War Service: James Edward Courbarron – letters from home 1914-1918.

Correspondence with family at home survives that provides some interesting background to James’ time in service during WWI. What follows is documentation of letters sent by the army to his sister Mildred Hopkins when James’ was reported wounded in action, also letters sent by Mildred and his mother Mary.  As you will see, Mary Courbarron (nee Morrissey) was going by the name Mrs Mary ‘Casey’ in 1914/15, although no record of a formal marriage exists  in NSW records. Towards 1918 however, in her correspondence regarding her youngest son Frederick serving overseas in France, she signs her name as Mary ‘Courbarron’. Click on images to open in larger format.

On his enlistment, James named his elder sister Mildred, the eldest of the four Courbarron children, as his next-of-kin. It is not known why he nominated his sister rather than his mother, however Mildred was living with her husband Patrick Hopkins at ‘Craigle’ Calgoorlie Street in Willoughby at the time. This letter is the first Mildred received in 1915 informing her that James was wounded and taken ill at Gallipoli dated 18/08/15, please note that the original telegram is in block letters and without punctuation:

“Mrs P Hopkins Willoughby Sydney (N.S.W) Regret brother Private J.E Courbarron wounded not reported seriously no other particulars available will immediately advise anything further received“.

On 26th August, 1915, James’ mother, Mary, happened to be looking through the list of wounded published in the Sydney Morning Herald when she came upon the particulars of her son in the list. Shocked, she wrote this letter immediately to Base Records asking for more information about him.

The letter was sent from the address – Wynola, Cuthbirt  Street, Waverley:

“To the Officer in Charge. Dear Sir, when reading the casualty list in this mornings Sydney Morning Herald, I was shocked to see name of No.122 Private J. E. Courbarron, No.1 Platoon, No.1 Company, 15th Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade, 2nd A.I.E.F who is my son. He enlisted at Enoggera Brisbane. I would be very grateful to you if you would write me the full nature of his wounds. I remain yours (word illegible) Mrs Mary Casey (Mary Casey being underlined). 

Mary promptly received this reply from Base Records which detailed James’ injuries and his whereabouts to date. Dated 6th September, 1915 and addressed to Mary living at Waverley:

“In reply to yours of the 26th ultimo concerning your son No.122 Private James Edward Courbarron, 15th Battalion, I beg to inform you the only information received was contained in a brief cable message from Alexandria, to the effect that he was wounded in action at the Dardanelles. He is not reported as seriously wounded and Egypt advises in the absence of further reports, it is to be assumed that such cases are  progressing satisfactorily. Next-of-kin who is shown as sister residing at Willoughby, N.S.W, will be immediately notified upon receipt of any later information. His postal address is as under: No.122 Private J. E. Courbarron, Wounded, 15th Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade, Australian Imperial Force, Alexandria, Egypt. It is necessary that the word ‘wounded’ should be endorsed on the top left hand corner of the envelope, but this is only required during the period he is in hospital. Yours faithfully, Office Base Records”.

On 16th October 1915 Mildred received this wire from Base Records:

“Now reported brother Private J. E. Courbarron sick slight disembarked Malta 27th September Hospital Ship Dunluce Castle will promptly advise if anything further received”.



At this time James was suffering from the debilitating illnesses Dysentery and Colic and required transfer to military hospital in England. All contact was related through his sister Mildred, no further correspondence sent to Mary. On the 26th October Mildred was informed of James embarking for England.

“Dear Madam, with reference to my wire of the 16th instant, I now beg to advise you that your brother, Private J. E. Courbarron, embarked for England 9/10/15, Hospital Ship Regina D’Italia. In the absence of further reports it is to be assumed that all are progressing satisfactorily. Should anything further be received concerning the above soldier you will be promptly notified. Yours faithfully J. M. Lean Captain. Officer in charge of Base Records.”

On 3rd November 1915, Mildred received the following letter from Victoria Barracks in Melbourne advising of James being transported to Malta and then onto Birmingham in England for treatment for dysentery:

“Dear Madam with reference to my wire of the 26th ultimo I now have to advise you to the effect that your brother Private J.E Courbarron is now in the Hospital at Birmingham England. His postal address will therefore be: 122 (112) Private J.E.Courbarron, I11, 15th Australian Infantry c/o Australian High Commissioner, London, S.W. Any further particulars coming to hand will be immediately transmitted. Yours faithfully J. M. Lean Captain. Office i/o Base Records”……..

