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Compiled for Darebin Heritage by Brian Membrey

Preston's First Contingent : The Volunteers

Preston's First Contingent

Given that most of the bunch were just average blokes around the town, the Leader can be forgiven for having mixed up a few spellings and initials, but the volunteers are listed verbatim and in the order presented as below. An asterisk denotes those that died and appearing in our Honour Roll section.

W. C. George

William Charles George, single, 257 Plenty Road, Preston. Boot finisher. He enlisted at 20 years of age and was a younger brother of John George (below), Killed In Action, and Edward Leslie George, who enlisted from Northcote and also died in service.  George returned to Australia in August, 1915 suffering from a cardiac irregularity and venereal warts and was discharged in February, 1916.   In 1917, he was refused a pension for a new wife Myrtle (then at Regent Street, Preston) and three step-children, Greta, William and Joyce Holden, and himself on the basis of his incapacity to work was not proved.  Parents Richard Henry (late 1917) and Silvia Sarah George (late 1906, nee CHANCE

J. George

John George, single,  257 Plenty Road. Boot Finisher. He enlisted at 27 years of age and was Killed In Action, 13 July, 1915 after previously being wounded.  William and John were workmates at a boot factory in Collingwood, enlisted at the same time, embarked together and were allocated consecutive Service Numbers.  Both brothers gave their father as next of kin but did not identify him by name and appeared to be unaware of his whereabouts. A younger brother enlisted in 1916 suggesting their father was then in Collingwood, but that he passed away in South Melbourne in 1917.Parents Richard Henry (late 1917) and Silvia Sarah George (late 1906, nee CHANCE

Cecil Hendricks

Cecil John Hendricks, 19 years, single, his address shown as c-o Mr and Mrs Bryant, Dundas Street, South Preston (his parents, the fate of his parents was not shown).  Blacksmith and farrier, born in Newmarket. He survived Gallipoli unscathed but was listed as dangerously ill with pneumonia back in Egypt after the evacuation.  He was wounded in the thigh near Etaples, France in April, 1918 and returned to Australia, arriving 8 October, of the same year.  He wasmarried in 1921 to Lillias Victoria BOYS, the registration under HENDRICKS-BRYANT, death not traced.

W Chadwick

Not definitely traced.  Based on enlistment dates and initial, he may have been William Edward Chadwick, listed as a japanner which fits neatly with the Preston tannery trades, but with family addresses given at Burlington via Seymour (although perhaps boarding locally). The only Preston recruit traced with the family name is Harry Thomas Chadwick, single, Elizabeth Street, Preston, noted as a chemist and clerk who enlisted at 23 years of age, but in June, 1915, nominating a sister identified only as “Miss H. J”; returned (December, 1916) with shell shock. William Edward died in Heidelberg (probably the Repatriation Hospital) in 1948 at 65 years, Harry suddenly in Hawthorn, 1938 at 44 years. Both appear to have remained unmarried.

H Torrens

Henry Wilson Torrens, single, japanner ("japanning" is a method of applying lacquer to give a hard, shiny appearance).  How or why he was in the Preston contingent is a bit a mystery.  He appears to have been an orphan living with an aunt in South Melbourne, but he nominated a cousin, J. T. Hyde in South Street as his next of kin.  Given his nominated occupation in the leather trade, it is possible he worked at one of the several tanneries in Preston. He served with the 14th Ambulance Brigade of the Australian Medical Corps, was mentioned in the Leader as one of Preston's wounded in October, 1915, and returned to Australia on Special Leave just a few weeks before the German surrender. Henry married Alice Lily HAXBY in 1922 and died in 1963 in Heidelberg, probably the Repatriation Hospital, his parents shown as Thomas Henry and Ellen, nee BRADFORD.   A brother Edward also enlisted and returned safely.

Thomas Brewer

He was actually John Harold Brewer, a 23 year-old Englishman from Cornwall living at 59 Spring Street and nominating his father in England as next of kin. Brewer had been in Australia four years before enlisting.  Another leather japanner.  He was Killed In Action at Gallipoli on 8 May, 1915, just over two weeks after the initial landing.  His body was never recovered.  The address of 59 Spring Street was also that given for William (below) and Ernest Carlton on their enlistment. A Death Notice placed by his workmates at Zwar's Tannery confirmed Brewer was known to them as "Tom". Father John Brewer, England.

