Category Archives: Military

Centenary of WW1; Kilmore Remembers: John Hammond

Australian_Army_Rising_Sun_Badge_1904

John Hammond (known as Jack) was born on 7 July 1891 in Kilmore, the eldest child of hotelier Thomas and Alice Teresa Hammond (nee Mulvey). Thomas was the licensee of the Railway Hotel (now Macs) and his father John, the Red Lion. Jack was educated at Assumption College, Kilmore and then worked in the Kilmore Post Office from 1907.

Jack enlisted at Kilmore on May 1, 1916 and was allocated as a private, 3678, to the 8th Reinforcements, 29th Battalion. After basic training at Broadmeadows, he attended the Signals School for two months, and then left Melbourne on the Orsova on August 1, 1916 for Plymouth, England.

Jack undertook further training before joining his Battalion on the Western Front, France in January 1917. He probably was involved in defeating a German counter attack at Beaumetz on March 23. Then on March 28 Jack was admitted to hospital in Rouen with a septic right heel and did not return to the field till late August 1917. The 29th then took part in the Battle of Polygon Wood in late September 1917.

Jack took leave in England in January 1918 and in April he was again in a field hospital with scabies. On April 24, Jack was transferred to the 5th Division, Signals Company as a Sapper. He may have been running messages from the front line to Headquarters, and he probably took part in the second battle of Villers-Bretonneux which recaptured the town from the Germans in two days in late April.

The 5th Division then followed the retreating Germans during May towards the Somme, and on May 13, Jack was killed in action. He was buried in the Corbie Communal Cemetery Extension at Picardie, France. His family and fellow postal workers placed memorial notices in the Kilmore Advertiser on June 1, 1918.

Jack was awarded the 1914/15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. In addition his family received a Memorial Scroll, a Memorial Plaque, the King’s Message and Jack’s effects.

His sacrifice is recognised on the Kilmore War Memorial, the Kilmore Shire Honour Roll in the Memorial Hall, and the Assumption College Honour Roll.

Corbie Community Cemetery Extension, Somme, France

Reproduced in the North Central Review, 8 December 2015.

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Centenary of WW1; Kilmore Remembers: Thomas Henry Zoch

Thomas Henry Zoch

Thomas Henry Zoch was born in Deniliquin, NSW, on Christmas Day 1893, the eldest son of Joseph Stephen and Annie Zoch (nee Skene). The Zoch family then moved to Euroa, Yea and Arcadia in Victoria. However young Tom was looked after by Zoch relatives in Pyalong where he went to school.

It appears that in June 1915 Tom tried to enlist in Melbourne but was asked to be medically examined again as his chest measurement was below standard. He was then accepted on July 5, 1915 in Melbourne. What is interesting is that he enlisted under the name John Foster, stated that both parents were deceased and gave his next of kin as a friend Charles Kincaid of Boisdale, Victoria.

After training Tom (known as John) left Melbourne on the Star of Victoria on September 10, 1915 as part of the 9th Reinforcements, 7th Battalion bound for Egypt. He had been made a private, number 2791.

Tom saw action late in the Gallipoli campaign, and on return to Alexandria in Egypt took part in further training. He was transferred to the newly formed 59th Battalion on February 24, 1916. This Battalion was mostly made up of men from rural Victoria.

Following a bout of influenza he was transferred to the Western Front in France in June 1916. On July 19, the 59th took part in its first major battle at Fromelles. Attacking in the first wave, the 59th suffered heavy casualties, and Tom was shot in his left knee. He was transferred to England where he received treatment, took leave and rejoined his Battalion in France in April 1917.

His injuries prompted a change back to his birth name. On August 17, 1916, the Army Records Office in Melbourne informed Tom’s next of kin, Charles Kincaid, that Tom had been injured. It would seem that Charles then decided to inform Tom’s parents as his father Joseph wrote to the Army in August informing them that John Foster was his son and his name was Thomas Henry Zoch. This letter describes the circumstances which caused Tom to use another name. Tom had accumulated a debt owed to a storekeeper and the storekeeper told Tom he would be jailed if he did not pay. Tom then ”ran away from home” and later joined the Army. On November 22, 1916 Thomas signed a statutory declaration saying he was Thomas Henry Zoch and the Army then altered his record.

