The Scottish Inventor


In the final year of the great war in France, a significant piece of engineering  was designed for the welfare of the troops. It was designed and constructed by  an ‘original’ from the 1st Field Company Engineers, a Scotsman who became an ANZAC legend.

He has been forever digitised in the war history books and made famous for all historians and followers of the 1st FCE to discover.

The Australian War Museum website has recognised the “Johnston” Shower invented by “original” 158 James Johnston and today we celebrate his distinguished service and his story.

Please Click Here for his full story………….

1st Sept.1915 – Remembering – 211 Sgt. Charles Kewley

Searching for a Portrait

211  Sgt. Charles William Kewley


211 Charles William Kewley  was one of the tallest men in the company standing at 6ft 1 ½”.  Charles, a tall Englishman, was born in Douglas, on the Isle of Man and had served in the Boer War in 1898,  seeing service in South Africa and Somaliland. He had served a total of 12 years with the Royal Engineers in the British Imperial army.

When Charles enlisted in September 1914  he was nearly 36, an engineer and married to Kate Kewley( nee Ponting) and living at 386 Bourke st Surry Hills, NSW.

Charles with many years of military experience behind him was promoted to Sergeant prior to embarkation to Egypt.

On the 10th May 1915 Charles was wounded in the foot, the war record neither clear on the circumstances or the location, however he was transferred to Heliopolis and eventually transported back to Australia on board the “Horatio”. Also on board was fellow engineer Sgt. 34 Alexander Logan.

During the return journey home, his health was seriously compromised and Charles was ill with acute pneumonia. The vessel arrives in Melbourne on the 27th August 1915 and he was immediately transferred to the Base hospital in St. Kilda, Victoria and within a few days, on the 1st September 1915,  sadly Charles dies from exhaustion and finally heart failure.

His wife Kate made a trip to the UK many years later in 1927  perhaps to see her family and the family and relatives of Charles and then returned to Australia. In 1937 she was still at the original address in Surry Hills when Charles enlisted back in 1914. It appears that Charles and Kate had no children during their marriage.


Kewley Coburg Cemetery

Coburg Pine Ridge Cemetery, Victoria, Australia


The following is the GWGC transcript relating to the Coburg Pine Ridge Cemetery……’ Country: Australia Locality: Victoria Identified Casualties: 191 Location Information Coburg is north of the city of Melbourne. The General Cemetery is in Bell Street, East Coburg, 6 miles from Melbourne. Historical Information There are now over 160 Commonwealth burials of the 1914-1918 war here and over 20 of the 1939-1945 war located throughout the cemetery.’


On this day Remembering  – 211 Sgt. Charles William Kewley

Location on the Roll of Honour

Charles William Kewley’s name is located at panel 24 in the Commemorative Area at the Australian War Memorial (as indicated by the poppy on the plan).

Plan of Commemorative area showing which panel the name Charles William Kewley's is located

Roll of Honour name projection

Charles William Kewley’s name will be projected onto the exterior of the Hall of Memory on:

  • Mon 28 September, 2015 at 3:15 am
  • Thu 26 November, 2015 at 10:32 pm
  • Mon 25 January, 2016 at 12:50 am
  • Wed 23 March, 2016 at 2:45 am
  • Tue 10 May, 2016 at 7:33 pm
  • Wed 22 June, 2016 at 1:22 am
  • Wed 3 August, 2016 at 7:00 pm
  • Wed 21 September, 2016 at 2:28 am


Sources: AWM, NLA, NAA,CWGC Certificate and transcript



Gallipoli 19th June – 239 Hugh Colquhoun

239 Cpl. Hugh Colquhoun


239 Hugh Colquhoun

Hugh was 30 years old, a native of Greenoch, Scotland. He was an Engine Fitter with considerable experience and also had been in the royal engineers as a Corporal for 12 years.

According to Hugh’s sister, when he arrived in Australia he was working for the Ashanti Goldfields Corporation in Western Australia. Both his parents were deceased and his brother and sister lived in Scotland.

Prior to enlisting he had been living with his auntie, Mrs Gamble, in Pyrmont Sydney and unknown to his aunty he had a girlfriend…… Mary Singleton of Randwick, which he was intending to wed.

