10.03.1894 – 06.07.1964
Written by his son, Norman Frederick Fox about 1987
|Peg, Helen & Fred with Cam, Norman & Peter at "Sunning", West St, Toowoomba|
He grew up as a boy on Bombandy Station on the Issacs River about halfway between Mackay and Clermont in Central Queensland.
He had ponies and his toys, played with his brothers, the darkies and other station children. Bombandy at this time must have been quite a settlement. Besides Frederick Snr and his wife and children there was his mother-in-law Mrs Homes, and her son, Fred Homes, who was later killed on Bombandy and buried there. (Mrs Homes had married twice. Her first husband, Craig, had died in New Zealand). There was a white stockman and casual workers as well as a blacks camp. Both Mrs Fox and Fred Snr got on well with the blacks and from its establishment there never seems to have been any trouble at Bombandy.
At one time Bombandy was a stopping and staging place for the Clermont coach and all passengers were made welcome there. They were fed at no cost and treated as guests. My father had a high regard for the coachman (mailman) who blew a bullock horn from some miles away to let the family know he was on his way.
Father often spoke of the Gillham boys and their sister Kate from Rookwood Station near by and they frequently visited the Shannons at Saltbush so there was considerable social interaction in the district.
Fred (junior) was sent to board with the Atherton family at Rockhampton and attended the Central Boys State School. Later he went for about two years to the Rockhampton Boys Grammar School (about 1908). The Fox fortunes had been badly dinted by the advent of the cattle tick and the disastrous drought of 1902. It was said that you could follow the family fortunes by the schools their children attended – Syd the eldest went to Kings, Gypsie at Sutton Forest with the Badgeries, Norman’s name is on the Honour Board at Southport and Fred the youngest at Rockhampton Grammar School. Father went home to Bombandy to help on the station. The Fox boys developed quite a reputation as scrub riders, as stockmen and mustered during their teens and twenties.
Grandfather Fox (F.Y. Snr) realized that Bombandy was hardly good enough to provide a living for his family. He purchased Carfax closer to Clermont and sold Bombandy to people called Usher who later sold to the Browns (Hazel Brown later married Syd). Bombandy was sold about 1911. Grandfather had not been well (stomach ulcers) which meant surgery in those days. With Gypsie they went to live at Yeppoon. Syd and Norman went to Carfax.
Your father F.Y.F Jnr was jackarooing on Yaccamunda (on the Beryando River far to the north of Clermont) when war was declared on 4 August, 1914. It was some days – weeks before they heard the news. He left Yaccamunda with his horses and a friend – Bert Hamilton (who later inherited Maura Station on the Dawson) and rode to Carfax where he picked up Norman and then onto Rockhampton where they enlisted. I understand they tried to get in the Light horse but the quota was filled so they had to settle for the infantry. The first Queensland Batallion was the 9th Bn. They went into training at Enoggera.
The Fox boys were all well built and physically strong as was their father. Norman was said to be the smartest – a planner and generally good operator. Fred Jnr had brains. He told me late in life he would like to have been a doctor but there was not the opportunity or any encouragement from the family. No where in the Fax family was there any history of academic achievement. Syd was apparently a difficult character but I never met him and as future development will show he was never discussed by my father.
My father’s future was bound up with the Great War. Its impact on his character was lasting. He was described by a correspondent who knew him during the 30’s as a casualty of the first war.
The Rockhampton boys – Fred, Norman and Bert Hamilton sailed as privates in the 9th Bn on the SS “OMRAH” in a convoy which was made up of Fremantle. (HMAS Sydney was a cruiser escorting the convoy. She was called away and sunk the German ship “Emden” off Cocos Island. The news caused great excitement on board ships of the convoy.)
They landed in Egypt and went into training in the desert. As far as I can gather it was mainly aimed at physical fitness and weapon training. On leave they saw the sights of Cairo and the Pyramids. They swam in the Suez Canal. It was a time of high spirits and spirited activity.
Fred and Norman were in different platoons. It was army policy for brothers to be separated at least in different sub units.
By April 1915 they were on their way to the Peninsula. Fred and his platoon were on the battleship Queen Elizabeth and transferred to a lighter and were put ashore at Anzac Cove before dawn on 25th April, 1915. There is some discrepancy between his experience and that recorded in the Official War History. My father told me, and he was quite definite that his boat had landed; they had moved up the beach and dumped their packs and moved into assault the heights before the Turks had fired one shot. He believed that his platoon (Lieut. Chapman in command of the lighter) were the first troops ashore on that morning. He also recounts that Norman and a group had made their way across the heights and had progressed so far that they could see the Narrows before being forced back by massive Turkish reinforcement marching south later in the day.
