Albert Joseph Wilson Chisholm is my grand uncle, brother of Hazel Annie Chisholm, my grandmother. He was born on 30 April 1900 to Alfred Wilson and Sarah Anne (nee Wood) Chisholm at Rockhampton.
Few records shed light on Albert’s early years, but around 1909 his parent’s marriage had broken down and he moved to Brisbane with his mother and two older sisters, Hazel Annie (1892–1039) and Ethel Edith(1893–1979), eventually settling at ‘Poneke’, Railway Terrace, Milton.
In 1914 Albert was employed as a messenger boy at a chemist shop in Queen Street. After this, he began working for Flavelle’s jewellery business and at the time of his enlistment, he is recorded as being a clerk.
Albert had been in the Naval cadets from the age of 14, and when he turned 17, he was desperate to join the fighting in Europe like so many other young men of that time. His father, Alfred Wilson Chisholm, had deserted the family some three years before and so his mother signed the authority for him to join up. Albert had lied about his age on the form by giving his date of birth as 1889 to make himself 18 years of age. I am sure his mother regretted signing this form for the rest of her life.
In his enlistment papers, Albert is described as 178cm tall, weighing 57kg. He had a fair complexion, brown eyes, light-brown hair. He gave his religion as Baptist. As a Private in the 9th Battalion, he boarded the Euripedes in Sydney on 31 October 1917.
This letter, written by Private Strangman, appeared in the Tumut Advocate on 16 April 1918 and provide details of embarkation and part of the voyage on the Euripedes:
We left Liverpool Camp about 3.30 a.m.on 31st Oct 1917; travelled to Sydney inthree trains; arrived at Central Station at about 5.30; then started our march in the grey of dawn to the boat. A band was in the lead, and all units carried their battalion flags. … Many thousands of people lined the streets we marched through; lots of relatives and friends of soldiers there, who, of course, marched with their particular friends. The crowd got denser as we neared the end of the route, and there were some very touching sights when it came to the parting at the wharf gates. Lots of parcels and things were handed to the soldiers by friends.
Arriving on the wharf (very tired), we were lined up in units each awaiting its turn for embarkation, which was going on all the while; I suppose it took a couple of hours. Embarkation puts one in mind of trucking sheep or cattle; it is on much the same principle. Chased up the gangway one after the other, we handed cards to an officer as we passed him. It took a couple of hours for us to get in any sort of order on the boat. We then had breakfast, and while being fixed up and having positions allotted, we heard the ship starting off from the wharf. A general stampede for the decks followed. The boys climbed everywhere until hunted back. I think every vessel on Sydney Harbour started whistling and people were cheering from the shore …
About 2500 troops were aboard, all hands totalling some 3700 souls. We lost no time turning in the first night, being dead tired and sleepy through having no rest the previous night, and, besides, most of us felt a little queer for the first time outside the Heads. All woke fresh the next morning. You can imagine we were packed in like sheep. We slept in canvas, hammocks over the mess tables. Reveille blew every morning at 6, and all hammocks had to be rolled up and put away by 6.15. They were very keen on early rising the whole journey. Two mess orderlies were appointed for each table at 1s per week from each man on the mess. The food was fair. We thought it good at first, but it got very, very monotonous as time went on. Breakfast- Tea, porridge and stew. Dinner- Soup, meat, beans and potatoes. Tea- Rice and prunes (or something else), bread, butter and jam. The last part of the journey all the potatoes went bad and had to go overboard, so no potatoes for the last three or four weeks. And. Oh! The beans. They were simply awful. … There was a canteen on board where we could buy biscuits, tinned stuff, etc. It did a roaring trade.
The ship sailed to England via Calais arriving on April 1918, and within 12 days Albert was in the field. His war record shows that he was involved in fighting in France from April until July 1918. His Battalion’s records do not adequately describe the horror of this war, and while Albert was involved in the battles that stopped the German advance, after only three months in the field, he was seriously injured with gunshot wounds to the thigh on the 4 July 1918. On the day he was wounded the 15th Battalion was fighting in what was to become known as the Battle of Hamel.
In the early hours of that morning the heavy guns and field artillery, joined by mortars and machine guns, produced a barrage, while the tanks gunned their engines for the battle. A mix of 10 percent smoke, 40 percent high-explosive and 50 percent shrapnel shells fell 200 yards ahead of the infantry, while larger shells landed 400 yards farther ahead.
The infantrymen rose and moved forward in the wake of the covering fire. Some of the shells fell short of their target and one squad from the 15th Battalion lost 12 men killed and 30 wounded.
The battle was fierce, German machine guns raked oncoming infantry, but their return fire was formidable. One team, from the 15th Battalion, silenced an enemy machine-gun post with Private Harry Dalziel from Irvinebank, Queensland, spotting a German machine-gun nest as it opened fire. Dashing toward it, revolver in hand, he killed or captured the gun’s crew, allowing the Australians in front of it to proceed with their advance.
Taking and securing Hamel cost the Allies a total of 1,400 casualties. There is insufficient information in his war record to identify a specific role that Albert may have undertaken during the battle but we do know that he would have been counted as one of the casualties.
After hospitalisation in Rouen, France and Brighton, England, he was eventually repatriated to Brisbane on 20 May 1919. He returned home to be nursed back to full health by his mother, Sarah. His sister Hazel, and her daughter were also living there on his return. He was awarded the 1914–15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
His experiences in the war appear to have reinforced his strong religious beliefs. While he returned to a job in Brisbane as a clerk, he became the Brisbane representative of the Australian Inland Mission whose aim was to convert the Australian Aboriginal population – “to give light to them that sit in darkness”. He followed this through becoming a Baptist Minister with his first appointment to Murgon in Queensland in 1925.
It was while at Murgon that he met Beryl Baty, a music teacher and they married in1926.
By 1934 Albert began formal study at the Baptist Theological College of Queensland to become a pastor. He was ordained in 1938.
Beryl was his partner and support over each of his postings – Lanefield in the Darling Downs, Nambour, Maryborough, Morningside. They had one daughter and one son: Aloise (1927) and John (1929). John married Margaret Jean Sugars in 1952, and Aloise married Ernest Whittingham.
He was warmly welcomed into each of his postings. He also worked as Manager of the British and Foreign Bible Society and on numerous committees for the Baptist Union.
He died in September 1978 at the age of 78 years. His wife, Beryl, died in March 1986.