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Thursday, 10 October 2013

Duplication in centenary of World War One projects :

As we approach the centenary of World War One, we have come across other projects similar to those we are undertaking in Ryde and to a certain extent there will be some duplication across the country, with everyone wanting to claim some connection to the famous and infamous.

At this point our project’s main focus is on those men and women who have any connection to the Ryde Municipality before or during WWI. The connection might be like that of David Chestnut (in our first blog story), a lad who was born and educated locally, with strong family ties to the district that left his name recorded on 4 different war memorials within the Municipality.

Others, like Henry Oscar Nelson, were born in New Zealand and only moved to Ryde in the years before the war. Some names that have made our lists contain only a brief connection to the district with the only connection being found to be their birthplace, or the address of their next of kin. There are still a number of others that remain for us to puzzle out what their connection could be.

What we have found is that many can be claimed by more than just the Ryde district, also having connections to other regions, both before and after the war. Two of our more famous names fall into this category.

Matron Bessie Pocock, was born in 1863 at Dalby, Queensland. By 1876, her family had settled to a small acreage at The Punchbowl, near Grafton, NSW. She first joined the New South Wales Army Nursing Service Reserve in 1899 and enlisted for service in the South African War. Later in life she became the Matron of Gladesville Hospital between 1911-14. After the war she resumed her position as matron at Gladesville until 1924 when she established a convalescent hospital at Chatswood. While the Ryde district is not her place of birth or death, her connection to our district is remembered by her listing on the Gladesville Hospital Honour Board, Ryde Town Hall Honour Rolls and on Christ Church Memorial Gates at Gladesville.

Another example is the poet, Andrew Barton (Banjo) Paterson, who was born in Orange, NSW, in 1864. He spent much of his school years with his widowed grandmother, poet Emily Barton,  at her home, Rockend Cottage in Gladesville. Banjo’s connection to our district is also remembered on the Ryde Town Hall Honour Rolls.  His connection to the Orange District has also been made with a recent post on their “Centenary of World War One in Orange”  site:

Where we find any similar WWI projects, we will add them to our blog watch list or list the links.  Everyone on our list has a story to tell, some are just local, others national, we mightn’t get to them all but in the coming years we hope to find and share many of their stories.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Project Update — September 2013

My apologies for the lack of blog updates in recent months, but a bereavement and a birth in my family, has kept me distracted from updating the blog.

Yes – the Ryde goes to War Project is still progressing – our latest update:

In our database we currently have 2,075 names of Service people with a connection to the Ryde district. These have been collected from various Honour rolls, War memorials, embarkations rolls, local newspapers, etc. Most just list a family name with an initial or two. When these rolls, memorials and reports were created a hundred years ago, the Ryde community would have known exactly who they were honouring, but today many are unknown or forgotten. We want to identify these men and the few women and at the least find their full names and service numbers and their connection to the district. Many on our list were born in the area, educated or worked in the area; others are proving harder to find the connection for.

So far we have been able to identify,

 with full names and service numbers, 1,349.  

726 are still to be identified.

304 of them never returned home, and we currently have photos of 105 of their headstones or memorials.

We have also made contact with the families of 78 service people from our list

 and have found photos of 114 of them.

The number of Nurses, Sisters, or Matrons found on our list is currently at 11or 12 (depending if Nurse N. Hall, turns out to be the same person as Nurse Marion Hall...

What our team has been up to……

  • In August we got together to discuss our project with many of our team of researchers. We have more than 20 working on the project including one joining us when possible from Victoria! Each has been focusing on a specific letter and working on their group of surnames; some have completed their groups and we are starting to collate the data, while others are still hunting!
  • We also have representatives on the Ryde Anzac Centenary Committee Ryde Council’s WWI Centenary taskforce and are working with them to ensure the data we collect will be accessible into the future.
  • We had planned a transcription and photographing day at one of our local cemeteries, Field of Mars, in June, but it was rained out.  The sun shone on our July date and we were able to tackle various sections to hunt out any headstones that included war service information or memorials. A few of our team are following up on this and more details will follow.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Remembering 'the mothers of Ryde' who lost their boys in WWI

This Mother's Day we think of all the mothers, grandmothers, wives, aunts and sisters who lost their boys during the battles of World War I.
Many would have expressed the same sentiment as Elizabeth Nelson, (mother of Henry Oscar Nelson, of previous posts) when she wrote to the Army in March 1917, following the information that her son, Henry had been reported missing since the action at Fromelles in July 1916.

