Saturday, 31 January 2015

Alexander Park 1891-1917 (Killed in Action) and Agnes Yuill Kerr 1887-1961

Alexander Park met his future wife Agnes Yuill Kerr at 54 Sword St Glasgow. Alexander's father, Mitchell operated his rag business at the same address as James Kerr's horse and carriage hire business. In 1913 Agnes and Alex married. Their daughter Agnes was born in soon after 1914. Few War records remain for Alex but we know he enlisted aged 23 as a private in the 1st Battalion Scots Guards- Service No 11165.

While Alexander was away Agnes was also awaiting news of her five brothers who had also gone to war. Another brother David, had stayed behind to work in the family business. Brother John was discharged early due to lameness and four other brothers Andrew, Francis, James and Tommy continued fighting until the war's end.

In May 1917 Agnes's father died and a mere six weeks later her beloved of Alexander was killed in action in France.

Alex's medal card
Here’s what we can piece together of his service... In August 1914 the 1st Battalion of the Scots Guards departed for France as part of the British Expeditionary Force (B,E.F). In Mons the British forces successfully defended against the Germans incurring heavy casualties.

 Due to the strength of the Germans the British withdrew from Mons together with the French troops. This action effectively saved the BEF and the French resources to keep the British fighting in France in future against the Germans.  A second major engagement, the first battle of the Marne, halted the Germans despite the bitter fight. Later the battalion saw heavy fighting in September 1915.

They took part in the Battle of Loos and in July 1916 lost 57,000 soldiers in the first day of battle in the Battle of the Somme. Heavy shell fire and machine gun fire continued through July. Later in the month the regiment began its involvement in the Third Battle of Ypres.  The battle lasted into November 1917 by which time the British had suffered very heavy casualties against the Germans in terrible fighting conditions. Alexander was killed in action on 30 July 1917 and is one of the guardsmen buried at the Ypres Gates Panel 11.

Alexander and Agnes' only son Mitchell Park named after his grandfather, was born posthumously in 1918 but died in 1920 after a long illness with meningitis.

It seems Agnes may have carried on in her husband's business as her husband's father had died in 1914 and her husband was absent, then kill in the war.
Agnes' business card

"Tailors' clips - a speciality"
What exactly was the nature of the business may be explained by the various descriptions given to Alexander in his marriage certificate, son's birth and death certificate and Agnes' own death certificate.

He is variously described as “rag merchant”, " sewing machine operative" and "Wool broker". I wonder if the  term -wool broking is a euphemism for rag dealing and a much more palatable term in 1960s Sydney!

With so much sadness Agnes who had been a ship stewardess before marriage looked to adventure. She took her daughter and nephew to Australia where she remained for the rest of her life probably living on a British War Widow's pension. She'd had a pretty trying few years with so many deaths in the family and the War. While her mother and brother Tommy  tried the life in Sydney for a short time they returned home to Scotland. Many other members of the family were preparing to try their luck in the Antipodes  and arrived a few years later. They became her family in the tight knit community of the North Shore of Sydney.
Agnes and her daughter Agnes in her passport photo 1924
The funny thing is that many of the Park family settled in South Australia remaining unaware of each other until only recently. The families who shared a business premises in Glasgow in the 1900s have now been connected through an ancestry tree. (Contact me for details)

Friday, 16 January 2015

Frank Leonard Kelf and Harold Gadsby -Brothers-in-law

Frank’s story
Frank Leonard Kelf 1894-1981 left the family home in Norwich, England in 1914 to venture out to Australia as a 19-year-old. In recollection he wrote for his daughter Airdrie, he said  that "war was declared as my ship was leaving the docks". Indeed he departed England on 27 August 1914 on the "Themistocles" and arrived in Melbourne about six weeks later. Upon arriving in Australia he worked on the railway and farms but by the middle of 1915 with the war still taking hold and everyone around him joining up he tried to get into the army. Due to his age he needed parental permission and has his parents were in England he had to wait.  Meanwhile he studied for a naval engineer certificate under a retired engineer who had been a Lt Cmdr. Still being underage and having no parental consent and as the war situation was getting worse he put his age up to 21 and enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy in August 1915.

Frank’s papers describe him as 5'6" with a fresh faced complexion dark brown hair and grey eyes.

And who should he meet on the way to war? None other than Harold Gadsby -his future brother in law. Naval records show Harold joining the training ship one day prior with the service number 5323 one number later than Frank’s. Possibly they met on the recruitment queue!

Group portrait of Australia's crew in December 1918

After completing training in England, Frank and Harold served on HMAS Australia which was an
Indefatigable class battle cruiser launched in 1911 and built for the defence of the British Empire. It was the flagship of the Royal Australian Navy which was in its infancy.

