Categories: Assisted English Immigrants from Dorset | SS Orsova 1910 | Welcome Wall, Sydney, Panel 70 | 1914-1915 Star | Gallipoli 1915 | British War Medal | Victory Medal | Military Medal | Mentioned in Despatches | Rookwood Catholic Cemetery, Rookwood, New South Wales | Alexandria, Egypt | AIF - 2nd Regiment, 2nd Battalion | Branksome, Dorset | Parkstone, Dorset | Wounded in Action, Australia, World War I | Australia, Roberts Name Study | ANZAC | Anzacs, World War One.
Edward Arthur ROBERTS, better known as E.A. Roberts, or just 'Ted' was a migrant to Australia from England. Only a few years after his arrival in Australia he enlisted with the AIF and saw active service in World War I including Gallipolli, the Battle of Lone Pine and France, being wounded on two occasions. He was one of the first to receive the Military Medal at Gallipoli and was mentioned in dispatches twice.
After the war he gained prominence as a tireless worker for veteran's rights in his role as Pensions Officer for the Legal Service Bureau and as acting President of the Returned Services League. He was married with seven children and was given a State Funeral upon his death in 1966.
Edward was born in Parkstone, Dorset on 27 March 1893, to parents Edward and Maud (Abigail nee Courtney) ROBERTS. The birth was registered on 5th May 1893, by Abigail ROBERTS as informant. Edward was baptised at St Peters Anglican Church at Parkstone, Dorset, England on 23 April 1893.
By 1901, age 8, he is found living with his parents and younger brother at Cranbrook Road, Branksome, Dorset, England.
In his memoirs Ted Roberts said when my 'seven little Australians' asked me where I was born, in an evasive reply I said under the greenwood tree. This reply was actuated by many reasons one being that I often had in my mind readings of the work of my COUNTY man Thomas Hardy of Dorset and in particular his best book, because it was easily understood by me - Under the Greenwood Tree.
Ted says he attended a church school and spent a few with William Barnes, that superman, the great poet, grammarian, mathematician, linquist and teacher; a man in advance of his time. Ted says he did receive education and goes on to say William Barnes, the Dorset poet was largely responsible for the retention of my mind of the pleasures of the days of innocence where pragmatism gave way to pessimism and its accompanying doubt (As Barnes died in 1886; we can only assume he was referring to the text used in the school). It was well known that Ted never received much formal education and didn't finish school, which was a tragedy given his obvious intelligence. His lack of formal education clearly forming his view in later life that all his children should be educated, including the girls who went on to undertake the Leaving Certificate, which was considered quite unusual at that time. Of England he says I have never desired that the gate be shut upon those memories of the land that gave me birth and endowed me with some virtues or at least an ability to appreciate the difference between heroism and cowardice - virtue and vice.
It is believed that he inherited his love of reading from his mother Abigail.
Ted in his memoirs describes his little sister Elsie as 'she of the dark tresses'. Ted remembers as a little chap being with his father when he carried the coffin of his little sister to the churchyard and comments 'we were poor indeed in those days'. A cutting from her hair was enclosed in a locket and worn by her mother Abigail until her death. He says the church could possibly have been either St Martin or St Mary the Virgin, the latter having a stone coffin which holds the body of a king, slain by order of his stepmother, now called Edward the Martyr. The church would be within about 11 miles from their home, near Wareham and Corfe Castle. Corfe Castle is now a picturesque ruin.
Emigration to Australia
Edward emigrated to Australia with his mother and father and younger brother James. They sailed from London on 14th September 1910 on the SS ORSOVA and were on route for Brisbane. They arrived in Brisbane on 31st October 1910, having stopped in Sydney on the way. On the voyage to Australia he says in his memoirs " it was not possible, of course, but I asked my father on the Australian bound ship if the captain could put in for a day or so at St Helena so that we could see the tomb of ???? (Various things are crossed out, my maternal grandmothers, my great aunt, an aunt of my father). It is still not clear to whom he was referring.
Ted and his father first viewed the City of Sydney in an early year of this century (1900's) standing near the Central Station, we viewed the teaming city and my father, perhaps thinking of Dorchester, the county market town said 'my boy, it must be market day' by the size of the crowds.
Ted says that I shall remember until I pass to Fields Elysian, here's hoping that I do, those carefree days in Queensland, when we were young and free, young enough to appreciate fully the time spent in the open spaces in the bush away from the usual way of life, which in youth can be monotonous. He goes on to say delinquency amongst the youth of the present generation is largely due to monotomy of life and unfulfillment of the desire to do things assumed of an adventurous nature. He spent his days in the company of Len, Harold (of Irish and German descent) and Bill (from a large family with parents from Yorkshire, who had one sister who was a champion swimmer was born in England and called the 'new chum'). All three of these boys were Australians and Ted says they spent his spare days in the bush and in their sailing boat. They all became members of a junior Australian Rules team although they had the advantage of receiving tuition from a former famour rules player, Ted was the one who made least progress. He recalls a grim story of a young Dorset woman who died in the West of Queensland, leaving behind a husband and three children, whilst the place is not mentioned there no church yard and no stone to mark her burial, her body put into the ground , over which the cat strayed. (Gympie has been mentioned but where in QLD would they be???)
