Bertram Frederick (Bertie) Tanner
Forty year old Bertie Tanner arrived in Devonport, England, with the 33rd Battalion on 29 January 1917. Bertie did not see active combat; he died of pneumonia eighteen days later in the Tidworth Military Hospital. The attending medical officer noted: “this was a serious case which progressed rapidly to a fatal termination”.
Bertram Frederick Tanner was born in Molong on 8 January 1876. ‘Bertie’, as he became known, was the third of eight children born to William Tanner and his wife Catherine (Kate) Tanner (nee Archer). William ran a drapery store in Riddell Street, and in 1879 was elected as the first mayor of the newly formed Molong Municipal Council. By 1886 the family had moved to Orange, where William operated a drapers and outfitters business in Summer Street. He also served as an alderman and, in 1892, was elected mayor of Orange.
It seems that Bertie had a history of chest complaints. In November 1899 the Western Champion reported that the 23 year old had contracted a severe case of “water pleurisy” while working at Singleton and had been forced to return home to Orange for treatment. In October 1916, during his time at Rutherford training camp, he was hospitalised with a severe cold.
Bertie enlisted in Walgett on 11 July 1916 and proceeded to Narrabri training camp. He was there for two weeks before being transferred to Armidale. On 2 September he was transferred to Rutherford, and, on 7 November, to Liverpool, in preparation for embarkation.
Private Tanner embarked SS Port Napier at Sydney on 17 November 1916, and disembarked at Devonport on 29 January 1917. The following day the 33rd Battalion was marched into the 9th Training Battalion at Durrington. Two weeks later, on 13 February, a dangerously ill Bertie was admitted to the Tidworth Military Hospital. He passed away three days later, on 16 February, and was buried in the nearby Tidworth Military Cemetery on 19 February.
Upon enlistment Private Tanner had nominated his brother in law, Edgar Albert Tanner, as his next of kin and, in his will, bequeathed his personal effects, bank savings and deferred pay to his nephew, Warren Tanner. In July 1917 Edgar received Bertie’s personal effects, which consisted of one holdall, a housewife, two knives, a pipe, a shaving brush, a hair brush, a polishing brush, a boot pad, cheque forms, a book, postcards, one photograph, one letter, one pair of mittens, his identity discs, a leather belt, watch, three badges, two rings, tobacco pouch and one key.
In May 1921 the Base Records Office wrote to Bertie’s father to inform him that: “the provisions of a Will have no bearing upon the distribution of Medals unless they are specifically mentioned therein”. William Tanner was issued with his son’s war medals in September 1922.
Bertram Frederick Tanner is commemorated on the Orange Public School Honour Roll, the Holy Trinity Church Orange Honour Roll, on the World War I Roll of Honour on the southern face of the Orange Cenotaph and on panel number 123 on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. His name also appears on a commemorative plaque on his parents’ grave in Rookwood cemetery, Anglican section.
In July 1917 a tree was planted at Orange Public School in Bertie’s memory. It was one of 26 trees planted in honour of fallen soldiers who had attended the school.
In 1923 the Anzac Memorial Avenue of trees was planted along Bathurst Road to commemorate fallen WWI soldiers. A tree was planted in honour of “L Cpl RF Tanner”, presumably Bertie. It was donated by former mayor of Orange, James Stuart Leeds. Very few of the trees are still standing today.