Vale – WO2 Alf Cumberland – 103yrs

The following message has been received from the Secretary of the Brisbane Branch of the 31st Battalion Association Tony Wadeson

It is with great sadness that I advise you of the Passing of our oldest WW2 Veteran – QX43769 WO2 Alf Cumberland. Alf passed away early this afternoon peacefully in his sleep at his residence, – The Lodge, Magnolia Aged Care, Coomera. Alf had just turned 103Yrs on the 2nd Sept. Alf joined the Army – “Artillery” on the 22nd Sept 1941. He joined the 2/31st Bn in New Guinea as a Reinforcement Nov 1943. He also took part in the later Invasion at Balikpapan Borneo. There are quite a few interesting stories to be told. Alf’s Company Commander was George Henderson, the Father of Alex Swan (nee Henderson). Refer 31st Bn Assoc Website –   – Go to Archives refer to July 2019 & Sept 2019.

Members, Veterans & Friends. – FUNERAL ARRANGEMENTS – ALF CUMBERLAND. as Follows:-

(1) WHERE:- The Funeral is to be held at:-  Newlife Uniting Church – 4 Greenwich Ct. ROBINA  Q’ld 4226

(2) WHEN:- Tuesday 20th October at 1.00PM

(3) DRESS:-  31st Bn Members – Jacket & Tie, – Beret, – Medals – Name Tag.

(4) It is our intention (with the OK from White Lady Funerals) to have the 2/31st Bn Banner Displayed & form a Guard of Honour at the Conclusion of the Service.

If anyone requires Transport assistance please contact me on my Mob 0427 337 177 or by email, & I will endeavour to help you.

The Nerang RSL are Handling the Poppy Service. 


Tribute Designed & presented by our Honorary Member Pierre Seillier (France). This Tribute was presented to Alf on his 102nd Birthday last year. Due to the Magnolia Aged Care Centre being in lockdown on his 103rd Birthday this year we were unable to visit him.

The following Record of Service was researched and compiled by Association Committee member Mick James

Vale – QX 43769 WO2 Alf Cumberland

WW2 – Veteran – 2nd/ 31st Bn AIF

Alf Cumberland was born on 2nd Sept 1917. He grew up in “Wellington St” Clayfield Brisbane.


    • 22/9/41 – Joined the 2nd AIF – 5th Field Regiment – Brisbane
    • 7/11/42 Transferred to 17th Field Regt. Townsville
    • 19/11/43 transferred to 2/31st Bn Port Moresby
    • 31/1/44 Returned to Townsville.
    • 20/3/44 Admitted to 2/4 AGH
    • 12/7/44 Rejoined 2/31st Bn Petrie Area. The Bn moved to Atherton Tableland in Aug 44
    • 28/9/44 Promoted A/Cpl
    • 4/12/44 Confirmed Cpl.
    • 9/6/45 Embarked “Howell Lykes” at Townsville for Morotai.
    • 18/6/45 Disembarked Morotai
    • 25/6/45Embarked for Service Balikpapan
    • 2/7/45 – 0900HRs Landed Balikpapan
    • 3/7/45 WIA – GSW (Rifle) Rt Ear Lobe – Evac 2/5th Field Ambulance.
    • 6/7/45 Promoted to A/Sgt
    • 8/7/45 Rejoined Unit.
    • 24/8/45 Promoted A/WO2
    • 24/8/45 WO2 Rank Confirmed.
    • 25/1/46 Embarked Balikpapan per “Kanimbla”
    • 4/2/46 Disembarked Brisbane
    • 1/4/46 Discharged.

Mick James – 31st Bn Assoc. (Brisbane) Committee Member – 8/10/2020

Peter Thatcher at last Octobers Reunion Lunch Meeting aged 102 Years.

 Alex Swan (nee Henderson) with Alf in April 2019.

A few of us with Alf on his 102nd Birthday last year.


Interesting News Item – Maj S.A. Nottingham V.D.

The following interesting news item was researched by Association member Mick James:

I’ve recently come across an Obituary of one of the earliest and long serving Kennedy Regiment soldiers. I also attach a photo of Kennedy Regiment Officers from 1905 that includes him. The photo is from Bob Burla’s book, “Crossed Boomerangs”.