.and then on 3rd December 1915…

“Dear Madam the following is an extract from a Nominal Roll of sick and wounded received by post, dated 3/10/15 who landed at Malta 27/9/15 from hospital ship ‘Dunluce Castle’. No.122, Private J.E. Courbarron, 15th Battalion, suffering from Dysentery. You are already aware that he has since been admitted to Hospital Birmingham. Any further reports received will be promptly communicated to you. Yours faithfully  J. M. Lean Captain. Officer i/e Base Records. A.I.E.F Victoria Barracks Melbourne”.


 In May 1916, Mildred wrote a letter to the Base Records in Melbourne informing of her change of address from ‘Craigle’ Kalgoorlie Street in Willoughby to Brown Street in Chatswood.

“Brown Street, Chatswood, Sydney, May 31st, 1916. To the Officer in Charge Base Record Melbourne. Sir, this is to notify you that the next of kin (Mrs P Hopkins) of Pvt J. E. Courbarron (122) 15th Battalion 4th Brigade has changed her address from ‘Craigle’ Kalgoorlie Street Willoughby to the above address. Thanking you for all past information. I am yours(?) etc, M Hopkins”.


Mildred was fortunate that the only correspondence she received regarding James was in relation to wounding and illness, unlike many others living around her who received telegrams bearing more tragic information. The next article will detail correspondence regarding their youngest brother, Frederick Courbarron, who enlisted in 1917.









Copyright © 2007-2016 by Hamilton Family History. All rights reserved.

War Service at Gallipoli: R122 James Edward Courbarron

James Edward. Courbarron was born at Waverley, Sydney, in 1890. He enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 16th September, 1914 at Enoggera in Queensland giving his address as Cheynes Hotel in Atherton and naming his sister, Mildred (Mrs P.Hopkins) who was living at Kalgoorlie Street in Willoughby, as his next-of-kin rather than his mother Mary. His certificate of attestation was signed at Townsville on 17th September, 1914. At the time of his enlistment, James was 24 years of age and his certificate of medical examination described him as being five feet ten and a half inches, weighing 165lbs with dark grey eyes and light brown hair. His religious denomination is given as Catholic.

On the 24th September 1914 he was appointed to the 15th Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade of the A.I.F. The 15th Battalion AIF was raised from late September 1914, six weeks after the outbreak of the First World War. Three-quarters of the battalion were recruited as volunteers from Queensland, and the rest from Tasmania. With the 13th, 14th and 16th Battalions it formed the 4th Brigade, commanded by Colonel John Monash.

The Queensland and Tasmanian recruits were united when the battalion trained together in Victoria. They embarked for overseas on the 22nd December 1914. After a brief stop in Albany, Western Australia, the battalion proceeded to Egypt, arriving in early February 1915. Australia already had an AIF division there, the 1st. When the 4th Brigade arrived in Egypt, it became part of the New Zealand and Australian Division. As a member of the the 4th Brigade, James Courbarron landed at ANZAC  late in the afternoon of 25 April 1915. From May to August, the battalion was heavily involved in establishing and defending the front line of the ANZAC beachhead. James took part in the April landing without injury but was wounded on the 14th July at Dardanelles and again on the 28th July at Gallipoli. He was also suffering from colic and ‘debility’ and was transferred to Mudros for treatment before rejoining his Battn at Gallipoli again on  30th August. From this point began a continuing period of various medical conditions and misdemeanors that would see his war service fraught with trouble.

On 21st September, and suffering from debilitating enteritis and dysentery, James was transported from Gallipoli by the hospital ship HMHT Dunluce Castle to hospital at Lemnos in Malta from where he was subsequently transported to England. He was admitted to 1st Southen General Hospital, Birmingham, on 18th October 1915 in very poor shape and remained there recovering from his illness until being transferred to Perham Downs Camp in Salisbury on 28th June, 1916. Perham Down was a military unit where Australians numbered heavily among those being trained there and also were transferred there after discharge from hospital. Whether his behaviour was a result of the stress from the traumas of the Gallipoli Campaign or whether he was just incorrigible, James’ period at Perham Down was marked by frequent run-ins with military authorities. From 2pm on the 14th July 1916 until 17th July he was reported as absent without leave while under embarkation orders and had to forfeit four days pay. Again on the 15th August he was absent from parade losing four days pay and from 22nd August to the 2nd September he was reported A.W.L from reveille and was forfeited nine days pay. Very much seeming to be a troubled young man.

