George Lane

by Judith Lewis OAM

I would like to sincerely thank the Lane family for giving me the opportunity to “meet” George and write this article. I hope readers will be as inspired as I have been by George’s story. He must have been a very special person.

The Early Years

George Lane was born on 7 July 1936, a first child for Mavis and Sam Lane of Schofields. He was born at Ennislaun Private Hospital (now the surgery of Drs. Dixon and Longworth). George’s early childhood was typical of that era. He attended Schofields Public School, spent lots of time outdoors playing with mates and helping his father on their two acres of land in Station Street (now Bridge Street). He commenced his high school years in January 1948 at Parramatta Junior Boys’ High School, near the railway station (This later became Macquarie Boys’ High and moved to Rydalmere.)

1947. The Lane family. Left to right Doreen, George, Lyn (baby), Mavis, Ruth,
Miriam (on stool). Sam is not in the photo and Laurie was not yet born.

It was in 1948 that George’s life was to change dramatically. The family had now grown to include Ruth (1938), Doreen (1941), Miriam (1943), Lyn (1946) and Laurie (1948). The family first noticed swelling in George’s feet. He was diagnosed as having “flat feet” and prescribed special shoes. When swelling also began in his knees George was taken back to the orthopaedic specialist who advised them the condition was not orthopaedic but medical. The local doctor had George admitted to Windsor Hospital where, in December 1948, Rheumatoid Arthritis was the diagnosis. With George failing to make progress, after a few weeks, the request was made that he be transferred to the Children’s Hospital Camperdown.

Visiting hours at the hospital were 2pm to 4pm on Sundays and children were not allowed, so his sisters and brother were not allowed to see him. Mavis and Sam travelled every Sunday by steam train and tram to visit George. On special occasions the remaining five Lane children would also make the journey and “see” George from the lawn outside his 2nd floor window. George was in a ward of children from all parts of the state. (Some of those children who came from the country would rarely see their parents or have visitors.)

Ruth Tozer recalls her Christmas days at that time, “We would eat our lunch on the train then go to see George”. She laughingly told of the time when George said he would like a bunch of mistletoe for Christmas so her then boyfriend Brian Tozer picked a large bunch, which became much depleted by the time George received it because so many people they met kept requesting some!


On 20 November 1951 a four page letter, containing a flight information card and a Trans Oceanic Airways Pty. Ltd. serviette, was sent to George by Captain P.G. (Patrick Gordon who called himself “Bill”) Taylor, flying “Tahiti Star” on the Flying Boat Service between Sydney and Lord Howe Island. Rejected by the Australian Flying Corps Bill joined the RAF who awarded him with the Military Cross in July 1917. In 1933 and 1934 Bill flew, as second pilot and navigator, with Charles Kingsford Smith on flights between Australia and New Zealand. He was navigator for Charles Ulm between Australia and England in 1933. In 1934 Smithy and Taylor made the first Australia – U.S. flight in the “Lady Southern Cross”.

In 1935, flying between Australia and New Zealand the flight seemed doomed when part of the centre engine’s exhaust manifold broke off and damaged the starboard prop. Smithy closed down the starboard engine and Taylor climbed out on to the fuselage to collect oil in a thermos from the damaged engine to transfer to the port engine He did this six times before they landed safely at Mascot. He was awarded the Empire Gallantry Medal in 1937 and was knighted in 1954. PG Taylor had heard of George from “H.G. Davis”. We believe H.G. Davis was the husband of one of the hospital’s Social Workers who had spent much time with George

A story in the Sunday Herald on 1 June 1952 brought George more than a thousand letters from people in almost every part of Australia. A radio station offered George any of the records he heard and liked, children sent him records and workers at a Sydney confectionery factory subscribed £70 to buy him a radiogram. All this kindness set George thinking. NSW Premier, Mr. J. J. Cahill had opened the new John Williams Memorial Hospital at Wahroonga where young polio victims were to be given the chance to get fit. George had heard that if there was a nurses’ home there it would mean thirty extra patients could get treatment. George had ten shillings. He asked, if he gave his ten shillings, maybe some of the nice people who wrote to him might also do so. Thus the “George Lane Polio Appeal” was begun by the paper with Sydney Lord Mayor Ernie O’Dea, who had visited George, offering to be President of the Fund. (In 1958 it was reported that ideas George had worked out for small charity concerts and home entertainments had raised £1600 (almost $4000) for charity.)


In August 1952 both the Sunday Telegraph and the Windsor and Richmond Gazette (front page) had a photograph of Marjorie Jackson visiting George. She was accompanied by Shirley Strickland and their visit to George was one of their first acts after returning from the 1952 Helsinki Games. While away the girls had sent George the following postcard.

A postcard written by Shirley Strickland to George from the 1952 Helsinki Games.

At Helsinki Marjorie had won gold medals in both 100 (equalling world record) and 200 metres (breaking the world record). Marjorie Jackson was the first Australian female runner to break a world record. Marjorie became known as the “Lithgow Flash”. In January 1950 she had set the first of her ten world records and later that year gained the first of her seven Commonwealth Games Gold Medals. In London in 1948 Shirley Strickland had come 3rd in the 80 and 100 metre hurdles and won silver in the 4 x 100 metre relay. In Helsinki she won the 80 metre hurdles in record time and won bronze in the 100. In 1956 at Melbourne Olympics she won the 80 metre hurdles and the 4×100 relay. Her statue stands outside Melbourne Cricket Ground. She won more Olympic medals than any other Australian in running sports. Shirley continued to send George postcards from all parts of the world.

Probably George’s closest celebrity friend and particular idol was boxer Jimmy Carruthers, who, in his ninth professional fight, in 1951, won the Australian Bantamweight title. In his fifteenth fight, in 1952, in Johannesburg, South Africa he beat Vic Toweel, knocking him out in two minutes and nineteen seconds to become World Bantamweight Champion. Jimmy had visited George for his birthday on 7 July. Jimmy and his Manager, Bill McConnell, had both written to George from South Africa and Jimmy had told George he would come to see him as soon as he got back. On the night of the fight static prevented George from hearing the broadcast but, by 6am, he knew the result and awakened the ward with his jubilant shouting. George commented, “It will be the happiest day of my life – fancy having a world champion coming to visit me. I knew he would win because he said in his letters he was going to.”

World Champion Boxer Jimmy Carruthers visits his friend George. This photo
shows the affect that the arthritis had on George in the swelling of his fingers.

Another visitor to George was Melbourne Cup winner “Dalray’s” owner , Mr. Neville, who brought the Melbourne Cup to the hospital to show George. A footnote to this particular article told that George had backed “Reformed” each way in the Cup, all up “Jimmy Carruthers”, and won £9.

George received, in December 1952 a letter from Radio 2UE legend Howard Craven, who wrote, “ I suppose you are wondering why I have been asking Teenagers of the Night to get in touch with us. Well, the idea is, we are going to record a special “Rumpus Room” Programme for Christmas Day and we are inviting as many “Teenagers of the Night” as we can find to form the audience when we record the show next Tuesday night. Of course, we realise, George, that you will not be able to come to the recording but we do hope that you will be able to hear the show between five and six o’clock on Christmas evening. You will be our special “Teenager of the Night” during the show”.

Letters from Fred Hoy a Gallipoli Veteran

December 1952 proved a busy month for George. Sent from Cremorne on 22nd was another letter from Fred Hoy (the first of three letters sent to George, one in March 1953, the other in July 1957). We are unsure who he was but his first letter reveals he fought at Gallipoli and took part in the evacuation on 20 December, going to Lemnos Island from whence they sailed in a transport ship through the Aegean Sea to Egypt. Xmas Day in the Aegean Sea was spent “looking out for submarines” and being a bit disappointed that they did not see one, “just out of curiosity”. The Real Xmas dinner they had been anticipating proved a disappointment, the pudding was so water-logged they could not eat it and the C.O. allowed one bottle of beer between three men. Fred’s two mates were delighted that he didn’t drink! Fred spent 10 months fighting in the Sinai Desert and his next Xmas Day was spent near the Suez Canal. They were actually 12 miles east of the canal but, because the water in the canal was so much lower than the banks, no water was visible, so it looked as if the ships were sailing on sand.

