Wednesday, 3 August 2022

Sid Black

 


Sidney Black was born on 9 November 1911, into a coal mining family in Chopwell, then in the County of Durham in UK. Chopwell was later nicknamed "Little Moscow" because of the strong support there for the Communist Party. The village had streets named after both Marx and Lenin. Following World War 1, economic conditions in England were difficult, and with the 1926 General Strike, life became even tougher for the family. Sid was educated at the Westwood Higher School in Durham County. He left school in 1927, aged 15½ years, and tried his hand as a salesman. By the end of 1927 he was looking for other opportunities. He applied to join the Dreadnought Scheme and, in 1928, left England on SS Ballarat, arriving in Sydney on 13 June, with 39 other Dreadnought Boys.

Following his farm training at Scheyville, Sid Black was placed with a German family who ran sheep and cattle, on their farm at Carlingford. Sid stayed there for two years before heading across to the Goldfields area of Western Australia. There he spent the following years as a station hand, also in gold mining, and sometimes living rough; then it was time to move to Perth, where an older brother Frank had settled.

When World War 2 broke out, Sid was trying to make his living as a draughtsman and commercial artist. He enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force on 18th of March 1940, and spent the next three years as corporal in the service police, with postings to Air Force bases all around Australia. During that time, he applied to be moved to aircrew, but that came to a halt when he was found to be colour blind. Eventually he moved to other work, as an Equipment Assistant. Leading Aircraftman Sidney Black received his discharge on 7 November 1945.

  
LAC Sid Black


After the war, Sid's preferred options were to do a general art course and get back into commercial art, or to reenlist in the Air Force. He was actually accepted for service in the Interim Air Force, but decided to find other employment, this time in the Commonwealth Public Service. Sid worked in various government departments in Canberra, such as Air, Immigration, Treasury, Supply and Army. After moving back to Sydney, he was employed in the National Roads and Motorists Association before re-joining the Public Service. His last work before retirement in 1980, was with a firm of stockbrokers. Sid Black passed away in 1989, aged 77 years.

Sid Black is best remembered for his black and white artwork. While he was in Western Australia before the war, Sid started his "other job" as a freelance cartoonist, with his artwork appearing in The Sunday Times into 1946. Following on from this, The Bulletin (one of Australia’s longest running magazines, produced weekly in Sydney) published his work through to the mid-1960s. In around 1959, Sid was responsible for the design of most of the covers for The Bulletin.

In 1999, 10 years after Sid's death, there were two exhibitions in Sydney which included his work. These were the “Artists and Cartoonists in Black and White” exhibition at the S H Ervin Gallery, and the complementary “Australians in black and white: (the most public art)” exhibition at the State Library of New South Wales. Examples of his work are held in the Mitchell Library in Sydney.

Perhaps a look back, to his own time before becoming a Dreadnought Boy, inspired Sid's cartoon "Wistful thinking". Drawn originally in black and white, this sepia version comes from the cover of one of our Dreadnought publications.

‘DRAWN BY DREADNOUGHT BOY (OLD) SID BLACK’


Wednesday, 4 May 2022

Sandy Richmond

 



Victor Gordon (Sandy) Richmond was born in London on 16 August 1923, his early childhood being spent in Cornwall and Devon UK. Despite the rumblings of war, he completed schooling in London, aged thirteen. At school he met Bob Hankins. Bob’s difficult home life meant that he almost became part of Sandy’s family.

Sandy’s first job was with a photo developer. The next, in a cabinetmaker’s factory at Hendon, allowed him to have a paper stand on the corner at Cricklewood Broadway. One day, while reading a paper Sandy saw an advertisement about migration to Australia or Canada. He immediately contacted Bob Hankins to start the process for them to migrate to Australia.

They were sent to a farm in Kent for six months’ farm training. The Salvation Army were apparently doing the training as agent for the reactivated Dreadnought Scheme. While the training was comprehensive, Sandy found that the way things were done in England had little in common with his later experiences in Australia.

