St Mark’s Drummoyne, Great War Memorial 1914 – 1918
At the entrance to St Mark’s Church is a Memorial Board on which is recorded the names of ten men from parish families that served and died in World War I.
We honour their spirit and we ask that you to remember them in your prayers
1. Edmund Henry (Jack) Collins
Private No. 4268, 29th Battalion. Died 23 March 1917
The first and perhaps most difficult individual to identify on the St Mark’s Memorial Board was “J Collins”. There are approximately 900 entries for the name Collins on the National Archives WWI Service Records database, and none with the initial J that would appear to match anyone associated with Drummoyne. While Edmund Henry Collins lived at “Dunelm”, Wolseley Street, Drummoyne, I could not link him with the name on the Memorial Board until I found a statement taken from Private MP Gray No. 4298 in the Red Cross Bureau files which recorded that “[we] always called him ’Jack’ but that wasn’t his proper name”.
Edmund Henry (Jack) Collins was 28 years old when he applied to enlist in the AIF in March 1916 at Drummoyne. Jack was born at Charters Towers, Queensland, and would appear to have moved with his family to Drummoyne sometime prior to attending secondary school. Educated at Holy Cross College, Ryde and Hawkesbury Agricultural College, he was a qualified Assayer at the time of his enlistment. He nominated as his next of kin his father Robert Collins of “Dunelm”, 2 Wolseley Street, Drummoyne. His mother was Winifred Collins.
Like so many men who volunteered to fight with the AIF (including others on the Memorial Board), Jack’s military career was a short lived one – he was killed the day after he first joined his unit, the 29th Infantry Battalion, near Beaumetz, France on 23 March 1917.
2. Joseph Ignatius Connell
Private No. 6619, 8th Field Ambulance. Died 26 October 1917.
Joseph Ignatius Connell was a carpenter and joiner, who worked at York Street Workhouse in Sydney at the time of his enlistment on 7 April 1915.
He had been born in North Sydney and had attended school at St Benedict’s Christian Brothers, Sydney. His mother, Johanna Connell, abandoned by her husband Thomas Connell in about 1913 and was living at 29 Dening Street, Drummoyne with Joseph and his brother Paul April 1915.
Joseph was assigned to A Section of the 8th Field Ambulance. As a stretcher bearer serving in the front lines, Joseph would see service at Fromelles, Bullecourt, Polygon Wood and Ypres. It was during the Third Battle of Ypres, otherwise known as Passchendaele, that Joseph would be mortally wounded by a shell explosion just as he was about to pick up a stretcher to evacuate a wounded soldier. Joseph himself would be evacuated by stretcher to a casualty clearing station behind the lines, but died soon after from his wounds and was buried in the cemetery next to the clearing station.
3. John Stephen Coolahan
Lieutenant 5th Machine Gun Company. Died 3 May 1918
John Stephen Coolahan was born in Tamworth, NSW on 30 October 1882. He was a single 33 year old when he enlisted in the AIF on 13 December 1915, and may well have enlisted on the same date as his brother, Arthur Francis Coolahan. At the time of enlistment, John’s occupation was that of a salesman and he gave his address as “Latonaville”, St Georges Crescent, Drummoyne (now 1A Queen Victoria Place). His next of kin was his mother, Mrs Maria Coolahan of the same address.
John was commissioned as a second lieutenant and served with the 5th Machine Gun Company as part of the 2nd Australian Division. He saw action at Westhoek in Flanders in September 1917 where he was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry, and also fought in the Battle of Passchendaele in October 1917 where he was wounded. John then fought at Villiers-Bretonneux in April 1918 in an attempt to stop the German spring offensive, during which he was wounded and captured. He eventually died of his wounds in German captivity on 3 May 1918 and is buried at the Valenciennes Communal Cemetery, France.
4. Bernard Patrick Dawson
Private No. 2125, 2nd Battalion. Died 6 – 9 August 1915.
