Charles Edward Gorey: 1878-1949
Charles Edward Gorey was born at Pannoomilloo in the Shire of Echuca on September 18, 1878.
The place name of his birth does not survive on maps today, but is situated near Echuca. His father's occupation at the time was stated as farmer on the birth certificate.
Charles was nicknamed Boney by his brothers and sisters, presumably because of his angular frame. When the family moved from Corop to Angustown in 1889, Charles may have had his final year of education in the small timber school near his father's property.
According to the Commonwealth Electoral Roll he was living with his parents up to 1909, aged 31. On the 1905, 1906 and 1908 rolls he was recorded as being a farmer of Whroo. His name was not listed in 1909, suggesting that may have been the time he moved to Queensland.
Charles lived a transient life and was in Queensland at the beginning of World War One. When he enlisted to serve with the 4th Tunnelling Co on December 7, 1915 at Brisbane he was aged 37 years and two months. Tunnellers dug trenches and did manual labor for engineers. It was hard work and very dangerous.
When Charles enlisted, his occupation was described as laborer and his next of kin, Mary Tennant, at the Cobram police station, Victoria. He had vaccination marks on his left arm and a scar on his right shin. At that time Charles was 5ft 4in tall, 129 pounds in weight, with a dark complexion, blue eyes and dark hair. He nominated his religion as Catholic.
He embarked from Sydney aboard the Warilda on May 22, 1916 arriving Plymouth on July 18. He proceeded to France on August 29 and was "taken on strength" with the 1st Australian Tunnelling Co on September 30.
He sustained several injuries, the first of which was a dislocated shoulder that plagued him for at least several months. He was first admitted to hospital on February 7.
His casualty form implies some doubt on the part of an assessment officer who wrote that the injury was of a "trivial nature and in all probability will not interfere with his future efficiency as a soldier.
He claims performance of military duty at time of accident".
This comment is probably the result of some injuries being self-inflicted to avoid duty at the front. However, this was not the case with Charles. His commanding officer produced a certificate which said the injury occurred "while returning from duty in trenches; soldier in no way to blame."
He was genuinely troubled by the shoulder and was re-admitted to hospital on February 10, February 20, February 23, transferred to England and treated at the 1st Southern General Hospital, Birmingham, on March 5. He was discharged to furlough on March 24 before proceeding overseas from Perham Downs on June 4. He rejoined his company at Rouelles on June 12.
Charles was severely wounded by shell fire to the neck and left arm at Ypres on September 29, 1917. As a result he saw no more active duty. Treated initially by the 3rd Field Ambulance he was admitted to the 8th General Hospital at Rouen on October 1 before being transferred to England on November 11.
His medical history reveals that Charles had his ulna nerve severed, leading to paralysis. The wound was excised and the nerve sutured on September 29, suppurated two days later, the stitches removed and pus evacuated. There was a "wasting of thenar and hypothenar eminences. Flexion of fingers very weak. Cannot abduct or adduct fingers. Loss of sensation, ulnar and median areas".
He was examined at the No 1 Australian Army Hospital, Harfield, on January 15, 1918 by Captain H. Mendelsohn, who recommended discharge. In his opinion the disability was permanent. The doctor's advice was approved by the Medical Board on March 12. Charles returned to Australia aboard HMT Beltana and disembarked at Melbourne on May 29.
He was referred to in a Shepparton Advertiser report on June 6 in a letter by Private S.G. Williams who wrote that he had returned on the same ship as Private C. Gorey, Tunnellers, brother of J. Gorey, of Shepparton.
Charles made some progress towards recovery and on July 20 was reported to be improving, although the "ulna area still much affected". The resident medical officer at No 16 Australian General Hospital wrote on October 22 that massage showed "definite signs of ulna recovery, but slow and will require many weeks' treatment yet". He was discharged on November 21.
Upon receiving advice of Charles' return to Australia, his sister Mary Tennant requested permission for him to disembark at Melbourne. It was usual practice for soldiers to be returned to their port of original departure. "I would be grateful if you would grant him extended leave to visit his only relatives here (Shepparton), my father, mother and myself. Also please forward me the usual pass to visit my brother at the boat," she wrote.
In reply, the commanding officer at Base Records wrote: "As he enlisted in Brisbane, he would, in the ordinary course of events proceed there, but approval is given for members of the Force who are being invalided to Australia to disembark at intermediate ports, provided he, or his relatives, will undertake to pay the cost of his return to the district in which he enlisted, should he wish to rejoin his unit."
Charles would have been met at the boat by his sister and taken to Shepparton. He attended a welcome party with his brother Bill on Friday, July 11, 1918 at Grahamvale. Mr Roxburgh, representing the Shepparton Fathers' Association, was reported in the Shepparton News as saying he hoped aid would be extended to all the Grahamvale soldiers in need of it "for too much could not be done for such men".
Charles had a wandering spirit and didn't stay long in Shepparton, although if he had wished he could have applied for land under the Soldier Settler scheme like his brother, but possibly his injury prohibited heavy manual work.
He returned to Queensland and was living at Bundaberg when he wrote on April 5, 1923 requesting the "General Service and Victory medals for which I am entitled to" signing his name as ex-Sapper Chas E. Gorey. He signed a receipt for the medals on June 5.
Charles travelled back to Victoria and gave his address as being the Eaglehawk Post Office on May 11, 1939 when he wrote requesting a declaration form for a lost military discharge. He needed the correct paperwork to apply for the Soldier's Old Age Pension as "I attained the age of 60 years".
In the statutory declaration Charles wrote: "That the wallet containing war medals and discharge and other property was taken from my tent" thus giving some indication as to his usual mode of accommodation.
Charles was rarely seen by his relatives, although he did make several visits to his brother Bill at Shepparton between 1942 and 1948. William's daughter Evelyn Smith recalls the visits happening while her family operated the Central Dining Rooms in Wyndham Street. Charles used to stay for several days and then disappear again.
She said he used to wear a black suit. "He looked scruffy, but a gentleman." He was not conversational and did not stay with his relatives overnight. Evelyn thought he used to camp out in a nearby park.
Charles appears to have lost all contact with his brothers and sisters apart from Bill.
In fact, Mary Tennant and Ned Gorey both believed he had died in the mid 1930s. At least that's the information Mary's daughter, Mena Bailey, remembers receiving from them. Both had said their brother lived a nomadic life, picking spuds for an occasional income, and Ned believed he was an alcoholic.
According to his death certificate, Charles died "in camp on river" near Deniliquin, NSW, "on or about" August 26, 1949.
His brother Michael told his children that the persistent howling of Charles' trusty dog alerted neighbors to investigate.
The certificate also states that, despite the unusual circumstances of the death, the coroner decided against an inquest, apparently satisfied that Charles' passing had been the result of natural causes.
His brother Bill, then living at McLeod Road, Carrum, confirmed the personal details for the death certificate in October that year (1949). Charles' burial at Deniliquin on August 28 is believed to have been paid for by the RSL.
Bill's daughter Evelyn Smith said the family was disappointed that police hadn't contacted them earlier.
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