Back in France, it is likely Tom took part in the Battle of Polygon Wood on September 26, 1917. With the collapse of Russia in October 1917, a major German offensive on the Western Front was expected in early 1918. This came in late March and the 5th Division moved to defend the sector around Corbie. During this defence, the 59th Battalion participated in the now legendary counter-attack at Villers-Bretonneux on 25 April. Tom was probably part of that attack.

Tom had experienced several bouts of sickness including during the rest of 1918. He returned to Melbourne on the Tras-os-Montes arriving on May 22, 1919. He was discharged from the army on July 15, 1919 after four years service.

Tom was awarded the 1914/15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. His name is recorded on the Pyalong State School Honour Roll.

In 1922 Tom married Harriet Donovan and in April 1923 he gave his address as Anzac Ave, Seymour when applying for a War Service Homes grant. He received a carrier’s licence in 1923 but soon after worked for many years on the railways. Tom died in January 1967 at Prahan and was buried in Springvale Cemetery.

 

 

Reproduced in the North Central Review, 24 May 2016

Centenary of WW1; Kilmore Remembers: William John Crook

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William John Crook was born in Kilmore in 1892, the son of Thomas and Mary Jane Crook (nee Penman). At school he served 18 months in the cadets and then became a bricklayer.

William, known as Willie, was only 164 cms tall when he enlisted in Melbourne on August 18, 1914, soon after war was declared. He was living with his parents in Wonthaggi. During training Willie was a batman (private, 64) attached to Divisional Headquarters for two weeks, He embarked on the Orvieto for Egypt on October 21, 1914 where he was attached to 2nd Divisional Headquarters and 1st Anzac Headquarters.

Private William John Crook, 1st Divisional Army Service Corps, mounted on one of General Bridges’ horses, thought to be called Pascha, at Mena Camp, Egypt. (Source: AWM JO2136)

Willie spent time in Alexandra, the Dardanelles and Ismailia where he was a groom to the Assistant Provost Marshall. In April 1916 he embarked for service in France and was attached to Anzac Headquarters in northern France. In June 1916 at Bailleul, Willie was ill with tonsillitis and on July 4, 1916 he was promoted to Corporal.

On September 16, 1916, Willie was transferred to the Anzac Provost Police in France; his duties unknown. In January 1917 he became ill with laryngitis and on February 5 Willie was transferred to England where he was admitted to the County of London Hospital. After he was discharged in April he rejoined the Provost Police in England but in July he went AWOL for 3 days for which he was reprimanded and forfeited two days pay.

Willie was transferred to the Australian Flying Corps (duties unknown) on September 16, 1917, and in October he was again admitted to hospital with laryngitis. His condition resulted in his return to Melbourne on the Persic; arriving on February 12, 1918. He was discharged medically unfit (chronic laryngitis) on March 26, 1918.

Willie was awarded the 1914/15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. After the War he competed as a jockey in country towns and died as a result of an accident at the Foster races on March 24, 1933.

Wounded soldiers at Bailleul

 

Reproduced in the North Central Review, 19 January 2016

Centenary of WW1; Kilmore Remembers: Leo Edward Cavanagh

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Leo Edward Cavanagh was born in 1894 in Reedy Creek, the son of Charles Alexander and Emily Cavanagh (nee McManus). Sometimes his surname is spelt Kavanagh. Leo attended the Kilmore State School.

When Leo enlisted on November 10, 1914 in Melbourne he gave his next of kin his aunt, Mrs J Anderson of Kilmore. He joined 1st Reinforcements, 5th Battalion as a private. Somehow two enlistment forms were filled out and Leo was allocated two service numbers 2352 and 2783. Leo gave his age as 21 years and 1 month. It is likely he overstated his age by one year.

