Lest We Forget – Profiles of Soldiers listed on the Upper Plenty WW1 Honour Board


Alfred James Dickins.

Alfred Dickins, Service No. 1738, was born at Collingwood, Melbourne, to Jane Margaret Boyceand was registered with her surname. James Dickins is not listed as Alfred’s father although it seems probable he was. It appears the couple lived together for some time before Jane left the family home, leaving Alfred with James who then adopted the name of Dickins. There are no other siblings. Alfred enlisted at Melbourne on 24 December 1914. At the time of enlistment he was aged 22 years and 11 months and lived on the family property, Glenmarin, in Upper Plenty, now owned by Tony and Sue Schneider. The property was leased by James from the Crown under the 1898 Settlement on Lands Act and was purchased outright in 1909 after the required conditions for improvements were met . Alfred’s occupation was listed as farmer.
He embarked from Melbourne aboard the Wiltshire on 13 April 1915 with the 6th Battalion 4th Reinforcements, ranked as Private.Alfred saw active duty at Gallipoli at the time of the Suvla Bay conflict and was one out of only six survivors of his company that came out uninjured, despite having his uniform torn to shreds. He became ill with pneumonia following an attack of influenza in January 1916 and remained on the dangerously ill list at the base camp, Tel-el-Kebir, Egypt, until February. He was invalided back to Australia aboard the Karoola on 12 May 1916 due to debilitation arising from pleurisy and double pneumonia. Following his return he was very involved with the many send-offs and “welcome homes” for local soldiers.
Alfred Dickins was awarded the 1914/15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. He is listed on the Upper Plenty Honour Board and the Wallan Soldiers Memorial.
Alfred’s father, James Alfred, died on 12 December 1919. Alfred was named executor and main beneficiary of an estate of 64 acres. Probate was a drawn out affair as a result of Alfred’s illegitimate birth and unofficial change of name. A further complication came about when the property was valued by the State at twice the named value, thereby incurring a fee of two pounds. A letter was sent the Master-in-Equities from two local stalwarts, George Robertson and William Sutherland, asserting that nearly all improvements made to the property had been destroyed by the devastating 1919 bushfires in which the Upper Plenty Primary School, teacher’s residence and multiple properties had been burned out. The outcome of these negotiations is not known. Jane Margaret Boyce died in 1933 at Beechworth, aged 79 years.
Alfred married Martha Charlotte Wyatt in 1918. Their son, Hugh Alfred, was born in Clifton Hill in 1919. Alfred and Martha lived in Euroa and Melbourne until the early 1950’s when they moved to NSW and, later, to Queensland. Their son, Hugh, became a teacher and later lived in Grafton, NSW.



Archibald Strang Skurrie.

Archibald Strang Skurrie, Service No. 1509, was the only child of Archibald Strang Skurrie and Theresa (Sissie) Maher. He was born at Hotham West (Melbourne) in 1889. His mother died in 1899 when Archibald was aged 10. On enlistment at Melbourne in July 1915 he was aged 26 and his father was noted as not in the country and his mother dead. His next of kin was listed as Joseph Skurrie, a tailor in Lygon Street, Carlton. Two of his cousins, sons of his Uncle Joseph, also enlisted. Archibald’s occupation was listed as farm labourer and it is assumed that around the time of enlistment he was employed on one of the larger properties in the Upper Plenty district.
Archibald embarked from Melbourne in November 1915, aged 26 years, ranked as a driver. In February 1916 he was hospitalised in Cairo with influenza and following recovery he was taken on as a driver with the Australian Army Training Depot (AATD). He then spent time at the El Kebir training camp in Egypt and, later, England. In March 1917 he was transferred to the 5th Division Artillery at the Etaples base camp where he remained until April 1919. He was repatriated to Australia in April 1919. He was the recipient of the British War Medal, the 1914/15 Star and the Victory Medal.
A public welcome home was held for him and a number of other servicemen at the Upper Plenty Hall on 8 October 1919. He moved to Loxton, South Australia and married Esther Jane Hawkes in March 1924. Victorian census records show the couple as living in Clifton Hill, Melbourne in 1936 and Sunshine in 1937 where Archibald was employed as a labourer. Archibald died in South Australia in March 1957. He is listed on the Upper Plenty Honour Board and the Wallan Soldiers Memorial.



Charles Reginald Beck.

