our troops – recruitment 1914

I found this article on NLA Trove newspaper archive, in the Sydney Morning Herald, dated Tuesday 22 September 1914. It gives an insight into the new recruitment arrangements for those enlisting in the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF), one hundred years ago.

Extract from article in the Sydney Moring Herald, 22 September 1914.

Extract from article in the Sydney Morning Herald, 22 September 1914.



The new arrangements for recruiting from the country came into operation yesterday, and there was a marked improvement in the number of these men coming forward. It is now no longer necessary for applicants to pay their own fares to Sydney and have a receipt in order to get a refund at this end. When passed by local Government medical officers the men are given a pass, as ordinarily used by the Police Department, the Commonwealth Government subsequently making good the amount to the Railway Department. These passes can be obtained at any country police station. In the case of those under 21 years of age the written consent of parent or guardian is required. With this Lieutenant Colonel Antill, the enrolling officer is prepared to take men under 19 years of age – the limit first provided – but they must be over 18 years. The acceptance of applicants, particularly these minors, is a matter left to his discretion.


Volunteers queuing to enlist outside Victoria Barracks, Sydney, 1914-1918. [AWM negative A03406]

The service will accept married men and widowers with children provided they can state that they are aware that no separation allowance will be issued either before or after embarkation and that they signify, on the form of attestation their willingness to allot at least two-fifths of their pay (not including deferred pay) while abroad to their wives, or in the case of a wife and children at least three-fifths. Applicants for enrolment are not to be over 45 years of age and must of course be of the required physique.

Privates are to receive, while in Australia 4s per diem and 1s per diem deferred pay, and while abroad 5s per diem and 1s per diem deferred pay. The period of service is to be for the duration of the war and four months thereafter, unless the men are sooner lawfully discharged, dismissed or removed. No members of either Commonwealth or State Public Service are to be accepted without their departmental head being first consulted.

Intending recruits from the metropolitan area can apply as usual at the barracks and be allocated to duty, subject to their passing the medical examinations, which after tomorrow will be conducted at the Rosehill Racecourse. Batches will be sent away by train leaving each day at about 3 p.m. The recruits will then be taken in hand by the different officers and placed in their respective ranks. A matter of interest to city men is the requirement of good artisans for the Army Service Corps. Fifty-five men were sent there yesterday as drivers. Now word has been received to enlist men (not too heavy) who are qualified saddle or harness makers and others who are good at tent making.

Detail from Private Ernest Clive Buck’s WWI Attestation Papers.

Detail from Private Ernest Clive Buck’s WWI Attestation Papers.


The ranks of the artillery and engineers are filled as far as the New South Wales quota of the second contingent is concerned but the other branches to make up the 3,000, have vacancies for over 1,000 altogether. The enrolling officer is being inundated with letters from country applicants seeking advice, and he wishes it to be made public that the police everywhere have been instructed what to do. Men cannot, he says, pick their jobs. What they are required to do is to get their medical certificate of fitness and a free pass to Sydney. Their services will thereafter be placed to the best advantage. All cannot go to the Light Horse the Army Medical Corps or the Army Service Corps, but men will not be sent to the infantry if they are specially qualified for these other divisions.

As to those who want commissions in the expeditionary forces it is pointed out that it is no use applying to the enrolling officer for these as many are doing. Colonel Antill does not doubt that some of the applicants are deserving of appointment but all he can do is to have their names registered. It rests with the officers commanding the respective divisions to select those considered to be most suitable, and make recommendations accordingly to headquarters.

Recruits undergoing medical examination at Victoria Barracks, Sydney, (1914-1918) [AWM negative A03616]

Recruits undergoing medical examination at Victoria Barracks, Sydney, 1914-1918 [AWM negative A03616]


Yesterdays enrolments did not constitute a record but the total (270) was a distinct improvement. The country was well represented and all the men were of excellent physique. One applicant was from the Northern Territory. He said he had been doing “kangarooing and driving,” and being in Sydney he thought he would “give a look in.” “Can you ride a rough horse?” asked the Colonel. “I must have slipped a lot if I can’t,” was the quaint reply. “We shoot kangaroos on horseback-and,” he continued “I can cook and track.” He was sent to the Light Horse. Another man could “shoot a bullock on sight.” “Can you ride?” the officer asked of another. “I cannot say that I am exactly a sticking plaster, but I can stick on as well as most of them.” “You look it,” said the officer who included him also in the Light Horse. A man who had driven live horses in George-street and four in a plough was sent to the Army Service Corps. This corps benefited also by a physically strong man, who was designated a stretcher-bearer. A hod-carrier equally powerful was sent to the ammunition column. In reply to the Colonel he said, “he did not care how heavy the shells might be so long as some good might be done with them.” A “bushman” from Gosford was sent to the Infantry. An undergraduate never added “Sir” to his replies and was told to cultivate the habit. He was sent to the Infantry. The day’s total included about a dozen men who had served in the Boer war.

The 1st Infantry Brigade exercised yesterday at the Kensington Racecourse, there being no route march.


The 2nd battalion of the 1st Infantry Brigade will leave the Kensington racecourse this morning at 8 o’clock for a route march via the Central Railway Station to Harris-street. The force, which should pass the station at about 9.15, are expected to return to camp in time for lunch. Colonel Braund will be in command.

Mr. Dunn M.L.A., will, the enrolling officer says, be eligible for inclusion in the Light Horse Brigade when he has completed his private arrangements. Dr. A. Mark Stanton of Granville has been gazetted captain in the Army Medical Corps of the Commonwealth defence forces, and has been attached to the 20th Regiment with headquarters at Parramatta. Mr. William Barry, son of Senior-sergeant Barry of the North Sydney police, who is leaving with the expeditionary force, was yesterday presented with a purse of sovereigns at a social gathering in the North Sydney School of Arts.

New recruits moving through the Army camp lines at Liverpool, New South Wales, c1914 [AWM H03358]

New recruits moving through the Army camp lines at Liverpool, New South Wales, c1914 [AWM negative H03358]


The Minister for Public Health stated yesterday that nearly 10 per cent of the general staff attached to the administration of the Lunacy Department has been accepted for service with the Expeditionary Forces. The male staffs of the various hospitals for the insane exclusive of officers comprise 586 men and 53 of them are going to the war. One of the matrons Miss Pocock of Gladesville is going to the front having joined the Army Medical Service, in which she served during the South African war.

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Sources: NLA Trove newspaper archive; images from Australian War Memorial collection, read more about WWI voluntary recruiting here.


Life Interrupted: Personal Diaries from WWI


5 Jul 2014 – 21 Sep 2014 
Exhibition Galleries, State Library of NSW

I saw this wonderful exhibition at the State Library of NSW a few weeks ago.

From 1918 the State Library of NSW began collecting the WWI stories of servicemen, doctors, nurses, stretcher-bearers and journalists so that future generations would know about their experiences.

This extract from the exhibition program gives an insight into the Library’s collection:

By 1921 the total number of war diaries in the Library had reached 247, complemented by collections of letters and in some cases photo albums as well. Today the collection stands at around 550 diarists and over 1100 volumes.

A small number of diaries were acquired from the families of men killed abroad but the majority in this collection were purchased from men who made it home, survivors, many of them diarists over two, three or four years.

The diaries take many forms. Some were written on odd sheets of paper or in memo books or signal message books. Others were cloth or leather bound.

The soldiers, airmen, sailors and nurses who kept a diary, knew they had a big story to tell. For some their diary was a way to connect to home. They were writing for an imagined audience, for the family and friends they left behind. The importance of a  ‘conversation’ with home can hardly be overstated. Along with letters and postcards and sometimes photographs, the diaries were the Facebook of their day.

Last but not least, these wartime chroniclers wanted a record of duty done. They wrote of hard times, of battle and death and ruin everywhere. There are lines, hastily scrawled upon the eve of battle, by soldiers who knew this entry might be their last.

These are voices full of life and fun and fear; and resolute purpose. They are voices from the greatest tragedy of the twentieth century, a tragedy that engulfed an age.

Peter Cochrane – July 2014


Over 500 World War I diaries on display at the State Library of NSW.

The exhibition Life Interrupted: Personal Diaries from World War I is beautifully curated by Elise Edmonds. The chronicle of the war is highlighted by the captivating personal accounts of those who enlisted – farmers, doctors, nurses, photographers and artists – and is supported by newspapers, photographs, artworks, maps and ephemera.

Many of the photographs in the exhibition are by Private Henry Charles MARSHALL (1890-1915) who enlisted in Sydney in the same week as my grandfather Ernest Clive BUCK (1895-1974).  My grandfather’s service number was 571 and MARSHALL’s was 577. They were both in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF), 1st Infantry Battalion, E Company. They served together throughout training billeted at the racecourse at Kensington. They embarked on HMAT Afric out of Sydney for the Middle East.


Henry Charles Marshall (1890–1915). Kensington to Cairo and from Cairo to Gallipoli: Album of photographs, 1914–1915. [State Library of NSW PXA 1861]

Henry Charles MARSHALL photographed his journey from the military camp at Kensington in Sydney, to Cairo and then on to Gallipoli. He captured the daily lives of the 1st Battalion setting up camp and pitching their tents at Mena in Egypt near the pyramids.


Pitching tents in sight of pyramids, Henry Charles Marshall (1890–1915). Kensington to Cairo and from Cairo to Gallipoli: Album of photographs, 1914–1915. [State Library of NSW PXA 1861]

MARSHALL photographed the 1st Battalion rowing towards the enemy shore at Gallipoli on the afternoon of 25 April 1915. He captured candid scenes of his mates from E Company in the trenches and relaxing with mugs of tea during a lull in the fighting.


Uncaptioned photo of Australian servicemen at Gallipoli, Henry Charles Marshall (1890–1915). Kensington to Cairo and from Cairo to Gallipoli: Album of photographs, 1914–1915. [State Library of NSW PXA 1861]

 On 5 June 1915, both Henry Charles MARSHALL and Ernest Clive BUCK were severely wounded in fighting. Henry received a gun shot wound to the chest and died aboard a hospital ship and was buried at sea. Ernest was shot and bayoneted in the chest. He was evacuated to a hospital ship and then to the base hospital on the island of Malta a fortnight later; and then on to England to recover from his injuries. Ernest was one of the few who survived such severe injuries.

Private MARSHALL’s, films, photos, letters and equipment were sent back to his family in Devonport, Tasmania. His father and sister organised the photos in chronological order and created an album using information in Henry’s note books as a photo index.

I believe the Marshall family offered copies of the photos and albums to the ex-servicemen of the 1st Battalion. My grandfather Ernest had an album, Kensington to Cairo, but not the Cairo to Gallipoli volume. Maybe he did not need photos to remember the horrors of the Gallipoli campaign.


This is why we wear our hats turned up on the side, Lieut PV Ryan (1881-1950). Sketchbook purchased by the State Library of NSW in 1919.

The exhibition doesn’t only focus on Gallipoli, it gives a voice to all the brave servicemen and women, from the beginning of the war in Ausust 1914, through all the desert campaigns of the Middle East and the muddy trenches of France.

One of the diaries featured in the exhibition is that of Anne DONNELL, a nurse stationed near Ypres, France. On New Year’s Day 1918 she sat on her bed and wept, homesick and exhausted. She had been away from home for three years. Sister Donnell was working in the acute medical ward. Her patients were mainly suffering from gas poisoning and there were lots of pneumonia cases. As she wrote in her diary, she could detect the smell of sickly sweet pineapple in the air – the tell-tale sign of poison gas:

‘10 p.m. Will this restless life never end. As I write the shelling is going on again – heavier too. I am not undressing – It’s a terrible life this’.

The Life Interrupted exhibition at the State Library of NSW is free and runs until 24 September 2014. I recommend you block out a day in your diary to visit the Library, and reflect on the personal accounts of these extraordinary men and women of the global conflict a century ago, which profoundly affected and shaped Australia and its people.

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SOURCES: State Library of NSWKensington to Cairo and from Cairo to Gallipoli: Album of photographs, 1914–1915. Henry Charles MARSHALL [State Library of NSW PXA 1861]; Kensington to Cairo: photo album, 1914–1915. Henry Charles MARSHALL, Buck/Brooks family collection; WWI service records of Henry Charles MARSHALL and Ernest Clive BUCK.

anzac – lest we forget

Today, 25 April 2013 is the ninety-eighth anniversary of the landing of the allied forces at Gallipoli on the Turkish peninsula in WWI. It is a time for us to reflect on the sacrifice of the men and women who have served in our armed forces and who have fought on foreign soil to ensure our safety and protect our shores.

Private Ernest Clive Buck, 1914

Private Ernest Clive Buck (AIF Service No. 571).

My granddad, Ernest Clive BUCK enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) when he was 19 years and 5 months old, on 22 August 1914  – less than three weeks after the British Commonwealth of nations entered the war. Ernest was posted to the 1st Battalion, 1st Infantry Brigade.

Ern Buck took part in the Allies landing at Gallipoli, coming ashore with the second and third waves on 25 April 1915 and was wounded in the head by a bullet receiving a slight scalp wound in 21 May 1915. Ern was shot in the abdomen and bayoneted in the chest by the enemy and left for dead during trench fighting about 5 June 1915. Thankfully he was found and evacuated from ANZAC Cove to the military hospital on the island of Malta, then by ship to the base hospital in Manchester UK.

After the withdrawal from Gallipoli in December 1915, the 1st Battalion returned to Egypt. Ern was admitted to hospital in Tel el Kebir at the end of February 1916 when his chest wound became badly infected and he was evacuated by train to Cairo and later to hospital in Mudros. Private E C BUCK returned to Australia on the hospital ship HMAS Kanowna which left Suez 11 May 1916, he suffered from an irritable heart due to wounds received.

You can read more about his service in my post private ernest buck – anzac.

Tom Basil ‘Gunner’ Gascoigne – 1914 was a gunner on the Navy on HMAS Sydney

Thomas Basil ‘Gunner’ GASCOIGNE, AB, of the Royal Australian Navy on HMAS Sydney.

Ern’s future brother-in-law Thomas Basil GASCOIGNE joined the Australian Navy in 1912 at the age of 21. Tom was a gunner on HMAS Sydney and was wounded, losing an eye, in the Sydney’s celebrated victory over the German light cruiser Emden in the Indian Ocean in November 1914, soon after the beginning of WWI.

Tom also claimed to be the first, or among the first, Australian servicemen to set foot on enemy territory. This was immediately after the outbreak of war when a party from HMAS Sydney landed near Rabaul, the capital of the German colony of New Guinea, in order to destroy the radio station there.

When he returned home wounded in March 1915 he was given a hero’s welcome and presented with an illuminated address and a purse of sovereigns by the Wyong town leaders.


Private Roy Everett GASCOIGNE (AIF Service No. 7731A)

Tom’s younger brother Roy Everett GASCOIGNE joined the army on 13 December 1917, near the end of WWI. He sailed for England in February 1918 and spent several months training there before transferring to the 34th Battalion reinforcements. When the German Army launched its last great offensive in the spring of 1918, the 34th Battalion was part of the force deployed to defend the approach to the city of Amiens around Villers-Bretonneux.

Roy arrived in France in mid-August with the 34th reinforcements to aid in the Allies’ rapid advance, and he fought in the battle of St Quentin Canal – the operation that breached the Hindenburg Line at the end of September, and sealing Germany’s defeat. Roy remained with 34th Battalion until the Armistice on 11 November 1918 and disembarked in Sydney on 19 August 1919.

Roy GASCOIGNE joined the Royal Australian Navy in 1920 and served through the inter-war years at naval base HMAS Cerberas, as well as on board HMAS Marguerite. At the outbreak of WWII Roy served on HMAS Perth – thankfully he was transferred to another post before the ship was torpedoed and sunk at the Battle of Sunda Strait. You can read more about the Gascoigne family in my post the gascoignes of wyong shire.


RSM Harold Charles VENESS (AIF Service No. 3286)

Tom and Roy’s sister Muriel GASCOIGNE married Harold Charles VENESS. Harold was a 2nd Boer War veteran and served as Staff Sergeant Major for nine years training the 5th Australian Light Horse before he enlisted in the AIF on 16 February 1917.

Harold was appointed a Sergeant of the 1st Light Horse Brigade which was raised in response to a promise from the Australian Government to supply a division of 20,000 Australians comprising infantry, artillery and cavalry to be used at the discretion of Britain. The Brigade was recruited exclusively from the various New South Wales militia regiments including the 5th Australian Light Horse.

The 1st Light Horse Brigade reinforcements sailed on HMAT Port Sydney on 9 May 1917 for Suez and the troop bases in Egypt. Harold was promoted to Regimental Sergeant Major and trained and led mounted troops in fighting to advance on Turkish outposts on the Palastine frontier. With the fall of Gaza on 7 November 1917 the regiments participated in the advance to Jaffa that followed and the operations to clear and occupy the west bank of the Jordan River. Harold was involved in the battle for Amman in late February 1918, and the raids on Es Salt from 30 April to 4 May, as well as the repulse of a major German and Turkish attack on 14 July 1918.

Harold contracted Malaria while in Africa during the Boer War. He suffered another severe case in mid-September 1918 and spent a month recuperating at the base hospital at Port Said, Egypt before returning to the field in Jordon just after the Turkish surrendered on 30 October 1918. The 1st Light Horse Regiment sailed for Australia in March 1919 without their horses, which were either transferred to Indian cavalry units or shot. Harold was discharged on 24 May 1919.

Halifax harbour on Dec. 6, 1917 shortly after massive explosion leveled much of the city. [Photo: Canadian Press]

Halifax harbour on 6 December 1917 shortly after the massive explosion leveled much of the city. [Photo: Canadian Press]

Richard Lionel PICKERING was a cousin of my grandad Ernest BUCK. Richard was the 2nd Officer on the British merchant SS Curaca. Richard died tragically from shock due to massive injuries sustained in an explosion of ships in Halifax harbour.

The cataclysmic explosion occurred on 6 December, 1917, when the city of Halifax in Nova Scotia, Canada was devastated by the detonation of the SS Mont-Blanc, a french cargo ship that was fully loaded with wartime munitions. The Mont-Blanc caught fire and exploded after colliding with the Norwegian SS Imo in a part of Halifax harbour called The Narrows. About 2,000 people were killed by the force of the blast and flying debris, or in fires and collapsing buildings. It is estimated that around 9,000 others were injured.

SS Curaca was docked at Pier 8 loading horses bound for the war in Europe. The force of the blast was so great the ship was blown across the harbour by the tidal wave and sank with the loss of forty-five of its crew. Until the test explosions of the atomic bombs, this was the largest man-made explosion in recorded history.


Pilot Officer Donald BUCK (CFA Service No. 79168)

Donald BUCK was born in Catford, Lewisham, England and emigrated to Canada as a young man. Donald joined the cavalry in Edmonton on 16 November, 1914 as a dragoon in the Alberta 19th Horse. He then went to Calgary to join and train with the 31st Battalion.

Donald saw action with the 31st in many battles including St Eloi, Ypres, 1st battle of the Somme, Neuville St Vaast, Passchendaele as well as the battle of Vimy Ridge. The brutal nature of the fighting is shown by the statistics – 941 fatal casualties in the 31st Battalion over the duration of the war (including death of replacements).

A friend in the British Flying Corps told Donald that they would be recruiting for a new air force. Donald joined the Flying Corps as a student pilot late in 1917 and trained in Sopwith Pup, Dolphin and Avro fighter biplanes. On 2 May, 1918 he resigned as a Sergeant of the 31st to join the Royal Air Force (RAF) as a Pilot Officer where he took further training in an SE5a, a single-seater fighter aircraft. He saw action in France and at the end of the war was flying close air support out of a field in Belgium.

After the war Donald stayed on as part of the Ruhr occupation force and flew out of a field near Cologne. He was very lucky to survive so much action with only relatively minor wounds to his neck and back. He was exposed to gas whilst in the cavalry, but was not hospitalised for it. Donald was demobbed on 4 December 1920.

Harold BUCK

Sergeant Harold Lambert BUCK, MM & Bar (CFA Service No. 86016)

Donald’s younger brother Harold Lambert BUCK was a Canadian National who enlisted on 8 December 1914 in Winnepeg. He was 21 years old and was assigned the rank of Corporal with the 2nd Divisional Signal Company, Canadian Engineers.

Harold quickly proved himself to be a brave and trusted soldier in battle and was promoted to the rank of Sergeant of the Signal Section of 5th Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery (CFA).

The Canadian Corps participated in many battles and engagements against German forces throughout France and Flanders between 1915–1918. The 5th Brigade made a name for itself in the battle of Vimy Ridge which began at dawn on 9 April 1917. All four divisions of the Canadian Corps were ordered to seize the heavily-fortified seven kilometre ridge above the Douai Plain in France. The ridge was held by the German 6th Army and had a commanding view over the Allied lines.

To capture this difficult position, the Canadians carefully planned and rehearsed their attack. To provide greater flexibility and firepower in battle, the infantry were given specialist roles as machine-gunners, rifle-men and grenade-throwers. Soldiers underwent weeks of training behind the lines using models to represent the battlefield, and new maps crafted from aerial photographs to guide their way. Engineers dug deep tunnels from the rear to the front, in order to bring the men forward in safety for the assault.

Historians attribute the success of the Canadian victory in capturing the ridge to a mixture of technical and tactical innovation, meticulous planning, powerful artillery support and extensive training. The Canadians earned a reputation as formidable, effective troops because of this victory. Harold won the first of his two Military Medals (MM) for acts of gallantry and devotion to duty under fire during the four days it took to capture Vimy Ridge.

Harold died in Arras, France on 21 September 1918 during military operations near Marquion, when he was hit in the chest by a fragment of bursting shell and seriously wounded. He was attended by a medic in the field and evacuated to a casualty clearing station where he died. Harold was buried at Duisans Military Cemetery, Etrun, France, he was 24 years old.

The following is an extract from a letter to Harold’s mother from his commanding officer, dated 5 October, 1918:

Your son was a very fine chap and was one of my most valuable and trusted men. He was an exceptionally brave man and one whom no danger stopped him from doing his duty. I had recommended him for a commission and he was about to receive it. His loss is indeed a grief to me for many reasons, being one of my original men, I had got to know him personally and truly loved him for his own sake.

Sergeant Harold BUCK was the recipient of the Military Medal as well as a silver, laurelled Bar for subsequent acts of bravery and devotion under fire.

Marry Maxwell Clark's casualty record.

Private Harry Maxwell Clark’s casualty record. (AIF Service No. 1002)

Donald and Harold’s cousin Harry Maxwell CLARK was born in London, England but enlisted on 26 August 1914 in Sydney, Australia – just three weeks after Britain declared war on Germany. Harry was 38 years old when he landed at Gallipoli with the 2nd Battalion AIF as part of the second and third waves between 25 April and 2 May in what is known as the Battle of the Landing. Harry was reported wounded and missing in action on 2 May 1915 during heavy fighting to gain Quinn’s Post. His body was never found and he was finally pronounced killed in action by a Court of Inquiry ten months later. Harry is remembered with honour on the Lone Pine Memorial at Anzac Cove at Gallipoli.

The traditional recitation of the Ode on Anzac Day is taken from the fourth stanza of the poem For the fallen by Laurence Binyon (1869–1943).

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

In Flanders fields, by the Canadian officer Lieutenant Colonel J.M. McCrae (1872–1918), is another popular recitation. McCrae was a professor of medicine at McGill University before the war. He served as medical officer with the first Canadian contingent in WWI and wrote this poem at the second battle of Ypres in 1915. It was published anonymously in Punch. McCrae was wounded in May 1918 and died three days later.

Lest we forget.

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Sources: Australian War Memorial; Commonwealth War Graves Commission; National Archives of Australia; Nova Scotia Archives – Halifax Remembrance Book; The Regimental Rogue – Canadian battle honours; and thank you Geoffrey BUCK for providing his research on his father Donald and his uncle Harold.

the gascoignes of wyong shire

This is a transcript of the talk I gave as the guest speaker at the Wyong and District Pioneer Dinner on Saturday, 20 October 2012.

My earliest family connection with the Wyong Shire links back to the late 1890s when three GASCOIGNE brothers, Thomas, John and Robert would travel to Tuggerah Lakes for holidays – camping, shooting and fishing.

Gascoigne family photograph taken on the occasion of James & Frances’ 50th Wedding Anniversary, Sunday 29 May 1898.

They would travel to Wyong by train from Sydney to the new railway station at Wyong and then take a launch down the Wyong River.

The town of Wyong was beginning to grow with the expansion of the northern railway when a Sydney journalist, writing in 1896, left us with this account of the district and its potentialities:

Sometimes one wants to get away from the wear and tear of city life. Only two hours in the northern train takes one into the quiet solitude of the primeval forests, where the climate is as mild as that of Sydney. The Tuggerah Lakes are in close proximity to this dense forest, and the largest is a fine sheet of water where fish of several species abound. Wyong Creek is the backwater from the lake. Just where the railway bridge crosses Wyong Creek is growing up a small town or village named after the creek. A ferry is maintained here, as there is no bridge for traffic, other than the railway. 

A road bridge was built across Wyong River in 1901.

He goes on to say:

This district with its splendid forests and miles of rich soil is very sparsely populated. The people live chiefly by timber cutting for the sawmills, or by fishing. A few cultivate patches of land, growing maize, potatoes, etc. Nearly all kinds or fruits grow luxuriantly here, also every kind of vegetable, and all cereals but wheat.

The climate is superb, and the facilities for conveyance of produce to market most excellent, as there are both rail and water ways at hand. The land is capable of sustaining a large population, yet the district is almost as untilled as when Captain Cook sighted Australia. If a few enterprising men were to take the matter in hand the beautiful lakes would be surrounded with villa residences, and the place would throng with tourists.

I think this journo had very good foresight.

I’m going to go back a bit further in the history now.

For 25,000 years, before Europeans landed on Australian soil, Aboriginal people from the Darkinjung tribe inhabited the area around Wyong. The Darkinjung occupied land from the Hawkesbury in the south, Lake Macquarie in the north and to Wollombi in the west.

In 1825 William CAPE the headmaster at Sydney Public School became the first European settler in the Tuggerah Lakes district. He was granted three sections of land that he used for sheep and cattle grazing. Included in the grant was 500 acres for his eldest son William Timothy CAPE. This was called ‘Wyong Place’. However both William (senior) and William Timothy did not spend a lot of time on their Wyong properties as they were still teaching full time in Sydney. William CAPE reportedly had quite a difficult personality – he was harsh with his servants, quarrelled with his neighbours and had no love for the Aborigines.

In 1840 after constant difficulties with the management of ‘Wyong Place’, the property was leased to John Kerr WILSON, and in 1860 after the deaths of his father, mother, wife and son, William Timothy CAPE returned to England where he died in 1863.

William ALISON purchased the three CAPE properties at Wyong from William Timothy’s estate in 1875. This land covered the area from Wyong River in the south to Jilliby Creek in the west, and Wallarah Creek in the north to Budgewoi Lake in the east.

Alison Homestead was built, shortly after the land purchase, where it stood until recently as the Wyong District Museum & Historical Society.  With the support of many good people in the Wyong Shire I am sure it will be resurrected from the ashes in the very near future.

In the 1890s the ALISON family were affected by death duties and hit hard in the economic depression, and the property was mortgaged to pay off some of the debts. The Scottish Widows Fund and Assurance Society were able to secure the Certificate of Title from Alison and started selling off parts of the land.

In 1903 Albert Hamlyn WARNER bought 12,000 acres to the north and east of the Wyong township and subdivided the land into small farms, weekend blocks and shop sites.

By 1906 Wyong was officially classified as a town and among the first buildings erected were two small hotels, or rather inns. The Royal Hotel, built on the south end of the town in 1889 and the Commercial Hotel (later named the Grand Hotel) at the north end in 1892. Both of them were wooden structures.

In their trips to Wyong and Tuggerah Lake the GASCOIGNE brothers had seen the potential of the area and in 1899 John GASCOIGNE bought both the Royal and the Commercial Hotels. John managed the Royal and his brother Thomas was licensee of the Commercial.

The GASCOIGNE family came from the Ryde area of Sydney, they owned a great deal of land on the Putney foreshore where they had businesses building commercial boats and light racing sculls.

Robert GASCOIGNE remained working with the business in Ryde but he would come up to Wyong on race days and other busy times to help at the hotels. In 1904 a financial arrangement was made between the brothers – Robert bought the Royal from John and as part of the deal John took over Robert’s property at Ryde.

The Royal Hotel, Wyong – bought by John Gascoigne in 1899 and later owned by Robert Gascoigne in 1904. The hotel was rebuilt in brick in 1919.

At this time Robert left Ryde with his wife Marie and two sons (Robert Jnr aged 17 and John aged 15) and settled in Wyong where he remained for nearly thirty years.

As befitting a publican in a country town he soon became prominent in civic affairs – in the founding of Wyong Sports Club in 1905, in establishing the town band (in which his younger son John played the cornet) and also the Wyong Bowling Club in 1912.

Wyong Football Team, circa 1910. Robert Gascoigne Snr, back left (with white hat and moustache), Robert Jnr in front of him (with cap), John Gascoigne, 3rd from right in centre row seated.

For many years he was a leading member of both the Masonic Lodge and the Oddfellows Lodge. For Robert and his family it was a good time. He owned a private launch on the Wyong River, used mostly by his sons. He also owned some prize racehorses – trotters and pacers – which were driven in gigs by his younger son John who as well as being an outstanding horseman, was also a star winger in the local football team. Robert Snr was one of the first in Wyong to own a motor car – an imported American Buick.

In 1932 Robert retired from the hotel. He had a house built for himself in Byron Street, Wyong and he divided the bulk of his property between his two sons. Robert Jnr, was given property in Ryde and John was given the ownership of the hotel under a mortgage from his father. The gradual repayment of the mortgage constituted Robert Snr’s income for the rest of his life. He died in 1951 at the age of 90.

His son Robert Jnr had an unfortunate accident when he was 22 years old; a horse he was riding bolted and crushed him against a tree, breaking his leg in several places. For the rest of his life he was a semi-cripple with a badly deformed leg. In 1925 he married Lillian BRIDGE who came from a well-known pioneering family in Dooralong. For a few years he had a small farm on land adjacent to the Wyong River, then he took a job on the railways as a timekeeper and he left Wyong and for many years lived at Lidcombe.

In 1904, the same time his brother Robert took over the Royal, Thomas GASCOIGNE sold the Commerical Hotel and it passed out of GASCOIGNE ownership. Thomas had acquired 60 acres a Pipeclay Point in the 1890s in the area now bound by Howelston Road and Gascoigne Road, Gorokan. He went back to fishing and boat building and he built and operated the ferry ‘Wyong’ designed to carry about fifty passengers and with a draught shallow enough to negotiate the sand bar at the mouth of the Wyong River and the sea grass beds of the lake.

The Passenger Ferry “Wyong” – built by the Gascoigne family and owned and operated by Thomas Gascoigne.

Wyong was the gateway to the lakes and in what is now the riverside park there were wharves from which ferries carried passengers and goods to The Entrance and other places around the lakes.

Thomas made a good living fishing, farming his land and building boats for other fishermen. He had an orange orchard and also grew excellent grapes and other fruit. Thomas’s first marriage to Lydia MOON produced four daughters and his second marriage to Sarah PATERSON produced three daughters and three sons.

Don’t worry, I am not going to detail all ten of them but I will tell you about a few.

Of all of Thomas and Sarah’s children, the one who achieved the most fame was their eldest son Thomas, known as “Gunner” GASCOIGNE. As a member of the crew on the HMAS Sydney he was wounded, losing an eye, in the Sydney’s celebrated victory over the German light cruiser Emden in the Indian Ocean in November 1914, soon after the beginning of WWI.

He also claimed to be the first, or among the first, Australian servicemen to set foot on enemy territory. This was immediately after the outbreak of war when a party from HMAS Sydney landed near Rabaul, the capital of the German colony of New Guinea, in order to destroy the radio station there.

Tom ‘Gunner’ Gascoigne – 1914 was a gunner in the navy on
HMAS Sydney.

When he returned to Wyong in March 1915 he was given a hero’s welcome and presented with an illuminated address and a purse of sovereigns by the Wyong town leaders. Thomas married Mina DUNCAN and had two sons, he went back to fishing on the lake and in later life was a Fisheries Department inspector at the Sydney Fish Markets.

His younger brother Roy joined the navy at the end of WWI, he remained in it through the inter-war years and served on HMAS Perth in WWII. Roy married Eva BEDDING the daughter of Ernest BEDDING who was a builder and had a poultry farm and some lemon trees near where the Wyong hospital now is at Kanwal.

Gascoigne Wedding 1923 – Roy Gascoigne (groom), Thomas Gascoigne Snr,
Eva Bedding (bride), Sarah Gascoigne, Phyllis Bedding, Jimmy Gascoigne.

Madge GASCOIGNE (my grandmother) married Ernest BUCK in 1923. Ern grew up in Newtown in Sydney and had served at Gallipoli in WWI. Ern’s sister Bertha BUCK married Byron LEGGE and they settled at Tuggerah and raised their family. My dad told me that there were three families in Wyong around this time, named HAND, FOOTE and LEGGE and they all lived in the same street.

We think Ern first travelled up to Wyong to visit the Legge’s, but there is also talk he met Charlie CRAIGIE, who lived at Kanwal, when he was working at the Sydney Fish Markets and Charlie convinced him there were opportunities a plenty to be had at Tuggerah Lakes.

Ernest and Madge settled on land at Pipeclay Point, which was Madge’s division of Thomas’s estate. Ern was a builder and fisherman and they grew vegetables  – lots and lots of cabbages according to my dad and aunty Hazel who had to harvest them for market.

Madge (nee Gascoigne) and Ern Buck – 1962

Madge was a very generous and hard working person. I have heard reports from many of the folks around the district who know her, that she always had an open door and there was always a good time to be had at the BUCK’s Christmas parties.

An extract from her obituary in The Advocate in 1968 reads:

As a young girl Madge was one of the first pupils of the Kanwal Public School when it opened in 1911 and she later took an active interest in the school as a parent. Mrs BUCK formed the school’s Mother’s Club and was its secretary for 12 years. 

An honest, frank, forthright person, Mrs BUCK became a pillar of the local community. In March 1955 she inaugurated the Toukley Girl Guides and was elected as president, a position she held until her death. A strong supporter also of the Boy Scouts movement, she was elected a patron of the Toukley Boy Scouts five years ago and re-elected each year.

Mrs BUCK joined the Toukley RSL Women’s Auxiliary in 1953 and was a staunch worker. It would be impossible to enumerate all that Mrs Buck did for the local community. Hers was one of the most familiar faces at street stalls for many different charities. Whenever there was community work to be done, Mrs BUCK could always be relied upon as one of the “willing horses”. 

Madge’s youngest brother Jimmy GASCOIGNE will be familiar to some of you. He married Betty STACKMAN from the STACKMAN and WATERS pioneering families of the Yarramalong Yalley. Jimmy and Betty managed the ‘Top Pub’ at Wyong for a time, then moved over to The Entrance. They spent a brief time at Narrandra in the Riverina, then back to Wyong, first to Panania Road, then to their house in Jennings Street, where they lived for 45 years.

To show you the type of young person Jimmy was, his daughter Janice had a silver medal and certificate awarded to Jim in 1923 that recognises a deed of bravery. On the 6th November 1922, Jim along with Edna CRAIGIE saved several children from drowning at Pipeclay Point at Gorokan. One of the children was Jimmy’s little sister Gwen. In recognition the Royal Shipwreck Relief & Humane Society of NSW awarded both Jim and Edna a medal and certificate.

Certificate of Merit awarded to James Gascoigne in 1923 by the Royal Shipwreck Relief & Humane Society.

In Jimmy’s younger days he played Rugby League for Wyong, but really as those who knew him can all testify, his life long interest was fishing, fishing and more fishing – he had salt water in his veins.

For those of us who have lived in the area, fished on the shores of Tuggerah Lake and grown up and played on the beaches around Norah Head – we are ever grateful to our enterprising pioneers for taking a chance and staking their claim in the Wyong Shire.

[Sources: Gascoigne: an English-Australian Family History by Robert Mortimer GASCOIGNE; National Library of Australia TROVE http://trove.nla.gov.au ]

private ernest buck – anzac

Ernest Clive BUCK enlisted in the army on 22 August 1914 when he was 19 years and 5 months old. He was indentured as a carpenter’s apprentice at G & T Hastings, Kogarah after he finished his schooling at age 14. Ern had served in the regional cadets for 2 years and at the time of enlistment had served 1 year with the 34th Infantry reserves.

Private Ernest Clive Buck, 1914

Private E C BUCK (Service No. 571) was posted to the 1st Battalion, 1st Infantry Brigade, Australian Imperial Force (AIF). The battalion was raised within a fortnight of the declaration of war on 4 August 1914. The troops were bivouaced for basic training at Randwick Racecourse, Kensington, Sydney. The soldiers marched from Kensington to Circular Quay just two months later and embarked on “HMAT Afric”. After a brief stop in Albany, Western Australia, the battalion proceeded to Cairo, Egypt, arriving on 2 December where they undertook further training and served in a static defence role around the Suez Canal.

1st Battalion, 1st Infantry, 1st AIF, route marching near the Pyramids. Photos by Henry Charles Marshall (1890–1915). Kensington to Cairo: Album of photographs, 1914–1915.

Ern Buck took part in the Allies landing at Gallipoli, coming ashore with the second and third waves on 25 April 1915. In the days and weeks after the landing men fought a hundred fights – attack and counter attack followed in wearying succession, trench to trench, the fighting was hand to hand, bayonet and bomb and man to man.

Ern was wounded in the head by a bullet receiving a slight scalp wound in 21 May 1915. He was shot in the abdomen and bayoneted in the chest by the enemy and left for dead during trench fighting about 5 June 1915. Thankfully he was found and evacuated from ANZAC Cove to the military hospital on the island of Malta, then by ship to the base hospital in Manchester UK.

Pte Ernest Clive BUCK (second from right) in hospital in England, between July and Dec 1915

Much later, when Ern spoke to his son Mick of his brush with death, he said he felt no
ill-feeling for the Turks. He remembered the Turkish soldier who shot him was as young as himself and he clearly saw the fear and shock in the man’s eyes during the attack.

After the withdrawal from Gallipoli in December 1915, the 1st Battalion returned to Egypt. Ern rejoined his unit at Tel el Kabir, Egypt at the beginning of February 1916. Tel el Kebir was a training centre for the 1st AIF reinforcements, the site of No 2 Australian Stationary Hospital and also of a large POW camp. Around 40,000 Australians camped in a small tent city at Tel el Kebir. A military railway was constructed to take troops from the camp at Tel el Kebir to Battalion HQ at Serapeum, Alexandria, and the Suez Canal for embarkation to other theatres of war.

The Australian camp on the Suez Canal

Ern was admitted to hospital in Tel el Kebir at the end of February 1916. His chest wound became badly infected and he was evacuated by train to Cairo and later to hospital in Mudros on the small Greek port on the Mediterranean island of Lemnos.

In March 1916, his battalion sailed for France and the Western Front. From then until 1918 the battalion took part in operations against the German Army, principally in the Somme Valley in France and around Ypres in Belgium. 1st Battalion casualties are recorded as 1165 killed, 2363 wounded (including gassed).

Private E C BUCK returned to Australia on the hospital ship “HMAS Kanowna” which left Suez 11 May 1916, he suffered from an irritable heart due to wounds received.

The colour patch for 1st Battalion, 1st Infantry, AIF, worn on each sleeve with a brass letter ‘A’ which denoted service in the Gallipoli campaign.

At 11am on 11 November, 1918, the guns fell silent. The November armistice was followed by the peace treaty of Versailles signed on 28 June 1919. The “war to end all wars” was over.

Private Ernest Clive BUCK received the 1914/5 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.