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Wolseley Anzacs


Nearly two hundred years of the Preece family in Australia.


This is the story of a convict who was deported in 1824. He married in Van Diemen’s Land to become one of Australia’s pioneer families. Their children moved to the country town of Wolseley, in South Australia where they were schooled and eventually, off to war. It was here that three brothers fought for the British Empire, in the war to end all wars. The Preece family had to deal with loss, uncertainty, sickness and the military. This story is 200 years of history about the Preece family and the generations that they influenced.

Allan Preece 1914.































Allan Preece was the oldest of five brothers who lived in Wolseley, South Australia. He had one older sister, and four younger. Born in 1879 Allan became a member of the Australian Light Horse during the First World War, while two of his brothers served in the AIF, also in the war to end all wars.


Written by Ben Matthews. Allan Preece was my Grandmothers Uncle.


© 2016            ISBN: 978-0-9944682-2-2


Chapter              page

1 ~ Evan and Margaret Preece ~              4

2 ~ Alexander and Jane Preece ~             7

3 ~ 1900, the Turn of the Century ~       16

4 ~ After Gallipoli ~                         34

5 ~ Their Memory ~                         50

6 ~ The Next Generation ~                   52

7 ~ After the War ~                         66

8 ~ In Honour of ~                         73










My thanks to Peter John Vesely and Sandra Elizabeth Krake for their support and their input. Without them this story would be thirty pages shorter and a lot less accurate. They are deserving of our accolades.































~ Evan and Margaret Preece ~


Allan was thirty-six when he bolted out of a trench in an attempt to charge up a narrow ridge with 149 other Australian soldiers of the 8th Light Horse battalion. Only two minutes before, 150 Aussies had already been gunned down, attempting the exact same feat while serving their country at Gallipoli. Allan never had children of his own, yet he was a family man through and through. With that said, I think we should start at the beginning.


It was 1990 when my Grandmother handed me a piece of paper with a story of our ancestors. Unaware of computer technology, she asked me if I could retype a particular story eight times, so that she could give a copy of it to family members that had asked. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I only had to type it once on the computer, and then print nine copies, one for myself of course. I had earned some brownie points for myself that day, and an exquisite chocolate cake for a reward. But more than that, she sparked a desire in me to find out more, which has taken me on a journey and a roller coaster ride for more than twenty-five years while I researched my family history. Some members still elude me while others display a character and lifestyle that helps me understand, not only where I come from, but why I am the way I am. This was the story that she gave me!


Evan Preece was born 12th June 1803 in Herefordshire, England. His parents, John and Mary remained in England while Evan sailed across the ocean to an island far away from home, to an Island known as 'Van Diemen’s Land'. He arrived in Hobart on the 9th November 1824, aboard the 'Princess Charlotte'.


The earliest written record of Evan Preece comes from the Oxford Lent Assizes in 1824, and it is here that the story of the Preece family in Australia begins. This record shows that Evan was 19 years old when he was accused of stealing a sheep worth two pounds, from Mr George Yeld on the 10th of March 1824 at Pembridge, Herefordshire.

Evan was tried in the Oxford Lent Assizes on the 22nd of March, 1824. And although he pleaded 'not guilty' to the charge, he was found guilty by a jury and sentenced to death by hanging. However, this sentence was later commuted to 14 years transportation.


Evan was stored on the 'Princess Charlotte' like cargo, which departed England on the 9th of September 1824. The ship was under the command of Captain Blythe, and had 140 convict on board, none of which he considered worthy of his company. The ship arrived in Hobart on the 9th of November, 1824.


Convict records describes Evan Preece as being 5'9" tall with brown hair, grey eyes and a small mole on the right inner lip. [1] His native place was given as Dilling/Leominister in Herefordshire and his occupation was listed as a farm labourer and ploughman. Evan is described in his gaol report as being 'disorderly and of indifferent character'.


While serving his time in Van Diemen’s Land, Evan, on the 2nd of June, 1829, was reported for insolence and disobedience to an Officer Adey and others, and was sent for six months to Maria Island, which was an isolated and cold place off the coast of Tasmania. This report was made by Captain George Meredith who later played a part in the opening up of more farmland in the southeast of Tasmania. Evan was again reported by Meredith on the 2nd of March 1830 for insolence and violence towards an overseer's wife. For this he received twenty five lashes.


Even’s attitude mellowed over the years, especially when free women were arriving in the colonies. An Irish orphan woman by the name of Margaret Callaghan had sailed from London with 216 other free immigrant woman aboard the 'Bodicea' which arrived in Hobart on the 4th of February 1836. The term free only meant that they were not convicts, and had received free passage as an incentive to leave an overcrowded England, in the hope of starting a new life in the colonies.

Mrs Margaret Preece [nee Calaghan]

Margaret Preece. [2]

It is unknown how Evan and Margaret met exactly, although it was over a year later when Evan made an application to the governor to marry. Convicts wishing to marry had to apply for approval to do so, and on the 9th of May 1837, Evan did exactly that. After waiting nearly three weeks for his approval, he was given permission to marry Miss Callaghan.


Although her name was Margaret, all previous records of her maiden name show that the spelling of her family name was uncertain. There are various records where her name had been spelt as 'Callaghn', 'Callahan' and 'Calahin'. This is not surprising in view of the fact that neither she nor Evan could read or write.


Margaret Callaghan was born in 1810 and was twenty-seven years old when she married Evan on the 26th of June 1837 at Great Swanport, Tasmania. Evan was seven years her senior and married in the Parish of Sorrell, where both were recorded as being from the parish of Great Swanport, which is the district around Swansea on the east coast of Van Diemen’s Land. [3] It was common practice at the time for convicts nearing the end of their sentence to be assigned to free settlers as farm labourers and it is most likely that Evan was so assigned at the time of their marriage. Evan Preece received a conditional pardon on the 3rd of February 1838, one month shy of his fourteen year sentence.


Evan and Margaret continued to live in the parish of Great Swanport until at least 1848. His occupation began as a farm labourer and was later promoted to farmer. [4]

On the 20th of February 1851, Evan and Margaret Preece left Launceston Tasmania, for Portland Bay, Victoria on the 'City of Sydney'. They took with them nine of their ten children: George, John, Jane, Mary, Michael, Evan, James, Thomas and William. While birth records exist for three of their children, Mary (born 04.12.1843), Evan (born 13.04.1845) and Thomas (born 14.11.1848), there is also a birth record for another daughter, Maria (born 25.02.1847). Maria was not listed as being on board the 'City of Sydney' in 1851, plus there are no records for any deaths on board the ship. This leads us to believe that Maria Preece had died somewhere between 1847 and 1851. Despite the fact that death records were kept in Van Diemen's Land at the time, no record of her could be found. As for births, they were not legally required to be registered in Van Diemen's Land until the late 1830's and did not become common practice until the mid-1840's. Since Even nor Margaret could read nor write, and that only four of the seven births were recorded prior to 1847, it seems strange that there are no records of the three births that occurred between 1848 and 1851, after compulsory records had been introduced. We can conclude that not all records were enforced by the government of the day, which may have been what prompted the Preece’s to leave Launceston in the first place.


After disembarking from the 'City of Sydney' at Portland Bay, Victoria, Evan, Margaret and the children, travelled by foot towards Mount Gambier, situated in the Southeast of South Australia. A report in the Mount Gambier newspaper, 'The Border Watch', describes how the family were found lost and hungry near the Victoria, South Australia border on the Edge of Mount Shank station by station workers. The owner arranged for provisions to be sent to them. To repay his kindness, Evan worked at Mount Shank station for some time.


Evan died in 1860 and was buried in the Mount Gambier cemetery. He was reunited with his wife after she passed away on the 22nd of October 1877, aged 67. During their time together, Margaret and Evan had eleven children, the youngest was only eight years when his father died. We have already mentioned George, John, Michael and Jane, who were four of the nine that were born in Tasmania. Mary was number five and deserves an honourable mention for having twenty-two children after she married Mr Alfred J. Hateley, yet there were only one set of twins among the siblings. There sheer number dictates that they are well known in Mount Gambier district.

The sixth child for Margaret and Evan was Evan junior, born in 1845, and was followed by the mysterious Maria who had died before 1851. Then came Thomas Preece, who became a government official of Mt Gambier in his later years. The ninth was James Preece who made a name for himself in Sandford, Victoria. William Joseph Preece was number ten and was born in 1850, while our eleventh child, Alexander John Preece, was the only south Australian in the family, born in 1852 at Mount Gambier. It is with Alex that our story continues, since he is my grandmothers, grandfather.


~ Alexander and Jane Preece ~



Alexander John Preece, born 1852. [5]

Alexander John Preece was born in Mount Gambier, in South Australia’s Southeast. It’s a beautiful place with a big blue lake that doubles as a water supply, where the water congregates into an inactive volcano. Talk about one of nature’s great wonders. Alex’s father was a convict from Somerset in England and, to cut a long story short, he married and made his way to Mount Shank, which is also another inactive volcano in the Mount Gambier region.

Although the volcano in Mount Shank is not as big, the soil is fantastic for farming, which was how they made a living.


Life in Mount Gambier was far from complex, yet there was plenty of work to be done. Alex was the youngest of eleven children, of which eight were boys. Growing up as the youngest is most often met with mixed emotions. Everyone else in the family has more experience, is more educated and has had more life lessons to learn from. As a toddler Alex was learning to crawl while everyone else is either walking past or running rings around him. When Alex finally learned to run, everyone else is taller and faster, even if they are only two years older. Being the youngest is like being the runt of the litter, always being pushed aside and your opinions are flawed with inexperience and most often ignored. Yet when there is work to be done, you’re expected to not only pitch in, but catch up. Consequently, Alex hated the farming life since he could never get approval for what he could do, and because it was family, he was ridiculed for what he couldn’t do. If he tried to argue or discuss his poor treatment, his brothers were not only bigger, they had no problem giving him a fat lip or a bruised rib. Plus their father thought that fighting was a natural part of growing up. Headlocks were the easiest and most common form of torture from his siblings, which is why Alex chose a profession that got him away from farming and away from his family.


Horse training became his passion but training was not about bullying animals into submission, as most people saw it; it was about respect between a horse and its rider. For the horse, it was about learning a new language and forming a partnership with a rider. It took time and patience before a horse would even accept a rider let alone obey one.

Horses were the largest form of transport throughout this vast Australian land, yet more importantly, horses were a reliable asset to farming and agriculture. All Australians had respect for these animals, especially since they were the biggest and strongest in the relationship. You can’t call the family horse a pet, but they were well looked after as if they were one. A rider bonds with their horse as if the horse was their big brother, their comrade in arms, or even their best buddy. A horse and rider was a partnership that is as close as an inseparable friendship. Yet it is also about teamwork, where one has to lead so that the other can follow. To train these horses is an emotionally rewarding experience, especially when they are handed over to their owners. This gave Alex, not only great personal reward, but an income as well. It gave him self-confidence and self-belief which was enough fuel for life, and enough courage to find himself a partner.

Alex was approaching his mid-twenties and the love of his life was a Scottish born lass, named Jane Lamont. [6] Although getting pregnant out of wedlock was not uncommon, it was frowned upon. So when they found that they were expecting their first child, Alex put their other need aside and decided marriage was the priority. Alex had invited his sister Jane to the wedding, although she had moved to Casterton, in Victoria when she had married about ten years before. His sister Jane had travelled with her husband, Robert Lambert and their three children for the special occasion. Although Alex was happy to see his sister at their wedding, he didn’t realise that Robert and Jane had a proposition for the young couple, to go back with them and train horses. They wasted no time in getting there.


The wedding was in 1877 and in May the same year there was a sports event that was taking off, as the Victorian Football Association was formed. It should keep the city folk busy on the weekends. Chester won the Melbourne Cup that year and the population was estimated to have reached the two million mark. It had not even been ninety years since the arrival of the First Fleet, and already people were worried if the country could sustain so many people. Anyway, back to Alex.

The baby was a girl and they named her Margaret Jane Preece. She was given the name 'Margaret' after Alex’s mother who was not well at the time. They added the 'Jane' to honour their new life, thanks to his sister Jane. As for Alex, he was not that accustomed to babies, or young children for that matter. He may have come from a large family, but as the youngest, he spent more time trying to win the approval of his older siblings, not give it. Consequently, he spent most of his time on horseback, especially when infants were around. Alex’s role as a horse trainer also spilled over into droving, which meant some nights were spent sleeping under the stars and with a baby home, that’s exactly where he preferred to be. He would boil the billy over a campfire and hunt rabbits to satisfy his hunger. He also made damper which is bread that is left to cook overnight in the coals of an extinguished flame. Fresh damper in the morning would almost melt in your mouth, but there was work to be done as well. The horses needed water and grazing the night before, and in the morning it was saddling up the horses and getting those sheep to their new owner, since that’s how a drover earns his wage. This was the reality that Alex understood; he had no idea why babies cried.


Casterton was open terrain and sometimes neighbours were too far away for socialising, but luckily Alex’s wife Jane was with people who cared for her. Robert and sister-in-law Jane, kept that isolated feeling down to a minimum, as well as provide advice about the baby, since they had learnt from raising three children of their own. This gave both the girls time to do their cross-stitching, which would hang on the wall when they had finished. Jane’s first one said, 'Home, Sweet Home'. Cross-stitch was a form of entertainment, which is why Jane would only do her hobby after she had hand washed all the dirty clothes, made the beds, fed the chickens and made sure the animals had water and the horses had enough feed. These were all tasks that could be done with a child sitting on your hip. Jane was content in her new environment, and it wasn’t long before she was expecting another baby. During their three-year stay in Casterton, young Allan was born. It was soon after his birth that work had taken the family Southeast, to a place called Sandford.

These were supposed to be happy times for a husband and a wife with two children, but for Jane it was a lot of hard work looking after two children when she became pregnant with the third. Over the next two years little Jane junior and Alexander junior were born. It was now four kids demanding their mother’s attention.


As for Alex, his line of work was consistent with a builder, farmer and drover. He made and mended fences, erected stables and sheds; he chopped wood for the fire and then stacked it into a storage shed close to the back door, which unintentionally helped to attract spiders. His biggest building project was the long drop; virtually a hole in the ground with a toilet seat on top. Once that was done, a shed like structure was built around it for privacy, where three walls and a door turned it into an outhouse. It was called an outhouse because it was built out the backyard away from the house to keep the smell away, as well as those god-dam flies. There were thousands of the little buggers; it was ridiculous how they found a toilet fragrance appealing. With the necessities complete, Alex found himself spending long hours training horses at the stables, or was away droving, transporting horses and sheep. Even though these were pioneer days when families were semi-isolated and family was the only company, Alex was hardly at home, let alone having input into the raising of their children.


Placing his skill of fatherhood aside, Alex was highly regarded as a competent horse trainer. Even though most people didn’t like his methods, they were impressed with the results. As we said before, horses were invaluable for transport and farming. They were a necessity for pioneering Australia, as were a good pair of shoes, since most people spent the best part of the day riding or walking.

There were no race horses in his repertoire, but there were plenty of work horses that Alex had trained. Just getting a horse to accept a saddle took time and patience. It was a whole other story to train a good droving horse, as speed and agility were needed to get around the sheep. Riders needed to be trained as well, to get the horse to respond to the bridle, which was used to directed and re-directed the horse quickly and swiftly. Then there were the Clydesdales, the work horses. These horses were heavy, yet strong and reliable. They were often placed in teams for pulling ploughs, buckboards and wagons. The wagons only needed one or two horses to pull the weight, but ploughing needed muscle, and sometimes there would be up to six Clydesdales to a team, for the soil can be harsh and the days can be long.


Ploughing the harsh soil.






















When all the horses were trained in Sandford, the family moved to sheep country, to the town of Merino in Victoria, where their next child was born. When Murdoch arrived, little Margaret was seven. He mother Jane was slowly teaching her to help around the house. There was only enough work for a year in Merino before the family travelled across the border to a little town that is not really on the map. The only way to find Teatrick is to look up Teatrick Road, a little way out of Bordertown. Where the road ends, that is Teatrick.


Margaret was ten when her baby brother, John, became the sixth child to be born into the family. Margaret had become like so many other first-born children who had been given too much responsibility at an early age. Although she was great with the kids she was also a bully at times. As for the eight year-old Allan, he was starting to rebel against her methods and was prepared to argue with her when she went overboard. Even though he was younger, because he was a boy he felt he was stronger, which gave him the confidence to stand up to her, just in case their arguments came down to a fight. Luckily it never did, or so we’ve been told, however, slowly but surely Allan began to show compassion for the younger children as he found himself responding to what seemed like injustice from Margret. It was as if he was being caught in the middle, trying to negotiate with his older sister who was demanding and aggressive, while being punished by his mother when Margaret complained that Allan wasn’t helping. Allan may have only been eight, but he had already displayed a heart for the underdog. As for his father Alex, he was proud of his first-born son, but like so many dads, he had never taken the time to tell him. What he did make time to do, was to teach Allan to ride a horse. The ability to ride was almost as basic as the ability to walk to these early pioneers. The first time Allan was placed on a horse by his father, he sat high in the saddle and looked down, the ground looks so far away for a young boy. Then the command comes as Alex tells his son to kick the beast. The boy had a horrid look on his face as he turned to his instructor. It was a look as if he was stepping into a boxing ring against the heavy weight champion of the world, knowing full well that his destiny was to be beaten to a pulp. With the expression noted by his father, Alex repeats himself, “kick the horse.”