From July until November 1916, James seemed to spend more time in trouble than out, forfeiting a total of a 6 weeks pay and often disappearing from camp for up to four days at a time without authorised leave. More often than not he would surrender himself before being arrested, however given the amount of pay he had to forfeit James would have seen very little of his earnings during 1916. On 12th December 1916, James’ health took a more serious turn for the worse when he was admitted to an Isolation Hospital with venereal disease. He was placed on the Syphilis register at Bulford on the 19th December 1916 having contracted it in Birmingham from an ‘amateur’.  By the end of January the disease had cleared and he was transferred to Parkhouse Hospital in Bulford in February 1917 before rejoining his Battn, he had clocked up a total of 68 days recuperation from the Syphilis.

On 6th May 1917, James embarked for Rouen, France, where he quickly contracted another bout of dysentery and spent the remainder of the month in hospital before being returned to England on the 31st May on the HS Aberdonian for further treatment of the dysentery at Southampton and, once more, a bout of venereal disease at Parkhouse hospital. After spending June to July  in hospital, the remainder of 1917 saw James progress from one serious misdemeanor to the next: ‘breaking out of camp whilst a defaulter’ at New Milton on the 27th July and ‘using obscene and threatening language to an NCO’ which earned him 168 hours of detention;  ‘disobedience of orders’ on the 14th August.

On the 29th August, James again noticed the unmistakable signs of syphilis, contracted while enjoying unauthorised leave in Edinburgh and received initial treatment at Perham. On 17th September, his condition has worsened and he was admitted to hospital in Bulford for 15 days of treatment. His admittance record states that he first contracted the condition ‘sometime between 8-19th August 1917  while AWL in Edinburgh‘. He caught it from ‘a professional’….treatment consisted of a ‘washout by syringe with condys administered by self’. Treatment he received consisted of mercury, injections of Hydrarg.GRS and Novarsenobillon – makes your eyes water to think about it….he was discharged with the condition ‘inactive’ on the 29th September.

Nonetheless, James was awarded one red and three blue chevrons on the 9th November, 1917 which was in recognition of his overseas war service to date and became entitled to the 1914/15 Star in early 1918 which was awarded to subjects of the British Empire for service in the war.

After a week in hospital with scabies in March, James was assigned to 16th Battn in April 1918 and embarked for France on the 17th April from Folkstone arriving at Etaples on the 18th. He was posted to his unit for field action on the 21st where he was ‘taken on strength’ on the 27th.  Given James’ poor health record, one can only assume the need for ground troops was desperate at this stage of the war in France, for he undoubtedly would have been severely debilitated by the frequent episodes of diarrhoea – not to mention his other more ‘intimate’ illness.

During this time James’ brother, Frederick, was serving with the AIF having joined in September 1917, and had spent most of 1918 recovering in St Dunstan’s Blinded Soldiers and Sailors hospital in England from injuries he received in action in France. Given James’ record for being either in trouble or in hospital, it is unlikely they encountered each each other while they were both in England and subsequently Fred was returned to Australia in September 1918.

James five months tour  in France was as brutal as the assault on Gallipoli and Dardanelles in 1915 for this time marked the last great offensive for the allied forces in France. In March and April 1918, the battalion helped to stop the German Spring offensive. The battalion participated in the great allied offensive of 1918, fighting near Amiens on 8 August 1918. This advance by British and empire troops was the greatest success in a single day on the Western Front, one that German General Erich Ludendorff described as ‘..the black day of the German Army in this war’. The battalion continued operations until late September. At 11 am on 11 November 1918, the guns fell silent. In November 1918, members of the AIF began to return to Australia for demobilisation and discharge.

After five months in action in France, on the 5th October 1918 and just five weeks before the Armistice was signed bringing the war to an end, Pte. James Courbarron received his ‘D30 Special 1914 Leave’ . On the 12th October James left the port of Le Havre on the ship ‘Prince George’ arriving at Southampton the next day. At this point it is both fascinating and ironic that James Courbarron, being at Le Havre in Normandy, had come full circle in that his own Courbarron ancestors had left Normandy for the island of Jersey just over a century earlier. His grandfather, Frederick, was the grandson of French immigrants who had moved to the Channel Islands to farm the land or work as labourers. James was standing, very possibly, at the same port his forebears stood before leaving France.

