Pushbike Diaries

A Bicycle Riding Holiday – Day 5: Taralga to Goulburn and Anzac Day Anzacs

Anzac Day 2018 I wanted to ride someplace quiet and beautiful. I chose the area around Goulburn, New South Wales.

This is the telling of that journey in words and pictures. I’ve split each day into three pieces – the story, some history, and the details (of route, accommodation and food). 

This is the sixth and final post in this series. The first, a prologuethe second – from Goulburn to Collector, the third from Collector to Gunning, the fourth from Gunning to Crookwell, and the fifth from Crookwell to Taralga. 

Today’s entry is from Anzac Day itself. If you read to the history section you’ll see I’ve delved into the stories of a select group of Australian World War I casulaties – the diggers of Taralga. I do hope you get to spend some time with them.

Wednesday 25 April 2018 – Anzac Day

I am awake at 5:15 am for the 5:30 am Anzac Day Dawn Service. The morning is night-time dark and crisply cool albeit unseasonably warm. An impressive crowd of a couple of hundred people is gathering nearer the cenotaph than the pub. They come into the street-lit space from the darker expanses of the village. I hear someone remark it’s the best crowd in years. And that’s before a phalanx of police arrive, maybe 12 of them, lining up and at attention. The service is simple and moving: a recitation of the names of the 25 Taralga and District men killed in WWI, the Ode, the Lord’s Prayer, Last Post and Reveille played by a bugler and the flag raising. There is an invitation to breakfast at the hall and then a piper pipes as people move away.

I pass on breakfast as I am not up for socialising with strangers before 6:00 am. Or, really, at any hour – if I’m honest.

I am back in bed by 5:45.

Much too early for focus. The crowd gathers for the Taralga Anzac Day Dawn Service

I wake to bright sunshine and help myself to as much breakfast as I can manage and set off for my last day of riding on this holiday.

The weather is, again, magnificent – big blue sky, warming sun, not much breeze. The ride, however, is a bit challenging. I retrace my route out of town then turn onto a southbound unpaved road, I hit a T junction and turn left as shown on the Trails map then struggle to find Rhyanna Road. I pass what looks like the drive for a property – there’s a cattle grate, post boxes, no road sign. I keep going but another kilometre along I hit pavement and know I’ve gone too far. I go back the driveway, try to pull up enough mobile signal to get the GPS to locate me, no luck. I decide this must be the road, walk my bicycle across the grate and pedal on. Soon I reach a point where it seems to dead end – there is a gate and just a rough track beyond. I track back a little and find a car coming from one of the houses along this lane. They assure me that the track beyond the gate is, in fact, Rhyanna Road.

It’s a pair of worn ruts in the grass. In places the ruts are badly eroded. For 2-3 kilometres it’s rough as guts but then emerges onto a top-notch gravel road – so smooth as to be nearly as good as bitumen. Obviously, no one needs that short patch of road anymore – it just passes through a property. Everyone to the north goes out to the main road, everyone to the south uses this lovely bit of gravel.

From there it’s a straightforward undulating ride into Goulburn. Along the way I pass a paddock holding two camels.

This is the better section of rough Rhyanna Road.

 

A camel on the road to Goulburn

Motor traffic picks up when I am within about 15 kilometres of Goulburn. It being Anzac Day I prefer the traffic coming from behind because I know there are no pubs in that direction, of those coming towards me, from Goulburn, I am just a little more attentive than usual.

I roll into town and it feels much more like a small city than it had on Friday when I arrived from Sydney. I pedal up through the bustling main drag to the south side of town, up a wee street, and to the lovely Wombermere B & B.  It’s a gorgeous, meticulously restored 19th century home with two guest rooms up the front and living space out the back.

A beautiful and comfortable room for my last night of holidays.

I have a nice chat with Leon, one of the hosts, as he shows me around. We look at maps of my route together. He and his wife have restored antique motorbikes and they’ve ridden all the roads – well, not the rough as guts stretch of Rhyanna Road.

I tell him I have Chinese food on my mind – that I was disappointed that the Chinese in Crookwell had been closed. Rural and regional Australian towns have had Chinese restaurants for generations. Often, they have a sort of Cantonese-kitsch motif and serve staples of Anglicised Chinese food along with steaks and chips. I kind of love these places and seek them out when I can. The one in Crookwell looked very much of this type but, sadly, closed. Leon suggests Emperor Asian and after a fantastic shower I walk back up the main street to find it.

The vibe isn’t classic country Chinese. There are two other places to choose from, both of which are more of the type (the Golden Star and Lotus Chinese) but I feel I should go with my host’s recommendation. I place the classic country Chinese order: sweet and sour pork and wait. It arrives quickly, steaming and shiny with that sugary sauce – it’s fine but not great.