Fred tells the next story so well that I will let him tell it again, “On Xmas Day we had a football match in the afternoon. The Headquarters’ Team played a combined team from A, B and C Squadrons, and, as I was Regimental Sarg. Major, nothing would do but I kick off officially. We had no guernseys, so played in our khaki shorts, and, as the sand was so soft that we sank to our ankles walking on it, we played in bare feet. Anyway, when the whistle blew I ran and put all I knew into that kick off, only to tumble head over heels, with, I thought, every bone in my foot broken. Some Wag(?) had substituted a case filled with sand for the real ball, much to the delight and amusement of the spectators, the rest of the troops. So that was one way of getting back on the Sarg. Major. Anyway we had a good game and a real happy time”.

Fred must have been severely wounded because he goes on to talk of his 1917 Xmas spent in Prince of Wales Hospital where he was paralysed and could not even use his hands. He was to spend his next five Christmas’s there. This probably explains why Fred and George became such good friends. Fred thanks George for the help George has given him since they got to know each other through their letters. In Fred’s words “There have been times, and will be in the future, when things go wrong and I feel like kicking over the traces, and perhaps growling a bit. Then I think of your courage and cheerfulness, George, and I feel a bit of a heel. Anyway, after meeting you personally yesterday, I promise to be good from now on.” Earlier in his letter Fred mentions walking with crutches. He also commented on meeting Mavis and Sam on his way into the ward, “They are the kind of people, who make one feel they have been friends for years and I am looking forward to seeing them again soon”. He did.

Adapting to Hearing Loss and Blindness

When he was older George was moved to his own room where he had a special bed which allowed him to be turned easily and where weekday visits were allowed. George lost his sight and later his hearing (1954 or 55?) but before he lost his hearing he had learned Braille. Therapists gave him lessons whereby they and the family could communicate by writing on his hand or chest. His mother read books to him this way. One of those books was “Reach for the Sky” the story of Douglas Bader. George had always said he didn’t want to be an “ignorant teenager” so Mavis took in newspaper cuttings to read to him on her visits

The writer of the above article tells, “At George’s hospital bed I wrote on his chest with a finger, “How did you learn Braille?” He said: “Stewart Carey from the Blind Institute came to the hospital to teach me. It took about five to six weeks to learn all the signs and so forth. Then I was able to start reading short stories and articles. For a start it took me a fair while to read a page of Braille. … I started reading my first book in October.” Because Braille books were too heavy the Blind Society would send George the loose sheets before they were bound into a book. George repayed the Blind Society by proofreading the books. Sam, George’s father had a friend make a special stand to hold the Braille sheets. As George finished reading a sheet a nurse would replace it with the next sheet.

Ward Sister Robin Edman spent many countless hours “finger talking” to George. She commented George had one of the most active minds in the ward and could tell you anything about the hospital news. “Nurses, sisters and doctors all make a point of writing a few words on his chest whenever they go past. They’re always met with questions, questions, questions and more questions. He wants to know all the local news – sport, weather, events of the day, and about other young people. Twice a week his mother finger-writes onto his chest events he’s interested in from the newspapers.” Rheumatoid Arthritis had crippled him to such an extent that he had to be spoon-fed.

More Sporting Visitors

The Daily Mirror of 8 September 1955 wrote of another of George’s idols, Rugby League star Clive Churchill, telling how George had written to him when he broke his arm, hoping he’d soon be playing again, “I took him a jersey once, and they tell me he insists on wearing it over his pyjamas every day”. The reporter continued, “Sure enough, there was the jersey, newly pressed, on George’s shoulder, ready to be turned back to leave the bare chest that is his ‘blackboard”. That jersey, seen below, is still in the possession of the Lane family and is one of Churchill’s Australian Test jumpers!

Clive Churchill’s Australian Rugby League Test Jumper.


Another treasured Lane family possession is George’s autograph book. A Daily Mirror photograph and article on 21 March 1955, tells of Clive Churchill finger talking to George – “Today Churchill discussed tomorrow’s Souths v. Parramatta match … George wished Churchill successful selection in the Australian test team for the forthcoming World Cup series”.

Autographs included the nurses who worked in the hospital, individuals and some sporting teams. The following page show pages signed by the 1955 Australian Rugby League team for the First Test and all the Jockeys at Canterbury Racetrack on 21 June 1952.

Autographs from the Australian 1st Test Team in 1955 including Clive Churchill.

…more autographs from the Australian 1st Test Team in 1955
1952 Signatures from the Jockeys at Canterbury.


In The New Presbyterian of 29 June 1956 an article by Robert Macarthur said, “One day in May I walked into the Children’s Hospital at Camperdown with Bob Allen, of our Riverstone Church. I felt quite uneasy, because I was heading for an interview with a young patient, who is both deaf and blind. Just how to converse with such a patient had me worried”. Robert questioned Bob on why an 18 year old was still in a Children’s Hospital. Bob’s reply, “He has been here for six years … but nobody wants to see him go anywhere else.” Robert described George’s bed “- quite the oddest hospital bed I had ever seen. Indeed it was more like a long narrow traymobile, but on it lay Georgie Lane.”

Further on in the article Robert relates, “I am told that, when Ken Rosewall visited him, George knew more about the tennis stars wins than the famous Ken himself. (Ken “Muscles” Rosewall, with partner Lew Hoad, won the Men’s Doubles at Wimbledon in 1953 and 1956, plus four Australian, two French and two United States titles).… On a recent Saturday one of the Residents gave George a running description of the Queensland v. N.S.W. match.”

Robert Macarthur concluded his article of 29 June 1956 with the following, “Before leaving Georgie Lane I felt I had discovered why so many footballers, nurses, tennis stars, athletes, dancers and others make a pilgrimage to that narrow bed. It is because deep down this lad has never lost touch with the Living God”. Robert Macarthur concluded, “If only you too had known George”.

Letter from the Melbourne Olympic Village from Shirley Strickland.

Brought up in the Presbyterian Church at Riverstone, where he was a Sunday School prize-winner, George did not speak openly of his spiritual life. Every Sunday a religious story or text was written on George’s chest. By his bedside, on a picture of a well-known footballer, was a beautifully illustrated text “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest”. On 2 May of that year Prof. John McIntyre, just before he was appointed to Edinburgh University, received George into full membership of the Church, and gave him communion. George’s comment, “It is a great feeling to be one of the big family of the friends of Jesus”.

In 1962, when Dr. John McIntyre published “On the Love of God”, he spoke of two celebrations of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper which had prompted him to write the book. One was the occasion of George’s first communion of which he wrote, “Never have I been so profoundly conscious of the encompassing cloud of witnesses or of the near Presence …Where men have said in every generation, God cannot be, there for George, God was.”

People in Office

A well-known personage to doctor George, in 1957, was Junior Medical Officer Dr. Marie Bashir, who, on 1 March 2001 become NSW’s second longest and popular Governor, serving in that role for 13 years. Dr. Bashir’s husband was Wallaby Nicholas Shehadie who brought the entire Australian Rugby Union team in to visit George before they embarked overseas. None of George’s remaining family can tell, with certainty, who prompted the other prestigious visitors who flocked to George’s bedside, or who wrote to him, but, that they did, speaks volumes for George and his personality.

