Our Bell Family in Australia – Alice Bell, 1863, Picton.

My  2x Great Grandfather, George Bell was born in East Farleigh, Kent, England in 1817.

In 1837 he and his brother, James emigrated to Australia as sailors on a convict ship.

George Bell married Sarah Sargent at Sutton Forest, New South Wales in 1844.

See Our Bell Family in Australia- George Bell’s Marriage 1844

This couple settled in Picton, New South Wales, and had a family.

Their children were all born in Picton, New South Wales.

George Bell Jr was born in 1845 and baptized in 1846.

See   Our Bell Family in Australia – George Bell, 1846, Picton.

He was named for his father.

James Bell was born and baptized in 1847.

See  Our Bell Family in Australia – James Bell,1847, Picton.

He was named after his uncle, his father’s younger brother who immigrated with him.

Thomas Bell was born in 1849.

See  Our Bell Family in Australia – Thomas Bell, 1849, Picton.

He was named for his Paternal and Maternal grandfathers.

According to the Bell Family Bible, I have, after three sons, George and Sarah Bell had a daughter. She was called Harriet, after George Bell’s, sister who had died in East Farleigh, Kent, when George was six years of age.

Harriet Bell was born in 1852

See Our Bell Family in Australia – Harriet Bell, 1852, Picton.

Henry Bell was born in 1854

See Our Bell Family in Australia – Henry Bell, 1854, Picton.

He is believed to have been named for his mother’s younger brother, Henry Packham Sargent.

John Bell was born in 1856.

See Our Bell Family in Australia – John Bell,1856, Picton

Emma Bell was born in 1859.

See Our Bell Family in Australia – Emma Bell, 1859. Picton

The Bell family bible listed the next child as a daughter, named Alice with a birth date given as the 21st January 1863.

I checked for her baptism.

I found an entry on Ancestry.com website which was for St Marks Anglican Church, Picton. Sourced from the Anglican Parish Registers for the Sydney Diocese. This I was able to download to add to my records.

I have made a transcription of this record. See below.

I checked for references in the online index of the Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages in New South Wales in Sydney at  https://bdm.nsw.gov.au/ .

I found this entry and was able to apply for a birth certificate.

BELL ALICE, 12460/1863  dau of GEORGE and SARAH registered PICTON

My transcription to share is below.

There was no Birth Notice in a newspaper.

As all the above sources give the same date of birth I feel confident that was her birth date.

It is believed that Alice was named for her Maternal Grandmother, Ellis or Alice Sargent(nee Packham). She had separated from her husband and four eldest children and journeyed to South Australia with a new partner and younger children in about 1846. She died a few months after Alice Bell’s birth, but it is not known if she knew she had a granddaughter named for her.

It would appear that with the opening of St Mark’s Anglican Church in Picton that this church became the family church.

 Alice Bell was only two years of age when her mother died. She was raised by her sister Harriet and sister-in-law Ellen Bell. Her father did not remarry.

History of St Mark’s Picton.

 The foundation stone of – St Mark’s Church, Picton – was laid by the Rev Edward Rogers – Minister of the Parish – on the 16th day of July AD 1850 – J M Antill, J Templeton, T Larkin, J Crispe ~ Building Committee.   A heritage plaque displayed in the grounds records that the original church was opened in 1856. The first Anglican services were held in 1825 at the home of Major Antill, one of the first European settlers in the Picton area. When a small court house was built on the Major’s property (he was the Police Magistrate, and the family served the local court for three generations), services were held there. – The local rector was the Reverend Thomas Hassell of Denbigh, Cobbity, and his parish stretched to Goulburn, across to Wollongong, and south to Mulgoa. In 1839 the Reverend Frederick Wilkinson had a smaller area to cover, from his house at the Hermitage, The Oaks. Next came the Reverend Edward Rogers from 1848, and by now money was being raised to build a church on land donated by the Antill family, in Menangle Street West. The foundation stone was laid in July 1850, the church being designed by Edmund Blacket, with Thomas Smith, G Wandess, and Barnsdale as masons. T Cashman and John Iceton as carpenters. Whitfield doing the ironwork, painting by W Brown, and fencing by Abel Sant and Rosette. Unfortunately, the work went very slowly, as the gold rushes affected the supply of labour, and it was not completed until 1856. – The original church was tiny, and as the town grew in the 1860s with the arrival of the railway line, so the nave was extended 12 feet, and a vestry was added. Then in 1886 Blacket’s sons, Cyril and Arthur designed the transepts which provided even more room. The original wooden shingles were replaced with slate in 1904, and then by tiles in 1930. Oil lamps were used for lighting until 1922 when electricity was connected. – The earliest burials in the graveyard date from 1858, though severe flooding in the 1860s and later has affected those graves closest to Stonequarry Creek, as well as the church. Although levy banks provide some protection now, severe flooding can still occur. The building, its furnishings, and the organ were badly impacted by the 2016 floods, together with the pioneer cemetery. It has now been restored. [1]     [1] Sourced From <https://www.churchesaustralia.org/list-of-churches/locations/new-south-wales/n-s-towns/directory/8327-picton-anglican-church>    
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Our Bell Family in Australia – Emma Bell, 1859, Picton.

My  2x Great Grandfather, George Bell was born in East Farleigh, Kent, England in 1817.

In 1837 he and his brother, James emigrated to Australia as sailors on a convict ship.

George Bell married Sarah Sargent at Sutton Forest, New South Wales in 1844.

See Our Bell Family in Australia- George Bell’s Marriage 1844

This couple settled in Picton, New South Wales, and had a family.

Their children were all born in Picton, New South Wales.

George Bell Jr was born in 1845 and baptized in 1846.

See  Our Bell Family in Australia – George Bell, 1846, Picton.

James Bell was born and baptized in 1847.

See Our Bell Family in Australia – James Bell,1847, Picton.

Thomas Bell was born in 1849.

See Our Bell Family in Australia – Thomas Bell, 1849, Picton.

According to the Bell Family Bible, I have, after three sons, George and Sarah Bell had a daughter. She was called Harriet, after George Bell’s, sister who had died in East Farleigh, Kent, when George was six years of age.

Harriet Bell was born in 1852.

See Our Bell Family in Australia – Harriet Bell, 1852, Picton.

Henry Bell was born in 1854.

See Our Bell Family in Australia – Henry Bell, 1854, Picton.

John Bell was born in 1856.

See Our Bell Family in Australia – John Bell, 1856, Picton.

The next child listed in the Family Bible I inherited was another daughter, who was named Emma.

I checked for her baptism. I found an entry on the Ancestry.com website which was for St Marks Anglican Church, Picton. Sourced from the Anglican registers for the Sydney Diocese. This I was able to download to add to my records.

I have made a transcription of this record. See below

I checked for references in the online index of the Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages in New South Wales in Sydney at https://bdm.nsw.gov.au/.

