Neil’s personal decades 26: Whitfields, Christisons, and more — 1915

In Shellharbour the home front for my family was a sad place in 1915, as posted in More Whitfield family history last year.

My uncle, Colin Whitfield

Obviously I never knew him, nor he me, though when I was in high school I used an Algebra textbook that was in our house, inscribed with his name. This is such a sad story. I had never before seen this detailed version, though it confirms the oral accounts I have had of that dreadful tragedy back in Shellharbour in 1915. Illawarra Mercury 9 April 1915.


My grandfather and grandmother had already lost two other sons, Aubrey (1893-1906) and Thomas W (1906-1906).

They went with…

As well as giving basic enlistment and embarkation information, the AIF Project also has rolls of the units soldiers belonged to. Norman Whitfield was in Australian Naval & Military Expeditionary Force (Tropical Unit), F Company in August 1914, but listed as Thomas, then 1st Battalion, 7th Reinforcement in July 1915. David Bellford (sic) Christison was in 1st Field Company Engineers, Reinforcement 13 from Sydney, New South Wales on board HMAT A35 Berrima on 17 December 1915.


HMAT A35 Berrima

Ken Whitfield in 3rd Battalion, 25th Reinforcement leaving Sydney 31 October 1917.  One name among his companions leapt out at me: ULM, Charles Thomas Phillippe, Mosman, New South Wales.  Yes, that Charles Ulm, later friend and colleague of Charles Kingsford-Smith, pioneer aviators.

Charles Thomas Philippe Ulm (1898-1934), aviator, was born on 18 October 1898 at Middle Park, Melbourne, third son of Emile Gustave Ulm, a Parisian-born artist, and his Victorian wife Ada Emma, née Greenland. Charles was educated at state schools in Melbourne and Sydney (after his family moved to Mosman) and began work as a clerk in a stockbroking office. Emulating his grandfather and uncle who had fought in the Franco-Prussian War, as ‘Charles Jackson’ he enlisted in the 1st Battalion, Australian Imperial Force, on 16 September 1914: his height of almost six feet (183 cm) gave credence to his stated age of 20. He embarked for Egypt in December and was among the first troops to land at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. Wounded in action that month, he was returned to Australia and, as a minor, discharged from the A.I.F. at his parents’ request. In January 1917 he re-enlisted under his own name; while serving with the 45th Infantry Battalion on the Western Front, in July 1918 he was badly wounded and evacuated to Britain before being demobilized in March 1919…


Kingsford-Smith and Ulm

Sad letter

In this letter the mother of a relative, killed at Gallipoli, of one of my friends from City Diggers acknowledges receipt of her son’s effects. “Died of wounds, 2.30 am, 14 July 1915. Buried at sea, 3 miles off Gaba Tepe.”


January 1918! Painfully slow?