Bernard Patrick Dawson was a postman at Drummoyne Post Office when he enlisted in the AIF in April 1915. His enlistment papers state that he was born in Orange, NSW and was 26 years and 8 months old at the date of his enlistment. His parents were dead and he had no brothers, just one sister, Catherine Dawson. The whereabouts of Ms Dawson and Bernard’s next of kin became a matter of some uncertainty after his death. Although Ms Dawson claimed Bernard’s war medals after the war, his Memorial Scroll was returned as Ms Dawson was untraceable; accordingly, the Memorial Plaque which was also issued to the next of kin of each soldier killed during the war was never collected. Like a number of the men commemorated on the St Mark’s Memorial Board, Bernard’s military career was a brief one; he joined the 2nd Battalion in the 1st Brigade of the AIF at Gallipoli on 6 August and was reported missing almost immediately. He was subsequently determined to have been killed in action in the attack on Lone Pine sometime between 6 and 9 August 1915. His body was never found and it is believed that he was buried sometime after the battle in Lone Pine Cemetery.
5. Michael Hawley
Private No. 3538, 53rd Battalion. Died 19 July 1916
Michael Hawley was born in Phoenix Park, Morpeth, NSW and educated at the local Convent Catholic School. He was 23 years old when he enlisted in the AIF on 3 August 1915 at Liverpool. On his enlistment papers his occupation was noted to be a labourer, and his parents were Thomas and Kathleen Hawley of 44 Cary Street, Drummoyne. There is precious little information on Michael Hawley, primarily because his military career was a short one – he was killed in his first action at the calamitous Battle of Fromelles. Like about 400 other Australian and British soldiers, he was reported as missing presumed killed in action. Although the remains of approximately 144 Australians have been identified following the discovery of mass graves at Pheasant Wood outside the village of Fromelles in 2008, those of Michael Hawley are not among them.
6. Peter Bernard Joseph O’Reilly
Lieutenant, 38th Battery 10th Field Artillery Brigade. Died 6 May 1917. Peter Bernard Joseph O’Reilly was born in Cobago, NSW and enlisted within three weeks of the outbreak of the First World War at the age of 22 years and 7 months. Single and a clerk by occupation, he named as his next of kin his mother, Mrs Annie O’Reilly, who at the time was living at 15 Gow Street, Balmain. She subsequently moved to 6 College Street, Drummoyne.
Peter would depart for overseas with one of the first troop convoys, and see action at Gallipoli until evacuated sick. After a period convalescing in England, he would be eventually posted to the Western Front and see action at Ypres, Flers and ultimately Bullecourt, where he would be killed in May 1917. Buried by men in his unit at Vaulx Cemetery, his grave would be lost and Peter would be included in the list of thousands of Australians with no known grave commemorated at the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux.
7. Arvan James Prichard
Lieutenant 22nd Machine Gun Company. Died 18 July 1918
Arvan James Prichard was 18 years old at the time of his enlistment on 19 April 1915, only a few days before ANZAC forces landed at Gallipoli. The day before his enlistment, his parents, William Gordon Prichard and Catherine Prichard, signed a letter permitting their young son to join the “Australian Imperial Expeditionary Forces in the Army Medical Corps only”. As will become apparent, his parents’ caveat to their consent was ignored.
Arvan was born in Townsville, Queensland. At some point prior to enlistment, he moved to New South Wales with his family where he commenced work as an engineer. The family lived at “Wyee”, 17 Havelock Street, Drummoyne. Arvan initially saw action in the final months of the Gallipoli campaign with the 20th Battalion, before being evacuated with hepatitis to Egypt. After joining the BEF in France, he was transferred to the 5th Machine Gun Company and rose through the ranks, eventually commissioned as a Lieutenant with the 22nd Machine Gun Company. After a period assigned to the Australian Machine Gun Training School at Grantham, England, Arvan returned to action in France, rejoining the 22nd Machine Gun Company. in March 1918. Arvan was killed in action outside Villers-Bretonneux on 18 July 1918. Although buried by his comrades and his grave marked with a cross, his remains could not be located after the war.
8. James Stuart Duncan Weir
Private No. 2867, 4th Battalion. Died 26 July 1916.
James Stuart Duncan Weir was born in Balmain and was 20 years old at the date of enlistment in August 1915. A butcher by profession, he gave on his attestation papers the details of his father, John Weir, as his next of kin whose address at the time was specified as Bridge Street, Drummoyne. His mother was Susan Weir, and newspaper records at the time suggest that he was their second eldest son. He appears to have gone by the name Stuart and was unmarried. About the time of his enlistment, Weir & Sons operated a butcher shop on Bridge Street on the western side just down from the Oxford Hotel. Almost a year after Stuart was killed, Stuart’s father wrote to the Officer in Charge, Base Records inquiring about any personal effects belonging to Stuart. On the letterhead of the NSW State Abattoirs and Meat Works, John Weir wrote on 15 May 1917:I have been advised to write to you with regard to my son J.S.D Weir who was killed in action at Posieres [sic] in France on July 26th 1916. I have not received any news concerning his kit or belongings since his death and knowing that he had articles in his kit or belongings of value I would ask you to kindly let me know if they are in your possession, or if you could let me know anything concerning them. On 19 July 1917, John Weir would acknowledge receipt of a parcel containing the limited items that were returned to Australia on the Beltana as belonging to Stuart. Over the course of the next six years, Stuart’s parents would receive a death certificate, a memorial plaque and scroll, and the medals for Stuart’s service.
9. Colin Geoffrey Wilson
Private No. 1303, 33rd Battalion. Died 28 July 1918
Colin Godfrey Wilson was born in Brisbane, Queensland and was 19 years old at the date of enlistment in February 1916. Educated at Christian Brothers, Paddington, his described his occupation as a “porter” and gave his current address at time of enlistment care of the Imperial Hotel, Moree. On the Roll of Honour there is recorded the following:
Son of Georgina Josephine Hubbard (formerly Wilson), of 16 Therry St., Drummoyne, Sydney, New South Wales, and the late Colin Porteous Wilson. Born at Brisbane, Queensland. Remembered with honour Villers Bretonneux Military Cemetery. Colin also had an older brother, William Robert Wilson, who enlisted in 1917, and a sister, Amy Wilson who lived with her mother at “Turon”, 16 Therry Street Drummoyne.
10. John Michael Joseph Wills
Private No. 7099, 13th Battalion. Died 8 August 1918
John is the only man commemorated on the St Mark’s Memorial Board who has a direct association with the Parish evident from the Parish’s records. He is the last on the Memorial Board list.
John Michael Joseph Wills was almost 28 years of age at the time of his enlistment in September 1916. Born in Balmain, John was married to Opal Roslyn Wills (née Wynyard) and they had three children, their youngest, Tom, was baptised at St Mark’s on 4 June 1916 by Father Klein, the then Parish Priest. John worked for the Postmaster-General as a postman or “letter carrier”. The address given at time of enlistment was c/- Mrs Violet Norman of “Takapuna”, Park Avenue, Drummoyne. Subsequent correspondence in John’s war service records show that his father, James Wills, at the time lived at 177 Trafalgar Street, Annandale. John had more than six years military training prior to enlistment, and this may have accounted for his taking a number of acting NCO roles, being assigned to training depots in England and even serving a stint with the Provost Corps, before he finally joined his battalion in April 1918 on the Western Front. He would see action in the Battle of Amiens and the attack on the Hindenburg Line as part of the Allies August offensive. John would be killed in action near Morcourt on 8 August 1918 as part of the offensive on the day that was described by German General Erich Ludendorff as “the black day of the German Army in this war”.
excerpt from I am the First and Last The Fallen WW1 Anzacs of St Mark’s Drummoyne Copyright © Brendan Bateman 2015. For more information contact the parish office.