Reluctantly the boy digs his heels into the belly of the beast, and then to his surprise, nothing happens. The horse gives a little shake of the head, but does not move a step. The response from his father was a simple bow of the head in disbelief, although he fully expected the result. He raises his head and raises his voice to the boy and says, “Kick the bloody thing”.


The boy tries with all his might to dig his heels into the animal, and then with a raised head, the horse slowly takes a few steps forward. Since the boy didn’t have a tight grip on the reins, after four or five steps, the horse came to a halt. The horse knew full well that his rider was not in control. It was as if the horse was thinking, ‘either give me some instructions, or I’m off to eat grass.’ A horse needs to understand the intent of the rider if this partnership is going to work. The bridal is the metal bit in the horse’s mouth that the reins are connected to in order to steer the horse, and the kick in the horse’s belly is the accelerator. As for the boy, he eventually learnt that to a big horse, being kicked is hardly noticeable, that is why it required a little more effort than what Allan was prepared to give. Allan mastered it eventually as did his younger brothers when they were old enough. Alex educated all of his sons in the informal pioneer school of riding, which lay the foundations for their future as drovers and horse trainers.

What they didn’t have was a formal education, as schools were still being established in Australia and were still not available where these children lived. It was the same for Alex and Jane, who themselves could neither read nor write, let alone teach their children the craft. That doesn’t mean that life does not school a child with the skills and education for adulthood. Alex had learnt to train horses well enough to pass on his trade to his children. Jane learnt to cook while the whole family also learnt to farm, build, clean and communicate in an ever-growing family. All the work around the farm was for their survival and money was also needed for the things they couldn’t do themselves. So they moved to where they could earn it.


From Teatrick, it was onward to Custon which lies in South Australia and butts up against the Victorian border. Alex managed to work for nearly two years in Custon where Jessie Elizabeth was born. She was a pretty little baby and quiet as well. Some say she was quiet because she received a lot of attention from the other children, especially Margaret and Allan. It was while in Custon that Alex had learnt workers were needed at the railway yard in Wolseley, just a few miles north of Teatrick. So by 1890 the Preece family had acquired a new home, a new job and another new baby. Mary Ann was the new addition, and while her mother took care of her, Margaret and Allan were in their teens, taking good care of the other siblings. Margaret helped with the washing, which also caused some arguments with the boys, since they were notorious for grime and odours, and yet managed to avoid the housework. There was work outside that needed attention, such as chopping wood for the fire. Wood was needed all year round as the stove had to be stocked with wood to do the cooking and boil the kettle for a cup of tea, which is why everyone congregated into the kitchen, especially in winter. There were small gardens out the back to grow a few veggies that went down well at the evening meal and mum cooked the daily bread. By the time they had moved to Wolseley, Margaret was thirteen and was efficient in her home duties, which meant she had no need for an education. Allan was only eleven and hadn’t been to school before, but even though he already knew how to ride a horse, the school here was close enough to walk. Allan didn’t think he needed an education as he already knew how to ride horses and envisioned his future as a drover, or even a horse trainer like his dad.


Wolseley was where Allan’s maternal instincts were free to shine. Allan was a natural at caring for the little ones and had great joy in escorting them to the school. It was time to get an education. School was slightly different for boys and girls. Although they both received instruction in the basic subjects of reading, writing and maths, the girls also spent 80 minutes of the day sewing, knitting and darning, while the boys spent this time learning geometry, geography and more arithmetic. The days commenced with the teacher inspecting the pupils to see that their face and hands had been washed, their hair combed and their clothes neat, and where necessary, had been darned. Thirty minutes of each day was also taken up with singing; however, the teachers primarily tried to instil into the children the advantages of being orderly, clean, punctual, decent and courteous. Manners were, first and foremost, the most important quality taught at schools during the pioneer days. [7]


Margaret was so jealous, and if you thought she was a bully before, you should see her now that the others were going to school and she will be the only one to miss out. Allan didn’t know what she was complaining about, since there were only two kids left at home for her to look after. Mum would care for the new born while Margaret would look after John, who was three. The one year-old, Jessie could be carried around on her hip while John chased the dog around the backyard. Allan got all the others, Jane, who was nine now, the young eight year-old Alec and Murdoch who was six. Granted, they sort of look after themselves, but if anything went wrong, it was Allan who got punished with the belt. School was so great, it was worth putting up with their angry older sister. However, Margaret was not one to miss out and at every opportunity had coaxed Allan into helping her to read and write; she didn’t want to be like her illiterate mother, who was almost constantly pregnant.


As for the provider of the family, Alex got a steady income and steady work on the railways. He was in charge of the horses for Smith & Timms Railway Construction, but the days were long.

The railway station in Wolseley was the hub of the farming industry ever since the railway line had been completed three years before. Grain, sheep and cattle were transported to and from Melbourne and Adelaide, while some of the locals also worked on the railway line, extending it towards Mount Gambier. The working day had remained the same since 1860, with 7am starts, and it was all go until 6pm. Dinner better be on the table because a man was hungry when he got home. Alex would be in no mood for dealing with the kids either, children are to be seen and not heard, which was the old cliché that many family men lived by in the early days. Besides, it has been a long day and a man needs to wind down, rather than make decisions for children. Jane understood that, and the family worked around it. This was a male dominated world, it wasn’t as if women had the right to vote or anything.


Alexander Jr., or Alec, as I like to call him, was so engulfed with Wolseley. Although the family lived on a property where your life revolves around the tasks at home, Wolseley was like a treasure to the senses. To an eight year-old Wolseley had it all, a school, neighbours, shops and a railway station. It had places to play, such as the grain storage sheds, where kids would walk on the grain as it acted like quicksand. No-one thought it was dangerous back then. Wolseley was virtually a small town that also provided their father with a good income with horses or sheep on all the surrounding farms. As the boys became men, both Allan and Alec were kept in steady work as drovers, since they were competent horse riders. Their dad not only trained horses well, he also taught the boys to ride confidently with or without a saddle. Over the next few years, Alex taught his boys everything he knew about horse training, so that the horses were reliable and devoted to their owner.


Baby number nine was George. He was born in 1892 and then Hannah in 1895. When the calendar flicked over to 1896, the Olympics Games hit the newspapers. The school teacher at Wolseley was reading the results from the local paper, where most of the medals were won by Americans. However, their interest laid in an Australian from Victoria who won two gold medals in the running. Our Aussie, Edwin Flack, won the 800 metre and 1500 metre races. The Olympic committee had never heard of Australia and chose the Austrian national anthem to play when Edwin had won. The Union Jack was still raised up the flag pole, which was acceptable since the British had paid for him to get to Athens, Greece, where the event was held. Although Edwin was a competent tennis player, he was knocked out in the first round, which did not deter him from running in the marathon. This race was considered to be the most prestigious event on the Olympic program. However, Edwin did not finish the gruelling 26 mile race because of the local beverages that were on offer along the course. To put it bluntly, Edwin drank a little too much of the delicious wine that was available and collapsed from overindulgence. All the runners were offered the same beverages by the locals, who were just being friendly. The idea was to quench their thirst, not to take them out of the running. Nevertheless, he scored the first two gold medals for the land from down under, and sent a message to all the young boys, inspiring them for the next Olympics, or at least that was what John was thinking. He would run home from school all excited, racing against all the other kids along the way. They would draw lines in the dirt out the back and pretend they were at the Olympics. John was nine but was always a close second to the fourteen year-old Alec. John was fast for his age. The following year, the baby boy of the family was born; he was named August. The older siblings were already set to tease him for it, but they had to wait until he was old enough to understand. Why would anyone name a child after a month, I’ll never know.


1899 was a year to remember, one that was filled with mixed emotions. Margaret was turning 22 this year and although by looking at some of the local girls, it seemed that women had to get pregnant before they could get married around here, yet this was not the case for Margaret. His name was Francis and although he was a gentleman, his name was a horrible name for a man, which is not just my opinion. As Francis was growing up, he was constantly teased beyond compare, which, I guess, toughened him up a little. As for Jane, she was pregnant again with baby number twelve. They were hoping for a girl to make it six of each, both six boys and six girls, but Jane was having problems this time. She was forty-four now and the doctor told her she was too old to bear children without a lot of bed rest and frequent hospital care, a luxury she could not afford. Allan was nineteen when his younger sister Susan was born. A child’s birth had always been a joyful occasion in the Preece household, but not this time. The doctor said the baby was just not strong enough to survive. Susan only lived for an hour.


Allan was accustomed to deaths, but they were animals, such as sheep, lambs or dogs. He had even killed a fox himself once, but that did not compare to losing a sister. The whole family was devastated and it caused division and anxiety at home. For the younger ones it created problems at school as well. George, Mary, Jessie and John were still at school, but their minds were not. Consequently, their grades fell away, not that their grades were that great in the first place, but it was obvious that they were distracted. Grieving can be a strange process as they didn’t even realise that their sister’s death was the cause of their anger and outbursts. They were kids; they did not have the knowledge to understand their emotions, and counselling was unheard of, it was considered to be for the weak. Murdoch was fifteen that year so he left school to help out at home. He got a job at the railways with his dad and his two older brothers. Jane was inconsolable for ages and never had any more children after that. Margaret still got married to Francis Edward Jolly on the 13th of November 1899, at a beautiful church in Strathalbyn. This delightful country town was the attraction of travellers passing overland between Adelaide and Melbourne. The River Angus runs through the town and its population consists of the industrious and well-to-do people. I would have to say that only the rich can live there, but their hospitality is enchanting, and the surrounding views are picturesque. It was the perfect place for a wedding before they moved to Goolwa to start a better life and a family of their own.[8]







Strathalbyn, South Australia.























~ 1900, the Turn of the Century ~


The turn of the century is an emotional time where everyone seems to look to the future. It marks a time in history that not everyone is able to obtain. We all have New Year’s resolutions, but watching the calendar click over into a new century, makes you think of plans that are much longer than just for a year. We all know we are not immortal and a new century reminds us of our limitations and the desire to make the best of what we have.

Charlotte Cooper

of Great Britain, one of the first individual female Olympic Champion. [9]


As for the athletically minded in the family, their attention had turned again to the newspaper as the next Olympics Games were held in France. The first of the modern Olympics Games were held four years ago and were attended by as many as 280 athletes, all male, coming from 12 countries. However, in 1900 women also competed, although they were dressed in formal attire. I love the tie. It was Frederick Lane who won two gold medals in the swimming for Australia, yet it was the runner, Stan Rowley that the Preece boys wanted to read about. Stan was Australia's only competitor on the athletic field. He entered the sprint races, the 60, 100 and 200 metre events, taking the bronze medal in all three. As for Lane, although he won the 200 metre freestyle and obstacle races, he did not receive any gold medals, but instead was rewarded with two bronze sculptures, one of a horse and the other a peasant girl. There were questions left, right and centre about an obstacle event in swimming. Apparently there were three obstacles throughout the 200 metre course. Swimmers had to climb over the first two, which was a pole and a row of boats, and swim under the third, which was another row of boats. I’m not surprised that this was the only year it was featured. [10]

Nalang Station

1866. [11]


By July of 1900 Alex had turned 48 and was struggling with the work at the railways. He still desired to ride so he became a boundary rider at the Nalang Station, checking and repairing fences, and again sleeping under the stars. Nalang Station was first settled in the 1840s when a grazing lease was taken out by Loudon McLeod. The surrounding area was known as 'Tatiara' which was supposedly a local Aboriginal name for 'good country'.


By September, word had reached Wolseley that Margaret gave birth to her first child, a boy that they named Francis Edward Jolly, after his father. A couple of months later and Alex was in the papers. The headlines in the local newspaper read, 'Bushfire at Bordertown'. Alex had been working at Nalang Station for about five or six months, when a fire broke out that destroyed the Hayes home on Australia Day, 1901. Police were called in to investigate. Each of the four men who had fought the blaze were questioned, Henry Hayes and his son Edward, Alexander Preece and William Mepstead. Although these men did what they could to extinguish the flames, their efforts were futile compared to the fire’s hunger to consume the dry summer grass and was helped along by a gentle summer breeze. About five thousand acres were destroyed, along with some fencing and a few head of sheep. Although the evidence points to a discarded cigarette prior to the wind picking up in the area, the police could not substantially conclude as to how the fire started. The only positive conclusion was that it was unintentional.[12]


Later in the year, Margaret and Francis returned to Wolseley. Margaret had grown accustomed to that big family experience, finding Goolwa isolated and alone. Hey had decided to move back to Wolseley where she was happier; so-much-so that child number two was born a year later. Ernest Vincent Jolly was born on the 18th of August 1902. In Margaret’s eye’s, the family was all back together again, be it ever so briefly. Nearly two years had passed and another wedding came knocking on the family door. Jane Jr. was all of twenty-three when she married William Thomas Natt in 1904 and moved to Victoria to live. Meanwhile Margaret was pregnant again and was turning out to be more like her mother than she was prepared to admit. Child number three for Margaret was Emily Isabel, born in July of 1904, while number four was Arthur Gilbert Jolly, arriving in June 1906.

Australasian Olympic Flag. [13]


1908 was special as August was eleven now. He was having problems at school because of his name, and like me, kids can be cruel. His nick-name started at home but the other kids soon caught on and began calling him 'Angus'. They say it makes him sound like an angry Scotsman, and why not, he soon learnt to fight like one. Over time, even his parents started calling him Angus. It’s only a name but it seemed to have lifted his spirits. When he walked he held his head so high with confidence that he seemed to be two inches taller than he was before. Before the year was out Margaret’s fifth child was a girl, Phyllis Glen, born on the 26th of October 1908. “Thank God,” she said, for it was now three boys and two girls. She was starting to panic that she would be dominated with boys.


The Olympics were special this year. Even though Australia had competed in the last three, this was the first time it was in a combined effort with New Zealand. Australia had a bond with New Zealand as we were both, I won’t say discovered, but we both became part of the British Empire due to a man named Captain James Cook. We share that in common, as well as our location as neighbours in the Southern Ocean. We joined forces to compete in London, and particularly against the British. We were known as the Australasian team, nick-named the ANZs and the only gold was won by a Kiwi, Harry Kerr.


The Preece boys would often spend time droving into Victoria and it was in Nhill that Alec Jr. met the girl of his dreams. The combination of an industrious woman, having all the energy and buoyancy that characterised so many of the pioneering spirited generations of her day, and the fact that she enjoyed a beer saw him fall in love with his perfect woman. Minnie had lost both her parents by 1903, and already had a two year-old daughter, Georgina, before she had met Alec. [14] This 27 year-old single mum worked at the White Heart Hotel in Nhill. They had the wedding reception at the pub and lived at Dimboola in Victoria, where Alec would train horses, just as his father had taught him. They had two children together, the first was a girl, Alvina, in 1909, and then a boy, Cyril, in 1912.


Back in Wolseley, Mary was angry at her dad. It was nothing new as Alex was ruthless and demanding. When he spoke everyone jumped. It was as if he trained his children the way he trained his horses, to obey without question and to do what was commanded when it is commanded. Mary was old enough to know that his abuse was not acceptable and didn’t want anything to do with him; she hated his ways. But it wasn’t just her dad that was a problem; she had also been under the thumb of her controlling older sister who was back to her old tricks. In 1911 Mary became the legal age of twenty-one, and not only changed her name, she moved to Bordertown to work as a cook in the Bordertown Hotel. Mary was ready to start a new life, changing her name to Sarah, as if to say, we’ll see who is in control now. [15]


1912 was next, or should I say Jessie was next in 1912. She married Wilfred Barrett. I’m sorry Mr Barrett, but if my name was Wilfred, I would change it. That’s just me, and I did say earlier that I can be cruel when it comes to names. Wilfred whisked Jessie away to Victoria where they married on his parent’s property. They resided in Karang, Victoria, never to return to Wolseley. Come October of 1912, Margaret had child number six. She was hoping for another girl to make it three of each, but was disappointed, not because it was a boy, but because her sister Jessie had moved interstate and away from the family just before the baby was born, and now young Ronald Roy Jolly would never get to see his Auntie. Margaret had mixed emotions when the Jolly’s celebrated the birth of the baby at their Wolseley home.


The Olympics were on again this year and again Australia had combined with New Zealand. We joined forces to compete in Stockholm, Sweden, where the Olympics became known as the 'Swedish Masterpiece'. They were the best organised and most efficiently run games to date, but there were no medals for the Aussies or the Kiwis.

Back home and young George couldn’t wait to turn twenty-one. As an adult he could make his own decisions now, which was to join the army. His riding skills saw him snapped up by the 22nd Light Horse Brigade in August of 1913, two months before he was legally eligible.


