Baxter men of Townsville

There are so many chapters in the story of the Baxter family that it is hard to know where to begin.

Baxter Brothers, Neil and Duncan came to Townsville from Scotland in 1903, before bringing out their families a year later. Together they ran the Baxter Furniture Warehouse until Neil’s death 1908, when Duncan became the proprietor.

Corporal Neil Baxter, 15th Infantry Battalion

Duncan and Angus enlist together in January 1916. Duncan Baxter, then 44 and his second son Angus 20, enlisted in the Townsville, although they did not depart for service overseas until June of that year.

Angus and Duncan Baxter, 1916

Angus and Duncan Baxter, 1916

Where was Neil buried ?  Missing

Annie and Duncan Baxter had received a letter from their son Neil, just days after being told of his death; this letter was published in the Townsville Daily Bulletin a few months later.

The staff at the Records struggled with the volume of correspondence from families who sought answers to often ‘unanswerable’ questions. This war was unlike previous wars, where often there was no body to be ‘found’ and in the first few days after the landing on Gallipoli, there was no roll call, or no one to call the roll.

Those in authority attempted to interview survivors, or company commanders to establish the last known whereabouts of ‘Missing’ soldiers. Left too long, those who survived often became casualties, or could no longer recall what happened to one of many, many men who had died alongside them in battle. It was not until April 1916, that they ‘officially’ declared Corporal Neil Baxter to have been Killed in Action.

Serving together in France.  Duncan Baxter and his second son Angus arrived in France in November 1916, as part of the 42nd Infantry Battalion; Angus fell ill with mumps shortly after, but soon rejoined his unit and his father in the front lines, as Sergeant.

CQMS Duncan Baxter was severely wounded in both feet, during an action that occurred on St Patrick’s Day 1917. In letters received by his wife Annie, prior to and after his wounding, he described how he received the wounds, which cost him his life.

His son Angus had been with him in the same dugout, when they had been bombarded by high explosive shells. Duncan was evacuated to a clearing station, then hospital, but did not survive the severity of his wounds. Although Angus was unable to be with his father at the time of his death, he was able to attend his burial in Boulogne.

Duncan Baxter was described by his company commander, Major Heron, as a man that was

“an example of grit and determination, and willingness to do one's duty cheerfully.”

Angus MacDonald Baxter, front row on left.

Angus MacDonald Baxter, front row on left.

Angus MacDonald Baxter 

The State Library of Queensland has an autographed photograph of Angus Baxter and his fellow cadets, as they graduated from Officer Cadet School in 1917. It is from this image and others like it, that we can look behind the faces, and commemorate those who served in, and who did not return from, the First World War.

Further reading:
  •  SOLDIERS LETTERS. (1915, July 22). Townsville Daily Bulletin p. 4.
  •  The Great War. (1917, June 20). Townsville Daily Bulletin,  p. 4.
  • SYDNEY, January 11. (1916, January 12). Townsville Daily Bulletin, p 4.
  •  ANZAC DAY. (1931, April 27). Townsville Daily Bulletin, p. 5.
  1. Baxter furniture warehouse, 1906, held Townsville City Council Library
    Accessed via TROVE,  National Library of Australia
  2. Corporal Neil Baxter, published in The Queenslander, 23 January 1915, p27
  3. Angus and Duncan Baxter, published in The Telegraph (Brisbane), 10 June 1916, p13
    Accessed via TROVE, at the National Library of Australia
  4. 29520 No. 6 Platoon, No. 2 O.C. Battalion 1917
    In the front row is 2nd Lieut. Angus Macdonald Baxter.

Marg Powell

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Duncan Baxter travelled to Townsville with his son Neil in 1903. His brother, also Neil, had been resident in Townsville since 1882

Duncan Baxter stated his age when enlisting in November 1916 as being 44 years and 4 months, whereas he was actually aged 48 years having been born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1869.