After training, Leo embarked at Melbourne on HMAT Borda on December 22, 1914, bound for Egypt, where he became seriously ill.  This resulted in him being returned to Melbourne on the Ceramic, arriving May 25, 1915.

After a period in hospital at Broadmeadows, Leo was transferred to 7th Reinforcement Company and embarked on HMAT Demosthenes on July 16, 1915, bound for Egypt where he rejoined the 5th Battalion. He served about 3 months on Gallipoli at Anzac Cove, including time at Rest Gully. On return to Egypt he transferred to the 57th Battalion in February 1916, then to 58th and in March 1916 to the 14th Field Artillery Brigade as a driver.

In June 1916 Leo left Alexandria for France where he saw action on the Western Front. He took two weeks leave in June 1917 in France and soon after he returned Leo became ill with P U O in July. This was short for pyrexia of unknown origin, probably as a result of being gassed. In late August he was transferred from the 5th General Hospital in Calais to the Reading War Hospital in England.

In October 1917 Leo went AWOL in London and as a result forfeited 4 days pay. However he was arrested by the civil police on October 24, 1917 and later convicted for assaulting two police constables at Milcombe Regis, Dorset. At a court hearing in Weymouth on December 26, he was sentenced to  prison for three months with pay forfeited for 92 days.  After leaving prison Leo sailed to Melbourne on the Marathon.

On return Leo was medically assessed in July 1918 and was found to have had an accident on a chaff cutter before enlistment, which resulted in a serious wound to his right wrist. This was rated “powerless right hand” and he was operated on August 7, then discharged medically unfit on November 6, 1918.

Leo was awarded the 1914/15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. His name is recorded on the Kilmore Shire Honour Roll in the Memorial Hall, and on the Kilmore State School Honour Roll.

The Kilmore Advertiser reported on 22 June 1918 that “Private Leo Cavanagh, who left Kilmore in December 1914, with the Australian Light Horse, returned home last week. He has been amongst some strenuous fighting, being at Gallipoli, and afterwards at Lemnos. From there, he was drafted to France, and has been in several engagements, notably at Possiers. It was here that he was disabled. His horse stumbled over a wire on the ground, throwing him into a shell trench, breaking his gas helmet, with the result that Private Cavanagh got a dose of the Hun gas. He managed to get back to the lines, but was invalided to England. The transport in which he came back in voyaged by way of America and through the Panama Canal, and the South Seas, a most interesting journey, which the returned soldier and his comrades enjoyed immensely.”

After the war Leo married Maude Webb in 1919 and they had three children. Leo died on September 3, 1973 at Healesville.

Rest Gully, Gallipoli (Source: – AWM-C01482)

 

Reproduced in the North Central Review, 9 February 2016

Anzac Day Service 2016 Kilmore War Memorial: Address by Grahame Thom

Last Monday, Kilmore Historical Society member Grahame Thom was the guest speaker at the 2016 Anzac Day Service held at the Kilmore War Memorial, For those who were unable to attend, Grahame’s address is reproduced here.

We are here today 101 years after Australian and New Zealand forces landed at Anzac Cove, Gallipoli. About 95 years ago this memorial was built to honour the sacrifice of 29 local men who died during World War One.

I would like to read out their names, but before doing that I need to explain that many local honour boards and memorials have errors, and this memorial is no different. So there are some differences between the names I will now read to you and those listed on two sides of this war memorial.

