Monday 13 November 2017

Arthur Ernest ('Snowball') Brawn

(The Rev. Arthur Brawn was a key player in the modern recognition of the Dreadnought Scheme. On the same ship as Ernest Thornton, he describes his trip and early years here.)

My decision to migrate to Australia, was not a hasty one. In 1922, my father opened a shop of his own in Tottenham. We lived on the premises. We were open all day Saturdays, and our half-holiday was Thursday. I started going to Australia House in the Strand on Thursday afternoon, seeing films of life in Australia and their displays and, of course, reading the propaganda. On Christmas Eve 1923, we had opened the shop at 9 am and I served my last customer at 11.45 pm. I remember going outside and saying to a friend nearby, ‘I’ve had enough. This is my last Christmas Eve in a shop……. I think I’ll go to Australia.’ My parents and I began to look at schemes of immigration, and the Dreadnought Scheme was selected.

We left Tilbury on 26 April, 1924. There were sixty of us, all eighteen years of age or younger, with fifteen the youngest. I had my eighteenth birthday four days later, on the SS Demosthenes of the Aberdeen line. After leaving Tilbury, I was asked to help in the bakehouse. During the voyage, I learned to ‘punch the dough’ and toss pancakes, to roll them when they were served with jam, and squeeze lemons on them when they were ‘lemon pancakes’. I ate with the bakers, and I had plenty of cakes too, and was able to take cakes back to the cabin for the boys. At the end of the journey I received the handsome amount of two pounds for my services. I had enjoyed the experience and the food.

Our first sight of Australia was Albany, Western Australia, but we were unable to go ashore. The roughest part of our journey was across the Great Australian Bight. Ropes were stretched across the decks for us to hang on to as we went from one part of the ship to the other.

We arrived in Sydney, and on 13 June were met on the ship by the immigration people. Photographs were taken by newspaper men, and then up to the Garrison Church Hall at The Rocks where ladies, from the Empire Service Club, gave us morning tea and welcomed us to New South Wales. They told us about the club rooms in George Street North, and invited us to use them before going back to the ship for the night. Most of us spent the evening at the Club, where there were writing facilities, and a piano where we did a lot of community singing that night. The next morning, we took the train to Mulgrave en route to Scheyville Farm.

Life at the farm was interesting. One week at the dairy we were taught the rudiments of milking, including getting the cows in with the help of lanterns in the dark. Another week, I remember was spent on fencing; a week on ploughing, single furrow and double furrow; a week on sheep when we were taught how to kill and dress a sheep. I had a week on kitchen duties, too. I remember peeling potatoes, loads of them—there were sixty boys in all during our time.

Then came a job in the country. I was rostered to a Wilsons Creek farm at Mullumbimby, and another boy, Dave Jolley, was to come with me to a farm at Coopers Creek.

We had to travel by ship to Byron Bay. We enjoyed the sea trip and then went by train to Mullumbimby. When nobody met us, we had to find the cream carrier in town, and in the afternoon sat on empty cream cans in the back of his wagon, which was drawn by four horses.

When we got to the top of Lavertys Gap, the driver stopped and unloaded the empty cream cans. He said to me, ‘This is where you get off,’ and unloaded my baggage, telling me that the house was over the creek, it could not be seen from the road, ‘They’ll come and get your bags. Pretty rough if they don’t!’

I set off down the track, and came to the creek, wondering how I was to get across, when a wild-looking man, beard, flannel shirt and trousers, an old hat, and smoking a pipe, appeared at the other side, and with a broad Scottish accent, called for me to use the stepping stones and come across.

This was my introduction to the McKeans. Stuart, who met me, was farming at Dorroughby. I was to be at Wilsons Creek until I had improved in my milking skills, and then I was to go across to Dorroughby. I had a very happy time with them. Given a room in the house, I was treated like one of the family. In the orchard were fruit trees that I hadn’t seen before, mandarins, loquats, and grape vines. In due course, I was taken across to the farm at Boomerang Creek, Dorroughby.

Stuart, a very strong Scotsman, worked hard long hours, so did I. I had a room in the house, food was good and plentiful, and did my own washing. While with McKeans, I bought a horse for eight pounds.

Long working hours always finished up in the dark, and as we were at the end of his run, the cream carrier came to us first in the morning, so we had to be finished milking and separating before he came. We felled and burnt off about twenty acres of standing scrub along Boomerang Creek, and planted maize. My hands got used to the shape of the rounded brush-hook handle, and then the different-shaped axe handle. Milking prevented me from getting a really hard skin, so I had some shocking blisters.

Sundays was a free day (between milking) and, in the morning I went to Dorroughby Methodist Church, and in the afternoon in summer would swim in the creek below the house. Later on, there were trips up into the scrub.

Rev. W Willey and his wife were very kind to me. He started a training class for local preachers and invited me. This became a turning point in my life. My first service was at Rosebank on a Sunday night, 19 April 1926. I was shaky at the thought of me, a young farm labourer, having the temerity to stand up in front of these farmers, their wives and families and preach to them!

When the McKeans left their farm in September 1925, I moved to Easts near Dunoon, at thirty shillings a week. Spring 1926 was very dry, and by October the district was in the grip of a severe drought. One day, Mr East told me that he could no longer afford to pay me wages ‘until the rain comes’. As I had not had a holiday since coming to Australia, I said, if I could leave my horse on the farm, I would take a holiday until the drought broke.

I decided to find a job, continue my studies and offer for the ministry. Later in 1927, I was appointed Circuit Assistant in the Lismore Methodist Church and stayed until I entered Leigh College at Enfield in February 1928.


After completing three years in college, Arthur Brawn was sent to Milton on the NSW South Coast, but shortly after, he went as a missionary to the Nakanai District, New Britain, Papua New Guinea.

He returned to Lismore to marry Jean Hewitson. Together they spent another three years (1932-35) in New Britain. They served the church in the Coffs Harbour, Alstonville, Gosford Circuits and four areas in Sydney, before retiring in 1973.

In 1974, Rev.Arthur Brawn helped form the Dreadnought Association, gathering the scattered numbers of those boy migrants for a yearly reunion. He served as secretary of the Association from 1974 to 1978 and as president from 1979 to 1991. He passed away in 1993, and many Dreadnought Boys came to his memorial service.

Monday 2 October 2017

Ernest Thornton

In his time, Ernest Thornton was the most prominent of all Dreadnought Boys. He was a national and international figure. He was both loved, and intensively loathed – he evoked strong feelings, which often decried his achievements. Viewed half a century later, it is possible to be more objective about Ernest Thornton.

Ernest Thornton was born on 13 March 1907 in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, to Lewis and Selina Thornton. His father, Lewis, was a tram driver for the Huddersfield Corporation’s municipal tram system. The 1911 census shows both parents present, and reveals that Ernest was the only surviving child, two others had already died. He was four years old when his mother left the family soon after.

Brought up by his father and educated at local board schools, Ernest Thornton started work at 14 years of age. He worked in factory jobs and on building sites, where his own experience stirred concerns about the pay and conditions of working people, and their relative powerlessness to change them. As a Huddersfield boy, he would have learnt about the industrial violence of the Luddites in the town 110 years earlier. His interest in radical politics was born!

By 1924 it was time for a change, and having been accepted for the Dreadnought Scheme, Ernest Thornton sailed for Australia in the Demosthenes. Arriving in Sydney on 12 June 1924, 17-year-old Thornton was sent to Scheyville Farm at Pitt Town west of Sydney. After three months’ training, he was given a country farm placement, but he was not impressed by his treatment and moved on south to Victoria. He found work on farms, road construction and a variety of other jobs. During these years his views became more militant, his attitude hardened by forced unemployment as the Depression hit. Ernie Thornton became more involved with the Unemployed Workers Movement.

For Thornton, 1931 was a pivotal year. In it, he formally joined the Communist Party of Australia, convinced of its promise and finding opportunity to use his powerful rhetoric. It was the beginning of his public crusade. In September police broke up his meeting in Bendigo, but in doing so boosted recruitment to the local UWM branch. In December Ernie Thornton stood as election candidate in the Federal seat of Yarra, opposing James Scullin, the then Labor Prime Minister. Thornton also emerged as a prolific contributor to the Worker’s Weekly published in Sydney. “We must lead and not follow.”, he called.

In 1932, Thornton stood for the State seat of Melbourne. With little chance of winning, the aim was to build voter support. However, in October, Ernie Thornton felt the impact of the CPA’s rigid discipline, when he was expelled from the Party. His “extreme egoism” was seen as the core of the problem by his District Committee. In January 1933, he was re-admitted to the Party by its Central Committee, the Worker’s Weekly publishing this news, along with Thornton’s 830 word mea culpa.

June 1934 saw Ernie Thornton (election photo above) again standing unsuccessfully against Scullin (now Federal Opposition Leader). More important personally, on 9 August Ernie married Lila Felstead, a divorced mother with two boys.

