE DARDANELLES. (1915, June 30). Avoca Free Press and Farmers' and Miners' Journal (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 3. Retrieved November 11, 2014, from

Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey. October 1915. Ground where men of 14th and 15th Battalions were driven to shelter from shrapnel on Anzac on 25 April to 26 April 1915. Photograph by CEW Bean. AWM ID G00925A

On 8 August 1915, Will Randall was reported missing after the Battle of Sari Bair, the last major engagement of the Gallipoli campaign. Three officers of the 14th Battalion and 33 other ranks were killed and 3 officers and 126 other ranks missing. Randall, who served with D company, was one of the 129 missing.  The Battalion's strength before the battle had been 14 officers and 560 other ranks

Roll call of B Company, 14th Battalion after the unsuccessful offensive on 8 August 1915. AWM ID A01225

On 6 October 1915 the Ottoman Red Crescent Society reported that Randall was a prisoner of the Turkish.

Letter to Edward Randall, father of Will Randall, April 1916. Folio 45 of NAA B2455, Randall W. 

For the Empire. (1916, December 2). Avoca Free Press and Farmers' and Miners' Journal (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 2. Retrieved November 11, 2014, from
Thought to be Belemedick Railway Construction employees and prisoner of war huts. Australian PoWs in Turkey were employed for quite a time on the Taurus Mountains Railway. AWM ID H19397

From the Australian War Memorial: Australian Red Cross Wounded and Missing Enquiry Bureau/Box 224/Wallet 2 / 532 Private Randall, William

Letter from Edward Randall, father of Will Randall, March 1918. Folio 34 of NAA B2455, Randall W.

Letter from Edward Randall, father of Will Randall, March 1918. Folio 26 of NAA B2455, Randall W.
 The turn-around of letters was slow but correspondence did get through.

For the Empire. (1918, October 23). Avoca Free Press and Farmers' and Miners' Journal (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 2. Retrieved November 11, 2014, from

In December 1918, after being a prisoner for three years three months, Will Randall returned to Egypt and from there to Australia. He was discharged from the army on 9 April 1919.

Remembrance day

Avoca Soldiers Memorial in January 2007: not all of the men associated with the district are listed on the memorial
My database lists 66 men from Avoca or associated with the Avoca district who were killed or died of wounds in World War I.

Name AIF Number Date Enlisted Killed or wounded? Unit Approx. Yr of Birth - Yr of Death
Barnes, George Herbert 3118 20/09/1916
51st Bn 1885-1917
Barnes, Henry William (Harry) - ? Should be Henry James 2790

51st Bn
Beavis, James Sutherland (Jas Jun.) Lieut 22 1915 died of wounds, France 13/7/1918 39th Bn 1886-1918
Beer, Charles 3029
KIA, France, 27/3/1918 58th Bn AIF 1883-
Brown, James Neil 4741 20-Jul-15 died of wounds, France 7/9/1917 46th Bn AIF 1897-1917
Brown, John Alexander 1799 3-May-16 died, Belgium 8/6/1917 39th Bn AIF 2nd Reinf 1893-1917
Burns, William 3039
died, Belgium 26/9/1917 59th Bn AIF -1917
Cox, Graham Rodgers 2567 Jun-15 killed in action Fleurbaix 16.7.16 58th Bn 1895-1916
Cox, Lyle Hampden 4761 9-Sep-15 died of wounds 16.11.18 58th Bn 1891-1918
Croft, Charles William 801
died Melbourne 17/6/1916 37th Bn AIF 1884-1916
Currie, Hubert Roulstone Clifford (Cliff R.) 884
fallen 8th Light Horse
Davenport, Harold A. 3074 Feb-16 killed in action 8/6/1917 45th Bn
Dobley (Doblie), Leslie 1809 / 2301
died Belgium 4/10/1917 12th Army FAB / 39th Bn AIF -1917
Driscoll, Allan Ernest 6132 Feb-16 KIA 12/7/1918 39th Bn 1896-1918
Driver, William Henry n/a 20-Jul-15 died Melbourne 14/8/1915 AIF (Depot) 1893-1915
Evans, Gilbert George Henry 148
fallen 21st Bn 1893-1916
Fish, Walter 2227
KIA Gallipoli 13/7/1915 6th Bn AIF 1878-1915
Gallag(h)er, Nathaniel 885 15-Feb-16 KIA Belgium 30/4/1917 39th Bn AIF: 10th Inf Brigade, C Coy 1890-1917
George, Herbert L. 408 Sep-14 KiA France 25/7/1916
Harrowfield, Norman Andrew 1740 Oct-14 died France 28/7/1916 8th Bn 1889-1916
Hartigan, Clarence Victor 1927
KiA 20/1/1917 46th Bn 1896-1917
Henderson, John Hamilton ~ bef Oct 1915 died Cerebro Meningitis 8/10/1915 92nd Coy (Seymour) 1892-1915
Henry, Clifford Albert 22076
fallen 3rd AFA Bde Australian Field Artillery
Hope, George Reuben 623
fallen 8th Light Horse 1895-1915
Howell, Tom Pym 2126
KIA France 16/4/1918 2nd Aust Pioneers -1918
Kiehl, Anton 2020
KIA Gallipoli 19/5/1915 1st Div HQ formerly 2nd Field Amb Army Medical Corps; saled with 4th Field Amb 1880-1915
Knuckey, Frederick William Laurence 66