“Our poor lad may be suffering from an injury to the head or shell shock, and may have forgotten who he is.  We all have the feeling that he is not dead.”
Sadly, a few days later she received a letter from the Red Cross confirming that Henry had died.

Elizabeth Nelson was not alone, many mothers across the district and the country were receiving the same news. Another, the mother of  Arthur Ernest Tipp, currently being research by our project....

It was the 5th May 1918, when a Court of Enquiry declared that Arthur Ernest Tipp, No. 5099, 20th Battalion, the only son of William and Alice Tipp of Ryde, previously listed as missing, had been killed in action in Belgium on the 9 October 1917. [Arthur’s story will appear soon].

And more pictures from Kim Phillips' travels ....
where she recently visited the memorial at  V.C.CORNER, FROMELLES and left a poppy beside Henry Oscar Nelson's name.
Photo: Kim Phillips,  May 2013
Photo: Kim Phillips,  May 2013

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

ANZAC DAY 2013 & 1926

This ANZAC Day we remember all those who have fallen in war and pay tribute to their service

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
Our Project Coordinator, Kim Phillips is currently at Gallipoli to attend the services and collect further information on all the Australian Service men and women who lost their lives, as well as those with a connection to the Ryde Municipality.

The Anzac Commemorative site ready for the Dawn Service

Photo : Kim Phillips, April 2013


Source: Collis, E.H. The Story of Gladesville and its first church. 1938.

A large gathering in Gladesville remembered those who fell in the War of 1914-1918
 on Anzac Day 1926.
The Christ Church  memorial gates were unveiled by Governor General of Australia,
 Lord Stonehaven.
Originally located near the corner of Victoria Road and Jordan Street, they were moved, to their current location, a bit eastward along Victoria Road, during road widening.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Our Anzac family – the Nelson Brothers of Ryde, NSW and Wellington, NZ

Their story as researched by the RGTW team
In the previous blog post we have heard the wonderful story of the return of Henry Oscar Nelson’s Dead Man’s penny to members of his family.  In preparation for that event we did some research on who the Nelson family were, and where they came from and discovered them to be an ANZAC family!

Two of the six Nelsons listed on our Ryde goes to war database are brothers, Frederick Andrew Nelson (Service No. 727) & Henry Oscar Nelson (Service No. 728 ), both were born in Wellington, New Zealand.

Martin Nelson of Sweden, married Elizabeth McCracken of Ireland, in New Zealand in 1887.  They had seven children, all born in New Zealand: Charles Leonard, born in 1888 ; Alfred William, born 1889 and died in 1890 in New Zealand; Frederick Andrew, born 1891 ; Emily Jane, born in 1894; Henry Oscar, born in 1896 ; Agnes Maria, born in 1899 ; Maurits, stillborn in 1904.
Frederick Andrew Nelson
Service No. 727
 30th Battalion

The 1911 New Zealand Electoral Rolls record a Martin Nelson as living in Mount Pleasant, Mitchelltown and he was a Labourer.  The eldest son, Charles Leonard is also listed as living in Mount Pleasant.

 Henry Oscar Nelson
Service No. 728
30th Battalion
KIA Fromelles
20 July 1916

By 1915, the Sydney Sands Directory lists, Martin Nelson as residing in Parkes St, Ryde, on the south side between the Masonic Hall and Joseph Parry. This is the address given by Frederick and Henry, when they enlist in the Australian Imperial Force, in July 1915. With consecutive service numbers, the brothers both join C Company of the 30th Battalion, and depart Australia in November 1915. Tragically (as we have already heard in previous blogs), Henry is to be killed in action at Fromelles on 20 July 1916.

Only nine months after that the family is to receive another cruel blow when Martin fell from a tram near Pyrmont Bridge and died in Sydney Hospital.  He is buried in the Presbyterian section of Field of Mars Cemetery, Ryde.  His death certificate shows that he died on 10 April 1917, he was 60 years old, and died from accidental injuries.  His father was Svan Nelson, Pilot, and his mother was Anne Ivanson.  His place of birth is shown as Warberg in Sweden and he had been 3 years in NSW.  The informant was his eldest son, Charles, of Parkes St, Ryde.
Fortunately Frederick returned home safely from the war having married Beatrice Owen in England in 1918.  They settled in Bowden Street, Ryde, in a house they named “Amiens” where they lived, according to the Sands Directories, until at least 1933.  They moved to Victoria Rd, Drummoyne in the1930s and by 1943 they moved to Balmain, until Frederick’s death in 1969.

