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.
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.