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Northern Territory volunteers of 1914

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Percy Toplis

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BerichtGeplaatst: 21 Sep 2010 18:50    Onderwerp: Northern Territory volunteers of 1914 Reageer met quote

Adventurous roving natures Northern Territory volunteers of 1914.
Publication Date: 01-JUN-06

Ninety years have passed since an immense wave of patriotic fervour was aroused throughout Australia upon the outbreak of World War 1. Young men from even the most remote and isolated outback settlements made their way into towns by whatever means they could muster to enlist for what they saw either as a great adventure or duty to the Commonwealth or Empire--they were the men described by the official historian C E W Bean as, "the adventurous roving natures that could not stay away, whatever their duties and their ties".

The Northern Territory community at that time was small and highly transient, so no single Northern Territory battalion was raised as was the case in the States. Further, there was no recruiting depot established in Darwin so all volunteers had to travel interstate (at their own expense) to enlist, becoming dispersed among the many regiments and companies being raised for the Australian Imperial Expeditionary Force (AIEF). In chronicling the earliest stages of the war, Bean lamented that, "In only two or three cases do the records preserve details of these early enlistments" (2). Enlistments from the small Northern Territory community might not be known at all today were it not for the fact that those who volunteered were generally well known amongst the residents, and had their enlistment documented by The Northern Territory Times and Gazette. As the war progressed, the service of 'Territorians' was followed with interest through letters from the 'boys at the Front'.

Some 300 from the Northern Territory enlisted during the course of the war, and Bean might have been describing what has now become recognised as the 'Territorian' when he spoke of, "all those who could not refrain from taking life in strong draughts, both the good and the bad of it" (3). Yet only sixteen men enlisted in 1914. Was there no "wave of patriotic fervour" in the Northern Territory?


Up to 1911, the remote 'Top End' was the 'Northern Territory of South Australia'. Despite the first three attempts at settlement having been military garrisons, the South Australian Government had made no provision for the defence of Palmerston, as Darwin was then known.

Those pioneers who had settled in the Northern Territory had certainly faced the good and the bad--from tires to devastating cyclones, and equivalent extremes in both temperature and politics. The Top End received significant injections of projects, funding and investment after the Commonwealth assumed responsibility on 1 January 1911 (with Dr John Anderson Gilruth as Administrator (4)). A minor defence presence was introduced with Darwin becoming a Naval Reserve sub-district, but more importantly, a Cable Corps (or 'Cable Guard') was created to protect the important Cable Station in Darwin, considered to be a potential target for a German raider. Yet by 1914, the Top End was still very much a wild frontier, with a populace drawn from all over Australia--the adventurous and the optimistic, escaping a former life or seeking a fortune in their new one.

Recruiting for the AIEF was authorised by Proclamation on 10 August 1914. In the Northern Territory on 13 August, together with the first reports of action in Europe, a notice in The Northern Territory Times and Gazette advised readers that, "Those desirous of volunteering for local or active military service are requested to send in their names to R J Lewis, captain of the cable guard, as early as possible". Robert James Lewis (5) commanded the Cable Guard with the honorary rank of Captain in the Australian Military Forces. Originally from Dublin, and a British Army veteran of the campaign in South Africa, Lewis had arrived in Darwin on the SS Montoro on 15 September 1912, and held appointments at the Hospital and Darwin Gaol and Labour Prison at Fannie Bay, and also as Sheriff and Commanding Officer of the Cable Guard. The Guard was presided over by the Administrator Dr Gilruth, who personally petitioned for his appointment to the rank of Colonel (he was listed on the Unattached List in May 1912).

From the very beginning, there was great enthusiasm within the Territory community. From 1914 to 1918 inclusive, at least 319 men from the Territory enlisted for war service (6). While this may not seem significant, the first point to note is that these volunteers came from a population which numbered just 3,600 in 1914 (7), and grew to a peak of 4,883 in 1917--and from these totals should be discounted some 1,200 Chinese residents (8), who were not permitted to enlist (under the Naturalisation Act, Chinese were not permitted to become naturalised). So these wartime enlistments came from a European population which averaged around 3,000, representing some 8% of the population of the Northern Territory at that time.

Despite the enthusiasm, the second issue impacting on enlistments was that no recruiting depot was established in Darwin, and the Northern Territory Administration would make no provision to transport prospective recruits to interstate depots. Accordingly, volunteers made their own way interstate--and their names and exploits were later included in the rolls of numerous Australian and British battalions and regiments, with nothing to distinguish them as Territorians. As Bean recorded of these early enlistments: "often there remained no record to connect them with the district from which they came" (9). One Darwin resident identified this shortcoming:

The mere fact that one or two, or even more, individuals have gone,
or are willing to go, at their own expense, to the nearest
recruiting depot, does not in any way identify the Territory as
shouldering its share of the burden, since these units become merged
in the contingents of other states and only go to swell their

By the beginning of 1915, the Territory residents were anxious to be represented in Australia's war effort and, despite the early and willing response of individuals who made their own way overseas or interstate, the fear was that such honourable actions would not identify the Northern Territory as having participated. It was clearly the wish of Territorians:

that they may be able, in times to come, to say that they gave that
which they had freely and to their utmost, instead of being under
the stigma of being the only part of Australia that failed to
respond to the call in the hour of need

August 1914

There were many keen volunteers, who could not be accepted (11). Joshua Ernest Rowlands, a self-confessed 'old unionist' who suffered for his opinions, was as outspoken as ever with global conflict on the horizon. He claimed to have been the first man in the Territory to offer himself for home or foreign service, but was repeatedly turned down. Walter Bell, who ran the shipping, insurance and customs agency in Darwin and a General Store at Maranboy, as well as being an auctioneer, had his application refused on medical grounds. Albert Colley of the 2 1/2-mile railway depot tried twice to enlist but was rejected on both occasions because of a 'bad heart'.

