For the Centenary of World War One, the First Fleet Fellowship Victoria Inc has started a project to identify the World War One descendants of those who arrived with Captain Arthur Phillip on 26 January 1788 through official documents, family histories, personal memories and photographs.
World War One descendants enlisted in most states of Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and the United Kingdom. They came off the land as labourers, farm hands, teamsters and station overseers. Their prior occupations were regular soldiers, solicitors, porters, grooms, drapers, miners, saddle makers, clerks and accountants.
Attestations papers record them as Privates, Sappers, Troopers, Gunners, Lieutenants, Captains and Majors, with one being Major-General Sir William Throsby Bridges KCB, CMG. He was the only deceased person to be repatriated back to Australia for burial along with his horse Sandy.
Privates and Majors were veterans of the Boer War. Fathers and sons enlisted, brothers, and cousins. The Kerr brothers both died of dysentery, their burial places Alexandria and at sea. Names are engraved on memorials to the missing, with known deceased soldiers in Commonwealth War Grave cemeteries throughout Belgium, France and the Middle East.
Soldiers were hospitalised for diseases, and wounds received on the battle fields. If recovered sufficiently they are returned to their battalions, otherwise repatriated home. The medical care of soldiers was undertaken by Australian doctors and nurses, Dr Guy Bailey's distinguished career came to an end like many that he had cared for. Sister Gertrude Faddy was awarded the Royal Red Cross Medal for her service as a military nurse. Sisters nursed in clearing hospitals on the battle fronts, Rabaul and English hospitals and during their return voyage home on hospital ships. Sister Sarah Williams did her nine months of service while Sister Ruth Taylor committed to five years.
For devotion to duty on active service, many were 'Mentioned in Despatches'. The DSO and Military Medal was also awarded, as was France's award the 'Croix de Guerre' to Major Alan Percy Crisp. Other notable descendants include Miles Franklin (author of My Brilliant Career) and Victoria Cross winner Albert Borella.
The First Fleeters grand and great-grandchildren were in every sphere of World War One from Australia's first involvement until demobilisation. Like their forebears they travelled to the other side of the world in convoys of ships, and like them, many did not return to their places of birth.
You can read the many stories on the First Fleeters and their World War One descendants on the First Fleet Fellowship Victoria Inc's website. As in the case of Governor Phillip Gidley King, over 50 descendants were engaged in the Great World War 1914-1918.