Bert Miles

Another curly one.  He seems to be Herbert William (or Wilson) Miles, a 24 year-old baker who gave his address as Hodgkinson Street, Clifton Hill with his father Jasper William in Violet Town (also listed as the serviceman’s place of birth) as next of kin. He actually served in a Field Bakery and embarked for return to Australia on Special Leave in September, 1918. Why he would have been part of the Preston Contingent is unknown, although he is noted as having died in Macleod in 1981 at 91 years of age,

Leslie Dredge

Leslie Lawrence Dredge, single, a salesman of 19 years at 6 Clifton Grove, Preston.  His family had been in the district since the 1850s and included Joseph Dredge, the Superintendent of the Presbyterian Sunday School when it opened in 1856 and of Dennis Radford Dredge, a long serving secretary of the Shire of Preston.  Dredge was wounded in the knee at Gallipoli and spent nearly 12 months recovering in Egypt and then England before returning to Active Service just after the first major Australian offensive on the Western Front in July, 1916.  Like a few others who enlisted and embarked in 1914, he returned to Australia in October, 1918 under a Special Leave program, the war ending just a few weeks later. He disembarked on 23 December.  Leslie was a cousin of Arthur Ernest Dredge below and son of Theophilus and Martha Dredge, near Harvey. Theophilus (b 1862) was in turn a son of Dennis Radford Dredge.

Will H Dyson

William Henry Dyson, 46 Garnet Street.  He was unique in the group as he was a 29 year-old widower, giving a brother, Richard in Thornbury as next of kin, later changed to a Mrs Pang of North Carlton after his brother enlisted. He embarked with the rank of Driver, but was promoted progressively to Company Quarter-master Sergeant and was awarded the Military Medal for bravery in an action at Herleville Wood, France in August, 1918.  He was another to return to Australia in the spring of 1918 for Special Leave, His brother, Richard was Killed In Action is August, 1918.

Stanley Gilbert

Stanley Harold Gilbert, Driver. Single and 20 years of age when he enlisted from 12 Seymour Street in August, 1914 but he was discharged as medically unfit in October, the reasons not disclosed, although it was noted he was missing the forefinger of his right hand.  Following his release he married Myrtle May Missam and was living in Rathdowne Street, North Carlton when he re-enlisted in February, 1917. He was a son (brother of Darcy below) of the long-established family that gave Gilbert Road its name; he was born in Preston and educated at South Preston State School.   Parents Joseph Dennis and Elizabeth Ellen (nee STAPLES), the Staples family also had a considerable presence pre-war in Gilbert Road with two brothers operating farms side-by-side.

Archie MacDougall

Archibald Robert McDougall, 24 years, single, leather dresser.   His next of kin was given as his mother, Annie, in Dundas Street South Preston.  An exemplary record saw him embark as a humble gunner but promoted progressively to the rank of Lieutenant, winning the Military Cross along the way.  

He was also extremely popular amongst his fellow troops, several letters from servicemen published in the Leader noting their pleasure at catching up with him.  He was gassed in France in November, 1917 and was repatriated back to Australia in April, 1918.  McDougall had a brother Frederick who, telling authorities he was eighteen, but he was later discovered to be only 15. Born Ringwood, 1890, died in Mildura in 1955, aged 65; parents Samuel Robert and Annie Julia, nee KILMARTIN; married Elizabeth Ellen LANCASTER in 1925

H. Marshall

Harold Sydney William Marshall, 15 Bent Street, Northcote, married with one child, 27 years, leather dresser (a report when he was wounded suggested at Pitt's Tannery in Northcote, but his name also appeared in a list of employees of Braithwaite’s Tannery in Murray Road.  Marshall was raised in Preston, eldest son Mr. and Mrs. Robert Marshall, Bell street, Preston.  Previous to enlisting he attended South Preston State School.  

He was assigned as Bugler to A Company of the 6th Infantry – although there is little recorded of Marshall's actual duties, A.I.F. protocol at the time was the that bandsmen and buglers were also to act as stretcher bearers.

Marshall was wounded in the left foot at Gallipoli in May, 1915, the injuries classified as slight, but just four days after returning to the front he was again wounded in the left leg.  After being repatriated for treatment in England, he was returned to Australia in November and discharged.

An erroneous report in The Herald, 29 May, 1915 when the first casualty lists were coming through suggested Harry Marshall had been killed in action, but also revealed he was a former secretary of the Preston District Football Club and the club's delegate to the Victorian Junior Football Association – the report suggested that the Association was to send a letter of condolence to his parents; it is unclear whether the mistake was uncovered before the letter was prepared.

He later served on the State Recruiting Committee and was one of the first organisers of the Returned Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen's Imperial League of Australia (R.S.S.A.I.L.A., later Returned Servicemen's League).  ).  Born Albury, he died in Rosebud in 1972 at 85 years of age.