Unfortunately Hugh died from wounds on the 19th June 1915,  Gallipoli… circumstances unknown.


Cpl H. Colquhoun 239
Cpl H. Colquhoun 239

After his death at Gallipoli, his estate was argued by his auntie, Mrs Gamble and his fiance’ Mary Singleton.

The records initially showed his NOK was in fact his girlfriend Mary Singleton and by her account they were intending to marry and she knew of his aunty and Hugh’s living arrangements with his aunty. She received his personal effects after the war and most correspondence was related to her via solicitors.

However the Auntie was quite concerned that this was not the case as she believed her nephew had …“never met this woman”… and that… “he must have been under the influence of drink” when this information was taken down.

It would appear that auntie Gamble did not approve of Miss Mary Singleton…… and sadly his memory was somewhat hijacked by these circumstances.

A later copy of his attestation shows an update to his file as his brother Charles in 1920 was officially now his NOK. His brother later received photos of his burial site.

Hugh’s memory is preserved forever at the Beach Cemetery- Gallipoli and the AWM Honour Roll and his name was hand cut in the cross erected by his mates in the 1st FCE.





Hugh’s place of burial is the Beach Cemetery (Plot I, Row K, Grave No. 2), Gallipoli, Turkey

 Hugh’s own page is available for additional information ……………...please read more




In Memory of 54 Henry Harman Fairnham

Henry Fairnham 2
54 Henry Harman Fairnham

 54 Henry Harman Fairnham

Henry” Harry” Fairnham age 30 was a fitter and turner from Glebe. It appears he and his brother lived at 123 Abercrombie st , City (Redfern) NSW,  he was 5 ft 8 “ and described as of a dark complexion with dark hair going grey.

On the 26th May 1915 Henry was on his way towards the beach to draw some stores from the No .1 Clearing station as he was the assistant Quartermaster, when he was blown to pieces by a direct hit by a shell from “Beechy Bill”.

His friend Cpl. Norman Masters,  gave an account of what happened……..

“I knew Fairnham when we joined in Sydney. He was in my section and we called him Harry. I was with him at Anzac. He was killed about 20 yards from the beach. He was on his way to the beach to draw stores , and was assistant Q/Master. He was hit in the back by “Beachy Bill”. The shell passing right through him. I saw him about a quarter of an hour after he was hit, and he was then dead. We buried him near the beach, and his name can be read on the wooden cross reproduced by the “Sydney Mail” of the 1st Dec. He was one of the best chaps and was always talking of his young lady. He was giving up the job he was on, and it was about his last trip”.
Source : (AWM record) Red Cross File No 1030801D


153 Phillip Carmichael, 209 William Cridland and 154 Albert Anderson, good friends of Henry were informants to his death, they stated how…………….. “ Henry was a reserved and quiet man and a great favourite. He was very highly thought of by all.” …………….“he was one of the best”.

He was buried by his close mates, 209 William Cridland and 154 Albert Anderson ,   Initially buried at the Hillside Beach cemetery Vll – Anzac Cove. His name is also remembered on the historic Anzac Cross “Where Heroes Lie” below.


where heroes lie
” Where Heroes Lie”


Henry left a will 2 months before his death, leaving all his property and effects to his young lady back home in Australia.

Miss. M Dodds of 156 Everleigh st, Redfern was his lady back home and she received 2 parcels of his personal effects nearly a year after his death at Anzac Cove.
His possessions consisted of a damaged nickel watch, 6 coins, a purse, a key, stud, 3 pens all damaged, a knife, a sovereign case, 2 pocket books and a handkerchief. Also he had some cards, photos and some stones which perhaps were souvinered from the great Pyramids in Egypt. Small momentoes , but these would have been treasures to Miss Dodds.

Exactly one year later on the anniversary of Henry’s death, Miss M. Dodds inserted in the Roll of Honours in the Sydney Morning Herald the following,

FAIRNHAM.-In loving memory of Sapper H. H. Fairnham
Killed in action at the Dardanelles, May 26, 1915.
On Australia’s roll of honour you will find this hero’s name

………. Inserted by M. Dodds.

Source : (AWM record) Red Cross File No 1030801D

His eldest brother 2329 Joseph Huston Fairnham was also in the AIF and a driver.  He was invalided home in 1919, both parents of Henry and Joseph were deceased.  Joseph was later living with his sister in 1920. He received all of Henry’s medals and war correspondence.