Charles Beck, Service No. 14076, was born at Sunbury Victoria in 1895 to Minnie and Andrew Beck and was the eldest of three sons. He enlisted at Melbourne on 19 January 1916, his address given as Richmond. The family appear to have owned land on Mahadys Road, Upper Plenty, during the early part of the century but had left by the outbreak of WW1. On enlistment he was aged 20 years and 2 months, unmarried and his occupation given as plumber, having been apprenticed to Nairn & Murdoch for 5 years. Following initial training at Seymour he embarked overseas aboard the Franconia in May 1916, ranked as a driver with the 15th Field Company Engineers, Reinforcement 3. He first underwent training at Tel-el-Kebir in Egypt followed by a short time at the notoriously difficult Etaples base camp, then saw active duty in France from October 1916. He was admitted to hospital in December 1916 with an injury to his right leg, returning to active duty in January 1917. On 24 January 1918 he was wounded in action and died from the effects of gas poisoning on the same day.
He was buried in the Daours Communal Cemetery extension, Grave Reference 111.B.10. At the time of burial a durable wooden cross was erected over his grave.
Charles Beck was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal and the 1914/15 Star. His mother, Minnie, was given a Memorial Scroll and King’s message. A war gratuity was paid to his mother who died in 1922.
He is listed on the Upper Plenty Honour Board.
Compiled by the Upper Plenty Mechanics’ Institute.



Christopher and Norman Christoffersen.

Christopher and Norman Christoffersen were the eldest of six children born to Charles Johan (of Danish origin) and Janet Christoffersen who married at Port Melbourne in 1892. The family farmed in Upper Plenty from around 1896. By 1919 the family were living in Port Melbourne.

Christopher Charles John Christoffersen.

Christopher Christoffersen (Service No. 230) was born in 1892 at Port Melbourne, the eldest of six children. He enlisted at Seymour on 21 August 1914, one of the first young men in the district to do so, having already served 13 months with the 15th Light Horse Regiment. His occupation was listed as farmer. He embarked from Melbourne aboard the “Wiltshire” on 20 October 1914. Soon after his arrival for training in Egypt Christopher required surgery for appendicitis and subsequently appears to have had a period of light duties as in May of 1915 he reported for duty as a storeman at Mustapha. In November of the same year he proceeded to France with the 2nd Anzac Mounted Regiment, ranked Private, where he fought in a number of the major battles along the Western Front until April 1918.

He was promoted to Lance Corporal in September 1916 and Corporal in November 1917. He  was briefly hospitalised following a schrapnel wound to the knee in June 1917.  In April 1918  he again suffered a schrapnel wound resulting in transfer to a rest camp. In August 1918 he was transferred to Admin Headquarters in London and in September he embarked for Australia.

He was awarded the Military Medal for “conspicuous service” which was noted in the London Gazette dated 13/11/1918. He also received  the British War Medal and 1914/15 Star. On the Nominal Roll his unit is listed as the 22nd Corps Light Horse. His name is listed on the Upper Plenty Honour Roll and the Wallan Soldiers Memorial.

Chris had married Caroline (May) Phair in 1914, just prior to his departure overseas.  May kept up a lively correspondence with the Defence department while Chris served overseas, keeping them informed of her changes of address, complaining when official correspondence was sent to Chris’s father rather than to her, and also complaining when his regiment was described in the Herald newspaper as originating in NSW. The couple lived in Leongatha after Chris’s discharge and had six children. Chris died in Leongatha in 1936. May remained in Leongatha and survived him by many years.

Norman Henry Christoffersen.

Norman Christoffersen, Service No. 1548, was the second son of Christopher and Janet Christoffersen. He enlisted  at Melbourne on 3 August 1915, aged 21 years and 5 months His address was given as Bay Street, Port Melbourne, occupation trapper. He embarked overseas from Melbourne on 23 November 1915 with the 2nd Anzac Mounted Division,  ranked Private.  On arrival in Egypt he contracted measles and was hospitalised. After a period of training in Egypt he was sent to France in June 1916 with the 4th Light Horse Regiment and remained on active service for the entire duration of the war. During this time he was involved in a number of the major battles along the Western Front, including Fromelles, Villers-Bretonneux and defence of the Hindenberg Line.  In April 1918 Norman suffered a gunshot wound to his right hand and, following hospitalisation, was sent to a rest camp to convalesce. He rejoined his unit in May and was on active service until he was injured by gas attack in August. Following hospital treatment he was sent on leave to the UK, returning to his unit in October. He remained on active service following the end of the war in November 1918, only returning to England in April 1919 and subsequently returning to Australia in late 1919. He was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

Norman, aged 25 years, was found dead in the Mahady brother’s paddock one Friday afternoon in late September 1920, with a bullet wound in the right temple. Although no longer living in Upper Plenty he was a regular visitor, having grown up in the district. The Coroner ruled his death as self-inflicted.

Norman’s death was a second  blow to the Christoffersen family as his father had died only a few months earlier. He was remembered as a “bright and lively young fellow”, much liked by all who knew him. He is listed on the Upper Plenty Honour Board and the Wallan Memorial.