In 1957 George received a reply to a letter he had dictated to Queen Elizabeth II in which he spoke of the Duke of Edinburgh’s opening of and involvement in the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne. The queen’s secretary replied, “Her Majesty was very moved by the courage and determination displayed by George Lane in his adversity, and greatly appreciated his writing to her”.

Sam and Mavis join George for his birthday.
A signed photo from Ken Rosewell.

21st Celebrations

On 7 July 1957 George turned 21. Again, a letter written two days later, from Fred Hoy, one of the many who attended, gives us some insight into what a special day it must have been for George. Fred commented, “I have not seen so many people in your room before. …What a lovely party yours was? And what a lot of work your mother must have put into it. That cake looked beautiful, and I’m sure you know just what it was like. … I was sorry that I had to leave early…but I did wait until the speeches were made: and believe me, yours was excellent…you said what was in your heart, George. We could tell that as you spoke; and you said just enough and to the point. I thought that Mr. Davis spoke very nicely, in introducing you, and I felt that he was echoing all our sentiments. …You would get a thrill from knowing that Souths toppled Norths on Saturday; and you will know now, that Churchill is out of Thursday’s match owing to injuries. Bad luck.”

A delightful article in the Sunday Telegraph on 9 March 1958 tells of how a nurse had rushed to George’s bedside, two hospital blocks from the road, less than five minutes after the Queen Mother’s visit and, in letters three inches high, had written on George’s chest “Queen Mother looking beautiful stopped her car outside front gate…Little girl patient curtsied and gave her a bunch of flowers.” George replied in a well-modulated voice, “I’m glad she looked beautiful for the other kids.”

Mavis holds a 21st birthday cake next to George. If you look carefully at the front of the photo you can see the stripes of a football jumper on George’s chest.


In 1958 the Army was called out to Camperdown to move George to his new home “Weemala” at Royal Ryde Homes for Incurables. Hospital authorities had called on the Army because George’s special bed would not fit in an ambulance. George had been 11 when he entered the Children’s Hospital with chronic rheumatoid arthritis which had slowly withered his limbs. George lost his sight and hearing but “never his courage”. George was the oldest patient at the hospital. Because he was a special case the hospital had “waived” its 14 years age limit. In the ten years George had been there he had won the hearts of the nursing staff who called him “Smiler” because he was always laughing and never complained.” Doctors and nurses crowded around George’s bed to trace the word “goodbye” on his hand. George smiled, thanked them, and apologised for being a bother.

Mavis and Sam rode with George in the truck. At “Weemala” Mavis “palm traced” introductions to the nursing staff and demonstrated the tracing technique to the Matron M.M. Savell who then traced out, “Hello George, I hope you will be happy here”. Mavis interpreted for a Daily Telegraph interview. George spoke the words as his mother deftly traced them on his hand. George said, “The Army truck was a bit bumpy but the soldiers did a good job.” He punctuated every sentence with a grin and said, “I am looking forward to my new life here. I felt sad leaving Camperdown Hospital. I want to thank the hospital staff for what they did for me, but anything I say will be inadequate”.

The Legacy

George passed away on 12 May 1958, aged 21. Despite being bedridden for ten years and deaf and blind for half of that time, George was a unique young man who provided inspiration to all who met him including some of the greatest sportsmen and women of the time. As Shirley Strickland wrote in 1956 “George is a lad “whose courage astounds all who know him”.

George’s Specialist doctor had been Professor Sir Lorimer Dods who also became his close friend. In September 1959, as chairman of the Children’s Medical Research Foundation, Professor Lorimer Dods, wrote to Sam and Mavis “to express my own sincere appreciation and that of our Committee for your generous help in the establishment of the Children’s Medical Research Foundation”. This organisation is still in operation today, in one way a legacy to George and his dedicated parents.

St Peter’s Church Schofields

by Winsome Phillis

Forty years ago, Schofields was a small township built around the Railway Station and surrounded by farms and market gardens. Now in 2015, the Station has gone, replaced by a larger complex situated near what was once Pye’s Dairy paddocks. The township is rapidly expanding, old houses of fibro and weatherboard being knocked down and large housing developments appearing, stretching out to the Windsor Road.

St Peter’s Church in St Albans Road which had not been used for over 25 years was also demolished. The site will now be used for housing.

Schofields is part of the Parish of Riverstone. Anglican Church services had been held in Schofields since the 1920s, in a hall belonging to Mr W. Wiggins. This hall was bought in 1929 and adapted for use by the Schofields people, assisted by Messrs Bliss, Senior and Junior, to become the St Peter’s Church Hall.

Some news from the St Peter’s Archives 1931:

    • Church Secretaries: Mr Rees-1929; Mr W. Lambert-1930; Miss M. Skuthorpe-1931.
    • Miss Skuthorpe and the young people enjoyed a Wattle Social.
    • A Concert and Social was held with Miss Griffin and her Orchestra supplying the music.
    • Sunday School was held every Sunday at 2pm, taken by Mrs Alderton.

Guild members in the 1930s included Mesdames Streeter, J. Alderton, West, Bliss, and Stockwell. The Guild arranged many Concerts, Socials and fund raising events. The Church Hall needed a lot of repairs and maintenance and to build a new Church was always a dream for the future.

Finally in 1959 it became possible to build a new Church.

St Peter’s Schofields. Photo: Rosemary Phillis

St Peter’s was never a large imposing building. It was built around the frame of an unused building from Parklea, transported to Schofields in two pieces and transformed into a neat little weatherboard Church by voluntary labour and donations from the people of Schofields. After being opened in 1959, services were held twice a month, taken by Rev. H.W. Robey, the Rector of St Paul’s, Riverstone. The Wardens were Messrs F. Bliss, P. Haberfield, D. Wylie.

A few other snippets of information about the church include: –

    • The first wedding in St Peter’s Church was on July 7, 1962 between Norman Smith and Dell Mortleman. It was conducted by the Rev. Barker of St Paul’s.
    • Many Baptisms were carried out in the Church.
    • The Organist was Mrs Haberfield.
    • Sunday School was being held under the care of Mrs Alderton and other members.
    • Mrs Wylie and Mrs Pomroy ran a GFS group.
    • A CEBS group was operating.
    • The Ladies Guild was very active and many Social events were held.

In 1963 the Church was going well. The Vestry was added to the Church.
Fred Bliss and Norm Pomroy were Wardens. Church Committee members were Mr & Mrs Haberfield, Mrs Peck, Mrs Burton, Mrs Streeter, Mrs Pomroy and Mrs Alderton.

By 1964 a Service was being held each week at 9.15am.

Unfortunately, early in the 1970s Church attendance declined and services were not held regularly. In 1978 and 1979 plans were made to increase the congregation but finally in the 1980s the Church was not being used and it was decided to close St Peters.

Interior of St Peter’s Church, Schofields. Photo: Rosemary Phillis

A Riverstone Cambodian Connection

by Jake Stalker

How does a Rivo boy go from being an everyday teenager to being one of the youngest charity founders and managers in Cambodia within 12 months. This is a question I am asked everyday and feel great pride to share that in the 2015 Journal.

I was born and raised in Riverstone, by amazing parents Karen and Steve. I have one older brother Scott and the great privilege of growing up with my Grandmother May living with us as well. I had a very ‘normal’ childhood, attending Riverstone Primary, Riverstone High then completing my senior years at Wyndham College. After finishing my HSC with a result that allowed me to follow my dream of studying Business and Finance, I found myself with a new level of disinterest I hadn’t experienced before. I had the world at my fingertips but felt like something was missing. As though I hadn’t truly found my calling in life. I ended up deferring university and working at a t-shirt warehouse in Blacktown. The months rolled into the next and before I knew it I had spent 12 months working away without making any steps toward improving my life. This all changed though at the end of 2013 when I quit my job to spend two months travelling South-East Asia with my mate.