On the 1st November, 1918, James Courbarron returned to Australia, his embarkation orders signed by Capt. David Dunworth, Admin. HQ. London. On arrival in Sydney, James was subject to several physicals before he was recommended for discharge. His dental examination on the 11th February 1919 reported a full set of teeth that were ‘OK’, a medical examination found him to have ‘no disabilities – fit for discharge‘.  James was discharged from the army on the 25th February 1919. He was awarded three medals: the 1914 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

In 1953, James married Annie Josephine Poole in Chatswood, NSW – he was 63 years old; their son, John Hamilton Courbarron born in 1924,  had married three years prior in 1950.  Annie died in 1964 in the district of Katoomba. It is interesting to consider the constant scrapes that James got into during his war service against family accounts of him in later life as being a pleasant and quiet man who kept pretty much to himself – he seems to be like many young men back then who volunteered for an adventure they never expected to turn out  be as horrific as it did and James, like so many, just seemed to think it was the best idea to simply live each day as if it were their last. Nobody can hold that against them.

In the next article I will detail correspondence sent by his mother Mary and his sister Mildred while James was in service overseas.




Copyright © 2007-2016 by Hamilton Family History. All rights reserved.

War Service on the Western Front: R3648 Frederick Hamilton Courbarron

Frederick Courbarron enlisted in the AIF 55th Infantry Battalion 10th Reinforcements at Victoria Barracks in Sydney on 24th July, 1917. He was aged 17 but archival evidence shows he listed his age as ’18 yrs, 5 mths’, which was commonly done at that time in order to be accepted for service. He gave his occupation as being a farm hand and his next of kin as his mother, Mary. Mary at that time was living at Moree, NSW. His medical document describes him as being 5ft 7.5 inches tall with hazel eyes and black hair. He trained in the Signals Division as a Signaler.

The 55th was predominantly composed of men from New South Wales and the battalion became part of the 14th Brigade of the 5th Australian Division. With the collapse of Russia in October 1917, a major German offensive on the Western Front was expected in early 1918. This came in late March and the 5th Division moved to defend the sector around Corbie. The 14th Brigade took up positions to the north of Villers-Bretonneux and held these even when the village fell, threatening their flanks.

Fred embarked for overseas on the 31st October, 1917, at Sydney on the HMAT Euripides, ship No.A14. On 21st January, 1918, Frederick was transferred to 15th Btn and arrived in France via Southampton, at the port of Le Havre on 12th February and was based there.  (It was originally held by some older family members that Fred served at the Gallipoli landing in 1915, he did not, however as it was the 4th Brigade Division of the 15th Btn that had carried out the famous first ANZAC landing on April 25th 1915. Fred’s brother, James, was the one who served at Gallipoli and Dardanelles with the 4th Brigade, 15 Battn. in April to July 1914, hence the confusion about Fred’s service).

In March and April 1918, the 15th battalion helped stop the German spring offensive on the Western Front. From the 12th February to the 27th March, 1918 Pte Fred Courbarron served in field action until he was wounded receiving gunshot wounds to his face, left arm and severely to his right hand. He was transported on the hospital ship ‘Newhaven’ to England and was admitted to Edmonton Military Hospital on 31st March 1918 where he recuperated before being repatriated to Australia for discharge on the 30th June 1918. At this stage his right hand was still listed as a ‘severe injury’, there is also evidence that Fred suffered damage to his eyesight as he was given the option of admittance to the St. Dunstan’s Blinded Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Hostel…which he rejected in favour of returning to Australia.

A telegram dated 2nd July, 1918 states: “Herewith statement signed by the above named man to the effect that he desires to be sent home direct instead of going through the course at St. Dunstan’s Blinded Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Hostel.

A letter confirming his refusal of admittance for rehabilitation and re-training at the hostel for the blind was recorded on 27th June 1918:

“I was offered the opportunity of  going to St. Dunstan’s Hospital and was advised to go there, but desire to be sent home direct.

(SGD) 3648 Pte. Courbarron, F. 15th Battn.