Elizabeth Nelson died on 8th July 1934 at her residence in 22 Belmore St, Ryde. Her death certificate shows she was 70 years old and her parents were John Charles McCracken, school teacher, and Margaret Henderson.  Her place of birth is shown as Dublin, that she lived in Wellington, NZ for 31 years and 20 years in NSW. The informant was her son, Frederick, of 61 Bowden St, Ryde.  She is buried beside her husband, Martin, at Field of Mars Cemetery.

Frederick Andrew Nelson is listed on the Ryde Town Hall Honour Rolls and St Anne's Anglican Church, while Henry Oscar Nelson is listed among the names of the dead in the Ryde Civic Centre Memorial Book and also on the St Anne's Anglican Church.

World War I Honour Roll of St. Anne's Anglican Church, Ryde

Monday, 1 April 2013

So what is a Dead Man's Penny ?

In preparation for our recent event which returned Henry Oscar Nelson's Dead Man's Penny to his family, members of the Ryde Goes to War project team did some research on exact what is the Dead Man's Penny. [ See previous posts  for event details].

Officially named the World War I Memorial Plaque, it is a commemorative medallion or memorial plaque which was presented to the next-of-kin of the men and women who died during World War I. The plaques were designed and produced in Britain and issued to commemorate all those who died as a result of war service from within the British Commonwealth.
The idea for the plaques was originally conceived mid-way through the war. It was decided that the design of the plaque, about 5 inches (12 cm) in diameter and cast in bronze, was to be picked from submissions made in a public competition. There were over 800 entries. The winner, Mr E Carter Preston of Liverpool, England, was chosen in 1918 and was awarded a prize of £250. The plaques were manufactured in London. 
Elizabeth Nelson ( Henry's mother) of Parkes St Ryde signed a receipt
 for the Memorial Scroll and King’s Message for her son, Henry Oscar Nelson, on 1 November 1921
and for his Memorial Plaque ( the above Dead Man's Penny) on 9 August 1922.
The medallion features an image of Britannia surrounded by two dolphins (representing Britain’s sea power) and a lion (representing Britain) standing over a defeated eagle (symbolising Germany). Britannia is holding an oak spray with leaves and acorns above the rectangular tablet bearing the deceased’s name cast in raised letters. The name does not include the soldier’s rank, to show equality in sacrifice. Around the outer edge of the medallion are the words ‘He [she] died for freedom and honour’.

Production of the plaques, which was supposed to be financed by German reparation money, began in 1919 with approximately 1,150,000 issued. Unfortunately, the production and delivery of the plaques was not a complete success and the scheme ended before all the families or next-of-kin of the deceased received the official recognition they should have.

The first plaques were distributed in Australia in 1922. Each plaque was sent out by mail from Base Records Office at Victoria Barracks in Melbourne. Approximately 60,000 plaques were issued in Australia. There were some relatives who returned their pennies to the Australian Government in protest as they felt it was insulting and it did not replace their loved one’s life.

 A scroll of thick parchment was designed to accompany each of the plaques. Officially named the World War I Memorial Scroll. The scroll, headed by the royal coat-of-arms, bore the following message:
He whom this scroll commemorates was numbered among those who,
at the call of King and Country, left all that was dear to them,
endured hardness, faced danger,
and finally passed out of the sight of men by the path of duty and self-sacrifice,
giving up their own lives that others might live in freedom.
Let those that come after see that his name is not forgotten.
 Underneath the message, the serviceman’s or servicewoman’s name, rank, honours and unit were written by hand in red ink.

Because of the late arrival of the plaques in Australia, many scrolls were sent out separately, with a message from the King (George V):
I join with my grateful people in sending you this memorial
of a brave life given for others in the Great War.


Military History Online,


Sunday, 24 March 2013

More photos from last week's Dead Man's Penny handover

Ryde District Historical Society's President Janice Eastment, MC for the afternoon

The Wallumetta Room
 at City of Ryde Library
was the venue for our handover of Henry Oscar Nelson's Memorial plaque
on Saturday 16 March 2013.

Judy & Phil Display The Weekly Times story
A local newspaper, The Weekly Times reported the event in both the week prior
 and the following week
We were also very pleased to welcome Chanel 10 reporter, Mazoe Ford and cameraman who joined us for the afternoon.

Chanel 10 aired Mazoe Ford's coverage of the event during the 5pm news on Monday18 March 2013 under the title "Lost and found'!
Margaret, Richard, Angela, Kim, Judy, & Janice with Ryde City Mayor, Ivan Petch

We were also very grateful to Judy for bringing along family photos, medals & memorabilia
 for both Henry Oscar Nelson and his brother Frederick Andrew Nelson
and allowing us to make a photographic record of them
 for our project.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Henry Oscar Nelson's 'Dead man's penny' finally back with the Nelson family!