1. “Beechy Bill”…. the name given to the Turkish battery which constantly shelled the beach at Anzac Cove.

The Extraordinary Mr.Banks

Edmond Clifford Banks -nla.pic-vn3723151-v
Edmond Clifford Banks -nla.pic-vn3723151-v

14 Edmond Clifford Banks  

Medaille Militaire
Medaille Militaire


– by Vance Kelly –

As the war progressed after Gallipoli, there were opportunities for many of the engineers beyond being a sapper or a driver. Officer training and the chance of being a commissioned officer, returning to England to train reinforcements, and then there was the newly formed Australian Flying Squadron.

Four particular sappers later joined the Australian Flying Squadron and some became flyers and it was not by chance. The four men were connected , 14 sapper Edmond Clifford Banks and 110 Gordon Campbell Wilson were together at the assault at the German officers trench at Gallipoli.

26 Roland King  was vice to Edmond Banks at Fromelle and 20 Alexander Finnie also a low number was likely in the same section or even shared the same tent at Moore Park.
It is very possible 14 Banks, 20 Finnie and 26 King as their low numbers suggest, were placed together in the same section in the early training days back in Sydney, and as a result became closest of friends . Their friendships definitely influenced the four of them to pursue new challenges beyond sapping. ….
What made them become flyers ? While at Gallipoli , did they marvel at the site of these flying machines overhead and often contemplate what it must be like to be in the sky and not it in a dug out starving , dodging disease, shrapnel and snipers.
These original sappers seemed to have a unique view on the war and each of them after extreme service at Gallipoli and the western front displayed an insatiable thirst for even more from the challenges of war.
14 Edmond Clifford Banks was unstoppable. He was just 19 years old when he enlisted, a surveyor from Darlinghurst Sydney. He was with the landing party on the 25th April, and was heavily involved with Lieut. Henry Bachtold,  on the stunt at the German officers and snipers trenches on the 6th August.
Edmond Bank’s service record up to this time was perfect and he continued to demonstrate his total commitment throughout the rest of the war. Young Edmond received Mention in Despatches for his service from the 25th April to the 17th Dec and displaying gallantry .


Bronze Oak Leaf  presented  to those Mentioned in Despatches
Bronze Oak Leaf presented to those Mentioned in Despatches

After Gallipoli Edmond was transferred to the 14th Field Co. Engineers now under the command of Major Henry Bachtold and embarked for France in July 1916 and was promoted to Sergeant. He was at the historic battle of Fromelles on the night of the 19th July 1916. On this disastrous night in Australia’s military history, the following is an account of his actions.
“On the night of July 19th/20th in the operations at FROMELLES Sergt. Banks under very heavy shell fire pegged out a communication trench in “No Man’s Land” and extended a working party on the work. Although under continuous shell and machine gun fire the whole of the night, he supervised the work until the trench was completed. The successful completion was due to his bravery and devotion to duty”.Source: AWM

Banks was unstoppable and a few months later,

“On the night of the of Nov. 5/6th 1916 in connection with the operations of the 7th Infantry Brigade on the SOMME he successfully commanded his section on this officer becoming a casualty and under heavy shell fire carried out the given orders to his section.” Source: AWM

For these acts of outstanding bravery young Edmond Banks was awarded the French Medaille Militaire for distinguished service. His medal was presented to him on 13th April 1917 by Lieut- General Birdwood.
Edmond had served with extraordinary commitment for just over a year at the front , and his stunts on the ground were over. Edmond was not satisfied with fighting the war on the ground and he set his sights on fighting the Germans from the sky. The newly formed Australian Flying Corp was just the ticket for Edmond . And so it was on the 25th May 1917 Edmond was transferred and joined the No.1 Royal Flying Corps training school at Reading England and after 2 months training graduated as an observer in the flying corp and was appointed 2nd Lieut . and reported for duty in France.
In August of 1918 after serving with the 3rd Australian Flying Squadron , the same Squadron involved in the action leading to the death of the German air ace the Red Baron Manfred von Richthofen, he returns to Reading England for training as a Flying officer, and finally becomes a pilot. He was now the grand old age of 23.
During these eventful years at war, Edmond was sick for only a few months in May and June of 1918. Not someone who was use to lying around and doing nothing, Edmond somehow found time between all these achievements to fall in love and he married Frances Ann Richards, from Dublin Ireland. A few months later in November 1918 the war was over and the adventure was over for young Edmond.