Charles Leslie and Ormond Leonard (Len) Easton.

Charles and Ormond Easton were born to Herbert Easton and Jane Winnifred Keely. The family moved from North Melbourne, then known as Hotham, to Upper Plenty in the mid 1890’s taking up 41 acres of land next to the Upper Plenty Primary School under the 1893 Settlement on Lands Act. They had a large family of 10 children and although the family appears to have moved to Brunswick around 1905 they kept in contact with people in the area and attended events at the Upper Plenty hall.

Ormond Leonard Easton.

Ormond Easton(Service No. 20079), known as Len, was born in 1893 in Hotham, the second son of Herbert and Jane. He enlisted at Melbourne on 12 April 1917 aged 24 years and 3 months. His occupation was listed as bricklayer and a residential address in the suburb of Armadale was given. He attended Signal School from May to July 1917 and then embarked overseas in November aboard on the Nestor, on which his brother Charles also travelled. He disembarked at Suez and almost immediately succumbed to Influenza. He was treated at the No. 5 Australian General Hospital and then sent to the Macleod Rest Camp to recover. Now attached to the 5th Division Signal Company, Len embarked from Port Said to the UK and then to Cherbourg, France, in January 1918. He was then transferred to the 3rd Unit Depot of Supply. He was further hospitalised between July and October 1918 for a medical condition.
Len returned to Australia aboard the Ceramic in October 1919 and was discharged, ranked Private, in February 1920. He was awarded the British War Medal 1914-19,
His unit from the Nominal Roll is the 15th Depot Unit of Supply. Following his return he married Gladys Catherine Lowden and worked for many years as a bricklayer. He died at Ringwood in 1959.

Charles Leslie Easton.

Charles Easton (Service No. 6800) was born in 1896 at Upper Plenty, the third son of Herbert and Jane. He enlisted at Melbourne on 5 October 1917, aged 21 years and 10 months, his occupation traveller and residential address given as West Brunswick. At the time of enlistment Charles had already served 4 years with the 59th Infantry as 1st Lieutenant and had undergone training at Royal Park, Broadmeadows and Langwarrin. On enlistment he was immediately assigned to the 22nd Battalion 20th Reinforcement. During training at Broadmeadows he had been promoted to Corporal in March 1917 and to Sergeant in June of the same year. He embarked overseas in November 1917 aboard the Nestor, disembarking at Port Said in January 1918. There followed hospitalisation for a number of medical conditions, including measles and Influenza, resulting in demotion to Private and followed by a period in England at Fovant Camp. He was transferred to the Signalling Engineers in July 1918 and proceeded to the Australian Army base at Calais. He was further transferred to the 23rd Depot Unit of Supply and promoted to Sergeant. He spent the next three months engaged in post-conflict activities in the Abancourt area, finally returning to Australia aboard the Argyllshire in September 1919. He was discharged in October 1919. Charles was awarded the British War medal and the Victory Medal. After his return he married Pauline and worked as a bricklayer. He died at Prahran in 1972.
The Kilmore Free Press, 16 October 1919, reported on a welcome home celebration held at the Upper Plenty Hall. There was a record attendance on the occasion and both brothers, along with a number of other returned servicemen, were presented with “a pair of handsome gold sleeve-links inscribed with their respective initials”. Both are listed on the Upper Plenty Honour Board and Wallan War Memorial.



Patrick, Frederick & John Curley.

Patrick, John and Fred were three of seven children born to Martin Curley and Harriet Jones who married in Ballarat in 1889. The couple settled in Lindenow, a small town near Bairnsdale, and all their children were born in the district. Harriet died at Sale Hospital in 1909 and Martin remarried to Annie Margaret Burns in 1916 with whom he purchased land on Clarkes Road, Upper Plenty, in 1916. All three brothers enlisted at Sale on 29 February 1916, although Patrick was not officially enlisted until 10 January 1917.

Patrick Curley.

Patrick Curley, Service No. 7353, was born in 1894, the second son of Martin and Harriet. At the time of his enlistment in Sale on 29 February 1916, he was aged 24 and unmarried, occupation labourer and home address being given as Lindenow, Victoria. Patrick’s next of kin was listed as Martin Curley, Burwood Road, Hawthorn, Victoria.
Patrick embarked from Melbourne on board the HMAT A70 Ballarat on 19 February 1917, disembarking on 25 April 1917 at Devonport. Ranked as a Private, he was attached to the 23rd Battalion. He almost immediately went AWOL and was docked 5 days pay. A further fine was imposed when he was found outside of camp limits in August. On September 21 he marched in to France but a week later returned to England with “pre-battle bursitis”. He returned to the 23rd Battalion in France on 3 January 1918 and saw action in the battles of Hamel and Amiens. Amiens marked the opening phase of the Allied Offensive later known as the Hundred Days Offensive that ultimately led to the end of the war. On 17 August 1918 he was wounded in action by a gunshot wound to the right shoulder. He returned to Australia aboard the City Of York in February 1919 and was discharged from the army in March 1919.
He was awarded the 1914/15 Star, British War Medal and the Victory medal.
Following discharge Patrick and his brother, John, lived at Upper Plenty and engaged in timber cutting and milling in the Plenty Ranges. In 1922 they started a small sawmill operation at the foot of the Sugar Loaf Hill, south of Conical Hill. Patrick married Florence Jane Burns, his deceased stepmother’s adopted daughter, in 1922-3 and had two children, possibly while living at the old family home in Clarkes Road. In 1927 they dismantled their machinery and moved the plant to Leslie on the Heathcote Bendigo railway line where they had purchased land.
Patrick died at Heidelberg in 1979, aged 77 years.

John Curley.

John Curley, Service Number 1168, was born in 1894 and was the third son of Martin and Harriet. On enlistment he was aged 21 years and described as a labourer residing at Lindenow.
He embarked overseas to France aboard the HMAT Persic on 3 June 1916 with the 37th Battalion, D Company, ranked Private, disembarking in Plymouth on 25 July. In September 1916 he marched into France with the 60th Battalion, having missed the Battle of Fromelles by two months. The 60th Battalion were now located in the Ypres Sector in Belgium. He was subsequently hospitalised with influenza in October of that year. After returning to active service on the Western Front he contracted trench fever and was returned to England for treatment in May 1917. He returned to France in November 1917 but in April 1918 sustained a gunshot wound to the neck and right shoulder and was invalided out to England. He returned to Australia on the Saxon, disembarking in January 1919.
He was awarded the 1914/15 Star, the Victory Medal and the British War Medal.
After his discharge he worked in the Mt. Disappointment forest as a sawmiller, later removing to Leslie with his brother, Patrick. John never married. He lived with Florence and Patrick for many years until moving out on his own. John died in Heidelberg in 1973 aged 79.

Frederick James Curley.

Fred Curley was born in Bairnsdale, Victoria, in 1896. Fred (Service No. 1166) enlisted with his brother John. They embarked together on Persic attached to the 37th Battalion. After disembarking at Plymouth on 25/09/16 he proceeded to France with his brother, John, both ranked as Privates in the 60th Battalion. By late November Fred had been admitted to hospital for trench feet and was returned to England for treatment.
He returned to Australia from England in October 1917, after having been invalided out due to severe intractable trench foot which left him a virtual cripple. He was awarded a War pension of 40 shillings per fortnight effective from 29 December 1917. He was apparently also suffering from severe Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, or “Shell Shock”, which rendered him prone to delusional ideas and hallucinations. During an exacerbation of his psychosis in February 1922 he shot and killed his stepmother with whom he was reported to have a close relationship. Just a week prior, Fred had declined to attend the unveiling of a German machine gun, allotted by the War Trophies Commission, at the Upper Plenty hall. His father said, at the Coroner’s inquest, he had been “peculiar” since his return from the war. The Kilmore Free Press (2 March, 1922) reported that, while on service, Fred had been subjected to German gas attack and had laid out in “no man’s land” for three or four days before being found by a stray party of stretcher bearers, returning to Australia a nervous and physical wreck. He was subsequently committed to the Sunbury Asylum for the Insane. Fred remained hospitalised for the remainder of his life and died in Beechworth Mental Hospital in 1972, aged 79 years. His parents were listed as unknown on the death certificate.
Fred became “lost” to the family and the tragedy never spoken of. Descendants of the family living in the US recently learned of Fred’s existence when researching family history. They are passionately committed to remembering and honouring Fred Curley who paid a terrible price for defending his country. Last year the family visited Beechworth Asylum where Fred spent 42 years. They located his unmarked grave in the Beechworth Cemetery (where another patient was buried on top of him) and have had approval from the War Graves Commission for a marker to be placed. The marker will be placed at a re-dedication ceremony conducted by the Beechworth RSL sometime in 2015. The family plan to attend this ceremony.
Fred was awarded the British War Medal, the Victory Medal and the 1914/15 Star.
All three brothers are listed on the Upper Plenty and Bairnsdale Honour Rolls.
Sources: National Archives of Australia, The Kilmore Free Press, Christy Anderson.
Compiled by the Upper Plenty Mechanics’ Institute.



Henry George Clark (George).