I was 19 years old in January 2014 as we boarded the Malaysia Airlines aircraft and headed off to Hanoi Vietnam, we spent weeks travelling north to south via car, motorbike, boat and train. We even had the chance to spend a week exploring the areas where my dad Steve was based during his service in the Vietnam War. However my life truly changed when we crossed the border into Cambodia. Almost instantly you could see the poverty levels increase, the semi-urban landscape of Vietnam faded away and was replaced with open plains of nothingness, other than the occasional basic house or roadside food stall. Our first destination was Sihanoukville on the southern coast of Cambodia. It was as late as 11pm or midnight and there were still countless kids no older than 10 walking around selling bracelets or fireworks to the alcohol fuelled tourists. Often they were abused, yelled at or simply ignored like they don’t exist. I remember sitting there thinking as the kids played with our phones, or sat down to have something to eat, how unfair this was when the kids I know in Australia would be tucked away in bed or watching TV that time of night.

We left Sihanoukville to head to Siem Reap, where naively I thought the wealth associated with booming tourism would protect the kids there from such hardship. But in fact it was worse, many kids begged for money or walked the streets collecting plastic bottles to sell for a pittance. Mother and child would lie on the park benches as their nightly bed. Having spent so much time in Cambodia with the amazing locals, instead of going to Thailand as we planned, we flew back to Australia after having my perspective changed on life. I was back in a country that has so much, yet on a whole we appreciate it so little. I decided I had to do something to help.

Over the next few months my incredible family and I worked hard to set up my new charity, which I named One Step One Life. The name was chosen to remind me that I don’t aim to change the world, I just want to help take One Step towards changing One Life at a time. We registered here in Australia and I set off on a few trips to Cambodia to make connections, learn and be inspired by existing charities and to discover what was missing in the charity world in Cambodia. Like so many people do, I found myself worn out by the over-complexity of many charities, the lack of transparency and lack of simply getting on with the job.

Jake and a German Donor sharing dinner with our students outside of the new school.
Pheakdey, Scott and Hayden on the road.

I vowed to make One Step One Life a charity which cut complexity, employed only locals and simply got on with the job. In doing so we have cemented ourselves as a pivotal part of the Siem Reap community and have achieved more than could have been anticipated in over 18 months since starting.

We have partnered with an amazing local man named Son, who taught English for free in a lean-to to over 65 students. Through our support he now has a brand new 2-classroom school to teach the kids in a safer, cleaner and happier environment. Numbers are on the rise and our students are getting the best chance possible at learning English to capitalize on the growing tourism industry.

In addition we have granted nine scholarships to young adults; seven for university, one for computers and English class and our final to a young student who is studying art. We have our own learning centre where we teach computers and give young people all over Siem Reap the opportunity to have a free place to relax and collaborate. We also run teacher-training sessions with qualified teachers from Australia passing on their skills to young Cambodian teachers.

This certainly would not have been possible without my incredible family. A special thanks of which goes to my brother Scott who did a 800km bike ride with another Rivo mate of mine Hayden Coldwell, across Cambodia to raise funds for our work. The One Step One Life committee is also filled with Riverstone connections with current and past local school teachers and many friends and family from the local Riverstone area. Furthermore a special thanks needs to go to all the incredible supporters One Step One Life has, many of whom reside here in Riverstone. Without your support and dedicated interest none of this would be possible.

Coming from a small Australian country-like town to Cambodia has been a huge learning experience for me. Here in Riverstone we have been quite sheltered from the growing aspects of Australian multiculturalism so being part of another culture was something that certainly took some adjusting. But learning about and accepting other cultures has become one of my greatest gifts and has enabled me to learn how to be a better person. It has been such a gift though to share my journey with the wider Riverstone community through talking at the local schools, newspapers and engaging all the time with the incredible supporters from the general public who follow my journey. In sharing my story it shows people, especially the younger generation, that although we are born in a small community, it can be used to lift us up and support us as we reach beyond our current realm and forge a path into success that is completely unexpected.

The school under construction.
A monk blesses the new learning space officially marking the opening in August 2015.
The 1Step1Life stall at the 2015 Riverstone Festival.
Pam, Sheryn, May, Karen and Jake.

Alan Hynds’ Memories of Riverstone

by Alan Hynds

The Mason, Hession, Terry, Rouse and Hynds families are the pioneers of the Nelson and Rouse Hill District.

Our grandfather, James Hynds, our Dad’s father, helped cut roads in and around Nelson/ Rouse Hill to open up the land and some of the major roads there bear the names Hynds, Hession, Terry, Rouse and Mason.

Grandfather James Hynds married Carrie Roberts, our Grandmother, around the late 1880s. They had three children: our Dad, Wilfred born 1906, Alec born 1908 and Vincent born 1912, to the best of my memory. The three children were born in the family’s home in Blind Road, Nelson.

Grandfather James and a man named Frank worked in the bush around Nelson cutting timber for Rod and Noel Terry’s sawmill which was on the corner of Windsor and Garfield Roads, Rouse Hill. At that corner Rod and Noel also operated the weighbridge. All the farmers from Richmond, Windsor and surrounding districts, on their way to the Sydney Markets, would weigh their produce there. The weighbridge was open all hours seven days a week and most farmers would weigh their own load.

Grandmother Carrie had two sisters, Emily and Lucy. Emily married Frank Mason. They had four children, Monica, Dennis (Denny), Frank and Pat. Lucy never married. She lived alone in the Roberts family home on a Nelson Road, Rouse Hill acreage. There, she looked after six-eight cows, which she milked every day, raised chickens and roosters, cared for two cats and her dog named “Blue”.

Many times I peddled my Alban bike (bought from Denny Mason) from our Garfield Road home to cut wood for Lucy. I recall one day there was a bowl of rice custard pudding, which must have had a dozen eggs in it, sitting on her table. “No, you can’t have this one”, she said, “This is for Blue. I will have one ready for you after you have finished chopping the wood.” Lucy was still putting calves on to the cows well into her 70s.

Our home was on top of the Catholic Church hill at 774 Garfield Road, opposite the church. At 776 lived Brian and Vera Mason and their three children, Monica, Billy and Jan. On the other side of the cutting lived Emily and Frank and alongside them were their son Dennis, his wife Gwen and their five children, Margaret, Terry, Irene, Jean and Kay, all our second cousins.

Frank was a Gatekeeper at the Meatworks, where he was struck by a train and lost his arm from the shoulder down. His nickname, which he hated, became Wingy. Terry Mason and I were little devils and would call him “Wingy”. He would chase us round the paddock with a stockwhip. If he had ever caught us I might not be here today to tell the story!

Emily, or Massy, as she was known to all and sundry, would, almost every morning, walk down the track and “Cooee” to Gran. They would talk to each other across the road for an hour or more.

Mr James Hynd’s Snr. cottage on the Box Hill Estate photo from the Box Hill Farms Estate Sales Booklet 1919.
Box Hill Farms Estate (from Sales Booklet 1919)

The Fireworks Factory – From Box Hill to the World

by Kevin Smith

The ‘fireworks factory’ was a familiar sight along Windsor Rd, Box Hill for many years. Ten acres of small sheds packed in earth (magazines) concealed the wares of one of the most famous fireworks companies in the world. In these magazines aerial shells, golden fountains, lances and match were manufactured and stored. Unique to Australia the golden fountains were exported to Disneyland USA and used in their nightly fireworks display. Fireworks were also imported from China and Japan and, when these myriads of fireworks were choreographed into displays by Syd Howard, spectators Australia wide experienced a world class display and stood in awe as the sky burst into colour.