Fred was engaged in every action on the Australian front on Gallipoli until he was hospitalized on Lemnos with fever some weeks before the evacuation. He was returned to Alexandria.
After the evacuation the 1st Australia Division and the 9th Bn was broken up to form the 4th Division. Reinforcements have arrived in Egypt and the 49th Bn was formed as Queensland Bn from reinforcements and officers and N.C.O’s or O.R’s of the original 9th.
The 49th Bn. Was in training guarding the canal. Norman had been a Sergeant and was at a training school near Cairo. He was demonstrating the use of a “trench mortar (3 inch mortar) when the bomb apparently exploded in the mortar. He was mortally wounded and died in hospital later. Fred got the news but was unable to get leave. He talked to his superiors and they agreed to “turn a blind eye” to his absence. He walked for a night and day across the desert avoiding detection but I think Norman had died before he was able to reach him.
His trip A.W.L. was something of an epic of bushmanship for endurance and avoidance of detection. His rapid promotion soon afterwards was certainly in part due to his performance on the occasion. His brother’s death deeply affected my father as it did Fred Snr, his wife and Gypsie back at Yeppoon.
My father did not talk about this period – he was a quiet man, reticent and in no way did he “big note” himself, but he was proud of his army career.
The infantry divisions moved from Egypt to France and Fred Fox seemed to be in every action involving his 49th Bn and the 4th Division until he was wounded at Dernacourt in 1918. He spent his leave in London where he met your grandmother and her mother Mrs Wheeler. They wined and dined at the Savoy and visited theatres. After he was wounded at Dernacourt (a piece of shrapnel entered his leg above the knee and slid up the bone to his thigh) he was sent on convalescent leave to Thornton Castle in Scotland. Mrs Thornton corresponded with your grandmother for some years after the war.
On one leave in London, Fred was invited to meet and dine with a relative of Cannon Fox (C. of E. in London). I have not been able to follow this up. Was he a cousin to Fred Snr?
Editors Note: This would have been Frederick Fox Lambert, a cousin of Fred Snr.
By this time he had been promoted to Captain and company commander, and another Queenslander General Sir William Glasgow, was his divisional commander. In one crucial action in 1917 he was Divisional Liaison Officer (Villers Breteniau) ? I know General Glasgow held him in high regard.
Your grandfather was repatriated to Australia in 1918 (long service) and was actually on the water off Africa when the Armistice was signed on Armistice Day 11 November 1918. “Eleventh hour of the Eleventh day, of the Eleventh month in the year 1918.”
Fred and Portia Jean Wheeler had become engaged to be married and the wedding took place at Emu Park on 22nd March, 1920. My father had taken the job of manager of Iffley Station for the Brown family who by now also owned Bombandy. It was about 60 miles from Clermont up stream on the Issacs River and an untamed isolated property even in those days. My mother came back to Rockhampton where I was born on the 13th January, 1921. She stayed a while in Rockhampton. I don’t think she could cope with the isolation or the loneliness of Iffley. It must have been difficult for them both after the excitement and “highs” of the war and for mother 8 or 9 years in England.
My first memory is of a house in Clermont (rented) with a veranda front and two sides looking from the font over a dirt road to a railway line and the trucking yards in the district. By this time father was in partnership with his brother Syd in Carfax. Again there were problems for father and mother – there was only one house on Carfax so mother lived in town and Syd and his wife Hazel Brown (two children Ailsa and Heather) lived on Carfax with father commuting I think.
I am not clear on the details of the Carfax partnership (I have it in mind that it was a partnership between Syd and Norman and Fred Fox Snr.) but don’t know what happened to the original partnership after Norman was killed. My father certainly had little or no money. About 1922 to 1924 the price of cattle fell and Syd and Fred decided to buy the Butcher shop and kill Carfax cattle through the butcher shop. Mother has some money put in about 800 pounds. I think Father was out of his depth – he spent a lot of his spare time at the Clermont Club and doing the rounds of the hotels talking to cattle buyers. Relationship between Syd and father got worse and Carfax was sold to the Pownall brothers (Geoff Pownall’s uncles) and the Butcher shop was sold to help square account on Carfax. I do not recall ever having met Syd and certainly mother and father had no contact with him after Carfax. I cannot remember him coming to father’s funeral in Brisbane in 1938. Syd’s wife Hazel was living at Clayfield with her mother (Mrs Brown) and 2 girls as early as 1934 or 1935.