16-year-old Sandy Richmond

  In April 1939, as war loomed, the two boys boarded the SS Oronsay, at Tilbury Docks. The six-week boat trip more than lived up to their expectations. They called into Gibraltar, Naples, Suez, Aden, Colombo, among other places. In Naples the atmosphere of war caught up with them. An Italian Navy ship came alongside and the crew spat at passengers on board, gesticulating in a way which left no doubt as to their hatred for the English. A similar reception was received in the streets of Naples, forcing the boys to return to the ship.

Leaving the ship in Sydney at the end of May, was hard. Losing all that the ship and the trip had come to mean to them, came as a shock. It was on to Central Station for sandwiches and cups of tea, and there they learned of their placements for the first time. Searching the indicator boards for the name of the destination station and sorting out the times of departure was cause for confusion, with little time for proper farewells.

Sandy was to go to the same property as Bob. The farmer had agreed to take both, with a reduced wage for each boy (seven shillings and sixpence per week with keep).

Their train reached Casino late the next day. It was close on nightfall, but a bus driver with instructions to look out for the two boys, waited and took them to Bonalbo. They arrived there just after dark. They were met by an irate farmer who had not milked his cows, having been delayed by the boys’ late arrival. In silence, they headed off into the darkness, by car.The journey to Maunsell’s farm at Lower Duck Creek was memorable. No lights, no towns, animals that scattered in the darkness and appeared to bounce off the track. The surrounding hills seemed to close in on them. The eerie silence suddenly broken by a mournful howl!

On arriving at the homestead, Sandy and Bob were directed to their accommodation, a shed at the back of the house. Tired and hungry, they soon fell asleep.

After this introduction to Australian rural life, the following eighteen months were instructive and fruitful. The family proved to be both kind and considerate; although the strictly religious pattern of daily life and their dignified Victorian approach, did not excite the two teenage boys.

In 1940, war was raging and both boys wanted to enlist. They went to Sydney by ‘jumping the rattler’ on goods trains and walking in between times. But the two seventeen-year-olds were rejected by the army, their assertion that they were twenty-one years of age didn’t work.

Now all their efforts were directed to survival. They could only spend two nights at the Salvation Army Palace in Elizabeth Street, and then they had to sleep rough. They slept under bridges, stole fruit from street barrows, and scrounged other food. It became clear that they needed to get back to the country and if possible, to Bonalbo, where life was far more appealing. They started off North, travelling as before.

Back at Bonalbo, only Sandy was offered a job. Bob found work elsewhere. Later in Brisbane, Bob was able to enlist, whereas Sandy was still considered under age. Bob had changed his surname to Darling, and joined the 2/15th Battalion B Coy 12th Platoon as machine gunner on 20 May 1940. Sandy would never see him again. Bob was killed in action at El Alamein eleven months later.

Sandy in Bonalbo, tried to settle, but in 1942 went to Sydney again. National Service was introduced, and it should not be long before he was called up, at eighteen years of age. He waited in vain for some months, while working at the Australian Glass Works. After several attempts, he discovered that there was no record of him being in Australia and this was why there had been no call-up. Apparently, his original records had been lost on arrival in Sydney, the Dreadnought Trust and Salvation Army each assuming the other was handling things.

Finally in the army, he went to Infantry training at Dubbo. Volunteering as a driver mechanic, meant training at Moorebank and work at Bathurst. From there he went to New Guinea, eventually being transferred to a unit heading to Bougainville. He also spent time at Madang. On return to Australia, he re-enlisted in the Permanent Army. Meanwhile, Sandy and Daphne (Heeley) were married in 1943.

After the Second World War he became a professional soldier, a share farmer and farm owner (at Dobies Bight near Casino), and a carpenter. Then Sandy joined the Department of Agriculture’s Cattle Tick Programme as a patrolman, progressing to inspector in charge, finally a senior inspector technical and training officer. He was also a meat inspector for the Commonwealth Government and an inspector in charge of the Queensland—NSW Border. One of his achievements was to traverse the Queensland—New South Wales Border, from Mungindi to Cameron Corner (on the South Australian Border), a straight fenced length of almost 800 km. His survey established a full picture of conditions—the first for over 50 years.

He returned to England for the first time in 1973. With this and later visits, he was able to renew his relationship with family in UK.

