N.S.W Australia

The newly married Mr and Mrs Fred Young left for their honeymoon in Sydney. No one really knows whether they returned to Ipswich but it seems that either Fred or Violet had skin cancer on their face and they'd been advised to try living in a milder climate.

After settling in NSW they lived in Sydney, Woollahra and Bondi Junction, then began building a small cottage at Mt Kuring-gai on the northern outskirts of Sydney.

Violet suffered a miscarriage with her first pregnancy and an operation followed during which an ovary was removed. She was told at the time that she would never have any children. Little did that Doctor know, as their first daughter was followed by a son, and another three daughters!

Fred was very interested in education for the poor, and spent much time working towards this goal with his friend David Stewart. It seems that when teachers were scarce during the First World War, my grandfather taught at various schools in Sydney (possibly Private schools). No degree was required in those days!

During his short lifetime Fred worked as a monumental mason around Sydney. Some of his work is said to be in the old Gore Hill Cemetery at North Sydney and he was responsible for stonework on the gates at Royal North Shore Hospital, and possibly a low stone wall. Fred spent ten months in Warwick, Qld. working on the beautiful carved and polished blue granite altar rail for St Mary of the Assumption Church. (see photos below)

altar and rail

altar rail, warwick

(Sadly, the centre section of this lovely rail has been dismantled but is possibly still stored - perhaps under the church).

When Fred was commissioned to work on the altar rail for the Church in Warwick, he travelled to Qld. first, Violet and the children following later. It was an awful, long train trip with four young children. They stayed en route with Grandparents Emma and Theo at Newtown, Ipswich.

When the work on the Church was completed Fred went back to Sydney, but Violet and the children spent quite some time at Newtown (Queensland) - approx. September 1921 - March 1923.

Their eldest daughter attended Ipswich school at the foot of Limestone Hill and went to Sunday School at the little church. The next eldest sister was adamant she would not go to school there, my mother Violet of course could not recall being in Warwick or Ipswich at all as she was only 18 months old.

Back in Sydney Fred was working on the small spires of St Mary's Cathedral in the city. (see before and after representations below)

st marys with small spires only st marys -  artists' impression with added tall spires

Although the large spires were to have been added, the money was used for other purposes and finally completed in time for the 2000 Olympic Games which were held in Sydney. A sight Fred did not live to see....

The Young family lived happily at Mt Kuring-gai right on the edge of The Chase - though Fred was a father of the ‘old school’ and believed that children should be seen and not heard, should eat separately from the parents, should chew their food 40 times and so on.....

A newly discovered photo (August 2018) of Fred and his two eldest children.
Written on the back of the photo (probably by Grandma) are the words "DADDY, WINNIE, ROBBIE".

This photo is just the 2nd held of my grandfather - his wedding photo is the only other one that I have seen.

Fred and Violet went on to have three further children. The family consisted of Winifred Emma born 13 November 1914 died 29 April 1944, Robert Frederick born 30 August 1916 died (KIA) 16 November 1942, Olive Sarah born 4 August 1919 died 30 Jan 2018, Violet Anne born 29 March 1921 died 11 June 1998, Dorothy Jean born 14 August 1925 died 17 December 2004.

Fred's occupational hazard eventually caught up with him and for the latter part of his life he was bedridden in the big room of the cottage which later became the lounge room. This room at that stage was not lined and had no ceiling.

During this time Fred applied his carving talents by making beautiful place mats from heavy brown linoleum. He would sketch the pattern, usually of Australian gum nuts, flowers and delicate slender gum leaves, and then carve the finished design. These mats were sold and none have survived amongst family treasures.

He also did many wooden carvings, and one in particular - a lovely oblong cedar plaque featuring a bunch of grapes - remains in the family.

The day came when his children watched sadly from where they sat on rocks by the house as he was taken to the Mater Misercordiae Hospital in an ambulance. Violet told her children that their father's disease was incurable, and that only the Catholic Hospital would take him.

When he died, the hospital bells were tolled. (see funeral notice below).

funeral notice

Fred Young died from stone dust on the lungs on 1 August 1929, aged only 53, and his was one of the early cremations to be performed at Rookwood Cemetery. His ashes were scattered and he has no plaque.

Another YOUNG to die young.....

Violet Carries On...
Violet was devastated at the loss of her husband at such a young age. She was 43 when he died, with five children under fourteen to care for. She received a widow's pension - 17/6d a week for herself, 7/6d for each child under 14. No fringe benefits! She did a couple of mornings cleaning, 5/- a half day, always living in fear that someone would ‘dob her in’ as they did to a friend at Mt Colah who had 3 lumps of boys under 14, and she had to repay it!

One day her brother Herb's wife Cass turned up on the doorstep. In her arms was a tiny baby with huge dark eyes - a lifesaver for Grandma who was still grieving for her husband.