He remembers the house where he was born, but also remembers another 'house' in a former gold mining town in Queensland where they spent their first Christmas day in Australia (possibly Charters Towers). It was a shed built of galvanised iron. This day was seasonable for Australia with the temperature soaring above the 100 degree mark. His father said we must grin and bear it with the help of suitable refreshment, he found the refreshment, we had not yet reached that stage. Here Ted says he learned the true meaning of the words of the colonial fever. He was not inclined to work. The town blacksmiths said his son did not help much with blacksmithing because he was a sufferer from colonial fever. Ted must have taken a fancy to this phrase as he was later known to tell his own children (only the boys) that they suffered from that disease!
He first became impressed with the politeness of the bushmen towards women - the raising of hats at the approach of members of the gentler sex. He enquired the reason for this because in his childhood such homage was certainly not universal in England. His father said many of the 'so called' wild colonials had in their veins good blood and the idea of their forebears being just convicts was insupportable.
World War 1
Whilst newly arrived from England, when World War 1 broke out Ted enlisted at Liverpool, NSW, in the Australian Imperial Forces on 25th November 1914 stating his age to be 21 years and 7 months. He initially served in the 2nd regiment, 2nd Battallion, Infantry, AIF Regimental number 1413. His height stated as 5' 9", weight 10 stone 5 pounds, chest measurement 33.5-36 inches. His complexion was noted as dark, eyes blue, hair black, and religious denomination Church of England. He was noted as having a scar on his right cheek.
Edward sailed from Devonport England, on 'Oriana" on 15 JAN 1915 to Alexandria, Egypt. He was subsequently transferred to Gallipoli on 3rd April 1915 , and was one of the first members of the AIF in WWI to be awarded the military medal. Notes in the National Archives papers indicate the award was for events on 26/4/15 at the Anzac Landing. On the 6th July 1915 he was officially transferred to the stretcher bearer unit at Gallipoli.
There was some delay in gaining recognition regarding the Military Medal with lengthy correspondence in the file, pursued by several letters from his mother Abigail. He wrote again himself about the Military Medal on 24 Jul 1954, the reply saying there was no record of deeds, again in 1957, with the same reply.
Research undertaken by son-in-law Lionel Gilbert in 1995 found that documents held by the National Archives indicate Private Edward (Albert) Roberts was recommended for the military medal on 3rd August 1915 along with Stanley Frazien Carpenter relating to events on 26 April 1915 at the Anzac Landing. The dispatch which was unsigned reads:-
The records show a second copy of the dispatch (type written) as signed by Sir Henry George Chauvel (1865-1845) who landed at Gallopilli on 12 May 1915. This copy is signed in pencil and dated 8th Dec 1915. Brigadier General H.G. Chauvel took command of the 1st Division on 6th November 1915 and led it through the evacuation in December.
There was an error in the original dispatch which referenced service number 1615, when it should have read 1413. This may have been the reason for the previous delay. The records at the Australian War Memorial now reflect his honours and awards accurately - http://www.awm.gov.au/people/rolls/R1520804/
Edward was wounded on 8th August 1915 and subsequently transferred to a hospital in Alexandria, Egypt on 13th August. He was later transferred to Stamford Street, King George Hospital in England on 13 Sep 1915. He rejoined his unit in Gallipoli on 16 Jan 1916. He received special mention for acts of conspicuous gallantry in orders dated 16 Feb 1916, for services during period 25th April to 22nd September 1915.
On 28 March 1916 he sailed from Alexandria on 'Invernia' to Marseilles, France. He was appointed Lance Corporal on 17 July 1916. He was again wounded in action (second occasion, scrapnel) on 23 July 1916 and subsequently admitted to hospital on 24 JUL 1916 at Rouen, Seine-Maritime, Haute-Normandie, France. It was during his time on the battlefields in France that he wrote his poem I ask you death which was later published in the Reville magazine in 1936.
I ask you Death
When thou shalt visit me
Come, swiftly, silently,
To speed my soul to sweet tranquillity
Come not ye then with movement
Torturing and slow
But touch me once with soothing hands
And bid me go to take my place at last
The die is cast
I'll face my God without timidity.
Thus be it unto one who faileth yet to see
That the Creator for the creature
Doth not accept responsibility.
As an invalid, he was then transferred Greylingwell War Hospital, Chichester, England on 29 JUL 1916. It is believed he visited his grandmother, Mrs Courtney at Bournemouth around this time.
He returned to Australia, on "Karoola' on 02 DEC 1916 and was later discharged as medically unfit on 15 MAR 1917.