Sandy retired to Iluka on the Clarence River. He passed away, aged 83, on 10 October 2006. Amongst other things, he had quietly but significantly contributed to the livestock industry in NSW.

Wednesday, 23 February 2022

Tony Kibblewhite

 



Anthony Kibblewhite was born on 26 August 1906, in Singleton, Sussex UK, the fifth child of James and Clarissa Kibblewhite. Soon after his birth, his father was appointed Headmaster at Steyning Grammar School, where Tony was subsequently educated.

During his school years Tony became deeply involved with the scouts (becoming a Kings Scout) and the choir of the Steyning Church of England. The church and music would remain key interests for him throughout his life.

When 11 years old, Tony lost his right eye in an accident, during a game of darts. For the rest of his life, he used a German-made glass eye. The loss of his eye meant it was virtually impossible for him to be accepted into the public service or the armed forces, with such a disability. Different options were needed; leaving England seemed best.

Originally travelling to Kenya, Tony changed his plans at Cape Town, and continued on to Sydney with the friends he had made on the SS Balranald.

 
Tony Kibblewhite (16)

Arriving in Sydney on 7 June 1923, Tony was included in the Dreadnought Scheme and went to Scheyville Training Farm. After only a few days, it was realised that he could already milk cows and harness horses, and he was immediately sent to the Thomas Family at Possum Creek, near Bangalow on the Far North Coast of NSW. To get to Possum Creek, he travelled 650 km by coastal steamer to Byron Bay and then bus to Bangalow.


At the Fred Thomas’ farm, Tony soon learned the dubious pleasure of being a ‘farmer’s boy’—milking and ploughing for five shillings a week. Quite fortunately, he contracted shingles which led Mrs Thomas to fire him from his job. It was ‘fortunate’ because the Matthew Swain family, who had earlier come from Steyning to Knockrow, had received a letter from Tony’s father, about him being at nearby Possum Creek. Mrs Swain immediately took him in and cared for him. Mr Swain arranged a job with Tom Blow who was clearing and draining dairy land, on the Newrybar Swamp. With young Frank Swain as a partner, Tony was able to purchase that farm. He commenced dairying whilst living in the ‘humpy’ on the land, and also worked on drainage projects to supplement his income.

In 1929 Tony married Marjorie Swain, who was a piano teacher, and after selling his share of the farm, began cream-carrying from Knockrow to the factory at Binna Burra. Tony and Marjorie had two children Ruth (1930) and Tony Jnr (1932). In 1938, after an extended family holiday in England, Tony purchased the Newrybar Bakery. The family continued its association with music during World War 2, performing at the many concerts in the district, during those years. Tony was able to enlist in the Australian Army in 1942, as a foundation platoon member of the Volunteer Defence Corps at Newrybar, and served to war’s end as corporal.

In 1946, the family moved to Byron Bay where Tony began a long career in real estate and valuation. He eventually retired from this in 1990. Prominent in public life, he was for many years Vice-President of Byron Shire Council and a member of the Parish Council of Byron Bay Anglican Church.
Tony at a Dreadnought Reunion (1994)


Tony became a life member of the Australian Labour Party, having maintained his membership since 1927. His retired life was full with lawn bowls, beach fishing, the Byron Bay Literary Institute, amateur theatricals, the Masonic Lodge and, of course, singing.

After a long and varied life, Tony passed away on 16 March 1998.

 Original hand-written version of "The Dreadnought Boy's Epitaph"
by Tony Kibblewhite Snr



Tony Kibblewhite Jnr

We recently gathered for a celebration of Tony Kibblewhite Jnr’s life. Tony had passed away, aged 88, in late 2021 during a time of Covid restrictions.

When Tony's father came to Australia in 1923 on the SS Balranald, as one of the 7,500 boys brought out under the Dreadnought Scheme, he settled in the Northern Rivers area of NSW. In time, with other Dreadnought Boys in the area, Annual Reunions began. It was almost inevitable that his son Tony became involved, when the Far North Coast Dreadnought Association was subsequently formed.

Tony led a full life and was an active member of his community serving in the local RSL, Legacy, and the Airforce Associations, singing in the All-Saints Choir, and friend to many.