The introduction of computerized firing made it possible to fire from the top of city buildings, barges on the harbour and finally the most exciting of all the Sydney Harbour bridge. First fireworks burst from the pylons of the bridge accompanied by a brilliant golden waterfall spanning the length of the bridge and cascading into the water below. Gradually the displays became more and more spectacular culminating in fully digitalized firing synchronized to music introducing the most exciting of all displays – the “Sky Shows”. In 1988 there were nightly shows at Brisbane World Expo for six months and in Sydney on New Year’s Eve the first show that incorporated the arch of the bridge. The picture of this show was featured on the front page of Time magazine and televised around the world

I first met Syd Howard in 1981 through my wife who worked at the factory in Box Hill as his office assistant. I was later engaged to build an extension to the detonator shed at the factory. This was my first encounter to the world of fireworks by certainly the most famous fireworks family in Australia, the Howards, but especially to Syd Howard who was renowned world-wide for his fireworks displays. A volatile character he lived and breathed fireworks, a very charismatic man who could hold any audience spellbound recounting a lifetime of experiences doing fireworks displays.

He commenced as a young boy, travelling alone by train to country towns carrying a suitcase packed with fireworks, which he would set up and fire at the local agricultural show. Cleaning up afterwards he would return home by train. When it came to fireworks his imagination knew no bounds and like all gifted persons his mind was always racing well ahead of every pyrotechnic and all who worked for him. If the workers or others could not keep pace with his ideas he could become very volatile!!

Once it was discovered that I held a truck licence I was offered a job of driving the company Mercedes 22/32, truck transporting black powder used in the manufacture of fireworks from the government reserves at Helidon Qld., back to the factory at Box Hill. This powder originated in USA and was brought by ship to the port of Brisbane where it was unloaded then stored in the government magazine. Brisbane was the closest port in Australia which allowed the unloading of explosives.

When I first commenced doing displays for Syd Howard I was the new kid on the block. His leading pyrotechnicians were Alan Bragg, Peter McNamara, Richard Goodacre, Ian Riedel (Qld.), and Des Lawton (Vic). He also had pyrotechnicians in South Australia and the Northern Territory but their names escape me. These men formed an elite team who worked around Australia, New Zealand and New Guinea. I learnt by assisting in firing small displays at country shows and fetes around NSW with Bill Brown and Adam Gilbert.

The show was packed into boxes at the factory and driven to the location in a Hiace van. They were set out by hand in pre-planned order then, as the lights dimmed, we moved around igniting the fireworks with ‘port fires’. Sometimes music played in the background but in no way was it synchronized to the fireworks, this came years later. The show always ended with a finale of colourful

1986. Luke Worboys poses for a photo on top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. This was the first time permission was given for fireworks to be fired from the Harbour Bridge. Photo: Luke Worboys.
Preparing for the Bicentennial Fireworks. The set piece formwork can be seen at the rear. The mortars have been packed in sand on the barges. The shed to the left is where the pyrotechnicians sat to fire the shells. Photo: Kevin Smith

3 inch and 4 inch shells fired from a heavy cardboard mortar. The number and size of these shells was governed by the budget of the display. If the organizer wished to acknowledge a sponsor this was often done in a ‘set piece’ of coloured lances which burnt for three to four minutes.

After two years I obtained my pyrotechnic license from the then Dangerous Goods Dept and was able to fire bigger shells and go solo. In 1985 the company split and all the pyrotechnicians decided to go with Syd, the manufacturing was relocated to Kempsey and the display company to Dural.

To the layman anything to do with fireworks is intriguing but the work that goes on behind the scenes is very far from glamorous, fraught with danger and always hectic. The first really big fireworks display I worked on was in 1986, a display to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Royal Australian Navy. What made this show so very special was that for the first time ever, Syd had gained permission to incorporate the Sydney Harbour bridge into the show. This was to be a set piece spanning the eastern side of the bridge. It was an enormous set piece pre-made at the factory and transported to the bridge by truck.

So on 5th November at 4.00am, six of us arrived at the site on the bridge, the barges had already been loaded and were waiting on the harbor below. One traffic lane and the pathway of the bridge were closed to the public enabling us to gain access. Six of us plus two riggers worked for four hours to mount the massive piece in place. Each piece of framework had to be unloaded from the truck, carried across the traffic lane and walk-way over the anti-jumping fence, then passed over the side to the waiting riggers in harness suspended from above the bridge. They hung there for nearly 14 hours lashing the pieces together and connecting up the match to ignite the lances which spelt out the message “NSW SALUTES ROYAL AUSTRALIAN NAVY”.

At 1.00pm that afternoon the powers that be decided to open up the walk way and we were engulfed with spectators not only watching us but jockeying for the best position to watch the display that evening. But all was forgotten when the set piece burst into colour and the golden waterfall cascaded down from the bridge. It was topped by the most spectacular of all shells, a 24 inch shell fired from a steel mortar. Manufactured for this was a “giant” shell made especially for Syd by the famous Japanese manufacturer Nakagawa whose son Toshi had arrived earlier to work on the show.

1988 became a very busy year for us workers with the news that not only were we doing every major display in Australia we had also been contracted for six months of nightly displays on the Brisbane River to celebrate the 1988 World Expo.

The bridge was to become an integral part of future displays, a launching pad for magnificent bursts of fireworks. The Australia Day display on January 26th 1988 to celebrate the Bi- Centenary of the first settlement in Australia saw fireworks mounted on both pylons, a waterfall from the walkway and a magnificent burst from the arch.

The following year Syd’s dream became a reality when for the first time ever we able to use the arch over the Harbour bridge. This display was a phenomenon, a world first. The Sydney New Year’s Eve display became renowned. It was televised around the world and featured on Time magazine.

By the early 90’s Australia Day Sky shows sponsored by radio stations were being fired in every state. These shows were synchronized to music and digitally fired by computers. Gone were the days of hand firing by port fires with a bit of music playing in the background. Every shell was wired to a firing box needing only to be touched with a probe to set off a burst of shells.

The pressure of these displays was relentless. As Australia Day weekend approached up to ten workers would be flat out making set pieces, packing thousands of fireworks into boxes and loading equipment into containers ready to be transported to the different interstate sites. I would commence with a fully laden truck, drive to Melbourne, unload the fireworks to Des Lawton and his waiting crew for the Melbourne Sky show. Once this unloading was completed I would head off to South Australia to unload fireworks and equipment for Adelaide Sky show. I then worked for seven days with the South Australian crew setting up the display in Kim Bonython Park. Once this show had been fired and we were able to clean up the area all the steel mortars and other equipment had to be repacked into the container and by 1.00am I was on the road driving through the night back to Melbourne with extra equipment for their Sky Show that night.

Each year I travelled to Papua New Guinea to do a display from a barge in Port Moresby harbour. I stayed in the Travelodge motel which was encircled by a high wire fence to protect tourists. Security was very tight. We had security guards 24 hours to keep the “rascals” away from the fireworks. (The “rascals” were tribesman who came down from the hills where they lived in ‘cardboard city’.) The majority of males in Papua New Guinea chewed betel nuts, the streets and surrounding area was very unpleasant as a result of them constantly spitting their bright red saliva everywhere. Their mouths were always covered in red dye from the nuts and to increase the flavour they rubbed salt around their lips which eventually rotted their teeth. Few men after the age of 30 had their own teeth.

The last big job I worked on was the display in Hong Kong on 1st July 1997 to mark the British handover of Hong Kong to the Chinese Government. I was one of the sixteen pyrotechnicians to travel to Hong Kong for this show; little did we know what lay ahead of us! The display was to be set up and fired in Victoria Harbour and fired at 9.00pm. Ahead was eight days of sweltering heat and consistent rain.