  • Francis Patrick Anderson born Kilmore, died aged 23 in Jun 1917
  • John Clifford Bowers born Kilmore, died aged 21 in Aug 1916
  • Dominick John Burgess born Woolongong, died aged 45 in Jan 1917
  • Colin Henry Cameron born Hawthorn, died aged 23 in Aug 1915
  • Richard Thomas Cooke born Pyalong, died aged 20 in Nov 1916
  • Samuel Ernest Crane born Kilmore, died aged 35 in Apr 1918
  • Joseph Matthew Crowley born Rutherglen, died aged 26 in Feb 1919
  • Charles William Dau/Dow born Wandong, died aged 32 in Jul 1918
  • Joseph Harold Durkin born Kilmore, died aged 24 in Nov 1917
  • Francis Dwyer/O’Dwyer born Kilmore, died aged 20 in Oct 1917
  • William Nicholson Fischer born Kilmore, died aged 34 in Oct 1917
  • James Joseph Freyne born Kilmore, died aged 20 in May 1917
  • John Hammond born Kilmore died aged 27 in May 1918 Claude
  • Henry Jackson born Sunbury, died aged 29 in Apr 1918
  • Albert Edward Knight born Tantaraboo, died aged 24 in Feb 1917
  • William Leahy DCM born Kilmore died aged 25 in Aug 1918
  • William Laughlin Looney born Campbellfield, died aged 19 in Jan 1917
  • William John Matthew born Warrnambool, died aged 25 in Aug 1915
  • Thomas de Courcey Meade born Kilmore, died aged 22 in Jul 1916
  • Philip Joseph McCahery born Kilmore, died aged 24 in Apr 1918
  • William Hector (Bert) McDonald born Richmond, died aged 29 in Oct 1917
  • James Noble Robinson born Kangaroo Flat, died aged 34 in Aug 1916
  • Edward John Rule born Bendigo, died aged 32 in Jul 1916
  • Michael Francis Ryan born Broadmeadows, died aged 35 in Aug 1915
  • William Charles James Stute born Bylands, died aged 27 in Apr 1917
  • Hebert Valentine Shaw born England, died aged 27 in Mar 1917
  • Herbert Thomas Skehan born Kilmore, died age 28 in Sep 1917
  • Charles Wyndham Thomas born Korumburra, died aged 27 in Apr 1916
  • Charles Leslie Wickham born Milltown, died aged 26 in Apr 1917

Lest we forget.

There are two who served on Gallipoli.

Colin Henry Cameron enlisted in Kilmore in September 1914, and joined 8th Light Horse Regiment. He arrived on Gallipoli about 17 May 1915. Soon after being promoted to Squadron Sergeant Major, Colin was killed in action on 7 August 1915. His name is recorded on the Lone Pine Memorial.

Sergeant Michael Francis Ryan also known as Joseph McKinley, enlisted at Murwillumbah, NSW, in December 1914 in the 15th Battalion. He was on Gallipoli by May 1915, then spent time on Lemnos and in Egypt with an “injured ear” before returning to Gallipoli in late July 1915. He was killed in action on 8 August 1915 and his name is recorded on the Lone Pine Memorial.

As we are on the corner of Skehan Place, named after prominent Kilmore resident Patrick Skehan, it is appropriate to say a few words about his son Herbert Thomas Skehan. Herbert was dux of Assumption College in 1909. He worked in Melbourne as a clerk before enlisting in July 1915 in 29th Battalion. He sailed to Egypt then to the western front. On 26 September 1917 the 29th Battalion was part of an attack, later named the Battle of Polygon Wood in Belgium. Herbert died in action on that day.

As could be expected our research to date has revealed two more soldiers who have strong links to Kilmore and who died on active service. Perhaps their names could be inscribed on this memorial.

Thomas Vincent Hunt was the nephew of Thomas Hunt, editor and owner of the Kilmore Free Press for over 60 years. Tom was born in Kilmore in 1869 and aged 43 years he joined the 31st Battalion in July 1915 on its way to the Western Front where he was killed in action in July 1916.

George Francis Lloyd was born in Kilmore in 1895. He enlisted in March 1916 with the 3rd Division Service Corps and was shipped to France. Soon after being promoted to Company Sergeant Major he died at the 1st Australian Casualty Clearance Station on the western front in January 1917.

