Off to the Front

This weekend, (1 November 2014) marks 100 years since the first convoy set sail from Albany, Western Australia carrying Australian and New Zealand troops to the First World War. For many, Albany was their last sight of Australia. Read about and watch the events at the official Anzac Albany webpage.

In my last blog, I touched on how our Charles Thomas Cripps snr. left his friends and family in Northampton to fight for his county in WWI at the age of 61. It was his birthday, 24 August 1915 when he signed up. 1 year after Australia’s first convoy left our shores. What on earth would make someone do that? I’m sure many of you who are anywhere near 60 will say the same, but Charles was a tough fellow. One story that I was told years ago by his daughter, Maggie Woodcock, was that her father was very strong. While Charles was waiting to catch the train in Northampton, to head off to Blackboy Hill and commence his training in the AIF, he picked up a bag of wheat with his teeth and carried it to the waiting train.

Many stories have been shared through personal letters from the front and articles in newspapers. With the help of Trove, I’ve put together some of those letters and stories.

Cripps Charles 1915 The Daily NewsMr Charles Cripps, the well known farmer of the Northampton district, has volunteered for active service, and will proceed to camp by tonights train. Mr Cripps, who is not by any means a young man, is displaying a courage and patriotism, which should put to shame many much younger men, without ties, who should volunteer, but who have not done so.

Source: Trove – Geraldton Guardian Tuesday 24 August 1915 

Personal notes from the Geraldton “Express”:- Charles Cripps, of   Northampton, enlisted during last  week for service at the front; and will leave by Tuesday evening’s train for Blackboy Hill. Mr. Cripps has large interests in the district and apparently he is leaving them all behind to assist the Empire. Far from being a young man, he is by his action showing a brave spirit and a lesson to the young shirkers in the district he is leaving behind. After a number of years of hard toil, he retired about 18 months ago to live in comfort. He has been president of the Farmers’ and Settlers’ Association at Northampton since the branch was formed.’

Source: Trove – The Daily News Wednesday 25 August 1915


Personal Items. Mr Charles Cripps, of Northampton, returned from camp, where he has been in training for the front during the last few months, this morning. He looks well and speaks favour ably of his experiences. He will return to camp at the end of the week and expects to leave for Egypt shortly.

Source: Trove – Geraldton Guardian Tuesday 9 November 1915


Private C. T. Cripps, writing from Belgium on October 5, to his wife, Mrs C. T. Cripps, of Northampton, says: I received your very welcome letter of August 6th, and was pleased to hear that all were A1 at home. I also received several birthday cards from relations, and a cake from Sarah, and all my comrades say they never tasted a better cake in their lives. I received a letter from G. Cripps, and he tells me that he has got a commission, and is going to Egypt. That was good news, and I also got bad news in the same letter, that my brother Tom’s son was killed in France. Poor boy! I was in hopes of meeting him some day and bringing him to Australia with me if we got through all right I feel very sorry for Tom and his family, they will feel the loss very much. Well, the winter is coming in now, and we are getting plenty of rain and cold, and next month I expect we will have snow, but never mind, we are beating the Germans, and I expect the war will be over by next summer, but we never know what might happen by that time. I had a very close call the other day. A piece of shell, 3in long and 2in wide fell at my feet and buried itself in the ground 6in deep. I believe God was watching over me that day, because two seconds before I was standing on that very spot where that piece of shell fell, so you see God is good. I will now say good night my dear wife and children.

On a postcard written to his daughter, Maggie on the same day he says: I received your post and birthday cards, and pleased to hear you were all well at home. I have not seen any of the boys who enlisted after I left, I would like to see Jack and Alf Woodcock, and also the others, for I don’t see any of the lads from Northampton, and such a number of the boys have been knocked out poor fellows. The Germans don’t fight with us so hard now. They stuck up a noticeboard facing our trenches saying: “Australians, advance if you dare.” Well, our boys did dare, and took the trench and the notice board too. After that they are more ready to hold up their hands and ask for mercy. I will be glad when it is all over.

Source: Trove – Geraldton Guardian Saturday 2 December 1916

(NOTE: This letter was also posted on the story I wrote about Thomas Richard Cripps – being referred to in this letter as “my brother Tom’s son was killed in France,”)

 The many friends of Private Charles Cripps, of Northampton, will be pleased to hear that, the old veteran is still going strong. In a letter received by the last mail from him, and written in France on September 15, he said he was feeling very well, and proud to think he had been able to do his bit. He had recently been to England, where he met his brother, who is 59 years old, and who is also in khaki, and a sister, who is over 72, whom he had not seen for 48 years. He mentioned that he was about to apply for his discharge, and was taking this step on the advice of those with whom he has been fighting for the Empire. Their opinion is that he has done his share, and more than could be reasonably expected of a man of his age as his official age under which he enlisted is considerably below his correct age. When he returns he will be warmly welcomed, and his friends are glad to know that so far he has escaped unscathed. A genuine battler, he would be in the thick of it at every chance, and it is to be hoped he will be spared many years to enjoy the rest he has well earned by over two years service on the top of many years of strenuous work in this district.

Source: Trove – Geraldton Guardian Saturday 1 December 1917


(From Our Own Correspondant)
On Saturday evening last the Northampton branch of the Farmers and Settler Association held a ‘Welcome Home’ social to Private C. T. Cripps in the King’s Hall. Addresses of welcome were given by Messrs R. A. Willams and G. Clifton who spoke in eulogistic terms not only of Mr Cripps’ loyalty to the Empire, but also of the service he has rendered in connection with the Farmers’ and Settlers’ Association at its inception and as its President until this his reply, Mr Cripps refrained time he joined the forces. In from talking of his experiences in France and confined himself to tracing the various steps which eventually led to the formation of the Association, which honoured him on this occasion. The hall was comfortably filled with mem bers of the Association and friends whom they had invited and not only was a very pleasant evening spent but all rejoiced in the opportunity of welcoming an old friend and giving him their good wishes for the future. Songs were contributed by Misses Marion Counsel and M Batty, Mrs Green, Mrs Thompson and Messrs Riding and Green. Mr W Patrick senr gave a reading and Mr Green a recitation. Miss I. Counsel acted as accompanist and Mr Schlemma played for dancing. Refreshments were served by the ladies.

Source: Trove – Geraldton Guardian Saturday 26 January 1918

The formation of a Local Repatriation Committee under the Federal Repatriation Act has been approved for Northampton, the personnel of which is as follows: Messrs Charles Gilbert Rhead; Charles James, Gervase Clifton, Charles Cripps, Rev Herbert Ernest King, Thomas Amos Drage, and Charles Henry Counsel. Under the Repatriation Scheme an Executive consisting of seven members from each local committee is provided for. Five of these members are elected by the committee and two are nominated by the Minister. Local Committees are vested with the following powers under the Act: (a) To raise funds for disbursement at its discretion for the benefit of soldiers or their dependants; (b) To invite and receive contributions of land, stock, seed, plant, material and other goods for allotment to applicants. (c) To organise voluntary services for the assistance of soldier or their dependants in house building, fencing, ploughing, seeding, harvesting, and in such other ways as the local committee deems beneficial to the applicant; (d) To act generally as local agents for the department in regard to: (1) the placing of men in employment; (2) the supervision of the expenditure of money granted to an applicant by a State Board or Deputy Comptroller; and (3) applications for assistance made to the Department through a local committee or referred to it by the Department ; (e) To keep in touch with soldiers and the dependants of soldiers for the purpose of advising and assisting them when necessary; and (f) To do all such other things as the local committee considers beneficial to soldiers and their dependants.
<Source: Trove – Geraldton Guardian Thursday 26 September 1918

In my next post, I will share some more letters that were sent home to the families. Most of these were reproduced in my book “Beyond The Horizon, Centennary of Mumby Farm 1894-1994” by Jenny MacKay


About Jenny MacKay

Just a person who is looking forward to retirement and enjoying the golden years!
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5 Responses to Off to the Front

  1. Paul Whiting says:

    I heard a story and I can’t remember who told me but when Charles and his fellow soldiers boarded the train in Northampton to head down to Perth, there was an unexpected delay. Charles took it upon himself to run into town, get a keg from one of the pubs, and bring it back to the train to help make the trip down to Perth a little bit more enjoyable. I’m not sure if this is accurate or not as if Charles was a Methodist at the time, he should have refrained from taking a drink. Perhaps the view of Methodists around Northampton were a little different than in other parts of the world!

    • Jenny MacKay says:

      Now that you mention it Paul, I seem to remember that story as well. It seems like our great grandfather was a bit of a character and I don’t doubt for a minute that he liked a tipple or two. He did afterall run the Top Pub and gave out the shot of whiskey to the troops on the front line before they went into battle. Many for the last time. Thanks for the comment Paul.

  2. Karen Yates says:

    A great Read Jenny

  3. Joanne Parker says:

    Excellent as
    usual Jenny.

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