George Clark, Service No. 2608, was born at Williamstown in 1887 to George and Jessie (Douglas) Clark and was their only child. The family owned 100 acres on Clarkes Road, Upper Plenty, until 1916, and were living in Heidelberg by 1918.
George enlisted at Brunswick on 10 February 1916, at the age of 28. On enlistment he was occupied as a labourer and was known as “a speedy road and track cyclist”. He embarked from Melbourne aboard the Anchises after one month at the Broadmeadows Training Camp, attached to the 29th Battalion as a Private. On 15 April 1916 he disembarked at Suez but became ill with persistent dysentry and was eventually returned to England for treatment. In November he arrived at Etaples base camp in France, however, developed laryngitis which necessitated repatriation to the UK on 24 December. After a number of medical problems he returned to France, disembarking at Le Havre on 28 June 1917. On 11 October 1917 he received a schrapnel wound to the arm and ankle. He was treated at the Field Hospital and rejoined his unit on 19 October.
George was killed in action in Belgium on 21 October 1917 whilst fighting in the Third battle of Ypres (Battle of Passchendaele) and was buried in the Pill Box Cemetery at Zonnebeke. His body was later exhumed and buried in the Hooge Crater Cemetery, Passchendaele, West Vlaanderen, Flanders. His parents received a Memorial Scroll and Memorial Plaque following the Warr.
The following letter, written to George’s mother, appeared in the Euroa Advertiser 22 March 1918.

“It is with the deepest of regret that I take the liberty of writing a few lines to you, on behalf of myself and comrades, to let you know as near as possible the real facts concerning the death of your greatly admired son, George. It was on the evening of 21/10/17 while going into the front line trenches under very intense shell fire from the enemy, a high explosive shell landed and exploded some eight or ten yards away from the boys, wounding two men slightly and your unfortunate hero, who received a very small wound in a vital place, passed away into the world of peace while being attended to by our well-trained stretcher bearers……. Tom Hocking Pte.”
His name is on the Upper Plenty Honour Roll and Panel 115 in the Commemorative area at the Australian War Memorial. He is listed in the Euroa Avenue of Honour, an area where there were strong family connections, as Henry Clark. He was the recipient of the 1914/15 Star, the British War medal and the Victory Medal.
Compiled by the Upper Plenty Mechanics’ Institute.



Arthur John Reece (John).

Arthur John Reece (John), Service No. 3587, was born at Sunbury in 1873. John married Margaret Roy Johnston at Balranald, NSW in 1894. They had 4 children, born in Yea and Upper Plenty. During the family’s time in Upper Plenty, John was active in community affairs and tendered for a number of road works with the Merriang Shire Council. He was employed as a driver, living in West Brunswick and aged 44 years and 6 months at the time of his enlistment in September 1917. He and his family had been resident in Upper Plenty from the mid 1890s, though Victorian census records show him and Margaret as living in Broadford, occupation grocers, in 1909 and 1914. His children remained active in community events until they moved from the district.

In November 1917 he embarked for overseas service as a Private with the 3rd Pioneer Battalion. After a period of training in Egypt and the UK he marched into France in June 1918. During his time in France he would have seen action at Amiens in August and the Battle of St. Quentin Canal in September. The latter was a pivotal battle of WW1 that began on September 29 and involved Australian, British and American forces. Under the command of Australian general, Sir John Monash, the assault resulted in the first full breach of the Hindenburg Line. This battle, along with other attacks along the length of the line, convinced the German high command that there was little hope of ultimate German victory.
John returned early to Australia in March 1919 after being declared unfit due to chronic rheumatism. Margaret Roy Reece died in 1919. John appears to have married again to Elizabeth with whom he resided in Sunbury from around 1924. Victorian census records show John as having been employed as an attendant at the Sunbury Asylum for the Insane between 1924 and 1936 where some fellow compatriots were being detained and treated. Arthur died at Mont Park Hospital Victoria, in 1938.
He was awarded the 1914/15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. He is listed on the Upper Plenty Honour Board.



John Henry Wattz and Alfred Leslie Wattz.

John and Alfred were two of the eight children of Frederick Wattz and Fanny Susannah Clow. Frederick was of Danish origin and had lived in Tarcutta, NSW for some period of time. The family appears to have leased land from the government, possibly under one of the Settlement on Lands schemes, in Cleves Road North, Upper Plenty, in the early to mid 1890’s. By 1919 the family were living in Coburg.

John Henry Wattz.

