Lance Corporal Joseph William Fisher: 9th Battalion

Guest blogger: Ian Lang, researcher, Coorparoo Methodist Church Roll of Honour

L.Cpl. J.W. Fisher in The Queenslander Pictorial supplement 1915

Joseph (Joe) Fisher was born in November 1891, the second son of a prominent mining family in Charters Towers. His father, Roger James Fisher had been a coal miner in the Cumberland District of Northern England who had emigrated to Queensland. Roger became part owner of the Cumberland Gold Mining Company on the Etheridge Field near Charters Towers and by the time that Joe was born, his father and uncle were well established as prominent members of the community. Roger was a crack rifle shot winning the Queen’s Shoot in 1901, and was also the Colour Sergeant in the Kennedy Regiment (A volunteer colonial militia). With such a pedigree, it is not surprising that young Joe followed in his father’s footsteps.

Queensland Army 3rd Kennedy Regiment 1899

After attending school in Charters Towers, Joe became an engine driver, stationary (stationary steam engines powered the hoists and battery in underground mines) and also joined the Kennedy Regiment. By 1913 when the family moved to Raceview near Ipswich, Joe had also been promoted to Colour Sergeant of the regiment. Joe resigned from the Kennedy regiment to join his family in Ipswich.

Procession of the Kennedy Regiment Charters Towers Queensland ca. 1907

At the outbreak of war, Joe was employed as an engine driver (stationary) at the Aberdare Colliery at Raceview, near Ipswich, where his father was the owner. On 21 August 1914, just two weeks after war was declared, Joe enlisted. He was drafted into the 9th Battalion, one of the first battalions raised as part of the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Division of the AIF. With his previous military training in the Kennedy Regiment, Joe was promoted to Lance Corporal one week after enlistment. The battalion sailed for Egypt in September of 1914 and whilst on board ship, Joe requested that he be allowed to revert to the rank of Private in a different company. Such requests were common as soldiers wanted to be with their mates. Joe was allowed to switch to “C” company as a private, but was then immediately promoted to Lance Corporal again in his new company.

Soldiers waiting to board the Omrah ship at the Pinkenba Wharf Brisbane 1914

The AIF disembarked in Egypt for training and by April 1915, were preparing for the landings at Gallipoli on the 25th. The 9th Battalion were among the first group ashore, landing at 4:50am, near the promontory known as Gaba Tepe, to the south of Anzac Cove.

Just five days after the landing, L/Cpl Joseph Fisher was listed as Killed in Action at Gaba Tepe. An obituary notice appeared in the Northern Miner (Charters Towers) in June 1915 stating in part:

“-----he volunteered at once, for there was north country blood in the boy, moving with the gallant ninth battalion.”

Information from the Gallipoli battlefield was sketchy and having been advised of their son’s death, Joe’s parents sought further information. Joe’s file in the National Archives contains an intriguing letter from the Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Department to the Secretary of Department of Defence. The letter states that Joe’s father, Roger Fisher had written to the Prime Minister in June 1915 seeking details of his son’s death. The letter also states that Roger Fisher is “well known” to the Prime Minister.

First team of riflemen who visited Brisbane from Charters Towers, 1891 (R.J. Fisher front row far right)

First team of riflemen who visited Brisbane from Charters Towers, 1891 (R.J. Fisher front row far right)

The Prime Minister at the time was Andrew Fisher. It is possible that Roger Fisher and Andrew Fisher though not brothers were related; and there were certainly many similarities in their histories. Both arrived in Queensland from England in 1885, perhaps on the same ship. Both had experience in coal mining in the UK (in Cumberland and Ayrshire), and both became involved in both coal and gold mining in Queensland. Andrew Fisher worked in the Burrum Coalfields and on the Gympie Goldfields as an engine driver (stationary), the same occupation as Joe Fisher and Joe’s elder brother, Roger Jnr. Andrew Fisher came into labour politics through the formation of the Engine Driver’s Union. During the federal election campaign of 1914, Fisher as leader of the Australian Labor Party, famously pledged to defend the empire “to the last man and the last shilling.”

Hon. Andrew Fisher, 1899

Regardless of the intervention of the Prime Minister, no further details were able to be provided to the family. There was no recorded burial. In March 1916, official confirmation of the death of Joe along with a brown paper parcel containing photos, cards, a pocket book, comb and mirror, beads and coins and Egyptian ornaments was sent to the family home in Raceview.

Up until this point in the narrative, there is little connection with Joe and the Oxley District.  Sometime before 1922, Roger snr gave up his interest in the coal mine at Ipswich and moved to William Street, Sherwood. At around the same time (1921), Joe’s elder brother, Roger jnr, was elected as a councillor in the former Sherwood Shire Council. His occupation was listed as engine driver (stationary) at Foggit Jones Bacon Factory (located at Oxley) and he lived in Station Road, Oxley. It is perhaps this connection that saw Joseph’s name appear on the Oxley Memorial.  In 1931, Roger jnr was drowned in Oxley Creek during floods, whilst attempting to cross the Oxley Golf Course.

Oxley war Memorial (Digger) - Honour Roll. Source: Shirley and Trevor McIvor

Oxley war Memorial (Digger) - Honour Roll. Source: Shirley and Trevor McIvor

Lance Corporal Joseph William Fisher, 9th Battalion is commemorated on the Oxley War Memorial, Brisbane; Graceville War Memorial, Brisbane; The War Memorial and Roll of Honour Charters Towers, Australian War Memorial Canberra and the Australian National Memorial, Lone Pine, Gallipoli  along with 4,900 other Australians who have no known grave.

State Library of Queensland recently digitised an unpublished biography: 30062 Lance Corporal Joseph William Fisher A.I.F. 1914-1915 compiled by Lyris Mitchell.

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Roger Fisher Snr and Andrew Fisher were not related. However they both immigrated to QLD aboard the New Guinea immigrant ship in 1885, and no doubt knew each other through their prominent roles in the mining industry. Andrew Fisher immigrated with his brother James. In Charters Towers Joe Fisher was a Senior Cadet and member of the Rifle Club. In Sherwood Shire Joe was employed as a storeman at Foggit, Jones and Co. Ltd. The Fisher family history is available online at https://cherryseed.wordpress.com/gold-miners-the-fisher-family/