Wow! what a great afternoon we had.

On Saturday 16th March many members of the Ryde District Historical Society gathered with the community and Henry's great niece, Judy for the hand-over of Henry Oscar Nelson's 'dead man's penny'.

Kim presents Judy with Henry Oscar Nelson's Memorial Plaque
The event was the result of  the "penny" having been found in a box purchased at a garage sale more than twenty years ago by Lynne Crawford in Bingara, (in northern New South Wales). Lynne asked her neighbour to help research the owner of the plaque, and when it was discovered that Henry's address at the time of enlistment was Ryde, Lynne’s neighbour and researcher Helen Cornish contacted Angela Phippen at Ryde Library in the hope of returning the plaque to Henry’s family.

After some research of her own Angela passed the information on the Ryde District Historical Society, who she knew were researching the World War 1 servicemen and women from the Ryde district. The Society did have Henry Oscar on our list and in fact we were already working on his family as we had identified him as one of the missing soldiers who died at Fromelles.

So by a wonderful series of coincidences the Ryde goes to War project Coordinator, Kim Phillips was able to make contact with Henry's great niece, who described it as 'amazing to have it in my hand' and she thanked Lynne from Bingara 'for her selfless act and for going to the trouble of returning it to the family.'

The event was followed by afternoon tea where ANZAC biscuits were the main fare!
 More picture to come soon!

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Welcome back to 2013 - we have some exciting things happening!

Our working group met recently to catch up on everyone’s progress and problems over the Christmas break.
Our research is progressing well, but the exciting news that has been evolving behind the scenes, is that we are soon to have an event connected to one of our Ryde soldiers.
The following ‘ Media Release’  has just been released and is added here for you all to share.
Henry Oscar Nelson
No. 728

 30th Battalion
Source: Nelson Family Collection
WWI memorabilia found at garage sale
returned to family of lost Fromelles serviceman,
on Saturday 16 March 2013, 2pm, Ryde Library

On 17 July 1915, 19 year old Ryde lad Henry Nelson, equipped with a letter from his parents giving their permission, enlisted for service in the AIF.
One year and two days later he was killed in action during what has been described as the worstnight in Australian history. More than 5,500 Australian soldiers were killed during 19–20 July 1916 at Fromelles.
In March 1917, his mother wrote to the Army, stating that “Our poor lad may be suffering from an injury to his head or shell shock, and may have forgotten who he is. We all have the feeling that he is not dead.”
Sadly, the Red Cross wrote to Henry’s family that same month, advising them that Henry’s name had appeared on a list, given to them by the Germans, of men that they had buried.
Henry’s body lay in a massed grave until recently when the grave was located at Pheasant Wood in the Fromelles area. Henry is now interred in the new CWGC Cemetery at Pheasant Wood.
In August 1922, Elizabeth Nelson, his mum, was sent Henry’s Memorial Plaque (also known as a 'dead man's penny') and Memorial Scroll.
Now, some 91 years later, the plaque was found by Lynne Crawford in Bingara, in a box bought from a garage sale some years earlier. Lynne’s neighbour and researcher Helen Cornish contacted Angela Phippen at Ryde Library in the hope of returning the plaque to Henry’s family.
Angela was able to put Lynne in touch with the Ryde District Historical Society, who, for the past two years, has been working on the Ryde Goes to War Project – a project aimed at identifying all people from Ryde who served in WW1. Through various contacts, and research undertaken, RDHS was able to contact Judy Hanlen, a great niece of Henry Nelson, and let her know that the plaque had been found.
Now, on Saturday 16 March 2013 at 2.00pm the plaque will be reunited with Henry’s family. You are invited to join us in a short function to be held in the Wallumetta Room, Ryde Library, 1 Pope Street, Ryde NSW 2112 (cnr Pope and Devlin Streets, within Top Ryde City Shopping Centre).
Coincidently the Ryde Historical Society, as part of its Ryde Goes to War Project has been looking to find the descendants of nine men from our district identified as possibly buried in the Pheasant Wood Cemetery, with the idea to assist in their DNA identification. Henry Nelson had already been identified as one of the men being researched. Efforts by his great niece Judy Hanlen to match DNA to identify him, have failed. The Society is pleased to be able to present the Memorial Plaque to Judy as a tangible link to her great uncle.
If you would like any additional information or details, or you plan on attending, please contact
RDHS on (02) 9807 7137 or email Ryde District Historical Society at

To assist with catering, please RSVP by 11 March 2013