Others showed a particular determination (12). Percival Philips, a teacher on the Daly River, tried four times to enlist--in Darwin, Perth and elsewhere--finally making his own way to Thursday Island and then to Brisbane, where he enlisted on 9 July 1915, joining the 8th Battalion. Similarly, Frank Parr from Darwin was rejected on four separate occasions, before finally being accepted by officials in Sydney on 1 October 1915. Alf O'Neill, a miner from Pine Creek born in Launceston, Tasmania, applied in 1914 but was rejected because of problems with his teeth. He had these fixed, and tried again--four further times--but each time was turned down for some other problem (he was finally accepted, on 5 November 1916, on his sixth attempt, and joined the 1st Australian Tunnelling Company).

The first Territorian to depart for war service was Pat Holmes (13), a worker at Darwin's 2 1/2-mile railway workshops. A veteran of service with the Munster Fusiliers, Holmes could not bear waiting to be called upon for service and instead chose to voluntarily leave Darwin by the first steamer to join his old regiment. He received ala enthusiastic farewell on 15 August 1914 at the Hotel Victoria in Darwin, led by his boss Julian O'Sullivan, the Locomotive Superintendent, who stated that they were losing a man, "who had not the slightest sign of a yellow streak in him". Holmes received two tobacco pipes, the best procurable in Darwin, as a mark of esteem from his railway shop-mates. He remarked that, "While smoking the pipes, he would cherish the fond memories of those who had presented him with them, and the many friendships he had formed in the Northern Territory" (14). Holmes sailed from Darwin on SS Mataram on 22 August for England, via Singapore.

Next to go was Sidney Rochefort from the Public Works Department (15). He had earlier served with the King's Royal Rifles and as a Reservist with the Winchester Rifles, and also decided to make his own way back to England to volunteer. A farewell function was held on 17 August at the residence of the Superintendent of Public Works, Mr W C Kellaway, with the Clerk of Works, Mr W J Byrne, as vice-chairman of proceedings. William Byrne was prominent in the various farewells of Public Works Department members during 1914 and 1915, and finally was permitted to enlist himself in early 1916 (16). Surrounded by flags and amid rousing choruses of patriotic songs, Rochefort was described as a 'straightforward' man, and was presented with a pair of tobacco pipes and a safety razor. Rochefort sailed on SS Changsha on 30 August, and served with the British Expeditionary Force in France. Likewise, Felix Aron departed Darwin to join the British Expeditionary Force, and served through the war as a Captain with the 3rd Hussars.

Leslie James Parer was the first to enlist with the AIF, travelling interstate to join the 2nd Australian Field Artillery Brigade as a Gunner on 17 August. He was the son of J J Parer, the descendant of an old Spanish settler, a Darwin entrepreneur recorded as being particularly militant in his support of the war. Parer founded the Overseas Club in February 1917 while his son Leslie was serving with distinction in France, and from 1921 held the lease of the Club and Terminus Hotels in Darwin (which had been operating at a loss under government control since 1915). Leslie Parer returned to Australia on 13 November 1918, a recipient of the Military Medal for bravery in the field (17), and Parer Drive in Casuarina recalls his father's various contributions to Darwin.

Frank Carr (18), born in Masterton, New Zealand, was an employee of the Public Works Department in Darwin. He went to Toowoomba, Queensland and enlisted on 27 August, joining the 9th Battalion, a Queensland battalion of the 3rd Australian Brigade; he returned to Australia on 8 October 1918.

William Henry Mansfield (19) had come north to seek his fortune in the goldfields of the Tanami Desert and, after these closed down in 1911, had then worked at the Brock's Creek copper smelter before enlisting on 30 August 1914. He was one of the many who, despite only having spent a short time in the Northern Territory, developed a close affinity with it. He landed at Gallipoli with the 1st Battalion AIF on 25 April, and was wounded. From Abbey Wood in Kent, Mansfield wrote to the Editor of The Northern Territory Times and Gazette in February 1916, summing up the sentiments of those who had been smitten with a respect for the Territory:

Years bring many changes, and our pathway leads us through curious,
strange, and mysterious places. When I was roaming amidst the
spinifex grass of the now-forgotten Tanamai goldfields, I little
ever dreamed that I would don khaki and chance my life against
screeching shot and shell on the hard fought and now
never-to-be-forgotten Dardanelles Peninsula. God bless us all till
we meet again.

Mansfield served in France with the 4th Pioneer Battalion, together with fellow Territorian Robert Bousfield, was again wounded, and was awarded the Military Medal for bravery; he was discharged on 19 June 1918 with the rank of Lance-Corporal.

The third factor which caused a seemingly low Northern Territory response was the tempering of enthusiasm by practical realities--the small European population and the significant commitment of many in such key areas such as mining, agriculture, public works, health, policing and defence, meant that not all could be released to volunteer. The Clerk of Works, William Byrne, was prominent in the various farewells of Public Works Department members during 1914 and 1915 but could not himself be released; he was finally permitted to enlist in early 1916 (20).