1914 was the year that the First World War broke out and it changed the lives of everyone forever. In January, Alex had fallen from a pile of hay and injured himself. Although the doctor examined him, it was under duress and over time complications set in. By May, Alex underwent an operation at the Royal Adelaide Hospital and found he had cancer eating away at his stomach. He would never dare joke that it was Jane’s cooking, or Jane would make his life more miserable than the cancer ever could. The news brought Alec Jr. from Dimboola, back home to Wolseley with Minnie and the three children. They settled in well and it wasn’t long before another addition arrived in the family as Minnie gave birth on the 1st of May to Myrtle Mary Jane Preece. [16]


John in a group photo of the 12th Battalion in Hobart. [17]

The war started a few months later, on the 28th of July 1914, as the sons of pioneering families flocked to their capital cities to enlist. There were many Australian boys who lied about their age so that they could enlist, thinking that war was a glorious way to make a mark in this world, to belong to something bigger than themselves while doing their duty for their country. Plus young boys always think they are invincible, and the girls love a guy in uniform, don’t they?


From among the thousands all around Australia, it was John who would be the first of the Preece boys to sign up for war service. Although George was already in the army, he was still serving on Australian soil. These Preece boys were accustomed to the conditions of army life. It wasn’t much different from living in the outback, except that rabbits were the chosen shooting target instead of people. As drovers, they had already spent lonely nights in the country, sleeping under the stars. It was rewarding to think that they could do the same for the sake of their country. They may even feel like heroes in the eyes of their friends, or at least that is what young boys believe in that indecisive head of theirs. John enlisted on the 7th of September, 1914, six weeks after war had been declared. His sister Margaret was expecting another baby and was somewhat demanding, so the unsympathetic John wasted no time in seizing an opportunity to escape his big sister for a chance to see what the rest of the world had to offer. When he signed up he was among the first infantry unit to be raised for the Australian Imperial Forces during the First World War. He was placed in the 12th Battalion. Half of the recruits were from Tasmania, a quarter from South Australia, and a quarter from Western Australia. The 12th, along with the 9th, 10th and 11th Battalions combined to form the 3rd AIF Brigade. [18]

John was among so many strangers, yet he found it easy to make new friends. They all had a common goal and a common enemy, yet they were also changing the face of Australia. Australia was part of the British Empire and was considered an infant compared to Britain. However, now that Australian was sending troops to fight the British enemy, to the Aussies, it was as if the child had grown up and was coming home to help fight her parent’s battles. To the British, we were still children who were rowdy and undisciplined, which in their eyes, is a bad combination to have fighting in a war.

John was so excited that he sent his dad, Alex, some postcards stating that his troops had left Melbourne on the 22nd of September, and were in Hobart on the 26th, awaiting the Sydney and Brisbane troops. The newspaper in Bordertown had also stated in its October 9th issue, 1914, that there was a message from Berlin stating that the Kaiser had promised to decorate the first German aviator who drops a bomb on the city of London. It was certainly good propaganda to get the locals riled up and complaining about the war.


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A member of a Transport unit with several horses in his charge. [19]

After two months training, the 12th embarked for Egypt, arriving in early December. While in Egypt they participated in some mock warfare, and had a chance to display their rifle shooting skills. A Launceston Newspaper picked up a story of their prowess overseas, as a relative received a letter from one of the soldiers there. It read “B Company of the 12th Battalion, A.I.F., which is formed mostly of Launceston boys, is the crack company of the battalion. Our shooting average was only equalled by one other company in the contingent. Since good shooting is usually an indication of steadiness, this would point to the conclusion that the Launceston lads are providing a good reputation for their country.”


When John enlisted in 1914, agricultural workers who were well acquainted with horses, such as John, were enlisted as drivers, which he did for a large part of the war. It didn’t seem to matter that he had already lost the top of his finger on his left hand from working with horses. The army put the loss of his finger down to experience, one that will never be repeated. During his time in Egypt, John had been assigned to ‘transport’, where his skills with horses and his time spent at the railways in Wolseley, became a skill trait that was useful for transporting horses and equipment. Consequently John was kept so busy that he forgot all about sending postcards to his dad.

The Aussies soldiers felt welcomed in Egypt, not by the British, but by a group known as the Australian Comfort Committee. Their main function seemed to be the distribution of Billies to the troops.

Billies were a cooking vessel, which during wartime, were packed with buttons, shoe-laces, chocolate, postcards, soup tablets, insect powder, puzzles, safety pins, bandages, hair and tooth brushes, tooth powder, reading matter, tin openers, tinned fish and penknives. [20] How they fitted it all in, I will never know.


John arrived in Egypt on the first of January, 1915. His first posting in Egypt was to the Mex camp which was East of the town, and close to a salt lake. The shore is literally caked with salt, and altogether Mex was not a pleasant spot. It had two redeeming features, one was the convenience of the trains, and the other was the proximity of the sea. The water in December, which is winter in Egypt, was still warm enough for the Aussie troops to bath in. [21]

The camp was about one and a half miles beyond the train terminus where John’s railway experience was well utilised. [22] Fort Mex was one of the defensive forts in Alexandria that had been the scene of heavy fighting during the Egyptian War of 1882, when its batteries were extensively damaged by heavy bombardment from the ships of the British Royal Navy. [23] Since then, it has become the property of the British who now use it to store the troops after disembarking.


Once in Egypt the new arrivals needed a rehab period to familiarize themselves with the local climate and to await further training and instruction. Australian camps mushroomed overnight outside Cairo's empty expanses where the Aussie soldiers and horses could recuperate after a gruelling five week journey. [24]


While John was away, back home Margaret and husband Francis had their seventh baby, Olive Muriel Jolly. They wrote to the army, hoping the information would be passed on to their brother, regarding his new niece who was born on the 11th of October 1914. The message read, ‘bring a birthday present for her when you return’. He knew full well it was her way of telling him to make sure he comes back home alive. Posting a letter was easy in that all you had to do was address the envelope to 'Private John Preece, 12th Battalion', and the army does the rest. Wherever the 12th go, their mail is redirected to follow them wherever they went. You could do the same for any soldier who was fighting in the war. However the postal system was far from perfect and all too often there were delay’s that took weeks to remedy.



Broadmeadows, Victoria. c. 1914. Members of the 8th Light Horse

Regiment during training at Broadmeadows Camp. [25]


Port Melbourne, Victoria. c. 1915. Members of the 8th Australian Light Horse Regiment sitting on the wharf waiting to embark on the Troopship in the background. [26]



Allan enlisted into the army a week after his niece was born and because of his excellent riding skills, was posted with the 8th Light Horse. The regiment was formed at the Broadmeadows camp in Victoria, where they became part of the 3rd Light Horse Brigade. They were classed as reinforcements and sailed from Melbourne, arriving in Egypt in February 1915.


John had arrived in Egypt a couple of weeks before Allan. It was not so difficult to track each other down, but they were united in a foreign land. The two brothers were excited as they stood on the same patch of ground in Egypt, thousands of miles from home. It seemed like a grand adventure that someone else had orchestrated. However, the fun and games were short lived as the 3rd AIF Brigade, were to embark on 2nd of March, 1915 at Alexandria. They were bound for the Gallipoli Peninsula under the command of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Forces. [27] Private John Preece was off to war.


The SS Devanha was a passenger liner and cargo vessel that was confiscated by the Army in 1914 and was assigned to the Mediterranean where she served as a troop ship to transport the Middle East Forces during the war.

In 1915, John was among the men who filled her with cargo as the SS Devanha took the Australian troops to Anzac Beach.

The 3rd AIF Brigade was the covering force for the ANZAC landing on the 25th of April, 1915, and so they were the first ashore at around 4:30 am. Lieutenant Colonel L. F. Clarke, commander of the 12th Battalion, was killed by a sniper within hours of the landing, while the remainder of the Battalion were heavily involved in establishing and defending the front line at Anzac cove.[28]


There was a letter sent back home to Australia about that first encounter by Private Wilson of the 12th Battalion AIF. [29] His friend from Western Australia was Private Ernest Lockhart, and both were on the troop ship Devanha on the 24th April 1915. Private Wilson left for Anzac Cove aboard one of the ships lifeboats alongside many Australian troops, under the cover of darkness. Meanwhile John, Ernest and the rest of the transport company remained on the ship with the horses. The SS Devanha then steamed up the coast as a ploy to draw enemy fire, before returning to the cove after sunrise, some two hours later, in order to offload the supplies for the soldiers. [30] More than two weeks had passed while the transport section unloaded the cargo from the ship, all the while enemy fire was not too far away. With the fortnight over, most of the 12th Battalion stayed at Anzac Cove, while the Transport Company returned to Alexandria with the horses, John and Ernest were among them. They remained in the Mex Camp, in Alexandria, where they reloaded the ship for its next voyage. [31]


There were heavy casualties amongst the Australian infantry at Anzac Beach during the first two weeks. However, reinforcements were sent to replenish the numbers that had been lost by the 12th Battalion, John was again to set sail for Anzac Cove. With him was Private A. M. Miller, who was one of the reinforcements assigned to join the 12th Battalion, and was good enough to share his diary with us.


May 7th, we landed in Anzac under shell and rifle fire. Luckily only one man was hit from our platoon. When evening came, there was very heavy shell fire, frightening about six months’ growth out of me. This particular landing place was called Anzac from the initial letters of Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.


May 8th, I’m in charge of a party digging trenches while under fairly heavy shell fire. There was a terrific explosion near my dug-out in the evening, making my mate and I do a Sheffield sprint up the hill for safety. [32]


May 9th, nothing extraordinary happened.

May 10th, I go into the firing line for the first time. It played up with my nerves a bit during the night, but I gradually got used to it.


May 10th was also the day that John was sent back to Alexandria on the Devanha to Alexandria, which was not written in his diary. However, what we read so far in the diary does give us some indication as to the conditions that all the soldiers endured.


While John is aboard the ship to return to Alexandria, we’ll continue reading Private Miller’s diary, since he remained at Gallipoli.


May 11th, everything was quiet.

May 12th, I was given a command of 12 men to dig trenches. Enemy snipers were doing a good bit of damage. (A sniper is a man who is picked because he is a good shot and who generally digs into a good position in front of the firing line and fires whenever he thinks damage can be done.) [33]


May 13th, all quiet.

May 14th, patrols report enemy advancing on our flank. We were called to arms, but nothing happened. [34]


May 15th, again all quiet.

May 16th (Sunday). Turkish papers report that we were driven into the sea, but that was far from the truth. The Church Service was held in the communication trench in the afternoon, with shells continually screaming over our heads. “Lead, Kindly Light,” was sung heartily.


Soldiers at Lone Pine with home-made hand grenades. [35]


May 17th, and the Turks attack our left flank without success; hand grenades were freely used. (A hand grenade is a type of bomb, with a five-second fuse, that is lit with a match. They are thrown and are mostly made of small jam tins filled with any hard metal and the explosive.)


May 18th, 6 am, the enemy bombarded very heavily, the heaviest bombardment since we landed and continued all day. At 12 pm the Turks attacked. All supports and reserves called out. It turned out to be another bad day for Jonnie the Turk.


May 19th, 3.15 am. Enemy again desperately attacks all along the line. As many men as possible were packed into the trenches. The Turks were driven back again with heavy losses. Dead Turks were lying five yards off our trenches. We stood to arms all night in the trenches with bayonets fixed to charge, just in case any of the enemy came up, but this time they kept well back.


May 20th, during the morning half-hearted attacks were made. At 7.30pm a sudden heavy bombardment took place while the Turks once again attempted to drive us back, but we did not budge. Our company again stand too for a bayonet charge. We are very tired and worn out, rest is badly needed. Our war boats heavily bombard the enemy all the morning.


May 21st, 22nd and 23rd, quiet. The dead Turks in front begin to smell terrible.


May 24th, nine hours’ armistice decided on by both sides to bury the dead, from 7.30 am to 4.30pm, with the section detailed I go out burying. Hundreds of Turks were buried in front of the trenches. I talked to a couple of Turks who could speak English. Both sides were very friendly until 4.30, when we were trying to kill each other again.


May 25th, the Cruiser Triumph was sunk by a submarine about 1½ miles from where we were. The Triumph had done good work for us up to this point, therefore her sinking put a nasty taste in our mouths.


May 26th, I am informed my rank would have to be lowered back to private because of the old N.C.O.’s returning. [36] This day all reinforcement corporals and sergeants were lowered because there were no longer any vacancies. Our aeroplane drops bombs on the Turks’ artillery.


May 27th, the aeroplane is still dropping bombs on the Turks but there is no cruiser about to help us because of the submarine scare.


May 28th, Italy declares war on Austria.


May 29th, the enemy shell us heavily during the morning.


May 30th, 3.45am. We make a dummy attack. All the line fires a rapid volley of 10 rounds per man, machine guns were also firing while everybody was cheering and flashing bayonets above the trenches. Enemy replied with heavy fire (the official reports stated that the Turks’ ammunition was running very low, which was the reason for drawing their fire).


May 31st, the submarine is still about.


June 1st, all quiet again.


June 2nd, at early morning the Turks desperately attack our left flank; useless, as usual.


June 3rd, Turks attack again.


Meanwhile, on the 3rd of June, John again arrived at Gallipoli to re-join his Battalion, but I sense it is only to restock their supplies as he is only there for seven days.


As for Private Millers diary,

June 4th, 8:45pm. It was pitch dark as we go out with the platoon on patrol, almost to the Turks’ trenches that are 500 yards from ours. If needed, we are reinforced by another company in front of us, just in case we are attacked. Returned 1am. (This night patrol work is about the worst nerve-wrecking night work possible, but knowing that it is just as bad for the Turks, we are pretty confident as we have the good old bayonet fixed to our guns).


June 5th, I don’t like the quiet, I ask myself, what are they up too?


June 6th, Church service was in the afternoon in the trenches.


June 7th, quiet again.


June 8th, I’m feeling ill and worn out, my nerves are shaken terribly. In the evening I have to be carried to the Field Hospital on a stretcher, my temperature 101.2F.


From the 9th of June, Private Miller was sent to hospital, and then taken to Lemnos, one of the nearby Greek islands to recover from the stress and fatigue, not to mention the trauma.


On the 10th of June, John returns to Alexandria with a handful of soldiers while the British officers considered what tactics to apply against the Turkish forces in Gallipoli.

The recovered Private Miller returned to Gallipoli a month later on the 8th of July, arriving at Anzac Cove at 3am. He was gobsmacked to discover that his battalion were within 25 yards of the enemy’s trenches, and to celebrate, they erected a post, calling it the Tasmanian Post, all to the credit of the 12th Battalion. [37]


Private Miller continued his diary in which he stated:

July 24th the enemy guns were bombarding the beach where hundreds of our men were working, one shell hit 15 men. The Turks have a gun on our flank which is continually knocking out men on the beach. Neither our artillery nor our cruiser can get it. The gun is well known as Beachy Bill. Another on the left is named Lonely Lis. Beachy Bill alone has accounted for over 500 causalities.


July 27th and again I interrupt Private Miller’s diary as Allan Preece boards a ship in Alexandria, bound for Gallipoli. John was stationed at Mex and would have been among the soldiers who loaded the ship with supplies. Since he was already on the dock, he would have given his brother a hearty farewell, and watch him sail off to Gallipoli. By this time the SS Devanha had been converted into a hospital ship which made the troop she was carrying a little uneasy. [38]



Artillery bombarded Achi Baba while the British Forces (Kitchener’s Army) landed. [39]

As for Private Miller, who was already on the beach at Gallipoli, he continued his diary:

July 28th, I was hit in the head with a shrapnel pellet. It did not break the skin, but knocked me out for a day.


August 3rd, there was some very heavy bombarding at Achi Baba, as about 800 of Kitchener’s army lands during the night. [40]

August 5th, I was awoken at 3am. I was enjoying a nice sleep when a 6 inch smoke shell falls about 12 yards away. It buried two men and nearly frightened the life out of me.


British Forces (Kitchener’s Army) land near Salt Lake, Suvla Bay. [41]


August 6th, the Turks attack Tasmania Post, mostly with bombs. They took the trench, but it was recaptured later on. There was some very heavy bombarding nearly all morning. Everyone was ordered to be ready for a big general attack to be made by us at any time, to Pine Ridge.

Three rows of Turkish trenches were to be taken at any price. At 4.30 our artillery and war boats bombarded the Turks. At 5.30 pm, the 1st AIF Brigade took two of the three trenches. They captured the third a little later on. There was some very heavy fighting all night. The Ghurkhas and Tommies were doing good work on the left flank. [42] The 12th Battalion forms reserve for the 1st Brigade. I saw a sight never to be forgotten, as wounded and dying men were everywhere you looked. There were five or six shells bursting at a time around us. A continual flow of bombs were coming into the trenches, with the heaviest rifle fire I had experienced since we landed. Had my knee injured during the night, I couldn’t get a wink of sleep.



The Sari Bari hilltops of the Gallipoli Peninsula. [43]

August 7th. We were woken at daybreak and were surprised to see about 12 war boats, (some of them bombarding). There were six hospital ships, and a lot of transports. Two divisions of Kitchener’s army landed on the left flank during the night at Suvla Bay; they advanced about five miles. All day long I lay here unattended. My knee is painful and I have had hardly anything to eat. I can’t sleep in these very poor conditions.