On 20 August 1920 he received 2 oak leaves indicating that he had been mentioned in dispatches by a Commander in the Field. London gazette - certificate No 29354/5380. He also received the following campaign medals; 1914/15 STAR no. 5938, Briitish War medal no. 10246 and the Victory medal no. 10057.
During WW2 he was interviewed on the radio program 'Masquerido' talking about stretchers bearers in WW1, interestingly enough he refers to Simpson and his donkey as 'one of the best'. It was however well known that he would often comment privately that the other stretcher bearers were able to assist many more in the equivalent timeframe.
On discharge he received a three pound per week pension from 17 Mar 1917, initially residing with his parents at "Corinda', West Kogarah, New South Wales.
He received 60 shillings per fortnight thereafter, a reduction to 30 shillings from 25 Oct 1917 when he married Flora MacDonald in Gulgong, NSW on 13th August 1917. An additional 30 shillings per fortnight was granted to Flora after they were married. The couple living at 'Argyle' Tunks Street, Bay Rd, North Sydney, New South Wales. Sadly, Flora died of peritonitus following a difficult labour of 3 days.
By 1918, Ted is living at 'Roxborough', Tessa Street, Chatswood, New South Wales.
It is not clear when he first met his future wife Mona Murphy, however it is understood that he may have become acquainted with her through work as she was a stenographer. Family stories suggest a social event was being planned by Mona's mother Rebecca who was concerned there were not enough men attending to be dancing partners. Mona suggested 'Mr Roberts' be invited considering him a possibly suitable match for her sister May. Ted clearly had other ideas.
Ted married Mona Veronica Murphy at St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney on 22 February 1922 converting his religion to Roman Catholic. At that time he was living with his parents at Blacktown, New South Wales. The couple went on to have 7 children who he referred to as his 'Seven Little Australians', being an Englishman himself, but proudly Australian. He was always known to be very anxious at the time of birth all his children, no doubt due to the death in childbirth of his first wife, Flora; a fact that was not known by many until after his death in 1966.
The couple resided initially at 421 Penshurst Street, Chatswood, North Sydney, New South Wales (1930), then later took a house at 56 St David's Road, Haberfield, NSW, before moving to a semi detached house at 42 Rawson Street Haberfield.
They applied for a war service homes loan in September 1949 finally purchasing their own family home at 38 Rawson Street, Haberfield after renting for many years.
When Ted enlisted in the AIF in 1914 he described his occupation as a sugar worker. It is understood that during his first years in Queensland he worked as a cane cutter.
Most records reflect his occupation as being a clerk. One record indicating he worked for the Repatriation Department in Chalmers Street, Sydney in 1920.
After the war he joined the Public Service and was appointed as a pensions advocate at the Legal Service bureau. He was later appointed as a Legal Officer, without legal qualifications which was highly unusual at the time, particularly given his lack of any school education. He is noted as having corrected Doc Evatt on a question of law and is mentioned in Dr Evatt's book. (get reference).
He was active in the RSL and was Acting President of the NSW RSL from ??? - ??? At the time there was support for him to stand as an MP for the ALP but his wife Mona warned against it, saying no Ted, politics is a dirty game.
In 1954 Edward and his wife Mona were invited to have the honour of meeting Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, at a garden party given by The Governor and Miss Northcott held on Thursday 18th February 1954, at Government House at 3pm. Again, in 1958 they were invited to have the honour of meeting Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, at a garden party given by The Governor and Lady Woodward held on Tuesday 25th February 1958, also held at Government House at 3pm.
Death and Burial
Ted died on 1st July 1966 at Concord Repatriation Hospital of myocardial infarction and ischameiac heart disease, also having suffered from diabetes meticulitus for many years. He was given a State funeral. He used to tell everyone he was born in St Peters, so that people assumed St Peters New South Wales, not St Peters, England. He fooled everyone until the end, the service conducted with an Australian flag on his coffin, not the English one it should have been.
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On 7 Oct 2018 at 14:44 GMT John Andrewartha wrote:
hi Veronica - you may wish to visit the vwma site above - I have put him into virtual with his MiD - the SERN is 1415 - a typo, in the (PDF) card dated April 1915 - - my feeling is the '5' should have been a '3' - - cheers
On 7 Jun 2017 at 16:21 GMT Keith McDonald wrote:
unless you mean the small d vs capital D....
but all the others have captial D, so.... taking the easiest way to make them all the same
wikipedia has A member of the armed forces mentioned in dispatches (or despatches, MiD)
since this is about the military decoration, we went with the spelling as with the MiD, the Commonwealth's lowest decoration
On 7 Jun 2017 at 15:43 GMT Keith McDonald wrote:
can you please change Category: Mentioned in despatches to Category: mentioned in Despatches
Category: World War I, WIA, Australia to Category: Wounded in Action, Australia, World War I
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