90 – George Chisholm – MID
“The Tailor from Inverness”
George Chisholm was born in Inverness Scotland in 1878 to parents James and Jane Chisholm. He had a sister and a younger brother Alick (Alex).
At 14 years old he was an apprentice tailor, a trade he maintained, while also gaining some military experience with the 1st Volunteer Brigade Cameron Highlanders.
George immigrated to Australia when he was 29 and arrived on the 9th December 1907 in Melbourne via Capetown on The SS Miltiades.
When George enlisted on the 2oth August 1914 his height was measured at just 5 ft 5” which initially was under the height restrictions, but many of the originals were in this same category.
Fellow sappers John Atkins, Thomas Drane, Norman McKee, James Scales, Walter Stallard , Frank Atherton, Leslie Cridland and Norman Hartridge were all recorded as only 5ft 5”and fellow volunteers Sydney Garrett, Ernest Hooper, George Hulme , Sidney Lalor, John Flackfield and Roy Denning were all quite a few inches shy of the mark.
Size was clearly no obstacle to the Engineers as their story has revealed time and time again that height is not what makes great men.
George was among the eleven heroic “Pontoon Builders” led by Lieut. Bachtold on landing day at Gallipoli. The extraordinary efforts of these men on that day saved hundreds of lives.
The team of sappers led by Lieut. Henry Bachtold all received Special Mention (Mentioned in Orders) and in addition George was later Mentioned In Despatches MID for acts of conspicuous gallantry or valuable services. An honour few engineers were gazetted while at Gallipoli.
The Citation above… reads
“On the 25th April this officer and his crew paddled barrel piers into the bay under a heavy shell fire and then deliberately set to work under a hail of bursting shrapnel and erected the landing stage. This stage was of the greatest value in getting off the wounded and enabled over 1500 men to be sent off the same day. The men had never before been under fire.”…………………….
A full but certainly not complete account of the “Pontoon Builders” can be read by following this link…….Click here
After the Gallipoli campaign and now back in Egypt, George was now 37 years old and still going strong, his soldiering seeing him promoted to Lance Corporal in January 1916 and by November and now at the Western Front he was promoted to 2nd Corporal. By May the following year he was promoted to QMS, Quartermaster Sergeant.
Towards the end of the war in January 1918 George was transferred to the 1st Pioneer Battalion and reverted back to private at his own request.
In the 4 years at war George served in the field throughout, never having leave or a single sick day while at Gallipoli up to evacuation and then he went right through to the end of the war having leave to the UK on a single occasion for 12 days and unfortunately a case of VD which saw him hospitalised for 5 weeks.
“The Tailor from Inverness” was truly a remarkable man.
While George was at war a lady from Sydney, Miss M. Picaud, may have also thought George was pretty remarkable and was desperately trying to re-ignite some correspondence…… copies of her letters follow…
George returned to Australia on the transport ship “ Devon” on the 24th November 1918 with fellow sappers, 237 Evelyn Lloyd and 210 Phillip Boardman.
In 1921 George married Mary “Mollie” Hutcheon but sadly she died on the 13th August 1922, the circumstances of her death may have been connected to complications due to pregnancy, but this is unconfirmed. George and Mollie were living at 31 Nicholson st Balmain East at the time.
George’s everyday life must have become very challenging, but no doubt he maintained a close association with his mates which must have given him strength and purpose.
It appears that George never remarried, however he was good friends to many, and was a member of the 1st FCE Reunion committee.
In 1938 George was living in King St, Sydney and forwarded a letter to base records requesting his War Service Medal was stamped and confirming his rank of QMS with the 1st FCE.
George died suddenly on January 16th 1945 , at the time he was a resident at 12 Pinehill Ave Double Bay, he was 65.
His funeral notice was inserted in the Sydney Morning Herald by his beloved brother Alex Chisholm, who was residing at Glenmore rd, Paddington.
Unfortunately there was no mention of any other relations.
Story © Vance Kelly 2016
AWM, NLA, NAA