August 8th (Sunday), I got a little rest during the night. Our boys still holding on, but rest is badly needed. I was attended too early in the morning and then put on to a hospital boat. There is very little room and had to sleep on the top deck all night without blankets and am dying for a feed. While we were leaving, the Turks fired on us. We anchored at Embros for the night. (Embros is an island about 20 miles away from the Peninsula.)


From Embros, Private Miller was ferried back to Alexandria where he was properly cared for and received a good meal and a hot shower. He did mention that he also got a good night’s rest. [44]


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The Turks had the high ground from the Sari Bari range. [45]

In early August of 1915, the 12th Battalion participated in the attack on Lone Pine, where an attempt was made to take the third and fourth lines of the Turkish trenches. This was part of a strategy to draw the Turkish focus away from the main objective which was the assaults against Sari Bari, Chunuk Bair and Hill 971, which became known as the August Offensive.

The battle that took place on the 6th was a bloody and brutal one within the tight space of the trenches. Troops had to engage in close-proximity and hand-to-hand combat, with soldiers on both sides accidentally killing their comrades in the confusion.

One soldier described the event thus: “We were like a mob of ferrets in a rabbit warren. It was one long grave, only some of us were still alive in it.” [46]


For three months, since the April 25th 1915 landings at Gallipoli, the Australian, New Zealand, British and French troops had been forced to dig in. [47] The Turks, who had the high ground in the Sari Bari range in front of them, were able to keep them pinned down with machine gun fire.



3D view of ANZAC Cove. [48]

The Anzac beachhead had become a stalemate. In August an attack was planned to break the deadlock by capturing the high ground from the Turks. In addition, a number of supporting attacks were also planned; even heavy artillery was in place. [49] The 8th Light Horse formed the first two waves for the assault on the Nek. It was early August 1915 when the Australian and British commanders came up with an ambitious plan to seize crucial high ground north of the Anzac positions. The plan was to distract the attention of the Turks by attacking them at Lone Pine with Australian forces, so that British troops could begin landing unopposed at Suvla Bay, eight kilometres north.


The attack on the mountain ridge, referred to as 'The Nek', was timed for 4.30am the next day. The Nek itself was a narrow ridge where Turkish soldiers were trenched in on the higher side with about 40 separate trenches containing armed soldiers with rifles and machine guns.The terrain was a perfect bottleneck, making it easy for the Ottomans to defend. However, the aim was to knock out some nine to eleven tiers of Turkish trenches. It was assumed the Kiwis would have captured Chunuk Bair and would be assaulting down the ridge towards the Turks, while the Australians attacked upwards. But pretty much everything went wrong.

Problem one, the New Zealand advance was held up and they hadn’t captured Chunuk Bair, meaning the Kiwis would be a day late and were in no position to support the attack. [50] However, the Australian commanders still opted to proceed. Plan 'B' was for artillery to bomb the Turkish trenches, rising to a crescendo then halting at 4.30am as the first wave of Australian soldiers charged up the hill. Because the ridge was narrow only 150 soldiers could attack at a time. There were to be four waves, two by members of the 8th Light Horse Regiment and two by the 10th Light Horse. Each wave was to advance two minutes apart. The distance to the Ottoman line was a mere 27 metres away (29.5 yards). Soldiers carried coloured marker flags to be waved if they captured any of the trenches to indicate success. [51]


While Private Miller lay sleeping in Alexandria, the Aussie soldiers were crouched in their trenches at Anzac Cove, fixing their bayonets to their rifles in readiness to charge. All of a sudden, the artillery halted seven minutes early. That has been blamed on the failure of the commanders to synchronise their watches and it left the field officers in a quandary - wait or attack? Either scenario had its risk. The soldiers could be caught in a renewed barrage for seven minutes, or wait, which will allow time for the Turks to re-establish their trenches. They chose to wait which gave the Turks seven enough time to re-fortify the ridge. At precisely 4.30am, the order was a whistle blast that sent soldiers clambering from the trenches below with fixed bayonets and unloaded rifles. The Turks were ready. Machine guns and hundreds of Turkish rifles opened fire causing the Australians to fall within the first ten metres. Lines of soldiers were cut down in the hopeless charge. The second wave was waiting to attack, knowing full well that in two minutes, they are going to their deaths. When the whistle blew, the second wave with Allan Preece, met precisely the same fate. Allan was hit by enemy fire and died where he fell.


By this stage, it should have been called off but someone reported seeing a marker flag in the Turkish trench line, suggesting an Australian had made it to the top. So the next wave of 150 West Australians were ordered to get ready. By now Turkish artillery had joined in, and those waiting clearly knew what was ahead. Colonel Noel Brazier, commander of the 10th Light Horse, objected to the onslaught, saying this was nothing but "bloody murder". Back at headquarters, however, acting Brigade Commander Colonel John Antill insisted the attack proceed. Soldiers shook hands, farewelled each other and charged. They were last seen running forward like schoolboys in a foot race with all the speed they could muster, before they too were cut down. [52]


By now, officers in the line decided enough was enough but Antill again insisted the fourth wave proceed. Colonel Brazier appealed directly to Brigade Commander Colonel Frederic Hughes. For half an hour, soldiers waited as the matter was debated. Finally, Hughes relented and the fourth wave was told to stand down. But in one of those appalling misunderstandings of war, a wave of the hand was interpreted as the go order and those on the right, charged and the others followed. Their fate was precisely the same as their fellow Australians.


As the sun rose over The Nek, the ground lay covered with the dead and dying. There was no way to reach the wounded, which meant their fate was to die alone in no man’s land. From the two units of the Light Horse, 234 had died, of which Allan Preece was one, and another 133 were wounded. The Ottomans did not suffer any casualties. [53] An article was published in the Adelaide Chronicle, the 9th of October 1915, titled, 'The Late Private Allan Preece':

Private Allan Preece, eldest son of Mr Alexander John Preece, of Wolseley, who went to war on February 8th with the 3rd Reinforcements of the 8th Light Horse, was reported missing. His parents have now received word that he was killed in action on August 7th. He was well known in the Wolseley, Naracoorte, Hynam, Dimboola, and Pinnaroo districts, where he had made many friends. He was born at Casterton on July 12th, 1879, and remained there with his parents till he was 11 years old. Then he went to Bordertown, and afterwards to Nalang station, where he was educated.

It was sad really to find out your brother had died two months ago, but that was not really the tragedy. The fact that he was gone, never to return, is what caused many a tear to flow.


Lone Pine was largely considered a success, although some 2,200 Australians were killed or wounded. The 12th Battalion occupied Gallipoli right up until the evacuation in December.


As for John, when he had heard about Allan, he was confused, constantly asking for confirmation, which he got as the soldiers returned from Gallipoli. After the 12th Battalion had returned to Egypt, John heard stories that he would rather forget. When he realised the inevitable about his brother, he was guttered. His duties suffered although he was told by his commanding officer to suck it up, as the Army often did in those days.


By early November John was transferred from the Mex Camp in Alexandria to Maadi, south of Cairo, where he could channel his anger against the Senussi.


The city of Maadi was on the eastern side of the Nile, and was under the jurisdiction of the British. For four centuries the Ottoman had ruled Egypt, however for the last thirty years it was the Brits who had been occupying the Nile valley with a Turkish-appointed khedive at it helm. This all changed on the 19th of December, 1914, when the British deposed him. Henceforth the Nile valley was declared a British protectorate.


The British administrators, who control the Egyptian government, live mostly in Maadi and lined the streets with beautiful gardens, even though Egypt was a desert. The British administrators became the undisputed masters in these parts, and were not amused with the Aussie arrival. To them, the Aussie’s were rowdy, undisciplined and unkempt men who couldn't even speak proper English. The Maadi's Brits' wasted no time in communicating their strong reservations to the Australian commanding officers. [54] However, all that changed when the Australian’s were needed against the Senussi. The Senussi were a religious sect who resided in Libya and Egypt. In the summer of 1915, the Ottomans persuaded the Grand Senussi, Ahmed Sharif es Senussi, to declare a jihad and attack the British who occupied Egypt. The Ottoman goal was to use the Senussi to divert British forces from an Ottoman Raid on the Suez Canal that they had organised from Palestine. In November 1915, Australian troops, which included John, were called to Maadi to protect the British. [55]


The location of Maadi was significant for defending the Suez Canal as reinforcements could have been quickly obtained from the training camps around Cairo, such as the one in Maadi.


For the rest of 1915, Private John Preece became very efficient with his riffle. The extent of the casualties he caused was not on record, however he was given a temporary command of a small unit, possibly to escort the seven prisoners and the wounded back to camp. For three months John was among the fighting, however by the 1st of March 1916, he was needed as a Pack Driver.


As the Senussi retreated from Maadi, they were cut off by the 184 Dorset Yeomanry cavalry. The Yeomen lost half their horses and about a third of the riders but caused about 500 Senussi casualties, and took 39 prisoners. While the Dorset’s pursued the survivors into the desert, the Pack drivers, such as John, were required to retrieve the dead and wounded.



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Sledges towed by horses to move the wounded across the desert in Egypt. [56]




























~ After Gallipoli ~


The news arrived that the 1916 Olympics had been cancelled. John was indecisive about the cancelation since he loved his sports, but since the Games were scheduled for Berlin, it was to be expected. The whole family loved the Olympics because we could see the fruits of our sporting nation, a reputation Australia was proud of. We may be a young country compared to the rest of the world, which is why I guess we like to get out and play. We love our sports, our games and our competitive nature, but we have one gift the others don’t have, we know how to lose gracefully. We have learnt that we don’t always compete on an even playing field and are often considered the underdog. We are ok with that, which means that we also know how to win with humility, since cheating is not in our vocabulary. Our church background saw to that.


There was also a church in Wolseley, but the town was more famous for its railway. The railway station at Wolseley was not just for sheep and grain because passengers were able to ride the locomotive into Adelaide or Melbourne. Margaret would visit Adelaide frequently when she learnt of a society opening up that supplied information regarding the troops overseas. Margaret and her mother, Jane, became a part of the Wolseley committee that was devoted to passing on information obtained from the Cheer-Up Society in Adelaide. Different volunteers would take it in turn to travel by train to Adelaide. They carried a list of soldiers’ names that had relatives in Wolseley, and would obtain information about their loved ones to deliver when they returned to Wolseley.


The Cheer-Up Society was a uniquely South Australian organisation established in 1914 by Adelaide businesswoman Alexandra Seager, and businessman William Sowden of The Register newspaper, to provide for the needs of soldiers on the move during the First World War. Staffed largely by women volunteers who cooked and served meals, they also organised formal farewells and the honouree, 'Welcome Home' gatherings for the soldiers. The Cheer-Up Hut provided returning soldiers with a meal and a place to relax that was deemed morally acceptable rather than a hotel. [57]

The volunteers were organised into groups, each representing the regiment of their chosen soldier that was 'fighting at the front'. There were many families from Wolseley whose sons had joined the war. After Allan had died, the Preece family concentrated their attention on John’s regiment, the 12th.


By December of 1915 the war in Gallipoli was over and the 12th Battalion had returned to Egypt. They had a few months to recuperate before they received their orders from the British Expeditionary Forces to set sail for France and then overland to the Western Front.





Just before December of 1915, fresh Australians began to arrive in England, prior to being shipped off to the port city of La Havre, in France. There were four divisions, each about 20,000 men. It was a new experience for them and although they had trained for this, things became more serious when they moved into the front line trenches, close to the Belgian border. They settled in the trenches around Armentières which had been dubbed ‘the nursery’. [58]

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Marseilles is a port city in the South of France. Armentières is North-West of Lille,

on the Belgium border. [59]



Le Havre, a port city, south of England, while Armentières lays north-west of Lille on the Belgium border. [60]

John had remained in Egypt until he boarded a transport ship on the 2nd of April 1916, with the 12th Battalion, destined for the south of France. They arrived at Marseilles on the 5th April where the Battalion disembarked, before being put onto trains and sent to join their countrymen in the north of France. It was there that they took up positions in the trenches to the south of Armentières where they stayed until early July. Although the Australians were in a relatively quiet sector, there were periods of sharp fighting, shelling, and some heavy raids. By the end of June, over 600 men had been killed. [61]


In early July, the 12th Battalion was moved to the Somme where they were to take part in their first large scale battle on French soil. [62] While en-route, you could hear John screaming for miles. On the 10th of July 1916, he got his hand caught in a railway coupling after he had loaded the train with horses. He fractured his right hand, and was hospitalised. A combination of steel locomotives, and heavy horses was always a recipe for disaster. John was accustomed to trains and horses as he had done this kind of work back home in Wolseley, in fact it was how he lost the top of his finger before he joined the army. Accidents always happen, especially when there is the noise of exploding bombs in the distance to spook the horses.

John had been in the hospital for four days before they had realized that he also had a fractured metacarpal in his left hand, it would be six weeks before he would return to his unit.

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Australian soldiers fill sandbags to strengthen the newly won Australian positions near Le Barque, France, during the advance on the Somme in early 1917. [63]


As for the rest of the unit, on the 23rd July the 12th Battalion took part in the 1st Division’s assault on Pozieres. The village was successfully captured though the Australians had to endure a devastating German bombardment of the area, with very high casualties. [64]


John had returned to his unit before they had to sit through the French winter of 1916/17 when they were stationed near Flers on the muddy battlefield of the Somme. The 39th Battalion, who were all Victorians, arrived in the trenches of the Western Front just in time for the terrible winter. [65]

It was the coldest French winter for decades and many men were evacuated because of the conditions. John saw through the colder months, even taking part in an assault on Le Barque in February 1917. [66]


John discovered that one of the soldiers from the 39th was Private Henry Peter Preece, who had grown up in Sandford, Victoria. He was the youngest in his family with eight brothers and two sisters and had enlisted as soon as he had turned twenty-one. The 39th had landed at La Havre, in France on the 17th of January 1917 before advancing to Armentières.


The 39th’s initial period at the front was also spent at the ‘Nursery’, rotating with the 37th Battalion to hold the trenches that had been established near there. Only ‘No Man’s Land’ was between their lines and the Germans. The time frame in the trenches between December 1916 and April 1917, was declared as the great stalemate, characterized by sniping, periodic shelling and raids with no strategic advances by either side. [67]

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Soldiers watching a bomb explode from the trenches near Armentières. [68]

It turns out that both John and Henry were cousins, and were only a few hundred yards or so from each other in Armentières, yet the two had never met. Back in Australia, John had been born after his parents had left Sandford, plus John was nine years older than Henry. However, their introduction was never meant to be, as Henry became an early casualty of the Western Front. Henry was killed in action on the 14th of April 1917; only a few months after he had arrived in the trenches. [69]


The mail takes a while to get from Australia to France, but before July had ended, John had received a letter from back home in Wolseley, it was bad news stating that his father’s stomach cancer had got the better of him. Alexander died in June at age 65.


At times the fighting was horrific, which is why I want to share a letter with you from Private C. A. Goode of the 5th Australian Division, to his parents in Richmond, Victoria:-

“I am taking a chance in writing you these few lines, as I have just come out of an awful battle. I was knocked about and bruised, and am still very sore, yet I count myself lucky to get out of it so lightly. It was a sorry sight to see how few soldiers answered the roll-call after the battle. They were still shelling us all the way out of the battle zone, and it was then that I nearly came to an end. A big shell landed quite close to me, in fact so close that it scorched my face and half-buried me. I managed to get into the hole that it made, and stopped there for some time. When my mates found me, I was pretty beat up, but I didn't feel the need to go to the hospital, as I knew they were short of men, so I stayed with my troops. I had been reported dead, and everybody was surprised to see me again. My death had been sent in as official, but they told me it was stopped. Don’t be alarmed if it gets through, as you will know by this letter that I am all right. It was Saturday, the 12th, when we received orders to leave for the front, and arrived there in the afternoon, being shelled all the way. We lost a large number. At half-past ten that night we charged the German trenches, under a barrage of our gunfire, and were successful in taking the first lot. We went on further, where we dug the best trenches we could, and there we stopped until Monday night, when we charged on to a farm, which we took after a hard fight. But our luck had run out. We held on for a long while, but as we were losing, and only had a handful of men left, we had to retreat. It wasn’t a nice thing to do after fighting like we did, but we could not help it. They were pouring shrapnel into us, besides hundreds of bombs and rifle fire. The ground looked as if it was alive, jumping up and down, the shells were falling so thickly. I can’t make out how I came out alive, and didn’t have a wink of sleep from when I went in till I came out. We did look a mess; we were wet through and covered with mud. You can tell Archie that I got his and my share of Boshes: you know I don’t like boasting, but I got a few for some of my comrades that fell. It was a terrible sight on Tuesday morning, a sight I never want to witness again, to see our boys mixed up with the dead Germans. Tell the boys over there how much we need them here. I can tell you, we badly needed a few more while we were holding on to that farm. We have to go in again in a few days. I am doubtful whether I can go through it, but will have a good try.” [70]


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Private George Preece – 3457. [71]

As for George, he had been with the 22nd Australian Light Horse Brigade in Australia for three years now and with his father’s passing, he decided it was time to join the fight overseas. At the age of twenty-four George applied for war service in October of 1917. His records describe him as a Roman Catholic, 5’ 9”, blue eyes and dark hair. It is also written in his records that George had one of his toes missing from his left foot, the Army also putting it down to experience with horses, since it made no difference to his ability to walk, run or ride.