Normally we would set up on each barge large wooden boxes 8’x3’, in these boxes the mortars were placed then packed with sand to stabilize them. Every shell loaded with a detonator was placed into the mortars. The wire from the detonator was then attached to rails which hung on the side of the box. These wires then formed into a cable which lead back to the firing boxes located in a container on the barge. We arrived to find that tons of sand had already been dumped on the barges instead of the wharves and had to be removed before we could set up.

The consistent rain made it necessary for the barges to be covered with canvas to protect the fireworks making working very difficult. The language barrier was always a problem. There were 1700 shells to be fired from each of the eight barges as well as a mixture of shells from China and Japan. The match we took with us proved invaluable in the wet weather as it remained waterproof, so we once again fired a spectacular show, heaved a sigh of relief and next day got on a plane to fly back home.

Unfortunately during the next big display at Darling Harbour I was injured. I checked a shell that had not fired correctly and it hit me on the side of my head. I still bear the scar! However I realized that it could have been worse. Every pyrotechnician bears the responsibility of the safety of thousands of spectators and their safety is paramount.

Fireworks have given me fifteen years of wonderful experience. At every big celebration around Australia and the Pacific the fireworks operators are there. It was hard work and long hours but it provided wonderful memories.

Riverstone District First World War Honour Roll

by Rosemary Phillis

On 5 July 2015 a reproduction of the First World War Honour Board was unveiled by Michelle Rowland MP. It was funded by a grant through the Centenary of ANZAC program.

The original Honour Roll was unveiled 97 years ago on 28 September 1918. A history of the Roll appeared in the Historical Society Publication, Riverstone and the First World War, part of which is reproduced below:

Each community wanted to honour in a permanent way the men who had given their lives, or years out of their lives, to preserve the Empire. Plans were underway for these memorials and money was being collected long before the war ended. Riverstone collected funds for an Honour Roll and raised £60 at a meeting held at the Picture Hall. It was planned to erect a temporary board in the waiting room at the railway station.

The Riverstone and District Honour Roll started out as a temporary memorial constructed during the war. The War Council would not allow more than £25 to be spent on memorials. Money was allowed to be collected, but above £25 had to be banked until after the war. A Committee had been formed to organise a memorial and it was decided to erect a wooden Honour Roll, with the names of all of the district soldiers inscribed. It was to be hung in the waiting room at the railway station, and after the war, they planned to erect a permanent monument in the town. Several people were selected to collect money: Miss Shepherd and Mrs Wallace for Riverstone; Mr Langland for Annangrove; Mr Verdon for Rouse Hill; Mr Pettingel for Marsden Park; Ald C. Jeffery for Vineyard and Cr J. Pye for Schofields. 1

An item in the Gazette of 17 May 1918 reported that the board was under preparation and the committee requested that in any instance where their representatives had failed to call on any family who have relatives on active service, such information should be made known to them as early as possible, for their paramount object is that of doing honor to every lad who is connected with the district and has fought or is fighting for the colors.

The committee decided that listing the soldiers in order of enlistment was impractical, so they were to be listed in years of enlistment.

The Honour Roll was unveiled on 28 September 1918 by R.B. Walker MLA. As a large crowd was expected, the ceremony took place near the Railway station with the board placed on a lorry and draped with the Union Jack. The speakers then stood on the lorry to make their speeches. The honour board was described as being of polished wood, in three panels with 128 names on the panels, with more to be inscribed. 2 As planned, it was then hung in the waiting room of the railway station.

The local band played, speeches were made by Councillor Pye, Mayor Chandler, Ensign Jones of the Salvation Army and others, and the ceremony was followed by refreshments at the Oddfellows hall.

The original honour roll remained at the railway station until the late 1970s/early 1980s. The story goes that it was vandalised, taken down for repair and then disappeared.

Despite persistent efforts by Sam Lane, Merv Davis and in later years Clarrie Neale, no trace of the original honour roll has ever been found.

Many locals, including myself, can still picture the Honour Roll as it hung at the Railway Station, a solemn, imposing icon that provided an emotional connection to our past. Every time we went to the station, while waiting to buy a ticket, we would look up at the Honour Board and search for the names of relatives or people we knew.

The loss of the Honour Roll has been a sore point to myself and many others. The opportunity arose through the Centenary of ANZAC grant program to apply for funds to have a reproduction made. With the support of Michelle Rowland MP and the Centenary of ANZAC committee, we were successful in obtaining funds.

We had one high quality black and white photograph of the Honour Roll and it was from this photograph that the skilled team of Hamilton Honour Boards was able to construct the beautiful replica that we now have. The artwork was by Sheridan Walters; Production and Assembly by Barry Higgins, Polishing by Joel Higgins and Assembly and Lettering by Bruce Clutton.

On 5 July 2015 over 150 people, including those with connections to the men whose names were listed, witnessed the return of the Honour Board to Riverstone.

Robyn Woodward, Stewart and Joan Thompson (along with Digger the horse), from the 1st Light Horse re-enactment group, plus Dennis Channels, from the 18th Battalion Living History group, dressed in First World War uniforms, added to the occasion.

After the official part of the morning, visitors enjoyed a sausage sizzle lunch and then visited the Museum exhibits which featured an ANZAC theme.

Later in the day James Downey was presented with the Historical Society’s “Centenary of ANZAC” award for his outstanding work in educating the community about the First World War, especially through the 18th Battalion Living History group. His countdown on Facebook to the centenary of the landing at Gallipoli was an inspiring and emotional journey for both James and the hundreds of people connected to his page. We have no doubt that each and every person who read his posts gained an appreciation of the war far greater than by just reading a text book.

The First World War Honour Roll now proudly hangs above the fireplace in the entry foyer at the Riverstone Museum.

[1] Windsor and Richmond Gazette, 11 January 1918.
[2] Windsor and Richmond Gazette, 11 October 1918.

Michelle Rowland MP unveiling the Honour Roll. Dennis Channels and Judith Lewis watch on in the background.
Members of the Riverstone Historical Society.
The new Honour Roll after it was unveiled.
Michelle Rowland MP and Historical Society Secretary Rosemary Phillis.

ANZAC Day 2015

by Rosemary Phillis

2015 marked the centenary of the landing at Gallipoli. There was considerable interest within the community and events were held to commemorate the landing. The Riverstone Schofields RSL Sub-Branch spent several years preparing for a special Dawn Service at the Cenotaph.

Images of War

As a prelude to ANZAC Day I developed a PowerPoint presentation based on the Historical Society publication Riverstone and the First World War. On the night before ANZAC Day, using a laptop and data projector, we projected the images onto the side of the Museum building. At the time of the First World War the Museum building operated as the Riverstone Public School. The PowerPoint display ran on a loop for an hour and people watched from the Lions Park next to the Museum.

The photo below shows an image of Ambrose Mason who was killed during the war. One of his great nephews on seeing the photo wrote – It is particularly poignant because I was told by my uncle Brian that the school was the last place that Ambrose visited as he walked from Crown Road down to catch a train back to Camp.

Image of Ambrose Mason projected on the side wall of the Museum . Photo” Rosemary Phillis
The cover of the Order of Service for the Ceremony.
Photo of crowd at Service taken from the back of a SES vehicle. Rosemary Phillis

The Dawn Service

I wonder if the men from the district who served during the First World War could have imagined that 100 years after the landing at Gallipoli an estimated two thousand people from the district would have gathered around the Cenotaph to remember them.

I don’t believe that we will see another gathering of the size which assembled at the Dawn Service. Hundreds of people assembled out the front of the RSL Sub-Branch in Market Street then marched up Pitt Street, down Garfield Road and around into Riverstone Parade and on to the Cenotaph outside of the Railway Station. There they stood, along with over a thousand other people, to pay their respects.