Father then drew or purchased a block of about 3000 acres 16 miles north of Clermont called Pernois. (Pronounced Pernoy) It was too small and he ran into the 1926 drought. I can remember him feeding sheep – when the drought broke; he lost most of the remainder of his flock bogged after a heavy storm. Mother, Betty and I were living at Pernois during this time. I was five or six years of age and helped about the house, and father when I could. I had a pony but was no horseman. Father had to walk off Pernois and declare himself bankrupt.
This was blow to his self esteem and depressed and worried him for years afterwards.
Pernois is a sleepy little Village on the Somme, not far from Amiens, with a large British war cemetery to mark the fearsome conflict which had taken place in that vicinity in July 1916 and later in that year.
From the size of the property, it was quite possibility a soldier-settler block released after the war to a returned soldier. There is a rumour that this block was given to Billy Sing, the famous Gallipoli sniper, who also served in France. Maybe he gave the name to this block in memory of his wartime experiences. I have an elaborate rosewood stock whip handle carved by Billy Sing and given to my Grandfather in return for the gift of a pocket knife, when Billy was down on his luck. Billy at one time did live in the Clermont district.
When I found and visited Pernois in August 2007, the house and yards have nearly completely fallen down, but the shearing shed remains surprisingly in tact after all these years, even to the wool table and wool press still there.
The property is very heavy black soil, undulating with some stones, and unfortunately covered in parthenium weed. The house would have had no power or running water. The old mill was 200 yards to the east, and water would have had to have been carried from there for the domestic purposes. After 80 years, a very depressing sight. ( Peter Fox, September 2007)
Mother, Betty and I went to Emu Park – Father went to Brisbane and had a job for a while as a stores clerk with the Main Roads building the road between Caboolture and Beerwah. He then worked for General motors driving cars from the wharf to the John Reid Hall at the Exhibition Grounds. He came to notice of the General Manager for Queensland (a man called Sommers) and was offered a job as a fieldsman for the company located at Charters Towers and supervising agents etc between Charters Towers and Mt. Isa.
We joined father in Brisbane, and mother found a small flat firstly at Windsor. We later got a house to rent at Northgate about 5 minutes from the station. I started school for a few months firstly at Windsor State School and later at Virginia. I make this point to show how tough things were in the late 20’s and how mother coped and assisted him with 2 small children.
In due course late 1928 or 1929 we moved to Charters Towers. Father did well in his job. It was a good job and paid 500 pounds a year when the basic wage was 3 pounds 5 shillings a week.
He never seemed to save much – too many grazier and war time friends about and while he was travelling he lived in hotels all along the northern line.
About 1931 or 1932 he was transferred to Rockhampton but the depression was having its effects and after about 6 months General Motors closed down its Australian and Queensland operation.
He went into partnership with a man called Calder on a main roads job in the Longreach district. It lasted about 6 months but nearly was a general disaster. For a time he worked at Mt Morgan in the mines.
By this time fathers health was failing. In 1935 mother closed the house down in Caroline Street, I went to boarding school 1935-1936, Betty lived with mother at Emu Park 1935 and came to Somerville house as a boarder in 1936 and 1937. Father came to Brisbane and got a job as a car salesman – again he did well.
Mother bought a house in Ardoyne Road, Corinda. Father ulcers started to haemorrhage and he went to his local doctor for treatment then to a medical board and was awarded T.P.I. pension. On a special diet and relived of worry and tension his health improved. In 1938-1939 he tried again and got a job with Winchcombe Carsons based in Charleville and Cunnamulla.
By 1938-1393 Betty and I were working and we had for the first time a decent home, tennis court and garden and as a family we were doing well. We were able to buy out first car. On 3rd September 1939 we had a call from Charleville saying father was on his way to Brisbane to join up. War had been declared just 21 years after 1st World War. Father was accepted and given a position at Victoria Barracks – and later as a Major was O.C. Cowan as officer in charge of the garrison. He continued his service with the Garrison Battalion at Cowan, Brisbane and later in Toowoomba in charge of guard duties at depots on the Darling Downs. He was discharged late 1944 I think. Mother had bought “Sunning” on West Street by that time and father started to build himself a poultry farm. At this time he was 50 years of age. He worked hard, too hard for his age and health until 1951 when he had to sell off his poultry. He was invited to stand for the Drayton Shire Council and was a counsellor when the Drayton Shire was incorporated in the Toowoomba City Council.
He was a Master Mason – Clermont Masonic Lodge but did not attend Lodge in his later years.
Peter and Cam will remember him at Sunning.
He died in St Vincent’s Hospital on 6th July, 1964 aged 70 years.
He was well regarded as kindly gentleman; he was highly regarded as a soldier and leader of men in the field. He had friends it seemed to me, where ever he went from Billy Sing the Sniper, to Sir William Glasgow and Sir Byrne Hart (Robin’s father) who was one of his officers in France.
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