I know, I know, cheesy as with the title but guess what? That is me! I’m not fighting it anymore. And while we are at it, I can’t spell. Grammarly works overtime on this site and sometimes I even break that. After publishing the last post, realised that I had spelled Quiet and Revealed incorrectly in the title of the post no less. Damn, will try to keep on top of it but I did say way back in the first post to please excuse me if this happens, so hopefully you do.
Back to Kate and George and their story. So I have no way of knowing when they actually met but I think we know especially from the connections revealed in the last post that they had plenty of potential catalysts that could have put them in each others path. The one thing we can be certian of is that they marry in 1903.
Wow, gobsmacked much? The last column there stating that the PDF is readily available, indicates that the certificate has been ordered previously by someone else. In all my time researching I have never seen this at this stage, only after I have paid for a certificate. Very curious as to who else is interested in Kate and George, but no way of knowing.
Now don’t get too excited this is not Kate & George, unfortunately, but still very lucky to find a photograph of an unknown couple from Ballarat who are posing for their wedding photo in 1903. I know, we have the date, place but no names. From my extensive research of 20min’s Googling, this is very much the style of that early Edwardian. Again it is great to get that sense of what Kate & George may have looked like.
Now, I am going to put the breaks on here for a moment because before we move forward from this point in 1903 there are a few things that we need to circle back to for both George and Kate, not least of them going back to the article that suggests that Kate has become some medicinal inventor, and healer of hordes of consumptives. But first George…
As I revealed in the last post, records of his earlier life are non-existent but there were a couple of clues just sitting on his attestation paper from enlisting in the AIF in 1914 ready for me to pick up on.
Question 11 on the paper refers to any past service George might have had and George gives two answers:
- St George’s Rifles, New South Wales, resigned leaving the country.
- Bethune’s Mounted Infantry, South Africa, completion of service.
So six days have passed since I typed the above 2 lines. I have been down a deep rabbit hole of information and come up with heaps of knowledge on these two topics and had some really generous help on the way. I will explain when we get to those moments.
I think it is a good idea first, to put up some context, just to help us pin where this information sits in George’s timeline. Of course, we are talking about some type of military service, in case you didn’t read the fine print in question 11 of George’s attestation paper above. A quick reminder, George was born in 1879. In 1899 when the Boer War starts in South Africa he is 20 years of age. At the time we are still a collection of Colonies not yet federated. In relation to the history of the defense of Australia by the British, from the time of invasion in 1788 until 1870, Australia had been garrisoned by British Troops. From 1870/71 the colony was without regular troops, its defense being entirely in the hands of the regular and volunteer forces around the colonies.(https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/71374239)
The Imperial Troops were removed due to the cost of garrisoning and the fact that the Imperial Govt was charging the Colonies a capitation payment for the service. The increasing costs for both the Imperial and Colonial Governments is what led to the withdrawal and the colonies becoming responsible for their own defense. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colonial_forces_of_Australia)
There were a number of different reiterations of colonial defenses, partially paid and unpaid from this time until 1895. This is when volunteer corps were instigated in addition to the few existing colonial regiments and the idea of forming them into a reserve force was proposed. (https://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Previousproducts/1301.0Feature%20Article41909?opendocument&tabname=Summary&prodno=1301.0&issue=1909&num=&view=)
George is 15 years old at this stage, turning 16 in June of 1895. The next mention I can find of this reserve force is in April 1896. Not to confuse you too much but the article above coincidentally is discussing the issue of feeding into a reserve force and it just happens to be that the organisation they are discussing is called the St. Georges Rifle Club after the area of Sydney it was formed in. The St. George’s Rifle regiment that our George joins and discussed in the article below, is named for the patron Saint of England, chosen by King Edward III in 1350. (https://www.bristolpost.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/st-georges-day-2019-why-2787321)
The Scottish company had been around the longest, the Irish one had just been formed not long before this notice went out and from the reading I have done so far, the English company, the “St. George’s Rifles” was the brainchild of the eventual leader of the company, John Cash Neild. He was an Insurance Commission Agent who embarked on a political career at age 30. He was elected to the Woollahra Municipal Council in Sydney and twice served as Mayor. He also had careers as a writer, sectarian and of course citizen-soldier. (Craig Wilcox, 2000, https://biography.senate.gov.au/john-cash-neild/)
The article below is an excerpt from the proceedings of the Town Hall public meeting that was advertised in the article above. No mention of Neild at this stage but the description of the “…military ardour of the citizens…” and what follows is gold.
Wilcox, 2000, explains in his biography piece on Neild for the senate history page: “…Stung by the establishment of an Irish–Australian unit in New South Wales’ tiny part-time citizen army early in 1896, Neild raised what became the St George’s English Rifles…” Wilcoxs’ piece is accompanied by the most fantastic photo of Neild held in the National Library of Australia.
What a face, I so hope that George had some interaction with him. I can find no mention of Nicoll linked with the regiment anywhere, other than his note on his WW1 attestation papers. There is the barest of mentions about the Officers and a photo of the Non Commissioned Officers but no mention of the rank and file anywhere except in general as a group.