BELL EMMA

11569/1859 

GEORGE

SARAH

PICTON

History of St Mark’s Picton.

 The foundation stone of – St Mark’s Church, Picton – was laid by the Rev Edward Rogers – Minister of the Parish – on the 16th day of July AD 1850 – J M Antill, J Templeton, T Larkin, J Crispe ~ Building Committee.   A heritage plaque displayed on the grounds records that the original church was opened in 1856. The first Anglican services were held in 1825 at the home of Major Antill, one of the first European settlers in the Picton area. When a small court house was built on the Major’s property (he was the Police Magistrate, and the family served the local court for three generations), services were held there. – The local rector was the Reverend Thomas Hassell of Denbigh, Cobbity, and his parish stretched to Goulburn, across to Wollongong, and south to Mulgoa. In 1839 the Reverend Frederick Wilkinson had a smaller area to cover, from his house at the Hermitage, The Oaks. Next came the Reverend Edward Rogers from 1848, and by now money was being raised to build a church on land donated by the Antill family, in Menangle Street West. The foundation stone was laid in July 1850, the church being designed by Edmund Blacket, with Thomas Smith, G Wandess, and Barnsdale as masons. T Cashman and John Iceton as carpenters. Whitfield doing the ironwork, painting by W Brown, and fencing by Abel Sant and Rosette. Unfortunately, the work went very slowly, as the gold rushes affected the supply of labour, and it was not completed until 1856. – The original church was tiny, and as the town grew in the 1860s with the arrival of the railway line, so the nave was extended 12 feet, and a vestry was added. Then in 1886 Blacket’s sons, Cyril and Arthur designed the transepts which provided even more room. The original wooden shingles were replaced with slate in 1904, and then by tiles in 1930. Oil lamps were used for lighting until 1922 when electricity was connected. – The earliest burials in the graveyard date from 1858, though severe flooding in the 1860s and later has affected those graves closest to Stonequarry Creek, as well as the church. Although levy banks provide some protection now, severe flooding can still occur. The building, its furnishings, and the organ were badly impacted by the 2016 floods, together with the pioneer cemetery. It has now been restored. [1]  
  [1] Sourced From <https://www.churchesaustralia.org/list-of-churches/locations/new-south-wales/n-s-towns/directory/8327-picton-anglican-church> by Nola Mackey, 15 August 2022   

Our Bell Family in Australia – John Bell, 1856, Picton.

My  2x Great Grandfather, George Bell was born in East Farleigh, Kent, England in 1817.

In 1837 he and his brother, James, emigrated to Australia as sailors on a convict ship.

George Bell married Sarah Sargent at Sutton Forest, New South Wales in 1844.

See    Our Bell Family in Australia- George Bell’s Marriage 1844

This couple settled in Picton, New South Wales, and had a family.

Their children were all born in Picton, New South Wales.

George Bell Jr was born in 1845 and baptized in 1846.

See   Our Bell Family in Australia – George Bell, 1846, Picton.

James Bell was born in 1847.

See  Our Bell Family in Australia – James Bell,1847, Picton.

Thomas Bell was born in 1849.

See  Our Bell Family in Australia – Thomas Bell, 1849, Picton.

Harriet Bell was born in 1852

See  Our Bell Family in Australia – Harriet Bell, 1852, Picton.

Henry Bell was born in 1854

See  Our Bell Family in Australia – Henry Bell, 1854, Picton.

According to the Bell family bible I have inherited, the next child was a son named John, who was born on 6 September  1856.

See   Family Heirloom-Bell Family Bible

 As this was the year Civil Registration began in New South Wales I checked for references in the online index of the Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages in New South Wales in Sydney at https://bdm.nsw.gov.au/.

It should be noted that the date of the start of the registration of Births was 1 March 1856.

The search of this online index found that there was a reference to the baptism of John Bell, son of George and Sarah Bell, but no reference to a registration of a birth.

Remember the Registrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriages had called in the early baptism records prior to 1856 as State Records. These baptism records often had the birth and baptism date on those records.

 Also note at this point in history it was up to the parents to make sure the child’s birth was registered with the registrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriages in New South Wales. In John Bell’s case, had his parents neglected to register this birth? The law only came in that year and not all families were conversant with this new law. Perhaps John was only baptized.

BELL JOHN, registration number 5955/1856 V18565955 121C, son of GEORGE and SARAH of IN

Using this reference I was able to search for entries in the Archives Authority of New South Wales (now State Records) Genealogical Kit (1988) for baptisms 1788-1855.

The early colonial baptism, marriage, and burial records of some 164 volumes cover the time before civil registration in New South Wales. This includes Victoria and Queensland which was part of New South Wales at that time. These are held as Government records by the Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages for New South Wales in Sydney.

Many of these records were microfilmed and released to the public in the Archives Authority of New South Wales Genealogical Kit in 1988. Of the 164 volumes copied, only 123 volumes were released in the kit covering the time frame 1788-1855. Volumes 124-164 were not included in the kit.

This was because some of the records contained in the volumes were after 1855 so fell outside the parameters of the historical project and were subject to state privacy laws. Other volumes were not included because they were so fragile and the handling of those volumes would have destroyed them.

Returning to our Bell research, I found Volume 121 in the above-mentioned records, and I was able to view a microfilm copy of the original record on AO Reel  5046. [You will notice there is some crossover with baptism and birth registrations for 1856.]

Although you can view these records at your library you cannot make a printout as it is a condition of use of these records and is stated at the beginning of each film. The copyright belongs to the Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages.  I was able to make a transcription and add appropriate notes.

As parents were responsible for registering a birth from 1856, sometimes they just didn’t get around to it. In that case, you may not find the birth reference you were looking for. Another reason you may not find it is that you are not using the spelling which was used at the registration, or the child was registered without a Christian name, so it may be registered as an unnamed male or female.

This was the case in John’s birth registration.

BELL (MALE) Registration number 4010/1856 son of GEORGE and SARAH, registered at CAMDEN

I was then able to get his full birth certificate from the Registrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriages in Sydney using this reference.

This is my transcription of this document.

You will note the above mention baptism of John Bell was at the Wesleyan Church, Picton.

The Wesleyan Church, Picton

“On the 4th April 1849, the Colonial Secretary advised that the Governor of N.S.W. had given approval to allotments of land which had been granted to the Wesleyans in Picton on 4th January 1849. Shortly after, James Rogers began to build the chapel using convict labour. The original building was 26 feet by 16 feet, the stone being hewn from Stonequarry Creek. The roof was of shingles. The chapel was opened shortly after, in July 1849, but by 1865, because of the influx of population, especially railway men associated with terminal railway activities the little Wesleyan chapel was enlarged, again James Rogers carrying out the work: adding an extra 10 feet on to the back of the church. The early ministers who conducted services at the chapel were George Pickering (1849), J. Bowe (1852), J. Fillingham (1855), C.W. Rigg (1856), W. Clark (1859), S. Wilkinson (1861), J. Watkins (1864) and Richard Amos (1865). ” [1]

This church was not very far from the Bell home at Upper Picton, also known as Redbank.