In the next few years, Thornton’s rise in political and trade union power continued – he became Secretary of the Victorian Communist Party, took his place on the Victorian Labor Council, representing the Federated Ironworkers Association (in spite of attempts to block it), and in 1936 became General Secretary of the FIA of Australia. In 1939 this position became a full-time appointment. He and the family moved up to Sydney, also in 1939.

Prior to World War 2, the CPA had been anti-fascist, but the Hitler/Stalin non-aggression pact of 1939 sent them very mixed messages. Germany’s invasion of Russia in June 1941 reinvigorated the anti-fascist struggle. Thornton believed that it changed the nature of the war for the CPA, and called for a more co-operative approach to parliament than had been envisaged. The growth of unions continued in this atmosphere, and in 1941, the FIA was the largest blue-collar union in Australia with 48,500 members.

Thornton, while busy with union growth, still found time to promote his strategies in pamphlets which he published (eg. Inquiry into the Steelworks - in 1942 and Stronger Trade Unions in 1943). In 1943, munitions workers were brought under the FIA umbrella. Ernest Thornton, at only 36 years of age, was now one of the most powerful men in Australia, with industrial control of both the nation’s steel and munitions industries – The Red Czar of Australia. At the Australian Council of Trade Unions Congress in 1945, the CPA controlled 90 out of 400 delegates, and Thornton was able to orchestrate the election of three communists to the ACTU Executive.

Ernest Thornton’s international profile grew in the late 1940s, with his involvement with the World Federation of Trade Unions. His first attempt as an Australian delegate was stymied by developments in the war, but in October 1945 he attended the Paris Congress and afterward visited the USSR. He returned in early 1946, with a more aggressive agenda. The Chifley Government was a particular target over the issues of wage pegging and economic restraint, and failure to develop an independent foreign policy.

Thornton had the first serious challenge to his industrial base when his hold on the FIA was tested in the 1946 FIA elections by a dissident (Trotskyist) group in the Balmain branch of the union, and by the Labor Party’s Industrial Group. He continued his overseas activities, attending a conference in Russia and the second WFTU Congress in Italy although, by 1949, ACTU support for this was drying up. Internal struggles in union branches around Australia were growing, opponents more and more determined.

These struggles culminated in the infamous 1949 FIA elections. The Thornton ticket had won, but the result was challenged by rival, Laurie Short, in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. After a long drawn out case, the Court found that the vote had been rigged with at least 1800 forged votes. A watershed moment in union politics and in Thornton’s life! Ernest Thornton did not wait around for the result, he resigned in 1950 and went to Peking (Beijing) as Australian Liaison Officer in the WFTU. The WFTU was now regarded as a direct arm of Soviet communism.

Thornton returned unexpectedly to Sydney in August 1953, and having organised a delegation of trade unionists for it, left six weeks later to attend the third Congress of the WFTU in Vienna. Back in Australia at the end of 1953, Ernest Thornton was jobless. He did get a job with Stephenson’s at Mascot on 15th February 1954, but it lasted one day. Under pressure from the new FIA leadership, he was sacked on the 16th with one week’s pay. Subsequently he took up full-time work with the CPA until 1967, when the party’s finances meant he had to find other work. Aged 60, Ernie Thornton qualified as a crane driver, and joining the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association, he became honorary president in Sydney.

Following a heart attack, Ernest Thornton died on 29 June 1969, leaving wife, Lila, and his two stepsons. He was 62 years old.

A fearless man? He was a Dreadnought!

Monday 14 August 2017

John Beckett

Very many of the Dreadnought Boys had quiet lives and little is known about them. Occasionally we do hear of them, and John James Beckett is a case in point.

From available records, we learn that John Beckett was born in 1910 in Bromley (South East London). He came out to Australia in 1928 on the Balranald, one of a group of 40 Dreadnought Boys. Two days out from Fremantle, on the 4th May he was paid £2.0.0 landing money, subsequently arriving in Sydney on 22nd May. He was one of the four boys sent to Wollongbar Research Farm near Lismore NSW.

That might have been the sum of it, but the late Hazel Holmes (nee Cresswell) of Ballina, remembered him, as Bertie Beckett.

Hazel wrote……

‘Bert Beckett was sent to Wollongbar Research station. He was not happy there and told people that the other boys nearly drowned him! It is most likely that he was “flushed” in an initiation ceremony and never in any real danger.

During the late 1920’s he made his way to Browns Plains (20 km south of Brisbane), where he met up with Charles Cresswell (Hazel’s father). He kept himself with casual labour, but the depression was hitting. The Cresswells were running a shop but with times hard and getting harder, Charles started making extra money from scrap metal. He hired Bert to help. Charles built a hut on the banks of the creek for Bert and another man. It was one room, with the doors hung in jam tins. The beds were each made from four forked sticks driven into the ground to give the shape of a single bed. Two long poles were stretched between them with open-ended corn sacks slipped on to them to form the bed base.

During 1936 to 1938, Bert worked in Ballina on the dredge SS Harrington, which Charles Cresswell was wrecking for scrap. They also scrapped the SS Wollongbar at Byron Bay.

From then until Christmas 1942, Bert and Charles travelled the road looking for scrap. Their searches took them all over the New England and North Coast areas of NSW.

In late 1942 the Cresswell family moved to Lismore, and lost touch with Bert Beckett who moved on. We heard that he never married and later went to Queensland, where he died in 1958.’

Wednesday 26 July 2017

They Passed This Way

This plaque is located in Kendall Lane on the corner with Argyle Street, The Rocks, in Sydney. Unveiled in 1984, it commemorates the Dreadnought Scheme and the Dreadnought Boys who passed that way. Nearly all the 7,500 boys would have come along Argyle Street, from their ship, while on their way to find out about their destination – for farm training or direct to rural employment.

(The plaque mentions 5595 boys, but those who came before World War 1 need to be added to this number.)

Have a look for it next time you are in The Rocks area of Sydney!

Monday 24 July 2017

Jack Simpson

John (“Jack”) Simpson was one of the quiet ones. In a taped interview called How I spent my first £12, he talked about his coming to this country, and the following has been put together from the transcript of that interview……….

Unemployed in Liverpool, and after wasting time tramping up and down the wharves looking for work, along the main street Jack saw a sign “Join the Army”. He tried, but being still only 17 years of age, he was knocked back. Then further along the main street there was another sign, from the Liverpool Education Committee, “Join the World – Go to Canada or See Australia.” As Jack puts it ‘I went and saw the Liverpool education people……….I passed my medical……we got in…..they told me we were going to Australia – Your choice, OK? They sent me to a hostel where we used to go out every day to a farm, and learn the rudiments of farm life. Then all of a sudden we are going to Australia, cost £12. We are going on Christmas Eve……..from Southampton.’

Jack Simpson left England on 24 December 1928 on the Largs Bay, one of the Aberdeen Commonwealth Line ships. ‘I made friends with other boys on the boat and we had a wonderful trip! We sailed across the Bay of Biscay… was like a pancake. Down the Mediterranean into the Suez Canal to Colombo and down the Indian Ocean to Aussie. But the Great Australian Bight was rough as bags, the boys were nearly all sea-sick.’ For much of the trip, Jack was plagued with tooth-ache, but found it was useful to have his bible (his deck of cards) with him. Prior to reaching Fremantle the boys were each paid £2 landing money. 

The Largs Bay arrived in Sydney at 9pm on 4th March 1929, and the next morning they disembarked. ‘We landed and had to climb up and over the approach to the new Harbour Bridge, and then went to the Department of Labour and Industry. We went in there, we were all sat around and introduced to a big brass boss…… He said Where does everyone want to go? That was where the fun started because nobody knew where they were going!’
Then Jack spoke up ‘I have information that my father was married to a girl, his second wife, who came from Cardiff, and her brothers lived at place called Cedar Point.’ The response was immediate, Wonderful information, that’s the kind of thing we want. Now we will get the map out and find out where Cedar Point is. This was done and showed that Wollongbar was the nearest training place, and another seven boys were picked to go with Jack.

Jack says ‘We didn’t know we were blessed, we went up North and got a wonderful place at Wollongbar Experimental Farm.’
After training, Jack Simpson was placed on a farm out between Lismore and Cedar Point. He lived in Tweed and Gold Coast areas for many years, and passed away on 5th January 2009, aged 97 years.


Wednesday 31 May 2017

John Frith

John Eric Frith was born to Henry and his wife Kate in London, in 1906. John’s father was employed as the Bootmaker-Shopkeeper in Kings Road, Chelsea. In the 1880s the Frith family had been well known suppliers of footwear to the gentry of London. John’s father became ill and died in 1909. The family had, by then, moved to 359 Kennington Road Lambeth.

John’s school years were not good years for him. He was at boarding school, a savage place with brutal masters. ‘The food was Dickensian before the war but it was double-Dickensian when the War was on....’ Sport and art were of most interest to John in those years, but art had a distinct downside. ‘I got belted more than the average kid at school because I could draw the masters. I really got whacked, and I was not encouraged at all for my drawing ability……..….

Other than his mention of being a jackaroo, little was known about John Frith’s first visit to Australia until recently. In the difficult years after World War 1, John spent a lot of time with his grandparents at Wrotham in Kent. Encouraged by his grandfather, John developed an interest in farming and applied to travel to NSW under the Dreadnought Youth Migration Scheme. He was accepted and boarded the new SS Moreton Bay, just back from its maiden voyage. John, aged 15, was one of a group of 40 Dreadnought boys. After six weeks at sea, he reached Sydney on 22 May 1922. Along with four other boys from the group, John was sent to the Cowra Apprentice Farm run by the NSW Department of Agriculture.

The farm training at Cowra covered horse work, ploughing, milking and fencing and other farm tasks, under the direction of the farm foreman, a man of tough discipline. In September 1922, having completed his three months training, John was employed at Mr Jack Scott’s dairy farm at Warwick NSW (near Cowra on the Lachlan River). He was the first of four English Boys to have worked at the Scott farm.
John Frith - Dreadnought Boy
Jack Scott - The Boss

All Dreadnought Boys were required to write home to the UK once they had been placed in work, so we can only guess what John said in his letters. It’s also uncertain as to how much John’s mother knew or approved of his travel to Australia, but on 23 April 1923 when the SS Hobsons Bay docked in Sydney – Kate Frith was here to take her son home!

Back in London, John began work with Sale and Company, one of the six private banks behind the Bank of England. He had been there nearly four years, when he was sent to Yokohama in Japan. John turned 21 on the voyage between Vancouver and Yokohama. Evidently, his drawing of the firm’s chief in London had led to the preference for him to be given this plum job overseas. For the next two years based in Japan, John did much the same as he had been doing in London. He did have some time in Korea, which was annexed to Japan at the time. However, even with the firm’s range of agencies (for example, Rolls Royce) and the freedom his motorbike provided, the job soon became boring. It was time to move on.                                                      

In late 1929, John was aboard ship on his way back to England from Japan when he arrived in Sydney. He disembarked for a day, and, he decided the ship could go without him. John Frith was back in Australia. But the Depression was now biting hard and, for the next three years especially, life was tough. John Frith had some money when he arrived, but fell victim to a confidence man. ‘I was literally left with threepence in a foreign country.’

Soon, art was to intervene again! John’s snapshot sketch of Premier Bavin in Martin Place was accepted by the Bulletin. He was paid for the sketch, but also given a job. John took the opportunity to develop his art, to combine his skill as caricaturist with the calligraphic techniques he had discovered in Japan, to teach himself a full range of creative techniques, so that he could then call himself an artist. After two years, John Frith became the Deputy Art Editor of the Bulletin.

On 30 June 1932 the new P&O liner, RMS Corfu, reached Sydney – Kate Frith was here again! This time for the marriage of John to Dorothy Mae Horseley.

John had fourteen most interesting years at the Bulletin, working with Norman Lindsay and Ted Scorfield, as the three permanent artists, in a relaxed club-like atmosphere. John Frith was always grateful for the encouragement and help he received from his colleagues at the Bulletin.

In late 1944, John joined the Sydney Morning Herald as its first cartoonist. It was not long before he made impact, especially with his cartoons of Arthur Calwell, who became federal Minister for Immigration in July 1945. John was at the SMH for five years, finishing in February 1950, when he was recruited to the Herald and Weekly Times in Melbourne. As part of the negotiations, John was able to secure a good house in Kew which he subsequently purchased. He remained at the HWT as cartoonist until he retired in 1969. By the time he left Sydney for Melbourne, John had modelled and cast in bronze, some 150 heads of distinguished Australians.

When he retired in 1969, John Frith went to Europe, first to England - where one cold winter was enough, and then to Algeciras in Spain. While in London, a five thousand years old piece of terracotta in the British Museum ignited his interest in the material. Back in Australia, John began making hundreds of pieces. Some were made for Bendigo Pottery and included a range of toby jugs of famous Australians. He also made a range of Reform flasks. These were based on the Prime Ministers of Australia.

A family man, John drew for children as well as for adults. Retirement provided time for more pottery, caricatures and cartoons, and picture stories for the grandchildren. Eventually, John Frith moved into Moorfields Community Aged Care, in their Broadmead Hostel in Hawthorn Vic. John was still able to draw two hundred cartoons on the big whiteboard at Broadmead. In time, aging took its toll and his eyesight failed. John Frith died on 21 September 2000, aged 94.

In July 2001, the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House in Canberra, launched the exhibition, A Brush With Politics: The Life and Work of John Frith. This popular retrospective showed works spanning his long career; with wide appeal it ran for months longer than first planned. It was then developed into a Visions of Australia travelling exhibition, which toured interstate. A Brush With Politics was a fitting way to celebrate John Frith’s life.


We are indebted to the Frith family for their generous provision of material for this story and for their permission to use the photographs and drawings provided.

Sunday 30 April 2017

Leon Davies

Leon Victor Davies came to Australia in 1926, aged 19 years, aboard the SS Ballarat. Travelling under his birth name of Leonard Wilkes, he chose to use his widowed mother’s maiden name, in his new country.

Among other things, he was an able soccer player, playing in the Aston Villa Reserves as a teenager. In later years, he was to represent NSW.

As for most Dreadnought Boys, his early years of farm life were challenging, but Leon Davies had a way to express his young thoughts – in poetry. He wrote many poems during this stage of his life. Here is one, written in 1930, while he worked in the Upper Hunter area.

Never Fear

If the day is dark and dreary never mind,
there is always something cheery you can find.
The world is ever waiting for the brightness
of your smile and the work your hands are
made for, is the work that’s worth the while.

Find the work your hands are made for
it is lying ever near. If your heart is in your labour
you will do it never fear. You must leave your
doubt behind you, life goes on before.
Life is waiting for your effort, just beyond an open door.

If the clouds are dark and dreary never mind,
you can see the sun behind them, leave your fear
behind. Forward into battle knowing help is near,
always grasp the metal boldly always do the thing you


Denman 1930

Sunday 26 March 2017

Proud to be a Dreadnought Boy

We felt the honour of the first story should go to the last surviving Dreadnought Boy, Thomas Joseph Dreha. With Tom’s permission, we are able to share something of his story with you.

Tom Dreha (Courtesy of The Land).

Tom comes from Liverpool in England. He recalls getting around as a youngster there, on his “bike with wooden wheels”. Arising from his own experience in the British Navy, Tom’s father was keen for his son to travel, and often spoke about the Dreadnought Scheme. Encouraged by his father, Tom went down to London in early 1939 and joined the Scheme, embarking on the SS Mooltan.

After the Mooltan got underway to Australia, Tom and the other boys were surprised when a fellow passenger, Mrs Sullivan, took special interest in them. Mrs Sullivan was none other than Annette Kellerman, Australia’s first swimming champion, film star and now fitness guru. They found themselves up on deck at 6 am every morning for physical exercises. She also formed a Bazooka (comb and cigarette paper) Band and had them doing the songs of the day. On Thursday 16 May the Mooltan reached Sydney, and Tom was one of 14 very fit Dreadnought Boys who stepped of that ship.

Life in Australia began for 16 year-old Tom, with three months of farm training at Scheyville near Windsor NSW. This was followed by farm placement in the Belmore River area, east of Kempsey on the Mid-North Coast. Tom spent his days cleaning the dairy after milking was finished and waging war on scotch thistles with the mattock. In due course Tom decided “to hit the trail” to better himself and, following some casual work on a few more farms, went to Sydney. Despite the hard physical work, Tom had good experiences of the farmers wherever he worked.

Tom settled in Sydney and readily found work, but the war had started and he wanted to join up. In 1942 he was able to do this, and served as a gunner in New Guinea with the 2nd/5th Field Regiment. After the war Tom worked with one of his army mates, did ”a bit of boiler-making” and had other jobs. In 1947 Tom married Eileen, his pen friend during the war years.

Recently, Tom told us he felt sad that he was the last of the Dreadnoughts, but as he has often told us before, he is very proud to be a Dreadnought Boy!

Thursday 9 February 2017

Looking for Dreadnought Boys?

Are you a descendant?

With 7,500 boys arriving between 1911 and 1939, there are a lot of descendants - probably several hundred thousand people.
Are you one of them?

If you are working on a family history, did you have any luck finding out about your Dreadnought Boy ancestor?

We know that general information is readily available, but it can be difficult to get specific information.

We may be able to help.

How can we help?

Using the comment box, you can put your query to us.
We'll respond as we can.

With information on, at least half of the first wave (those coming before or during the First World War), and on 5,600 of those who came later, we could have something useful.

There many stories available, both among our records and on other websites we know about.