ThrowbackThursday: It is with deep regret . . . , Old Eltham Road, Lower Plenty, May 3rd, 1941

#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back to Saturday, May 3rd, 1941 and the property ‘Abington’ (now known as ‘Araluen’) on the Old Eltham Road, Lower Plenty; home of Mrs Annie Castledine. It is morning and the weather is fine with a slight northerly breeze; the sun is out warming the dew off the grass following a chilly and foggy start to the day of 43 degrees (6° C) at 7am. The sun will heat the day up to a pleasant 68 (20° C) at noon but that is the only warmth to be brought to the Castledine homestead that day.

Passing through the front gate and heading up the drive, a young lad in postal office uniform, cap on head, pedals his bike up the hill. The telegram delivery boy; an unfortunate scene, and a symbol of fear, stabbing directly to the hearts of every mother, wife, father, brother, sister or child unfortunate enough to witness it.

The Castledine family home at 226 Old Eltham Road, Lower Plenty ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

Annie has heard and seen him approaching; his bicycle bell rattling as he passes over the ruts and corrugations in the drive, small puffs of dust falling from behind his wheels. She comes to the front door to greet him, her heart pounding with fear.

The boy dismounts and places his bike on its stand with respect rather than just dropping it. He wipes a bead of sweat off his forehead, straightens his cap and dusts himself down slightly. He too advances towards her but tries not to catch her eye. For unlike the slightest glimmer of hope Annie may hold, he knows what he is delivering.

He asks Annie quietly, “Mrs Annie Castledine?” Annie reaches her hand out towards him and he gently hands the sealed telegram to her. Still trying to avoid eye contact, he backs away and says, “I’m very sorry”. He quietly gets back on his bike and rides away though Annie cannot see him anymore, her eyes are full of tears.

Telegram, Victoria Barracks, Melbourne to Mrs Annie Castledine, Old Eltham Road, Lower Plenty, 3 May 1941.The telegram is oil stained as it was kept by George’s brother Sid, in his toolbox.  ( Digital scan of original held in private collection; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

“It is with deep regret that I have to inform you that VX10044 Sapper G. E. Castledine has been killed in action April 18th & desire to convey to you the profound sympathy of the Minister for the Army and the Military Board.
– Minister for the Army”

George Ernest Castledine with friend, Emily Beckett (on his left) and another unidentified friend, c.1939 ( Photo donated by Joan Castledine; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

George is the first soldier from the Shire of Eltham to be killed in the war. He was engaged to Miss Jean Simonson of Montmorency and was going to turn 27 in just two week’s time. He had much to live for. His older brother Sid, 28, enlisted only four week’s ago.

Annie’s world and those of her other children are changed forever.

Sapper George Ernest Castledine (1914-1941), son of Arthur Frederick (dec.) and Annie Castledine, enlisted 23 January 1940 at Lower Plenty and was assigned to the 2/2 Field Company. He is buried in the Phaleron War Cemetery, Athens, Greece and is remembered on the Roll of Honour located in the Eltham War Memorial Hall.

Grave of Sapper George Ernest Castledine, Phaleron War Cemetery, Athens, Greece ( Photo donated by Joan Castledine; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Grave of Sapper George Ernest Castledine, Phaleron War Cemetery, Athens, Greece ( Photo donated by Joan Castledine; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

George’s brother Sid, upon his discharge from active duty was to keep that fateful telegram in his tool box, a personal place near and dear to him, for the remainder of his life.

It is in memory of George and all the other fallen soldiers of our district that the Eltham Women’s Auxiliary first banded together to raise funds for the establishment of the Eltham War Memorial as a living memorial to ‘be a constant reminder of those who fought for us and the little ones for whom they fought and died.’

LEST WE FORGET

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”

ROLL OF HONOUR
1914-1918
  • Sgt. George Williams
  • Sgt. Reginald E. Sims
  • L/Cpl. George Moore
  • L/Cpl. Henry G. Philips
  • L/Cpl. John C. Bell
  • Pte. Geoffrey Grant
  • Pte. George Sommerville
  • Pte. George Brown
  • Pte. John Brown
  • Pte. William Bond
  • Pte. Thomas Cameron
  • Pte. Alfred Cassells
  • Pte. Robert Meadows
  • Pte. Walter Mosley
  • Pte. James Pryor
  • Pte. William Prior
  • Pte. Edward Barrett
  • Pte. William Crellin
  • Pte. Henry Norman
  • Pte. Edward Bird
  • Pte. Arthur Brown
  • Pte. Roslyn Stevens
  • Pte. Herbert Creed
  • Pte. Charles Bromfield
  • Pte. Kenneth Sharp
  • Pte. Henry McAlary
1939-1945
  • Capt. S.M. Gahan
  • Plt. Off. D. Rutter
  • Flt. Off. D.H. Rutter
  • Flt. Sgt. S.M. Mclean
  • Flt. Sgt. L. Ingram
  • Sgt. C.D. Dunlop
  • Cpl. T. Feldbauer
  • Cpl. A.C. Clerke
  • Spr. G.E. Castledine
  • Pte. J. Butherway
  • Pte. K.F. Field

Soldiers of the Shire of Eltham remembered on the Eltham Roll of Honour for their supreme sacrifice; located in the Eltham War Memorial Hall

Reference:

1941 ‘OBITUARY’, Eltham and Whittlesea Shires Advertiser (Vic. : 1940 – 1942), 9 May, p. 2. , viewed 24 Oct 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article57494302

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