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.
Reproduced in the North Central Review, 8 December 2015.
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.
Patrick Raymond Skehan was born in Kilmore on April 27, 1894, the second son of Patrick and Amy (nee Grose) Skehan. Educated at Assumption College, Kilmore, he was a member of the Essendon Rifles Military Band (58th Reg.) and enlisted in the AIF at Broadmeadows on November 7, 1914, listing his occupation as Electrician.
Patrick sailed from Australia with the 2nd reinforcement to 7th Battalion on the HMAT “Clan Macgillivary” on February 2, 1915. On April 5, 1915, he embarked to join Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, Gallipoli and took part in the landing on Gallipoli on April 25, 1915, where he celebrated his 21st birthday on April 27. In July he was buried in a SAP which was blown in by heavy shellfire from the German warship “Goeben”. Only two were recovered alive from the SAP due to their proximity to the main trench. He regained consciousness on route to Malta and was admitted to St. Andrews Hospital, Malta with shell shock and suffered semi paralyses for some time.
After Gallipoli, he was transferred to the 1st Pioneer battalion and sent to France. The following is a brief extract from his writings:
“I was a runner at Pozieres and was affected by explosions to the extent of being thrown over and the concussion gave me a headache. On the second time we were in the line I hopped over with about 40 other men to dig a shallow trench for the infantry to “hop off” from. On the following day a shrapnel shell burst right in front of me and for a time I was dazed thinking the whole of the shell had hit me, but after a rest I recovered, I had a G.S.W in the left knee. I went to England and did not rejoin until April 1917. At Passchendaele I was thrown out of a shell hole by concussion and on another occasion was thrown into one, but I carried on until October 1918. The M.O. wanted to send me away, but I asked to be allowed to remain with my unit. In October 1918, I contracted influenza and went to England.”
AWARDED THE MILITARY MEDAL; “HIS MAJESTY THE KING has been graciously pleased to award the Military Medal for bravery in the field to the under mentioned soldier No. 1424 Private PATRICK RAYMOND SKEHAN”.
The citation reads:
“At Pozieres, France, on August 18, 1916, Pte. Skehan was detailed as a runner for Captain Speckual while 1st Avenue was under construction. During a heavy bombardment it was necessary to dispatch Pte. Skehan with a message to Lieut. O’Brien, on the way Pte. Skehan was hit on the knee by a piece of shrapnel but not withstanding this continued on his way, crawling on his hands and knees a distance of over 500 yards under continuous fire.”
He returned to Australia on the “City of Exeter” and was discharged on June 12, 1919. Due to his war service injuries suitable work was difficult to obtain, however, he worked as a casual labourer with the railways for a period, was appointed librarian in charge of the musical records at the Mildura University till its closure. He then returned to Moonee Ponds and finished his working life at the Maribynong ordnance factory. Blessed with a rich bass voice he often sang in operatic choruses and in St .Theresa’s choir, Essendon. Ocassionally he would visit family in Kilmore, travelling by train to Kilmore East and walking into the township. He never married and passed away on July 4, 1972, aged 78 years, and is buried in the Kilmore Catholic Cemetery.
In addition to the Military Medal, Patrick was awarded the 1914/15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. His name appears on the Kilmore Shire Honour Roll at the Kilmore Memorial Hall.
KILMORE FREE PRESS October 28, 1915 At the Dardanelles
Private P. R., Skehan, son of Mr P. Skehan, J.P., Kilmore, thus writes from the Convalescent Camp, Malta, under date 20th August, to his parents :-
At last I’am on the road to recovery and hope to be soon back in the trenches with the boys. Our battalion, in fact the whole brigade, has suffered terribly, and very few of the originals are left. We have had some horrible experiences, I never thought I would get used to it so quickly it was just like some awful nightmare. Our brigade was the second one ashore, and landed at 9 o’clock. From early morning the “Jizzie”, Buchantte, London and Triumph had been bombarding the forts at Gallipoli, the transports standing just behind. While we were getting into the torpedo destroyers which took us to the small boats we were shelled with shrapnel. Then we had to board the small boats and the naval pinnaces took us ashore, a string of three and four little boats being towed by each one. Then the excitement started. As we neared the shore they turned the machine guns on us from the hills while their field guns fired shrapnel from the flanks. We had to jump from the boats into the water, which was four feet-deep, and rush for cover of the cliffs. It was there we saw the slaughter the landing party suffered. Boats were smashed to pieces by shells, ghastly looking corpses laying and sitting in drifting boats, and others had been shot as they set foot on dry land. We scaled the little hill and went on up Shrapnel Gully. The first days and nights were awful. One of the machine guns of the 7th were manned by Essendon boys, and all were either killed or wounded. I thought I was a goner a hundred times during that week. The second reinforcements joined up with the 7th at Mena two days before they left, but some of us were picked to go as a hold party for the F.A. on the Indian. We concentrated at Lemnos Island and were taken back to the 7th on the Galeka the night before we sailed to the Dardanelles. We entrenched on the top of Shrapnel Gully, and now our trenches run right along the top of three similar gullies and right down towards Kuthier. We have Indian mountain batteries at the back of us as well as our field artillery, well hidden in the ridges, also Scotch howitzer batteries, which fire right over the hills, while the battleships extend from Gaba Tebe right up to the Dardanelles. On 7th May we (2nd; Brigade, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th Battalions) proceeded to Cape Helles, at the end of the peninsula, to assist the naval divisions, French and Territorials. We advanced 500 yards from Hood and Drake battalions’ trenches against Acki Babi and got cut up again. We took a Turkish trench which was full of dead, killed by the warships’ shells. We were at Cape Helles three weeks. The British and French troops told us they also had a terrible time at that end as-indeed the large grave yards prove. Shortly after coming back from Gaba Tebe we saw the Triumph torpedoed. While at Cape Helles we saw the River Clyde transport beached high and dry. The Dublins and Munsters landed off her. Father Hearne, of Richmond, was our chaplain; he has gone to Alexandria after being under fire for a couple of stiff months. We blew some Turks up in a mine, and went up to the same caper again. The Turks are brave fellows and just don’t care a damn for death. After their last big charge in June they were killed in hundreds, falling dead off our parapets. Our position is called “A N Z A C,” meaning A New Zealand Army Corps. All nicknames become official, such as Quinn’s Post, Johnston’s Jolly, Pope’s Hill, etc., and the Turk’s big guns are also nicknamed, being known as Asiatic Annie, Lonely Liz, High Velocity Archibald etc. I will be back in the trenches in September, all going well. I am.one of the few lucky ones to keep going from the first day until the middle of July.
Herbert Thomas Skehan was born in Melbourne St, Kilmore on January 30, 1889, the eldest son of Patrick and Amy (nee Grose) Skehan. He was educated at Assumption College, Kilmore and graduated Dux of the school in 1909. Up until the time of his enlistment Herbert was a clerk in the tobacco trade in Melbourne and was engaged to be married.
Herbert enlisted at Broadmeadows on July 28, 1915 in the 3/29th Battalion, AIF. During training he was acting Corporal from 26 August to December 16, 1915. He embarked at Melbourne on the HMT Ballarat on February 18, 1916, and disembarked at Suez on March 22, 1916, and was taken on strength with the 29th Battalion on April 1, 1916.
The Battalion then transferred to the Western Front via Marseilles in June, where they took part in an attack against the German positions at Delange Farm in July, then held their positions for 11 days including a heavy counter attack.
During front line action Herbert was hospitalised with Influenza in November 1916 at Etaples, then again in hospital with frost bite in February 1917. He was transferred to the 5th Army School from May 21 to 27, 1917. After returning to his Battalion Herbert took part in the Battle of Polygon Wood near Ypres in Belgium which commenced on September 26, 1917. He was killed in action on that day.
The following is an eyewitness account by Corporal W J Marshall, – He was killed by a shell at Polygon Wood, I saw his body soon after. He was buried in a shell hole near where he fell by a party from the company. No cross was erected at the time, he was a machine gunner, and was in No: 5 Platoon, B. Company.
After the War Herbert’s remains were exhumed and re-buried at Ypres, Belgium, in the Duhallow ADS Cemetery. His father Patrick, as next of kin, received in 1921 a Memorial Scroll, Herbert’s British War Medal, Victory Medal and 1914/15 Star, and a photograph of his headstone. .
Herbert’s name is recorded on the Kilmore War Memorial, the Kilmore Shire Honour Roll at the Memorial Hall, and on the Assumption College Honour Roll.
Catherine (Katie) was born in 1870 in Kilmore, the daughter of Patrick O’Connor and Elizabeth Seymour. At birth she was registered as Kate Margaret but later was known as Catherine. After school she trained for three years in nursing at Melbourne Hospital obtaining her Melbourne Hospital Certificate and her Victorian Nursing Certificate . She then nursed as a sister in charge of medical and surgical wards at Melbourne Hospital.
Katie enlisted in the Australian Army Nursing Service at Melbourne on November 3, 1914 as a nurse with the 1st Australian General Hospital (AGH) and embarked in Melbourne on November 28, 1914, on the Kyarra taking the 1st AGH to Cario, via Alexandria. Nurses with at least three years service at a recognised hospital and aged between 21 and 45 years could apply to serve overseas. For some reason Katie lowered her age from 44 years to 37 years on enlistment.
Katie first served in Egypt at the Hellioplis Hotel, the base for the 1st AGH in Cario from early 1915 to April 1916. This hospital expanded rapidly during the Gallipoli campaign. Katie was promoted to Sister on December 1, 1915, and was transferred to the 1st AGM at Rouen, via Marseilles in France in April 1916.
In France, the 1st AGH was based at the racecourse at Rouen from 1916 to late 1918, west of the Western Front. It is said that 90,000 casualties passed through its wards during this period. Katie’s service record indicates that she was attached to the 3rd Australian Casualty Clearing Station (ACCS) from April 1917 until November 1917. Stations such as this were established almost “in the front line”. During this time Katie was also temporarily transferred for short periods to the 32nd CCS, 46th CCS, and also spent leave in the UK, Paris and Trouville. It is likely Katie held a senior position with the 1st AGH from November 1917.
Katie was mentioned in despatches on April 7, 1918, as confirmed in the Commonwealth Gazette of October 24, 1918. She was awarded the Royal Red Cross (2nd Class) on January 1, 1919, as reported in the Commonwealth Gazette of May 23, 1919.
Katie left Rouen in November 1918 for England and returned to Melbourne on the Somali, arriving on February 8, 1919. She was welcomed home in Kilmore in early March. Her appointment was terminated on April 16, 1919. She was awarded the British War Medal, Victory Medal and 1914/15 Star.
Katie died on July 30, 1949 in Melbourne and was buried in the Kilmore Catholic Cemetery where her headstone can be seen today. Her name is recorded on the Kilmore Shire Honour Roll in the Memorial Hall.
Agnes May (May) Semple was born in 1879 in Kilmore to Dr William Henry Semple and Anne Devon. May trained at St Vincents Hospital in Melbourne. She enlisted in the Australian Army Nursing Service in May 1915 and served initially at the Military Hospital in Geelong until August 1916, then at No. 5 Australian General Hospital, St Kilda Road, Melbourne.
In January 1917 May embarked on the Omrah in Melbourne arriving in Plymouth, England on 27 March. She undertook nursing duties at Weymouth on the south coast and at Southall, London, before returning to Australia on the Llanstephen Castle in February 1918. May nursed the injured on board and arrived in Melbourne on 16 April 1918.
Nine months later Nurse Semple sailed from Sydney on the Wiltshire arriving in Suez on 11 December 1918. She nursed at the 31st and 27th General Hospitals in Abbassia, Egypt. May returned home on the troopship Ceramic in February 1919 and during the voyage performed nursing duties, including cases of influenza which caused the ship to be quarantined for several days off Geelong and Sydney.
Nurse Semple was discharged from the Australian Army Nursing Service on 9 May 1919, and was awarded the 1914/15 Star, the Victory Medal and the British War Medal. She carried on her nursing career and retained an interest in the welfare of 1914-1918 veterans.
May was admitted to Kew Hospital on 13 September 1954 and died on 24 September aged 74 years. Her burial service was held at Christ Church, Kilmore, and at the graveside was attended by many old friends and former service members of both World Wars and included the RSL Service. Her name is recorded on the Kilmore Shire Honour Roll and the Anglican Church Honour Roll.
Harold was born at Kilmore on 1 June 1890, the son of Francis Walwyn Wortley and Elizabeth Ann Hammond. He attended Brighton Grammar School, where he joined the cadets. Harold then served in the 15th Battalion, Australian Light Horse for four years, reaching the rank of corporal. He listed his occupation as grocer and storekeeper of Kilmore.
Harold volunteered for overseas service on 17 July 1915, promoted to sergeant and after attending Officer Training School and applied on 22 January 1916 for a commission in the AIF. His application was approved and he was appointed Second Lieutenant in the 7/29th Reinforcements on 6 March 1916. On 15 June 1916 he married Daisey Kathleen Keep at St Kilda.
Harold embarked on 4 July 1916 in Melbourne on the HMAT Berrima bound for England. He proceeded to France on 9 November 1916 and after receiving a knee injury returned to England for treatment in April 1917. He returned to France in May 1917 but had recurring trouble with his knee and was posted for duty with the 8th Training Battalion. returned to England in June 1917, and posted back to 29th Battalion in France in February 1918. Harold became sick with mumps in May 1918 and returned to his Battalion in June 1918.
Harold returned to Australia on the liner Port Melbourne arriving in Melbourne on 20 August 1919 and his appointment was terminated in Melbourne on 4 October 1919.
He was awarded the 1914-1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. In early November 1919 Harold was appointed by the Kilmore Shire Council as Inspector of Nuisances. He served in World War 2 and died in Sydney on 25 July 1955.
Harold is listed on the Kilmore Shire Honour Roll, Kilmore State School Honour Roll and the Kilmore Presbyterian Church Honour Roll.