World War I Family Hero – Leonard Ingram Mitchell

Leonard Ingram Mitchell, the eldest son of Reginald and Leticia Kate Mitchell (nee Bell) was born in the Hunter Valley in 1890. He worked with his father as a builder after he left school.

He was a young man of about 24  years of age when World War I broke out in 1914. By 1915 when further calls went out for volunteers, he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Forces on 4 August 1915, at Newcastle. He was mustered into the 30th Battalion.

The 30th Battalion was raised as part of the 8th Brigade at Liverpool in New South Wales on 5 August 1915. Most of its recruits hailed from the Newcastle region and other parts of country New South Wales.

The 30th Battalion embarked on the troopship Nestor which sailed for Port Said on the Suez Canal.

There the 8th Brigade joined the newly raised 5th Australian Division in Egypt and proceeded to France, destined for the Western Front, in June 1916. Although being involved in the Battle of Amiens, the 30th Battalion’s first major battle was at Fromelles on 19 July 1916. It was tasked with providing carrying parties for supplies and ammunition but was soon drawn into the vicious fighting.

Len Mitchell was soon promoted to Corporal and later to Sargent.

Following the disaster at Fromelles, the battalion was rotated in and out of the front line along with others in the brigade but played no major offensive role for the rest of the year.

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In early 1917, the German Army withdrew to the Hindenburg Line. During the general advance that followed, the 30th Battalion had the honour of occupying Bapaume, one of the original objectives for the Somme Offensive.

However, the 30th missed much of the heavy fighting of 1917, being employed in flank protection and reserve roles at the second battle of Bullecourt in May 1917.

 

For the  Third Battle of Ypres which began in August 1917, they were brought forward again.

The preliminary bombardment before the battle lasted for 10 days, during which time 3,000 guns fired 4.25 million artillery shells. Along an 11 mile front the infantry attack comprised a corps of the French First Army on the left, the British Fifth Army in the centre and a corps of the British Second Army on the right of the attack. The German Fourth Army held off the attackers in most places.

Within hours of the start of the battle rain began to fall and crucially did not stop, carrying on into the following weeks. The constant rain produced conditions completely unsuitable for the continued movement of men, animals and heavy equipment, such as artillery and tanks.

The battle, however, continued to grind on in short phases for several weeks throughout the late summer and the autumn.

Success for the allies in late September with the Battle of Menin Road gave them hope to push on towards the Passchendaele Ridge. The Battle of Polygon Wood began on 26 September. The 30th Battalion were entrenched around Hooge Crater.

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It was at the Battle of Polygon Wood on 29 September 1917 that Len Mitchell was seriously wounded in the right shoulder.

He was evacuated to England. After surgery and convalescence, he was returned to Australia on the Field Marshall in March 1918. He was discharged as medically unfit on 23 May 1918.

Australian War Diaries can be found at the Australian War Memorial at https://www.awm.gov.au/ 

Unit Diary

Page for 29 September 1917, from the Australian Imperial Forces Unit Diaries 1914-18 War, 8th Infantry Brigade September 1917, AWM 4(Australian War Memorial), 23/8/22. (30th Battalion mentioned in daily plans.)

 

Leonard Ingram Mitchell’s full military records can be found at the  National Australian Archives at  https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/

He returned to working with his father in the building trade. He married Margaret Sylvia McInnes in 1926.

Len Mitchell had a brother and a number of first and second cousins who also served:-  Roy Hamilton Mitchell, Phillip John Vincent, James Joseph Thomas Bell, Louis Augustus Bell, Arthur Campbell Bell, and William George Blanchard.

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World War I Family Hero-Roy Hamilton Mitchell

Roy Hamilton Mitchell the second son of Reginald and Leticia Kate Mitchell (nee Bell), was born in the Hunter Valley about June 1893.

His father had been a builder at Gloucester for many years before the family moved to Mosman in Sydney.

His mother had been born at Picton and was the seventh child of James and Elizabeth Bell (nee Crockett). James Bell had worked his way to Sydney as a sailor on a convict ship in 1837. His brother George Bell had come with him.

As a young man, Roy Mitchell was very keen on engines and was apprenticed as an electrical engineer to Brian Bros and Stanton Cook.

He was in his early twenties when World War I broke out. He enlisted on 1 September 1915 some three weeks after his elder brother, Leonard.

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After several weeks training, Roy embarked on 30 November 1915 on the troop ship, Suffolk, as part of the 4th Field Company of Engineers, bound for Egypt. These soldiers were to be deployed on the Gallipoli Peninsular. However, on arrival, they found that the Australian and New Zealand troops had been evacuated, and returned to Egypt.  (During the Gallipoli landings and the Sinai and Palestine Campaign of the First World War, Tel-el-Kebir was a training centre for the First Australian Imperial Force reinforcements).

On disembarking Roy Mitchell was transferred to the 14th Field Company as a Sapper.

(A sapper, also called pioneer or combat engineer, is a combatant or soldier who performs a variety of military engineering duties such as breaching fortifications, demolitions, bridge-building, laying or clearing minefields, preparing field defences- such as laying razor wire trench fortifications, as well as working on road and airfield construction and repair.)

The 8th,14th, and 15th Field Companies were part of the Australian 5th Division.

Roy Mitchell displayed leadership and was promoted to a Lance Corporal before his unit embarked for the Western Front. This unit was originally deployed around Rouen in France. (In the First World War the city was safely behind the lines and became a major logistics centre with numerous base hospitals. Commonwealth camps and hospitals were stationed on the southern outskirts of Rouen.)

Campaigns for the 14th Field Company includes Fromelles, Bullecourt, Polygon Wood, Villers-Bretonneux, Morlancourt, Amiens, Peronne and the Hindenburg Line.

Polygon Wood- 2014

Above: Polygon Wood (Copyright Nola Mackey 2014)
Below: The Australian 5th Division Memorial (copyright Nola Mackey -2014)

5th Division Memorial

Much of the day to day life in the trenches for Roy Mitchell can be found in the Unit War Diaries at AWM4 14/33/1 March 1916 to AWM4 14/33/25 March 1918.

 

14th Field Company-29 Sept 1917

Page for 29 September 1917, from the Australian Imperial Forces Unit Diaries 1914-18 War, 14th Field Company September 1917, AWM 4(Australian War Memorial), 14/33/19.

As can be seen from the above extract this unit was working in the Butte area at Polygon Wood on 29 September 1917, when Roy Mitchell’s older brother Leonard, was seriously wounded in the shoulder. It is interesting to speculate if they met or knew each other was in the area. I believe although not impossible, highly unlikely, given their different jobs on the front line. (In the 8th Brigade Infantry War Diary, mention is made that the 30th Battalion and the 15th Field Company having had contact on 28 September 1917).

From Spring 1917 the whole war became more mobile, with grand offensives at the Battles of Arras, Messines, and Passchendaele, there was no longer a place for a tactic that depended upon total immobility for its employment. It was about this time the Australian Tunnelling and Mining Companies came under direct control of the British Engineers who changed tactic when the men were employed

Underground work continued, with the tunnellers concentrating on deep dugouts for troop accommodation. To assist the attack, the Royal Engineers constructed 20 kilometres (12 mi) of tunnels, graded as subways (foot traffic only); tramways (with rails for hand-drawn trollies for taking ammunition to the line and bringing casualties back); and railways (a light railway system). Just before the assault, the tunnel system had grown big enough to conceal 24,000 men, with electric lighting provided by its own small powerhouse, as well as kitchens, latrines and a medical centre with a fully equipped operating theatre.

To improve the logistical movement of artillery and supplies an extensive programme of road building was started. Ten field companies, seven tunneling companies, four army troop companies, and nine battalions were put to work repairing or extending existing plank roads. From the middle of October until the end of the offensive, a total of 2 miles (3.2 km) of double plank road and more than 4,000 yards (3,700 m) of heavy tram line was constructed.

 Except for a couple of bouts of sickness including Mumps, Roy Mitchell spent more than two years on the front line. He was on leave in Paris when the Armistice was declared.

He re-joined his unit and was transferred to the Australian Engineers, Mining and Boring Company.

This company was attached to the British Royal Engineers and was tasked with the rebuilding of roads and bridges in France to begin the mammoth task of moving of troops and equipment from the front lines back to Britain. From early December 1918 to March 1919 Roy Mitchell was involved in these activities.

On 7 March 1919, he finally transferred back to the 14th Engineers and was sent to England, where he boarded the Devonha for return to Australia.  The ship arrived on 8 May 1919 and an interesting incident occurred when it reached Adelaide. Details can be found here.

Roy Mitchell was finally discharged a few weeks later.

Roy Hamilton Mitchell had a brother and number of first and second cousins who served in World War I.  I have written blogs on the following:-  Leonard Ingram Mitchell, Phillip John Vincent, James Joseph Thomas Bell, Louis Augustus Bell, Arthur Campbell Bell, William George Blanchard.

Although Roy Mitchell showed courage and leadership during his years of service on the Western Front during World War I, it was his daring and courage after the war that made him famous.

Josiah Bell, Woodman of Mereworth,Kent

In former blogs, I have written about John Billinghurst alias Bell, born 1800, the illegitimate son of Sarah Billinghurst, of Mereworth, Kent. See ‘The Story of an Alias-John Bell, Mereworth, Kent’ and ‘More on the Alias of John Bell, Mereworth, Kent’.
The following year Sarah Billinghurst married Josiah Bell, in St Lawrence, Mereworth. They had a daughter Elizabeth born 1803, whose story is told in ‘A Life Cut Short-Elizabeth Bell, Mereworth, Kent.’

In this blog, I continue the family story about their son, Josiah Bell who was born in 1806.

Josiah Bell, the second child, and son of Josiah and Sarah Bell (nee Billinghurst) was born in Mereworth in 1806. By his time his father was 52 years of age and his mother 42 years.
Josiah Bell was baptized at St Lawrence, Mereworth on 31 August 1806. He grew up in Mereworth and was only ten years of age when his father died. No doubt Josiah took on the care of his mother and sister from an early age, but by the time he was in his early twenties, he had lost both his sister and mother.
Josiah Bell married at St Mary’s, East Farleigh, on 29 January 1832, a cousin, Ann Bell, the daughter of Robin and Mercy Bell (nee Cox). She had been baptized at East Farleigh on 10 November 1811.

They had a large family all of whom were baptized at St Lawrence,
Mereworth.
⦁ Sarah Bell, b 1832
⦁ Catherine Harriet Bell, b 1835
⦁ Josiah Bell, b 1837
⦁ James Bell, b 1838
⦁ Ann Bell, b 1840
⦁ Mercy, b 1843
⦁ Thomas, b1847
⦁ Robert Bell, b 1849
⦁ Mahalah, b 1851
⦁ George, b 1854
⦁ Frederick, b 1856

Josiah and Ann Bell remained in Mereworth, when Ann Bell’s parents, Robin and Mercy Bell (nee Cox), and most of her siblings emigrated to New South Wales on the Woodbridge, in 1838.

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The Baptismal Font, St Lawrence, Mereworth
Copyright-Nola Mackey, 2004

Josiah and Ann Bell and family can be found in the 1841,1851,1861,1871 Census Return for Mereworth, where Josiah is described as a ‘Wood Labourer’. We know his father was also recorded as a ‘Woodsman’ in several parish documents.

Josiah bell died and was buried in the Mereworth churchyard on 24 March 1874. His headstone is inscribed with “He was for 43 years a bellringer at this church”.

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The weathered headstone of Josiah Bell, St Lawrence Churchyard.
Copyright- Nola Mackey,2004

After Josiah Bell’s death, his wife Ann, found employment as the Monthly Nurse. In the 1881 Census she was not at home, but in the household of John Humphrey’s, with his wife Mary Ann and their infant daughter, Edith. She is recorded there as 72 years of age but would have been about 70 years.
In the 1891 Census, Ann Bell was living in Kent Street. Her invalid daughter Ann, and her youngest son, Frederick Bell and his family were living with her.
Ann Bell died in 1895 and is buried in the Mereworth Churchyard, possibly beside her husband, but her grave is unmarked.

 

A Life Cut Short- Elizabeth Bell, Mereworth, Kent 

 

In a former blog, I wrote about the puzzle of John Billinghurst or Bell, born in 1800 at Mereworth, Kent, England. He was the illegitimate son of Sarah Billinghurst. In this blog I am continuing the story of the family of Josiah Bell and Sarah Billinghurst who married in 1801, in St Lawrence, Church of England, Mereworth after the above mentioned John Billinghurst, alias Bell was born.

Josiah Bell was the third child of Josiah and Mary Bell (nee Carpenter) and was baptized at St Lawrence, Mereworth on 17 March 1754. He married in the same church, on 9 November 1801, Sarah Billinghurst. She was the daughter of John and Sarah Billinghurst and was also baptized at Mereworth on 16 September 1764.

Elizabeth Bell, the eldest child of Josiah and Sarah Bell (nee Billinghurst)
was baptized at Mereworth on 29 May 1803. When Elizabeth was born her mother was 39 years of age.
Elizabeth Bell grew up in Mereworth. She was thirteen years of age when her father, Josiah Bell died in 1816. His death impacted greatly on the family.
Elizabeth remained single and died at 18 years of age. She was buried at Mereworth on 2 December 1822.

We can gauge very little on the life of this young woman with the bare dates of her baptism and burial. However, in the Mereworth Parish Chest, there is a list of medicines and medical expenses the parish overseers paid, for the care of their poorest parishioners.

In the list for 1822, we find many entries for members of our Bell families. In particular, we find numerous mention of medicines for ‘E Bell’. She may have always been in poor health, but we can gather she became very ill several months before her death and that every medical assistance was given her by the parish overseers.

I have extracted the following from the parish accounts.

July 27- E Bell Diuretic mixture 2/6
Aug 4- E Bell Mixture repeated 2/6
Aug 6- E Bell Eight powders 2/6
Aug 14 – E Bell Diuretic mixture 2/6
Aug 19 – E Bell Two blisters to the legs 3/-
Aug 24 – E Bell Large tonic mixture 3/-
Aug 28 – E Bell Large box ointment 9d
Aug 31 – E Bell Two blisters to the feet 2/6
Sep 3 – E Bell Large box ointment 9d
Sep 7 – E Bell A tonic 2/6
Sep 10 – E Bell Box of ointment 9d
Oct 14 – E Bell Box of ointment 9d
Nov 6 – E Bell Box of ointment 1/-

We do not know the cause of death of Elizabeth Bell, but it appears from the above entries it must have been a blessed release.
One can only imagine what her mother, Sarah, must have endured. She survived another six years before her own death in 1828, leaving a sorrowing son of 22 years.

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St Lawrence, Mereworth, 2004- Copyright, Nola Mackey

More on the Alias of John Bell, Mereworth, Kent

In this blog, I try to answer the question concerning the alias used by John Bell or Billinghurst of Mereworth in the blog “The Story of an Alias- John Bell, Mereworth, Kent.”
I had struck this problem of interchanging of surnames and the use of an alias in earlier Bell research.
One theory I had concerning ‘aliases’ was that perhaps a girl had an illegitimate child, who was baptized in her maiden name and when the girl later marries, the child then takes the surname of the new husband or attaches it as an ‘alias’. An ‘alias’ means that he or she is also known by another name.
If my theory was right in this case I would be looking about 1800 for a female “Billinghurst’ who had later married a man with the surname Bell.

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St Lawrence, Mereworth, 2004. Image Copyright- Nola Mackey

I found in the Mereworth Parish Marriage Register, on 9 November 1801, Sarah Billinghurst married Josiah Bell.

A further search of the Mereworth Baptism Register found John, the illegitimate son of Sarah Billinghurst, baptized on 2 November 1800.
Perhaps it should be noted that John is believed to have been Sarah’s first child. She would have been between 35 and 36 years of age at the time.

As there were no records in the Parish Chest Accounts concerning the birth and care of John Billinghurst it may be that Josiah Bell was his father, but he didn’t claim him at his baptism. Whatever the case he certainly took responsibility for him.

After John Billinghurst died in 1860, all his children in subsequent Census Returns, Marriage and Burial Registers are recorded with the Surname of ‘Bell’.

In the 1861 Census Returns for Mereworth, are Thomas Bell aged 26 years, his wife Mary, and daughter Matilda. Also living in the same household are Thomas Bell’s brothers, George, Alexander, Josiah, Henry and Alfred Bell, and his sister Fanny Bell.

In later Census Returns the children are all married and are scattered throughout the village with their own families under the surname ‘Bell’.

The Story of an Alias – John Bell, Mereworth,Kent

I have mentioned in former blogs that I have been able to trace one of my ancestral family lines back to the Middle Ages. This is one of my Maternal Lines by the very common surname of ‘Bell’. This was done long before computers and the Internet. It has taken many years, to locate and review many records. Along the way, I have had the pleasure of finding many cousins of varying degrees, all of whom have helped me in some way sort out and put together the incredible history of a family, who resided in a small area of Kent for over six hundred years. In the 19th Century due to the Industrial Revolution, harsh weather conditions, and other economic reasons many were forced to emigrate, literally for their own survival, to all points of the globe.

One set of records in England we find very useful for family history research are the 19th Century Census Returns. Although the first Census was taken in 1801, the information collected was, in reality, a head count and not very useful to help with information on families. 1811, 1821 and 1831 Census Returns were very similar. However, the 1841 Returns had information on individuals which made it much more useful for putting together family groups. 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901 and 1911 Census Returns give much information on individuals and are a great record for putting together and tracking family groups.

Although many of our Bell families emigrated to the United States of America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa before the 1841 Census was taken, it was important for us to find and document all our family branches, who had not emigrated, but remained in Kent or had moved to other places in the British Isles. The Census Returns could help with this project.

The birthplace of my 4X Great-grandfather Thomas Bell, (b 1782), the son of Thomas and Ann Bell (nee Lawrence), was Mereworth, Kent. This is a rural village near Maidstone.
Mereworth Village3 (2)
Mereworth Village-Copyright, Nola Mackey, 1980

I made a collection of all individuals with the Surname of Bell who stated their place of birth as Mereworth, in 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901 and 1911 Census Returns. From these Census Returns, I was able to calculate the approximate year of birth for each individual. Using the English Birth, Death and Marriage Indexes I was able to find the Registration numbers and send to the Registrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriage for certificates, which helped to clarify and sort out family groups. I also utilized copies of the parish registers of baptism, marriage, and burials I have for Mereworth. Using these documents I was able to reconstruct many branches of the Bell family.

However, one family recorded in the 1851 Census at Kent Street, Mereworth, just did not seem to fit, although they claimed to have all been born at Mereworth.

This was the family of John Bell, aged 52 years, an agricultural labourer; his wife, Sarah, aged 38 years and children; Thomas, aged 14 years; Alexander aged 11 years; Josiah, aged 6 years; Henry, aged 3 years and Frances aged 1 month.

BELL, John,1851,Mereworth,Census Returns

1851 Census Returns for John Bell and family, retrieved from Findmypast, 31 January 2018

 

However, I could not find this family group in the 1841 nor the 1861 Census.

After listing the names and calculating the year of birth I was ready to search the Mereworth Parish Registers. To my great disappointment, I only found one baptism, Josiah, the son of John and Sarah Bell, baptized 19 February 1845. Were these children actually born and baptized elsewhere but had lived at Mereworth most of their lives? What was I missing?

I was not able at the time to locate the appropriate Mereworth Marriage Register, but I was able to get some names and dates from the surviving Marriage Banns Book. I was able to purchase various Bell marriage certificates for Mereworth, which included those of; John Bell to Ellen Sales; Thomas Bell to Mary Ann Watson; Harry Bell to Dorcas Emery and Eliza Bell to William Sudds. On each certificate, the father’s name was given as ‘John Bell, a labourer.
The only Bell marriage I was able to extract from a surviving church Marriage Register at Aylesford, Kent, was that of Fanny Bell to Edgar Wilson in 1871. She gave her father’s name as ‘John Billinghurst’ not ‘John Bell’. I then tried for a baptism entry at Mereworth for Fanny or Frances as the daughter of John Billinghurst. There it was. ‘Frances, daughter of John and Sarah Billinghurst, baptized 9 March 1851. As the 1851 Census was taken in early April- she was most likely the ‘Frances Bell’ aged 1 month’ in the Census.

I continued searching the registers for ‘Billinghurst’ and ‘Bell’ and found the following:-

⦁ James, son of John and Sarah Billinghurst, baptized 10 Sept 1843, buried 29 Sept 1843.
⦁ Josiah, son of John and Sarah Bell, baptized 19 Feb 1845.
⦁ Henry William, son of John and Sarah Billinghurst, baptized 30 Apr 1847
⦁ Frances, daughter of John and Sarah Billinghurst, baptized 9 Mar 1851.
⦁ Alfred, son of John and Sarah Billinghurst, baptized 19 February 1854, buried 7 February 1864.
I could not find baptism entries for Thomas and Alexander Billinghurst or Bell as sons of John and Sarah.

I then searched for a marriage of a John Bell or Billinghurst who married Sarah ‘Unknown’ before the 1843 baptism, of the first known child, of this couple.
I found a marriage of a John Billinghurst (a widower) to Sarah Marshall on 13 November 1842 at Holy Trinity, Maidstone.

I then found a John Billinghurst married Eliza Miller on 17 August 1823 at All Saints, Maidstone.

A search of the Mereworth Parish Registers for children of this couple found the following:-.
⦁ Elizabeth Bell born 1824
⦁ John Billinghurst, born 1826
⦁ George Josiah Billinghurst, born 1828
⦁ Sarah Ann Billinghurst, born 1830
⦁ Eliza Billinghurst, born 1833
⦁ Thomas Billinghurst, born 1835
⦁ Alexander Billinghurst, born 1839.
I was then able to find John and Eliza ‘Bell’ and their children in the 1841 Census at Mereworth.

Living next door was the Marshall family with a daughter named Sarah, who is most likely to be the Sarah Marshall who married John Billinghurst in 1842, after Eliza Billinghurst died and was buried at Mereworth on 14 November 1841.

Sarah Billinghurst died at Aylesford and was buried at Mereworth on 17 October 1856 aged 43 years. John Billinghurst died and was buried at Mereworth on 1 July 1860.
This explains why I was not able to locate the family of John and Sarah Billinghurst or Bell in the 1861 Census.

As often happens in family history research, we answer one question but bring to light more puzzles and questions. Why were the names ‘Bell’ and ‘Billinghurst’ so interchangeable in this family?

Immigration-“Woodbridge” Voyage-1838

The emigrant ship the “Woodbridge” left Southampton on 7 May and arrived in Sydney on 15 September 1838.

There were several people on board who had family connections to me.

Robin and Mercy Bell and family, who were an uncle, aunt, and cousins to my ancestor, George Bell who emigrated in 1837.

Also on board were Thomas and Alice (Ellis) Sargent and family who were my 3 X Great-Grandparents. Their daughter, Sarah married George Bell in 1844. I wrote a rather detailed account about the voyage in Bell Family Newsletter No 26 July 1993 p13-19. This blog is based on that article.

Barque

At this time emigrant ships were often provisioned through the naval stores at Deptford Dockyards. It was the Surgeon’s job to check the supplies for the emigrants.

Gravesend had been a port of embarkation for emigrants to America and Australia for many years but the inconvenience of trying to load passengers on board from small boats in an often swift tidal current (of the Thames River), led to the erection of a new pier which was opened in July 1833. It extended 100 feet into the river from the old stone pier, with a further extension opened in 1834. This new extension consisted of insulated columns or piles of cast iron which supported a floor or roadway. This pier was constructed so as not to impede the current of the river.

As mentioned below in the Surgeon’s Report emigrants from Kent and Sussex boarded the ship here on 22 and 23 April 1838.

The Surgeon Superintendent on this voyage of the “Woodbridge’ was Alexander Stewart, MD, RN.

He had been a naval surgeon and had been the Surgeon Superintendent on the convict ship “Aurora’ under Captain Dawson which arrived in Sydney on 3 November 1833, so we know he had made the voyage at least once before. His report has survived and is at the State Records of NSW.

Surgeon’s Report of the ship Woodbridge ‘s voyage to Sydney by Alexander Stewart, MD, RN

Much of the below details were taken from NSW State Records Reels 2654,1296 and other papers, and from the Sydney Gazette dated 18 September 1838 by Peter Andrews and included in an article he prepared for the Journal of the Singleton Family History Society. Peter and the Society kindly gave me permission to use the material in the newsletter at the time. Peter is now deceased and his article can be found on the Society’s website.

http://www.xroyvision.com.au/andrews/history/hist4.htm

Log Commences

APRIL 1838

On the 22nd April 1838, I was appointed by Lord Glenelg (Secretary of State for the Colonies), as Surgeon Superintendent of the Emigrant ship “Woodbridge” bound for Sydney. Being complete with water and provisions the ship was dropped down from Deptford to Gravesend the 22nd of same (April), then the following day,76 persons were embarked and 61 more on the 24th completing the number to be taken on board in the river (Thames). They were chiefly farm labourers from the counties of Sussex and Kent and generally healthy, but a few of the children had a pustular eruption on the face, said by the parents to have taken place after vaccination. In the afternoon of the 25th, we got under weigh and again anchored in the sea reach, the winds becoming unfavorable and blowing strong. 26th 4.00pm got up anchor and made sail in the evening, the wind and the tide being against us, the ship was brought up at Mole. At noon on the 27th again weighed anchor, made all sails and having a fair breeze the ship came to anchor off Cowes, Isle of Wight at 11am on the 28th April. On the 2nd May embarked 130 emigrants from Wiltshire, the greater number of these were also farm servants and married with families. The day after the last came aboard I found out that some of the children were suffering from a whooping cough, but with one exception, of a mild character. No means could be adopted for the separation from the healthy and I am happy to say no serious consequences followed. Only a few cases subsequently occurred and these were very mild requiring some medical treatment. On the 7th May at 7.00am weighed and made all sail running through The Needles with a modest breeze and fine weather.

MAY 1838

During the month of May, the weather was fine with moderate breezes. The thermometer averaged at noon,63 degrees, maximum 83 degrees, in latitude 7 degrees north, minimum 50 degrees off Cowes, nine days of which rain fell, chiefly near the equator and in heavy showers of short duration. Winds were 7 days NE,1 day NEbE,1 day NNE, I day NW, I day NNW,3 days SW,1 day SSE,1 day SEbE,3 days E,1 day EbS,7 days ENE, I day EbN,3 days variable with calms. 48 cases were put on the sick list principally obstipatic and dysenteric. Many of the females suffered much from sea sickness, of whom 30 were cured and two children died, one of inanition and the other from dysentery.

JUNE 1838

June for the most part, fine with moderate and variable winds. Thermometer averaged 77 degrees, maximum 85 degrees in a latitude 4 north, minimum 66 degrees in latitude 28 degrees south. 17 days of which rain fell in heavy transient showers with occasional thunder and lightning. Winds 1 day NE,9 days SE,3 days SSE,1 day SEbE and 13 days variable with calms. Added to the sick list 55, cured 54, two children died of dysentery, the same diseases prevailed as the last month.

JULY 1838

July, on the 21st of this month, finding the bowel affections continuing on unabated and also with symptoms of scurvy making their appearance, I judged it necessary for the benefit of the health of the emigrants to put into some port to enable me to procure fresh provisions. Accordingly, I wrote to the Master of the ship requesting him to take her to the nearest convenient harbour for that purpose. On the same day, we arrived at Simmons Bay, Cape of Good Hope, where I purchased 2501 pounds of beef and mutton and half that quantity of mixed vegetables, having also taken on board 8 tons of water. No fruit was available. We proceeded on our passage on the 26th. The weather this month was more unsettled, the winds being stronger and a good deal of thick foggy atmosphere. The29th and the 30th days were particularly thick and muggy with torrents of rain and much thunder and lightning, which so injured our remaining fresh beef that a survey was held upon it and 887 pounds were thrown overboard, being unfit for use. The thermometer averaged 60 2/3 degrees, maximum 66 degrees at 29 degrees south latitude, minimum 56 degrees in the latitude 34 degrees south. Nine days of rain fell with the exception of the two days stated above in moderate passing showers. 34 were added to the sick list,32 cured and 4 died,3 children of dysentery and 1 of aphtha of the mouth and fauces.

AUGUST 1838

August, the weather was very unsettled and the decks were wet, but no injurious effects on the health of the people. The sick list, remarkably diminished since the issue of fresh provisions. Thermometer averaged 53 degrees, maximum 64 degrees in latitude 39 south, minimum 49 degrees in latitude 38 south. 19 days of rain fell in transient but heavy showers with occasional hail. The winds chiefly westerly, suddenly shifting around to the north and south, blowing strong with occasional gales and thick weather. The winds were 2 days N,2 days NNE,1 day NE,4 days NW,2 days NNW,2 days NWbW,8 days WNW,2 days WSW,3 days WbS,2 days SSW,1 day SW and 1 day variable and calm. 16 were added to the sick list,19 cured and a married female died from the debilitating effects of sea sickness.

SEPTEMBER 1838

September, on the 15th, the Woodbridge anchored in Sydney Cove and the morning of the 18th, the emigrants were disembarked. With the exception of one child, all were healthy. The weather this month was generally fine, with light and moderate breezes, no rain. The Thermometer averages 50 1/2 degrees, maximum 67 degrees in Sydney Cove, minimum 48 degrees in latitude 40 south. 2 added to the sick list,29 discharged, one of whom was a married woman died of dysentery

On Monday the 17th September 1838 the following two articles appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald:

  1. Shipping Intelligence : From Portsmouth, same day, having sailed the 7th May, the Ship “Woodbridge”, Captain Dobson with 260 government emigrants, under the superintendence of Dr. Stewart.
  2. The undermentioned immigrants, with their families, who arrived on the ship “Woodbridge”, on the 15 September, under the superintendence of Alexander Stewart, Esq., R.N., will be landed on the 19th instant, at the Immigrant Buildings, Bent Street; and persons desirous of engaging their services are requested to apply to the Superintendent, at the Buildings, the following day.

 

The Sydney Gazette dated Tuesday 18 September 1838 in the Ships News Column stated: “The emigrant ship Woodbridge is a vessel well adapted for the conveyance of settlers to our shores, her between decks, being more than seven feet in height, and very spacious. The emigrants on board appear to be in a mostly healthy state, and their berths and other accommodation do great credit to the commanding officers on board, and also the Surgeon Superintendent, Alexander Stewart, Esq., R.N. The only deaths on board this vessel during her passage were eight young children. (In actual fact the deaths were 8 children and 2 married women). Messrs R.Campbell & Co. are her Agents. The emigrants will be landed this day, and as they are principally agricultural labourers, there will be a good opportunity for the settlers to provide themselves with such as they may require.”

Additional Notes-

The vaccination referred to was for Small Pox, also known as Variola. Small Pox was a contagious feverish disease characterised by eruptions on the skin.

The ‘sea reach’ was a stretch of water where ships anchored waiting for a favourable wind. ‘Mole’ on The Downs’  is an anchorage or roadstead between the east coast of Kent and the Goodwin Sands and takes its name from the range of chalk hills visible in the distance that run through Hampshire, Surrey, Kent and Sussex.

The steamers and small boats brought the emigrants from Southamption about 10 miles down the reach to the ships at anchorage off Cowes. The ships then sailed Spithead side of the Isle of Wight or through The Solent down the other side of the island through The Needles and out into the English Channel.