Sweet and sour pork – Goulburn style.

After eating I walk around town a bit, along lawyers’ row which is lined with some lovely old buildings, and past the churches before retiring to my room for a final night’s sleep away from home.

History

At the Taralga dawn service they simply read the names of their fallen Anzacs as they are inscribed on the stone: “Bee J., Bezer H.J., Bradbury M. …” It felt like an inventory of the dead rather than a list of young men who lived lives and left loved ones behind. Knowing how easy it is to use the War Memorial and Australian National Archives records I decided I wanted to know more about the humanity behind that cold list. Doing the research was easy, if time consuming and emotionally difficult. I teared up often and out and out wept once.  So, please, let me tell you a little bit about the lost Anzacs of Taralga and District.

The 25 names on the Taralga & District Cenotaph

They were, on average, 26 years old when they died – the youngest was 19, the oldest 39. Only one was married, nearly all were Privates, two were brothers, another two were first-cousins, there was an orphan, someone who served with the Canadians, another who’d also gone to the Boar War. There were photos and documents which brought so much to light. Two were killed at Gallipoli and five are buried at Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery.

Here they are – if you take the time, you will be rewarded – you may want to keep some tissues handy.

The second time 31-year old Private James Bee was wounded he was killed in action in France on 4 May 1918. He was a 5’6”, 124-pound farmer when he enlisted in Goulburn on 6 April 1916. Among his personal effects returned to his family were a damaged watch, a silver match box, and a pipe. In his will of 25 July 1916 he left 727 acres, two horses, saddle & bridle and two guns to his brother with everything else going to his mother, Lucy.

The last of the Taralga diggers to died was Gunner Henry James Bezer. He was killed in action on 22 August 1918 in France; he is buried at Villers-Bretonneux. He was 20.

Lieutenant Herbert James Boys served in the 27th Canadian Infantry. His father, Edward Thompson Boys (MD, RN), and mother, Mary Maloney Boys, lived in Goulburn but his wife, Ethel May McKining Boys, lived in Vancouver. He was 31 years old when he was killed in France – a gun shot wound to the right buttock – on 10 May 1918. His wife, who was 11 years older than him, died the following year.

Private Milton Bradbury was a tall, skinny young man, 26-years old when he was killed in action in France on 28 July 1916. He was a grazier, assisting on his father’s station. During his time in service he was hospitalised in Suez with mumps, in Heliopolis with influenza, and in France with scabies. Among his effects sent home to his family were swimming trunks. I’ve spent time thinking about the trunks – was a bit of a larrakin? Having a laugh bringing them along? Or an avid swimmer determined to be prepared if the opportunity presented? Maybe he got them in Egypt and, before or after his hospitalisation, he swam in the Mediterranean?

Private Milton Bradbury – he had swimming trunks on the Western Front.
Milton Bradbury’s record of hospitalisations.

Private Augustine John Cosgrove was a selector and grazier from Porters Retreat near Oberon but chose Goulburn as the place to enlist. I guess that’s how he comes to be on the Taralga cenotaph. He was 26-years old when he was killed in Belgium on 1 October 1917.

When he enlisted at 19 Private Stanley Fleming listed his occupation as Traveller. I have no idea what that would have meant. It seems unlikely he would have been an Irish Traveller – that itinerant ethnic group wouldn’t have rolled into Taralga in the late 19th century. Whatever he meant, I like it – I like travellers. He arrived at the front on 2 February 1917, was awarded leave in England from 29 January to 12 February 1918 and then went AWOL from the 14th – 17th February. I really hope he met someone with whom he just had to spend more time before going back to the war. He was 21 years old when he was killed in France on 4 April 1918.

A bit of officialdom transcribing Stanley’s mum’s request for a Mother’s Medal.

 

And a letter in her own hand asking if any of Stanley’s belongings have been found and could they be sent to her.

Stanley’s mum asks that his belongings be sent to her at 86 Lord Street, Newtown. For my fellow Sydneysiders, Inner Westerners in particular – this is one of those little houses with their backs to St Peters Station. I walked down there today:

86 Lord Street, Newtown – home to Stanley Fleming’s mum 100 years ago.

Private Francis Maynard Fullam had a pretty shitty run of things, really: his father was dead and he’d been rejected from enlistment as medically unfit once before they finally let him join up. Then, on 20 September 1917 he was shot in the face and abdomen. This led to having an abscess on the jaw bone which was first described as “sinus chin” in a telegram to his mum Margaret. Understandably, she had no idea what that meant and telegrammed back asking for clarification – which is when she was told it was an abscess. He was back in hospital on 23 November 2017 with a tumour on the scalp, and again with a “cyb. Cyst” on 24 April 1918. He joined his unit at the front on 7 May and was shot through the head and died a week later, 15 May 1918. He was 27.