John Henry Wattz (Service No. 2902) was born in1888 in Narranderra, NSW, and was the eldest son of Fanny Susannah Clow and Frederick Wattz. His father was Danish and this was noted on John’s attestation paper at enlistment, presumably to indicate no German connection.
On enlistment at Broadmeadows in November 1916 he was 31 years old, employed as a telephone lineman and his religion given as Church of England. His address was listed as being in Coburg. He had joined the CMF four weeks prior to enlistment. He embarked aboard the Medic A7 in December 1916 and disembarked in Plymouth in January on 18 February, 1917. On 25 August 1917 he marched into France to reinforce the 38th Battalion. he was promoted to Lance Corporal in October 1918. His war record is remarkable in that he appears to have survived the war uninjured.
John Henry Wattz was awarded the 1914/15 Star, the Victory Medal and the British War Medal. He is listed on the Upper Plenty and Moreland State School’s Roll of Honour.
He never married.
He died in Kilmore Hospital from internal injuries complicated by pneumonia one week after a motor vehicle collision on the Hume Highway in 1931. He was aged 43 and employed as a telephone line man at the time.

Alfred Leslie Wattz.

Alfred Wattz, Service No. 5778, was born in Wallan in 1896. He enlisted in Brunswick on 6 March 1916 at the age of 19 years and nine months. He was single at the time, occupation carpenter. His mother was listed as his next of kin, address Golden Square in Bendigo. Alfred embarked from Melbourne aboard HMAT A14 Euripides on 4 April 1916. He spent 10 weeks at the Tel-el-Kebir training camp in Egypt and from there was transported to Marseille where he fought with the 1st Pioneer Battalion.
He was promoted from Lance Corporal to Corporal in October 1917, to Lance Sergeant in October 1918 and to Sergeant soon after. Alfred appears to have survived the war relatively unscathed.
He returned to Australia on 12 June 1919 aboard the Darwin ranked as Sergeant, his unit on the nominal roll listed as 1st Pioneer Battalion. Little is known of his life post-war. The only item of interest found after his return was a notice in the Argus dated 3 March 1923 in the Divorce and Surveillance notices, ” A. L. Wattz, builder, formerly of Coburg will hear something of advantage…” He died in Flinders in 1956.
He was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal and is listed on the Upper Plenty Honour Board.



Joseph Henry Humphries.

Joseph Henry Humphries , Service No. 4654, was born in Lancashire, England.
He enlisted at Melbourne in July 1915 aged 21 years and nine months. Joseph’s occupation was given as stevedore and next of kin his wife, Dagmar Sigrid Margaret Christoffersen, whose family had resided in Upper Plenty from the mid 1890’s until around 1910. Previous military service was noted as aboard a training ship in the British Navy. He embarked from Melbourne for overseas service aboard the Themistocles, arriving in Suez in February 1916.

In June 1916 he marched into France, ranked Private, with the 60th Battalion.
He was reported missing in action and later confirmed as killed in action on 19 July 1916, the first day of the 20 hour Battle of Fromelles, in which the 60th Battalion was almost destroyed. This battle was a disaster for the Allies and has been described as the worst 24 hours in Australia’s history. It was some time before his wife could be notified of his death.

A letter dated 12 September 1916 sent to base Records St Kilda from Janet Christoffersen, Dagmar’s mother, begged for information and described Dagmar as “very delicate … the suspense is killing her”.
Joseph may be buried in the V C Corner Australian Cemetery, one of 410 unidentified soldiers whose bodies were retrieved from the battlefield following the Armistice.

The Memorial on site lists almost 1300 Australian soldiers who were lost in the battle of Fromelles and who have no known resting place. Joseph’s name is found on Panel 20. The Cemetery is located in the middle of no-mans-land between the Australian and German trenches of 19 July 1916.
Dagmar received a Widow’s Pension of two pounds a fortnight from November 1916. The couple had no children and Dagmar later remarried to Owen Jack. Joseph was awarded the 1914/15 Star, the Victory Medal and the British War Medal. A Memorial Plaque (referred to be many as the “dead man’s penny”) and Scroll were given to Dagmar. Joseph is listed on the Upper Plenty Honour Board.

Compiled by the Upper Plenty Mechanics’ Institute.



Charles Edward Kelly (Edward Charles).

Charles Edward Kelly, Service No. 1287, was born in 1873 at Galway, Ireland. He emigrated to Australia in 1891 aged 18 years.
He married Isabella Marr Gilmour in Victoria in 1898. Their only child, Alicia May, was born at West Melbourne in 1899.
Charles enlisted at Melbourne in July 1915. He was aged 42 years and gave a residential address at Footscray, although Victorian census records show him and Isabella as living at Wallan East in 1914 and 1919. His occupation was described as a Congregational / Independent Minister. He undertook training at Seymour, however, was admitted to Melbourne Hospital with appendicitis in August 1915. Following surgery he was described as “nauseous”, and later as “nervous.” He was discharged as permanently medically unfit, “not due to misconduct” in November 1915.