Although George was an Australian Light Horseman, only infantry were needed in France. He was soon shipped off to fight on the Western Front with the 50th Battalion. He wondered if he would catch up with John, but he was unsure where he was exactly. The Western Front was a series of fortified trenches that had been dug by both sides along a meandering line, stretching from France’s North Sea, down to the Swiss frontier. This line had some fluctuating moments, but essentially remained unchanged for most of the war. [72]


Meanwhile back home, and just because the Preece women were not at war, doesn’t mean that they were at peace. It was like a bureaucratic slap in the face, where a bungle required a different kind of battle. Margaret had to send a letter to the Red Cross Bureau, asking why the army had taken all her mother’s money from her bank account. Jane was not accustomed to conflict, and consequently was a 'do as your told' kind of woman. Although she had £68 in her Commonwealth bank account here at Wolseley, the military wanted £47 back from her. They claimed she was overpaid, but the banker took all of her money and closed the account. Jane, who could not read or write, was uncertain if she did the right thing, when she surrendered her bank book at the request of the teller.


The problem stemmed from Allan, who out of all of Jane’s sons, Allan was the only one who had asked the military to send money to his mother. The army regularly sent the funds but rightfully reduced her pension because of it. After Allan was killed, they kept sending the money with her reduced pension. When they realised Allan was no longer entitled to a wage, they rightly demanded the funds back. However, the military neglected that she was entitled to a full pension for the same duration and neglected to reimburse her the difference. Overnight, Jane became broke and destitute. The oldest daughter, Margaret, wrote to the Red Cross Bureau, explaining the financial crisis. The Red Cross responded that they regretted they were unable to assist as the Bureau functioned primarily to make enquiries on behalf of the relatives of wounded, sick and missing soldiers. [73] They did not suggest which government department dealt with deaths or finances, although they recommended that Margaret should communicate with the Cheer-up Hut. The fact that Margaret had already stated in her letter to the Red Cross Bureau, that the Cheer-up Society is only a volunteer group who had recommended she should write to the Bureau in the first place, seemed to elude them. So began her illustrious ride on the government department merry-go-round.


Meanwhile, in Bordertown, some fourteen kilometres away, Mary Ann, or should I say, Sarah, as she goes by now, was planning her wedding. Sarah married in 1917 while John and George were still away. It would seem this damn war was going to last forever, let alone if her brothers would even return at all. The war had already claimed one brother and cancer claimed their father, “we must make a statement”, declared Sarah, that “life must go on”.

The wedding was held on the 20th of March, less than a week after Jessie’s birthday. We all wish she was here, however it was still great to see so many smiles on the faces of family and friends. I’m not sure who Sarah married, except that his surname was Mr Templar. [74] Maybe he doesn’t want me to know his first name because of my judgement of others. Understandable really, don’t you think. Never mind. If he wants to keep it a secret, we’ll just call him Simon. [75] Wolseley seemed a little too quiet since a lot of the men had gone off to war. However that was about to change in May, as Margaret and husband Francis had baby number eight, a boy. In respect to her brothers, she named the baby Allan John. He won’t be a Preece like his dear uncles, but he will help Margaret in honouring Allan’s memory.


1917 and by late June back in France, John had earned himself some deserved rest and relaxation and he was determined to enjoy himself. It was while he was on leave that John had his second accident, or what would be more appropriately called an incident. It took a week of painful pissing before he got the courage to tell his doctor that he had a sore penis. His doctor had told him that he caught venereal disease from one of the local brothels, but the cure may be as painful as the disease. After four months the war had taken him to Belgium, and the disease went with him. He saw the doctor there too but the treatment in curing the problem was nasty. To cure the problem, the doctor inserts a device like a tiny umbrella into the eye of the penis, and then open it before it is removed. It was designed to scrape the internal wall in the canal of the mighty sword, hence the reason why so many soldiers put off having the treatment. On the 3rd of September 1917, John eventually submitted to the doctor’s orders, with the promise of another week’s leave to recuperate. And where does anyone go to recuperate when set free in France, you guessed it, he was off to see Paris. This time he chose to see the sights and steered clear of the brothels.


When he returned to his Battalion in Belgium, they were sent to fight at Ypres. The Allies had been fighting there since the beginning of August and the struggle around the area would continue into November. This would be the Third Battle there so far. [76]


The Third Battle of Ypres had the original aim of capturing the ridges east of the city with two ANZAC Corps and then advancing to Roulers. The goal was to close the main railway line that supplied the German garrisons at the Western Front. The unusually wet weather slowed their progress restricting them to the ridges around Ypres. Canadian forces relieved the Australian and British forces and took the village of Passchendaele on the 6th of November, despite extremely heavy rain and heavy casualties. The bad weather and a dogged German resistance produced large numbers of casualties on both sides for relatively little gain by the Allies. The ground was generally muddy and pocked by shell craters, making supply missions and further advancement very difficult. Yet the captured ground was of great tactical importance and a springboard in the coming months when the drier weather was available. [77]


When the Canadian reinforcements replaced the Aussies in Ypres, John received three weeks leave, one week for every year of service. He was happy to get away from the fighting for a while, however he still had to return to his unit in Belgium on the 4th of December.



Le Havre, a port city on the west coast. Amiens is east towards Germany. [78]

Prior to John going off to enjoy himself, George’s Battalion, the 50th, had left Southampton bound for France in August of 1917. Sailing across the English Channel, they arrived in the major Port city of La Havre, in northern France, five days later. The 50th were reinforcements from Australia, more specifically, they were recruits from South Australia and thus became the third purely South Australian infantry battalion abroad. George was on his way to the Western Front. The soldiers of the 50th Battalion were deployed from La Havre, with the intent to support the French and British in repelling the Germans before the enemy could reach the city of Amiens.


Following the successful Allied attack and penetration of the German defences at Cambrai, German officers were determined that the only opportunity for a German victory lay in a decisive attack along the Western front during the spring, before American manpower became a significant presence. On the 3rd of March 1918, Russia signed a treaty with Germany and withdrew from the war. This would now have a dramatic effect on the conflict as 33 German divisions were now released from the Russian border and were re-deployed along the Western Front in what became known as the Spring Offensive. [79]

Operation Michael was the first of the German Spring Offensives, which very nearly succeeded in driving the Allied armies apart. The Germans managed to advance about 60 kilometres during the first eight days and moving the front lines more than 100 kilometres west, within shelling distance of Paris.[80]

From Villers-Bretonneux, go north through Fouilloy and follow the train line east to Dernancourt. [81]



At the end of March 1918, the 50th Battalion assisted in driving the German soldiers back, but not without casualties. [82] By the end of March and into early April, the Allied forces were fighting to defend the French town of Villers-Bretonneux, situated on a strategically important road and the rail junction of Amiens. To capture the city would have allowed the Germans to bring their artillery in and out of France by train. From there they could increase their firepower to inflict greater casualties in the region. The First Battle of Villers-Bretonneux began on the 30th of March, when the Germans attacked around Le Hamel but were pushed back by the allies.

Five days later, and again the Germans renewed their drive towards the city of Villers-Bretonneux. Part of the German attack fell on the French First Army, causing the French to fall back, but their counter-attack regained much of the lost ground. There was a long line of soldiers from north to south that were made up of combined defence forces which included British and Australian troops. By the 4th of April the 14th Light Horse Division, around Le Hamel, had fallen back under attack from the German 228th Division.


There was a long line of soldiers from north to south that were made up of combined defence forces which included British and Australian troops. While the line west of Le Hamel was being reinforced by the arrival of more Australian forces, the Germans resumed their efforts and attacked the defences in the south, at which point Villers-Bretonneux appeared ready to fall.


The Germans came within 400 metres of the town but the Australian commander, Colonel Goddard, ordered a surprise counter-attack late in the afternoon, with around1000 men. They pushed the Germans back, forcing them to retreat from Villers-Bretonneux. Flanking movements by British cavalry and Australian infantry also helped drive the Germans back.

German A7V Panzer tank at Roye, Somme on

March 21, 1918. [83]


According to British records, the participation of the Australian 50th Battalion in dislodging the enemy from Villers-Bretonneux has become legendary. [84] [85]

The city of Villers-Bretonneux protected a bridge into the city of Fouilloy that allowed anyone to cross the River Somme from the South. The only other access to Amiens was from the east, simply by following the railway line from Albert. To hold back the Germans, the 50th were sent to reinforce the French and British soldiers that were already in Dernancourt, 6km out of Albert. However, the Germans had other ideas.


George Preece was among the Australian 50th Battalion who crossed the river at Fouilloy and then it was as simple as going east along the train tracks towards Dernancourt. On the 5th of April, while on route to city of Amiens the Germans mounted the largest attack against Australian troops. A few kilometres shy of Dernancourt lay the farming village of Mericourt-l'Abbe. Although the train line passed alongside the small town, it was predominantly farm land, which made it open terrain for the tanks to roll across the fields to shoot at the Australian and allied soldiers. The German threat persisted until ANZAC Day, the 25th of April 1918, and there are now 122 Australian graves in the town of Mericourt. [86]


George Preece was not killed in the battle, but was hit by mortar fire and was severely injured. He was wounded when a shell that was fired from a German tank exploded in front of him. His lower leg took the brunt of a flying piece of metal, embedding deep into his left leg. He also suffered some slight injuries to his knee, groin, ribs and shoulder. George was eventually retrieved from the battlefield and transported to hospital. [87]

The Australians suffered 665 casualties in total, out of the 2,250 soldiers, of which George Preece was one. German casualties were not fully known but there were at least 498 losses in two of their regiments, while the 9th Australian Brigade recorded 4,000 dead German soldiers along the Western Front and took 259 prisoners. [88]


Within a week George was on a ship back to England, and ended up at the Pavilion General Hospital, in Brighton. The minor injuries healed but the leg had to be amputated from 6" below the knee. After two months he was transferred to another hospital. After being at the 2nd Aux Hospital for four days, they filled out his medical report while he was there, so that on the 23rd of July 1918, George could return to Australia.



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George Preece received an honourable discharge from King George. [89]


While George had been advancing towards the town of Mericourt, John was also playing his part in the trenches to stop the German advancement. Starting in late March of 1918, the 12th Battalion held their position in the cold and damp conditions of the western front. Yet for John, Influenza got the better of him by June. John was laid up in hospital for two weeks before he was able to return to his unit, and later participated in the great allied offensive of 1918, fighting near Amiens on the 8th of August 1918. This attack was spearheaded by Australian and Canadian troops, along with 600 tanks and a gracious air support of 800 aircraft. [90] It was the greatest success in a single day and one of the most successful Allied advances on the Western Front, [91] one that German General Erich Ludendorff described as "the black day for the German Army in this war". [92] The battalion continued operations until late September 1918.


At 11 am on 11th November, 1918, the guns fell silent and soon after, the members of the AIF began to return to Australia for demobilisation and discharge. The war was finally over. [93]


John returned home in time for Christmas and like George, he received a 'Welcome Home' party at the Cheer-Up Hut in Adelaide. In four years the society had catered for 200,000 servicemen. [94]

There was a huge write up in the local paper that went: “John Preece, one of the original Anzacs arrived at Wolseley on Tuesday. He is one of the lucky ones, having come through the strenuous four years without a mishap. One brother lost a leg and the other was killed”. [95]

'Without a mishap', what an understatement, but I won’t tell them if you won’t.


While John was at the Cheer-Up Hut he asked some questions of his own. After learning about Henry Preece in the trenches, he looked to see if there were any other relatives that he should know about, and discovered that Henry had three brothers serving their country as well. He first learnt that Henry’s brother Thomas, who was with the 1st Field Artillery Brigade was also at Ypres when John was there. Thomas Andrew Preece was his official name, and his records show that he was killed in action on the 6th of October 1917, while fighting at Ypres, in Belgium. With Henry in the back of his mind and now finding out that Thomas was in the same area as himself, all of a sudden John felt lucky to be alive.

1st Field Artillery Brigade on the move. [96]


Another of Henry’s brothers was Alfred George Preece, who was nineteen years older than Henry. Alfred was a Train Examiner before he enlisted into the forces in March of 1917. While he was in the trenches he had inhaled poisoness gas which caused him to cough up some blood. He did manage to recover in time to participate in the Spring Offensive. He was a Machine Gunner in the 4th Machine Gun Battalion and although he turned 37 on the battlefield, he at least came home to have his 38th birthday with family and friends. His younger brother by five years, William Patrick Preece had already returned home due to an injury he had sustained in Egypt, in 1915. William didn’t even get to see out four months of service and was as disappointed as hell. All that training wasted.


There was also a record of a Thomas Edward Preece who was from Langford, in Tasmania that was John’s second cousin. He had arrived in France to reinforce the 12th Battalion in time for battle in Ypres. He had fought alongside John as well as Henry’s brother, Thomas Andrew Preece. However, Thomas Edward became aggravated with Pleurisy which is a disease of the lungs, most often caused by pneumonia. [97] He was hospitalised with the disease for nearly six months before he managed to return to his Battalion in February 1918. Six months out of hospital and he was shot in the leg. Although his causality is recorded, there is nothing written about what casualties he caused while returning fire. If you don’t mind a few fishermen’s tales, I’m sure he will tell you a story or two. They patched him up and sent him out again a month later where he received a second wound to the leg, this time ending his tour overseas. He was sent to the Southern General Hospital, in Birmingham, England, where he undertook an operation to save his leg. From there he was sent back home to Tasmania.

Four brothers from one family and a second cousin had served, just as the John and his two brothers had done, all uniting for a single cause and for the sake of the British Empire. But now it was time to rebuild their lives, if they could.

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Hannah Isabella Preece. [98]


With the war behind them, it was time to celebrate their sister’s wedding. In 1919 Hannah Isabella Preece married George Nattrass, a good man who managed to lure her away to Murrayville, Victoria, where they worked the farm together. The wedding went well with the addition of her two returned brothers who helped to celebrate, but I have to say that honouring your oldest brother in a way that is traditionally for the father, is one I did not expect. She wrote on her wedding certificate that her father was 'Allan Preece'.

My first thoughts were that Hannah had dictated the name of her father to someone else to write on her behalf; Allan, Alex, they sound similar, but that logic would only apply if Hannah couldn’t write and therefore, I must be mistaken. Hannah went to school for at least the duration of her primary school years, or possibly until she was sixteen. That meant she could read and write enough for her to fill in her own wedding certificate. Writing 'Allan' as her father was not an error at all, yet we all know Allan is not her father. Well, Allan is certainly not her paternal father, but he was eighteen when Hannah was born. As we said before, Allan never married, yet he certainly had a heart for children. I feel it is safe to conclude that since Allan had a maternal instinct towards his younger siblings; logic dictates that Hannah deliberately recorded Allan on her wedding certificate, as the man who raised her like a father, instead of her biological father, Alex, who never had time for her. It was Hannah’s way of recording the respect she held and the honour that she wished to bestow on her big brother. He deserved the recognition, and this was her way of saying 'Thank you' to her deceased brother, Allan, and her way of letting future generations know what a good man he was.


When the 'Australian War Graves Unit' went to Gallipoli in 1919, the 'Nek' was strewn with the remains of Australian youth lying where they had fallen four years earlier. Allan was one of them and while his flesh had decayed over the years, his bones remained sprawled across the beach along with the other 233 soldiers that had fallen, 154 from the 8th Light Horse and 80 from the 10th. Most were buried in mass graves beneath the very ground on which they fell. The land where they lay is referred to as The Nek Cemetery, in Turkey. [99]


Back home in Wolseley and Jane was still appealing to the government for her pension, and even the Wolseley Council got involved. Meanwhile George had appeared in the papers again.

It was reported that George Preece, a returned soldier had a sad accident when on the 28th of July, he was ploughing a field. As the driver of the plough, George followed his team of six horses but had the misfortune of one of the horses striking a soggy patch of soil. The result was that the horse became a bit ‘touchy’ and got his leg caught over the chains and began to kick. George tried to release the others to save them from being injured, but in his effort, he became entangled among the horses, and was caught on a hook. Consequently, he was kicked himself. There was no-one around to help him at the time and the ‘digger’ had to stand to the battle alone. Finally the horse fell on George and broke his leg. In spite of the injury he hopped around, got the horse free, and went about ploughing till sunset when he took the team home and repaired his own leg. However, it was not his good leg, but his wooden leg that the horse had broken, the one that had been fitted while on active service in the Great War. [100]


By September 1919, Margaret had baby number nine. She was only three short of her mother’s total, the mother that she never wanted to be like. However, history does repeat itself and at times, in the cruellest of ways. Walter Jolly was born on the 29th of August, 1920, but by September, he became the last child that Margaret would give birth to. He died after only a week. She cried her eyes out over her loss, and that she had emulated her mother more than she had cared too.