A regular contributor to the Leader, remarkably, Marshall's archives contain a letter from him which reveals that his father, Robert Alfred Marshall, one of two brothers that were well-known building contractors around the town managed to enlist in July, 1915.

He claimed on Attestation to be  45 years and six months (with a 27 year-old son),  In reality, he was born in Preston in 1854 and would have been 50 or 51 - remarkably, he served more than three years and reached the rank of Sergeant before being returned in December 1918, senility one of the reasons quoted.

C. Smith

Albert Charles Smith, “Charlie”, a 26 years-old, a tanner and single with his parents at 72 Mary Street.  He served in the Army Medical Corps and served at Gallipoli until hospitalised in Malta in December, 1915 with nephritis (acute inflammation of the kidneys).  He returned to Australia on 1 May, 1916 and discharged around three months later.  He was allotted a pension of 15/- per fortnight, cancelled in February, 1917 when he presumably was fully recovered. A couple of letters in the Leader confirm he was known as Charlie rather than Albert or Bert.

Din Horwood

Edwin George Horwood, single, 329 High Street, Preston. Labourer. “Dinny” Horwood died at home around twelve months after being returned to Australia after being wounded and suffering from gas poisoning in France in July of the previous year.  Somewhat controversially, he does not appear in the official A.I.F. list of those that died in the service of his country, but he is included on the Preston Cenotaph and his death was recorded in the Leader.  Four brothers, Edwin, Robert, Leonard and Vincent enlisted, the family earning the title of "the fighting Horwoods".  Robert was Killed In Action on 26/07/1916.

M. Flynn

Michael Joseph Flinn,  Labourer of 144 Bell Street.  His first enlistment shows him as alternatively Flinn and Flynn, and as Michael and Michael Joseph.  First time round, he “did a runner” on his first leave from camp and was not sighted again and was discharged 10/10/1914.  The following January, he re-enlisted as Joseph Flynn, his details identical except his place of birth moved from Colac to Camperdown.  He embarked for Egypt, but shortly afterwards was returned to Australia with debilitating rheumatism and was discharged in July, 1916. In May, 1918, Joseph Flynn enlisted for a third time, now born in Geelong and declaring his previous military service and was assigned to the Naval and Military Expeditionary Forces responsible for guarding New Guinea and the islands to the north. He served around four months in Rabaul, but was discharged in October, 1914, the grounds “unlikely to be an efficient soldier”.  Flynn died in The Influenza Hospital, South Melbourne on 14 July,1919 and a military headstone was erected in Burwood Cemetery.   He was then married, but his wife died two years later. His father James was stationmaster at Preston for about eight years, the family at the time residing in a house in the south-west corner of the Cramer Street reserve, then leased to the Railways Department.

W Keartland

William Keartland, 23 years, Public Servant, 79 Cramer Street, Preston.  Son of George Arthur Keartland.  Keartland was discharged as medically unfit just 34 days after enlisting.  The reasons are not shown in his National Archives, but the Leader reveals that when compulsory Home Service was introduced after the failure of the first referendum on compulsory conscription, Keartland applied for and was granted exemption on the basis that he had tried to enlist five times and was rejected on account of his poor eyesight. .  Despite this, he managed to enlist at 41 years of age in the Second World War, his final posting shown as 19 Battalion Volunteer Defence Corps, but did not see overseas service.

J.S. Hopkins

James Stanley Hopkins, 50 Gladstone Avenue, Croxton.  He was a 25 year-old plumber, single and raised in Preston.  He served as a Sapper and later Sergeant with and Engineering Company and was awarded the Military Medal and Distinguished Conduct Medal for conspicuous gallantry. He suffered wounds to the head in action in October, 1917 and did not return to the front until July, 1918.   He embarked for return to Australia in September, 1918 under the 1914 Special Leave program and arrived back at the same time as Edmonds and Dyson, but residing in Croxton, he was not included in the Preston Welcome Home.  He died on 17 May, 1927 - there is no evidence one way or the other as to whether War Service may have contributed to his early .

George Carson

George Robert Carson (the volunteer unable to attend), bank clerk, The Manse, Mornington.  He was the son of long-serving minister at All Saint’s Church in Preston, the Rev. George Carson who had been transferred to Mornington a few months earlier. George junior was a 22 year-old bank clerk, two other brothers William Victor and James Edward (George's twin) also enlisted and survived the war (remarkably, all three were listed as bank clerks).  Carson suffered a gunshot wound to the foot just after the Gallipoli landings and served as a pay clerk and baggage guard before re-joining his unit in December.  He was wounded again, this time in the abdomen, in July, 1916 and returned to Australia in February, 1917.  Carson was educated at South Preston and then Scotch College. Born Preston, died Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital, 21 July, 1947 aged 57 after living in Elwood for some years, interred Fawkner Crematorium; parents Rev. George and Lavinia, nee ROBERTSON, dearly beloved husband of Iris Carson. loving father of George and John, married Eva Iris CROWHUST,1926 (N.S.W).

