War Service: Frederick Hamilton Courbarron – letters from home 1917-1918

Frederick Hamilton Courbarron, the youngest of the four Courbarron siblings, enlisted in the A.I.F on 24th July 1917. At his enlistment he gave his occupation as farm hand and his address as a property named ‘Moorelands’ near Moree, NSW.  Unlike his brother James, Fred nominated his mother as his next-of-kin naming her ‘Mary Courbarron’ and living at the same address in Moree. In 1915, Mary had written to Base Records in Melbourne regarding James from her address in Cuthbert Street (written then as ‘Cuthbirt’) in Waverley Sydney and signed her name as Mrs Mary ‘Casey’. By 1917 she was living at Moree and had reverted to her original married surname of Courbarron, she was living at this address when Fred travelled to Sydney to enlist.

The first telegrams, dated 12 April 1918, sent to Mary were from Base Records to inform her of Fred being wounded. This was the first of a series of telegrams sent to Mary via Moorelands at Moree that were not received by her.

“Moree N.S.W Mrs Courbarron Moorelands. Reported Private Frederick Courbarron wounded will advise anything further received 12.4.18”

 

 

 

 

a second telegram was sent the same day…Frederick had been wounded at Jura, which was part of the Western Front, in France….

 

“Moree N.S.W Mrs Courbarron, Moorelands. Now reported Private Frederick Courbarron admitted Edmonton Military Hospital third March suffering gunshot wound face left arm left hand severe. Base Records 12.4.18“.

 

 

 

 

On the 18th April 1918, Fred was recovering in hospital in England when this letter from Base Records was sent to Mary informing her of his location. This letter, too, did not reach her as she was no longer living at Moree. “Melbourne 18th April 1918. Dear Madam, I now beg to advise you that Pte. F. H. Courbarron has been reported convalescent. His postal address will be: No.3648 Pte. F. H. Courbarron 15th Battalion , Australian Imperial Force,  Abroad. In the absence of further reports it is the be assumed that satisfactory progress is being maintained, but anything later received will be promptly transmitted, it being clearly understood that if no further advice is forwarded this department has no more information to supply. Yours faithfully J. M. Lean Major, Officer in charge, Base Records”.

The Captain J. Lean who sent telegrams about James has by now been promoted to Major. On the 20th April 1918, Mary writes a letter to Base Records informing the army, finally, that she has changed address from Moree to Chatswood and is now residing with her eldest child, Mildred Hopkins who was, of course, the n.o.k of brother James.  Mary was to remain living with Mildred until her death in 1927.

“Brown Street Chatswood, 20th 4. 18. To Military Authorities, Dear Sirs, I as next of kin of No. 3648 Private Frederick Hamilton Courbarron, 10th reinforcements 55 Battalion, Australian Imperial Forces Abroad, have changed my residence and my address now is Mrs Mary Courbarron c/o P.Hopkins Browns Street, Chatswood North Sydney. PS. I am his mother and was living at Moorelands Moree when he went away. Yours faithfully M. Courbarron”.

 

 

On April 30th 1918, Mary filed an official change-of-address in Sydney which gave her contact as c/o Mrs P. Hopkins, her daughter. At the bottom of the form, Mary had written a message stating what she had seen regarding Fred in the Herald, the same way she had learned about James’ being wounded two years prior. All previous notifications to her had gone uncollected at Moree, so she was unaware of Fred being injured in France, which had prompted her to lodge a more formal change of address notice: “I have received no official notification of the above soldier’s casualty and saw it first reported in the newspaper in Casualty List No.394. Please let me have any information to had as soon as possible”.

 

This letter was sent to Mary on 7th May 1918 bring her up to date on Fred’s condition: “7th May, 1918. Dear Madam, I have to acknowledge receipt of your further communication notifying your change of address, and to inform you that the necessary amendment has been made on the records of your son, No.3648 Private F. H. Courbarron, 15th Battalion. This soldier was reported as having been admitted on 3/3/18 to Edmonton Military Hospital, England, suffering from gunshot wound – face, left arm, left hand (severe), but according to the latest cable advice (dated London 9/4/18) he is convalescent. The above reports were sent you at your old address on 12th and 18th April, respectively, and so far they have not been returned to this office unclaimed. Letters addressed as under should be forwarded on arrival abroad to where he is located:- No.3648 Private F. H. Courbarron, 15th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force, Abroad”.

Copy of envelope addressed to Mary at Moree that was stamped ‘Address Unknown’.

 

 

 

 

 

In March 1918, Fred had received serious injuries to his face for which he was offered a period of rehabilitation and retraining at the famed St Dunstan’s Blinded Soldiers and Sailors Hospital. This gives some idea as to his injuries at the time which clearly indicates he took some damage to his eyes. Fred however refused the option of spending time as St Dunstan’s and instead opted to return to Australia, he was 18 at the time. This  letter from June 1918 details his express wishes to be returned to Australia: “1st A.A.H 27.6.18. 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 Battalion”.

Frederick arrived in Sydney on the 4th September 1918, it can be assumed he either lived for a while on his return with his mother at sister Mildred’s house at Chatswood or he returned to Moree and his job as a farm labourer. He remained in the northern region of NSW for the rest of his life and married Mary Navin at Brunswick Heads in 1937. They had no children. Mary died in 1963, Fred died in 1983 and  both are buried at Brunswick Heads.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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