Friday, 25 January 2019

James Payne



James was born on 11 September 1908 in Birkenhead UK. He started work as a baker’s errand boy in 1922, but within a year was working in the shipyards. He first worked at Cammell Laird and later, in 1924, at the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board de-scaling and cleaning ship boilers.

On 27 May 1926 James Payne emigrated from Liverpool under the Dreadnought Scheme, with £20 and a case of clothes, on Shaw Savill and Albion’s ship, Pakeha. There were 47 other boys in their group on the ship and, after calling in at Cape Town for coal, Albany, Adelaide and Melbourne, they arrived in Sydney on 17 July.

James was immediately sent to train at Grafton Experimental Farm, until 8 October 1926, when he was placed on a farm at Spring Grove, near Casino. The following year he was joined by another ‘English lad’. Farms were being sold up because of drought, but when rain had come bringing the new grass, James’ boss needed another milker. Apart from the milking there was very little to do, and eventually the farm was sold, and the two boys paid off. They headed for Sydney.

Sensing better opportunities, James Payne travelled from Sydney to Wellington, New Zealand, on the Ulimaroa, on 12 August 1927. He stayed at the Salvation Army Hostel until his money ran out, and went to the Labour Exchange. There were no jobs available but just as he was walking out, he was asked “Can you milk cows? Can you fence? An enquiry has just come in.” He was sent to Mr Charlie Thomas’ farm at nearby Miramar, where he got the job.

For the next two years James worked on several farms in the areas around Wellington and Lake Wairarapa, but on 17 July 1929 a new opportunity came. There was a major earthquake at Murchison on the South Island, followed by a nation-wide call for men to help in the reconstruction. James Payne and others responded. When they arrived in Murchison, they asked the local storekeeper about getting a job. They were told the Public Works Department Foreman would be in that afternoon. When he arrived, they signed on and received a tent fly, an axe, a shovel and a few utensils.

The earthquake had cost 17 lives and done damage over a wide area. Many roads and several rivers were blocked. For his part in the reconstruction, Jim initially worked on access tracks, then stone cages for the sides of the Maruia River and later on the repair or rebuilding of bridges. He continued in the bridge gangs, living in tent camps near the work. In 1932 he brought his bride, Minnie Gibson, to share this life.

By 1938, James Payne was on road work as a permanent surfaceman for the PWD. However, petrol rationing and the need to educate the children well, meant a move to Nelson by 1943. Boarding at first, they were soon in their own home. As Jim had his PWD shot-firer’s ticket he was kept busy around the coast.

As this work eased, he was employed on the highways with the only tarsealing plant in the Nelson District. In 1946 the Tar Sprayer got cancer and Jim was asked by the PWD to take over that position. On doctor’s advice, he later left the job because of the health risk.

After a number of cleaning positions, James became Head Porter at Nelson Public Hospital in 1962. After more than four decades away, he was able to visit his relatives in Birkenhead UK in 1969.

James Payne lived until 1990 when he died, aged 82, after a short battle with cancer. Ironically, the doctor diagnosing the cancer was the son of the doctor who had advised him to leave the tarsealing work.

Friday, 9 November 2018

George Anderson

                                               (Courtesy of National Trust of Australia) 
George Ernest Armstrong Anderson was one of the quiet ones. Born on 17 November 1911 in Bury, Lancashire UK. In 1926, he applied to come to Australia under the Dreadnought Youth Migration Scheme, just as his brother, Hugh, had done the previous year. His younger brother, Horace, followed in 1928. He sailed from London on the Baradine reaching Sydney on 18 November 1926, the day after his 15th birthday. George was immediately sent to the far North Coast to the Wollongbar Agricultural Experiment Farm, for three months training. His first placement was at Binna Burra (near Bangalow NSW), but later moved on to the Central West area near Parkes, in 1928. George subsequently found work as a clerk and then as a mechanic. His family had followed him out to Australia, settling in Sydney, where George joined them.

When he enlisted in the Australian Army, on 20 October 1939, George was working as a lift driver in O’Connell Street Sydney. In the army, he was captured and escaped twice from the Germans on Crete. George was discharged on 15 September 1945 on compassionate grounds, having been a prisoner of war. On his return to Australia, he joined the militia (CMF) reaching the rank of Captain.

While he was away, in early 1941, George’s mother Alexandra moved to Hunter’s Hill, to Vienna Cottage. This became George’s home for nearly 50 years, he was its last tenant. This home is a small artisan’s cottage in Alexandra Street Hunters Hill, built in 1871. Being one of the suburb’s older stone buildings, it is of great interest to local history buffs. It is owned by the National Trust of Australia. Living in the cottage on his own after his mother died, George devoted himself to his garden – with his beloved roses, azaleas and especially his rows of annuals. Getting up at 4am, he had his breakfast and read the paper, then into the garden. A brief break for lunch then back again until dusk.

George was not a communicative man and some people found him brusque and unfriendly. But his neighbours remember the kindness he showed to their children. He was bemused as to why people found Vienna so important. However, he tolerated the inevitable invasion of his privacy and was always co-operative with the local members of the National Trust. When he moved to the Narrabeen War Veterans’ Home in 1991, George left a challenge for the Trust which had no hope of keeping such a high-maintenance garden, while wanting one which recaptured something of the brightness of its past.

George passed away on 16 August 1994, at the age of 82 years.

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Jock Burnet



Malcolm Valentine Burnet is probably unique among the Dreadnought Boys, coming from a family attended by servants such as housemaid, gamekeeper, chauffeur and gardener. His ancestors included Scottish Lairds and a Lord Mayor of London. Malcolm Burnet was born in the Chateau de Wierre au Bois, in northern France, on 13th February 1906. The family moved back to Scotland when his father inherited the family home, Elrick House near Aberdeen, while Malcolm was still very young.

As a younger son, and now teenager, Malcolm Burnet saw the opportunity for a different life and linked up with the Dreadnought Scheme. Arriving in Sydney on the Jervis Bay on 12th March 1923, 17- year-old Burnet was sent to Grafton Experiment Farm and trained there for six months. Dairy farm placement followed. Like others in his group, he had to repay the £15 loan for the fare, which he did in October 1924. He subsequently decided to make his own way and headed for Bundaberg, or further, in Queensland. So, in 1926, having “jumped” a train and reached Mackay, ‘Jock’ Burnet slept a few nights on the bank of the Pioneer River, before walking 50 km to Finch Hatton to work at the Cattle Creek Sugar Mill.

Jock was to live in the Mackay area for the rest of his life. In 1928 he married Ethel Mildred Jane Puckering, and in 1930 was able to get a contract to sell butter and ice for the new Butter factory.

His first retail venture was the Melody Music Shop in Victoria Street in Mackay from 1933. Five years later he established a circulating library. World War 2 intervened and, in the month before the 1942 Battle of the Coral Sea, Jock enlisted in the Volunteer Defence Corps. Members of the VDC were used as coast-watchers, for defence of key installations, and also did guerrilla warfare training. Jock was discharged in October 1945.

After the war, in 1946, Jock had a fruit shop in Wood Street Mackay, which he later expanded with a luncheon bar. Ten years on he worked as a commission salesman for a couple of years then, from 1958, Jock ran Burnet’s CafĂ© – until he retired in 1971.

Jock was never homesick and had little time for the ‘landed class’, nevertheless he kept in touch with the family. His mother and a brother and a sister made visits to him in later years. Eventually he did return to Aberdeenshire for a visit.

Malcolm Valentine Burnet passed away in 1992, aged 86 years – a man of enterprise.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Bill Aiers



While many Dreadnought Boys went on from rural life to other pursuits, some becoming quite prominent, it is useful to hear of those who stayed with it. James William Stanton Aiers was one of these young men.

Bill was born in Burton-on-Trent in Staffordshire UK, in 1906, but within a few years the family had moved to the Oakthorpe district in Leicestershire. During the First World War, when most fit men were away at the Front, Bill worked in the fields, starting straight from school. This continued after the war, but Bill heard from friends that it was a much better life in Australia. Both he and his older brother Ronald decided to go. Their aunt paid for their passage, with the boys accepted for the Dreadnought Scheme.

The Aiers boys travelled out on the Demosthenes, which reached Sydney on 27 November 1922. Although they both had farm experience, they were sent to Glen Innes in northern NSW for more farm training. On completion of training, Bill was placed in the Urbenville area (about 15km south of the Queensland border), evidently on the Connell farm on Beaury Creek. In 2008 Bill, aged 102, was interviewed by ABCTV- Landline’s Tim Lee who asked about his experience of the people at the farm. Bill was emphatic “They were really good…….they were good to me.” Bill met Hilda Taylor on a neighbouring farm, and they were married in 1929. By 1935, Bill and his family were in Urbenville and he was working as a carrier.

In the early 1930s, there had been a big controversy in Bill’s area about the cattle tick eradication programme. Through it, Bill had become a pioneer in the construction of the chemical dips used for tick control. But time had come to move on, and the end of the war years saw Bill living in Queensland; in 1947-48 he was involved with Brook Lodge, a well-known Palmwoods dairy cattle stud which specialised in Jersey cattle. From there he went on to Cooroy where he worked in banana and sugar cane production.

Bill went back to England three times for visits, but never wanted to stay. After one visit, Bill commented “The best thing I did in my life was coming to Australia.”

Bill’s wife, Hilda, died in 1977. His own long life came to an end, several months after the Landline programme was shown, when he passed away on 20 October 2008. Bill Aiers had done what the Dreadnought Scheme intended.

Saturday, 9 June 2018

VALE - ALAN GILL



The Dreadnought Association lost a good friend and strong supporter when Alan Gill passed away on 23rd February this year.

Alan George Frank Gill was not a Dreadnought Boy, but, had come as a migrant from UK with his wife, Daisy, in 1971. He worked with the Sydney Morning Herald as a journalist and, for many years, was the Religious Affairs Reporter for the Herald. Here he met with leaders of all faiths – from the Pope to the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa to the Archbishop of Canterbury, and many others.

Alan was a man of compassion and insight and this was reflected in his newspaper work and his later writing. In 1985, Alan Gill won a Walkley Award for excellence in journalism. In 1995, Alan was recognised for his services to the media when he was made a Member of the Order of Australia.

Alan Gill’s interest in the Dreadnought Boys dates from 1974 when he first met Arthur Braun, and then Norman Monsen a few weeks later. Alan joined the Association and got to know many Dreadnoughts in the years that followed.

Alan Gill at the 1994 Reunion and AGM
                                                                         (photo: Association Archives)

In retirement, Alan Gill wrote the ground-breaking book Orphans of the Empire (1997) where he exposed the realities of British child migrants and their treatment. Then came Interrupted Journeys, Refugees from Hitler’s Reich (2004). This was followed (in 2005) by Likely Lads and Lasses, Youth Migration to Australia 1911-1983, and in this comprehensive book, he included stories of individual Dreadnought Boys.

When the Association celebrated the Centenary of the Dreadnought Scheme, in 2011, Alan played a key role in its success. Alan had always looked after his fitness with ocean and harbour swimming and dancing with Daisy as partner, but in recent years his health declined. He died a month short of 81 years.


We salute you Alan Gill.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Hubert Algar Storey

(Sometimes things don't go to plan)


Carpenters were building a house at Boonjee near Malanda (west of Cairns) in Queensland. On their way to work on August 6 1928, they discovered the almost decomposed body of a man lying in thick scrub not far from a scrub-cutters camp. The head was severed and battered beyond recognition. In the camp some blood-stained clothing was found. Two men who had been scrub-felling, Walters and Kelly, had disappeared five weeks earlier, and after two weeks absence the police were notified. No trace of the men could be found, but later the dead man was identified as Frederick Charles Walters, a recent arrival from England. Enquiries were made and an arrest warrant was issued.

Hubert Algar Storey (21) was arrested on board the Sydic, when it arrived in Gravesend from Australia, and charged with the Walters murder. Queensland police believed him to be James Maurice Kelly. He was taken to Bow Street where he pleaded not guilty and was remanded in custody for a week. “I will have no trouble in proving I am Storey” he said from the dock, before being taken to Brixton Prison.

Investigations at Australia House established that Storey (of Kentish Town) migrated under the Dreadnought Scheme for Sydney. Their last record of him was three years ago, when he was working on a farm near Inverell in NSW. Queensland police also telegrammed that Storey’s account of his movements appeared to be correct. As Storey said “I have never been known as James Maurice Kelly… he is supposed to be an Australian, but I was born and reared at Oxford.” On September 12 1928, Storey was discharged at the Bow Street Police Court.

Although overjoyed at his release and reunion with family, he observed “I shall never forget the chill that passed through me when the detectives and inspector boarded the ship and said that I was arrested for the murder.”

Hubert Storey had arrived in Sydney, as a Dreadnought Boy, on April 10 1925, on the Euripides. He was sent for training to the Arrawatta Agricultural Farm. After training, his experience in the Inverell area left him lonely and disillusioned. He became very critical of the Dreadnought Scheme, especially that little interest was taken in him as far as employment was concerned. He believed that he had been thrown onto his own resources after a few months. He had tramped NSW and Queensland until he reached Cairns. During part of that time he was with Wirth’s Circus.

When interviewed after his discharge, the six-footer with a generous crop of fair hair, said “I finally decided to go home and then join my brother in Rhodesia. I heard the Sydic was short of a stoker. I applied and obtained the job. I should have notified the authorities at Cairns that I was leaving. I mentioned the fact to the ship’s engineer, but there was no time: he assured me it would be alright. Doubtless my hurried departure, caused the authorities to suspect me…. Ours will be the happiest fireside in the whole of England tonight.”

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Roy J Moore



(Roy Moore was the founder of the Dreadnought Old Boys Association)

On 26 April 1924 sixty British lads between the ages of fifteen and eighteen boarded Demosthenes at Tilbury Docks to begin their journey to New South Wales. They arrived in Sydney on 13 June and, like other boys coming under the Dreadnought Scheme, were sent to Government Training Farms. Roy Moore and six others were sent to Cowra.

After three months training he was sent as a jackeroo to Amatree Station, and later became manager of that property.

At the outbreak of war in 1939 Roy joined the AIF and went overseas with the 2/4th Battalion, serving in the Middle East. Returning to civilian life after the war, Roy was in various occupations including the selling of farm machinery, life insurance and poultry farming. From 1966 until his retirement he conducted the newsagency at Adelong.

Roy played his part in church and community life, as a member of the church Parish Council and the local Chamber of Commerce. He was proud of being an Englishman and loved his adopted country.

Fifty years after his arrival, Roy wrote to Sydney and country newspapers inviting other Dreadnought Boys, especially those who came on Demosthenes with him to meet in Sydney to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of their arrival in Australia. He was a prolific writer to the press, and largely as a result of his persistence replies came in from all over New South Wales and Queensland.

On 13 June 1974 twelve men met with Roy at the Wentworth Hotel and decided to form a Dreadnought Old Boys’ Association. This association would meet annually. Roy was elected president. After five years, owing to ill health, he stepped down but was elected vice-president for life. Early on that June morning Roy had slipped quietly into St Andrew’s Cathedral to give thanks to God for what those fifty years had meant to him.

Roy was a loyal subject of Her Majesty and was anxious to obtain the Vice-Regal patronage of His Excellency, the Governor of NSW. At his first approach, he was told that, among other conditions, the association had to be in existence for five years before the request could be considered.

Five years later, Roy made another approach to Government House and Sir Roland Cutler accepted patronage. His successors continued on as patrons of the Association for the next 34 years.

The Dreadnought Old Boys’ Association had a membership of 270 men by 1982, a direct result of Roy’s untiring efforts. Their annual reunions continued for nearly 25 years.

As years passed, the Old Boys’ Association became the Dreadnought Association, open to families, descendants and interested friends of the Dreadnought Scheme.