(By One of the Old Brigade.)
Once again the call has come, and our old friend Major S. A. (Arthur) Nottingham has answered the roll call. He has gone to his rest leaving a great example to those who follow on an outstanding example In civil life as exemplified in his long service, some 40 years, with Messrs Burns, Philp and Co., Ltd., attentive, punctual loyal, obliging and straight forward with junior and senior alike, and during the many years he stood out as a distinctive personality in the execution of his duties.
The late Major Nottingham was born at Chiselhurst In Kent, England, on 23rd June, 1851. arriving in Australia and settling In Mackay in 1878, where he resided for some years, incidentally Madame Melba, contemporary with him, living next door.
He spared no time In joining the Kennedy Infantry Regiment, a company of which was established there under the command of Captain, later Lt-Col. W. G. Hodges, rising to the rank of Color Sergeant. He came to Townsville In 1889, transferring to ‘B’ Company in Townsville. Captain Caldersmith in command, Lt. Ben. Marsland and Lt. Fred. Willmett being the subalterns of the Company. He was promoted to Quarter Master Sergeant of the Regiment, headquarters at Charters Towers, 21st May. 1892. At the encampment held at Kissing Point in 1912, the deceased was presented, on parade, with the long service medal (Victoria Decoration) (Note; I think it was the Volunteer Decoration); he attended the camp In 1913 with the rank of Hon. Major on the unattached list.
The brief reference I desire to make to his memory is more particularly associated with his military services, with the old (Kennedy) 3rd Infantry Regiment of which he was Quarter Master and in which capacity I knew him for a great many years in the military camps held In those days at Kissing Point, consisting of the several units in training In North Queensland, Garrison Artillery, Light Horse, Infantry, A.M.C., etc., reaching in numbers over 1000 strong, the late Major Nottingham acting as Quarter Master for the whole camp, no light responsibility.
I think he was always the last to bed at night and the first up in the morning. When, as officer of the day, my duty taking me down in the early morning to the issue of supplies to the various units. I would find him active with his hurricane lamp in hand, it was before daylight arranging for the issue. Being Quarter Master of the stationary camp he did not always go out with the troops for drill and exercise, but for inspection or for a review and march past of those days he neglected nothing of his uniform, of which he was particularly; proud and, with his magnificent physique, he looked every inch a soldier and was much looked up to by everybody.
During the year it was a delight to him to attend at mess to which distinguished visitors were invited, to meet the officers and to indulge with the others in reminiscence. They were happy days officers and men were one, volunteers In the service of which we were proud, striving for efficiency and building up the nucleus of a force which, during the Great War, earned the reputation of being the best shock troops in the world. The younger ones are now called to take our place and the demands upon them will far exceed the threatenings of the past. May they use their opportunities and be ready when the occasion calls.
A military record of 33 years honorable service in Queensland as detailed as under: Col. Sgt. F. Coy; Mackay, from 1/1/’81 till 30/6/’89; Col. Sgt. B. Coy., Townsvllle, from, 30/10/’89 till 21/5/’92; Q.M.S. K.I.R Townsville. from 21/5/’92 till 24/9/1900; Lt. K.I.R., Townsvllle, from 24/9/1900 till 27/7/1908; Capt. K.I.R., Townsvllle; from 28/7/1908 till 30/10/1908; U.L.Q.M. and Captain, Townsvllle, from 30/10/ 1908 till 30/3/1912; Hon. Major from 30/6/1913.
A good swimmer, the late Major Nottingham saved at least half a dozen lives during his life.
Rest In Peace

Pte Harry Boughton MM – Greta NSW

Tim Lewis, who is our Liaison Officer for 2/31st Battalion matters has a particular interest in the town of Greta NSW. His great grandfather happened to be Mayor of the town of Greta covering two periods between 1915 and 1920. Tim, whose father was an Officer in the 2/31st Battalion, is in regular contact with a friend by the name of Ken Driscoll. Ken has compiled a book about all 300 (approximately) diggers named on the memorial in Greta.
Tim was anxious to know whether Ken had found any 31st Battalion diggers amongst them. Six were found one of whom was Pte Harry Boughton MM.
Tim adds “At the time that these diggers went to war, included in their number was one of my grandfathers and a great uncle; they were with the 18th and 54th Battalions respectively. The citizens of Greta bestowed upon them these medalions, pictured front and back, My grandfather’s is one of four known to be in existence today”.
Greta was a town of some few thousand people in 1915 but, like so many rural communities, by the census of 2016 had shrunk to 2,830.
The courageous action that saw Harry Boughton awarded the Military Medal (Award Document Below) was covered in the story of Lt Albert Hill which was posted on this website in December 2018. (Type the name Albert Hill in the Search Box on this website). –
Private Harry Boughton’s Military Medal citation reads:
For Conspicuous gallantry and bravery in the field. Near Bouzencourt on 10th May 1918, a British single-seat aeroplane (Lt Baker, 80th Squadron RAF) crashed out of control at about 7.10pm in full daylight inside the German outpost line. On his Platoon Commander calling for a volunteer to assist him to carry the pilot in, Private Boughton volunteered, though the enemy were heavily machine-gunning the plane and our trenches. He coolly walked across No Mans Land with Lieutenant Hill and assisted him to extricate and carry back to our trenches the pilot, who was badly dazed though unwounded. 
This act, coolly carried out in the face of enemy fire, required the greatest pluck, and the magnificent courage displayed, served as an excellent example for Private Boughton’s comrades. 
C.A.G. 15 dated 4.2.1919   
The Award Document
Medalions (Engraved and Obverse sides) Awarded by the Citizens of Greta
Mayors of Greta Including Tim’s Great Grandfather