Robin Young, Secretary of the Riverstone-Schofields RSL Sub-Branch had ultimate responsibility for the event. He co-ordinated a myriad of things. A number of people and groups were involved in the ceremony itself:-

MC: David King
Catafalque Party: 176 Air Dispatch Sqaudron
“The Lord’s Prayer”: Father Zakaria Gayed
Prayer For The Nation: Reverend Steve Grose
Choir: John XXII Catholic Primary School Senior Choir
Epilogue – “In Flanders Fields”: David King
“The Last Post” & “Reveille”: Dane Laboyrie
“The Lament”: Hawkesbury Nepean Pipe Band
“Ode”: Richard Lawford

A multitude of wreaths were laid by representatives of local schools, sports teams and organisations.

There were people of a variety of ages and from different walks of life, all standing together. One thing that stood out during the service was the respectful silence. In an era where the sound of a mobile phone ringing is commonplace, not a ringtone broke the silence.

After the service the former Bowling Club premises became the focus. Breakfast was served in the club for ex-servicemen and members of the community. Families with children took part in a BBQ and activities on one of the former bowling greens.

Riverstone Chamber of Commerce Centenary wreath.
Some of the many wreaths which surrounded the Cenotaph.
The Piper and Bugler were elevated above the crowd.
Riverstone Railway Station Honour Roll.

This Roll was mounted above the fireplace in the Riverstone Railway Station waiting room. The memorial was taken down in the late 1980s after being vandalised and its whereabouts are not known. Photo taken by EW Griffin. (R&DHS)

Kenneth Ward (NX127633)

by Rosemary Phillis

Who was Ken Ward and what was his connection to the Riverstone District? For this we rely on a report that appeared in the Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate of 9 September 1942.


Lieut.-Col. Kenneth H. Ward, former commanding officer of the 20th Battalion (Parramatta), has been reported killed in action in New Guinea.

His wife, who is living at Chester Hill, received the official intimation on Friday. It is believed that he was killed while leading his men on a reconnaissance.

When he was appointed Lieut.-Col. four years ago, he was believed to be the youngest holder of that rank in the Australian military forces.

Born at Balmain, 39 years ago, he later went with his parents to Riverstone, where the family lived for many years. He was educated at Marsden Park public school, and Parramatta High School, where a son, Paul, aged 13 is now a pupil.

He was married at Parramatta Methodist Church.

For several years he taught in the Presbyterian Church Sunday School at Riverstone.

His military career was particularly brilliant, beginning when he entered the 20th Battalion as a cadet, at the age of 16.

Eight months ago he handed over command of the battalion, when he proceeded for service in New Guinea.

Tributes to his qualities as a soldier come from men of the 20th Battalion- a sergeant who served under him for ten years, and from Private Harold Wilson, of Parramatta.

“As a soldier he was as hard as iron,” the sergeant said. “He had no time for slackers, but he always had time for the man who tried, no matter how many times he failed. The person he drove the hardest in the battalion was himself.”

Private Wilson said that, when the news reached the battalion, the men were paraded and stood in silence for two minutes in a tribute to the memory – their former commander.

“He was a great guy, tough perhaps, but a man we would have done anything for,” he said.

Kenneth Harry Ward and his story was associated with the 53rd Infantry Battalion. The Australian War Memorial Records provide detail of his service and death :-

After the First World War the defence of the Australian mainland lay with the part time soldiers of the Citizens Military Force (CMF), also known as the Militia. The Militia was organized to maintain the structure of the First AIF and kept the same numerical designations. The Militia units were distributed in the same areas in which the original AIF units were raised. Thus Sydney’s 53rd Infantry Battalion was the “West Sydney Regiment”. However, during the 1930s little was spent on defence and the Militia had few volunteers. In 1937 the 53rd merged with the 55th Infantry Battalion, forming the 55th/53rd Infantry Battalion.

In October 1941 the battalions were separated, which proved to be only a short-term measure, as in October the following year they merged again. The 55th/53rd had been camped at Bathurst but with the unlinking it was expected the 53rd would go to Darwin via Sydney. At the start of November the 53rd was reinforced with men from a number of other Militia units. In December, just before the battalion was to sail on the transport Aquitania, it also received 104 18-year-olds who had just been called up for duty……

More surprises were to follow. While at sea the men learnt they were not going to Darwin but to Port Moresby in Papua. The Aquitania arrived in Moresby on 3 January 1942 and the 53rd, as part of the defence of Port Moresby, was assigned to the area of Boera, Napa Napa, and the Napa Napa Peninsula. This was the worst area in Moresby for malaria and the battalion suffered badly from the disease over following months.

While in Moresby the battalion members received minimal or no training, as the 53rd was mostly used for work parties. The battalion did not receive any major training until July, when B and C Companies were sent to the Kokoda area. B Company went to Koitaki and C Company went to Itiki, acting as reserve for the 39th Infantry Battalion moving to Kokoda.

On 10 August the 53rd was ordered to relieve the 39th at Uberi. C Company moved forward to Uberi and then went on to Kokoda. While at Uberi C Company was given eight new Bren guns but received only a few hours instruction and not even the chance to fire their weapons. Three days later, B Company reached Uberi and also received new weapons with minimal instruction. Meanwhile, the rest of the battalion was preparing to move up the trail.

In the book The Retreat from Kokoda, the Australian Campaign in New Guinea 1942, the details of the battle were described as follows:-

Ward, the Adjutant, Lieutenant R.L. Logan and a small guard party, went forward from Alola to take charge. They skirted the waterfall, climbed the hill and walked into an ambush set by the Japanese a few yards from the track junction above the Abuari Village. At 4.20 pm a runner, coming breathlessly up the Alola Spur to Brigade Headquarters imparted the startling tidings that Ward and Logan had been killed.

His mother had died in 1930 and the family had a plaque to Kenneth’s memory attached her burial plot headstone in the Methodist Section of the Riverstone Cemetery. It reads

In Loving Memory of
27TH AUGUST 1942

Kenneth was survived by his wife Thelma and son Paul. According to an item in the Sydney Morning Herald of 12 September 1942, in civil life Kenneth was a clerk at the Registrar-General’s Office.

Kenneth Ward – Kokoda

by Linda Graham

I recently returned from walking the Kokoda Trail. When people asked “How was it?” the first words which came to mind were amazing, unbelievable, emotional, challenging, beautiful and peaceful. To me it was an experience of the heart, one of being there and seeing which makes it so difficult to put into words.

After spending ten days walking the trail I now have the slightest inkling why families have said “They never talk about it” when their men and women returned from war. I believe it is something that lives within them, their own experience which cannot be expressed only “felt” as there are no words to describe the emotion.

Walking along the trail under a blue sky, dry ground beneath my feet, a small backpack containing a few personal items with a porter providing assistance, I could only imagine what it would have been like for the soldiers who in 1942, walked the trail in totally different circumstances and under such difficult conditions.

On many occasions I was overwhelmed with emotion listening to the stories narrated by our Trek Leader. To be in the actual sites along the trail where so many Australians lost their lives or performed heroic feats made the experience real. These were not just stories but actual events of a period in history which transformed Australia to be what it is today. I cannot express my gratitude enough to the men and woman who showed persistence, courage and a deep love of their country, who fought and died for future generations.

Moments which are forged in me forever were the special ceremonies our Trek Leader organised at “Brigade Hill” and “Surgery Rock” and of course the dawn service at Isurava overlooking the Kokoda Gap. Not to mention of course the beauty of the Owen Stanley Ranges with its magnificent tall trees, jungles, undergrowth, river crossings, flowers and the villages scattered across the mountain sides. I only have to think Kokoda and all the feelings and memories rise to the surface.