John decided to make a trip to Victoria to see how his Uncle James was doing, and maybe help with some closure as to how his sons had died. He was unclear on how to approach an Uncle he never really knew and had delayed the trip for some time. When John finally did arrive in Sandford, Victoria, he had found that his Uncle James had already passed on in 1920. His widow, Catherine had been seeking help to communicate with the army over her sons belongings. There had been an issue when the 27 year old Thomas Andrew Preece had enlisted in 1914. The young man was just as illiterate as his parents and being articulate was not a strong point. When Thomas signed up, all the details were verbal, and an error occurred when the clerk wrote his surname as Price, rather than Preece. One advantage was that his next of kin, who was listed as James Price, lived at the residential address of James Preece and family. However, they did not count on the problem with Thomas’ ex-wife.

The couple had separated two years before Thomas went to war. Although they were not divorced, yet his mother said she had deserted him. his ex-wife, Alma, had moved to Darlington, in New South Wales when they had separated. With the discovery that her husband had joined the forces, she had thought nothing of it, yet learning that he had been killed in action, that was a different matter. Since Thomas’ father, James, had passed away before it was resolved, Thomas’ mother, Catherine, was left to tidy up the loose ends, which did not conclude until four years after the soldiers death. Eventually, the war medals were divided between the two women, while the war pension was awarded in accordance to Thomas’ will, and went to his mother.


George was now twenty-eight and he was not getting any younger. He had met Stella when he was in the Military hospital at Keswick. She was a nurse’s aide who George had become infatuated with while she helped with his recovery. He married the young lady of twenty-two on the 30th of September 1921. Married in the Methodist Church at Port Lincoln, Stella Mary Richardson became his wife to the elated joy of his mother. However, it would be the last wedding she would ever attend.


The following year Margaret lost her husband, Francis, who was aged forty-six when he died in May of 1922 at Wolseley. In December the same year, the 67 year-old Jane lost her battle with the military and her fight against cancer. Some would say the two were linked somehow since she too had suffered with cancer for more than a year.


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L-R: Elise Richardson, Edward Jolly, Stella Richardson. George Preece was sitting due to his wooden leg. [101]







































~ Their Memory ~


All of the Preece boys who served were entitled to receive the British War Medal as well as the Victory Medal. As for George, Henry, Thomas and Alfred, they enlisted during 1916 or later, making only Allan, John and William entitled to the 1914-15 Star.



The British War Medal – The 1914-15 Star – The Victory Medal. [102]

The British War Medal 1914-20 was awarded to these men for their service in the army, where entry into a theatre of war on duty, or who left places of residence and rendered approved overseas service between 5th August 1914 and 11th November 1918.


The 1914-15 Star may be awarded to those who saw service in a prescribed Theatre of War between the 5th of August 1914 and 31st of December 1915.

The Victory Medal was authorised in 1919 to commemorate the victory of the Allied Forces over the Central Powers. Each of the Allied nations issued a ‘Victory Medal' to their own nationals with all of these having the figure of Victory on the obverse as a common feature. Australians were awarded the medal issued by Great Britain.





62,000 Australians gave their lives during the First World War and they are now remembered on the Hall of Memory at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. The names are displayed from sunset to sunrise every night, and can be seen from the Memorial's grounds. Each name will be visible for 30 seconds. Allan Preece has his name located at panel 6 in the Commemorative Area at the Australian War Memorial, but we are especially proud of them all.











































~ The Next Generation ~


Although John Preece never married, George and Stella Preece went on to have five beautiful children, all born in Wolseley, South Australia. Child number one was Daphne Joyce Preece, born on the 10th of May, 1922. She was a typical first born child with all the expectations of the world on her shoulders and unrealistic expectations of her siblings. In honour of his fallen brother, George named his second child, whom he refers to as his first born son, Allan Douglas Preece. He was born on the 4th of February, 1924, and although it may have seemed to Daphne that Allan was their father George’s favourite, we know that their all equal, aren’t they? With that said it was certainly Daphne’s perspective that Allan was the favourite, which is why the third child became a daddy’s girl. Betty Jean Preece was born on the 2nd of October, 1925.


George’s younger brother, Angus married in the middle of January 1926 to Aileen May Davids. A year later and they had their first son, Eric John Preece, born on the 8th of January, 1927. Nearly two weeks after that, George and Stella had child number four, Olive Fay Preece, was born on the 19th of January of the same year. As for George, he thought that four children would be enough to keep any parent overworked, and for a while Stella had agreed that four was a good even number for this family, but who gets to decide really? There was a bit of a gap, but on the 13th of June, 1931, the unexpected George Rex Preece was born.


As for Fay, which seemed to be her preferred name, rather than Olive, was already four when her little brother was born. She adored the helpless little infant, wanting to do everything with him and for him. They all loved George Jr. like a brother, but because of the gap in age, he was always playing catch up, especially when it came to sports, education, and I guess, life in general. It was always Fay who was the one patiently waiting for him to catch up. Regardless of his compassionate sister, George favoured his big brother Allan. I suppose a boy always needs a male role model. To George Jr., Fay was more like the doting mother, yet he knew he would be lost without her.

As for Angus there was a bit of trouble brewing on a Thursday night in Wolseley. January 20th was the Thursday in question, when it was reported that Mr Angus Preece lost a valuable stack of hay, which is an important commodity in the farming industry. It was claimed that the hay was destroyed by fire just last week and that the fire was caused by his three-year-old son playing with matches, but something wasn’t quite right. [103] We found out later that the three-year-old couldn’t even strike a match, when in fact it was his older brother John who had lit the fire. About four months later the problem had not gone away. Saturday the 21st of May, 1932, Angus was charged at the Wolseley Police Court. Consequently there was a complaint that wheat was missing from Messrs Stratton & Co.’s stack in the Wolseley railway yard and that Angus Preece, of Wolseley, was seen in possession of the same quantity of wheat that was reasonably suspected to have been stolen or unlawfully obtained. Angus was charged with unlawful possession and pleaded guilty. He was fined £5, with 15/- costs; in addition to one month’s imprisonment. [104]

It didn’t go down well at home and strained the relationship with his wife, Aileen and exposed his reputation to the locals.


A couple of months after Eileen was born, Aileen began to worry since Angus had not come home. An initial search had found his favourite horse near the local dam. He loved his horse and never went anywhere without it. Aileen had no idea where he could have disappeared to, hence the search continued, even to the point of draining the dam. The theory was that the horse had thrown him, causing his body to land in the water.

Weeks went by without any success of finding Angus. His disappearance had left Aileen rather destitute as she had to try and find work with four little children. Aileen milked the cows while the children were sent out to try and sell the milk. Colin had a good head for finances and can still tell you who owes them money.


Years later the truth came out that Angus had run away to Ballarat, Victoria. I’m sure his initial intention was to make his fortune in the Ballarat gold fields but that is only an assumption on my part. Since Angus changed his name, to John Price, it is more likely that he was trying to escape his past, and that he had lost any trust he had within the community. Regardless of which is true, the fact remains that he had no desire to be found by his family, as he had changed his name to John Price.


As for Aileen, life was a struggle. Their oldest son John had no choice but to leave home at a young age, in order to earn a living for himself. Colin and Kevin were too young to do anything but feel their mothers pain, while the youngest, Eileen, was taken away to a foster home. It wasn’t Aileen choice, which just about destroyed her.

It was at this point that Alec and Minnie Preece did what they could to protect the rest of the family. The Wolseley folk were not going to let anything bad happen to her again.


I don’t know when Murdoch moved to Victoria, but he was given the opportunity to put his farming skills to work in Murrayville, not too far away from the South Australian border. He followed his sister, Isabella, to the Nattrass estate, where he farmed the land just outside of Murrayville.

The town's main industry was cereal crops and potato farming, along with sheep and cattle grazing, [105] an industry that Murdoch was well accustomed too.


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Daphne at the crease in a game of backyard cricket. Note the building on the left would have reduced the need for off side fielders. [106]

1932 was also the year that the Olympics were held in Los Angeles and due to the great depression, Australia could only afford to send thirteen Athletes to the games. Although there was a one-hour radio report daily, it was difficult for George to get away from his work to listen to it. Australia had nine men and four women competing in six sports, winning three gold medals, one in cycling by Dunc Gray, in the men's 1000 metre time trial, another by Bobby Pearce in the men's single sculls rowing, and the third in the swimming by Clare Dennis in the women's 200 metre breaststroke. The silver medal went to Bonnie Mealing, in the women's 100 metre backstroke while the bronze was awarded to Eddie Scarf in the men's freestyle light-heavyweight wrestling. As for John, he was disappointed that we didn’t win any track and field medals, but the others held their own.


1932 was also the year that the Cricket was tarnished with bodyline bowling by the English. Our Don Bradman had proved to be invincible to the English team, who took desperate measures to win their game, as they called it.


Bodyline was a tactic specifically devised to combat the extraordinary batting skill of Don Bradman. A bodyline delivery was one where the cricket ball was bowled towards the body of the batsman on the line of the leg stump, in the hope of creating a deflection that could be caught by one of several fielders behind square leg. This was considered by many to be physically threatening to the point of being unfair and unsportsmanlike in a sport once considered to be a gentleman’s game. In their last encounter in 1930 the Australian cricket team won the five-Test series 2–1, with Don Bradman scoring 974 runs at a batting average of 139.14. By the time of the next Ashes series in 1932, Bradman's average hovered around 100, approximately twice that of all other world-class batsmen. England feared that without resorting to drastic tactics, they might not be able to defeat Australia until Bradman retired, who was then only twenty-four. Retirement may be something that might be over a decade away. It was believed that something new was required to combat Bradman, hence bodyline bowling was born.


The English practiced the bodyline concept over the remainder of the 1932 season with varying but increasing success and with several injuries to batsmen. [107]

Although the English players and management were consistent in referring to their tactic as fast leg theory, the inflammatory term "bodyline" was coined and perpetuated by the Australian press.


Terry Jenner bowling to

John Snow.[108]


At the first Test in Sydney, Australia lost heavily by ten wickets, when the bowling spearhead of bodyline, Harold Larwood, took ten wickets. Bradman missed the first Test due to illness, although Jardine, the English captain, thought the real reason was that the batsman had suffered a nervous breakdown due to his tactical scheme. The only Australian batsman to make an impact was Stan McCabe, who resolutely stood his ground and impulsively hooked and pulled everything aimed at his upper body, undeterred by the prospect of taking a potentially lethal blow to the head. He scored 187 not out in four hours. It was an innings described as "among the most stirring innings Test cricket has ever produced".


At the second Test in Melbourne, Bradman wildly hooked at Bill Bowes' first ball (a non-bodyline ball) and was dismissed for a golden duck, leaving the entire stadium in shock. Jardine danced wildly upon Bradman's demise. Australia's eventual victory was met by widespread public jubilation, as many believed that Australia had found a means of overcoming the tactics. Bradman scored a match-winning century in the second innings, but it turned out to be his only triple figure score for the series.

The controversy reached its peak during the second day of the Third Test. On the 14th of January, an all-time record Adelaide Oval crowd of 50,962 watched Australia finish off England's first innings score. Shortly after the start of Australia's innings, Larwood, bowling to a conventional field setting, struck Woodfull an agonizing blow under his heart with a short, lifting delivery. As Woodfull bent down over his bat in pain for several minutes, an image that became one of the defining symbols of the series, the huge crowd began jeering, hooting and verbally abusing the English team. Jardine reacted by saying "Well bowled, Harold." Tension and feelings ran so high that a riot was narrowly averted as police stationed themselves between the players and enraged spectators.

Jardine then ordered his team to move to bodyline positions immediately after Woodfull's injury. The capacity Saturday afternoon crowd viewed this as hitting a man when he was down. Journalist–cricketer Dick Whitington wrote that Jardine's actions were seen as "an unforgivable crime in Australian eyes and certainly no part of cricket".

Mass hooting and jeering occurred after almost every ball. Whitington noted that "Umpire George Hele, believes that if this had occurred in Melbourne, the crowd would have leapt the fence and belaboured the English captain, Larwood, and possibly the entire side".

Some English players expressed fears that a large-scale riot could break out and that the police would not be able to stop the irate home crowd, who were worried that Woodfull or Bradman could be killed in the process.

During the over, another rising Larwood delivery knocked the bat out of Woodfull's hands. Woodfull battled it out for 89 minutes, collecting more bruises before Allen bowled him out for 22 runs.


Outside the sport, there were significant consequences for the relationship between England and Australia, as businesses between the two countries were adversely affected as citizens of each country avoided goods manufactured by the other. [109]

In 1934 a statue of Prince Albert in Sydney was vandalised, with an ear being knocked off and the word "BODYLINE" painted in its place. [110]


1934 was a good year for the Preece’s though. George’s wife Stella had six sisters and a brother. Although one of her sister lived nearby in Wolseley, Stella had not seen the rest of her family in more than ten years. However in 1934, her mother had invited all the extended family home to Port Lincoln for Christmas.


I won’t call it a typical Christmas but for this generation, family was the backbone of Australian culture. George and Stella packed up the kids and rode the train to Adelaide, where they boarded a ship to Port Lincoln. It was a long way to go, but to Stella, it was where she grew up. It was her childhood home. The trip was a long 932 km if they had of gone by car, which was too risky in this day and age. It took the best part of travelling from dawn till dusk, with five children and little to do for entertainment. Stella was looking forward to having her children meet their grandparents, as well as catch up with her brother and sisters and see their kids.



The Box Brownie Camera, by Kodak. [111]

Although Stella and George travelled from Wolseley in the South-East, two of her sisters had come from Haslam and Petina, in the Streaky Bay district which is another 293km on the other side of Port Lincoln. It was what we called meeting in the middle, but in all fairness, it may have been overly lopsided, but it was still worth the effort for the kids to meet their cousins and for the family to re-unite. If you can imagine twenty two children, all related to each other, it was an exciting time, especially since it was Christmas, and they all had new toys to show off to each other. [112]


Daphne was twelve when she met her grandparents, Allan was ten, Betty, nine, and Fay was seven. Young George was only three, and unlikely to remember the experience. [113] Except for the long trip, the others had a lot of fun.


The Anderson drove over from Streaky Bay, while the youngest of Stella’s sisters still lived at home with their parents. It was an emotional time for Stella, one that would never be repeated on such a grand scale. George took as many pictures as he could with his trusty box Brownie, they were a fantastic camera and suitable for the novice of the day.

Stella’s other sister married a Port Lincoln local. Their five children were named Hubert, Eric, Allen, Cliff and Les Patterson. We know for sure that he is not the Sir Les Patterson, of Dame Edna fame, but wouldn’t that be a laugh.


War broke out again in 1939, which caused Stella concern for her family. George had discussed the option of re-enlisting, but he was beaten to the punch. In February 1940, young Allan, who was only sixteen, caught the train to Loveday where he enlisted into the Army. George was furious and contacted the authorities for enlisting a minor. When the Army found out they were compelled to delist the young man. George was not against him joining the Army and gave Allan some options. He could join if he wished, but when he was eighteen, the legal age for the Army, but he could not go overseas until he was twenty-one.

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The Volunteer Defence Corps. [114]

Notice the image of the same soldier in the background from his younger days during WW1.

However when Allan had gone to Loveday to sign up for the Army, he met a young lady who travelled on the train, on her way to and from the city.


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George Preece WWII. [115]

Marjorie Pamela Anderson was born on the 29th June, 1925, the only daughter of Henry Gunter Anderson and Doris Victoria Stokes. Marj, as she preferred to be called, believed that her mother had two miscarriages or stillborn's, one prior to her birth and one after, making Marjorie her mother’s little miricle. Marj attended the local primary school, but went to St Alloyious Catholic Boarding school in Adelaide for her secondary education. She then attended the Conservatorium to study music and singing. Playing the piano was her instrument of choice. She achieved an Associate of the London College of Music for singing in 1941 (ALCM) and a Licentiate from the London College of Music in 1942 (LLCM) also for singing. When she completed her studies she worked for Bennett and Fisher as a shorthand typist and boarded in Burnside (Adelaide) with Mrs Byrnes, and would regularly ride the train home to Loveday to see her parents, playing the piano for them.


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DOMF camp, Alice Springs. [116]

As for George, when the Second World War started, he joined the 9th Battalion, in the V.D.C. (Volunteer Defence Corps) at Bordertown, in April, 1942.

The V.D.C. was an Australian part-time volunteer Army that was modelled on the British Home Guard. The VDC was initially composed of ex-servicemen who had served in World War One. The government gave the organisation the role to train in guerrilla warfare, collect local intelligence and provide defences, should the Japanese invade Australia.

As the perceived threat to Australia increased, so did membership to the V.D.C., comprising of men who were unfit for combat in the regular forces, or were over the age limit.


Some of the missions for which the Volunteer Defence Corps prepared for, included the construction of road blocks, demolition of bridges and piers, protection of airbases and industrial sites, plus any vulnerable targets.

George had a couple of postings with different units at different locations, such as Mount Gambier, Loxton, Naracoorte, and Murray Bridge, where he would have trained new members in unarmed combat and how to make homemade bombs. [117]


However there was one member of the family who was too young to enlist during the First World War and that was Angus Preece. Under his alias, John Price, he was eager to play his part in the war effort. Although he got off to a shaky start, he served for three and a half years, making Sargent before he was discharged with an injured knee. His posting was with the 9th AIF Division and served in North Africa where he was a member of the infamous, 'Rats of Tobruk'. The 'Rats of Tobruk' was the name given to 14,000 soldiers who held the Libyan port of Tobruk against a siege by the combined efforts of the German and Italian armies, commanded by the undefeated General Erwin Rommel. Starting on the 10th of April 1941 the Australians ruined Rommel’s untarnished record but not before some 3,000 of the 9th Australian Division's had become casualties and 941 were taken prisoner. After Angus was discharged from the army, he continued to live in Victoria, somewhere along the North Shore in Geelong. As John Price he remarried, however it was a bigamist marriage that his wife, Violet May Clarke, had no idea of. They had four children together and alias John was considered a hero for his war efforts.