Private John Andrew Glasson spent more time dying of his wounds than at the front. He joined his unit in France on 31 October 1916, suffered multiple gunshot wounds on 9 November and died on the 22nd. He was 31 years old. Less than a year later, on 16 July 1917, his 22-year-old brother Clive Allen Glasson, was also killed in action (but isn’t listed on the Taralga Cenotaph).

WJ Heylan – I couldn’t find any record of him. I found a WH Haylan from Cowra but he returned to Australia after the war and I can’t find anything in his records to indicate a connection to Taralga.

Private Christopher John Hardy – who is shown as “CL Hardy” on the Taralga Cenotaph was, at 19-years of age, the youngest of the Taralga Anzac’s to die. The gunshot wounds he received to both feet in France on 7 August 1916 killed him. His brother, William Henry, was also killed in action (see below).

Almost a year after his brother Christopher had been killed, Private William Henry Hardy – then 21 – met the same fate in Belgium on 12 October 1917. William – all of 5’5” and 112 pounds on enlistment – had a pretty shitty war. He’d been in and out of hospital with influenza, deafness, mumps, adenitis (had to look that one up – it’s an inflammation of the mesenteric lymph nodes in the abdomen), and shell shock before being wounded the first time. He was shot in the arm on 29 July 1917 and spent a month in hospital before resuming service one last time.

Both of the Hardys’ parents had died before they entered the service, their sister was their next of kin. It really is the (mostly) quiet presence of the women in these stories which break my heart. Her parents are dead, her brothers both enlist. They are both just boys but so determined to go, what can she do to stop them? I imagine she was more scared for them going than they were for themselves. Perhaps she said so, perhaps she put on a brave face and told them their father would have been proud. And then telegrams about William’s illnesses start coming; and then the worst, that Christopher has been injured, and now he’s dead. Maybe all the illnesses William has suffered somehow means he’ll get to come home, she may have hoped. But it was a hope to far. Now both her brothers lie in foreign soil, not even together, in places she’ll never be able to visit. She tries to get on with her life knowing that plenty of other mothers and sisters have also lost so much.

She asks for the death certificates of both her brothers.

Private Frederick Joseph Anthony Kelly was known as Fred. He was 21 when he was killed in action in France on 29 March 1917. From age 9 he lived at the St John’s Boys Orphanage in Goulburn and listed Sister Mary Benignus as his next-of-kin. When the army came to her looking for relatives she said he’d been in the orphanage with his brother Leslie and they’d had a married sister living in Sydney – but she didn’t know more. He’d had influenza then diphtheria in Egypt. He was wounded the first time on the Somme in October 1916 – the shrapnel wounds to his left arm were severe enough that he was transferred to hospital in Birmingham. He was out of action nearly 5 months, re-joining his unit on 12 March 1917 only to be killed on the 29th. His will left everything to the Boys’ Home.

Private George Bertram Lang, first cousin of Albert Ernest Maynard (below), was killed at the second Battle of Bullecourt on 3 May 1917. He had been at the front for a month and was initially listed as missing in action, which wasn’t changed to killed until December. He was 20-years old and, at 6’3”, the tallest of the Taralga Anzacs.

George Bertram Lang was 20-years-old when he was killed in action; his first-cousin Albert Ernest Maynard died in France too. He was also 20.

 

In 1920 his father writes asking if anything has been found of his boy – ” It seems very strange that nothing ever was returned.”

 

And the army’s reply: “it is considered improbable that any of his personal belongins were ever recovered.”

Private Thomas James Lawler was born in Taralga. He was known as “Tommy” and was good mates with Albert Ernest Maynard (below). He was 25 when he joined his unit at the front on 22 July 1916, he received a gunshot wound to the leg and died in the casualty clearing station the next day, 23 July.

Tommy Lawler

Private James Loader never made it to Europe. He died and was buried at sea on 2 December 1916, aged 25, of a haemorrhage of the lungs. He had been in the army exactly two months and at sea since 11 November. The idea of drowning in my own blood – which I presume is what haemorrhaging of the lungs would be like – is right near the top of my horrors list. And at sea – so, limited help, the ship rolling and creaking. The idea haunts me.

Private Michael Maher was the oldest of the Taralga Anzacs – at 39 he’d done this once before. He’d enlisted and served in the Boar War in 1902. He was short (5’4”) and stocky (158 lbs), single and a Taralga boy, having attended St Joseph Convent School there. He signed up in March of 1915 and died of wounds at Gallipoli on 30 November 1915.