Prior to embarking on my trip I contacted Rosemary Phillis at the Riverstone Historical Society to see if there were any fallen soldiers buried in Papua New Guinea she would like me to visit. Rosemary replied requesting if possible to visit Bomana War Cemetery to pay respect to Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth Harry Ward of the 53rd Infantry Battalion who was ambushed and killed by Japanese troops on 27 August 1942 above the waterfall near Abuari Village.

Whilst flying to Port Moresby I read the notes Rosemary provided me about Kenneth Harry Ward and safely tucked them away with my travel documents. On the night of arrival at Sogeri Lodge we repacked our gear into backpacks for our porters to carry and left our valuable items behind. It wasn’t until we were part way along the trail the next day that I realised I had left the information about Kenneth Harry Ward behind at the lodge. I spoke with the Trek Leader advising him there was a soldier I needed to visit at Bomana Cemetery, that I knew his name and had a good idea of where to find his headstone. My Trek Leader advised he could request the driver to get the information from my envelope and bring them on the bus as we were being collected from the airport after flying back from Kokoda and going directly to the cemetery. I was satisfied with this arrangement.

It wasn’t until we arrived at Bomana Cemetery after ten days walking the trail I realised we had not received the paperwork I left at the lodge, but I wasn’t overly concerned as I knew I would find Kenneth Harry Ward.

Before the group commenced walking through the cemetery our Trek Leader placed us in pairs and randomly handed out a small slip of paper and two poppies. He requested we go and spend time with the solider whose name and location was on the paper.

Photo of the sheet of paper given to Linda to search for in the cemetery. Photos: Linda Graham

The sheet of paper which was given to me and Sutto had the name “LTCOL Keith Ward Abuari Waterfall”. I checked the location of the headstone which was noted as “C7 – D3” My first comment to Sutto was “Keith Ward’s headstone is located in approximately the same area as Kenneth Harry Ward’s”.

We walked slowly down the rows and rows of white headstones checking each one. When we located Row “C7” we then moved to the headstone “D3”. To my absolute astonishment the headstone read “Kenneth Harry Ward”. Just writing this now gives me the same shiver I experienced on that day. I stood there speechless. I looked at Sutto in complete shock … “No…this just can’t be” I said. I was thrilled that we had found Kenneth Harry Ward but said to Sutto we had to go and check the main registry which was located at the entrance of the cemetery to look for the correct location of “Keith Ward”. Upon carefully going through the names of soldiers of which there were many, there was no Keith Ward. I rechecked the registry for Kenneth Harry Ward’s records which reconfirmed the numbers shown on the small slip of paper… it was those for Kenneth not Keith.

I was totally overwhelmed and ran back to Kenneth’s headstone. I dropped to my knees and began to cry… I just couldn’t believe it. This was too coincidental!!

Sutto and I sat and spoke with Kenneth Harry Ward for a few minutes and placed our poppies at the base of his headstone. I then walked quickly up the centre of the cemetery to see the Trek Leader to ask if he had given me the sheet of paper knowing that this was the soldier I was coming to visit. My leader looked at me dumb founded … again I am experiencing that shiver … he advised he randomly handed the slips out amongst the group and apologised that he had forgotten to organise the documents from the lodge to be delivered to the cemetery.

My Trek Leader looked at me… he too seemed a little teary and gave me a hug. We could not believe that this event had occurred. He then realised which soldier I was looking for and had no idea that the small sheet had an incorrect spelling being Keith instead of Kenneth. My Trek Lead then reminded me of our visit to the Abuari waterfall when he talked of the heroics of Kenneth Ward and the 53rd battalion… at the time it had not registered with me it was THE Kenneth Harry Ward.

We stood there in the middle of Bomana Cemetery on that magnificent sunny day realising that this was indeed a “miracle” with my Trek Leader advising there had definitely been some divine intervention.

I walked alone back to revisit Kenneth Harry Ward and spoke with him of the events that had lead me to him. Whilst sitting at the headstone under the warm PNG sun telling Kenneth of my experience, a light breeze came across the cemetery. I believe this was a sign of thanks from Kenneth Harry Ward for coming to visit.

Kenneth’s headstone at the Bomana Cemetery. Photo: Linda Graham

Kenneth’s row marker at the Bomana Cemetery. Photos: Linda Graham

What a way to finish my time in PNG … unbelievable.

So I strongly encourage people to visit Papua New Guinea to walk the Kokoda Trail and visit our war heroes. I am so pleased that I made the decision and put in the training to walk in the footsteps of our brave Australian soldiers. The memories of this sad yet beautiful place will remain with me always and I will be forever grateful to those who laid down their lives for me.

I am a proud Australian, I love my country and its people past and present … I am totally “blessed”.

Headstones in the Bomana Cemetery. Photo: Linda Graham
Monument and Headstones in the Bomana Cemetery. Photo: Linda Graham


by Judith Lewis OAM

My “Concise Oxford English Dictionary”, published in 1952, has the following meaning for the word “serendipity”:- n. “The faculty in making happy and unexpected discoveries by accident”.

Recently I was given a tattered, yellowed, four-paged clipping from a “Richmond and Windsor Gazette” dated Friday 11 July 1919. It had been wrapped around an old recipe book and was discovered by Karen Stalker (nee Keegan) whose paternal great-grandmother, Mrs. G. Strachan, is mentioned in the following obituary, for my paternal grandfather Robert William Shepherd.

My parents married in 1935, I was born in July, 1937, my father’s mother died in September of ’37 so I had not known either grandparent. Receiving this clipping was a very pleasant surprise, I typed out the whole obituary and sent copies to my brother and three sons. Because the obituary shows such a good example of funerals of that era I thought about including it in this Journal. This must have been preying on my mind because that night I dreamt about my grandfather (we have very large framed portraits of both grandparents in the family) and when I woke I felt I had been speaking to him and been told to use the word “serendipity” if and/or when I wrote about him! I had heard the word but did not have a clue as to its meaning until I looked it up.

This is the obituary:-

Robert Shepherd, son of the late Mark Shepherd, of Clarendon, passed away at Riverstone on Monday after about three weeks illness with double pneumonia. After being in a precarious position for some days he seemed to rally during last week, and bright hopes were entertained of his recovery. But the fond hopes of his dear ones were not long encouraged, for alarming symptoms set in towards the end of the week and the end soon came. Bob Shepherd was one of the genuine, upright class of men that it was a pleasure to know. Quiet and reserved, he seldom went away from his home, and was much attached to his family. He was 54 years of age, and had been a trusted employee at Riverstone meatworks for about 30 years, and was always a favourite with his fellow workmen. He married Miss Barber, of Melbourne, who survives him with three children – Ivy, Garnet and Vera. A sad feature of Mrs. Shepherd’s bereavement was that her mother was being buried in Melbourne just about the same hour that her husband was being laid to rest in St. Matthew’s Anglican Cemetery, Windsor, on Tuesday afternoon last. A sister of the late Robert Shepherd, Mrs. G. Strachan, of Riverstone, also died a couple of weeks ago. The funeral of the subject of this notice was very largely attended. Many vehicles followed the remains from Riverstone, while a number of Riverstone friends, including fellow workmen, came up to Windsor by the 2.10 p.m. train and met the funeral at Moses’ corner. These, with several Windsor residents, marched to the cemetery in front of the hearse. After the service in St. Matthew’s Church, Rev. N. Jenkyn expressed sympathy with those who mourned, and paid a high tribute to the worth of the deceased as a citizen, and as a loving husband and affectionate father. The funeral was carried out by Mr. P.J. Chandler.

Obituaries usually say good things about the deceased but I now feel I have an understanding of the person my grandfather was. Those “good things” could have equally been said of my father who must have been “a real chip off the old block”.

Robert Shepherd