Darebin Heritage Links :




Compiled for Darebin Heritage by Brian Membrey


The Great War :  Preston : On Average

Preston's First Contingent

On The Average …

… if you stick one foot in a bucket of ice and the other on a red-hot radiator, then, “on average”, you are comfortable!

Of the 25 men that embarked for overseas - Keartland was discharged from camp did not sail - four (Brewer, Conroy, J. George and S. Gilbert, were killed in action and two (Horwood, Flinn) died of wounds or disease after returning .  Six fatalities from twenty-five to embark - or 24% - is higher than average (i.e. around 18%), but probably not significantly so, given the group were among the first to enlist and spent more time on service than most.

Ignoring “Dinny” Horwood, one of the casualties above, eight of the remainder returned wounded or through illness (Aitken, Carson, W George, D Gilbert, Hendricks, McDougall, Marshall and Smith), while Arthur Dredge completed his service as a British Reservist.

Nine served for the duration of the war and were awarded 1914 Special Leave - seven returned before Christmas, 1918 (Cashman, Chadwick, L. Dredge, Dyson, Torrens, Miles and Hopkins), and the other two in 1919 - Alexander Robb and Will Carlton after both took their furlough in England.  

Claude Harold Cameron was posted as a Deserter, thus forfeiting all rights to medals and repatriation and to the best of our knowledge, never returned to Australia

Of the 26 volunteers, just four, Carson, Conroy, Leslie Dredge and Keartland were employed in what might be called “white collar” occupations (although Carlton later became an architect with the Civil Service), the rest tradesmen (with eight tannery or boot manufacturing workers), drivers or labourers.  The average for “professional” occupations across Darebin is somewhat higher than this group, perhaps attributable to Northcote being a more settled area and those with better paying jobs a little more reluctant to enlist.

21 of those that embarked were single; perhaps only 20½ as Stanley Gilbert was single when he first sailed, but married before re-embarking in 1917. Cameron, Marshall and Arthur Dredge were married,  Dyson a widower - this is pretty well spot on the national average of about 80%, of single men and probably mirrors the A.I.F.’s early preference for those that were single, widowed or divorced.

From the group that enlisted around the same time (1,000 days), but who were not included under "the first contingent", all nine returned home; Reginald Moulden eventually succumbed to the effects of influenza in April, 1919, but the Defence Department refused to accept that this was as a result of his earlier attacks of malaria and despite his father's attempts to have him included on the Honour Roll, his death was never attributed to war service.