Monday, April 25, 2016

10971 Sapper Roy Francis Highett

Sapper R.F. Highett
Roy Francis Highett was the 2nd son of  Francis James Highett and Deborah Maria Griffiths and was my 1st cousin, three times removed. He was born on 22nd January, 1891, in Murrumbeena, which is a suburb of Melbourne. Roy was 24 years old and studying engineering at the University of Melbourne, when he decided that he should join up.  

On 15th March 1915 he applied to join the armed forces, though his service counts from 31st March. Roy was 5’ 11 ¼” , weighed 11stone 4lbs, had a fair complexion, light grey eyes (though described as blue at discharge), fair hair, and under "Distinctive Marks" it was stated that he had a "scar across back r.h. thumb, Mole R shoulder blade".

"Roy's Tent Crowd, 1915" from family photo album
Roy is second from the right
10971 Sapper Highett was assigned to the 10th Field company Engineers and embarked on HMAT Runic on 20th June 1916, more than a year after his enlistment. On the 10th August he disembarked in Plymouth, and after training in England arrived in Europe on 8th February 1917.  On the 20th of that month he was transferred to the 12th Field Company Engineers. He was sick in hospital from 22nd March to 27th April 1917, and detached for duty with 1st Anzac R.E. Workshop between 21st September and 25th September 1917 before being returned to the 12th Field Company Engineers.

Then on the 6th October 1917 he was wounded in his arm and back.  He was transferred to East Leeds War Hospital on 21st October, and not discharged from there until 14th January 1918.

The Argus, 4 May 1917

Despite what was written in the article in The Argus (above), Roy was not wounded on the 21st October. That was the date he was transferred to Leeds.  The entry in the War Diary of the 12th Field Company Engineers for the 6th October reads
No 10971 Spr R. HIGHETT wounded by H.E. while returning to camp from work on CORDUROY ROAD (J.13.a.28.)

Roy was granted 12 months leave in England to take up a soldier scholarship without pay or allowances from 23rd April 1918 to study engineering at the Imperial College of Science and Technology in Kensington, London, which was later extended.

Benalla Standard, 20 May 1917

Once again, there was an error in the newspaper reporting back home.  Roy never attended Cambridge or Oxford. He was not discharged at that stage, and his service records only indicate the one injury, which the War Diary indicates was from High Explosives.

Roy was admitted to hospital 27th September 1918 with Influenza, and discharged on 20th October, then admitted to hospital again on 9th April 1919 for treatment for a foreign body in his back.  He was discharged from that stay on the 24th April.

He was finally discharged from the AIF at London being medically unfit with effect from 29th July 1920, at the age of 29 years 6 months. Interestingly, his distinctive marks are now listed as "1 Vacc Lt arm". There is no mention of the scar on his thumb or the mole on his shoulder. And no mention of the gunshot wounds, which must have left distinctive marks.

His file contains a copy of the following letter, written in his own hand, sworn on 1 May 1920:

From 10971 Sapper Highett R.F.

12 Field Coy Engineers A.I.F.
Imperial College of Science South Kensington SW7
 To the COAdmin Hdrs  A.I.F. I, Roy Francis Highett, do solemnly and sincerely declare that my reasons for the attached application for discharge are as follows :- 1.    I wish to sit for the final B. Sc. (Eng. Ln. Univ) Examinations held during July.2.    I desire in the event of my being unsuccessful in these examination, of which the results are published in August, to sit again at the first opportunity.3.    It may be necessary that I should have to continue my studies until December before being allowed to take out this degree.4.    I also solemnly and sincerely declare that it is my intention to return to Australia on being elected an Associate Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers; in any case within 27 months of the completion of my course of studies;5.    That all my interests (parents and home) are in Australia6.    That I have no intention of permanently residing in England7.    That I shall be able to maintain myself during the course of my studies and until I return to Australia I make this solemn declaration conscientiously believing the same to be true by virtue of the provisions of the Statutory Declarations Act 1835
                                                            R.F. Highett

In support of his application, the Dean of Imperial College of Science and Technology wrote:
"I have much pleasure on certifying that Sapper Roy Francis Highett of the Australian Imperial Force is a student of Engineering in this College and that he has been in regular attendance here since April 1919. He has passed The London University Matriculation and the Intermediate B.Sc. in Engineering; he has also passed the College Matriculation. Highett has completed the second year course and has qualified for admission to the third year course and if he completes the remaining two terms of the Third Year he will, in June and July next, be eligible to take the final examinations for the College Diploma and for the University Degree of B.Sc in Engineering. He is a diligent and capable student and throughout his stay at the College his student conduct has been irreproachable."

However, despite what he said in his application, Roy DID have an interest in England – a wife.  He had married Marie Gertrude Davis on 2nd August 1919 at the Paddington Register Office.  They went on to have two daughters, and Roy never did return to Australia.

Roy with his wife and first daughter, 1920

Thursday, April 7, 2016

In Search of a Marriage

Thanks to the 1939 Register I've uncovered another Black Sheep in the family!

**N.B. Names have been changed to protect the guilty

It was known that Dorcas Lynne Longley – youngest daughter of Edward William Longley and Emma Mary Penrose – appeared with the family on the 1911 census in Wealdstone, MDX.  That document stated that she was aged 4 and had been born in Harrow.  Her birth was found in the GRO Indexes in the March Quarter of 1907 in the Hendon district.

It was known from family stories that she had a daughter Elizabeth, who had been friendly with her cousin Susan Longley and who had attended Susan's 21st birthday celebrations.  Elizabeth had gone on to have two children, believed to be called Alex (a son) and Freya.

No marriage could be found for Dorcas in England or Wales – had it taken place somewhere else?

When I questioned the son of Susan Longley about the family, it suddenly came to him that Elizabeth's husband was called Ernie.  He thought the surname was Roberts.  No marriage of an Ernie Roberts to an Elizabeth could be found.

No relevant Dorcas of the right age could be found in the 1939 Register.

Searches of all indexes for any Dorcas Lynnes turned up the death in the June quarter of 1970 of Dorcas Lynne Teague in the Watford district, born 1 Jan 1906.  The Watford district looked hopeful, as Elizabeth was known to have been living in West Watford later, though the date of birth didn't match the year of the birth registration.  Nonetheless it was mentioned to Susan Longley's son, since it was in the Watford district. At that point the name Teague rang bells with him.

A search for a birth of an Elizabeth Teague found a likely candidate in the December quarter of 1941 in the Watford District (Elizabeth C Teague, mother's maiden name Longley). She would have been about 4 ½ years younger than Susan, but it was still possible that they were friendly despite the age gap. But there was no marriage of an Elizabeth Teague to anyone named Ernie or anyone with the surname Roberts.

The name of her daughter Freya looked like a way in to the mystery.  Susan's son thought that since the name Teague meant something to him, and since he had never met Ernie, perhaps Elizabeth had divorced and returned to her maiden name.  So a search was made for the birth of a Freya Teague.  The only possibility was in Cornwall which did not seem correct, and the only Alex Teagues were Alexandras, born in Cornwall.

On the basis that Elizabeth was known to live in Watford, and had been born there, a search was made for births of Freyas in the Watford district. There was a birth of Freya Caroline Richards (not Roberts), mother's maiden name Teague, in Watford in the March quarter of 1968. Not only did the mother's maiden name fit, but the age looked about right. But no Alex could be found. Suddenly it was remembered that his name was Alec, not Alex.  There was a birth of an Alec J Richards in Watford district March quarter of 1964. Next step was to find his parents' marriage.

With the new surname a marriage was found for Elizabeth C Teague and Cyril E Richards in Watford, September quarter 1963.  The middle name starting with E was probably Ernie or Ernest, and it seemed that he was known by that middle name.

Looking again for a marriage of a Teague to someone called Dorcas. The only possibility was Graham C Teague to Dorcas L Teague, Mar quarter 1967 in Watford (4b 960).  My first thought was that a widowed Dorcas had married her husband's brother or cousin.  So I looked for a Teague death in Watford that could have been Dorcas's husband. I chose to limit it to Watford since all events found had been in that registration district.

There was an William J Teague aged 76 who died in Watford March Quarter 1961. I looked for him in the 1939 register, where I found him with a wife Mary and various children.  Had he left his wife between 1939 and 1941 (when Elizabeth was born) and taken up with Dorcas who took his surname without being legally married?

I looked for further information about William.  I found an entry for him in the probate indexes, with the executor being his wife Mary. So it didn't seem likely that this man had left his wife for Dorcas.

I then looked for Graham in the 1939 register to see where he was at the time, in case he had another brother.

I found Graham C Teague, born 8 Dec 1895, married, Commercial Traveller (confectionary), head of a household, with Dorcas L Longley (crossed out and replaced with TEAGUE at some point – probably 1967), born 31 Dec 1906 (which matched the birth registration), single, Unpaid Domestic Duties, and Jane A W Teague, born 24 Nov 1867, Widowed, Old age & unpaid Domestic Duties – probably William's  mother.  They were living at in Watford.

Dorcas had not shown up because her name had been transcribed as Dorhaf.

So it appears that Dorcas took up with William Teague (who was married to someone else), took on his surname as if they were married, had a daughter Elizabeth in 1941, and finally married William in 1967 (presumably after his wife had died), getting married under her assumed surname of Teague.