Thursday, 25 April 2013

Guest Post: ANZAC Day 2013 - Commemorating Connections

I have been hassling my mother, Lee-Anne Houston (nee Riebe), to either write her own blog or guest post on mine for a while now. So today, the moment has come. And without any further ado, I’ll let her get started. Thanks Mum! - Amy


Thanks Amy for a guest spot. As you know this will just be a snippet.

Last year, I spent way too long working on a small dossier project of connected and inter-connected individuals from my husbands and my EXTENDED families who took part in the Great War, but did not come home.

The project revealed a range of human experiences encountered by the twenty-two men who are “connected to the tree” and a glimpse into what affect this had on their next of kin. The project included statistics and facts and details but there was much to be gleaned from their service records so as not to lose sight of them being sons, husbands, brothers, cousins and friends.

Of course, I started off with George Houston of the 33rd Battalion, who Amy has already mentioned. We thought he was the only WWI soldier we ‘had’ for ages!

Private Gordon Ruthven Houston


Private Gordon Ruthven Houston’s story is an interesting one and was quite a detective story in the end. Gordon was closely connected to three others listed in this dossier project. He was half first cousin once removed to George Houston and was first cousins to two other men William and James Scott. Gordon was born in Wallsend in 1896 to William Houston and Christina Gray; but his family moved to Balmain at some point prior to the war.

Gordon was working as a stenographer when he enlisted and Christina documented that Gordon had achieved a high level of proficiency at playing the piano, passing the London College of Music course with honours when she completed the Roll of Honour Circular.

Gordon embarked from Sydney on the Runic on 20th January 1916 and became part of the 19th Battalion. He arrived in Alexandria on 26th February 1916; then disembarked in Marseilles on the 3rd April 1916; by 2nd May 1916 he was confined to camp for 7 days after two offences; using insulting language to an NCO and misconduct after lights out. By 15th June 1916 he was fighting on the front in France, in August he was wounded in action but remained on duty, obviously recovering quickly. He was reported missing in action on 14th November 1916 during the attack at Flers, France.

After being reported missing to the Red Cross, Gordon was finally confirmed killed in action on the 14th November. He was only 20 years old. He had no known grave and was memorialised at the Australian National Memorial Villers-Bretonneux, France. However, about 20 years after his death his engraved compass was discovered with his remains and he was properly reburied at Ovillers Military cemetery, Ovillers-La-Boisselle, France in 1936. His parents were still alive to be notified he had been found and the compass engraved with G.R.H. was duly returned to them.

Gordon’s father William died in 1937 and his mother in 1943. Gordon only had one surviving sibling, a younger brother, William Leslie Houston. William placed in memoriam messages in the Sydney Morning Herald for many years after the war.

1930 'Family Notices.', The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), 14 November, p. 10, viewed 24 April, 2013, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16730540

Sergeant Francis Matthews


Sergeant Francis Matthews, a great grandson of convict JohnWeatherstone, was killed in action on 3rd May 1915 at Kaba Tepe, eight days after the initial landing at Gallipoli. Francis was born in Braidwood to Richard William Matthews and Ellen Stewart. He was 26 years old, a school teacher and living in Boulder, WA when he enlisted into the 11th Battalion. He left Australia on the Ascanius on 2nd November 1914. He is buried at Shell Green Cemetery, Gallipoli, Turkey.

Private Thomas William Bernard Matthews

P05301.176 - Studio portrait of 5421 Private Thomas William Bernard Matthews from http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/P05301.176


Private Thomas William Bernard Matthews was 1st cousin to Francis Matthews, and therefore his great grandfather was also the convict JohnWeatherstone. Thomas was the fourth child in a total of ten born to John Thomas Matthews and Caroline Lappin. Thomas was born in Goulburn, but had moved to Turramurra, and was working as a grocer’s assistant. He was 19 years old when he enlisted into the 56th Battalion on 25th January 1917.

Thomas embarked from Sydney aboard HMAT A40 Ceramic on 14th April 1916. The 56th battalion was involved in manning trenches during a freezing winter in the Somme valley and in early 1917 was part of the advance on the Hindenburg Line. Thomas was killed in action on 2nd April 1917. He has no known grave but is commemorated at the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux, France.

Private William Morton Reynolds


Private William Morton Reynolds was grandson to JohnWeatherstone the convict; he was the youngest child of Catherine Weatherstone and Henry Reynolds. He enlisted into the 55th Battalion when he was 22 years old and embarked from Sydney on 30th September 1916 on HMAT A60 Aeneas.

William was married with one son. In the year he was in the Army he was deducted 19 days pay for various misdemeanours such as absenting himself without leave and when on active service neglect of duty. He died 24th September 1917 in Belgium just two days before the Battle of Polygon Wood started in earnest. He has no known grave and is commemorated at the Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres, Belgium.

Commemorating Connections - Lest We Forget

I would like to list their names here as a mark of respect, Lest We Forget.

George Houston, Gordon Ruthven Houston, James Scott, William Scott, Augustus Hinds, Thomas James Mitchell, John Henry Mitchell, John William Buchanan, Arthur Lorn Wyborn, James Oliver Kemp, Herbert Robert Duncan Cherry, Leo Aloysius McGuinness, William Samuel Thorsby, Thomas William Bernard Matthews, William Morton Reynolds, Edwin Thomas Frankish, Robert Leckie Tait, Samuel Peter Tait, Alexander Groves, Edward Dixon Deas.

Amongst this group there are brothers, cousins, uncles and nephews and friends.

Ten of the twenty-two have no known graves.