Vale – Captain Merv Short

The Secretary of the Brisbane Branch of the Association, Tony Wadeson has passed on the following sad message:

It is with great sadness that I report the passing of Merv Short, the optimum of an Officer & a Gentleman. A great Character and Entertainer, but above all a great mate & true friend to all who new him. Who could forget the Army CL Truck heading through the streets of Townsville on the way to a W/E Bivouac, with the sounds of a Piano being played from the covered back.

Merv passed away early Thursday morning (3rd September 2020) after a long Illness. Our thoughts and deepest sympathy go to Merv’s devoted wife Wendy who nursed him at home, until the end.

Merv’s funeral will be a private Service to be held next week.

Farewell old friend – RIP


Merv continued to be involved with the 31st Battalion long after his family and business commitments restricted the amount of time he was able to devote to specific postings. His was a continuing effective presence as Chairman of the Committee For Employer Support Reserve Forces (CESRF). In this capacity he continually liaised with other employers to smooth the way for many of their employees to complete their army commitments to the Battalion. His emphasis was always on the value adding that Army Reserve service gave back to an employer in the long run.

As Honorary members of the Mess, Merv and Wendy were always great supporters of many social occasions. Members will attest that, with a small amount of encouragement, Merv would to sit down and tinkle the ivories on many of these occasions. Wonderful evenings of song, enjoyment, and camaraderie.

I am sure many others know of the generosity of Merv Short but I, as a past member of the board of the Endeavour Foundation, can attest that Merv always was the first to generously contribute, whenever we sponsored an outing for the disabled young people in the care of the Foundation in Townsville,

Thanks Mate

Martin O’Sullivan



A Young Merv with a Group of Officers of 31st Battalion (Circa 1950’s)

Vale – Pte Barry Renton

A message from Vic Nichol, Secretary/Treasurer of the Charters Towers Branch of the Association has advised us of the sad passing of Barry Renton. Barry enlisted as a private in 31st Battalion on 21 Jan 1958.

He was was a staunch member of the 31st Battalion Association Charters Towers Branch attending various functions. He was one of the first to offer help to whenever it was required. Much of his life was spent in the transport business.

He ran a successful business owning a fleet of trucks.

A email from Vic Nichol  describes the service held on the 1st September 2020 at 10am.

“It was a well planned funeral and Barry would have been proud of his family. His coffin was carried on the side-car of a Harley Davidson with his grandson riding Barry’s Harley escorted by five more Harley motorcycles followed by the vehicles of relatives and friends, accompanying Barry on his last ride down Gill Street. Following this was the grave side and poppy service at the Cemetery.  The wake was held at the RSL Club”.


Keith Hearne

Keith is a prominent member of the 2/31st Battalion from Victoria. He has always been heavily involved in the Association and is now one of a diminishing band of old soldiers who served through WW2.

Keith was to have gone to Canberra this year to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of WW2. The ceremony which was to have taken place on 15th August 2020 had to be cancelled because of restrictions in place to prevent the transmission of the Covid19 virus. Keith has of late been beset by illness but he received a letter from the Governor of Victoria in recognition of the occasion.

He has been a constant presence in the Victorian RSL as well as a past president of the 2/25 & 2/31st Association. The two Battalion associations voted to merge when numbers started to thin out.

Keith is really proud that he was asked to lead the Anzac Day march in Melbourne three years in a row.

Keith enlisted as soon as possible in 1943 and after various training postings, joined the 2/31 Battalion training on the Atherton Tableland prior to embarkation for Morotai then Balikpapan on the Island of Borneo.

During the landing at Balikpapan Keith recalls that the  landing craft had difficulties getting onto the beach so he and his sergeant were the first to wade  ashore to reconnoitre the enemy situation. Keith was crouched on the beach reconditioning the Owen Gun ensuring that it was free of sea water whilst the Sergeant stood to take a look around. In an instant the Sergeant fell mortally wounded by a Japanese sniper. Keith has spent his much life wondering about the fortunes of war. Why him and not me.

Letter of Appreciation from the Governor of Victoria

Keith has continued his service to the local community in good times or in bad. Amongst other things he has coordinated the East Gippsland RSL Disaster Fund for the floods in 1998 and the East Gippsland RSL Disaster Fund in the bush fires of 2003. In 2005 he flew to Papua New Guinea as a member of the party to reinter the remains of 2/31st Battalion comrades who perished when the aircraft carrying wounded from the battles of Balikpapan and Morotai crashed in the mountains of West Papua on September 18 1945. The service and reinterment took place at Bomana war Cemetery Papua New Guinea. In June 2015 he also visited the Labuan War Cemetery to pay his respects to his mates from the the Borneo Campaign.

Keith at the Reinterment of old 2/31st Battalion mates – Victims of the aircraft Crash Mentioned above

Keith in Papua New Guinea with old “Comrades in Arms”

One of Keith’s good mates, Trevor Jorgensen – killed in the Air Crash 

An old Mate, Trevor Jorgensen, (One of those killed in the Air crash) Finally laid to rest at Bomana War Cemetery, Papua New Guinea

The Crash site in the mountains of West Papua 18th Sep 1945

the remains of the wounded soldiers and crew were recovered in May 2005

2/25th 2/31st/ Battalion Reunion including a visitor from WA Jim Gordon VC

The Battalion rightly honours Jim Gordon for his award of the Victoria Cross for his acts of courage in the battle for Jezzine during the Syrian campaign. At the same time Keith makes light of his own award (The Commander-In-Chief’s Card) for testing anti-Malarial therapies. No doubt it also took great courage to be on the receiving end of untried and unproven therapies for Malaria. This, the disease that had caused more casualties than enemy action for armies and for civilian populations for thousands of years past.


The battered old Hat with the colour patch of 2/31st Battalion- Keith calls it the “Real Thing” 

The Banner of the 2/31st Battalion being held in a stiff breeze by 31st Battalion Association Secretary Tony Wadeson.

The banner was held high at the recent Kokoda Day Commemoration Ceremony in Brisbane (9th August 2020). It was regularly used during the Anzac Day march and other commemorative occasions in Melbourne and has now been entrusted to our safe keeping by Keith on behalf of the , now, disbanded, 2/25th- 2/31st assn.
Keith, We Salute You.



Kokoda Commemoration 2020

The Kokoda Commemoration Day was held at the Sherwood -Indooroopilly RSL on Sunday 9th August 2020. A large gathering was in attendance including a number of members of the 31st Battalion Association.  The 2/31st Bn Banner was on Display. A gallant effort was being sustained by our Brisbane Branch Secretary, Tony Wadeson, to hold the banner in place against the wild winds of the day. Guest Speaker for the occasion was Jay Hooper. 

Wreaths to be laid by:-

(1) Wreath to be Laid on Behalf of 2/31st Bn (Father – Veteran of 2/31st Bn)  – Mrs Elizabeth Timms

(2) Wreath to be laid on Behalf of 2/31st Bn (Father a Veteran of 2/31st Bn – Mr Tim Lewis 31st Bn Assoc.  Liaison Officer  for  2/31st Bn Veterans/Family/Friends

(3) Wreath to be laid on Behalf of the 31st Bn Assoc.  – Ray Fogg – President 31st Bn Assoc. (Brisbane)

(4) Wreath to be Laid on behalf of Her Father & Uncle both Veterans of 2/31st Bn. – Mrs Patricia Date 

 the 2/31st Bn Banner on Display, With your Approval of course. We will arrive about 10.15AM to erect it where you designate.

A number of photos of the day were posted on the Sherwood-Indooroopilly RSL Facebook Page some of which are included below.

Ray Fogg Laying the Association wreath


Tim Lewis Laying the Wreath in honour of his father Lt Aub Lewis 2/31st Battalion

Mick James Laying wreath – Battle For Australia Committee

Mick James

The Papua NewGuinea Flag in Central Position

Ladies Laying Wreaths in Memory of relatives.

A Section of the assembled gathering for the Kokoda Commemoration Day

Tony Wadeson – Doing a briliant job of holding down the Banner of the 2/31st Battalion

which threatened to take off in the windy conditions.


Speaker for the occasion – Jay Hooper



Vale – Capt Don Page ED

It is with a heavy heart I regret to inform members of the Passing of Don Page.

Don Page was part of the heavy furniture of 31st Bn. – Always Solid & Reliable. Always steady as she goes – with that smile of his, no matter what chaos & panic was on.  – Always there to turn to, – AND Always there to offer help in any way.

Both Don & his wife Edna had been unwell for some time, & were both living in a Nursing Home in Townsville.  We also learned that Edna had also passed away a few weeks ago. This is so sad.

Don’s Funeral was on Friday 14th August 2020, making it almost impossible to get up to Townsville at this stage due to COVID-19.

DON PAGE will be remembered fondly by all who new him. – Rest in Peace Mate.  TONY

Emails of condolence and support were received from members who had served with Don or knew of his service to the Battalion.  Two well known members of the association who served with him were Chris Pyke and George Stanger whose messages are included below


CAPT Don Page was my first Coy Comd (B Coy 31 RQR) when I enlisted in 1966. He was a good bloke. Very sad,


Chris Pyke


Very sad news Tony.
I had a very close association with Don and a better bloke you would never find.Yes Tony, he certainly will be fondly remembered by all who knew him.
Rest in peace Mate.
George Stanger
Messages were also received from:
Phil Ainsworth – NGVR/PNGVR ex Members Association
Mark Dillon – 51st Battalion Association
Steve Vokes – 9 Battalion Association
Patrick O’Keeffe – Battle for Australia Commemoration Committee
Members observed a 1 minute silence at the AGM held at the Sherwood RSL of Thursday 20th August 2020 in honour of Capt Don Page ED and Col Hugh Gaffney AM RFD ED both of whom have passed away since the previous AGM

Coommemoration – 104th Anniversary – Battle of Fromelles

On Sunday 19th July, the 31st Bn Assoc (Brisbane Branch) held a Commemoration Service to Honour the Casualties sustained at the Battle of Fromelles. The Battle took place on the 19th/20th July 1916. This Battle, planned and organised by the British High Command, was the first battle in which Australian troops took part on the Western Front. It proved to be a disaster and was responsible for 5533 casualties, the highest sustained over a 24 hour period in the British Army, in WW1. The 31st Bn, took a major part in the Battle and we commemorate this day as most important in our history. We again draw your attention to the fact that the 31st Bn is the only battalion from the 5th Div. AIF  on strength in the ADF today.

The Service was held in Ipswich, at the Graveside of Lt. Arthur Adams DCM, – 31st Bn. Lt Adams came from Rosewood, fought in the Battle & survived, later to become the Rosewood Shire Clerk and the First President of the Rosewood RSL. We were honoured to have COL Mark Plath (Ret’d) as our Guest Speaker.  Mark is a descendant of Col Fred Toll DSO & Bar MBE VD, the CO of the 31st Bn in WW1, and who led the Bn into Battle at Fromelles.

We were also honoured to again have in attendance, LTCOL Damien Green & WO1 John Stafford, the CO & RSM of the 31st/42nd Battalion RQR.  – LTCOL Green has stated that in his Opinion – “The Battle of Fromelles is the most significant war time action in our history, worthy of remembering to encourage our younger generation, so we never forget. To be a member of the current embodiment of a Battalion involved in that Battle puts increased emphasis and responsibility on us to ensure that happens”.

We were greatly supported by both the Rosewood & Ipswich RSL Sub Branch’s. Five of our friends from the 49th Bn Assoc attended, and joined us for the lunch afterwards at the CSI Club.

Thank you all who attended, and a special thanks to Mick James who was our chief organiser of the Event.

There was also a private Wreath Laying Service held in Fromelles France, organised by the Aust. Dept of Veteran Affairs & the Fromelles Council.  Due to the Corona Virus Situation in France it was closed to the Public. A wreath was laid on our behalf by our Honorary Member Pierre Seillier.

Our special thanks go to Pierre, who also designed & produced the Tributes that we presented to COL Mark Plath & to the Presidents of Rosewood & Ipswich RSL’s.

A copy of Col Mark Plath’s address is below the photos>
Members who attending the Fromelles Commemoration
Honorary 31st Battalion Association Member Pierre Seillier
Laying wreath at the commemoration at Fromelles, France

Colonel Mark Plath (Rtd), Descendent of Colonel Frederick William Toll, DSO and Bar, MBE, VD

Address of Commemoration – ‘Service Above Self’

Before we commence the Commemoration of the 104 th Anniversary of the Battle of

Fromelles, let me take this opportunity to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the

Land on which we meet today, and pay my respects to their Elders past, present and


Let me also gratefully acknowledge the following distinguished guests:

  • Mr Ray Fogg, President, 31 st Infantry Battalion Association, Brisbane Branch
  • Mr Tony Wadeson, Secretary, 31 st Infantry Battalion Association, Brisbane Branch
  • Mr Rob Wadley, President, Ipswich RSL Sub-branch
  • Padre Peter Woodward, Ipswich RSL Sub-branch
  • Mr Ken Savage, President, Rosewood RSL Sub-branch
  • Mr Shane Walker, Vice President, Rosewood RSL Sub-branch
  • Mr Brad Strong, Bugler, Rosewood RSL Sub-branch
  • LTCOL Damien Green, current Commanding Officer, 31 st /42 nd Battalion, Royal

Queensland Regiment

  • WO1 John Stafford, Regimental Sergeant Major, 31 st /42 nd Battalion, Royal

Queensland Regiment

  • Mr Mick James, Liaison Officer for my part in this important service

Ladies and gentlemen, good morning, and welcome to this important commemorative

service. Tony Wadeson advised a while ago that due to the COVID-19 pandemic

limitations in France, the annual commemorative ceremony at Fromelles is unlikely to

proceed, so today’s service is perhaps the only such recognition anywhere in the world

this year.

Thank you for being here today to honour the memory of those who so gallantly served

our nation. We remember especially those in the 31 st Battalion, Australian Imperial

Force during The Great War in general, and at the Battle of Fromelles in particular.

Moreover, thank you for the invitation to address this morning’s service which I

consider to be both an honour and a privilege. In titling my address, I have borrowed

the motto of Rotary International, ‘Service Above Self’, which epitomises the

sacrifices made by our forebears.

We stand here this morning at the graveside of Lieutenant Arthur Edward Adams, DCM

a clerk from Rosewood, who enlisted on 15 July 1915, nearly 19 years old, and despite

surviving the war, died at the tender age of just 28 years and 6 months. Not only did

Arthur Adams serve his Unit and country during conflict, but he was also the Founder

and President of the Rosewood RSL Sub-branch, hence that particular connection.

But my duty this morning is to remember and pay tribute to another member of the

31 st Battalion.

You see my mother’s maiden name was TOLL indicating my family relationship with

then Lieutenant Colonel, later, Colonel Frederick William Toll, DSO and Bar, MBE, VD.

At 43 years of age, LTCOL Toll as the inaugural Commanding Officer of the newly raised

31 st and LT Adams as initially a Quartermaster Sergeant, joined together, served

together and successfully survived the war together, although I have not discovered if

they were especially well known to each other. But the unifying theme today for these

two great men and soldiers, was the attack at ‘Fleurbaix’ or sometimes referred to as

‘Petillon’, which would later become known as the Battle of Fromelles.

The attack was the début of the Australian Imperial Forces on the Western Front. The

British high command devised the attack as a feint to hold German reserves from

moving south to the Somme where the large allied offensive had begun on the 1 st of


The Australian War Memorial described it as, ‘the worst 24 hours in Australia’s entire

history.’ Of 7,080 British Expeditionary Force casualties, 5,533 were suffered by the

5th Australian Division (of which the 31 st was part); while the Germans lost 1,600–

2,000 men and 150 prisoners. This was perhaps the greatest loss by a single division in

24 hours during the entire war. Indeed, many historians consider Fromelles the most

tragic event in Australia’s history.

To the soldiers who fought at Fleurbaix, the Battle of Fromelles, was to quote, ‘an

unmitigated military disaster, the dismal culmination of muddled planning and reckless

decision-making by both British and Australian commanders and staff.’ Moreover, the

attack had little to no effect on the Somme battles, and even became cynically

dismissed by surviving soldiers as ‘that Fleurbaix stunt’.

In an official field record dated 27 July 1916 and titled ‘Total Casualties – Fleurbaix –

19 th /20 th July 1916, the 31 st Battalion reported 576 casualties, more than 50% of its

posted strength.

Almost 12 months prior, the 31 st Battalion was raised as part of the 8 th Brigade at

Enoggera Camp, then on the outskirts of Brisbane, in August 1915. As an aside,

Corporal Frederick Vivian Toll, son of the 31 st Commanding Officer was tragically killed

in action at Gallipoli on the 8 th of August 1915.

‘A’ and ‘B’ companies were formed of Queenslanders while ‘C’ and ‘D’ companies were

raised at Broadmeadows Camp in Victoria. In early October 1915, all elements were

united at Broadmeadows, and on the 5 th of November 1915, the battalion sailed

aboard His Majesty’s Australian Transport ‘Wandilla’ (A62) from Melbourne.

The 8 th Brigade joined the newly raised 5 th Australian Division in Egypt, and in June

1916 proceeded to France, destined for the Western Front. The 31 st Battalion fought

its first major battle at Fromelles on 19 th & 20 th of July 1916, having only entered the

front-line trenches three days previously.

But what of the man LTCOL Frederick William Toll or Fred Toll, as he was often called.

I distinctly recall my grandmother, who sadly passed many years ago now, talking

enthusiastically and respectfully about ‘Uncle Fred Toll’. From her reflections and

recollections, I always formed a clear view that Fred Toll was certainly a man’s man,

who went to great lengths to ensure the welfare of his men, right up until his passing

in Greenslopes Hospital on 6 November 1955. My grandmother recalled ANZAC Day

marches including the 31 st Battalion AIF Association being led by Fred Toll, with the

parade commentator proudly announcing, ‘here comes the men of the 31 st , the pride

and joy of Colonel Toll’ or words to that effect.

Frederick William Toll’s military service commenced well before The Great War,

initially when he joined military cadets in 1888 whilst undertaking his secondary

education at Brisbane Grammar School. After graduating, he returned north and

amongst other things, was commissioned in the Kennedy Regiment on 2 February 1892

and promoted captain in 1897.

Toll then volunteered for service in the South African War. He sailed with the 2 nd

Queensland Contingent as a special service officer in January 1900, and from Cape

Town, joined Lord Roberts’ army in the occupation of Bloemfontein, commanding an

infantry company of the 44 th Essex Regiment. Toll saw action during the advance to

Kroonstad, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Belfast and after the capture of Nellspruit, was

appointed provost-marshal and commanded troops who then returned to Australia.

He returned to South Africa in March 1901, this time as Second-In-Command of the 5 th

Queensland Imperial Bushmen and was soon after promoted to Major. Toll

commanded the contingent from 1 August in actions in the Cape and Orange River

colonies and the Transvaal. In January 1902, he was captured briefly by Boers. Noting

the extensive number of major operations and lesser skirmishes in which the 5 th was

involved, Toll gained the reputation amongst this men as ‘the Fighting Major’.

Ultimately, Toll arrived in Brisbane aboard the transport ‘St Andrew’ in April 1902 and

his appointment was routinely terminated in July of that year. During his service in

South Africa, he had been Mentioned-in-Dispatches and of the eight clasps possible,

was awarded the Queen’s South Africa Medal with five clasps and the King’s South

Africa Medal with two. Toll’s South African service is often remembered at the

commemorative services for the Battle of Onverwacht.

With the outbreak of war in 1914, Toll enlisted again for overseas service. He embarked

for New Guinea in January 1915, leading the 3 rd Battalion, Australian Naval and Military

Expeditionary Force, with the rank of Major. As Lieutenant Colonel from 1 March and

Officer Commanding the troops in Rabaul, he was twice acting administrator of New

Guinea in the absence of Colonel Sir Samuel Pethebridge. At his urgent request for

active service in 1915, he was given command of the 31 st Battalion, which he formed

and trained, leaving later that year for Egypt.

As a result of the 31 st Battalion’s actions at Fromelles, Toll was recommended by his

Brigade Commander, Brigadier-General Edwin Tivey, and was subsequently awarded

the Distinguished Service Order or DSO. The citation for this award Gazetted on 12 th

October 1916, reads as follows:

‘This officer has been with the Brigade since its formation and has always done his duty

in a most conscientious and efficient manner.

During the operations in the Suez Canal Zone he was untiring in his efforts to obtain a

high standard of efficiency and has always been an example to his Officers and men.

Lt.Colonel Toll displayed great gallantry all through the operations of 19/20 th July 1916,

at PETILLON. He was slightly wounded at the commencement of the action and before

the assault was made and (sic) he lost heavily in Officers and men. He led the 3 rd and

4 th waves over the parapet himself. Before reaching the enemy trenches 13 Officers

has (sic) been killed or wounded, including three Company Commanders. Lt.Colonel

Toll personally took charge and pushed on, making vigorous efforts to consolidate the

position won, reconnoit-ring (sic) the enemy’s defences and taking prisoners. On the

retirement he organised the troops on our original front line.’

During the Battle of Polygon Wood, Frederick William Toll was again decorated with a

Bar to the Distinguished Service Order for his, ‘… conspicuous gallantry and devotion

to duty .’ Seriously injured and gassed at Polygon Wood he was evacuated to Britain in

January 1918. In addition to his two Distinguished Service Orders, he was also twice

Mentioned In Dispatches by General Haig.

After The Great War, Toll became commissioner for war service homes. He initiated

and led the establishment of the 31 st Battalion Social Club and took an enduring

interest in the welfare of his former charges. He was also a foundation member of the

Returned Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Imperial League of Australia, its Brisbane vice-president

1924-27 and Mackay president in 1928-30. Toll was also the Government

representative on the Mackay Hospitals Board, Director of the Mackay Rotary Club,

President of the Mackay Rifle Union, and Commandant’s representative on the North

Queensland Rifle Association.

For his services to returned servicemen, Toll was made a Member of the Order of the

British Empire in 1939. Not content with retirement, during World War II he was

district manpower officer, then services liaison officer.

Ladies and gentlemen, in conclusion, let me reprise the notable and distinguished

service in war and in peace of Lieutenant Arthur Edward Adams, DCM and the

distinguished service and post service career of Colonel Frederick William Toll, DSO

and Bar, MBE, VD, a competent accountant and successful business manager,

marksman, athlete and Rugby footballer, in my mind certainly and I now hope in yours

too, both of whom epitomised the ethos of ‘Service Above Self.’

Lest We Forget

Battle of Fromelles Address by Col Mark Plath (Rtd)

Presentation to Col Mark Plath by Brisbane Sub Branch President Ray Fogg

Battle of Fromelles Comemoration at Fromelles, France.
Commemoration at Fromelles, France
Honorary Member Pierre Seillier Saluting at Commemoration at
Fromelles, France

Jimmy Gordon VC – Portrait

The William Dargie portrait of Jimmy Gordon VC holds pride of place alongside of the picture of Patrick BugdenVC on the home page of the 31st Battalion website. Last week marked the start of the what became known as the Syrian CampaignIn in 1941. Almost a month after that Jimmy Gordon, a member of 2/31st Battalion distinguished himself against forces of the Vichy French. The details of the battle are contained in the <Archive February 2019> of this website.

William Dargie was commissioned to paint the portrait ‘Corporal Jim Gordon’ [5900231 (WX2437)], shortly after Gordon was awarded the Victoria Cross. Born in Western Australia in 1909, James Gordon, a private in the 2nd Australian Imperial Force, received his VC for his actions at Greenhill, near Jezzine, Lebanon, on 10 July 1941. Under intense machine gun fire, Gordon approached an enemy machine gun post, and charged and killed four machine gunners with a bayonet. This action demoralised the enemy and allowed Gordon’s company to advance, taking the position. Gordon was greatly admired for the courage demonstrated by these actions.

Gordon’s portrait served a dual purpose: it was a realistic likeness of a distinguished individual and it was also a deliberately constructed image of an Australian ‘type’. Facing the viewer, his eyes slightly averted from directness, with an expression of seriousness and reserve, Gordon is presented as a modest soldier yet he is also the heroic embodiment and glorification of the bronzed ANZAC. The figure, close to the picture plane, dominates the hastily sketched landscape. His rolled up sleeves suggest both the heat of the Middle East and the pragmatism of a man of action. Gordon’s face and forearms, ruddy from the exposure to the sun, have been painted in a detailed manner. By contrast, his uniform and the background sky have been applied rapidly in broad expressive brushstrokes. This work won the Archibald prize in 1942 and was extremely popular due to patriotic sentiment combined with a high public regard for the depiction of the typical digger.

Dargie noted his experience of painting the portrait that Gordon was, “Not the smiling, happy-go-lucky “Digger” of legend, but the slightly older-than-young man with a very definite sense of responsibility. A farmer from Western Australia, he had all the countryman’s modesty and reticience of speech. He rather deprecated heroism as such, and said “No-one likes wars. It’s just a matter sticking with your friends.” As I was painting this portrait, and was discussing with him the action at Merjayoun, in which he won his V.C., I noticed he was trembling. Thinking he was feeling the strain of the pose, I said, “Have a rest. I’ve had you sitting too long.” “No, that’s alright.” he said, “but I always get like this when I think of that action.” I felt sorry I had reminded him of it, and said so. He replied: “My cobber and myself often talk about it.” ”


Place Middle East: French Mandate for Syria and Lebanon, Lebanon
Accession Number: ART26993
Collection type: Art
Measurement framed: 100 x 80 cm; unframed: 76.2 x 55.8 cm
Object type: Painting
Physical description: oil on canvas
Location Main Bld: Hall of Valour: Main Hall: Western Art Wall
Maker: Dargie, William
Place made Syria
Date made 1941
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial