Cecil John Jacobs. Image courtesy Cheryl Scott (McCarthy).
Cecil’s medals. Image courtesy Cheryl Scott (McCarthy).
Cecil John Jacobs was born in Lucknow in 1894 to William Henry Jacobs and his wife Lucy Ann Bell. His siblings were Olive (b. 1890), William (b. 1892), Aileen (b.1896) and Allen (b. 1904). Cecil grew up in Orange and was working as a butcher in Summer Street at the time of his enlistment in the A.I.F. in December 1915, aged 23.
Cecil was assigned to the 3rd Pioneer Battalion, an engineers and communications unit, and departed Port Melbourne for the battlefields of the Somme, via England, on 6 June 1916 aboard Her Majesty’s Australian Transport ship Wandilla (along with former Prime Minister John Howard’s father, Lyall, then 19 years old).
Private Jacobs arrived in France in November 1916 and served with the unit until the end of the war laying and maintaining communication lines. He was promoted to Lance Corporal in August 1918 and was awarded the Military Medal for bravery in the field in September 1918. Details of his award provide insight into the work of the unit:
On the night of 22/23 August 1918, between Company Headquarters East of ETINEHEM and Battalion H.Qrs on the West edge of that village, No. 458, Lance Corporal Cecil John Jacobs was in charge of a section of signallers maintaining a section of telephone line between Company and Battalion H.Qrs. From two hours before zero until the attack was finished, their whole area was exceptionally heavily shelled by the enemy. Throughout the whole time, Lance Corporal Jacobs showed great courage and devotion to duty, and kept his men cheerfully working on the line during the whole night, thus enabling communication to be kept up throughout the whole period of the attack.
Corporal Jacobs returned to Australia in August 1919 aboard the Zealandia. I have no doubt that his contribution was one he was proud to make but, like many WWI veterans, my grandfather rarely spoke of his war experiences.
After his return, Cecil married Mabel Doris Langham at Holy Trinity Church in Orange in February 1921 and worked as an engine driver in the district. Cecil and Mabel had 5 children: Maisie (b. 1921), Beryl (b. 1923), Jack (b. 1925), Allan (b. 1926), and Betty (b. 1927). The couple lived for most of their married life in March Street, East Orange. Cecil passed away in 1969, aged 74 years, and is memorialised, with his wife, at Northern Suburbs Memorial Gardens, North Ryde.
Five members of the 9th Field Company, Australian Engineers. Sergeant Herbert Velvin-Smith is seated on the right. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial.
Herbert Velvin-Smith was born in Orange in 1892 to John Smith and his wife Elizabeth Candy Smith (nee Velvin). A brother, Reginald, had been born the previous year; a sister, Doris, followed in 1896.
Herbert’s grandfather, John Velvin, was a 3rd generation master cabinet–maker who worked for Dalton Brothers store in Orange. He was Mayor of East Orange in 1898-9 and 1901 and, with his wife Elizabeth Anne, was instrumental in the establishment of the East Orange Post Office in Summer Street East, which opened in December 1901 and is still in operation.
Herbert spent his early years in Orange, then studied Agriculture at Hawkesbury Agricultural College in Richmond, Sydney.
‘HV’ as he became known, enlisted in the 1st AIF at Rosebery Park in Sydney on 21 March 1916. He was assigned to the 9th Field Company Engineers and sailed for France via Southampton on 21 November 1916. He was promoted to Lance Corporal in June 1917. On 8 April 1918 HV and Lance Corporal John James Wilson were mentioned in despatches and recommended for the Military Medal for their “heroic efforts” for their part in completing and maintaining a bridge across the Somme to allow withdrawal of allied troops. This feat was accomplished during ten hours of heavy bombardment. HV volunteered to remain behind to demolish the bridge should there be an enemy attack.
At the end of the war HV was selected to attend an Infantry Cadet Course in England. He was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant on 2 Jan 1919, then Lieutenant in April 1919.
Herbert returned to Australia on the Beltana in June 1919 with the 3rd Pioneer Battalion and settled in Batlow. He married Margaret Laing in 1929 and they had two sons and a daughter.
It was in Batlow that HV worked to make extraordinary and wide-reaching changes to the fruit-growing industry. These included the establishment of the cold-store industry and the development of co-operative fruit marketing. He was instrumental in the establishment of the “Mountain Maid” Cannery in Batlow. With the outbreak of WWII, HV facilitated and supported the Women’s Land Army in the Batlow district. In 1959 he was awarded an OBE “for services to the fruit and canning industries of Australia”.
Herbert Velvin-Smith died at Batlow in 1984. His wife and two sons predeceased him and all are buried at Batlow General Cemetery. His daughter, Ruth, aged 86, lives in Melbourne, Victoria.
Reginald Arthur Smith, 6 August 1915. Image courtesy Ruth Velvin Gilchrist.
Reginald Arthur Smith was born on 22 May, 1891 in Orange NSW, the first son of John Smith and his wife Elizabeth Candy Smith (nee Velvin). A brother, Herbert, followed in 1892 and a sister, Doris, in 1896.
Reginald’s grandfather, John Velvin, was a 3rd generation master cabinet–maker who worked for Dalton Brothers store in Orange. He was Mayor of East Orange in 1898-9 and 1901 and, with his wife Elizabeth Anne, was instrumental in the establishment of the East Orange Post Office in Summer Street East, which opened in December 1901 and is still in operation.
Reginald was working as an accountancy clerk with Wright Heaton & Co in Newcastle when he enlisted in the 1st AIF in April 1915, aged 24.