Somewhat confusingly, he was discharged again on 10 February 1916 and declared to be a deserter under the Army Act 72. His AIF record states that he “illegally absented himself without leave at Broadmeadows on 10 November 1915 and by 10 February 1916 was still absent”. This appears to be a result of miscommunication between the various AIF departments as Charles had already been discharged as medically unfit in November 1915.
In 1920 the Kilmore Free Press reported that Charles intended to contest the Korong electorate in North Western Victoria as a Nationalist at the forthcoming State Elections. Mr. Weaver, the sitting member, won the election and remained in office until 1927.
Charles’s and Isabella’s only child, Alicia May, died of bronchial pneumonia in Melbourne in 1923, aged 22. The Kilmore Free Press reported the event, saying she “gave promise of a brilliant career”, though no details are known of her career.
Charles and Isabella are recorded as living in Ferntree Gully in 1936, 1942, 1949 and 1954. Charles was employed variously as a labourer and storeman. They died within months of one another in 1957. Charles is listed on the Upper Plenty Honour Board.



Albert Henry George Pratt.

Albert (Service No. 47 )was the son of Henry and Sarah Pratt (nee Henderson) and was born in Avenel in 1890. His parents subsequent divorce was reported the Argus in 1895 and Henry was awarded custody of their three children.
Albert enlisted at Melbourne on 29/12/14, this being his second attempt. He was farming a property in Upper Plenty at the time and was well-known as captain of the Wallan Football Club. His next of kin was listed as Henry Pratt of the Flour Mills, Wycheproof.
He was one of the earliest men from the district to enlist. He was ranked Corporal and attached to the 13th Light Horse Regiment which was established at Broadmeadows Training Camp in May 1915. The regiment embarked from Melbourne on 28 May 1915 aboard the Persic, disembarking in Egypt on 29 June 1915. By November Albert was in active service at Gallipoli where the unit was deployed without their horses, horses being considered unsuitable for initial operations in the terrain. For most of its time at Gallipoli the regiment manned the trenches at Lone Pine. They returned to Egypt on 20 December 1915 where the Regiment was expanded and reconstructed. Meanwhile, Albert had contracted dysentery, which proved an ongoing medical problem, and was transferred to a hospital ship and returned to Heliopolis. In March 1916 he was attached the Zeitoun Training Camp in Egypt with the 2nd Divisional Ammunition Column (DAC), having been promoted to the rank of Corporal. The Division then proceeded to France. He was promoted to Acting Sergeant in November and was on active service until September 1917 when he was granted leave to England. On return to France he was promoted to Temporary Sergeant. He was detached for a course of instruction in June 1918 at the Lewis Machine Gun School with the Australian Corps in June. Albert was again struck down by dysentery in August 1918. He returned to Australia ranked Sergeant, suffering post dysenteric debility, in November 1918.
He was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. A public “Welcome Home” was held in the Upper Plenty hall on 17 January 1919 for Albert and a number of other local returned servicemen. In 1920 he was elected a vice-president of the reformed Wallan Football Club.
Following discharge he appears to have resumed farming the Upper Plenty property which was subsequently severely impacted by the February 1919 bushfires. He married Elsie May Johnson in 1921 with whom he had three daughters and soon after left the Upper Plenty area. In 1934 he became President of the Port Arlington RSL. He died in 1951 in Port Arlington where he had been occupied as an hotel keeper.
Compiled by the Upper Plenty Mechanics’ Institute.



Ralph Begbie Hadfield.

Ralph Begbie Hadfield, Service No. 529, was born in 1889 at Wallan (Upper Plenty), one of 10 children born to William Hadfield and Alice May Begbie. He also had 10 half siblings from his father’s first marriage to Ellen Haworth who died in 1877. He and his siblings attended Upper Plenty Primary School. One of his brothers was Rupert Hadfield who was a long-serving councillor for Broadmeadows Shire Council and for whom Wallan’s Hadfield Park is named.

He enlisted for service in September 1914 at Helena Vale, Western Australia, and at the time was employed as a miner at Kalgoorlie. He was aged 25 years and 7 months. His next of kin was listed as Alice May Hadfield of Wallan. His father had died in 1907. He was assigned to the 16th Battalion, A Company, when he embarked for active duty overseas in December 1914. It is not clear where he disembarked however he was transferred for service at Gallipoli on 12 April 1915. He sustained a gunshot wound to his lower extremities in May 1915 and was transported to England for treatment. Ralph recovered well and spent the remainder of his service in England. He married Magdalene Figgeste in the Parish Church at Tooting in December 1916. Ralph was promoted to Corporal with the Australian Provost Corps in January 1917 and to ER/Sergeant in July 1918.

He returned to Australia aboard the “Family Ship”, Bremen, disembarking in July 1920. He was declared fit on discharge which occurred in August 1920.