It was assigned to North Sea operations which consisted primarily of patrols and exercises, until the end of the war. During this time, Australia was involved in early attempts at naval aviation and 11 of her personnel participated in the Zeebrugge Raid.   The battle cruiser was not at the  Battle of Jutland as she was undergoing repairs following a collision with sister ship HMS New Zealand. 

The Australian War Memorial has advised that Australia only ever "fired in anger"  twice: once at a German merchant vessel in January 1915 (before Frank and Harold were aboard) and in December 1917 at a suspected submarine contact.

All up he served five years. Three on active service overseas.

This is how Frank Kelf Service number 5322 spent the war:

Cereberus              Stoker II       10.8.1915   to   22.11.1915 (Training ship and transport to London)

London Depot        Stoker II       23.11.1915 to   11.1.1916

HMAS Australia     Stoker          12.1.1916   to    30.6.1920

Flagship of the Royal Australian Navy, HMAS Australia, Sydney Harbour, between 1913-1924

After the war when she returned to Australia, several sailors aboard the warship mutinied.  This was after arrival in Western Australia. Having been away for the whole war a request for an extra day's leave in Fremantle was denied. This on top of other issues such as minimal leave during the war, problems with pay, and the perception that Royal Navy(British) personnel were more likely to receive promotions than Australian sailors initiated the mutiny.

Post-war Australia became a training ship.   Part of the disarmament provisions of the Washington Naval Treaty saw Australia scuttled in 1924.  Frank’s time on the Australia ended in June 1920 and he returned to Sydney 6 weeks later on the HMAS Penguin.

Not really having established roots in Australia when he first arrived, Frank was persuaded to move to Undercliff where the Gadsbys were living. Then he began courting Julia Gadsby. Rumour has it that when Frank came to visit Julia  her sisters would all call out excitedly " Frank's here". Julie would remove her "rag" rollers out of her hair and rush out to meet him, always suffering the next day from straight hair with no bounce and curl.

No doubt the big brothers back from the war- Thomas, Harold and Jack ensured that Frank did the right thing by their beautiful little sister with talk of threats of broken arms. Encouraged by her sisters to “marry him – he’s an Earl”, Frank and Julia married in Undercliff  in 1921. 

Frank and Julia on their honeymoon in 1921

Harold’s Story
Harold Gadsby  1896-1971 too was a new resident of Australia having immigrated from West Ham England  to Sydney with his family in 1912. His  Service record  number 5323 shows he was engaged to serve in the Navy the day after his 19th birthday. He was  5 ft 7 inches, had auburn hair, grey eyes and fresh skin colour with a birth mark over his right clavicle.  As this picture shows he had the regal looks that all the Gadsby boys had.
Harold Gadsby
His Naval service dates were similar but shorter than Frank’s, Harold having left the ship when it docked in Sydney in 1919.
Cereberus              Stoker II       10.8.1915   to   22.11.1915 (Training ship and transport to London)

London Depot        Stoker II       23.11.1915 to   11.1.1916

HMAS Australia     Stoker          12.1.1916   to   18.8.1919

Members of Australia's crew march down a decorated street in 1919, following the battle cruiser’s return to Sydney

He married Catherine Campbell in Melbourne on 23rd  Feb  1924 and returned to Sydney a little while later.  The couple had 5 children.
In WWII Harold signed up again and was in the Voluntary Defence Corps.  Private Gadsby service number N391673 enlisted at Crows Nest on 19/3/1942 and was discharged 24/2/1945.
Granddaughter Leane Lawrence writes “ he was in charge of making sure all the soldiers got their supplies before the public got their rations. He helped to make up Ration Packs for the soldiers and made sure material for uniforms & blankets etc was sent to the forces first.”

There was always plenty of hospitality at their house. With his training as a navy cook Harold was good at cooking for a crowd. The family story is that he made a Queen pudding (using a dozen valuable eggs) that no-one got to taste as the dish had a hole in it and he lost the lot.

Here’s my version of the legendary Queens Pudding...
 Serves  4-6
600 ml milk
10g butter
110g fresh white breadcrumbs
50g caster sugar
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 large eggs
3 Tbs raspberry jam
Preheat oven to 180 deg C.

Pour the milk into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter, breadcrumbs, 25 g of the sugar and the lemon zest, and leave for 20 minutes to allow the breadcrumbs to swell.

Lightly beat the separated yolks and add them to the cooled breadcrumb mixture. Pour it into a buttered pie dish. Bake in the centre of the oven for 30-35 minutes, or until set.

After heating the  raspberry jam over a low heat  or in microwave  spread the jam over the top of the cooked pudding. Lightly beat the egg whites until stiff, then whisk in the remaining caster sugar. Spoon this meringue mixture over the pudding.

Bake for a further 10-15 minutes until the topping is golden brown.