Tony played a significant role in the Dreadnought Association for the best part of 30 years. He became President in the 1990s, and it was under his leadership that moves were made publish stories of the Dreadnought Boys. That culminated the first book in 1998. Tony continued as Vice President and then on committee until 2018, when the Association wound up.

In acknowledging Tony's contribution to the whole Dreadnought Association, we valued greatly Tony's support, and his cheerful and constructive approach, and from those who made up the Association over the years - THANK YOU Tony!

 


Monday, 8 November 2021

Jack Pleasants

 

Many of our stories, like that of the previous post, are based on information provided by family or descendants. However, there are other stories which may not get told, because there is no one to pass them on. Jack Pleasants' story would have been one of these, but for his name showing up on a ship's passenger list, with an unusual place of birth. By means of publicly available records, we've been able to piece together something of his life.

Jack William Merrilees was born in New York USA, on 10 November 1897. His mother, Jessie Merrilees, came from a theatrical family and, with her mother and two sisters, travelled to New York from England in 1894. She was quickly involved in stage shows, including Broadway, getting good reviews. A short-lived relationship with Max Gottlieb resulted in Jack’s birth. After a season in “The Telephone Girl” at the end of 1899, Jessie Merrilees with two-year-old Jack, headed back to England. In 1901, Jack’s mother was back on stage in Cardiff in Wales, then Glasgow and Edinburgh and London in following years. Travelling and being minded backstage would have meant a rather disjointed existence for Jack.

In 1908, Jessie married fellow music hall artiste Jack Pleasants. He was a well-known performer in UK, and his voice can still be heard today, thanks to discography sites on the internet. Young Jack promptly took the new family name. Given the peripatetic nature of his parents’ life, it was inevitable that Jack was sent to boarding school. He was educated at Margate College, in Margate in Kent.

With rising tensions in the immediate years before World War 1, and uncertainties about work prospects, the new Dreadnought Scheme looked like a good opportunity, and Jack applied to join it. He sailed on the SS Themistocles, arriving in Sydney on 22nd December 1913, aged 16. He was sent to Grafton Experimental Farm and spent the next four months in farm training. There is no record of where he was placed on leaving Grafton on the 21st of April 1914, but he worked his way down to the central western area of New South Wales.

In the second year of the war, he enlisted in the Australian Army, at Forbes on the 22nd of February 1916, aged 18 years and 3 months. Following basic training in Sydney, he embarked on the HMAT Ceramic on the 7th October and travelled to Plymouth UK. From there he was transferred to France in February 1917, joining the 17th Battalion at the Front on 19 March 1917. On 15 April he was listed as ‘Missing in Action’. He, with many others, had been taken prisoner by the Germans in the village of Lagnicourt. They had been trapped while defending it, and captured when their ammunition ran out. These prisoners of war were taken to Lille, where they were locked in the casements of Fort MacDonald for ten days with little food or water, then returned, “starving and reeling from the shock of capture”, to the 'Reprisal' area, that is, a German front-line area which was exposed to the British shelling, and where they were used to rebuild trenches and recover bodies. By 1 June 1917 he had been transferred to Dulmen Internment camp for re-allocation, and two months later was in Gefangenenlager Zerbst, Anhalt, in Germany. Jack turned 21 years-of-age in the Zerbst Camp. The blockading of Germany in 1917-18 meant food shortages across the whole country, and in Jack’s camp this led to a hard existence, rife with malnutrition and disease.

After the war, Jack was repatriated to London on 2 January 1919. He eventually arrived back in Australia in early 1920, but was in a bad way and was granted a war pension because of his incapacity.

Jack stayed in Sydney for the next few years, until his country of birth called. He migrated to California in USA and, by 1933, was living in San Francisco, working as a salesman with Wuelker Reflector Lighting Corporation. His Army pension was now being paid by the US Government and, in 1934, he decided to join the American Legion (the returned servicemen’s organisation). For that, he successfully wrote to the Repatriation Commission in Australia for a record of his Service, to replace papers which "had been stolen in 1922." Around 1938 Jack moved to Los Angeles and began work with W.E. Welborne, a lighting fixtures supplier, again as a salesman.

On 13 January 1939 at age 41, Jack married 33-year-old Martha Caroline Drake in Los Angeles. His employer was also now involved with heating equipment and, in 1942, Jack switched to the engineering side of the business. After World War 2 ended, Jack moved across USA to New Jersey, where his wife had been born, and where her parents were. In 1948, Jack was working as an engineer with the Aeroyal Manufacturing Company; he stayed in New Jersey until after 1967, when his wife’s parents had both died.

In retirement, Jack moved back to California, to San Diego. ​On 20 December 1976, survived by his wife Martha, Jack William Pleasants passed away aged 79 years. There were no children.

What a contrast between the early and later parts of Jack Pleasants’ life! His early life as a child of the theatre, the boarding-school boy, the Dreadnought Boy, then the prisoner of war, was certainly not a settled one; his was a life filled with drama and extremes. Little wonder that Jack opted for the quiet life, with steady employment and infrequent change, when back in USA.

Monday, 13 September 2021

Gilbert Parker

 

Gilbert Arthur Parker, was born on 14 July 1906 in Bristol to Arthur Parker, a commercial traveller, and Helen (nee Burton). Initially the family moved to Liverpool, then to Manchester in 1911, and lived at 17 Hartington Road, Chorlton-cum-Hardy. By mid-summer 1922, Gilbert had completed his schooling with good results, having the Leaving Certificate and the University Joint Matriculation Certificate, and an excellent reference from Manchester’s Central Grammar School for Boys.

He was interested in a career in engineering, but his parents could see no future for a young man in England in the 1920s, and enrolled him in the Dreadnought Scheme.

He sailed from England on 23rd March 1923 on SS Euripides and arrived in Sydney on 11th May 1923. Gilbert was one of 58 Dreadnought Boys who arrived, but the Euripides also carried the first 32 Bernardo girls and 110 nominated migrants. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the boys were ‘an exceptionally fine party and created a most favourable impression’ and were ‘amongst the finest types that have yet arrived’. The groups were met by a welcoming delegation and the New South Wales Minister for Labour.

From Sydney, Gilbert and the other new Dreadnought Boys were taken to the Skeyville Training Farm near Pitt Town, west of Sydney. After about two months training there, these boys were sent to farms around the country. Gilbert Parker worked at Morisset for 9 months, but then travelled to Stanthorpe in Queensland. In 1924, he worked at Diamond Vale dairy, on the Diamond Vale Road, east of Stanthorpe. Colonel Jones, the owner of Diamond Vale, was well-known for his upright posture while riding his horse, Gilbert later used him as the example for his sons, if their backs were less than upright. Across the road was the Knight’s orchard. Ted Knight was an English migrant who had arrived in Australia some years before. He had served in World War 1, and had established a successful apple orchard. The Knights were like parents to Gilbert and their close friendship lasted their lifetimes and on to the next generation.

Three years on, Gilbert was working further west in Queensland’s Darling Downs, mostly at Lyndley Hereford Stud, the Jandowie property of (later Sir) James Sparkes, doing cattle work and clearing. He also worked at Meandarra and Kumbia in the years to 1933, with visits back to the Knights in the course of those years. He celebrated his 21st birthday in 1927 at the Sparkes property. He was at the release of the cactoblastis insect that was instrumental in bringing the prickly pear scourge under control. Later in 1927, the Dalby Herald reported Gilbert’s trip to hospital after being thrown from a horse on Bunyan Bros Inglestone property. Apart from that incident, he kept a low profile.

In the 1933 Gilbert Parker was back in the Granite Belt, purchasing a rundown apple orchard at Thulimbah (12 km north of Stanthorpe) and, with the help of Ted Knight, bringing it back into production. In 1937, he married Gladys Esther Chalmers of Woodford. Two sons, John and David, were born. As World War 2 got underway, Gilbert Parker enlisted in the Australian Army and fought with the 25th Battalion in Papua New Guinea, most notably in the critical battle of Milne Bay in August/September 1942.

On discharge in late 1943, Gilbert returned to the orchard, dealing with its challenges and rewards over the next 25 years. He participated strongly in local community and church life, before retiring to Warwick. He died in September 1975, aged 69, and was survived by his wife, who died in December 1990.

 The Dreadnought Boys were to be  future farmers and soldiers – this was made crystal clear to the very first boys arriving in April 1911. Contributing significantly to rural production and serving his adopted country in war, Gilbert Parker was the epitome the Dreadnought Scheme’s ideal.

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

George Verryck

 



George Thomas Verryck, was born in Liverpool, England on 2 July 1893, to Louis and Charlotte Verryck. George's father Louis was born in Antwerp, Belgium, and moved to England as a young man. He was an interpreter for the British Home Office at Liverpool’s busy port.

George had his early schooling in England, but his teenage education was at the College Internationale in Brussels. During these years he lived with his Belgian grandparents.

On his return to UK, the family moved to Dovercourt, Essex. His father worked at the port of Harwich for several years before returning to Liverpool. While in Dovercourt, George became apprenticed to an Electrical Engineer.

The new Dreadnought Scheme and the ‘good life’ the lads could have in Australia was being advertised, and eighteen-year-old George successfully applied to join. He sailed from London on the SS Orontes with nine other Dreadnought Boys, arriving in Sydney on 14 September 1911.

After his training at Scheyville, he went by ship to Ballina. From there he went up the hill to Tom Leadbeatter's farm at Uralba. His years with the Leadbeatters were good, as Tom and Martha treated him well. While working there he met Leila Green, from Alstonville. Leila was working for Charles Nuttall in his confectionary, fruit and refreshment room in Alstonville's Main Street.

World War I was under way and, in September 1915, George enlisted in the army. He served with the 47th Battalion in Egypt, France and in Belgium where, in October 1917, he was wounded in action — the severe gunshot wounds left a piece of shrapnel lodged in his spine at the base of the skull, where it could not be removed. He received extensive medical treatment in England and returned to Australia on the hospital ship SS Borda, arriving in Sydney on 1 June 1918. Discharged medically unfit on 17 July 1918, he returned to Alstonville.

In Brisbane Hospital, a head/body brace was made for him. It was designed to hold his head steady, and he wore this for some years, until a more comfortable thick leather collar was made. Eventually, he was able to manage without the collar.

George Verryck, showing part of his body brace. (Dreadnought Archives).


Recovery was slow and farm work was out of the question, so as soon as he able, George obtained a 1915 Studebaker Touring Car. The Department of Repatriation helped him with a loan. After a promising start, the hire-car business didn’t work out and George turned to other matters.

In August 1919 Charles Nuttall decided to sell his business, in order to start a news-agency across the road. George bought the business where Leila was still working. The following month George and Leila were married in St Bartholomew's Church of England in Alstonville. They took over the business after the honeymoon. In 1921 Charles Nuttall sold the news-agency to George and Leila, and they operated this business until they moved to Sydney in 1925.

In Sydney, they initially lived in Lewisham, before moving to Marrickville where George and his family lived until 1953. While in living in Lewisham in 1928, George joined with some other men that he knew from the Ballina area, to be proprietors of the Alston Iron Foundry in Leichhardt. This partnership only lasted three months, George having the task of looking after its winding-up. The ownership of the iron works passed to one of the partners, George Banks.

In 1929 George Verryck, now 36, took over a Billiard Saloon at 301 Illwarra Rd Marrickville. Very soon after, he got a rude shock when the Saloon was raided by police late one night. George Verryck was fined £20 ($1,600 today) for permitting the premises to be used as a gaming house. Patrick Lyden, who was running the game (called “5’s and 6’s”), was also fined £20; another 41 men were fined up to £1 each for being found in a common gaming house.

George kept the Billiard Saloon through the ‘Crash’, but in 1933 he was struggling and unemployed. Eventually, he got work as a lift driver in the city.

After raising four children and 34 years of good married life, Leila died in 1953, and George went to back north to live with daughter Noela Trevillion, in Broadwater near Ballina. He died in July 1957, aged sixty-four.

George Verryck did not have a long life, and much of it was not easy – but, he was a survivor who’d “had a go”!



