George Alexander Baker

George Alexander Baker was born on November 23, 1904. He was born and raised in Russell St Balgownie. Prior to his enlistment, George worked at AIS Corrimal-Balgownie Colliery as a coal miner.

George enlisted on 27 March, 1916 and embarked from Sydney on 22 May 1916 on ship A69, HMAT Warilda. He was a Sapper for the No 4 Tunnelling Company, Headquarters No 1.

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Parcel addressed to G.A Baker containing war medal

Baker first married Annie Maude Simpson who was born on 5 April, 1928 and was from Mount Kembla. He married his second wife, Beatrice Ethel Wright (nee Wilkinson) in 1956.

Relatives have kept and shared the parcel which George received after the war. It contains his service medal.

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1 Tun.Coy AIF (1st Tunnelling company)

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War medal

William Sydney Duchesne

William Sydney Duchesne was born on May 25 1894 to Edwin James and Edith Rachael Duchesne in Waverly, Sydney. He spent his early years at 55 Smith St, Summer Hill and was educated at Fort Street Model School. He joined the permanent army when he completed his studies and underwent training with the 39 Militia Battalion (Wavery Cadets) where he served as 2nd Lieutenant. Syd also played breakaway for the Manly Juniors Rugby Union team.

"School Cadet"

“School Cadet”

When war broke out in August 1914, he was living with his family on Crown St, Wollongong and studying military science. With a strong history in military education and training, Syd immediately applied for a commission with the AIF and was appointed as 2nd Lieutenant in the 1st Battalion (1 Brigade, 1 Division) on September 3, 1914. There was a short training period in Sydney’s west until mid-October. Duchesne’s unit then sailed in a convoy (HMAT Afric: A19), from Sydney to Egypt.

William Sydney Duchesne

William Sydney Duchesne

1st Battalion at Mena Camp (Cairo, Egypt) on 01-01-1915.

Mena Camp (Cairo, Egypt) 01-01-1915.
D Coy 1st Battalion

Daily training was carried out from 7.30am to 4.30pm in Egypt. During this time, Syd wrote letters to his family.

Letter addressed to the Duchesne family. Sent from Mena camp, Cairo, Egypt

Letter addressed to the Duchesne family. Sent from Mena camp, Cairo, Egypt

The Anzac contingent was transported to Lemnos Island after leaving Egypt in early April. There they joined other elements of the assembled Mediterranean Expeditionary Force (army and naval) in final preparations for the assault on the Gallipoli Peninsula. The evening before the landing was spent in happy and confident relaxation. General Birdwood addressed the unit reminding them that, “the world is watching to see what you can do…” He gave his assurance of their success in the coming campaign. Three days rations and three-hundred rounds of ammunition were distributed to each soldier and they went to bed at 10pm.

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Lieutenant Roy Kershaw, Lieutenant William Sydney Duchesne (centre), Lieutenant Alfred John Shout Photo taken in Cairo, Egypt

On April 25, at early dawn, the attack commenced. The 1st Battalion were in the third wave, landing at Hell Spit without a loss at 07.40am. The battalion waited on the beach and received orders to reinforce Colonel MacLagen and the 3rd Brigade at 09.30am. They engaged in a desperate struggle for the strategically vital high ground (Baby 700).

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Major William Davidson (left) and William Sydney Duchesne (right)
Photo taken in Egypt

Starting at 11.00am, Duchense with the Australian troops attacked the heights. Five times the hill was taken and five times the Australians were pushed back. It was during this battle that Duchense fell. The hill which he fought for and died to win, remained with the Turks for the rest of the campaign. Captain Bigwither, a New Zealand officer (NZEF)had recovered Duchesne’s identity disc and sometime after the withdrawal in December, handed it to the Australian headquarters in Cairo. In many cases where the discs had been removed, identification was impossible. The disc was returned to Syd’s father in 1920.

After the end of the war, the unburied bodies on the battlefields behind Turkish lines were recovered and buried. Duchesne was killed at the age of twenty, one month before his twenty-first birthday on 25 April, 1915. There is a memorial commemorating him which is located at panel 28 of the Commemorative Area at the Australian War Memorial. The inscription at Baby 700 Cemetery, Gallipoli, Turkey reads:

“Duchense. Lt William Sydney 1st Bn Australian Inf. Killed in action 25th April 1915. Son of Edwin James and Edith Rachael Duchense of Crown St, Wollongong, New South Wales. Native of Sydney.”

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His Memorial Scroll was sent to his family in 1921 and the Memorial Plaque the following year. Syd was awarded the 1914-15 Star (2353), the British War Medal (1163) and the Victory Medal (1165). In 1968 his brother Edwin as the oldest surviving sibling, applied for and received the newly struck Gallipoli Medallion on his brother’s behalf.

Syd’s name remains on the Honour Board at St Michael’s Church in Wollongong.

He is also mentioned on: The Spirits of Gallipoli.

Kiama Scanathon

The day which was held on Tuesday 10th September was a great success with our volunteers made very busy with a raft of locals bringing along their WW1 treasures.

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Flag belonging to Private Edward William Stewart of Kiama.

Flag belonging to Private Edward William Stewart of Kiama.

Included was a card signed by twelve Australian Victoria Cross winners, original maps, many postcards, and a flag signed by soldiers and nurses in a hospital.

We thank all who turned up on the day, sharing their memorabilia. We also thank our volunteers for giving up their time and showing great enthusiasm. This is of course an ongoing project, with many people who were unable to attend the day, bringing along material to be scanned.

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Scan & Share @ Dapto

The latest scan and share day at Dapto library (August 29th) was a success thanks to members of the local community who contributed and shared invaluable memorabilia.  The items seen on the day ranged from photographs to diaries, books, medallions and soldier’s personal trinkets.
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The contributors not only shared family-related objects but a range of items found in unexpected places, such as in the shed of a recently purchased house. One member of the public even offered take back a photo of a soldier once found, to his [the soldier’s] grave at Pieta Cemetery in Malta at their own expense.

GAVIN_F_001APatrick James Gavin and his medallions

Michael Molkentin, spoke about his latest book Fire in the Sky and in greater detail about his most recent project.

 The day was an overall success and the team are looking forward to future scan and share days. Keep an eye out on the Event page for dates of upcoming events and speakers.

Charles Walter Cornford

Charles Walter Cornford was born at Kiama, New South Wales on 29 October, 1893. He was the youngest son and seventh child of Walter and Ester Cornford. He was raised and educated along with his siblings at Kiama. After leaving school Charles started work with New South Wales Government railways, initially as a porter. His job took him away from home where he boarded with families close to his place of work. Charles was stationed at Waterfall, working as a railway signalman when he enlisted in the army in 1915, at age 21.

Charles Walter Cornford

Charles Walter Cornford

Charles served in the Australian Army from 26 July, 1915 until the first of November, 1917. He was a driver in the 5th Machine Gun Company, 20 Infantry Battalion. He served in France, departing from Sydney on 6 September, 1915 on HMAS Ballarat. After being discharged from the army medically unfit in 1918, Charles returned to work for the New South Wales Government railways.

Kiama Independent. 23 June 1917

Kiama Independent. 23 June 1917

Charles married Ruby Hall on 15 June, 1918 at   Petersham, New South Wales. They went on to have four children, Dorothy Jean, Roydon Charles, Melva Joy and Yvonne Olive between 1919 and 1934. In the early years of their marriage the family lived in New South Wales country areas where Charles was stationed with the railway.

The family returned to the Illawarra area in the early 1920’s where Charles continued his employment with the railway. He purchased land and built the family home in 1924 and lived there with the family throughout his working life and into his retirement. He spent many years working at Wollongong railway station where he went on to become supervisor of the goods shed, a position he held until his retirement.

Charles joined the Masonic Lodge in Portland, New South Wales in 1919. He was presented with his 50 years Freemasonry Medal in 1969.In 1979 he travelled to Norway to receive a medal marking 60 years as a member of the Illawarra Lodge; he was also honoured with Life Membership. Charles also served as both secretary and treasurer of the Druids Lodge for many years, retiring at the age of 90.

Community service was a big part of his life. Charles served on Wollongong Municipal Council as an alderman from 1930 to 1947, including one term as Deputy Mayor. Throughout his life he was involved in community groups. He was a Life Member of both the Wollongong Agricultural and Horticultural Societies. He exhibited both flowers and poultry at shows throughout the local area and was known for the magnificent dahlias that he grew. His garden was his pride and joy into his early nineties.

Charles passed away on 6 May, 1988 at Helensburgh after a short illness, at age 94. His life was celebrated at a service at Wesley Uniting Church, Wollongong where he was a long standing member of the congregation. Following his funeral service Charles was cremated and laid to rest at the Wollongong Memorial Gardens.