Carnamah was a thinly populated and little known place when war was
declared in 1914. The Macpherson family
in the district for over 45 years, a few others families for about a
decade and the first settlers to take up
had just arrived. Despite the small population, 38 men enlisted from the
district and ten were killed in action.
This virtual exhibition looks at six soldiers from the North
Midlands who lived in Carnamah before or after the war.
Right: Alick MacLean
Carnamah had a small one-teacher school which was under
the management of 25 year old Scottish immigrant
Education Department inspector described him as
"Inexperienced but eager to improve. A Good Teacher."
He was granted leave in 1914 to enlist in the Australian
Imperial Force (A.I.F.). He was 6 feet ¾ inches tall,
weighed 74 kilograms and had blue-grey
eyes, light brown hair and a fair complexion.
Alick landed with the 12th Battalion on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey
on 25 April 1915.
One of his comrades thought he was shot, possibly in the
arm, and headed for the beach. Whatever did happen, he
died and was never seen again.
Left: Ready-Made Farms advert
, an English
farmer from South Africa, purchased and settled on a
in Winchester. Within
a year of his arrival he had enlisted in the A.I.F. and left
Australia for active service abroad. He served in the 10th Light
Horse Regiment and various other units, rising to the rank of Major.
During the Major's absence his wife
Mrs Susan Colpitts
ran their farm,
supplemented its income by undertaking contract fallowing and
harvesting, and worked tirelessly raising funds for the Red Cross.
Jack returned and the site of their former home is strikingly marked by a palm tree on The
Midlands Road between Carnamah and Coorow.
Left: Jack Colpitts at the
sphinx in Egypt
"An enjoyable evening was spent recently at the home of Mrs J.
W. Colpitts, Winchestrer, in aid of the 10th Light Horse Trench
Comfort League. About £8
was collected. Miss Colpitts sported the 10th L.H. colours and sold
dainty little sweets. A number of people came from Three Springs,
Carnamah and Coorow to enjoy the evening.
Mr Charlie Maley was the
justice and Mr Honner the prosecutor in the mock court. Several
gentlemen were fined for being over the age of 25 and not married.
The birthday of Captain Colpitts, who is still in France,
- The Sunday Times newspaper on 16 December 1917
Above: The hospital ship Dongola,
on which Major Hoskyns-Abrahall died
Following the outbreak of war,
helped raise the
Australian Imperial Force’s 16th Battalion in Perth but then returned to
England and re-enlisted in the marines. He lead a gallant attack on the
Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey on 3 May 1915, which was credited with
allowing the safe return of Australians who had been driven out of their
trenches. However, he was wounded during the attack and died the
following day. He was one of 1,023 Western Australians who died as a
result of the Gallipoli campaign.
Left: Aeneas Murray (seated)
grew up in Gingin and in
young adulthood worked as a railway fettler in Carnamah for the
Midland Railway Company
He enlisted in the A.I.F. in 1915 and served as a Private in the
11th Infantry Battalion in France. He was hospitalised after being
shot in the left buttock and another three times due to illness and
trench fever. He died on 31 July 1918 after suffering a shell wound
to his head and a fractured skull.
of Carnamah, who was either a close friend or something
more, wrote to the A.I.F. requesting a photograph of his grave.
His headstone at the Borre British Cemetery in northern France
"One who helped to write Australia's history in blood."
Right: Ned Wells (seated)
, who grew up in
Bindoon and Wannamal, was employed to drive a horse-drawn butcher’s
cart between Three Springs and Arrino.
His initial attempt to enlist in the A.I.F. was rejected because of
his poor eyesight. He persevered and his second attempt proved
successful. He served with the 3rd Pioneer Battalion in France.
Just before active service, Ned sent a card from France to his
sister, in which he wrote: “And long before you receive this I
will be playing my part, but don’t worry dear sister, with God’s aid
I will come through.”
Below: Ned's card to his sister,
signed with nickname of Johnny
(click + drag to zoom / navigate image)
Right: Ned Wells
returned to Three Springs after the war and later took up
farming in Carnamah. At times he was unable to work for entire days
due to problems with his eyes, which had been aggravated by his war
service. He was financially ruined by the Great Depression and left with no option but to abandon his farm. He worked locally as a
farm manager for a few years and then with his wife Peg ran the
& Wells Pyramid Tea & Dining Rooms
. The remaining
portion of their tearooms is now our museum
Ned was a member and avid supporter of the Returned & Services
League (R.S.L.) and in 1994 received a 50-year Service Award. He
remained in Carnamah and Three Springs for the remainder of his life
and died at the age of 103 in 1996.
Below: Ned's A.I.F. discharge
certificate from 1919
(click + drag to zoom / navigate image)
Roger Clark had migrated from England with his parents and worked as a
farmhand in Mingenew and Dongara. He enlisted in the A.I.F. in 1915
and saw service with the 28th Battalion in both Gallipoli and
France. After receiving multiple gunshot wounds he was evacuated to
Following an operation to remove shrapnel, Roger remarked in a
letter to his mother
“as soon as I came round I looked down to
see if I had still got my leg and great to my relief it was still
During his recovery in England he was cared for by a nurse named Dobbie Rumble. They married in 1917 and after the
war she returned with him to Western Australia.
Roger out of uniform (left) and Dobbie
with a recovering Roger (below)
The Repatriation Department wrote to Roger's former employer requesting
he be reinstated or offered another job if he was less capable: “It is unnecessary, I feel sure, to stress the obligation which
rests upon all employers to co-operate with the Government in
re-establishing in civil life, on the best terms possible, the men
who have risked so much at the call of their country.”
However, five years had passed and much had changed. His former
employer had died during the war and his employer’s widow had
From 1915, when wounded soldiers began returning home, the government
held concerns about how to transition them back into the workforce.
One of the
solutions was the Soldier Settlement Scheme whereby larger properties
were purchased, subdivided and offered to returned men
at discounted interest.
Below: One of four soldier settlement estates in the Carnamah
became one of 40 ex-servicemen to take up
a solider settlement farm in Carnamah. He farmed locally for 35 years
but other soldier settlers were unable to remain so long. These included
who died from meningitis after a grass seed got stuck in his
ear, Jack Spork
who had to walk off his farm at the outset of the Great
Depression, and Herbert Murray
who died of complications from war
injuries. Others lost land due to rising salinity or sold up as their
farms proved too small.
Below: Harvest by both tractor and
horse-power on Roger's
Farm in Carnamah
“All our efforts during the war were concentrated upon the raising
of funds on behalf of the various schemes to alleviate in some measure
the terrible sufferings and privations of our gallant soldiers, who went
forth to fight for home and freedom, covering themselves with
imperishable glory in the great struggle.”
– Carnamah farmer
at the opening of the
Carnamah Hall in 1921
Below: Anzac Day march to the
unveiling of the Carnamah War Memorial on 25 April 1929