Neild seems to be way ahead of his time in relation to his progressive thinking he demonstrates. Wilcox, 2000, also states that Neild wanted the St. George’s Rifle to be for men of any ethnic background, “…who wished to demonstrate their love of Britain’s flag.” (https://biography.senate.gov.au/john-cash-neild/)
I unearthed a couple of small military notices from the Evening News printed just a couple of days after the Town Hall meeting that support this thinking.
I know this is not George that we are discussing directly here but I think it is the closest thing to giving a picture of the world he was inhabiting and I believe, that it is a rich picture of colonial Sydney one that surprisingly, despite wanting to establish itself as a new player on the world stage is very much still wanting to show its support to the motherland.
Wilcox, 2000 gives a wonderfully colorful picture of Neild and the regiment from this time, again from his piece on Neild for the Senate History listing, “…Sydney soon became accustomed to the sight of Neild’s men, attired in a theatrical version of the uniform of Britain’s regular soldiers, marching from Circular Quay to the Domain to a musical arrangement combining the tunes of ‘The British Grenadiers’ and ‘The English Gentleman’. They were led by Neild himself, tall, broad-chested and affecting a fierce moustache.” I can just see it, especially with seeing the photo of the ‘tache above. Wilcox also shares that Neild was apparently one of only 2 Commonwealth Parliamentarians, along with a Senator Cameron who at the opening of Parliament in May 1901 wore full military dress.(https://biography.senate.gov.au/john-cash-neild/)
I found the Gazette piece for the regiment formation on Trove from June 1896, just a month after the Town Hall public meeting. George has just turned 17 years old.
There is no way to be certain but with no age restrictions, I wonder if George joined the Corps at this early stage, or did he wait another year until he was 18? There must have been some change in the thinking in relation to who was enlisting as there were some restrictions that came in to play evident in this later notice from 1898.
George certainly had no problem with height restriction as his attestation papers from WW1 show rather specifically.
What a fascinating look into Australia, Sydney, and George’s past in the closing stages of the 19th century. I was ignorant of this rich colonial military history and of course George’s part in it but Trove once again delivered in truckloads in helping to flesh out George’s story.
First and foremost, a 4-page pictorial piece from Australian Town & Country Journal, (AT&CJ) dated, Sat 6 Jan 1900. That is 120 years ago! The pictures are phenomenal despite the fact they are digitised copies from an ancient news copy and very grainy, they still manage to give a splendid view of Georges’ world. The pictorial piece was titled, “NEW SOUTH WALES CITIZEN SOLDIERS.–THE VOLUNTEER INFANTRY FORCES.” and gives the reader an in-depth insight into the current military holdings of the Colony at the beginning of the new century and guides the reader through the journey of the recruit (George) into the Corps, specifically in relation to the Scottish, Irish and English (St. George’s Rifles) Companys.
Remember these three Companys made up the Union Regiment which had been in existence for just on one and a half years by the beginning of 1898 when the St. George’s Rifles were moved out of the Union. At the time of the AT&CJ piece, the Companies were well and truly formed into their own regiments. I was lucky enough to find this gazetted notice explaining these changes.
You will note the Scottish and Irish stay together and become the 5th(Union) Volunteer Infantry Regiment. We have the addition of the 6th Infantry Regiment, being the (Australian Rifles) and of course George’s regiment which is now known by its new title, the 7th Volunteer Infantry Regiment (St. George’s Rifles) along with the addition of the 1st Aust’ Volunteer Horse, National Guard and Railway Corps.
So back to the AT&CJ spread and George who is now 19 and half years old in Jan 1900. I think this is a good spot to share with you the introduction to the spread, (copy below) I feel it gives context to Georges’ present story as well as giving an insight into the decision he makes, like so many others, to support the Empire and ultimately honouring the new Commonwealth of Australia by fighting in the Boer War.
Did George feel this wave of patriotism for the Empire? It is interesting to muse if he held a lone sentiment apart from the rest of his family, to support the war effort. I can find no mention of either of his brother’s joining the Volunteer Regiments, or engaging with the Boer, and none of his Cousin’s either. Mind you, the ones still surviving, attest in 1914/15 for the war to end all wars.
The certainty here, that George is part of the 7th Volunteer Infantry Regiment (St. George’s Rifles) I can imagine him attesting just like these well-dressed gentlemen below in the field opposite St Mary’s, in the Domain or at the regimental field office at Victoria Barracks. The article doesn’t specify their location.
As part of the recruiting process George would have then had to have completed some drills with arms, to assess his suitability to join.
Once his suitablility was confirmed, which obviously it was, George needed to partake in the swearing-in ceremony. This section of the article shares the actual words that George would have spoken.
I am currently trying to source that document, the attestation paper that George signed, from the Colonial Secretaries records at NSW archives but no luck as yet. The “…embryo citizen soldier…” what a description, George that is, would have looked exactly like this completing his musketry.
This time the article doesn’t confirm what part of the forces are depicted in this photo, the uniform does however look very similar to these ones below who’s wearer’s are identified as members of the St. George’s Rifles.
I had an amazing bit of luck sourcing a picture of what the actual uniform looked like from The Mitchell library collection at the State Library of NSW. Check this out,
A hand-drawn watercolor. I am unable to find any other photograph of the uniform other than the two above this beautiful painting. This is still fantastic to have. Both of the pictures above are taken at the Victoria Barracks, which would have featured heavily in George’s day to day life by this stage. Explanation coming.
This next picture from the AT&CJ pictorial that I would like to share depicts a section of the Regiment formed up in quarter column formation at the rear of the Garrison hospital at Victoria Barracks. Again no way of proving that George was even here, but it is the 7th Infantry in the picture according to the label.
From the numerous parade and drill notices on Trove from 1896-1900 it is easy to come to the assumption that for George to be part of the Corps it required a huge commitment of his time. In addition to the 3months of compulsory training in the beginning of his service, George was expected to give up 3 nights a week of drill training at the Barracks. George was living at Petersham at the time, there was a tram service but not one out to the Barracks.
The following photos shared from the NSW Archives site are as clear as a bell compared to the newsprint copies above. Unfortunately they are not labelled as to what regiment are drilling but it is bang on George’s time, 1900, at Victoria Barracks in Paddington and it even features the band and members of the public watching.
We are so lucky that they are at such a high resolution, look at the detail when you zoom in on the photo.
As you know, I have 5min’s of knowledge on this subject but comparing these uniforms with the other illustrated uniforms I sourced from the State Library, I wonder if they could be one of these options?
This phenomenal little resource also had this to offer, what the Officer’s who commanded George would have looked like.
Talking of what people looked like. The public watching the parade give some great examples of what George might have been wearing when not in uniform. Keeping in mind that he is the son of a prominent family at the time. His father is a member of the legislative council and working alongside Edmund Barton and other famous political figures of the time who were working on the Federation agenda. He came from money as the family business, remembering was shipping and steamships in particular. I can imagine that George might have had these particular suits and hats in his collection.
In addition to the nightly drill sessions throughout the week, there were the weekend parade’s through the town which as mentioned previously, were advertised regularly in the newspapers of the day. The notice following is in relation to the Corps very first public parade. I’m choosing to believe that George was already enlisted and partaking in the event. This is 6 months from the time the Corps was established.
Georges’ parents, Bruce and Jane are very much still alive at the time. His elder brother, Charles is 25 and his younger brother Gordon is just 15 years of age. I can just imagine how proud they might have been of George and his service. I hope they were in the crowd watching maybe with my 2x Great Grandparents, Georges’ Aunt and Uncle, and the rest of the family. The article below was another great find, it is the day after the first parade and describes in the writers words what they thought of the event.
And then to top that off, there was a photo in the Australian Town and Country Journal. The Crown Studios took a photo to mark the occasion. This grainy digitised copy shows the parade that took place 123 years in the past, a photo depicting Georges’ present. That is very special.
Not only did the Regiment train, parade and drill together but they also socialised as a group.
Once again how brilliant is it to have a photo? Like all the earlier instances, there is no way to be certain that George even attended this event but it is so close that it is enough for me that I can almost imagine him there. I wonder if he had already made the acquaintance of the intelligent young poetess wanting to study to be a Doctor. Had Kate already started her studies? One thing I can be sure of at this time, is that she visited Sydney in May of 1899, I found this note on Trove.
There is no other mention that I can find for Kate in 1899 appearing in a social setting. She did however have a number of poems published in the Queensland press. Fifteen pieces in 1899 that I can find so far. If you are interested in reading some of her work I have created a list on Trove. The link below this title will take you there.
I was excited to see another link appear in the families for Kate and George when I was doing this final search for Kate in 1899.
It is a small mention on the Belmont Board meeting. Remember Kate’s father Ebeneezer sits on the board, obviously, as this note confirms but check out who else is mentioned, Mr. J A Zahel. George’s uncle on his mother’s side and father to Kate’s best friend Thirza Zahel who marries George’s brother Gordon. Yeah, it was one of those runs again. Hopefully you are still with me. I feel that fate must have intervened by this stage and helped Kate and George become aware of each other.
This feels like a good spot to take a pause. I know this post has focused mainly on George and his journey into and through the St George Rifles with the barest of mentions of Kate but I wasn’t expecting the volume of information that I was able to uncover for George. This post has taken a fair bit of time digging into different sites and pulling out what was really the odd line of information but then once I pieced together the main facts and the main players the information just poured out. It is amazing to me what I was able to discover from that one line of George’s handwritten print.
My main focus here is to really take the time and weave this information into a cohesive story so that it won’t be lost again. I promise that Kates’ story will continue in the next post as will our dive into George’s time in the Boer War. And of course, George’s story will continue in what I think at this stage will be another separate post, in which we will follow George as he takes those fateful steps that lead him inevitably to his destiny in the hills of Anzac Cove.