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John Preece. WWII [118]

George’s other brother John, didn’t wait long at all either. In August 1940, John re-enlisted in the Second World War. He enlisted into the catering corp, which bluntly translates as a cook. His first posting was to Alice Springs where he served meal after meal for two years. He became part of the Darwin Overland Maintenance Force (DOMF) which was an Australian Army unit responsible for the supply of food, medical, sanitary and signal services to the gangs building the North-South road in the Northern Territory and to any military personnel that happened to be camped along way.[119]


His records state that by the end of 1942, he was admitted to Hospital for being over age. I don’t understand it either, yet for his fifty-fifth birthday he was promoted to Sergeant Cook, only to find an error in the paperwork, as they had accidently promoted him to Staff Sergeant. I guess they liked his cooking. However John seemed to be having some breathing problems that was finally diagnosed as Asthma. It didn’t stop him from being able to serve in the Army for another year at Wayville. Six months later, John found out there is still one practice that the Army doesn’t tolerate, no matter what rank you are, and that is drunkenness. He was severely reprimanded and knowing the Army, the consequence was a lot worse than a hangover. There were also crosses placed in his records, with writing in bold red lettering that he was charged with drunkenness, preventing him from gaining any further advancement in the military. By August of 1943, he was discharged as medically unfit with Chronic Rheumatism. I’m guessing it was in his hands due to his horrific accident in France when he was 29. Considering he was now 56, we can only commend him for his efforts during two world wars.


Back home and it was Daphne day in the spotlight. Daphne was George and Stella’s first born. Growing up with younger siblings teaches you to be well organised and structured, while the younger kids were not. Being the firstborn made her different from her siblings, dividing the Preece family into the conventional and the extravagant. It was hard to believe that Daphne was a Preece when Allan, Betty and Fay were more adapted to getting their hands dirty.

Daphne’s style for the extravagant was most relevant in 1943, when she married Ernest Herbert Rice in April. The wedding was so spectacular that all of Wolseley was reading about it by the next weekend. The Bordertown newspaper is called the Border Chronicle and the headlines on the thirtieth of April read, 'Pink and Blue Wedding'.


It was written that the wedding of Ernest Rice, to Daphne Preece was tastefully decorated with bowls of dahlias and chrysanthemums in pink toning. The Wolseley Church of Christ chapel made a pretty setting for the marriage of Daphne Joyce, eldest daughter of Mr and Mrs George Preece, of Wolseley, to the eldest son of Mr and Mrs E. H. Rice, of Dimboola, Victoria, which was celebrated on Saturday, April 24. Pastor W. A. Russell officiated, and Mrs Ken Jolly presided at the organ.


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Ern (Ernest) Rice and Daphne’s Wedding. [120]

The bride, who entered the chapel on the arm of Mr C. E. Verco, made a charming picture in a white Moira Taffeta frock with a long train. The bodice had a heart-shaped neckline, trimmed with seed-pearls, and tiny buttons down the back. The long, tight-fitting sleeves were also relieved with tiny buttons. She wore a moonstone necklet, brought from Colombo during the last war by her father. Her veil was held in place with orange blossom, and was silk-embroidered at each corner. She wore white lace gloves and carried a bouquet of white artificial flowers.

Wearing blue and pink respectively, Misses Betty and Fay Preece, sisters of the bride, also looked sweet in frocks of English crepe, trimmed to the waist with diamanté, with V-shaped neckline, elbow-length sleeves, and full skirts.

The headdress of net was ornamented with hyacinths. Lace mittens and gold shoes were worn, and they carried bouquets of pink dahlias and carnations. Little Kay Jolly, cousin of the bride, was delightful as the flower girl, dressed in a blue frock in early Victorian style, while carrying a basket of carnations. Mr Murray Coventry was best man, while Mr Paul Jolly, cousin of the bride, carried out the duties of groomsman.


Wolseley Institute – a community venue for parties and social gatherings.


During the signing of the register, Mrs W. A. Russell sang very sweetly “God will take care of you”.

As the bride left the chapel, two lucky horseshoes were hung on her arm by Patty Staehr and Carole Keiley.

The bride’s mother chose a black silk crepe tailored jacket-suit, relieved with a blue and black hat and accessories to match. The bridegroom’s mother wore a blue ensemble with black accessories, and a spray of pink rosebuds.

About 120 guests were entertained at Wolseley Institute where the reception was held. Pastor Russell presided at the sumptuous wedding breakfast prepared by the bride’s mother. The usual toasts were honoured and many telegrams of good wishes were read. The two-tier wedding cake, made by the bride’s auntie (Mrs Paterson) and decorated by Mr Baker, was cut by the bride, assisted by the bridegroom. Many beautiful and useful presents were received, including a Bible from the congregation of Wolseley Church of Christ. Mr Staehr, on behalf of Mr Rice’s workmates presented a monetary gift to the happy couple. After the breakfast, dancing was enjoyed under the direction of Mr Lin Cooney, music being supplied by Mrs N. McLean.

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The slogan for the Women’s regular Army. [121]


A vital war requirement that needed volunteer women to help win the war. [122]

The Bridegroom’s gift to the bride was a dressing set, and to the bridesmaids, a locket and chain set each, and the flower girl a signet ring. The bride’s gift to the bridegroom was a wallet.

The happy couple left by express for Adelaide, where the honeymoon is being spent. The bride travelled in a blue jacket-suit, and wore a navy felt hat, with navy accessories. Their future home will be at Wolseley.

I don’t know who wrote the editorial for the newspaper, but it soon became obvious that they were well suited to the task.


As for the war, it had been continuing now for four years and there was a shortage of male recruits, forcing the military to establish service branches for female soldiers. The RAAF established the Women's Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF) while the Army formed the Australian Women's Army Service (AWAS) and the Australian Army Medical Women's Service. In July 1942 the Navy formed the Women's Royal Australian Naval Service (WRANS). [123]


At the beginning of April 1944, young Betty had decided to do her bit for the war effort, and signed up for the AWAS. [124] Women were not allowed to fight in the war, but were still needed to free up the men. Both Betty and Fay wanted to do their bit to serve. Betty became a signalman, which is the official title for someone who is equipped to understand and decipher radio signals and messages such as Morse code. [125] As for Fay, she would not be held back and joined the Australian women’s land Army, serving at Berri, South Australia.

By 1944 almost 50,000 women were serving in the military and thousands more had joined the civilian Australian Women's Land Army (AWLA). Many of these women were trained to undertake skilled work in occupations that were traditionally male roles. [126]



Allan Douglas Preece – 1944 (AFI). [127]

Allan was twenty when he enlisted on the 22nd of August 1944, for the second time at Loveday, South Australia. [128] After three months training he was on board a ship for New Guinea, destined for the Battle of Morotai, but came down with dysentery and was sent back home to recover. [129] While he was still at home Allan Douglas Preece announced his engagement to Marjorie on Friday, the 10th of November 1944.

Allan was to begin his service early the following year with the 25/33 Garrison battalion, which was stationed at the Loveday internment, what is more commonly referred to as a Prisoner of War Camp. [130]

On the 1st of December 1944, Signalman Betty Preece, of the AWAS, was home on leave, after eight months training. From here Betty was off to her posting in Townville, northern Queensland to perform her signal duties. [131]


Betty joined an elite group of communications operators in an Army Signals Bunker at Roseneath, not far from Townsville.


The Signals Centre was hidden in a Bunker at Roseneath. [132]



Betty Jean Preece – 1944 (AWAS).[133]

The bunker was operating 24 hours a day by Army personnel. The Signals Centre's communications network linked up with the Army's main command centres in Brisbane and Melbourne, as well as the Australian AIF units who were camped on the Atherton Tablelands, near Cairns, in Tropical North Queensland. They also had radio links via New Guinea and liaised important information from the Navy and Air Force Units in Townsville. [134]



Fay Preece – 1944 (AWLA).[135]

It all sounds a bit cloak and dagger, yet the full extent of what information passed through this communications centre, will only ever be completely known by the army.


As for Fay, her bubbly personality was not only seen by those she worked with but was used to help raise money. The girls from the Land Army held a Ball in Berri on February 1st, at which they raised £42/17/-, in aid of the Pin-Up Girl candidate, Miss Gwenda Powell. [136]Photos of pinup girls were popular for inspiring the boys that were fighting overseas.


By early March, Allan was given a Wolseley send-off in 1945, three weeks after his twenty-first birthday. About 80 of his friends gathered in the Wolseley Institute hall on Saturday evening, February 24th, to wish Private Allan Preece, Godspeed, good luck, and a safe return. A posie was presented to Allan’s mother, Stella. The departing soldier suitably responded with a salute. [137]


Allan was to begin his service with the 25/33 Garrison battalion, which was stationed at the Loveday internment, what is more commonly referred to as a Prisoner of War Camp. [138] During World War I and II, Australia housed thousands of “enemy aliens” in camps and compounds across the country. They’re our wartime secrets on home soil. Although the prisoners lived in Australia, they were from countries that were at war with the British Empire.

There were also a number of escapees, however most POWs were recaptured as they had nowhere to go. Many recaptured POWs also told of experiencing the Australian “fair go” as they were given food and directions.

South Australia consisted of one main internment camp at Loveday, near Barmera on the River Murray. The Loveday Internment Group accommodated German, Italian and Japanese internees from various states of Australia, and international internees and POWs. It consisted of six compounds and accommodation for personnel of the 25/33 Garrison Battalion who kept guard.

During its peak, the camp held over 5000 internees who produced goods and cultivated crops for the Australian war effort. [139]


August 6th, 1945 was the biggest event that turned the tide of the war was when an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. That single bomb wiped out nearly five square miles of Hiroshima and 60% of the population of 348,000 were killed. An estimated 51,000 were injured or missing. The war was officially over as Japan signed a peace treaty on the 2nd of September 1945, [140] but peace was never achieved, only fear.



Fay is peering over the top of the truck, with Daphne dangling over the side. Betty is standing on the step, while Allan is the driver of the vehicle who also wants to be in the photo. [141]

By November 1945, Fay’s time with the Land Army was packing up, or at least in the Berri district. On Wednesday, the 7th, seventy members of the Australian Women’s Land Army had left Berri, which was the final departure for the girls in the district. The Land Army is to disband at the end of the year.

For the past three and a half years members of the AWLA have been employed continuously at Berri and will go to the Adelaide Hills to pick cherries prior to being discharged. Messrs R F Halliday and E A G Morris (proprietors of the packing houses) stated that the girls had done excellent work. They had performed all types of duties, including the packing, grading and sorting of dried fruit, and slicing and packing the dehydrated potatoes. A fantastic effort was done by all to help feed our soldiers at war. [142]


With the war over, the medals were awarded to George and John for their service to their country, as were Allan and Betty. Fay was considered an Australian Volunteer rather than regular army and was not entitled to the same war medals.

The War Medal 1939-45 was awarded for full-time service in the Armed Forces, wherever that service may have been rendered during the war. Operational and non-operational service may be counted, providing that it was of 28 days or more duration.


The Australia Service Medal 1939-1945 was instituted in 1949 to recognise the service of members of the Australian Armed Forces and the Australian Mercantile Marine during World War II.


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War Medal 39-45       Australia Service Medal 39-45

Medals awarded to George and John, Allan and Betty, for their contribution to WWII. [143]

As for George, he received four medals from two world wars, while John received five. In addition, Betty was awarded the Service Women Medallion, while the Medallion was all Fay received. [144]




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Service Women Medallion

Awarded to Betty and Fay Preece. [145]


























~ After the War ~


Allan and Marjorie married on the14th of May 1946, fifteen months after Allan’s send-off at Wolseley. The announcement in the Adelaide Advertiser read: The marriage of Marjorie Pamela, only daughter of Mr and Mrs H. G. Anderson, of Loveday, to Allan Douglas (A.I.F.) elder son of Mr and Mrs Preece, of Wolseley, will marry at St. Augustine’s Church of England, Unley on Saturday, May 18, at 3.30 p.m. [146]

After they married, Marj and Allan honeymooned in Mt Gambier. At first they lived with her parents at Loveday whilst they were building their home in Cobdogla. Not long after the house was completed they were offered a Soldiers Settlement block at Loxton. After much deliberation they chose this option and moved to Loxton where they lived in a tin shed (Nissan Hut) on their block until they built a new home.[147]


The war was over, but lifestyles were far from normal. Many migrants hailed from refugee camps in Europe and were pursuing a new life after the Second World War. In 1946 George purchased the old hospital and for four years conducted it as the Tailem Bend Hostel. [148] Migrant hostels were introduced in 1946 and remained a feature of the immigration system until the 1990s.


In the five decades following the Second World War, tens of thousands of ‘new arrivals’ were accommodated in fifteen migrant hostels across South Australia. Many of the migrants stayed in the hostels as they sought to find work or housing in the area. While most residents only stayed for a number of weeks, some remained in the hostels for years.


Due to the great number of migrants, housing became problematic, causing the living standards of the hostels to diminish. Improvements were made over time, but the government wasn’t inclined to raise standards too much – they didn’t want migrants to take up permanent residency in the hostels. [149]


It was from the hostel in Tailem Bend that Fay would meet her future husband. His name was Thomas Vesely and had been born in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia. He had been displaced in the world, and had lost both his parents to the war, which forced him to start a new life, which he began at the South Australian hostel in Tailem Bend.


On the 24th of May 1947, Daphne and Ernest had their first son. Leslie Rex Rice who was born at the Tailem Bend Hospital. [150] Later the same year, Betty married on Friday, December 19th at 7 pm to a soldier, Harry Arthur Hutton, the only son of Mrs and the late Mr P. Hutton, of Underdale. All friends and relations were cordially invited to the wedding. [151]

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The wedding of Harry Hutton to Betty Preece.

Fay Preece was the bridesmaid. [152]

It became obvious that Betty was not competing with her older sister Daphne, well, maybe with the wedding cake she was, but since the reception would have to have been extravagant and expensive to surpass Daphne’s wedding extravaganza, she kept her composure, after all, we had all just been through a war, and a world war at that.


However this was the decade that is referred to as the baby boomers. With the war over and many lives had been lost, everyone was glad to be alive. Companionship was high on the agenda and procreation and reproduction was the result, so much so that the following year Allan and Marjorie Preece had their first child, a daughter. Christine Alva was born at the Barmera Hospital on the 11th of April, 1948. [153]

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A newspaper advertisement for the latest 1949 Ford family car. (Border Chronicle).

Betty and Harry followed suit, however their first child decided to be a Christmas present for them, as Glenn Hutton was born on December 25th, 1948. [154]


Eventually Allan and Marj moved to Adelaide where Marjorie became employed as a secretary at the Vehicle Builders Union until she retired.[155]

Allan was a grape grower who went on to represent the industry, rather than the usual family farming. His dad, George, worked for Goldsborough Mort and Co., in 1950, as overseer of the local sheep and cattle trucking sale yards, and despite his infirmity, was very active. However our story has been redirected towards the beginning of the year, or should I say the night before.


The news from Wolseley had quickly reached Adelaide by January 1st 1950. By the next day, the headlines in the Advertiser read, ‘Old house burnt down’.

While the New Year’s Eve party was in full swing at the Wolseley Institute, a four-roomed wood and iron house on the outskirts of Wolseley was burnt to the ground. When the alarm was given, the New Year’s ball had just begun, and the dancers hurried to give what assistance they could. [156]

By the time they got there, the large crowd could do nothing but watch the blazing inferno. When the fire truck arrived from Bordertown, the structure was burning fiercely from one end of the house to the other. The house, furniture and contents were all gone and all the fire fighters could do was to extinguish the smouldering heap of ruins. [157]


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The aftermath of the fire. [158]

Aileen Preece was distraught and homeless, yet it was the loss of her family photos that had broken her spirit. The cause of the destruction was blamed on the kerosene fridge.

Although it was one of the oldest homes in the town, Aileen was well respected. It’s at times like this that a community gathers together for the sake of the desolate, where good people become determined to help rebuild a life. Wolseley is a small town, but it has a big heart that was determined to see her rise quickly from her misfortune. When they found the house was uninsured, they banded together. By February, the town committee had organised a fundraiser. While a quantity of furniture and kitchen utensils were donated by Wolseley Methodist Ladies Guild. By the end of the appeal, the residents of Wolseley and surrounding district had raised an impressive £530. [159]


I have to mention the cricket game that was also held in order to raise funds for Mrs Preece. I’m guessing that there were many spectators who were willing to pay to see a game that was more a spectacle than a spectator event, as some of the participants had not played the game in a while. How do I know, because the reporter for the Border Chronicle that was there wrote: A cricket match was held on Wolseley recreation oval recently to aid the appeal for Mrs A. Preece. Cricketers of all descriptions, old and young, short and tall, took part, little thinking that the strain they put on themselves might have some after effects. The takings amounted to £2/16/- towards the benefit appeal fund. Mr Dayman’s team proved too strong for their rivals, captained by Mr Moore. The scores were 105 to 72 runs. Stars of the match were: Batting: Monogue 25, Dayman 24, Durbidge 22. Bowling: F. Moore 4 for 2 from 8 balls. [160]


Once all the charity work was done, the Committee then purchased a home in Wolseley for Aileen, worth £400. After paying expenses, the remaining sum of £121/19/9 was placed in a State Savings Bank account in the name of Mrs Aileen May Preece.