Herb was the ‘black sheep’ of the family - a loveable rogue - and had sent Cass and their young baby to his sister for help. For about a year (while Herb was a guest of the Government of the day..!) Grandma looked after Herb and Cass's baby, while Cass returned to her work as a tailoress.

Herb and Cass's daughter and Violet's youngest child (who was then about five) were like sisters and maintained their special relationship through the years.

In about 1931/32 Violet's parents Theo and Emma came to Sydney to live with her. They built an extension on to the house in Chase Street - just off the kitchen. They stayed for about one year but Emma wanted to get back to Ipswich to the rest of her family. They left around the time of their Golden Wedding Anniversary, and from then on the two youngest sisters shared the room that had been added.

At some stage after living with butter-coolers and meat safes the household had progressed to an ice chest, and Violet's Uncle Les Marchant from Leeton had paid to have the telephone connected, everyone putting in sixpence for their calls. Yes, sixpence!

Life in the house at the edge of Kuring-gai Chase went on. The house itself was cosy - with wooden floored verandahs on two sides, soft blue hydrangeas and lush ferns thriving in the garden near the front steps. There was a wisteria vine that presented a glorious mauve waterfall of flowers every spring.

grandma - wisteria
Grandma in front of wisteria at "Thoreau"

Behind the house were a number of fruit trees and ‘up the back’ was the outside toilet. A sandy path bordered with watsonias led down the side to the front gate built by Rob and Don - a gate that everyone swung on! Malcomsens, the people next door, had two fierce looking bulldogs.

Where the back garden ended, the magical Chase began. Sandy tracks led to where a wild woody pear tree grew at the top of rough steps near the fascinating sandstone caves. Rock wallabies, kangaroos, lizards and goannas abounded together with snakes and strange little plants known as ‘mountain devils’. There were kookaburras, magpies, willy wag-tails, and the exotic lyre birds with their nest. No matter how long between visits the track to Apple Tree Bay and Bobbin Head still beckons the wanderer with tantalising glimpses of sparkling water between the gum trees.

The Chase was a place of magic, beauty and - danger. Many times the local men and women would face the fury of a bushfire and have to beat the flames with wet bags and green branches. They would drape the houses with wet hessian and sit at night and watch the fires in the hills around.

Back in England Fred's brother James kept in touch with Violet, sending parcels from the mother country. When he died in 1936 he left two hundred and fifty English pounds to his brother's widow. James' widow Sarah died in 1937 leaving the same sum again to Violet and with this five hundred pounds she had the house 'done up' and purchased her beloved piano.

Violet's eldest daughter was married in 1940 and moved away from home.

The Second World War came along - times were very difficult, but Grandma always had an open door for ‘the boys’ - her home was their home. She was warm and generous and the young soldiers went back to their barracks with their spirits revived.

Then her only son Rob went off to fight.

Before he left, Rob planted a Rosemary bush - so they would all remember him while he was away....

rob back garden thoreau
Rob - home on leave
Back garden “Thoreau”
Edge of Kuring-gai Chase
NOTE: Old homemade chair....!
Rob - soldier
Robert Frederick Young
Gunner NX59015
26 2/5th Field Regt.
Killed in Action

rob's grave in New Guinea
Port Moresby (Bomana)
War Cemetery, Papua new Guinea
liveth for evermore
In the perpetual care of
the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

In July 2022 I was contacted regarding information shown on my website relating to my Uncle Robert Frederick YOUNG who was killed in action during World War 2.

Scott Wilson from Berowra had come across my website a while back and was interested in the life of my Uncle, Gunner Robert Frederick Young. He said he liked to research local servicemen, in particular, those named on the Berowra War Memorial, had spent eight years researching the First World War soldiers and published a book about them in 2018 with the help of the Berowra RSL Sub-Branch.

Since then he has been slowly working through information and records of WW2 servicemen.

He mentioned he was familiar with Robert Young's story and the events surrounding his death and added that I may be aware that he was a member of 2/5th Field Regiment, which was part of the Australian 7th Division of the 2nd AIF.

The Berowra RSL Sub-Branch is currently having the 25 Pdr Field Gun restored which sits alongside the Berowra War Memorial. This field gun is believed to be ex-7th Division.

Scott added that he writes stories about the servicemen for the "Bush Telegraph" for Anzac Day and Remembrance Day and would like to write about Robert Young for Remembrance Day this November (2022), bearing in mind it will be eighty years since his loss. Eventually all the WW2 stories he has written will hopefully be published in a book when the centenary of the beginning of that war occurs in a few years.

I was more than happy to have Scott's article, which includes War Service details previously unknown to our family, to be published in the October 2022 edition of the "Bush Telegraph".