38th Bn
Lansdell, Francis Henry (Harry) 7516 Apr-17 KIA France 15/4/1918 6th Bn 1891-1918
Livingstone, John (Jack) 2406A 1915 died of sickness France 21/10/1918 46th Bn AIF -1918
McArdle, John Eric Farquhar 2544 29-Mar-16 KIA 26.9.17 60th Bn 1898-1917
McDowell, William Robert 3831 2-Jun-16 KIA26.9.17 29th Bn 1896-1917
Oppy, William Edward 1964 6/03/1916 died 13/10/1917 38th Bn 1898-1917
Orrock, John Harold 6621 7/05/1915 died of wounds 4th Field Arty 1897-1916
Petherick, Ordmonds Leslie(Orme) 2759 23/07/1915 killed 1916 - reported Sept 1916 10th Bn
Rowland, Henry Herbert 1131 29-Sep-14 KIA 8/5/1915 Gallipoli, Lone Pine 8th Battallion, 2nd Reinforcements -1915
Rowland, Wesley Richard 1877 12/08/1915 enteric fever Egypt; KIA 21/7/1916 Pozieres 31st Battallion of the 8th Brigade -1916
Sells, William John 2249 4/03/1915
5th Bn
Smith, Stanley William 3484 28/04/1917 DoW 9/8/1918 60th Bn 1892-1918
Stewart, Alfred Eyvel 232 27-Mar-16 KiA 13/8/1918 39th Battn
Stuart, William Charles 5454 12-Feb-16 fallen 5th Bn
Summers, David L. (Dave) 635 16-Aug-14 paid supreme sacrifice KIA 19/7/1916 60th Bn 1893-1916
Templeton, George Hugh 4597 7-Sep-15 DoW 26/9/1917 sailed with 8th Bn (14th Reinf); 58th Bn
Tootell, Edward 5152 6-Mar-16 KIA 24/4/1918 6th Aust Light TM Battery
Tuck, Percy Clarence 1672
DoW 1/5/1915 4th Bn 1890-1915
Turpin, Henry 6357 23-Feb-16 DoW 17/4/1917 8th Bn; 20th Reinf
Webster, Frank Thomas 1011 joined 3/3/1916 from 19th ALH Died of Disease 4.8.16 39th Bn
Webster, Isaac Oswald (Ike) 871 1914 killed at Gallipoli landing D Coy 6th Battn 2nd Inf Brigade 1888-1915
Willmott, Charles Jonathon 401 17-Aug-14 KIA 25/4/1915 7th Bn 1888-1915
Wrigley, Fred Rankin 3168 1916 KIA 24.4.18 60th Battn 1885-1918
Yates, Leslie Reginald (Les) 2198 or 1861 15-Apr-15 paid supreme sacrifice KIA 26.7.1916 8th Bn; 6th reinf 1888-1916
Young, John Percival 2763 3/10/1916 gassed; died 9/11/1918 pneumonia in England 37th Battn 1896-1918

The following men were associated with the broader district but not the South Riding of Avoca Shire which was the Memorial's focus.

