Compiled for Darebin Heritage by Brian Membrey

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Preston's First Contingent

Recruiting offices opened around Australia on 11 August  in the Darebin of the time, the two major centres were the Northcote Town Hall and the Preston Shire Hall, but there is evidence that there were also offices of some description in both Fairfield and Alphington, then part of the Shire of Heidelberg.

In this section, we take a small cross-section of early volunteers and examine just what fate had in store for them.

By 21 August, some 750 volunteers were in camp, and on 5 September, the Leader published its first report on Preston men that enlisted, suggesting most of them had been honoured at a function in the Shire Hall after entering camp at Broadmeadows.  26 names were mentioned, the one missing from the function "Mr. G. Carson was unable to attend, already having had leave for the purpose of visiting his parents (Rev. Carson, late of Preston), but he forwarded a letter in recognition of the honour done him and his comrades".

(The Rev. George Carson was the long-serving minister at All Saint’s Church and had been transferred to Mornington a few months earlier).

Although just a very small sample of around 4,200 volunteers identified as linked to the Darebin district, this was a group of young men typical of many small areas of population; they had trudged off to school together, chose sides for a "Test match" after the bell went (or Collingwood versus Fitzroy in winter months), courted girls together, in other words, they were simply “mates’.

Certainly none would have any idea of the horror to be unleashed over the next four years; we may not know why they enlisted, but we can reveal what the future was to hold for this small, but typical group of young Australians that were first to take up the colours.

We don’t want to exclude the many more servicemen from Northcote that enlisted, but the reality is that with three times the population, the sample (same 80-odd mentioned in the Leader after the Preston report) becomes rather too large for a full investigation, but the names as recorded are included with those known to have been casualties highlighted.

Full details of the casualties from either district are, of course, available via our World War 1 Downloads page,

More on Preston’s Schools