Open House Tour: Historic Houses of Kilmore – 8 Apr

Saturday 8 April, 2017

10am – 4pm

Ranging from humble, beautifully restored cottages to substantial large homes, five owners of historic houses in Kilmore have very generously opened their homes to the public.

Tickets: $15 person/$25 couple/family – available at the Old Courthouse, 4 Powlett Street from 9.45am – 3pm

Fundraiser for Kilmore Historical Society
www. kilmorehistory.info
kilmorehistoricalsociety@gmail.com

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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.

Guest Speaker 3 May 2016: Scott Whitaker – Railway Hotels In Victoria

COURTHOUSE_LOGO

KILMORE HISTORICAL SOCIETY GENERAL MEETING
TUESDAY 3 MAY 2016

 

© 2016 Copyright Scott Whitaker.
Railway Hotels of Australia © 2016 Copyright Scott Whitaker.

The guest speaker at the next General Meeting of the Kilmore Historical Society is Scott Whitaker of Wandong who earlier this year released his book “Railway Hotels of Australia”, the first volume featuring Victorian hotels of that name.

Come along on Tuesday night 3 May at 7.30 pm at the Kilmore Courthouse and hear Scott’s story of what inspired him on this rail journey with a difference.

Of course Kilmore boasts its own Railway Hotel, known to us as MacNamara’s or more simply Mac’s Hotel in Sydney Street. It has a fascinating history as do most of the hotels that feature in Scott’s book.

The meeting will begin at 7:30 and end at approximately 9 – 9:30, with time for questions and general business.

Supper will be served after the meeting and all are welcome to participate.

This will be our last general meeting until September when the Annual General Meeting will be held and the guest speaker is Jim Claven who will speak on the role of the WWI Nurses at Lemnos Greece.

All members and non-members are welcome to attend.

 

 

Researching your World War One soldier

In October 2015 the Society held a seminar at the Kilmore Library on “Researching your World War One soldier”. The following notes were distributed at the seminar and briefly outline how research was carried out in preparing the WWI profiles published in the local newspaper, the North Central Review and later added to our website.

COURTHOUSE_LOGO

Researching your World War One soldier, seminar held by Kilmore Historical Society at Kilmore Library, 25 October 2015.

PRIVACY – Not an issue

The example shown is based on the records of Claus Valdemar GRONN

Starting point

C. V. Gronn is listed on the following Rolls

  • Kilmore Shire Honour Roll – Kilmore Memorial Hall
  • Kilmore State School – Honour Roll
  • Kilmore Presbyterian Church – Honour Roll

First step

National Archives of Australia web site, search for Gronn 4788 (http://www.naa.gov.au/)

Second step

Check Victorian Births Index for his birth in Kilmore (http://www.bdm.vic.gov.au/home/family+history/search+your+family+history/)
Found in 1897
Then search for his death – found in 1976

Third step

Search the Australian War Memorial web site (https://www.awm.gov.au/)

Fourth Step

Learn about the 7th Battalion
General search on the internet (https://www.google.com.au/advanced_search?hl=en)

Fifth Step

Search the online old newspapers on Trove (http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/search?adv=y)

Sixth Step

Search local cemetery web sites for his burial/cremation (http://smct.org.au/deceasedsearch/)

Seventh Step

Search the Victorian Public Records Office web site for wills (http://prov.vic.gov.au/research/wills-and-probate)

Other sources
Deceased Soldiers
Books

Books held by the Mitchell Shire Public Library Service (http://swft.msls.ent.sirsidynix.net.au/)

Useful Booklets published by UNLOCK the Past (http://www.unlockthepast.com.au/)

  • The War to End War – Tracing your Great War Australian military ancestors, Neil C Smith
  • Trove – discover genealogy treasure in the National Library of Australia, Shauna Hicks

Grahame Thom
Kilmore Historical Society

Centenary of WW1; Kilmore Remembers: Claus Valdemar Gronn

Australian_Army_Rising_Sun_Badge_1904

Private 4788

Claus Valdemar Gronn was born in Kilmore in 1897 the son of Valdemar Joseph Lorenz and Helena Priscilla Gronn (nee Poynter). The Gronn family had arrived in Kilmore in 1892, purchasing the tannery in Victoria Parade. After finishing school at the Kilmore State School, Claus (known as Clarence or more so Clarrie) joined his father as a tanner and currier. He also was a sergeant in the local cadets and served 3 months in the Citizens Militia.

With his parents’ permission Clarrie enlisted in Melbourne on September 20, 1915. He undertook training in Bendigo and on December 2, 1916 he joined the 15th Reinforcements, 7th Battalion as a private 4788, and was promoted to Lance Corporal in January 1916.

The Kilmore Free Press reported that “Sergeant Clarence Gronn, who left for the front last week”, was presented with a bible by members of the Kilmore Presbyterian Church. On March 7, 1916 Clarrie embarked in Melbourne on the Wiltshire bound for the Western Front via Egypt and Marseilles where he reverted to private on being taken on strength on July 7, 1916.

Clarrie received a gun shot wound to his thigh in late July 1916 and was transferred to England where he received treatment in Birmingham. Clarrie remained in England on light duties until late June 1917 when he joined the 2nd and then 1st Field Company, Australian Engineers, on the Western Front. On January 16, 1918 Clarrie received a gun shot wound to his left groin and was transferred to England for treatment. Then in October 1918 he rejoined his battalion in France and following the end of the war remained there until April 1919.

Back in England Clarrie, by now aged 21 years, married his girlfriend Marguerite Iris Neale, aged 19 years, at the Registry Office, Warminster, Wiltshire, on May 26, 1919. They embarked on the Konigin Luise on December 18, 1919 for Melbourne. Clarrie was discharged on June 13 1920.

Clarrie 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, on the Kilmore State School Honour Roll and the Kilmore Presbyterian Church Honour Roll. He was welcomed home on February 5, 1920 and attended the presentation of medals by General Birdwood in Kilmore in March 1920.

The Gronn family left Kilmore in 1925 and lived in Melbourne, Clarrie was a member of the Kilmore Historical Society and attended meetings. He died on 23 February 1976 and was cremated at Springvale Cemetery.

Reproduced in the North Central Review, 17 November 2015, p17

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

(Originally published in Kilmore Connections, June 2003)

In 1890, Bartholomew Durkin, born in County Mayo, Ireland, married Clara Poulton. 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).

Records indicate that Bartholomew is buried with his parents Bartholomew and Norah, and sister Bridget in the Kilmore Catholic Cemetery; his name has not been added to the large monument. 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