14 Edmond Banks - Back Row 2nd from left AWM E02765
14 Edmond Banks – Back Row 2nd from left AWM E02765


Edmond  was an extraordinary young man and proved his bravery and strength over an exhausting 4 – 5 years. Young Edmond embraced his duty and his role as a sapper, then as a leader of men, a pilot, and finally a married man. Edmond had not just been on the great adventure….. he was the great adventure.

Copyright© VanceKelly2015


Sources: AWM, NAA, NLA

Photo courtesy of National Library of Australia

A Rough Carpenter


35 Walter Ernest Robertson – photo courtesy AWM P10114.001


35 Walter Ernest Robertson – MM

Walter was a 27 year old “rough carpenter” or “bush carpenter” a familiar phrase in Australia and New Zealand 100 years ago.

Bush carpentry was very different to the carpentry we know today, with most of the timber cut on the property and worked by hand with  axe, saw, wedge, mallet, auger and chisel. The houses, sheds, wagons and even tools were made from the local available materials such as tree trunks , saplings, fencing wire, metal scraps and anything that could be recycled such as metal drums etc.

104 James Percival Polley,  was another experienced “Bush carpenter” who had been pliing his trade for 9 years. They were among the handiest men to have around at Gallipoli and the front.

The rough carpenter was very skilled, a man clever with his hands, methodical in his approach to work, able to improvise, very confident and always willing to learn new skills.
Walter was one of these men, a man not out of place even today.


He was born in Stratford, Victoria but was living and working his skills in New South Wales. His father, Archibald, his next of kin on his enlistment papers was living at Fairfield NSW.

Walter was wounded in Gallipoli, gunshot wounds to the hand and head on the 28th June 1915.  His casualty is mentioned in the Unit diaries AWM4 – June 1915.  He convalesced  at Hospital in Mena, Egypt and when fully recovered he returned to Gallipoli in September and remained until the company was evacuated.

In March 1916 Walter was transferred to the 15th FCE and it wasn’t long before Walter was among the action on the front line at the Western front,  where again he was wounded in action on 20th July 1916, a  gun shot wound to his right arm and left leg.

Once again Walter recovers from his wounds and rejoined his unit on 30th May 1917 . On the 29th September 1917 again in the front line  Walter is gassed and is hospitalized , but yet again  rejoins the unit on 11th December 1917

He was now Corporal Walter Robertson, the rough carpenter was one tough individual, wounded on three occasions and displayed continued commitment to his unit. He had a faultless service record and was ultimately awarded the Military Medal. – He was recommended by Lt Col. Mather originally for the Distinguished Conduct medal. The original recommendation on his war file. Original recommendation RCDIG1068281–41-

‘For great gallantry and devotion to duty. In the neighbourhood of PERONNE, during operations 30th, 31st August, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th September, this N.C.O., as senior N.C.O. of his Section, assisted his Officer in the successful completion of a footbridge across the SOMME Valley. He continually went up and down his men, urging them on, and throughout night and day showed untiring energy. Previous to this Corporal ROBERTSON had reconnoitred in a collapsible boat, 500 yards ahead of Infantry, over the swamp, locating the shortest route to be followed, to strike firm land. On the completion of this track he made valuable reconnaissance, and, despite casualties, sent in valuable information quickly. He has shown himself a capable leader of men under extremely trying conditions of machine gun and shell fire.’
Source: ‘Commonwealth Gazette’ No. 115
Date: 10 October 1919

MM 2
Walter returned to Australia safely on the HMAT “Devon” on the 24th November 1918.

Walter died suddenly in 1944 on 11th April  1944,  he was 56 years of age. The Returned Soldiers League of Cobar managed his funeral arrangements and he was later buried at Cobar Shire Cemetery, New South Wales, Australia. Walter was survived by one brother Neil Robertson and his five sisters.

Walter has his own page ……..please read more


Story Copyright © Vance Kelly 2015