He sailed on the Runic to the Middle East on 9 August 1915, and was at Gallipoli in November 1915 as Acting Corporal in the 8th Reinforcements of the 2nd Infantry Battalion. Following the evacuation from Gallipoli, Reginald proceeded to Alexandria in Egypt, where he was promoted to Sergeant in the newly formed 5th Division of the 54th Battalion. He later served with the 55th Battalion.
By August 1916 Reginald had been appointed Lieutenant and was stationed in France, where he was wounded in April 1918. He remained in France until December 1918. After armistice he was posted to England with the Pay Office, returning to Australia aboard the Armagh in May 1919.
In 1937 Reginald married Ethel Alice Thomas. The couple settled in Cremorne in Sydney and did not have any children. Reginald died in Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney, on 28 July 1969, aged 78.
Four nurses of the Australian Army Nursing Service at No 2 Australian General Hospital which was based in Gezireh Palace, Egypt c1915. Sister Stone is on the far right. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial.
Constance Adelaide Stone was born in Berrima in 1879 to Henry and Augusta Stone. Constance’s father was well-known in Orange as a postal guard. 35-year-old Constance was living with her family at 35 Lord Street when she embarked from Sydney in November 1914 as a staff nurse with the 2nd Australian General Hospital.
Nurse Stone was promoted to Sister in June 1915. She served initially on hospital ships travelling to and from Australia, and later in France and England. In May 1919 she was awarded the Royal Red Cross. She returned to Australia in August 1919.
Constance was Matron of Ardee Private Hospital in Kite Street, Orange, during 1920. She subsequently relocated to the Northern Territory, where she was acting Matron of Darwin Hospital until October 1924, and then Matron of the Darwin public clinic.
In the June 1934 King’s Birthday Honours Constance was awarded an M.B.E. in recognition of her war services. Her name appears on the Holy Trinity Church Orange Honour Roll.
Stawell-born nurse Margaret Skidmore was living in Lucknow when she enlisted in December 1916. She embarked from Sydney in June the following year and served in Salonika in Greece.
After the war Nurse Skidmore undertook further training with the Babies of the Empire Society in Earls Court Road, London (later the Mothercraft Training Society).
On repatriation to Australia in 1919 she relocated to Queensland, where she became Matron at Chillagoe General Hospital in 1920, followed by Alpha Hospital, which she left in August 1924 for Foxborough Hospital at Toogoolawah, near Brisbane.
Jean Gillies Skidmore was born in Lucknow in 1886. She was living in Wollongong when she enlisted in December 1916.
Nurse Skidmore embarked in Melbourne in January 1917 and proceed to India, where she served in the Colaba and Victoria War Hospitals in Bombay. She nursed injured soldiers on her return to Australia in early 1919. Her appointment was terminated in June that year, when she married.
Dora Moulder, the daughter of Edward and Johanna Moulder of Orange, was born in Condoblin in 1884. Her grandfather was the Orange pioneer, Joseph Moulder.
Dora enlisted on 26 April 1915, the day after the start of the Anzac landings at Gallipoli. While she spent a great deal of her time nursing in London, she nevertheless saw her fair share of desperately sick and wounded soldiers brought in from the trenches in France. She mainly tended British soldiers but the greater part of the deaths she witnessed were from enteric fever and dysentery rather than war wounds.
Nurse Moulder was greatly interested in her work although she admitted to a feeling of ‘much sadness about it when most awful and pitiful cases are received for treatment’. She would have remained in Europe had it not been for the serious illness of her mother, which brought her back to Orange late in 1916. She married Hector Brewer in November 1921 and settled in Condobolin.
Dora’s name appears on the Holy Trinity Church Orange Honour Roll.
Rose Macanene, was born in Kiama in 1878, the daughter of Henry and Catherine Macanene. Both Rose and her sister Kathaline were nurses, with Rose completing her training at Orange District Hospital. Following her enlistment in September 1916 Rose served in England, Egypt and France, where she nursed in Rouen, Wimereux and Abbéville.
She remained in France for a while after the cessation of hostilities then signed up for a three-month course at the British School of Cookery in Regent Street, London, where she learnt the finer points of cookery, laundry work and housecraft. Nurse Macanene returned Australia in February 1920.
* Edwards, Elisabeth 2011, In sickness and in health: how medicine helped shape Orange’s history, Orange City Council, Orange, NSW
Members of the Australian Army Nursing Service outside the Ivanhoe Hotel in London c1916. Florence Lewis is in the 4th row, 4th from the left. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial.
Florence Laura Lewis was born in Orange in 1888 to Edward and Rhoda Lewis. Florence was nursing at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney prior to her war service. She enlisted in July 1915 and served initially on transport duty. She subsequently served in France, where she met the Irish-born Major Michael Fitzgerald, a widower, who had enlisted in the AIF and served in Gallipoli. Nurse Lewis resigned her appointment and married Michael in Dublin in September 1919.
Michael and Florence retuned to Australia and settled in Goulburn. They had seven children, two of whom died in infancy.
Florence died in Strathfield, New South Wales, on 14 June 1976, aged 88 years. She is buried in Rookwood Cemetery.
Violet Claire Lee was born in Orange in 1885 to William M Lee and his wife Christina Agnes. She completed her nurse’s training at Forbes Hospital in 1912. In early 1913 Violet resigned, having accepted a position at the Coast Hospital in Sydney. Unfortunately she badly injured her knee and was unable to take up the position in Sydney.
Nurse Lee enlisted in August 1917, embarking from Sydney in September to serve as a staff nurse in the 27th General Hospital in Abbassia, Egypt. She served for just six months before she was invalided home and admitted to The Pines Private Hospital in Avoca Street, Randwick. Nurse Lee was discharged in November 1918 due to medical unfitness.