One can understand his desire to return home as soon as possible, as he was only 18 years of age. Records show that his mother, Mary, had been sent a letter from AIF HQ in London on the 18th April, 1918 informing her that “Pte F.H. Courbarron has been reported convalescent”. The letter was addressed to ‘Moorelands’ Moree, NSW, however for some reason the letter remained unclaimed. Morelands is the correct spelling however. The letter was stamped at the bottom ‘address unknown’.

The reason for why Mary’s letter went unclaimed was because she had moved from Moree back to Sydney sometime after her youngest son was posted overseas and had failed to notify the authorities of her change of address. Mary notified the army by official letter on the 30th April 1918 that she was now living with her daughter, Mildred, at Chatswood in Sydney. She gave her new address as: Mrs M. Courbarron, c/o Mrs P. Hopkins, Brown Street, Chatswood, Sydney, NSW. Her eldest daughter, Mildred (my great-grandmother), had married Patrick Hopkins in Bellingen in 1908 and at the time of Mary’s arrival to live with them in Chatswood my grandfather, Allan was aged seven and a sister, Margaret (Margie) was five.

Frederick arrived back in Sydney on the 4th September, 1918 on the HMAT A16 transport ship Kanowna and was formally discharged from service on 24th September, 1918 due to medical unfitness.Below is the Kanowna shown at Townsville in 1914.

Frederick Courbarron’s service in WWI totaled 14 months, the armistice ending the war was signed on the 11th November, 1918. Pte Frederick Courbarron was awarded three medals for service: the 1914/15 Star Medal, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. Frederick married, in 1937, Mary Ellen Navin in Brunswick Heads, NSW. A pre-wedding party on the 13th August, 1937 was held in their honour at the Brunswick Heads Hall where Mary, or ‘Nell’, was presented with a wallet of notes as a gift from the Chairman. Mary was eight years older than Frederick, they had no children. Frederick and Mary lived at Brunswick Heads until her death in 1963. Mary, I am told, was troubled by asthma for most of her life and a reason for why they chose to remain in proximity to the sea air. Frederick’s claim for repatriation benefits as an ex-serviceman was lodged on the 10th February 1961.

Frederick Courbarron died in 1983 and is buried in Brunswick Heads, NSW.



Copyright © 2007-2016 by Hamilton Family History. All rights reserved.

Thomas Pakenham – Elizabeth Cuffe

Title created by Letters Patent 20 Jun 1785.

My 7th great-grandparents (and the parents of Edward Micheal Pakenham) were Thomas Pakenham, 1st Baron Longford and Elizabeth Cuffe.

Thomas Pakenham was born May 1713 and was the first son and heir of Edward Pakenham MP, of Pakenham Hall Co Westmeath. His mother was Margaret Bradestan, daughter of John Bradestan.

Elizabeth Cuffe was born 17th July, 1719 to Michael Cuffe MP, of Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo and his wife Frances Sandford, (daughter of Henry Sandford, of Castlereagh, Co. Roscommon).

Marriage: married on 5 Mar 1740.


1. Edward Michael [Pakenham], 2nd Baron Longford mar. Catherine Rowley.

2. Capt. Hon Robert Pakenham, Member of Parliament for Co. Longford 1768-75 (dvm. 7 Jul 1775)

3. Hon William Pakenham (b. 1756; dvm. 1769)

4. Admiral of the Red Hon Sir Thomas Pakenham GCB RN, Member of Parliament for Longford 1783-90 and 1797-1800 and for Kells 1790-97, Master-General of the Ordnance for Ireland (b. 1757; d. 2 Feb 1836), mar. 24 Jun 1785 Louisa Anne Staples (d. 1833).

1. Lady Elizabeth Pakenham (d. 1818).

2. Lady Frances Pakenham (b. 1744; dvm. 1776), mar. John Ormsby Vandeleur, of Maddenstoun, Co. Kildare.

3. Lady Helena Pakenham (b. 1745; dvm. 1777), mar. William Sherlock, of Sherlockstoun, Co. Kildare.

4. Lady Mary Pakenham (b. 1749; dvm. 1775), mar. 1768 Thomas Fortescue, Member of Parliament for Dromlaken.

Thomas Pakenham died 30th April, 1766. Elizabeth Cuffe died 27th January, 1794.


Copyright © 2007-2016 by Hamilton Family History. All rights reserved.