Well over 250 men and women volunteered for active service during World War One from Kilmore and District. We hope to write profiles on as many as possible.

We will remember them.

The murder at Sutton Veny

By Peter Burness

(Previously published in Kilmore Connections, June 2003)

During the First World War tens of thousands of Australian troops passed through the huge military training camps set up in Britain. Soldiers would move between these camps and the battle front in France and Belgium. The hutted camp at Sutton Veny near Salisbury was one of these, and there, on the night of 27 November 1917, a tragic event began to unfold. An Australian soldier was found dead in suspicious circumstances.

About 11 pm that night, Corporal Verney Asser, an instructor at the camp, went to the sergeant of the guard’s room to report that his colleague with whom he shared a hut had committed suicide. Asser said that he had been woken by a loud shot and looked over to find Corporal Durkin dead in his bed. The victim was lying on his right side with his head bloodied and a rifle by his hand.

The deceased was 24-year-old Joe Durkin from Carlton, Victoria. He had grown up in Kilmore where his Irish-born father was a local tailor; his mother died when he was about ten years old. Durkin, a former railwayman, had been in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) for almost two years. He left Melbourne with the 17th reinforcements for the 6th Battalion in April 1916, and was stationed in Egypt before going to England. More recently, he and Asser were light machine-gun instructors with the 2nd Australian Training Battalion and they shared accommodation in the Lewis gun hut.

Two days after the tragedy a coroner’s court was held at the military hospital at Sutton Veny. Corporal Asser was the main witness. He testified that Durkin had been depressed and moody all the fateful day. The jury retired and, after deliberation, returned to the court to announce that it believed that the corporal had committed suicide during a period of temporary insanity.

The matter may have rested there but for another camp instructor, Corporal Mime, coming forward a few days later with information that would quickly re-open the case. From the first Milne had insisted that Durkin was not a man likely to kill himself and clearly he had become concerned about the inquest’s conclusions. He now went on to say that on the night of the shooting Asser had come to his hut three times and had gone into an area where ammunition was stored. Later there had been a shot from Asser and Durkin’s hut next door and a round had actually passed through Mime’s wall and put a hole in his jacket which was at the end of his bed. Initially he had thought it was an accidental discharge and did not want to report it.

Matters that had been ignored in the original investigation now took on a sinister appearance. It was recalled that when Asser had gone to the guard hut he was fully dressed, even wearing his wound puttees and in the hut, where he said he had been asleep, his mattress was still rolled up. No empty cartridge was found in the rifle that killed Durkin; someone had extracted it after firing, and only Asser and Durkin were in the hut. It began to look like murder, and Asser was the obvious suspect.

Investigation of his background revealed further odd facts. Verney Asser claimed to have been born in Ballarat thirty years earlier and to have been employed as a porter before volunteering for the AIF. He may have had previous military training because he was a sergeant in October 1915 when he was accepted to transfer to the permanent forces as an acting staff sergeant-major in the Administrative and Instructional Staff. Two months later he was recorded as having deserted from the army.

Asser next appeared at sea on the troopship Maiwa. When the ship reached Colombo he presented himself as a stowaway, expressing a wish to get to the war and requesting that he be enlisted. He was taken on to Egypt and there was made to contribute to the cost of his voyage. He was held at Zeitoun camp until it was decided that his desertion from the permanent forces would be overlooked, and he rejoined the AIF on 1 March 1916. He became a Member of the Australian Army Service Corps and in due course saw service on the Western Front until February 1917.

There was certainly evidence that Asser and Durkin had been friends. However, Asser revealed his darker side when drunk The two men quarrelled sometimes and witnesses recalled that a few weeks earlier Asser threatened “to get even” with Durkin. Added to this, investigators also discovered that a year earlier Asser had been admitted to hospital in England suffering from “mental derangement”. This was attributed to his alcoholism. It seems that he may have also been jealous of Durkin’s association with a widow in the town. The two men had argued when Durkin found Asser reading his letters from her.

Soldiers are subject to both civil and military law. Because the crime was committed in England it was decided that civil authorities would handle this case. Asser was committed to stand trial at the assizes at Devizes in January 1918 and the Commonwealth agreed to pay the costs of his defence. Extensive evidence was presented and the prosecution clearly established that only Asser and Durkin had been in the hut that evening, and that from the positioning of the fatal wound, and the type of rifle used, Durkin would have been in no position to shoot himself.

Still, Asser seemed comfortable when called into the witness box, answering confidently, and insisting he was innocent. It did him no good: the prosecution’s case was sound, and he was found guilty and condemned to death.

Verney Asser appealed against his sentence on the grounds of insanity. He claimed that he had been in asylums and hospital mental wards, although only his military record, with its reference to “mental derangement”, was produced as evidence of this. The appeal was dismissed and the death penalty confirmed. He was hanged at the old Shepton Mallet Prison on Tuesday morning 5 March 1918. The execution was conducted in secrecy without the customary raising of a black flag or tolling of a bell. Asser died instantaneously and offered no confession of his crime.

Remarkably, the Shepton Mallet Prison would see many more military executions. It was taken over by the American forces during the Second World War, was nicknamed “the glasshouse”, and gained a notorious reputation. Twenty-one US servicemen were hanged and two were shot at Shepton Mallet for crimes of rape and murder.

It is possible that had Asser’s crime occurred in a camp in France, and been handled under Military Law, he may have escaped execution. While military courts’ sentences were often harsh, some death sentences for murder were commuted. Furthermore, in the application of Military Law the official historian, Charles Bean, noted that “it was doubtful whether an Australian soldier even when guilty of murder could receive a death penalty”. It may be that there was more certainty in getting a conviction, and the full penalty, from a civil court. As it was, he became the only Australian soldier executed overseas in the First World War, if one excepts the case of Private Albert Fraser, who was hanged at HM Prison Glasgow on 26 May 1920.

Fraser’s situation was quite different. This troublesome soldier had arrived in England too late to see active service, and had cast aside his uniform and deserted as soon as the war was over. He lived as a civilian from the proceeds of selling pots and pans, and from crime. He and an accomplice were arrested in Belfast for the brutal murder of a man they had assaulted and robbed in a Glasgow park on 3 February 1920. This was a straight out civil matter and the fact that Fraser was still an “illegal absentee” from the AIF was not raised during the trial.

The subject of military executions during the First World War has been the subject of increasing interest in recent years. Throughout the war the death penalty was imposed on British soldiers for various crimes, including murder. Overwhelmingly, the most common charge was desertion. Various moves have been made to gain posthumous pardons for these men largely in the belief that they did not receive a fair hearing in the prevailing circumstances. The British Commonwealth forces executed over 300 of their own troops during the war, but none was a member of the AIF. But the claim that “no Australian soldier was executed during the war” overlooks the little known story of Verney Asser. Of course, the claim remains essentially correct, since it refers to military executions, not those under Civil Law.

Verney Asser died in disgrace. His entitlement to medals was cancelled; he has no marked grave; nor is his name recorded on the Australian War Memorial’s roll of honour in Canberra. Joseph Harold Durkin’s name is there. This unfortunate soldier received a military funeral and is buried in the war cemetery at St John’s Churchyard, Sutton Veny, Wiltshire. His resting place is in the care of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and he lies in the small cemetery with 142 other Australians who died while in the local camps or hospital during the war.

Author Peter Burness is Senior Curator, Gallery Development, Australian War Memorial.

References:

  • National Archives Files: NAA B2455; A.J. Fraser; J.H. Durkin; V Asser.
  • Australian War Memorial File; AWM Series 10: 4304/9/75.
  • Information from Kilmore Historical Society.

Reprinted with the permission of Peter Burness and Wartime magazine. Originally published in issue 21 of Wartime, the official magazine of the Australian War Memorial.