I also checked in the newspapers to see if there was a birth notice or report but found none.

[1] Picton and District Historical and Family History Society Facebook page -Wesleyan Church

From <https://www.facebook.com/878976525498739/posts/redbank-uniting-church-picton-formerly-wesleyan-chapelon-the-4th-april-1849-the-/918616788201379/ downloaded by Nola Mackey, 3 September 2021

Our Bell Family in Australia – Henry Bell, 1854, Picton.

My  2x Great Grandfather, George Bell was born in East Farleigh, Kent, England in 1817.

In 1837 he and his brother, James, emigrated to Australia as sailors on a convict ship.

George Bell married Sarah Sargent at Sutton Forest, New South Wales in 1844.

This couple settled in Picton, New South Wales and had a family.

Their children were all born at Picton.

George Bell Jr, was born in 1845 and baptised in 1846. See ‘Our Bell Family in Australia- George Bell, 1846, Picton.’

James Bell, was born in 1847. See ‘Our Bell Family in Australia-James Bell, 1847,Picton.’

Thomas Bell, was born in 1849. See ‘Our Bell Family in Australia-Thomas Bell, 1849,Picton.’

According to the Bell Family Bible after three sons, George and Sarah Bell had a daughter. She was called Harriet, after George Bell’s, sister who had died in East Farleigh, Kent, when George was six years of age.

Harriet Bell, was born in 1852. See “Our Bell Family in Australia- Harriet Bell, 1852, Picton’.

Two years later George and Sarah Bell had another son. He was named Henry.

The Bell family bible gave a birth date of 27 March 1854. As this was before Civil Registration in New South Wales I needed the baptism of Henry.

I checked for references in the online index of the Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages in for New South Wales in Sydney at https://bdm.nsw.gov.au/  for the baptism, but found there was no reference at all for ‘Henry Bell the son of George and Sarah Bell.’

Although Henry Bell did not marry I have found many documents for him throughout his life, including his death and burial in Picton in 1936.

Throughout the years of researching my family history, I have found sometimes the odd baptism will have been missed in the indexing. I was quite confident that George and Sarah Bell would have had their son baptised, and at Picton. As the older siblings had been baptised in the Church of England, Presbyterian, and Wesleyan churches I decided to search the available baptism registers for the three churches. I carefully moved through the records page by page for 1854 and 1855 but I was not able to locate a baptism record for Henry Bell. Perhaps he was not baptised?  However, this did not sit well with me.

I decided to go and look at the Indexes for Baptisms in New South Wales released by the Registrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriages in microform. These were released in 1988 on 26 microfiches plus 4 Supplementary. They were arranged alphabetically. In looking at the Bell entries I found baptism reference entries for George, Harriett, James, and John Bell all children of George and Sarah Bell but no Henry. With a sinking heart, I searched the supplementary fiche.  There it was! ‘Henry Bell son of George and Sarah Bell in 1854’! The reference was No 48 in Volume 153.

In 1988 the  Archives Authority of New South Wales (now State Records) released a Genealogical Kit to assist family historians to research their ancestry. This was long before the Internet. Part of this kit were copies of baptism registers before civil registration began in 1856. The time frame was 1788-1855. The early colonial baptisms, marriages, and burials records were contained in 164 large volumes. This included Victoria and Queensland which was part of New South Wales at that time. These are held as Government records by the Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages for New South Wales in Sydney.

Many of these records were microfilmed. Of the 164 volumes copied, only 123 volumes were released in the above Genealogical Kit covering the time frame 1788-1855. Volumes 124-164 were not included in the kit.

This was because some of the records contained in the volumes were after 1855 so fell outside the parameters of the historical project and were subject to state privacy laws. Other volumes were not included because they were so fragile and the handling of those volumes would have destroyed them.

Returning to our Bell research I found Volume 153 in the above-mentioned records was one of the registers held by the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages of New South Wales.

I was able to purchase a transcription, from that office, but not a photocopy.

According to the transcription Henry Bell the son of George and Sarah Bell (nee Sargent) was baptised at Picton on 1 May 1854 by Rev William McKee of St Peters, Presbyterian Church, County Cumberland, New South Wales. The birth date was given as 27 March 1854, which agrees with the family bible. The father, George Bell’s occupation was given as Farmer.

This transcription appeared to have been made from the clergy returns for 1854 and not the original parish register. I searched library catalogues for the original parish register but have not been successful. It would appear that the original register for that year may not have survived, or if so, it has not been deposited in a library or archive for safekeeping.

Henry Bell, 1854, Picton, Baptism Transcription

I was able to find some information on the Rev William McKee as follows:-

Reverend McKee

Reverend William McKee packed a lot into his short life. He was Campbelltown’s second Presbyterian minister, succeeding Reverend Hugh Gilchrist at St David’s in 1852. Like his Ulsterman predecessor, Rev. McKee worked tirelessly in undertaking his pastoral duties for the town and surrounding areas. It was unforeseen circumstances however that lead to his premature demise.

The Rev. William McKee was born in 1821 and educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institute. In 1848, with his wife Frances, he sailed for Australia, arriving at Port Phillip on 6 October 1848. He arrived in Sydney the following year after an offer of a vacancy at St Andrew’s at Port Macquarie. Reverend McKee was then called to Campbelltown and inducted into St. David’s on 18 May 1853.

Rev. McKee’s pastoral duties were arduous. He travelled extensively throughout the district from Liverpool, Appin, Camden, Picton, Bargo and beyond. [1]

The service was probably held in the old Court House,  Picton which had been built by the Antill family many years before.

I do not know why the baptism was in the Presbyterian records because the Wesleyans had built a chapel not far from the Bell family home in Upper Picton,  and the son Thomas had been baptised there some two years before.

My share document for this baptism transcription can be found under the  Resources and Examples Tab on this website under-

BELL, Henry, 1854, Picton, Baptism Transcription.

[1] Retrieved by Nola Mackey,15 September 2020

From <http://campbelltown-library.blogspot.com/2016/11/reverend-mckee.html

Our Bell Family in Australia – George Bell, 1846, Picton.

In recent blogs I wrote about my ancestors George Bell and Sarah Sargent’s marriage in Sutton Forest, New South Wales in 1844. This was the first document I had for George Bell, although it was some seven years after his arrival in Australia in 1837.

Soon after marriage George and Sarah moved to the Picton area. This was where their first child was born.

I then checked for references in the online index of the Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages in Sydney at https://bdm.nsw.gov.au/ and found the following.

BELL GEORGE   1604/1846 V18461604 31A   GEORGE and SARAH

BELL GEORGE   1804/1845 V18451804 31A   GEORGE  and SARAH

Using these references I was able to search for entries in the Archives Authority of New South Wales (now State Records) Genealogical Kit (1988) for baptisms 1788-1855. The early colonial baptism, marriage, and burial records of some 164 volumes cover the time before civil registration in New South Wales. This includes Victoria and Queensland which was part of New South Wales at that time. These are held as Government records by the Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages for New South Wales in Sydney.

Many of these records were microfilmed and released to the public in the Archives Authority of New South Wales Genealogical Kit in 1988. Of the 164 volumes copied, only 123 volumes were released in the kit covering the time frame 1788-1855. Volumes 124-164 were not included in the kit.

This was because some of the records contained in the volumes were after 1855 so fell outside the parameters of the historical project and were subject to state privacy laws. Other volumes were not included because they were so fragile and the handling of those volumes would have destroyed them.

Returning to our Bell research I found Volume 31 in the above-mentioned records, and I was able to view a microfilm copy of the original record on AO Reel 5009. You will note the above references are the same except for the entry number. The second is a transcription error in the indexing of the records. There is only one entry 1604, for the baptism of George Bell in 1846. His birth date was stated as 27th November 1845 at Picton.

This was a copy of the Baptism Register for St Thomas’, Narellan, under the Rev Thomas Hassall. This copy was sent to the Colonial Secretary’s Office for the clergy returns in 1846.

BELL,George,1846,Picton,Baptism Transcription

Although you can view these records at your library you cannot make a printout as it is a condition of use of these records and is stated at the beginning of each film. The copyright belongs to the Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages.  At the time I was able to make a transcription and add appropriate notes. As the church in Picton was not built until after this date, the baptism most likely took place after the Sunday service in the old courthouse with the Rev Thomas Hassall.

“In 1827 Hassall was appointed to the new parish of Cowpastures which he described as “Australia beyond Liverpool”. This was to be his centre of operations for the remainder of his life. At this time Hassall purchased Denbigh estate at Cobbitty which became his headquarters. Here be built Heber Chapel in 1828 which served for many years until St Paul’s Cobbitty was established in 1842.

Hassall’s extensive parish extended as far as Goulburn and Illawarra involving an exhaustive preaching ministry including Cobbitty, Berrima, Bong Bong and Goulburn. He was often referred to as the “galloping parson” and has been described as the first of Australia’s ‘bush parsons’.

Gradually from 1838 onwards, the large parish was reduced to a more manageable circuit, with Hassall being relieved of Goulburn and Mulgoa. Subdivided into dioceses and parishes, clergy were appointed and churches built.

Thomas Hassall died at Denbigh estate on 29 March 1868. He was survived by his wife, Anne Hassall, née Marsden (1794 – 18 June 1885.”

From <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Hassall_(priest)>

 

I also have a Bell Family Bible and noted that the birth date of George Bell given there is the 6th November 1845.[ See Family Heirloom-Bell Family Bible, posted 11 February 2017].

These two sources do not agree. Which one is correct?

Are there any other sources I can check to see if they confirm either of these dates? I made a search of the newspapers of the time but did not find a birth notice, for George Bell.

Considering my experience concerning the marriage of George Bell’s parents in 1844, I decided to make a search for the original baptism register of St Thomas’s, Church of England, Narellan. I searched both Ancestry.com and Findmypast for these records, but to my surprise, they are not available there, although many early parish registers of the Anglican Diocese of Sydney are.

One of those that is available is the baptism register of All Saints, Sutton Forest, where George Bell and Sarah Sargent married in 1844. I checked this register online at Ancestry.com to confirmed George Bell, was not also baptized there. I did not find an entry.

Searching online library catalogues I found that the National Library of Australia, State Library of New South Wales, and the Society of Australian Genealogists have this register on microfilm as part of the  Australian Joint Copy Project. Now I need to arrange to get a copy of this record.

My share document for this baptism can be found under the  Resources and Examples Tab on this website under-

BELL, George, 1846, Picton, Baptism Transcription

Family History is always interesting and never boring.

Our Bell Family in Australia-George and Sarah Bell in the 1840s.

When we are researching our family history, most of our energy goes into finding the documents that show the events of birth, marriage, and death of our ancestors. However, to build a picture of the lives of our ancestors we need to research the time, place, and the people involved in these events.

In a former blog, I wrote about the marriage of my ancestors, George Bell and Sarah Sargent at Sutton Forest in 1844. [See blog Our Bell Family in Australia-George Bell’s Marriage 1844‘ posted 9 August 2020].

Now I needed to research the place, Sutton Forest; the church, All Saints Church of England; the Minister, Rev William Stone and the witnesses, Robert Wallace and Mary Thomas as well as George and Sarah themselves.

Sutton Forest

The graveyard and All Saints Anglican Church (1861).

Sutton Forest

Sutton Forest was named by Commissioner Bigge when he traveled through the area in 1820 with Governor Macquarie. It was on the edge of ‘settlement’  on the Great South Road. It was named after the Speaker of the House of Commons in England. Political motives were always in mind when naming places in New South Wales in our early history.

A private village grew up here in the late 1820s when the land was made available for a church and cemetery in 1828. By the following year, a weatherboard chapel had been erected and was in use. This was where George Bell and Sarah Sargent’s wedding took place in 1844. [See blog  Our Bell Family in Australia- George Bell’s Marriage 1844′ posted on 9 August 2020).

The neat stone building standing today was built in 1861 to the plans of the Colonial Architect, Edmund Becket.

More information can be found at https://www.aussietowns.com.au/town/sutton-forest-ns

Rev William Stone

The Rev William Stone was appointed to Sutton Forest in 1843 to replace, Rev George Vidal.  He served there many years until he retired in 1858. He remained living at Sutton Forest and died there in 1870. He was buried in the churchyard and has a headstone.

The first school at Sutton Forest was opened in late 1830 with 18 pupils, under the instruction of John Eyre, a convict who had arrived that year. It had been built adjacent to the church. It was a church school and the local families continued to support it and it stayed in use until 1880 when the public school was opened.

A small cottage near the school was where the teacher and his family resided.

Robert Wallace

In the early 1840s, Robert Wallace was appointed as a teacher. He is believed to have been a friend of the Sargent family and that is how he became a witness at the wedding of George Bell and Sarah Sargent.

Mary Thomas

The other witness to the wedding was Mary Thomas the wife of James Thomas. They too were farming in the area and believed to be friends of the Sargent family. They later moved to The Oaks area near Picton, and in 1849 two of their sons were baptized at St Marks Church of England, Picton.

Sargents

The Sargent family, Thomas, his wife Alice (also spelled as Ellis in many records), and their four children emigrated on the Woodbridge in 1838. [See blog  ‘Immigration -“Woodbridge” Voyage-1838 posted 28 July 2017.]

They settled in the area soon after arrival. Four more children were born there and were baptized in All Saints. Sarah was the second daughter and had been born in Beckley, Sussex in 1827.

Bells

James and George Bell emigrated as sailors on the convict ship Asia in 1837. [See blogs

See “A Window in Time-My Bell Family in East Farleigh, Kent, England“, posted 30 April 2014 and,” My Bell Family Ancestors-George Bell (1817-1894)-Sorting Red Herrings“, posted 3 July 2014.

SONY DSC

A Jack and Jill Sussex Mill

Found at http://www.windmillworld.com/millid/2614.htm

After marriage George and Sarah Bell moved to Picton. In those days nearly fifty miles away over a rough and dangerous track. It is believed that Thomas Sargent was employed to help build a windmill on what was known for many years as Windmill Hill, which overlooked Picton. This was for the Larkin family, who were also of Sutton Forest. George and his brother James assisted him. It was built in wood and was in the ‘Sussex Style’. It was not successful as it was too far from the village and the wind was unreliable. George and James Bell made bricks and later assisted in building a steam-powered mill down on Stonequarry creek.

George and Sarah Bell’s children were all born at Picton. They were baptized there too. However, although George and Sarah were married in the Church of England at Sutton Forrest when it came to baptize their children, they took advantage of whichever minister was visiting the village at the time.  Their children’s baptisms can be found in the Church of England, Presbyterian, and Wesleyan records.

More information on the Picton Windmills can be found at

https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/heritageap/ViewHeritageItemDetails.aspx?ID=2690285

Information on the time period can be found at

https://myplace.edu.au/decades_timeline/1840/decade_landing_16_1.html

Most of all have fun with your research.

The Long Engagement- Arthur Baxter and Harriet May Bell

In my last blog, I began the story of my Maternal Grandparents Arthur and Harriet May Baxter’s (nee Bell) romance leading up to their engagement. I also revealed that her parents were not keen on the match and in fact, her mother had refused to give consent or blessings to the marriage.

Perhaps I should give a little background of the Bell family which might account for the mother, Alice Bell’s (nee Sherwood) attitude.

John Bell, born 1856 was the fifth son and sixth child of George and Sarah Bell (nee Sargent) of Picton. At the time of John’s birth, his father was a labourer, mostly working on the roads around Picton.

However, he had purchased several blocks of land in Upper Picton and had built a home there. In 1860 he took up a government contract for building a portion of the Great South Road (from Sydney) which went through Picton.

In 1865 his wife Sarah Bell died leaving him with a young family. He remained at Upper Picton and apprenticed his sons to the blacksmith and wheelwright trades.

In the early 1870s, there was a severe economic slump in Picton and the Bell family split up. George Bell Sr, along with his son James, remained in Upper Picton and carried on the Blacksmith and Wheelwright business. George Jr had a wood-yard and carrying business at Newtown. Thomas, Henry, and John Bell went west to Burrowa where their mother’s brothers, Thomas and George Sargent had taken up land a few years before.

With the many gold rushes in the western districts, Burrowa was a thriving town.

It was there the now twenty-one-year-old John Bell, met and married Alice Sherwood.

Their eldest daughter was born at Burrowa in 1878. Soon afterward the family returned to Picton where John took over an established blacksmith shop in Argyle Street.

John and Alice built a new home in Wild Street, Upper Picton not far from the original Bell family home. Their new home was called ‘Wyuna’.

They had a further seven children, all born at Upper Picton.

Their daughter Harriet May was born in 1891. She grew up in Upper Picton and attended Miss Clarke’s Private School. She was a very popular girl as were her sisters and John Bell was said to be very protective of his six daughters.

Now we move to 1908. What had happened to make Alice Bell so adamant that Arthur and May should not marry.

Firstly, Alice Bell had lost two sisters and other members of her Sherwood family to the ‘chest complaint’ (Consumption).

She had lost her eldest daughter, Emma Frances, in 1899 a few short months before her 21st birthday, also to Consumption.

Her second daughter, Alice, had married Amos Kiss in 1904. They had three daughters. He was said to have a ‘weak chest’ and after suffering for several years died in 1912.

Arthur’s grandmother, Ann Kennedy, struggled to bring up her family when her husband was sent to Parramatta Asylum for the Insane in 1866. Everyone in the district knew of her ‘troubles’. Only two of her eight children made it to adulthood.

Alice and John Bell wanted so much more for their daughters.

Arthur and May just had to wait. Meanwhile, Alice Bell hoped a better match would come along for her daughter.

In 1909, Arthur and his friends went back to Chillingham clearing the Growcock block. They made the long trip home for Christmas again. Arthur still hadn’t earned enough to buy land.

Early in 1910 saw the boys back on the Tweed. William Growcock married in 1910 and built a small house and left Arthur and his friends in the makeshift Timber Cutters Camp.

Having lost their eldest daughter, John and Alice Bell were concerned about the health of their younger daughters. The family moved to Thirroul a small seaside village on the south coast in 1910. John Bell opened a Blacksmith shop there with his son Harry.

John Bell Blacksmith shop,1912,Thirroul,NSW                                                     John  Bell’s Blacksmith Shop at Thirroul c 1914 [original held by Nola Mackey]

In 1911, Arthur and his friends returned to Chillingham and continued to clear scrub. He was saving his money and reckoned another few months and he would have the required amount to buy his own block. He made the trip south again for Christmas.

May Bell remained resolute about marrying Arthur Baxter, so after her 21st birthday in early 1912,  her mother gave in and helped her plan a Spring Wedding. The date was set. They were to be married on 27 September 1912 at St David’s Church of England at Thirroul with refreshments afterward at the Bell home, ‘Wyuna’ (Thirroul). One of May’s older sisters had married the year before.

St David's Anglican Church,1986,Thirroul,NSW

                 St David’s Thirroul 1986, copyright by Nola Mackey

[The original church was built at the corner of Main Road and Raymond Road in 1909. It was later moved to its present site in 1938. When the new St David’s was built next door, it was used as a  church hall. ]

Some old photographs of the church on the original site can be found at

St David's Thirroul 1911   https://trove.nla.gov.au/version/260935342
St David's Thirroul 1912    https://trove.nla.gov.au/version/260935330

So it was back to the Tweed in 1912 for Arthur, and he and May continued to correspond.

Arthur Baxter could, at last, inform John Bell, his future father-in-law his intention of soon selecting a block of land and erecting a home. The problem was there were few suitable blocks left in the Chillingham area so he would have to select further into the scrub and getting a suitable home built in the time was going to be a huge challenge.

May’s wedding dress was to be made by her Aunt Emma, her father’s younger sister, who worked as a tailoress in David Jones in Sydney. This was her gift to her niece.

Her wedding ring was a plain wide band, which was reportedly fashioned from a single nugget of gold. It is said to have been found by John Bell’s brother Harry, in the Tumbarumba Ranges in southern New South Wales. Thomas, Harry, and John Bell had been involved in gold mining in that area for many years. This nugget was said to have been a gift to the couple from her Uncle Harry, who had remained a bachelor.

At last, the long engagement of Arthur Baxter and Harriet May Bell was soon to be concluded with a Spring Wedding. That was until Murphy’s Law came into the picture.

.

More than a Certificate – Arthur Baxter and Harriet May Bell

Many family historians collect the birth, death, and marriage certificates of their ancestors thinking that they tell the story of their lives. However  I  believe, that one document does not tell the story of an event.

We are also advised when writing up our family histories to allow the facts to speak for themselves and let the reader draw their own conclusions. Fifty years of experience has taught me not to always believe this is so.

Let us take the marriage certificate of my maternal grandparents Arthur and Harriet May Baxter (nee Bell). According to their marriage certificate,(a full copy of which I purchased from the Registrar of Births, Death and Marriages (Sydney), they married at St David’s, Thirroul on 27 January 1913.

BAXTER-BELL Marriage,1913,Thirroul,Church Marriage Register

Church of England images of Sydney Diocese, retrieved from ancestry.com website 1 April 2020

That is all fine until you know that their eldest child was born at the end of July. The first conclusion one might jump to was that he married her because she was pregnant to save her reputation. A reasonable assumption perhaps in Edwardian Society before World War I.

However, the true story of this couple’s marriage is much more interesting.

Arthur Baxter, the fourth son and sixth child of James and Margaret Baxter (nee Kennedy) was born in 1888 at Picton, New South Wales. His parents and grandparents were pioneers of the district.

Harriet May Bell, the fifth daughter, and sixth child of John and Alice Bell (nee Sherwood) was born in 1891 also at Picton. Her parents and grandparents were also pioneers of the district.

Both Arthur and Harriet May were baptized at St Mark’s Church of England, Picton.

Arthur Baxter grew up on the family dairy farm at Clifton near Picton and worked at farm chores from an early age with his father and brothers. He attended Clifton Provisional School which was situated on the Baxter property.

The farm at Clifton was run by his father with the help of his seven sons. It was likely that the elder sons might inherit the farm or at least have some pecuniary interest while the younger sons were expected to work for their ‘keep’ until they reached their majority of 21 years when they might expect to have some kind of monetary allowance for their work.

Arthur Baxter met May Bell at St Mark’s Annual Sunday School picnic about 1906 and fell in love with her. At the time he was about eighteen years of age, but with no prospects, and she nearly sixteen but not allowed to go out unchaperoned and certainly not with a farmer’s son.

Arthur suffered from asthma and it was believed to have been aggravated by working near cattle. The cold Picton winters did not allow his health to improve as the years went by.

Arthur knew if he was to have any chance of winning Miss May Bell he had to leave the farm and find employment to earn the money to make his own way in life.

Early in the 20th Century, Crown land was offered to selectors on the upper reaches of the Tweed River, in northern New South Wales, particularly at Chillingham on the North Arm and Kunghur on the South Arm. These land opportunities were advertised in various newspapers including ‘The Farmer and Settler’. It is believed this is how the young men in the Camden and Picton area knew of the land being offered for selection at Chillingham. A number of young men left the family farms and struck out on their own. If they had the money they took up their own block. The Doust brothers of Camden were ones that took up a selection there. Another family from the area was the Todd family.  They were from Elderslie, Mt Hunter, and had grown up with the Baxter family. Those young men who didn’t have the money to select or buy went to find employment by assisting the selectors to clear these blocks for dairying, thereby gaining the money to buy their own farms. Arthur Baxter and his mate Lock Nicholson fell into this category.

Early in 1908 Arthur Baxter, Lock Nicholson, and several other young men from the Picton district went to the Tweed River. They caught the train to Sydney, where they boarded the coastal steamer, Orara. (Probably as steerage passengers to save money).The Orara left Sydney about 9 am on Saturday and arrived at Byron Bay early on the following Monday morning. They then caught the train to Murwillumbah.

Murwillumbah had been settled many years before and by 1907 was a bustling town with hotels, post office, courthouse, and numerous other shops, businesses, and houses. However on the 15 September tragedy struck the town, when it was virtually burned to the ground by a raging fire. By the time Arthur and his mates arrived early in 1908 the town was being rebuilt, and there was an air of optimism.

At Murwillumbah, the men hitched a ride with the mail-man who delivered to the district three days a week.  Chillingham or Bean Tree as it was known, was a creek crossing on the road to the Queensland Border, which was a few miles away.  Here the young men gained employment as planned by helping the selectors clear the heavy scrub so they could plant grasses for the grazing of dairy cattle. The surrounding farming district was known as Zara.

One of these selectors was William Growcock, an Irish immigrant who had arrived in Queensland in 1891. He was in the Chillingham area from about 1900, officially selecting in 1904 and adding to his block in 1907. He employed Arthur Baxter and his mate Lock Nicholson to clear fell the scrub on his second block.

[Spoiler alert- Forty years later Arthur Baxter’s daughter Margaret married William Growcock’s son, William. This couple were my parents].

Although hundreds of miles apart, Arthur Baxter and May Bell’s romance blossomed throughout 1908 as they corresponded regularly. In one of those letters, Arthur wrote to May and told her ‘the boys’ (Arthur and his friends) would be home for Christmas and asked her to meet the late train from Sydney at the Picton Railway Station, on a certain day, as it was very important. May asked her father to accompany her to the station, as it was late evening and she was only seventeen and wouldn’t be turning eighteen until the following month. Young ladies did not go out at night unchaperoned. When they met at the station, without a word Arthur grabbed May’s left hand and slipped a sapphire and diamond engagement ring on her finger. (She always maintained that Arthur may have asked her father for her hand in marriage, but he didn’t ask her). Arthur had just turned twenty-one years a couple of days before.

Picton Railway Station

Picton Railway Station from State Rail Authority Archives Photographic Reference Print Collection, retrieved 1 April 2010

May Bell’s mother, Alice Bell, was not keen on the union because several of the Baxter boys had a ‘weakness in the chest’ (asthma) and she didn’t want another daughter saddled with an invalid husband as her second daughter, Alice had been with Amos Kiss.

However, her main objection was because of Arthur’s mother’s family- the Kennedy’s- ‘had madness in the family’. Arthur’s maternal grandfather, Gilbert Kennedy had been in Parramatta Asylum for the Insane for nearly thirty-six years when he died in 1903. His widow remained in the Picton area until her death in 1912, and everyone knew the family and their ‘troubles’.

May Bell’s mother refused to give her consent to the marriage, hoping she would find a ‘better match’. May’s father, John Bell, also had certain reservations as Arthur had not yet earned enough money to take up a selection of his own and build a home. The beautiful ring he had purchased in Sydney, had taken much of his hard-earned cash of the first year of scrub-clearing.

As May was still underage and needed her parent’s permission there way only one thing they could do. To wait until she was twenty-one. It was going to be a long engagement.

Baxter Cousin’s Day

Another year has rolled around. Last Sunday, the first weekend in March was our annual cousins get together for one of my maternal families – BAXTER.

I have organized these Cousin’s Days for this branch of the family for many years now. You can see reports of some of them in former blogs.

 

family-tree-with-green-leaves

Although they are always wonderful days for us all, each year has been a little different, and this year was no exception. This year the numbers attending were about the same, but there were no children. These were all off representing their school or community in a team sport of some kind or another.

Another interesting fact was that all lines of my grandparent’s children were represented by at least the eldest grandchild on that line. This has never happened before. In fact, most of the attendees were first cousins to me.

Baxter Family Histories

In the past, I have selected an ancestral couple on that family line and prepared material telling the story of the chosen couple. In the past years I have written the story of ‘The Life and Times of Arthur and Harriet May Baxter (nee Bell)’ – my grandparents; The Life and Times of James and Margaret Jane Baxter (nee Kennedy)‘ – Great-Grandparents; ‘The Life and Times of Thomas George and Mary Baxter (nee Mather)’ – Great- Great- Grandparents; ‘The Life and Times of James and Elizabeth Baxter (nee Dixon) – Great-Great-Great Grandparents and the Life and Times of George and Sarah Bell (nee Sargent)‘-Great-Great Grandparents. This year it was The Life and Times of Thomas and Mary Bell (nee Battlemore)– Great-Great-Great grandparents.

 

However, for several reasons, I didn’t have the story of Thomas and Mary Bell ready in time. Firstly, I became ill while only up to the indexing of the material. Secondly, I found photographs and documents, that I had filed away safely during our bushfire crises this last year, and had forgotten about them. They needed to be included- and thirdly, I received a  DNA match (of a very small amount), with people in England, who are connected to the female line of ‘Battlemore’ or more correctly ‘Bartholomew’.

 

The DNA research trail is something I have recently embraced although I know it is only a ‘tool’ rather than the answer to research problems. Although everyone was a little disappointed I didn’t bring all the material with me this year, they all know I will eventually get it done. They are very excited about what might come out of the DNA connection. Particularly, to my delight, several of my first cousins received DNA Kits for gifts at Christmas! They have at last sent their samples away and are awaiting results. Everyone is most interested to see how it might help with our ancestral quest.

 

Another plus with all my work and sharing with these cousins each year, it has now begun to bear fruit. Some of my cousin’s, now adult children, have begun their own family history journey. One visited Picton and the surrounding area and was able to identify and photograph family homes still standing after over 150 years; the old farm, with the sign still at the front gate; family headstones in cemeteries, once crumbling and overgrown, now cleared and restored beautifully;  and the historic Picton Anglican Church, St Mark’s, restored after severe flooding a few years ago. All this material they put together as a slide show with video clips. All to music in glorious colour to be enjoyed by members of our family.

 

I know I do not have to worry about the future of our family histories. They are in the good hands of the next generation.

World War I, Family Hero – William George Blanchard

Many years ago, when I seriously began researching my maternal grandmothers family ‘The Bells,’ I was very fortunate to be able to track down various branches including the Blanchard family, who had migrated to Western Australia. These were first cousins of my maternal grandmother, Harriet May Bell.

 William George Blanchard, born 1885,at Picton, New South Wales, was the second child, and eldest son of Joseph and Alice Blanchard (nee Bell). Through family connections, I found and corresponded with, his eldest son, Charles William (Charlie) Blanchard, for a number of years. He was able to tell me his father had served in World War I, and that his ‘job was to drive ammunition trains to the Front Line’. I was able to access William George Blanchard’s military service records at the Australian Archives, but these were basic, and had very little actual information. I also visited the Australian War Memorial seeking information on these ‘engine drivers,’ but found very little in official records. Even recent searches on the Internet had little success.

However this week I struck ‘gold’ in the historical newspapers on TROVE at the National Library of Australia. Now using family oral history, Australian Archives World War I military service records and extracts from the newspapers I have been able to add much information to this Blanchard twig of my family history.

 When a young child, William George, along with the family moved to Western Australia where the father, Joseph Blanchard found employment as an engine driver on the Midland Junction Railway. In 1906 Joseph Blanchard died suddenly leaving his wife Alice Blanchard with seven children. William George, the eldest of the children had also found employment in the railway by this time.

 William George Blanchard married Maud Lyons in 1908. They had a family of three surviving sons by the time World War I had been declared.

William George Blanchard had served several years in the local militia. He tried to enlist in the Australian Imperial Forces in April 1916, but was turned down for medical reasons. In December the same year he applied to join the newly formed Railway Corps. He was finally accepted and was put into basic training. In January 1917 he was promoted to Sergeant and on 21 January embarked at Freemantle on the troopship ‘Miltiades’ for overseas service.

 DSC02798

The ‘Miltiades’ was of 7814 tons and a cruising speed of 13 knots. It was owned by G Thompson and Company of London and was leased by the Government for the transporting of troops and supplies from Australia in World War I.

 William George Blanchard disembarked at Devonport, England on 27 March 1917 and after further training was deployed overseas in France on 19 April 1917. On 12 October 1917 he was attached to the (British)Royal Engineers for special duties. [See below] While there, he ‘ was reprimanded by his commanding officer for failing to salute a ( British) officer’ — and I bet he wasn’t the only one.

He became ill in May 1918 and was admitted to Lakenham Military Hospital in Norwich, England.

 This Military Hospital was located in the premises of Lakenham Council School, which had only been built by the City Council in 1913.It had scheduled to receive its first pupils in August 1914. In fact, with the outbreak of First World War hostilities, its intended use for educational purposes was delayed until 1919, because the premises were requisitioned by the Army Council for use as a military hospital. [Ref:http://eventful.com/norwich/events/lakenham-military-hospital-colmans-detective-barry-/E0-001-087655001-9

 William George Blanchard later joined his unit in France and was transferred to ‘old gauge’ rail operations with the narrow French line.

When the war was over he spent a long furlong in England, before returning to his unit, to be transported home to Australia. He boarded the Konigin Luise on 21 June 1919.

 I believe the Konigin Luise was originally a German ship which had been converted by the Germans for mine-laying duties in the English Channel. She was later shelled and after much damage the wreck was finally captured. She was virtually rebuilt and was later used by the Government to bring troops and nurses home to Australia.

 After the war, William George Blanchard returned to employment with the Western Australian Government Railway. His son Charlie Blanchard was able to send me copies of much of his service in the railway.

 My ‘gold’ this week was in the form of informative newspaper extracts detailing the service of the Australian Railway Corp:-

 Australian Railway Corps on the Western Front as recalled by Lieutenant R J Burchell (MC), 4th Company Australian Railway Corps,( and Member of Parliament for Freemantle 1913-1922).

” There were three broad-gauge and three light railway companies, the original strength of each being 269 of all ranks which was increased by reinforcements to 300, so that the Australian railway operating troops totalled 1800. We were attached to the Royal Engineers for duty and discipline–a fact we did not appreciate. Our only connection with Australian corps was that we received AIF orders and an AIF paymaster visited us periodically for the purposes of pay. We took our places alongside our comrades of the Britain and French railway services, and whatever work came our way, in whatever circumstances, we did it.

Our first job was in the Ypres area with the British Second Army, under General Plumer. That started on October 5 1917, and we were at work up to the conclusion of hostilities-13 months. We were not fighting troops, but I may say that the whole of our sphere of operations was within range of the enemy’s artillery, and he paid particular attention to the railways, both with his heavy guns and aeroplane bombs. Even Hazelbrouck, the furthest back station of the 4th company, was under fire from the 15in guns. The first time I went into the station on a train the water tower was toppled over by a shell just as the train was entering the station. In the latter stages of the war the aeroplane bombs were of huge size. At Peronne the Australians captured German bombs estimated to weigh a ton, while for some time before the end the British planes were using 15cwt bombs. With both planes and guns the enemy paid systemic attention to our main lines of rail, so you can realize that life in a railway unit was not altogether a picnic. The 5th Company, [William George Blanchard’s Battalion] based at Peselhoek, had the worst spot of the lot in the Ypres area for danger. Their section of the line was continually exposed to bomb raids and gunfire, night and day, and their casualties were heavy.

In military railway work, owing to the conditions resulting from continual interruptions in the line by shell fire, you so not worry about mileage, or time-table. The main thing is to deliver your load safely where it is wanted. If you come to a spot on the direct road where the line has been blown up by the enemy, you go back, and endeavour to reach your destination by a roundabout route. The amount of work behind a great army is tremendous. Despite the network of lines, I have seen 280 trains per day pass over a single section of line, and the trains carry 1,000 ton loads. The system of traffic adopted mainly for army work was that of the Midland Railway Company, England. The French system of railway signals, which was in use, is much different from the British, and entails a much greater eye-strain on the engine drivers. Many of the men practically ruined their sight in the service.

As I have said, the lines were frequently cut by enemy fire. The British Engineers carried out repairs at any hour of the night or day, with remarkable expedition, but the French were not nearly so prompt.

After three months in the Ypres area, we were sent to the Somme, near Peronne. We had 30 miles of line to work, our main function being to supply ammunition, material, and food to the 5th Army, under General Gough, and provide engine power for six 15-inch guns, mounted on railway waggons, which operated from the ends of our lines. The 5th Army connected with the French Army on its right, and our corps was the last connecting link of British railway troops on the Southern end. We had exceptionally heavy work in this sector, culminating with the great German offensive. The attack began on March 21, and three days later we were compelled to evacuate as the 5th Army was pushed back. The Australian railwaymen did particularly fine work during those critical days. The men of our company were warmly commended for their services at Tincourt in unloading ammunition at the advanced dump under heavy machine gun fire. Three of them were awarded the DCM, and six received the Military Medal over that episode. The German attack was pressed home so rapidly that the big rail-mounted guns were abandoned b. We managed to get two of the pieces away y the gunners in the nick of time. An attempt was made to rescue two more, but, while they were being hauled away, the line was so badly cut up by enemy gunfire that the rails spread, and the guns could not be moved further. Our fellows stuck to it as long as there was work to be done, but quitted only when everything that could be shifted had been shifted. The French railwaymen had all gone 12 hours before….Lieut. Burchell was awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty… on this occasion]”

[See also http://www.ww1westernfront.gov.au/bellenglise/calvaire-cemetery-montbrehain/tincourt-british-cemetery.php for those Australians that died there]

Lieut Burchell continues, “Many hard things have been said about General Gough and the 5th Army, …often by Australian soldiers. But the difficulties and odds against which they had to contend are seldom realised. In numbers the odds against them were eight to one, and the enemy had an immense concentration of artillery. The attack began on March 21, but the Australians did not come into contact with the remnants of General Gough’s force until the following Tuesday. In the intervening five days the 5th Army were forced back over 30 miles, fighting continuously, at a terrible disadvantage. The whole of their ordinary transport organisations was gone, and they had no fixed supply and ammunition points, and they were for long periods without food.

After unceremoniously leaving the Somme we were sent to Dunkirk, where we served until the conclusion of hostilities. Even Dunkirk can hardly be described as a safe spot well behind the firing line. Indeed it had the reputation of being the most heavily bombed city on the whole front. The official figures carefully recorded by the municipal authorities show that 7514 projectiles were dropped on it during the war… the town was decorated by the British Government in recognition of its sacrifices

Our welcome to Dunkirk was a warm one, for on our very first night there was a succession of air-raids, and 500 bombs were dropped. The port has fine wharf and harbour accommodation, which was used for the purposes of landing great quantities of ammunition from England, and it was on this account that it received so much attention from the Germans. Their spy service must have been remarkably good, for every time one of the great lighters full of ammunition arrived there would be an air raid. We were there for six months, working ammunition from the docks….”

[Reference:- With The Railway Corps on the Western Front, Interview with Lieutenant R J Burchell, Western Australian (Perth, W A: 1879-1954), Monday 2 June 1919, page 6, retrieved from Trove 11 February 2017 – http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article27606481 ]

 Another newspaper extract from Lieutenant-Colonel Fewtrell [DSO] invalided home 1918….” There was a light railway running out to the Ypres salient, and on this railway I trained my 4th Battalion officers and men. I am as you know, a railway construction engineer, and there were a number of others. The result was that in about four weeks we had a first-class railway construction battalion, our reinforcements having come up in the meantime. Then the whole of the Anzac Corps was suddenly removed south again on the Somme, and we arrived there about the beginning of November, 1916. We had taken over a new area from the French, and the mud was frightful on the roads along which the ammunition and supplies had to be got up to the troops holding the front line. There was so much stuff that had to be got up that I have seen at night time as many as three lines of traffic. As the mud was 2 feet deep in many places you can imagine what a task it was, and one of the first things we were asked to do was to make decent roads.

Then I was made officer commanding light railways. We constructed a mile of light railway a day, and within ten weeks we were supplying 40,000 men and 8000 horses with all they required, carrying the supplies right into Bapaume. One night we took up to within 300 yards of the battle positions the whole of the guns, with the exception of one battery, for one of the Australian divisions. At the end of ten days the Canadians had built a broad-gauge line into Bapaume and when we pushed out to the Hindenburg line we had passenger trains running into the town every half-hour-just like the suburban system at home…”[Reference:- Colonel Fewtrell’s Return, Sydney Morning Herald (NSW:1842-1954),Saturday 30 March 1918, p12, retrieved from Trove 11 February 2017 – http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15782819

 What a productive day with my Bell Family History with researching and writing up.

The moral of the story in family history research, never give up and think’ outside the box’