Borbridge, James Charles 6620 1/08/1916 KIA 7th Bn 1884-1917
Buck, Frederick Thomas 4286
died 30/10/1918 3rd Tun Coy 1884-1918
Davies, Harold William 3537
DoW 5/4/1918 58th Bn
Davies, Robert William 6402A
died Belgium 20/9/1917 28th Bn AIF 1897-1917
Emerson, Leslie V. 4101

24th Bn 1897-1918
Forte, Edwin 610
died France 2/3/1917 26th Bn AIF
Fuller, Jarvis Bunting 6994
fallen 7th Bn
Jones, Alfred (Alf) 2198

59th Bn -1917
Kerr, William Robert 6349
died of wounds France 30/8/1918 23rd Bn AIF 1891-1918
McDonald, Joseph Henry 198 8-Feb-15 DoW 29/10/1915 22nd Bn 1896-1915
Mitchell, Edwin 2268
KiA 25/4/1915 6th Bn
Sedery, Charles 2222 5/04/1915 KiA 6/8/1915 11th Bn
Seymour, Rupert Leslie 783A 15/03/1915 KiA 6/4/1918 20th Bn 1891-1918
Stewart, Arthur A. (Art) 1399 21-Mar-16 KIA 39th Battn
Stewart, Thomas (Tom) 1398 21-Mar-16 KIA 39th Battn

Monday, 27 October 2014

Rabbit skin jackets for nurses and and the troops

Australian Motor Transport Supply Column in England:  One of the men wearing one of the rabbit-skin waistcoats presented by the Lady Mayoress of Melbourne. From Page 22 of the Queenslander Pictorial, supplement to The Queenslander, 1 May, 1915 retrieved from

On 17 October 1914 an item appeared in the Avoca Free Press announcing that 8,000 rabbit skins were being sought to supply to nurses who would sew them into jackets for use when working in the open.  This request also appeared in many other newspapers

No title. (1914, October 17). Avoca Free Press and Farmers' and Miners' Journal (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 2. Retrieved October 27, 2014, from
While it seems that the nurses would sew their own jackets, Melbourne's Lady Mayoress organised for jackets to be sewn for soldiers. The Echuca and Moama Advertiser and Farmers' Gazette provided details of the design of rabbit skin jackets for the troops. At least 18 rabbit skins would be needed to make a jacket.

RABBIT-SKIN JACKETS. (1914, October 22). Echuca and Moama Advertiser and Farmers' Gazette (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 4. Retrieved October 27, 2014, from

The Argus of 27 October provided advice to boys about gathering rabbit skins

 In 1917 the Commonwealth Government gazetted a regulation concerning rabbit skins under the War Precautions Act. Regulation 4 provided that:
All rabbit skins shall, unless the Prime Minister otherwise directs, be forwarded to a Government Agent who shall, subject to these Regulations, be authorized to purchase such skins on behalf of the Commonwealth Government.
CONTROL OF TRADE. (1917, May 4). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 9. Retrieved October 27, 2014, from
In 1918 the Hatters and Furriers Company Inc. of Connecticut, U.S.A. made a claim against the Australian Government for losses suffered as a result of having to pay more than initially contracted for rabbit skins supplied by Wilcox and Sons, an Australian firm. The Australian Government Solicitor, George Shaw Knowles, was of the opinion that there was no liability of the Australian Government to pay compensation.

Australia was not alone in its use of rabbit skins. This German poster from 1917 is in the collection of Colombia University in the City of New York.

One of the posters from an exhibition at Columbia University in the City of New York: The European Home Front in WWI: Posters from the Frankenhuis Collection retrieved from