The Durkin Family of Kilmore

By Heather Knight

(Published in Kilmore Connections, June 2003, minor amendments in 2017)

Bartholomew Durkin was born in the parish of Knocks, County Mayo, Ireland in 1861, the son of Thomas Durkin and Maggie Harley. In 1890 he married Clara Poulton in Kilmore. Clara was a native of Kilmore and was born in 1862 to John Driver Poulton and Jane Burge.

The children of Clara and Bartholomew were all born at Kilmore; Thomas in 1890, William Clarence b.1891, Joseph Harold b.1893, John born and died (age 1 day) in 1895, Michael John b. 1896, Margaret Mary b.1898, Anthoney b.1900, twins Emanuel Ignatius and Patrick born and died in 1902.

Clara Durkin died in 1902 age 39 after giving birth to twin boys. The Kilmore Free Press (6 March 1902) wrote this poignant obituary: “We regret this week having to record the death of Mrs. Durkin, wife of Mr Bartholomew Durkin, of Sydney Street, which sad event occurred on Friday morning last under melancholy circumstances at the age of 38 years. Deceased lady, who was a native of Kilmore and much respected gave birth to twin boys a few days previously, and death ensued from blood poisoning. She leaves a young family of eight children most of whom are of too tender an age to realise their great loss. The remains were interred in the Kilmore Catholic cemetery on Saturday afternoon.” Sadly, one of the babies died shortly after his mother and the other a few months later.

On 27 November 1917, Joseph Harold Durkin, the middle child of Bartholomew and Clara, was callously murdered while serving with the AIF in England. Incredibly, the Kilmore newspapers of the time did not make headlines from his brutal murder. This was probably due to the initial belief, following the findings of the original coronial inquiry, that Joseph Durkin had committed suicide. Joseph’s father, Bartholomew, probably kept what he believed to be the circumstances of his son’s death quiet, fearing the shame and indignity that a death by suicide would bring to his family.

On 13 December 1917 the Kilmore Free Press printed this small paragraph announcing the death of Joseph Durkin: — “Acting Corporal Joseph Durkin, a Kilmore boy and son of Mr. S. Durkin, Sydney Street, lost his life at the front.”

The myth seems to have continued; death at the front was far more noble than death by suicide or murder at the hands of a comrade. In January 1918, about the time of the murder trial of Verney Asser in England, the Kilmore Advertiser wrote: “Mr B. Durkin, Sydney Street, Kilmore, has received the following letter from the secretary of the Railway Commissioners relative to the death of his son Acting-Corporal J. Durkin, who was killed in action in France recently:— “I am directed by the Commissioners to convey to you their sincere sympathy in the great loss you have sustained by the regretted death of your son whilst on service with the Expeditionary Forces of the Commonwealth.” Prior to enlisting, Acting-Corporal Durkin was a trusted and faithful employee of the Railway Department.”

In December 1918 the Kilmore Advertiser makes brief mention that:— “Mr B. Durkin received a photo of the grave of his son Corporal Joseph Harold Durkin, who died 27 Nov 1917 at Sutton Veny, Wiltshire.”

Bartholomew Durkin died in 1926, twenty-four years after his wife. This brief obituary outlines his life:—”[death] Of Mr Bartholomew Durkin, which occurred in the Kilmore hospital, where he had been an inmate some time. He was 63 years of age, a widower, a native of Ireland and carried on a tailoring business for a period of about 40 years in Kilmore. His remains were interred in the Catholic cemetery on Thursday Rev. Father Gleeson, P.P. attending to the obsequies. Mr. Beegan carried out the mortuary arrangements” – (Kilmore Free Press 15 ApriL 1926).

Joseph Durkin is commemorated on the Kilmore War Memorial, Kilmore Shire Honour Roll and Assumption College Honour Roll.

References:

  • Kilmore Free Press and Kilmore Advertiser]
  • Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour Database and Nominal Roll.
  • Joseph Durkin’s War Service Record, on-line at National Archives of Australia http://www.aa.gov.au