Ralph was awarded the British War Medal, the 1914/15 Star and the Victory Medal. He is listed on the Upper Plenty Honour Board and the Wallan Soldiers Memorial.

Following discharge he and Magdalene lived at Wandong where Ralph was employed as a Timber Yardman. Magdalene died in 1927. In the mid 1930’s Ralph moved to Marysville and became employed as a mill hand. He subsequently married Grace Sweetman with whom he had three children. Ralph died in 1954 at Alexandra Hospital.


Benjamin  Patrick Rodda & Arnold Edward Rodda.

Benjamin and Arnold Rodda Picture in Army Uniform

“(L) Benjamin; (R) Arnold”












BENJAMIN PATRICK RODDA – (Died of Wounds 26/7/1916)

Service Number: 1604

Son of Benjamin Rodda and Mary Teresa Rodda, he was born in Daylesford in the parish of Yandoit, Victoria in 1884. When his father moved to Wallan East to work at the railway station, Benjamin attended Upper Plenty and Wallan Primary Schools. After his father died, he remained in the district and was employed as a fireman. Benjamin and his wife Rosina later moved to Kensington.

At his enlistment in August 1915, Ben joined the 31st Battalion and embarked from Australia on HMAT Wandilla, arriving in Egypt on Dec 7, 1915. He then moved with the AIF to France in June 1916 and went into action at the disastrous Battle of Fromelles on 19/7/1916. The 31st Bn was able to capture part of the German trench in the battle but was forced to withdraw in the face of a strong German counterattack. He received a gunshot wound to the left thigh and was evacuated. Sadly, he died of his wounds five days later on 26/7/1916. His son (also Benjamin) was born four days after his father’s death.

The ‘Kilmore Free Press’ of 10 Aug 1916 reported his death as follows: The deceased young man was well known all over the district and esteemed by everyone. For a number of years he was fireman on the Wallan-Bendigo train and during his residence at Wallan identified himself with any movement for the advancement of the district.”

Benjamin Patrick Rodda is buried in the Longuenesse (St Omer) Souvenir Cemetery, France. He is named on the Wallan Primary School’s Roll of Honour and at Upper Plenty.


ARNOLD EDWARD RODDA – (Died of Disease 3/9/1915)

Service Number: Depot

Arnold was born in Darlimurla (near Leongatha) in 1896 to Benjamin and Mary Teresa Rodda. As with his brother Benjamin, when the family moved to Wallan East, he attended Wallan Primary School.

Having been in the cadets at Castlemaine, Arnold enlisted in the AIF in July 1915 (Aged 18). He listed his occupation as a grocer and his mother as next of kin. Being of young age, his mother had to provide written authority to allow him to go overseas to the front. He was 5’7” tall, with grey eyes and brown hair. He was based at the Seymour camp in a depot battalion. Tragically, shortly after this photo with his brother was taken at Seymour in mid-August 1915, Arnold contracted cerebrospinal meningitis and was admitted to the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne where he subsequently died on 3 September 1915.

He is buried in the Coburg Cemetery. His name is listed on the Wallan Primary School Roll of Honour.

Information provided by Daniel Cahir, a Wallan, Victoria historian

Lest we forget.



Upper Plenty Honour Board is located inside the “Upper Plenty Hall”, ‘The Shack’ originally know as “The Mechanics Institute Upper Plenty”.

Address: Wallan-Whittlesea Road, Upper Plenty, Victoria 3756, Australia.

The Upper Plenty World War 1 Honour Board was unveiled on 8 February 1922 at a public gathering in the Upper Plenty Hall (Mechanics’ Institute). It names 24 men who either resided or were associated with the Upper Plenty district who had enlisted for service.

Of the 24 men who enlisted, four were killed in action, one took his own life after his return to Australia, and one became psychotic as a result of severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or “Shell Shock”, and murdered his stepmother. Those are the casualties we know of. There were doubtless many more hidden casualties that were only known to family and friends”.

The profiles listed here were compiled by Rose King for the Upper Plenty Mechanics’ Institute as part of a larger project to commemorate the men and women (nurses) of Mitchell Shire who served in WW1. The North Central Review Newspaper began publishing the profiles in August 2014, the anniversary of the outbreak of the war, and will continue doing so until 2018.

Google Street View of the “Upper Plenty Hall”


The Wallan Soldiers memorial, is located on the “Northern Highway, Wallan, Victoria 3756”
The inscription on the front face of the stone reads.
“For God, King and Country. Erected by the residents in honour of the men of the Wallan riding who served in the Great War 1914- 1919. Lest we forget.” see http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/56637469 Newspaper Archive. 

Google Street View of “Wallan Soldiers Memorial”.




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