Private Albert Ernest Maynard was 20 years old when he died of pneumonia in France on Christmas Eve 1916 – honestly that just breaks my heart. It’s hard not to imagine this boy so far from home, away from his family at Christmas for the first time in his life. It’s cold and damp in a way he’s never felt before. He’s wracked with fever and delirious – probably one of many in the ward. He’d enlisted with so much excitement – off to serve King and Country with his mates. Only for it to end here, like this. His good mate Tommy Lawler had died in July and his first cousin George Lang would be killed in action the following May.

And, if all of that doesn’t make you weep for the waste, read this letter from his father. The first sentence made my breath catch in my throat and was the point in this research project I wept.

A father grants permission for his just-turned 19-year-old son to enlist: “Although it is hard for me to carry on without him.”

 

Albert Ernest Maynard, barely 19. Just look at him – the sunburned face and farmer’s fingers and a look someplace between scared and confident.

Sergeant Lachlan McInnes was 33 when he was killed in action in France on 14 November 1916. According to a witness he died when an incoming shell struck him as he was in the process of throwing a bomb. He had earlier served at Gallipoli and had been born in Taralga.

Lachlan McInnes’ mum seeks information about her son whom she hasn’t heard from in six months.

Corporal John Downie McKenzie, a 32-year old Taralga native, was killed in action at Ploygon Wood, Belgium on 26 September 1917 and buried on the battlefield. From a 1924 letter his brother learned that John’s remains had been recovered from a spot about 2000 yards south of Zonnebeke, Belgium and reinterred at Aeroplane Cemetery, Ypres. He also, the brother, undertook a long and ridiculous battle with John’s life-insurance company to get them to pay up £100.

John Downie McKenzie had a studio portrait made in Glasgow in 1917.

Sergeant James Joseph McKeough, known as Jim, was 31 when killed in action in France on 6 May 1918. Over the course of his service, which began in March 1916, he had mumps, appendicitis, and rheumatism. He also spent two weeks on leave in Paris in November 1917, and three weeks leave in England the month before being killed. I hope he enjoyed seeing Paris, I really do. When I saw that note in his records – and he was the only of the Taralga Anzacs with such a note  – I thought, “Oh, Paris … how nice, I’m glad he got to Paris.”

Private James Patrick Miskelly was the second oldest of our group. He was 37 when he was killed in France exactly 102 years ago today: 20 July 1916.

CW Smith – I couldn’t find a record of him.

Private Colin Stewart was 22 years old when he was killed in action in France on 23 July 1916. In 1925 (so 9 years later) his mum gets a letter saying the markers placed above her son’s and other’s graves had been obliterated by later fighting and, as such, his exact location is unknown but that his name will be inscribed on a nearby memorial. Then three years later, in 1928, they write to say he has been found but is in a mixed grave with two other soldiers and they are writing to ask if he had had dentures. She replies, that firstly she has been shocked by the news that he’s been disinterred – and that he hadn’t had dentures when he’d enlisted but he had told her he’d had some such work done subsequently. And then … they offered her the dentures. They had been sent back to Australia as part of the process and now they sat in some Army office and some worker-bee asked him mum – 12 years after his death – if she’d like to have the dentures. She asked that they be destroyed and so they were on 22 May 1928.

The letter informing Colin Stewart’s mum that his grave cannot be located.

 

And her later letter saying, no, I do not wish to have my son’s partial upper denture – please destroy it.

Private Eric Anderson Whiting – the last man on the Cenotaph was the first to enlist and the first to die. He was 20 years old when he was killed at Gallipoli on 27 July 1915 – 103 years ago this week. He enlisted on 10 November 1914 and shipped out 11 February 1915. It would appear he joined his unit at Gallipoli in the first week of May 1915 – so, within the first fortnight of fighting in the Dardanelles.

The first of Taralga’s lost diggers to sign up, the first to die – the incredibly baby-faced Eric Anderson Whiting.

Details

I had the “continental breakfast” which came with my room at the Taralga Hotel – a wee box of cereal, toast with margarine and spreads, orange juice and instant coffee.

Filling if basic.

I rode 56.58 kilometres (per my bicycle computer). I went back up the long hill of Laggan-Taralga Road, left on Strathaird Lane, into Spicers Lane, turning left to stay with Spicers, right at the seeming driveway, the unmarked Rhyanna Road – staying with it past gates and along ruts – until in merges with Middle Arm Road and into Goulburn.

I stayed at Wombermere B & B ($98) and ate dinner at Emperor Asian ($20).

On my final morning, Thursday 26 April, I enjoyed the breakfast side of Wombermer’s B&B. Toast with margarine and local honey, cereal with sweet yogurt, a pod coffee, juice and fruit.

A final breakfast before heading home.

I got the 7:34 am City Rail train which had me back at Central by 10:34 am. The ride cost me $8.69 on my Opal Card.

The view from the train.

 

You may also like...

Leave a Reply