Mr T. Woods and R. Clark were kind enough to purchase the first year’s fire insurance premium on her new house, just to be sure. Mrs Preece moved in the next day. [161] At the next meeting of the Ladies Guild, Mrs Preece had sent a letter of appreciation and because there were so many people involved, the Guild had it published in the Border Chronicle for all donators to read. She thanked the league for the house, as well as the many gifts that were given to her, in order to furnish her new house and make it a home. [162]


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1950 L-R: Ted Shortfelt, Fay Preece, George Rex Preece, Betty June Preece (nee Wright), Merle Wright, Allan Douglas Preece and flower girl, Jenny Hanson. [163]

























It was George Rex Preece who had the next wedding in the family. On the 28th of October, 1950, the papers read: A very pretty wedding was witnessed at Tailem Bend Methodist Church on October 28th, when Betty Joan, youngest daughter of Mr and Mrs Harold Wright, of Cookes Plains, married George Rex, youngest son of Mr and Mrs George Preece, of Tailem Bend.

The decorating of the church, which made an effective background for the ceremony, had been carried out by friends of the bride. The bride looked most becoming as she entered the church on her father’s arm. She was attended by her sister and a sister of the bridegroom.

The best man was the brother of the bridegroom, Mr Allan Preece, while Mr M. E. Shortfelt was groomsman.

During the signing of the register, Mrs Allan Preece very sweetly rendered ‘Because’.

Prior to the wedding breakfast, to which approximately 70 people sat down, the bridal party motored to Murray Bridge. During the reception the usual toasts were honoured and the three-tiered wedding cake cut. The honeymoon is being spent at Kangaroo Island. Future home of the couple will be at Tailem Bend. [164]


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1951 L-R: Harry Hutton; Allan Preece; Thomas Vesely; Fay Vesely, nee Preece; Betty Preece and Ms Day. The flower girl is Rosemary Rice. [165]

The following year, the wedding notices’ were published for Fay’s marriage to Thomas. The wedding was held on Saturday, January 20th, at 2pm. The notice was very formal stating that the marriage of Olive Fay, youngest daughter of Mr and Mrs G. Preece, of Tailem Bend, to Thomas, only son of the late Mr and Mrs T. Vesely, of Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, will be held at the Methodist Church, Tailem Bend. [166]


While Allan, Fay’s brother, was the best man for Thomas Vesely, Fay’s matron of honour was her sister Betty and the bridesmaid was Ms Day.


Allan and Marjorie had child number two in September of 1951. Neville Simon Preece was born on the 17th. Eight months later, Betty and Harry had a daughter on the 29th of June 1952, at the Mile End Emergency Hospital. Maureen Dawn Hutton became the second of three cousins born within a year. [167] To complete the trifecta, Fay and Thomas had their first child, a girl. Sherrell Ann was born on the 6th of September 1952, at the Tailem Bend Hospital. [168]

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Sherryl, aged 2yrs 10mths, and Peter, aged 11mths. [169]


A few years later, Fay and Thomas gave Sherrell a little brother, Peter John Vesely, who was born on the 12th of August 1954, also at Tailem Bend, and yes all of them are considered ‘baby boomers’.

Sometime later Fay and Thomas divorced. Although Thomas remarried in NSW and fathered another three children, Fay’s priority was, and had always been her children and didn’t marry again until much, much, later.

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Betty Cuthbert. Australian Olympic sprinting champion. [170]


In 1956 the Olympics had come to Melbourne and for the first time it could be seen on TV. Every Australian was standing in a Myer or John Martins store to watch their country folk compete on the world stage. I exaggerate a little, actually a lot, as most Aussies were getting televisions in their homes, albeit black and white versions, or would invite the neighbours over to share the experience. As for John, he wanted to sit among the Olympic crowd and cheer on his compatriots. Compared to Egypt and France, Melbourne was a stone’s throw away, and was just across the border. Being at the Olympics was the crowning moment in his life for two reasons. Firstly, because it was a peace time event that would rarely come to Australia, where he could witness first hand feats of courage and endurance, and secondly, because he had always wanted to race like an Olympian.


The 1956 Summer Olympics were the first to be staged outside of Europe or North America. Featuring 151 events, Australia came third in the overall medal tally, behind the Soviet Union and the United States. With 35 medals, Australia received less than half of the U.S., while the Russians were too good for everyone with 98 medals. [171]

Australia won 13 gold, 8 silver and 14 bronze, but it was the women who captured our hearts. On the track, it was Betty Cuthbert who won the women’s 100 and 200 metre sprints, followed by Shirley Strickland who achieved the impossible 80 metre hurdle. The two joined forces with Norma Crocker and Fleur Wenham to clinch the four by 100 metre relay, outdoing the men’s second place in the 400 metre relay. The Aussie crowd was standing on their seats to cheer their country-folk across the finish line.

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Lorraine Crapp and Dawn Fraser at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. [172]

Although the men won five gold medals in the swimming pool, none of them were as electric as the illustrious Dawn Fraser, winning in the 100 metre freestyle, and second in the woman’s 400 metre freestyle. Her achievements in the pool were loved by all, and her 100 metre victory would be repeated in the next two Olympics.


There were medals won in the Athletics, Swimming, Cycling, Rowing, boxing, canoeing and sailing, but it was not only about the victories, but how we competed. Good sportsmanship is not only an Aussie trait; it is admired and expected by all Australians. [173]


1959 was filled with emotions as it delivered some good times and some bad. The bad was that Daphne Joyce Rice, the oldest daughter of George and Stella Preece died of cancer on the 29th of March 1959, leaving her oldest son, who was nearly 12, grief stricken. George was not that well himself, but the thought of losing his daughter was devastating news. Her loss had overshadowed the good news, which was that Allan and Marjorie had child number three, Sandra Elizabeth Preece, who was born on the 22nd of June, 1959 [174] while indifferent health caused George to retire and live the quiet life at his house in Tailem Bend.

Allan and Marjorie continued their child rearing escapades and had their fourth child, as Pamela Frances Preece was born on the 17th of March, 1961.


George, who had been an active member of the RSL over the years, was honoured by them on his passing. On the 28th of January 1966, the 74 year old was buried at the RSL section of the Murray Bridge Cemetery. After the funeral, Fay was left with the upkeep on the family home, and turned it into a boarding house so that it could provide an income. Young Peter can still remember school teachers and government painters that would stay for various lengths of times. The teachers were on contract to the school and would stay for the duration of their twelve month commitment, while the painters would come and go depending on their customer’s requirements.





































~ In Honour of ~


It had been fifty years since the First World War, and support to remember the past was being revised. The government introduced a medallion to revive the memory of those who had lost their lives in service of their country. In 1967, to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Gallipoli landing, the Gallipoli Medallion was issued to everyone who served at Gallipoli, or their families. Allan had died at Gallipoli, therefore his medallion was offered to his next of kin. Since George died the year before, John was the remaining next of kin and would have received all three medallions. Sadly, time wont allow us to live forever and in November of 1969, John was reunited with his brothers George and Allan. The wereabouts of the medallions remain a mystery. [175]



1967 – The Gallipoli Medallion [176]



As for the rest of the family, Aileen May Preece died at Bordertown on the 14th of June 1968 at age 71. Peter John Vesely joined the Army in 1972, which was the start of a career that would span over 44 years. [177]Peter married Toni Daly and had 2 children, Sascha May who was born on the 13th of December 1977, and who sadly passed on Christmas Eve, eleven days later. She may not have been with us for very long, but the impact from the loss remains for a lifetime.


After some tense emotions during her next pregnancy, Toni gave birth to a healthy baby boy. Jarrett Warren Vesely was born on the 17th of August 1979.

It was three years after Jarrett was born that his grandmother, Fay, remarried. The wedding was held at Tailem Bend where Fay married Kintore Biddle, on 27th of August, 1982. His friends call him Ken.

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OBE Civilian grande. Awarded to Allan Douglas Preece. [178]


1982 was a good year, but first I want to introduce you to the Australian Honours system: Like nearly every other country in the world, Australia has a system of honours and awards so its citizens can be recognised for excellence, achievement or meritorious service and contributions to our society. Honours help define, encourage and reinforce national aspirations, ideals and standards by identifying role models. We give honours to recognise, celebrate and say thank you to those who make a difference, those who achieve their best and those who serve others. [179]

Mr Allan Douglas PREECE was honoured with The Order of the British Empire (OBE) - Member (Civil) for Primary industry, awarded 31st December, 1982, for his occupation as the Federal President of the Wine Grape Growers. [180]



Paul Harris Fellow Award.

To Allan Douglas Preece,

from the Rotary Club of Australia, for services to the youth. [181]

Allan will be best remembered in his career for his OBE which was awarded for services to Wine Grape Growers, while his love for others was rewarded with a ‘Paul Harris Fellow’, awarded by Rotary International for his services to International Student Exchange. [182]


Allan was a busy man, and achieved great things, none of which would have been achievable without the support and effort of his wife Marjorie. Marj, as she preferred to be called, typed all his minutes and letters and organised and filed his records. With her support, Allan was able to volunteer at the youth centre and after he retired, he became a volunteer for an employment group called ‘DOME- Don't Overlook Mature Expertise’, in order to help older people look for work. [183]


Written in January 1984, be it a business statement, was: Minimum wine grape prices for the 1984 vintage were announced by Commissioner R. C. Noble in SA. For the more preferred varieties, increases range from $20 to $50 a tonne in irrigated areas. SA Wine Grapegrowers’ Council president Allan Preece said increases were “well below expectations”. He reminded growers prices were set at a minimum and it was their responsibility to negotiate for higher payments for quality grapes. He warned any grower who sold or offered to sell below the legislated minimum price would be investigated and prosecution could result. [184]

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Civilian Service Medal

1939-1945 (Australia).

Awarded to Fay Preece. [185]


From now on we are supposed to refer to him as Allan Douglas Preece Esquire. He has come a long way from the 16 year old who ran away to join the Army.


It was a long time coming, but for her service in the Australian Women's Land Army, Olive Fay PREECE was awarded the Civilian Service Medal 1939-1945, on the 9th October 1995. [186] She died three years later.


Allan Douglas Preece - M.B.E. died on the 19th of November 1997, in the Modbury Hospital, South Australia of an Aortic Aneurysm, which is old age stuff that I’m yet to understand.


Written on the OBE certificate:

Queen Elizabeth II, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom, Australia and Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith and Soverign of the most Exellent Order of the British Empire, to our trusty and well beloved, Allan Douglas Preece Esquire.

We do by these presents grant unto you the dignity of Ordinary Member of our said Order and hereby ortherise you to have hold and enjoy the said Dignity and Rank of an Ordanary Member of our aforesaid Order together with all the regular the privalages thereunto belonging or appertaining.

Given at our court at St James’s under our Sign Manual and the Seal of Our said Order this 31st day of September 1982, in the Thirty-first year of Our Reign.

By the Soverign’s Command, grant of the dignity of an Ordanary Member of the Civil Division of the Order of the British Empire to Allan Douglas Preece, Esq.                         


[Certificate supplied by Sandra Elizabeth Krake, daughter of Allan Douglas Preece]


Written on the OBE certificate:

Queen Elizabeth II, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom, Australia and Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith and Soverign of the most Exellent Order of the British Empire, to our trusty and well beloved, Allan Douglas Preece Esquire.

We do by these presents grant unto you the dignity of Ordinary Member of our said Order and hereby ortherise you to have hold and enjoy the said Dignity and Rank of an Ordanary Member of our aforesaid Order together with all the regular the privalages thereunto belonging or appertaining.

Given at our court at St James’s under our Sign Manual and the Seal of Our said Order this 31st day of September 1982, in the Thirty-first year of Our Reign.

By the Soverign’s Command, grant of the dignity of an Ordanary Member of the Civil Division of the Order of the British Empire to Allan Douglas Preece, Esq.                         


[Certificate supplied by Sandra Elizabeth Krake, daughter of Allan Douglas Preece]





















His obituary went: PREECE, Allan Douglas - M.B.E., passed away suddenly, at Modbury Hospital, on 19 November, 1997, aged 73 years. Dearly loved husband of Marj. Loved father and father-in-law of Chris and Les, Nev and Les, Sandy and Steve, Pam and Peter. Loved Poppa of Bronnie, Kirsty; Ben, Ebony, Todd (deceased), Trent; Matthew, Courtney, Geoff; Tamika, Tom and Jack. Sadly missed. Forever in our hearts. [187]


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Peter Vesely in his Mess Dress for a formal dining-in Night, prior to his retirement. [188]

Fay passed away on the 6th of December 1998, which left a void for the children in the Christmas that followed. George Rex Preece died on the 15th of February 2014, after seeing his eighty-third valentine’s day.


Peter Vesely retired from the Army in April 2016 after 44 years of loyal service. [189]


I met Peter in 2017, and found if you want to know anything about the Preece family tree, he is the man to contact, as he is the administrator for a facebook page called, our family of Preece’s.


As for Betty Jean Hutton, who is 92, I’m still yet to meet.


There is a lot more to this story and as I said before, I’m hoping that the present generation will tell their own story, for they would know a lot more than I. Maybe all they are waiting for is for someone to show an interest.


Jarrett Vesely is no longer a child, but a man and a soldier. He also has an extensive history in his eighteen years in the Army, [190] however none of it compares to the reward of marrying Vicki Ellis, and being blessed with their two children, Brody Thomas and Kira June Vesely. As a soldier, Jarrett understands the reality of war, and with his wife and children by his side, they participate with millions of other Australians every Anzac Day, to honour their ancestors, and the fallen.


But before I go, I have heard of many Preece family members who have also served. It seems as if it has become part of their DNA.


Brian Preece, who was the son of Ern and Daphne, was adopted by George and Betty Preece after his mother’s passing. He also served in the Army Reserve for about 10 - 12 years, in South Australia.


Betty and Harry’s daughter, Maureen never married but was in the Army reserves for many years. Maureen Hutton was employed by the Department of Defence for many years and she worked within the Finance area, in fact, I think at one stage she was the paymaster in one of the Barracks in Perth.[191] 

Allan and Marjorie’s grandson, is Captain Tom Wickham who has recently returned from Iraq.


100 years after world war one and the government again have begun a resergent to remember those who have served. All World War One Army records are available to the public, [192] along with memrabilia campaigns, such as labelling Australian currency with the 100 years of ANZAC relief. [193]

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Anzac Day 2015. Jarrett Vesely with wife Vicki, daughter Kira, and son Brody. [194]

Their new addition, Matilda Olive Vesely was born 10th Nov 2017

Even my brother and sister take part in the Anzac Day march every year in honour of the fallen, not just our fallen. [195] With the resurging interest in the Gallipoli landing and because of its 100th aniversary, it has developed a renewed interests. It was because of the centenary that I recently discovered Allan’s story for myself, let alone that two of his brothers and four cousins also played a role in serving our country. Although we also found a second cousin, I’m sure there is most likely to be even more.

Alec Jr. is my great-grand father on my mother’s side, so I am not a direct descendant of Allan, John or George, but nevertheless I am very proud of them, so much so that I want to revive their memory in print. Yet what I have also learnt is than men like these are an inspiration to others, which is why so many others have served in the forces.


It is about here that I feel our story should conclude since the generations that follow after Allan, Betty, Fay and George are all still alive. Although I started this journey to revive the past, the next generation is the present. So I’m asking the unsung heroes of today to tell their own story, since they can tell it better than I ever could.


So much has happened since three brothers went to war. Each generation seems to follow in their footsteps, although the path has been vastly different with each passing year.


This photo is of Jarrett wearing his own medals, while his wife, Vicki, is wearing Allan Preece’s medals from WW1. On the left is Kira, who is wearing her great-grandfather George Preece’s WW1 and WW2 medals. On the right, Brody is wearing his great-grandfathers WW2 medals from his grandmother Toni’s, side of the family.

Lest we Forget. [196]





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Remembrance Day. Sydney 11.11.1918 [197]





There are two reasons why I feel it is important to keep ANZAC alive, and the most important is to remember that other people lost their lives to not only protest this country, but the countries with whom we trust and support. The other is to remind the world that when Aristocrats and academics are given military roles, they are accountable as military leaders. They can’t just say 'Opps' when they get it wrong and go home and hide, pretending it never happened. We know mistakes occur; we are realistic. But the everyday citizen does not want our leaders to think that our country folk don’t matter; they do. Many good leaders have erred, yet it takes a great leader to admit it. It is those who admit their shortfalls and learn from them, that will go on and do even greater things.