There were two other sons born to their parents, John Robertson and Thomas Gordon who both died prior to reaching 10 years of age, also a sister, Agnes Menzies. Agnes and Thomas were both born in Preston, John at Wallan in 1889 but in Preston when he died in 1898 at eight years.

C Cameron

Claude Harold Cameron, 537 High Street, Preston and eventually the "black sheep" of the first contingent.  He was 29 years old, married and listed as a tanner at Braithwaite's.  Number 537 was then the corner of Olver Street, and the next property to the north was today’s Preston Hotel.  A brief report in The Age when he was wounded at Gallipoli suggested he had been a member of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade for three years and a playing member of the Preston Football Club for five.

His military career was somewhat bizarre. He enlisted with 13 years' experience with the volunteer forces, eleven of which were with the Royal Australia Garrison Artillery.  Cameron suffered gunshot wounds to a shoulder and arm during the Gallipoli landing and was transferred to hospital in England.  In April, 1916, he was transferred to the Anzac Police Corps and later the Australian Provost Corps serving the rest of his time in England.  He opted to take his 1914 Leave (some 75 days) in England.

After the war ended, he was charged with being absent without leave and being in civilian clothing when being arrested.  In his defence, he told the Court Martial he had absconded because he was due to return to Australia and did not want to go, that his "wife" lived in England, and that he had served 18 years with various military bodies without ever being charged with an offense.  

Cameron was sentenced to 28 days Field Punishment, and on 9 October, 1919, he simply disappeared and was officially declared an Illegal Absentee.   

He was discharged in absentia in April, 1920, forfeiting nearly six months’ pay, all decorations to which he was entitled, plus the right to free return to Australia, leaving the Repatriation Department with a major problem as his real wife Bertha and three children in Australia were fully dependent upon him.  Documents in 1923 when Bertha initiated divorce proceedings confirmed he was living with a woman in the U.K. and had told local authorities there that his wife in Australia was dead.

Arthur Dredge

Arthur Ernest Dredge proved a real challenge as the only "A. Dredge" that embarked was from Brunswick in 1917.  After the early mention of the first Preston group to volunteer, the Leader noted  in September the death of the youngest son of "Lance-Corporal Dredge, of Regent Street, Preston, but who is now with the expeditionary force" ("son" was actually incorrect, it was their daughter, Myrtle).

Despite the lack of any embarkation, the Leader on April 10, 1915, carried a letter (the first written by a local serviceman) from “A. Dredge, formerly of the Preston Tannery and now serving with the British Expeditionary Force in France” to his former employee, Col. William Braithwaite which in part suggests “I am the only one from Preston in the firing line at present, but there are several boys from Melbourne somewhere here”.

A close examination of his archives (created only when he tried to enlist in the A.I.F. in March, 1916) shows an otherwise blank attestation paper placing his wife at 17 Regent Street) and reveals that Dredge was a Reservist in the Imperial Force in Britain. After reporting for duty on 8 August, 1914, the first day of recruitment, he was sent to England via HMAT Karroo on 10 October with other Reservists to join their regiments, in Dredge's case, the Royal Gloustershires, before they shipped to France.

The next twelve months are somewhat clouded, but in March, 1916, Dredge, then with an address in South Melbourne (where he was born),  applied to join the A.I.F., claiming to have had (at 29 years of age), 12 years with the Imperial Forces, including two with the Gloustershire Regiment. He appears to have been suffering from persistent deafness and was restricted to Home Duties for three months before being discharged.  He attempted to re-enlist in March, 1917, but again was assigned to duty at the Seymour camp before being finally discharged as medically unfit around eight months later. His enlistments show him alternatively as a night watchman and soldier.

Sadly, Dredge and his wife lost their other child, Arthur junior in 1915, seemingly while he was at the front and perhaps the reason he was returned to Australia. The family were then living in South Melbourne - they had two other children after his return, Leah (1917) and Lindsay (1919). Arthur Ernest Dredge died on 1 January, 1950 and he appears to have been a cousin of Leslie Dredge above.