A hopeful side benefit of his article could be contact from families of men and women who served during WW2 in the Berowra and Mount Kuring-gai area who could have further information.

I can be contacted via email and would then forward any enquiries on to Scott.

Violet's first grandchild - a boy - was born in October 1942 just in time to cushion the blow for her when Rob was killed in November. This tragedy happened while he was travelling with the Army from Milne Bay to Buna, New Guinea.



An anniversary that seems to have escaped public notice this year is that of the 80th Anniversary of the Kokoda Campaign which took place in New Guinea during the Second World War.

The Campaign was a crucially important one for Australia with the crème of our troops being rushed back from the Middle East while the expansionist Japanese forces, who had taken the Philippines, Malaya and Singapore months before, were literally knocking on our back door. Militia troops were hurried to New Guinea whilst our troops from the Middle East were returned to our shores and re-equipped for jungle fighting.

NX59015 Gunner Robert Young on leave in Mount Kuring-gai

One particular soldier caught up in those rapidly changing events was the subject of this story, Gunner Robert Frederick Young from Mount Kuring-gai.

Robert had enlisted in the army in June 1940, aged twenty-three years. Following his basic training he had undergone machine gun training before being sent to the Middle East in late September 1941. Shortly after arriving in Palestine a bout of mumps hospitalised Robert for a fortnight before the army finally decided to make an artillery man out of him. On 20th November 1941 he was marched in to the Artillery Training Regiment where he remained for two months until 19th February 1942 (four days after the fall of Singapore) when he was taken on strength by the 2/5th Field Regiment, an artillery regiment of the 7th Division AIF

The 2/5th Field Regiment had made a name for themselves in the Middle East. Initially formed at Ingleburn during May 1940, the regiment consisted of two batteries, the 9th and 10th. Arriving in Palestine in November 1940 the 2/5th Field Regiment spent some time carrying out further training before being deployed to the Western Desert. In June 1941 the fighting against the Vichy French in the Syria/Lebanon region flared up and the 2/5th Field Regiment were moved into the battle where they acquitted themselves well. One of their young officers, a Lieutenant Roden Cutler, being awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions.

Guns of the 2/5th Field Regiment in Syria

After the fighting had died down it was decided to add a third battery to the field regiment, designated the 55th Battery. The timing of this aligned with Robert's arrival in the Middle East and explains how he came to be a gunner. When Robert was taken on strength by the 2/5th Field Regiment on 19th January 1942 they were back in Palestine, however, due to the Japanese threat, within three weeks the regiment was once again aboard ship and heading back to Australia. They arrived in Adelaide in March 1942 and travelled overland to Kilcoy, North West of Brisbane, to support 18th Infantry Brigade, expecting Brisbane to be invaded.

That of course did not happen and the 2/5th Field Regiment continued with their preparations for a forthcoming move to New Guinea which eventuated in mid-August 1942.

Elements of the field regiment arrived at Milne Bay on 21st August 1942 and within days were supporting our infantry during the Japanese landings at Milne Bay.

Robert's 55th Battery, at that stage, had not yet come under fire, nor had they fired on the Japanese. Things were about to change as the AIF chased the Japanese off the Kokoda Track and into heavily prepared defensive positons around the Buna and Gona villages on the north east New Guinea coastline.

The Australian advance had stalled, along with that of the first American infantry units to fight the Japanese in New Guinea. The problem lay in the strength of the Japanese positions which were dug in and covered over with palm tree logs. These positions were very difficult to penetrate, accordingly the allied commanders called for heavier artillery than the portable mortars used by the AIF. Being equipped with the 25-pounder Field Gun it was no surprise that the 2/5th Field Regiment were drawn in to the battle and for the 55th Battery their time to experience action had arrived.

Should you have the chance to look over the 25-pounder Field Gun positioned alongside Berowra war Memorial (said to have been a 7th Division AIF gun) you will notice that it is a heavy and ungainly looking weapon, designed to be towed behind a truck or gun tractor.

The roads of the north coast of New Guinea did not exist to support that type of transport and it was decided to transport the guns, initially from Milne Bay, on a captured Japanese barge, among a small convoy of luggers. Among the photographs held in The Australian War Memorial are a series of images of 2/5th Field Regiment gunners pulling one of the guns off the barge at Oro Bay, clearly showing how many gunners were required to move a 1300kg gun. Of note is the date of the photograph being 11th November 1942 - Robert could well be among these gunners.

Gunners of the 2/5th Field Regiment manhandling a gun at Oro Bay on 11th November 1942

So it came to be that men of the 55th Battery on the afternoon of 16th November 1942 found themselves departing Oro Bay bound for Hariko, south of Buna village, with two 25- pounder Field Guns and ammunition loaded on the barge. All went well until just on dusk when fourteen Japanese Zero fighters were spotted approaching the small convoy. