Anzac Day

It’s funny, isn’t it, what images you remember from your childhood? Ask me what I did yesterday and I have to check my diary to remember. Ask me to describe my bedroom as a 10 year old and I can do that in detail.

Even now, I can still vividly remember the “Cetificate of Appreciation from the Municipality of Bombala” that used to hang in a picture frame in my childhood home. Along with the certificate there were also medal ribbons, though I don’t recall ever having seen the medals attached to them. The certificate and ribbons, along with a photograph in one of the bedrooms were the only physical manifestations of my grandfather I knew, as he died many years before I was born.

And so I thought on Anzac Day, 2008, I’d tell you a little about my grandfather, and his involvement in World War I, based on some of the research I’ve done over the last few years…

Charles Henry Dunn was born in 1890 at Rosemeath, a small village near Bombala, NSW (south of Canberra). Aged 24 years and 8 months, he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) on October 19, 1916 at Goulburn, NSW.

The enlistment papers record he was just 5 feet 3.5 inches tall, weighed 122lbs and had a chest measurement of 31-34 inches. They also record he had a dark complexion, grey eyes, brown fair and a scar on the right side of his jaw.

After enlistment at Goulburn, he was transferred to the 55th Battalion and then to the 12/30th Battalion at Liverpool, Sydney. He left Sydney on November 25, 1916 on the the “Beltana”, a troop vessell which took him to Plymouth England.

After arrival in England, he was with the 8th Battalion, and was given some basic training. After a short period of time in hospital, on May 3, 1917 he left Folkstone, Kent for service in France. As a member of the Fifth Division he was marched out for service in Etaples on the coast of France a few days later.

On October 12, 1917, he was shot in the left leg and spent much of the next few months in the field hospital in Buchez, France. He then returned to his battalion and on December 12, 1917 was transferred to the 15th Australian Field Artillery.

His record for 1918 contains little detail, except that between January 29, 1919 and February 28, 1919, Charles was seriously ill in hospital with influenza.

He left Le Havre, France on May 12, 1919 and arrived at Weymouth, England the following day.

He disembarked on May 7, 1919 and on the voyage back to Australia, became sick with Celulitis, a diffuse suppurative bacterial inflammation of the subcutaneous tissue.

Charles Dunn Arrives HomeHe arrived back in Australia at the Port of Melbourne on August 20, 1919. The Bombala Times of Friday September 5, 1919 reported simply…

Pte Charles Dunn, son of Mr John Dunn, returned home this week after doing duty with the A.I.F. on the battlefields of Europe.

Two weeks later, major celebrations were held in Bombala recognising the efforts of local servicemen. On Friday, September 26, 1919, The Bombala Times reported…

Both Halls were utilised for dancing and suppers, and they were both taxed to the utomost to provide dancing room and supper accommodation for the great crowd. To give an idea of the number of people assembled, it is estimated that 700 people were fed at the two Halls, and still there was food over. Nothing bigger than this has ever been known in Bombala.

Charles Dunn’s war record shows he was eligible for three medals, the Star Medal and the British War Medal (No. 65786) and the Victory Medal (63400).

The re-integration of World War I veterans back into society can’t have been easy. According to “A Brief History of RSL in Bombala”

When local diggers…arrived home they soon found that they had come home to no bed of roses, the economic situation wasn’t good, and the returning heroes found what jobs were available were already filled, and the Government re-establishment promises were mostly promises, so the bulk of them were unemployed. A fund called the Provisional Trustees Returned Soldiers Fund had been formed to help returned soldiers get re-established. The fund wasn’t enough, so it was soon decided that each riding of the Shire and the Bombala Municipality would provide work and each man would have to work for what he got out of the fund. However The 50-pound grant given to soldiers who had resided in Australia for 14-years prior to the outbreak of the War ceased on October 31, 1921 In 1921.

At the age of twenty eight, and working as a labourer in Bombala, Charles married Bertha Ellen Rixon, an eighteen year old woman born at Pambula, currently in domestic duties at Bombala. Their marriage on January 19, 1921 (1921/002992) at St Matthias’ Church of England, Bombala took place with the permission of her young mother, Ellen Rixon. They were married by D.D. Curthous in the presence of Ellen Rixon and J.P. Dunn. Their first child, Bertha Ann Dunn (my mum), arrived in February the following year.

After their marriage, Charles obtained work as a linesman for the Post-Master General, the precursor to Telstra. His work took him to a number of locations around NSW, finally settling in Lismore in the mid 1930s.

Charles Dunn died at Lismore Base Hospital on Saturday, July 24, 1943 due to heart and lung disease. A simple obituary appeared in “The Northern Star” a few days later…

MR C.H. DUNN – Mr Charles Henry Dunn, a returned soldier, of 13 Union street, South Lismore who died in Lismore on Saturday night, was buried yesterday afternoon in the Roman Catholic portion of the Lismore cemetery. The remains were conveyed to our Lady Help of Christians Roman Catholic Church at South Lismore, where a service was conducted by the Rev. Father Daniel McGrath, who also officiated at the graveside. The casket was draped with the Union Jack and at the conclusion of the graveside service Mr. Elwyn Roberts sounded the “Last Post”. The pall bearers were Lieut H.C. Nott (Secretary), and Messrs R. Stoker (Returned Soldiers’ League), W. Rutley, J. O’Brien, L. Winkler and E. Eggins. The wreaths were carried by Messrs T. G. Lovett (RSS and AILA) and TD Cleary. Messrs Will Riley and Son conducted the funeral arerangements.

From what I can see there was nothing extraordinary about my grandfather’s war record. I don’t even know why he enlisted. But in doing some research, and in sharing this story, I hope it goes some way to helping me getting to know him a little better.

One Reply to “Anzac Day”

  1. Nice post James. I think it’s important to remember every contribution. I have a similarily non-descript war record for my grandfather (from WWI also), but am blessed enough to also have his war diary from the last year of the war, fighting at the muddy, bloody Somme. It’s incredible. It describes the misery and the fear, and the elation of leave in England.
    We owe everything to them.

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