The real mystery, of course, is just how Dredge came to be a reservist with the Royal Gloustershires

Andrew A. Robb

No Andrew A Robb enlisted and there is no Andrew Robb from the area.  The “Returned” panel on the Preston Cenotaph has an entry for “A. J. Robb”, identified as Alexander James Robb, a 30 year-old Englishman living in May Street with his  cousin Mr. J. J. Jeanes.  His history was unusual – he enlisted on 17 August, 1914, spent five weeks in camp, and was discharged on 29 September on medical grounds, only to enlist again a fortnight later. He sailed just six days after being accepted the second time round. Robb reached the rank of Sergeant and opted to take his 1914 Special Leave of 75 days in England.  He returned to Australia in June, 1919.  Robb listed himself as a boot maker and he appears to have worked as this while in France. A letter from his cousin notes he was in Australia two years before enlisting.   Alexander John Robb died on 25 November, 1968, age 85, and is buried with his wife Marjorie in the Burwood Cemetery.

Darcy Gilbert

Darcy Gilbert.  A brother of Stanley Harold Gilbert (above). Listed as a 28 year-old butcher, single, and living with mother Elizabeth at 12 Seymour Street.  Darcy Gilbert’s history is a little bit patchy.  He served at Gallipoli, but in September, 1915 was admitted to hospital suffering from dysentery, later attributed to enteric fever.  He returned to Australia for what was supposed to be a three months change, but the condition obviously did not improve and after a Medical Board Hearing, he was discharged in September, 1916.   He was granted a pension of 31/- per fortnight, reduced to 15/6 from August, 1917.

Vin Cashman

Vincent Jerry Cashman.  Listed as a carrier, Cashman was 22 years of age when he enlisted, single, and gave his mother in Dundas Street as next of kin.  A cousin Thomas Vincent Cashman later enlisted, also suggesting Dundas Street, but it is not clear whether this was the same property.  He was Killed In Action in September, 1917.  Vincent Cashman had spent five years as a volunteer with the Australian Army Medical Corps before he joined up and was assigned to the 2nd Field Ambulance Corps. Other than a couple of short periods in hospital with bronchitis, Cashman survived the war unscathed and returned to Australia on Special Leave, embarking for return in October, 1918.

Charlie Aitken

John Charles, Lieutenant, 1st Field Ambulance. Awarded Military Medal. Listed as a tramway employee in civilian life. Son of William Aitken, shown in Bell Street, Preston, 1896. His brother, William junior was a contractor in South Street, Preston  Died suddenly 25 March 1933 at 201 Weston street East  Brunswick, aged 51, "husband of Lillian Bowater Aitken, and loving father Lillian (Mrs. Walker), Iris (Mrs. Sheehan), Hilda (Mrs. Lowther), Ivy (Mrs. Keeble), and Roderick, loving brother of W. J. Aitken, F. J. Aitken, and R. C. Aitken (deceased). Parents William and Elizabeth nee CARTLEY/CASTLEY; married Lillian Bowater MOORE

- Carlton

No initial was shown, but this was William Herbert Carlton (M.M and Bar), to become the most decorated of the first group with a Military Cross and Bar, and earning promotion from Private to Honorary Lieutenant.  He was 25 when he enlisted, his address 59 Spring Street where he lived with his mother, re-married as Mrs Morphett.  He was alternately listed as a carpenter and wood machinist, as was his younger brother Ernest who enlisted in January, 1916.  

Carlton embarked with the 4th Light Horse regiment, but was transferred to the First Anzac Cyclist Corps, a unit charged with the laying of communications lines. He spent his 1914 Leave in England and returned to Australia in April, 1919, and his history is unique in the group in that he continued with the Army as a volunteer after the War, serving until 1928 when he was transferred to the Regimental Reserve Officers Register.  He was listed as an architect with the Civil Service at the time.  Carlton was still in Reserve at the outbreak of the Second World War and (at 50 years of age) and served with the Home Forces before retiring in 1944.

L Conroy

Leo Adrian Conroy. Conroy was a 22 year-old State School teacher living with his family at 14 South Street and based at Victoria Park school when he enlisted.  He was wounded at Gallipoli on 21 July, 1915, and sent to England. He returned Egypt in December and entered an Officers' Training School before being transported back to England and then the Western Front in May. Conroy was admitted to hospital in England in July, 1916, suffering from severe shell shock and spent over a year serving with a Bayonet Training School and Gymnastic and Physical Culture College before returning to the front line in November, 1917.   He was promoted from Corporal to Provost Sergeant in April, 1915.  He was Killed In Action at Rainecourt, France on 23 August, 1918, a time when he must have been close to returning to Australia on his 1914 Special Leave.  A brother Thomas also enlisted; he was a teacher at South Preston at the time.