Wednesday 28 September 2022

Norman Dunham


Many of the Dreadnought Boys spent the whole of their new lives on the land. Norman Dunham was one of them. Born in Newcastle-on-Tyne UK in late 1905, Norman joined the Dreadnought Scheme and travelled to Sydney on the SS Esperance Bay, as a sixteen-year-old lad. He arrived on 11 September 1922, in a group of 60 Boys. He was sent with most of the others to the Scheyville Training Farm near Windsor, where the boys were introduced to Australian farming practices.

After training, his first job was at Mr Dal Wright's dairying and rice cropping farm near Leeton, in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area, where he remained for a couple of years before deciding to try life in Queensland.

In the Longreach area of Queensland, he was able to obtain employment with a tank-sinking contractor. However, after about a year, ill-health forced him to return south to the Leeton area, where he took casual employment at Yanco Agricultural High School and a number of farms near Leeton. When Mr Wright offered him the opportunity to be share-farming, Norman accepted and went on to grow several crops of rice on Mr Wright's farm.

In 1928, Mr WS Martin, of neighbouring Farm 983, asked Norman to become his share-farmer growing wheat and rice. Mr Martin and Norman made an agreement which remained in place for more than twenty-two years, until the farm was sold.

On 3 August 1929, at St Peter’s Church, Leeton, Norman married Gladys Minnie Cinderey, a Gloucestershire lass who had come to work in Mr and Mrs Wright's home. Norman and Gladys had three children—Denise, Peter and Rosemary.

When World War 2 broke out, Mr Martin (a World War I veteran), obtained an exemption from active service for Norman so that he could continue working the farm. Fuel was difficult to obtain during the years of the war, but Norman kept the large 500-acre irrigation farm in full production, by installing a charcoal gas producer to power his tractor.

In 1942, Norman purchased Farm 18 at Leeton. The farm was about 65 acres in area of irrigation land and Norman contributed to the war effort (on the home front) by growing a wide variety of vegetables. These were sent for canning at the Leeton Co-operative Cannery, which was supplying food to the troops fighting in WW2.

Following the war, Norman turned to mixed farming and ran a small herd of Aberdeen Angus cattle, raised pigs and fat lambs and kept poultry for meat and egg production.

In 1952, Mr Doug Mackellar, then chairman of the Rice Marketing Board, approached Norman and asked him to grow rice, as a share-farmer, on the Mackellar farm (1714). Assisted by son, Peter, Norman grew rice on the farm for about eight years. It was during this time, that Norman became the first farmer in the area to successfully sow rice from the air, into flooded bays.

During the fifty-eight years that he was engaged in farming activities, Norman Dunham not only saw many changes in farming practice on the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area, but also was among those who helped develop them.

Norman and Gladys made a trip back to England in 1973, happily renewing contacts with family and friends whom they had not seen for over fifty years.

Norman passed away at his home, Farm 18 Leeton, on 30 March 1980 at the age of seventy-four years. He was a quiet unassuming man, well liked and held the respect of his many friends and neighbours. Gladys survived him for another 13 years. The family continued on with the farming.

(With thanks to Denise Vincent.)

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.


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!