Almost every eligible officer of the small police force, for example, had offered himself at the outbreak of war, but eventually only six were released for enlistment (21). The Irish-born Noel Tracy Collins had arrived in the Top End in June 1911, and had served with the Northern Territory Police at Borroloola, Roper River and Horseshoe Creek. The latter was a temporary camp midway between Pine Creek and Katherine, manned by one Mounted Constable. Collins' attempt to enlist in August 1914 was therefore refused, but after Horseshoe Creek was closed down in December 1915 (and the station was relocated to Maranboy) approval was granted and he enlisted in 1916 (22). The first to enlist from the Territory, the only police enlistment permitted in 1914, was Mounted Constable Frederick William Murray Taylor. He had been born in Bundalong, Victoria, and returned to Melbourne to enlist. After serving at Gallipoli and in France, he returned to Australia on 10 April 1919 as a Lieutenant. Taylor and Collins appear not to have rejoined the Northern Territory Police after returning (23).

September 1914

Also prevented from volunteering were those men engaged in employment of national significance: men were not taken from the Eastern Extension Cable Company, the Overland and Radio Telegraphs, the banks and the newly established Vestey's Meatworks. The other occupational group which had restrictions imposed by the Gilruth Administration was the medical profession.

The Irish-born Dr Cecil Lucius Strangman (24), qualified with a Diploma in Tropical Medicine from Cambridge University, had first settled in South Australia but moved to Darwin at the end of 1906, arriving with his wife and child on SS Empire on 16 December. He was Medical Officer and Protector of Aborigines (1907-09), and then Government Medical Officer (1907-13), noted for his outstanding work in improving hygiene and controlling disease, notably malaria. Strangman's term in Darwin finished in awkward circumstances, which culminated in the abolition of the Central Board of Health by the Gilruth Administration in 1914, Strangman having suffered the same fate as other 'men of character and independence' who stood up to or criticised the Gilruth regime: "the much-loved and exceedingly able Strangman resigned under a pressure which made office here intolerable to him" (25).

Strangman returned to Adelaide and there enlisted on 21 September 1914. It was intended for him to accompany a hospital unit to France but, with an expert knowledge of tropical diseases and eight years' experience at the Darwin Hospital, he was instead attached as the Principal Medical Officer to the 1st Battalion, Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (ANMEF). Strangman joined the unit on Rabaul after fighting had ceased, and effectively dealt with malaria which was spreading amongst the troops. In recognition of his efforts, Strangman was appointed Principal Medical Officer for New Britain with the rank of Brevet Colonel. He took leave in 1917, and was on SS Matunga in August when it was captured by the German raider Wolf--he was held prisoner aboard a captured Spanish collier in the north Atlantic, not being released until March 1918. He returned to South Australia on 20 October 1918, and was discharged in February 1919.

Dr Frank Howson (26), the Government Health Officer in Darwin, also had his early attempts to enlist blocked. Born in England, he had served with the Oxford University Volunteer Corps whilst studying medicine in 1896-97, and had graduated as a 2nd Lieutenant from the Durham University Officer Training Corps. He was finally released in 1915, enlisting on 27 July and joining the Australian Army Medical Corps as a Captain. He was appointed to command the 2nd Australian Stationary Hospital located on Lemnos during the Dardanelles campaign. He returned on 10 June 1916 as the Medical Officer on the Itonus and had his AIF appointment terminated on 19 November, resuming his vocation in Darwin as Government Health Officer.

Dr Mervyn John Holmes (27), the Government Health Officer at Pine Creek, was another who was anxious to offer himself for war service but was not released by the Gilruth Administration. Born in Melbourne, Holmes was a University of Melbourne graduate appointed to the NT Health Department as a Medical Officer in 1911, charged with curbing the spread of malaria and leprosy amongst Territory Aboriginals. He was then Chief Health Officer for just over three years, coming to Darwin during Howson's absence, and during this time he formed some very clear views on the Northern Territory. He became renowned for advocating settlement in this new and hopeful region, whose value had not yet been realised, he made determined efforts to remedy the sanitary conditions in Darwin's Chinatown, and he improved the drainage and water supply of the town. In 1915, the Administrator reported that Holmes had, "succeeded in improving the general sanitary condition of Darwin". Gilruth was not prepared to release Holmes in 1914/15 with Howson being away, but finally saw fit to release him in 1916:

Owing to the passing of the new Health Ordinance and the great
influx of people, the majority of whom had perforce to dwell in
tents, necessitating close attention, his services could not be
spared till February, 1916, when he joined the Australian Army
Medical Corps
. (28)

Holmes was appointed as a Captain, succeeded in Darwin by Dr H Leighton Jones as Acting Chief Health Officer. His specialist knowledge and experience in the field of public health was recognised by his superiors, and for several months Holmes was held in Victoria for work of that nature. He was then sent to the Front in Europe where he again was detailed for public health work. He served with distinction, earning four of the 28 decorations conferred upon Territorians during the war. He was twice Mentioned-in-Despatches (1917 (29) and 1918 (30)), was awarded the French Croix de Guerre (31), and was then awarded the Distinguished Service Order in 1919 (32) for "distinguished service in connection with military operations in France and Flanders". He returned home on 23 July 1919. He enlisted again at Royal Park on 30 October 1942 and served as a Medical Officer at Land Headquarters during WW2, and was discharged on 14 July 1945 with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

Equally vital for retention in Darwin was the Cable Guard, under the direct authority of Administrator Gilruth himself, which was tasked with defending the Cable Station in Darwin. The members of the Guard were provided with one blanket, stretcher and table utensils whilst in camp, and each had a water canteen on permanent issue. Other equipment such as tables, cooking utensils and water tanks were loaned by the Northern Territory Administration. They were called up for active service as the German threat intensified, each member receiving the militia rate of pay: Lewis received the pay of a Lieutenant in the Citizen Forces (15 shillings per day), while his men received 10 shillings (Sergeants), 9 shillings (Corporals) and 5 shillings (Private soldiers) per day (33). Not surprisingly, every eligible member of the Guard was an early volunteer for war service, particularly once it was apparent that there would be no provision for active service in Darwin itself, but none were released.