Wednesday, 12 May 2021

Leslie Butler

 



The Covid-19 pandemic which has been sweeping the world, with its savagery and endless tragedy, has reminded us of the spread and trauma of the Spanish flu just over 100 years ago. Dreadnought boys and their families were amongst the millions marked by that flu pandemic. Leslie Butler and his family in UK certainly were.

Leslie was born in Mexborough, Yorkshire, in September 1911, the elder son of Percy Marsh and Ada (née Butler). Growing up not far from the home of his Butler grandparents and their children, who in age were more like older brothers and sisters, his life in Mexborough was content. There were some difficulties in his early school years because of a bullying Victorian headmaster, as well as suffering from what we know now as dyslexia. But family, friends and sport made up for these.

When the world influenza epidemic reached Great Britain in 1918–19 Leslie was stricken with a severe attack, nearly losing his life - but he was nursed back to health by his mother. Tragically, she then caught this Spanish ‘Flu and died just after the Armistice was signed, on 21 November 1918. The family was devastated, and although father Percy tried to cope, he and the boys eventually moved in with the Butler grandparents, as part of their extended family.

Leslie had developed a strong love of cricket, became an accomplished cricketer for his age, and kept that love of the game all his life. He did well at school and on leaving received an excellent reference from his teacher. It ended by noting that Leslie was a boy who will grow up with a strong sense of responsibility and fitness for his work.

The teacher would be proved right. From school, Leslie was apprenticed at the L.N.E.R. Locomotive Depot in Mexborough in 1925, and settled into the trade, making many friends there. When his father remarried, a disastrous relationship with his stepmother ensued. Those final years were very difficult, and he looked at emigrating to Australia, eventually signing up to come to Australia under the Dreadnought Scheme, to make a new life.

Leslie Butler arrived in Sydney with 40 other boys on the SS Ballarat on 19 December 1927. With four others he was sent for training to Cowra Experiment Farm and in early 1928, after farm training, was sent to work on Wattamondara Farm, 14 km south of Cowra. This farm was part of the original Wattamadara Station which, at its peak, was a pastoral lease of 23,000 acres. It was broken up for closer settlement following the passing of the New South Wales Crown Lands Act of 1884.


                                       
                                        Cowra Experiment Farm office and accommodation block.
                                                                                                    (Dreadnought Archives)                                                
Leslie was to spend several years in “mixed farming” work (and cricket) in the Wattamondara area. Eventually, he travelled up to Campbelltown, then still a rural area outside Sydney, to work on Jock Laird’s pig farm. In Campbelltown he met and married Eva Emily Beasley in 1935.

They later moved back to Wattamondara to work on the land, by which time the Second World War had started. From 1941 to his discharge in September 1945, Leslie served in the Volunteer Defence Corps of the army, posted locally where vital food supplies were being produced. This meant that his base was close to the POW Camp at Cowra. When off duty he was still able to play in the Wattamondara Cricket Team.

The Prisoner of War Camp at Cowra was built in 1941-42, to house Italian POWs captured during World War II. The first ones were marched into Cowra in October 1941. By the end of 1942, the camp had over 2,000 prisoners and internees. Between January 1943 and August 1944, over one thousand Japanese POWs and internees arrived. But at 1.50 am on August 5, 1944, about 1200 Japanese prisoners launched a mass suicide attack on the Australian soldiers guarding them. Crudely armed and poorly protected, the Japanese threw themselves on to barbed wire fencing and into the lines of fire from machine guns. With buildings burning behind them, some 350 Japanese managed to escape. All escapees were recaptured during the following week. Altogether 107 POWs were wounded, and 234 prisoners and five Australian soldiers died, in the Cowra Breakout. A Japanese war cemetery and the beautiful Japanese Gardens in Cowra, now mark a very different international relationship.

Leslie Butler never discussed his farm life, and lost connection with his English relatives. It was only in the mid-1990s that those in U.K. discovered that Leslie was a Dreadnought Boy, but that no-one seemed to know him. In 1995, good news came to them from the Salvation Army - his Australian family had been found. Sadly, Leslie had died of cancer in February 1984, and his wife Eva had died in a car accident in 1991.

With the Australian Butlers being put in touch with their English relatives, a whole new Butler network was established, after a gap of nearly seventy years.