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John Oxley Library

Brothers of Glen Innes

By Marg Powell, Specialist Library Technician, Metadata Services | 24 February 2015

The descendants of the Cole Family have written to us to share the story of three brothers who enlisted in the First World War in June 1915, it is our privilege to share it with you.

When Roy, Harold and Herbert left the family property near Wellingrove north of Glen Innes they left behind eight siblings; twins Roy and Harold were only 19, Bert was 24.

Roy - Harold - Bert Images: courtesy Cole Family

Roy and Harold embarked from Sydney on HMAT Runic and were originally assigned to the 13th Infantry Battalion, but were separated when they arrived in Egypt. Harold joined his battalion on the Gallipoli Peninsula, whilst Roy remained in Egypt.

Reunited after the evacuation of Gallipoli the twins embarked with the 45th Infantry Battalion for France in June 1916. The Battalion fought its first major battle at Pozières in August 1916, rotating between the front line, training and resting until March 1917 when they operated near Ypres in Belgium, and then in the Somme Valley.

45th Infantry Battalion
45th Infantry Battalion, 1918

45th Infantry Battalion, 1918

Harold was severely wounded during the Battle of Messines in June 1917. With a gun-shot wound dangerously close to his spine, he was repatriated home in December of that year.

Bert served with the 56th Infantry Battalion and arrived in France at the same time as his brothers. Bert was tragically killed in action 15 May 1917 during the second battle of Bullecourt.

Extract from Service Record, Herbert Cole

During the First World War, it was not uncommon for several brothers to serve together or at the same time overseas, how shocking it must have been when their mother Catherine travelled to Sydney to meet her wounded son, it was Bert she was expecting to see - the news of his death in May had not yet reached the family - instead she was to greet Harold.

Roy was reported wounded/missing in April 1918; he was later found to be a prisoner of war in Lindum, Germany.  After the armistice he spent some time being cared for by a Belgian family before being repatriated to England. He returned to Australia in March 1919.

Daily Observer, 24 July 1918

Daily Observer, 24 July 1918

In 1921 the surviving brothers Roy and Harold bought adjoining properties at Delungra not far from their family in Wellingrove. Roy married Jessie Macmaster in 1926 and Harold, who never recovered from his debility, lived with them all his life.  Roy died in September 1985, Harold just 2 months later in November 1985, aged 90.

They rest together with their families at Delungra Cemetery. Roy's descendants still farm the property to this day. Thank you to Roy's daughter who now resides in Toowoomba, for sharing this moving and heartfelt story.

Further Reading:

Daily Observer 24 July 1918

Marg Powell


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