Lewis turned his attentions to securing AIF recruits until finally he was permitted to enlist, in April 1915--"it having been impossible to relieve him prior to that date" as Dr Gilruth explained to the Minister for Home and Territories (34). Before his departure, Lewis married the matron of Darwin Hospital in Darwin's Christ Church; Mrs Lewis herself also enlisted and subsequently went to England and France as an Army nursing sister.


Robert Bruce Bousfield, born in Middlesex, England, left Darwin to enlist in Brisbane on 2 September 1914, joining Frank Carr in the 9th Battalion. Aged 27 years 10 months, he had previous service in the Cambridge University Rifle Volunteers, and with the Thursday Island Garrison. More were keen to follow, but they faced official opposition from His Excellency Dr John Gilruth--referred to in the newspaper as 'His Obstinancy'. This resulted in a petition bearing 22 signatures being presented to the Administrator on 25 September 1914, asking Dr Gilruth to assist in hurrying their enlistment:

We, the undersigned residents of this Territory, are desirous of
enlisting in the service of His Majesty the King, and of serving
the Empire at the Battle Front, and we beg that you will use your
valuable influence to secure for us enlistment with one of the
earliest contingents to leave Australia
. (35)

All but three of the signatories of this petition were veterans of imperial or colonial military service, and eight had seen active service. Walter Catt had been a Sergeant with the 14th Kings Hussars (12 years) and Bob Butters had been a Sergeant with the Royal Scots Greys (8 years) and was a Boer War veteran. Jeremiah Buckley had served in the Shanghai Light Horse, and Tom Sawyer in the Gloucestershire Regiment. Others had served with the Sydney Scottish Rifles, Tasmanian Rangers and Australian Artillery.

Former Colour-Sergeant David Campbell McPherson aged 40, born in Glasgow, was a veteran with 12 years' service in India and South Africa with Princess Louise's Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders. He did not wait for a reply to the petition--perhaps recognising the obstinate nature of the Gilruth Administration. He made his own way to Fremantle and then Perth, there joining up and training at Black Boy Camp with the 16th Battalion: "We are training hard and getting fit to knock the Germans out" he wrote in late 1914 (36).

Another of the impatient signatories was Jack Johnston (37), a Canadian who had been mining at Pine Creek. Born in Penticton, Canada, he had served with the Royal Horse Artillery for three years and had spent a year surveying in India with the Royal Engineers. By the time the petition was presented, he had already left Darwin in SS St Albans to enlist in Sydney. He actually enlisted in Townsville however, with his Territory mates on 11 March 1915, for service with the 25th Battalion AIF. He returned to Australia on 23 July 1919 with the rank of Warrant Officer. Sydney Greenwood aged 39, the well known and respected Darwin barber and tobacconist, had seen three years' service in the Australian Artillery (38). He too paid his own fare to Townsville on the Yuill & Co cargo vessel SS Taiyuan; he enlisted on 17 February 1915 and went to Gallipoli with the 25th Battalion AIF as a Corporal.

October 1914

On 15 October 1914, the Administrator replied to the petition:

I have the honour to inform you that the Honourable the Minister for
Defence has intimated that in view of the present condition of the
Territory, he feels, while appreciating the patriotic spirit that
has prompted your request, that your presence is required in Darwin.


Locomotive Superintendent Julian Rodger Bede O'Sullivan (40), whose name headed the list of signatories, became frustrated with the lack of support. So keen was he to play his part that he had actually been the first to apply in South Australia, to which the Northern Territory then belonged--his application had reputedly been received before war was actually declared. Known for his 'kindliness of disposition and good comradeship' at the 2 1/2-mile railway workshops, O'Sullivan was a 42 year old veteran with 23 years' service in the South Australian field artillery, garrison artillery and light horse, attaining the rank of Lieutenant. During this time, he had seen active service in South Africa, commanding C Squadron of the 5th South Australian (Imperial) Contingent in 1901-02 (with Colonel De Lisle's Column in the Kroonstadt district and Orange River Colony, and the night attack on General Smut's laager at Grootvallier).

In response to the opposition of the Gilruth Administration, O'Sullivan announced his intention to make his own way south to enlist. He was farewelled by employees of the 2 1/2-mile workshops at a smoke social at the Hotel Victoria on 22 May 1915, and was presented with a pair of pipes and a gold wristwatch. If his application had not been eventually accepted, he told his mates, he would have volunteered as a mechanic in making munitions. Giving his reasons for joining up, he said that he did not claim to be a hero, but had been trained to military duty and felt it to be his absolute bounded duty to offer himself. Once his enlistment was complete, he sarcastically wired the Administrator to say simply, "Leaving this morning. Goodbye". O'Sullivan served as a Captain in the 48th Battalion, and returned to Australia on 20 December 1917 as a Major.

Following Frank Carr from the Public Works Department was Alfred Frederick Schofield (41). Born in Melbourne, Schofield enlisted on 16 October 1914, and returned to Australia on 20 October 1918 as an Honorary Lieutenant (Quartermaster) with the 15th Field Ambulance. With the coming of war again, he enlisted in Perth on 21 May 1941, and served until 27 August 1943 as a Captain with the Australian General Hospital at Northam, then aged 54.

Carr and Bousfield were then joined in the 9th Battalion by Alf Noble (42) (enlisted 8 December), one of the survivors from a terrible drowning tragedy in the MacArthur River a few years earlier, and Territory-born Walter Styles (enlisted 19 December), a grandson of the Territory's first European settlers, Ned and Eliza Tuckwell. Styles grew up at Brook's Creek where his father worked for Zapopan Mine and was manager of the Eureka Mine, and was later a Guard at the Darwin Gaol and Labour Prison. They were among the first ashore at Gallipoli--"with orders to storm the heights at any costs before daylight and to use only the bayonet", as Bousfield later recorded.

Bousfield later wrote of their 'tremendous welcome' on the morning of 25 April: "we had a whistling good tune of Mausers from the shore, and pompoms, etc, flying all round and splashing and zipping overhead" (43). Styles wrote to his father of the landing:

The A and B Co. of the 9th Battalion were the first to land. The
Turks were waiting on the beach with machine guns, and they let
our lads have it (as the saying is) when they got about a hundred
yards from the shore; but when they got out of the punts they let
them know what the Australians were made of. The Australians drove
them back over the third ridge.

Robert Bousfield said of their enemy: "For though the Turk is a brave fellow, a very brave fellow--before rifle fire, he doesn't like cold steel" (45). Bousfield received both a lump of shrapnel and a bullet in the leg on the afternoon of the 25th, and was evacuated to Birmingham. His designated next of kin, Miss Elsie Colley in "Port Darwin, South Australia", was notified by telegram on 12 June that Bousfield had been wounded. The Colley name had first come to the Territory in 1875, and Elsie was the aunt of Alf Colley who became a notable crocodile shooter and bushman after WW2. Whilst on board the hospital ship, Bousfield met up with William Mansfield, the former Tanami gold miner: "It was a great joy to me to meet him, and we had a long yarn about Territory people and affairs" (46). Bousfield was invalided back to Brisbane but once he had recovered, he immediately re-enlisted and joined the 4th Pioneer Battalion, again meeting up with William Mansfield; he received a gunshot wound in the right thigh and calf in October 1917, and was discharged in Australia on 2 February 1918. He was still alive in 1967--aged 80 and residing in Brisbane--a proud recipient of the ANZAC Commemorative Medal and lapel badge.

Styles had been a member of the reinforcement detail which came ashore immediately after the initial landing, to help the Australians hold their line at the Second Ridge. He was among a party of 33 which spent three days with beach parties collecting oars, shovels and picks, unloading munitions and food, and erecting hospitals, up to his waist in water and under fire the whole time. He joined the battalion in the line on Bolton's Ridge facing Pine Ridge, and was present on 18 May during a Turkish offensive in which the Turks bombed the wire entanglements to the front of the 9th Battalion. Styles wrote home:

I thought my days were numbered. My mates were falling both sides of
me, but as fast as they fell reinforcements took their places. The
only thing happened to me that day was being stunned. A shell
dropped about two yards in front of me and I put my hands to both
sides of my head and kept telling myself that I was dead. I suppose
I was only stunned a few seconds but it seemed like minutes.

During a patrol on 30 May, Styles was wounded, receiving "a bullet in the side about four inches below my armpits" he wrote to his sister Eileen (48). He underwent surgery at the 1st Australian General Hospital at Heliopolis and returned to Gallipoli, only to be wounded again by an exploding shell. Styles went to the Peninsula a third time, but in July was mortally wounded by Turkish machine-gun fire while digging trenches, receiving hits beneath the right shoulder blade and at the base of the spine. His company commander Captain D K Chapman wrote to Tom Styles, "He was most heroic in the manner in which he bore great pain, and was an example to many a hardened soldier" (49). Chapman, noted as the first man ashore at the original Gallipoli landing, dressed his wounds and saw Styles evacuated to the hospital ship standing off the Peninsula, where he died on 28 July 1915. It is recorded that, "His death caused great sorrow" amongst his sisters because the family had been extremely close (50): his sisters were Eileen (later Mrs Eileen Fitzer OBE), Lillian (Mrs Lovegrove), Gertrude (Mrs Easton) and Myrtle (Mrs Fawcett), all very well-known Territorians. Private George Bassett and several fellow Territorians visited the grave of Walter Styles, and reported that the grave had a painted cross with the name carved in (51).

Fellow Territorian Harry Pott wrote home of the death of Alf Noble--he had been wounded by a Turkish shell and was evacuated to Egypt, but died of his wounds in hospital on 2 August 1915 at the age of 22.

Norman Claude Wilson, a carpenter with the Public Works Department, was another of the signatories to the petition to the Administrator. Born at Mernda, South Yan Yean in Victoria, he gave his age on the petition as 26 years and, in his enthusiasm to enlist, stated that he had seen service in South Africa during the Boer War! He was another who was not prepared to await the Administrator's assistance: he sailed from Darwin on SS Taiyuan and enlisted at Broadmeadow Camp in Victoria on 6 November 1914. He gave his age as 27 years 9 months and, more modestly, stated his previous experience to be four years with the 7th Light Horse Regiment. He was at Gallipoli with A Squadron, 8th Light Horse Regiment from 21 May 1915, received a gunshot wound in the shoulder and fractured clavicle in September, participated in operations with the regiment in Palestine and the Sinai, and was promoted to Lance-Corporal on 17 January 1918. He contracted malaria however, and died in the French Hospital at Damascus on 18 October. Wilson Park (Lot 3826) and Wilson Crescent in Darwin have been named in his memory. On his War Memorial records, his age when he died in 1918 was given as 33.


Just 20 Territorians received total of 28 decorations for war service. These included three 1914 volunteers: William Mansfield and Leslie Parer (Military Medal), and Felix Gordon Giles (Distinguished Service Order and Mentioned-in-Despatches).

Felix Giles (52), born on 23 November 1885 in the Wesleyan Parsonage in Palmerston (as Darwin was then known), was the first child of the explorer and pastoralist Alfred Giles, who had been Second-in-Command of the expedition which set the route for the Overland Telegraph Line to Port Darwin. His mother Mary was also a significant pioneer--she and her maid Lydia were the first white women to live on a station in the Northern Territory. He was also the nephew of Christopher Giles, a First Class Cadet with Surveyor-General George Goyder's party which had arrived in Port Darwin in 1869 to identify a site suitable for settlement, and then a Sub-Inspector for the construction of the Overland Telegraph Line.

Giles had gone to Adelaide to study, and was then employed in the electrical branch of the General Post Office, and later the Adelaide Electric Lighting and Traction Company. He served in the South Australian Scottish Infantry from 1908, was a company commander in the 79th Infantry ('Torrens Battalion') from 1912, and was appointed to the 10th Infantry Battalion AIF on 19 August 1914, commanding G Company with the rank of Lieutenant. On 2 January 1915, when the Australian infantry battalions changed from eight rifle companies to four, his company merged with D Company, with Giles becoming Second-in-Command. On the conclusion of the war, returned to Adelaide on 21 February 1919, and resumed his civilian employment as a Meter Superintendent with the Adelaide Electric Supply Company.

Giles landed at Gallipoli on 25 April, was Mentioned in Army Corps Routine Orders, and assumed command of D Company after his company commander was evacuated wounded (53). During a lull in the fighting in August, Giles wrote to his parents:

Still in Turkey, and still in the fighting line. Over four months
continuous service--record for any regiment almost, in these days of
trench warfare ... Oh well, with fondest love, and hoping the Ki-ser
will soon die
. (54)

Felix Giles served continuously on Gallipoli Peninsula from the morning of the landing until the battalion's evacuation--only one other original officer of the 10th Battalion, and two others within the 3rd Brigade, could claim the same distinction. He was nominated for honours (including a foreign decoration) in November 1915 and January 1916, while later in 1916 he was recommended for the Distinguished Service Order for his "cool resource and gallantry under fire" (55). One of the first indications to Territory families that their boys had been transferred to the Western Front was a postcard full of optimism from Giles which arrived bearing a Marseilles postmark: "Just tip top. Not submarined yet ... We'll write from Berlin: Well. Love--F.G.G., Major" (56). At Pozieres, Giles played a valuable role in linking up two key objectives; he was gassed and, on no less than three occasions, was knocked down by high explosive shells. He persisted until after nightfall and then, despite being very shaken by concussion, guided his company into the position and had them establish their defences. For his conduct, Giles was again recommended for the DSO: "Major GILES has exhibited great skill and judgement and was at all times wonderfully cool and collected under the most trying circumstances" (57)

His good work in the capture of Le Barque in early 1917, including his harassing of the enemy rear-guards during the German withdrawal, earned for him further recommendations for honours. It was for his meritorious performance during the operations around Boursies and Beugny in early 1917 that Giles was 'Mentioned'--in the Despatches of Sir Douglas Haig on 9 April (58). He was finally awarded the DSO in 1917 for, "services rendered in the prosecution of the war" (59)


The deaths of Alf Noble and Walter Styles opened the Northern Territory's Roll of Honour. By the time of the first anniversary of the Anzac landings in April 1916, a further six Territorians were known to have died as a result of operations on the Gallipoli Peninsula. In addition, Lieutenant Pat Holmes had been killed at Gallipoli, but this was not known in Darwin until July 1916 (60), so his name was not recorded on the Roll of Honour produced for a memorial service which was held in Darwin on 25 April 1916.

The next act of commemoration in the Northern Territory took place in the Public Works Department's offices on 13 May 1916, when an Honour Roll was unveiled by the Administrator as a permanent record of those members from Darwin who had enlisted for war service. One of the PWD workers present, a Russian, shook one of the returned soldiers by the hand, saying: "I thank you, not only for fighting for the Empire but for fighting for my country and for liberty" (61) Ironically, given his lack of support for 1914 volunteers, when the Administrator reported to the Minister for Home and Territories in September 1917 on the state of the Northern Territory Public Service he boasted, "at the present time I think the Service does not contain a single individual who is eligible and has not joined the Forces" (62). At least 82 government employees had departed for active service by that time.

The Superintendent of Public Works, Mr Kellaway, said that the roll also included the names of eight ex-members who had worked with the Department at some stage during the preceding two and a half years, and four men (including Rochefort and Holmes) who had been forced to go elsewhere to enlist although they would undoubtedly have enlisted in Darwin had they the opportunity. Recognition was also given to six employees who had volunteered but had been medically rejected. With such a significant contribution, Kellaway hoped the roll would be a reminder to all that, "when duty called, the 'Public Shirks'... did not shirk the grandest call of all--that of their Empire" (63)

The Mayor of Darwin, Mr Percy Kelsey, announced that actions were being taken for the erection of a permanent public monument in honour of the brave Territorians who had left for the Front. The Darwin Cenotaph was erected outside Government House, as a polished grey granite column sitting on a polished red granite table base, itself sitting upon a polished red granite stepped base. It was originally intended that, if sufficient funds could be secured, a bronze figure of a soldier would replace the ball on top of the column but this has not occurred (64). At the monument's unveiling on 21 April 1921, the Mayor, Councillor J Burton, expressed his regret that the Monument Committee, in spite of their great efforts, had been unable to obtain the names of all who went to the Front from the Territory--reflecting Bean's lament at the lack of records from these earliest days of the war, and the peculiarities of the Northern Territory of 1914.

Instead, the names of 52 Territorians who lost their lives were commemorated on the Cenotaph, but even this was incomplete. Of the 319 Territory volunteers, it is now known that 68 lost their lives in the Great War. Three 1914 volunteers are listed on the Darwin Cenotaph:

* Private Walter Styles (9th Battalion): wounded 30 May and died at sea off Gallipoli on 28 July 1915, aged 24; buried in the Embarkation Pier Cemetery at Gallipoli, and his name is also listed on the Lone Pine Memorial.

* Lieutenant Pat Holmes (British Expeditionary Force): killed-in-action at Gallipoli.

* Norman Claude Wilson (8th Light Horse Regiment): died of illness in Damascus on 18 October 1918, aged 33; buried in the Damascus British War Cemetery, Syria.

The fourth 1914 volunteer who died during the war, whose name was inadvertently omitted, was Private Alf Noble (9th Battalion) who died of his wounds on 2 August 1915 at the age of 22 and was buried in Chatby War Memorial Cemetery, Egypt.

Sixteen Territorians were 1914 volunteers, of which four lost their lives and three were decorated. Many others however, had attempted to enlist or were frustrated in their efforts by not being released. Although the patriotic fervour was as strong as in any other quarter in Australia, the lure for the adventurous and the optimistic was upset by external forces. Enlistments were limited in 1914 because the volunteers came from a small transient population, they had to make their own passage to interstate recruiting depots, and quite simply, most were deemed to be in 'critical' employment categories and were not released to enlist.

The requirement to travel interstate and the reluctance of the Administration to release key personnel meant that many had to hold their enthusiasm in check for a year or two. And with the transitory nature of the Territory population, many who had been in the Top End for a short time but had already left would not have had the association noted. It would not be until 1915 that distinctive Northern Territory contingents would be assembled, the first commanded by Captain Robert Lewis of the Cable Guard, ensuring that the Northern Territory would, in fact, be seen to be 'shouldering its share of the burden'.

CAG Commonwealth of Australia Gazette
HHA His Honour the Administrator's Annual Report
LG London Gazette
NAA National Archives of Australia
NTTG The Northern Territory Times and Gazette

Abbott, C L A (1950) Australia's Frontier Province. Angus & Robertson, Sydney.
Administrator's Report for 1914-15, dated 14 August 1915.
Administrator's Annual Report for 1915-16 & 1916-17, dated 30 September 1917.
Administrator's Annual Report for the year ended 30 June 1918, dated 31 October 1918.
Administrator's Annual Report for the year ending 30 June 1920.
Bean, C E W (1934) The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918, Volume 1, Third Edition: The Story of Anzac. Australian War Memorial Canberra.
Carment, D and B James, eds (1992) Northern Territory Dictionary of Biography. Volume 2. NTU Press, Darwin, NT.
Carment, D and H J Wilson (1996) Northern Territory Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3. NTU Press, Darwin, NT.
Carment, D, Maynard, R and A Powell, eds (1990) Northern Territory Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1: To 1945. NTU Press, Darwin.
Creagh, Sir O'Moore and E M Humphris (1978) The Distinguished Service Order, 1886-1923. J B Hayward & Sons, London.
Darwin RSL nominal roll of WWI Northern Territory enlistees.
Northern Territory Street Names. Place Names Committee, NT Department of Lands & Housing, Darwin, 1992.
Powell, A (1982) Far Country. Melbourne University Press.
Rosenzweig, P A (1989) 'Honouring the Northern Territory's War Dead'. Sabretache, XXX (1): 3-5.
The Northern Territory Times and Gazette (various, 1914-1920).

(2) Bean (1934), p.44.
(3) Bean (1934), p.43.
(4) Appointed Administrator on 25 March 1912; appointed Temporary Colonel on the Unattached List, Australian Military Forces, May 1912 (for duties in relation to the Cable Guard); recalled by the Commonwealth Government on 20 February 1919.
(5) HHA 1917; NTTG, 29 October, 31 December 1914, 29 April 1915.
(6) NTTG (23 June 1923) reported 250 enlistments. The Darwin RSL roll includes 272 names. Further names have been identified from NAA records where Darwin, NT is shown as the place of enlistment.
(7) HHA 1920, p.34; this total does not include Aboriginals.
(8) Jones, T (1990) The Chinese in the Northern Territory. NTU, Darwin, p. 132.
(9) Bean (1934), p.45.
(10) NTTG, 25 February 1915.
(11) NTTG, 26 November 1914, 23 September and 21 October 1915 (Rowlands & Bell) and 20 July 1916 (Colley).
(12) NTTG, 25 November 1915 (Parr & Philips) and 13 April 1916 (O'Neill).
(13) Stated in NTTG and by the Administrator to be P L R Holmes; listed on the Darwin cenotaph as P E L Holmes. Not recorded as a fatality under either name by AWM, CWGC or NAA.
(14) NTTG, 20 August 1914.
(15) NTTG, 20 August, 3 September 1914.
(16) Enlisted 1 March 1916 (number 10215), served with 10th Field Company, Australian Engineers; returned to Australia 8 July 1919 with the rank of Corporal.
(17) LG, 14 May 1919, page 6060; CAG, 15 September 1919, page 1367.
(18) HHA 1917 (Wilson was not listed).
(19) NTTG, 1 July 1915 and 11 May 1916 (letter dated 29 February 1916); LG, 19 February 1917, page 1756; CAG, 25 July 1917, page 1543.
(20) Enlisted 1 March 1916 (number 10215), served with 10th Field Company, Australian Engineers; returned to Australia 8 July 1919 with the rank of Corporal.
(21) McLaren, W J, 'The Northern Territory and its Police Forces', unpublished manuscript, p.552-553; Debnam, L(1990) Men of the Northern Territory Police, 1870-1914. Genealogical Society of the NT Inc, pp.30; HHA 1915; inspector of Police annual report for 1915-17 dated 20 August 1917, In HHA 1917, p.53.
(22) Collins enlisted in Melbourne on 31 March 1916, joining the 7th Battalion; he returned to Australia on 21 July 1917.
(23) Not listed in List of Permanent Officials in Northern Territory Public Service at 30 June 1920. In: HHA 1920, p.31.
(24) Carment et al (1990) pp.279-281; NTTG, 26 November 1914, 24 December 1914.
(25) NTTG, 26 November 1914.
(26) HHA 1915; HHA 1917; HHA 1918.
(27) HHA 1915; HHA 1917; HHA 1918; NTTG, 10 December 1914.
(28) HHA 1917.
(29) LG, 1 June 1917, p.5423; CAG, 4 October 1917, p.2625.
(30) LG, 28 May 1918, p.6203; CAG, 24 October 1918, p.2057.
(31) LG, 10 October 1918, p.11949; CAG, 12 February 1919, p.268.
(32) LG, 3 June 1919, p.6461; CAG, 7 November 1918, p.2110; Creagh & Humphris (1978), pp 91-95,270.
(33) NTTG, 31 December 1914. By comparison, a Private in the AIF received 5 shillings per day plus 1 shilling deferred pay.
(34) HHA 1917.
(35) NTTG, 1 October 1914.
(36) NTTG, 3 December 1914.
(37) Letter dated 14 August 1916: NTTG, 23 November 1916.
(38) HHA 1917.
(39) NTTG, 15 October 1914.
(40) HHA 1915, p.18; NTTG, 27 May, 25 November 1915, 20 July 1916, 31 August 1916 (letter dated 1 July 1916).
(41) HHA 1917 (Wilson was not listed).
(42) H B Pott, letter dated 3 December 1915: NTTG, 16 March 1916.
(43) Letter to Mr Kirkland (editor), undated: NTTG, 1 July 1915.
(44) Letter dated 5 July 1915: NTTG, 14 October 1915.
(45) Letter to Mr Kirkland, undated: NTTG, 1 July 1915.
(46) Letter to Mr Kirkland, undated: NTTG, 1 July 1915.
(47) Letter dated 5 July 1915: NTTG, 14 October 1915.
(48) Letter dated 6 June 1915: Sunday Territorian, 20 April 1986.
(49) Captain D K Chapman, letter dated 29 July 1915: NTTG, 21 October 1915.
(50) Carment, D and B James, eds (1992) Northern Territory Dictionary of Biography. Volume 2. NTU Press, Darwin, NT, p.62.
(51) NTTG, 20 April 1916.
(52) Alexander, J, Ed (1950) Who's Who in Australia, The Herald, Melbourne, p.287; Bean, C E W (1942) The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-18. Volumes II, III and IV. AWM Canberra; Carment et al (1990); Carment & Wilson (1996); Creagh & Humphris (1978), pp.38-39, 251; Forrest, P (1985) Springvale's Story and Early Years at Katherine. Murranji Press; Gibbney, H J & A G Smith, eds (1987) A Biographical Register 1788-1939, Volume 1. Australian Dictionary of Biography, Canberra; WWI Service Record, F G Giles (NAA 5008404, Series B2455, accession number B2455/1).
(53) See Rosenzweig, P A (1986) 'Furthest inland at Gallipoli'. Sabretache, XXVII (2): 37-40.
(54) F G Giles, letter dated 20 August 1915: NTTG, 18 November 1915.
(55) Recommendation by GOC 1st Australian Division, undated, 1916 (AWM 28, 10th Battalion).
(56) F G Giles, postcard dated 2 April 1916: NTTG, 27 July 1916.
(57) Recommendation by GOC 3rd Infantry Brigade, dated 29 July 1916 (AWM 28, 1st Div, 2326 Jul 16).
(58) LG, 1 June 1917, p.5421; CAG No.169, dated 4 October 1917, p.2623.
(59) Recommendation by GOC 1st Australian Division, dated 7 March 1917 (AWM 28, 1st Div, 23 Feb-07 Mar 17); LG, 1 June 1917, 6th Supplement No.30111 dated 4 June 1917, p.5475; CAG, No. 169, dated 4 October 1917, p.2626.
(60) NTTG, 20 July 1916.
(61) NTTG, 18 May 1916.
(62) HHA 1917; a total of 75 were listed by Dr Gilruth, and at least a further seven are known to have enlisted before the publication of this report but were not listed by Gilruth.
(63) NTTG, 18 May 1916.
(64) NTTG, 18 May, 20 July 1916. In 1970, the Cenotaph was relocated to the Civic Centre, and in 1992 was moved to its present location in Bicentennial Park.

Paul A Rosenzweig (1)
(1) Paul Rosenzweig is a non-professional historian and Army officer, currently serving as the Assistant Defence Attache in Manila, Philippines. He has contributed to the Northern Territory Dictionary of Biography and the Australian Dictionary of Biography, and has had three books on history and biography published, including Ever Vigilant--the regimental history of the North West Mobile Force. He was awarded the Centenary Medal in April 2003 for "long and outstanding research on Australia's military history".

ďI hope you live a life you are proud of. If you find that you are not, l hope you have the strength to start all over again.
- F. Scott Fitzgerald
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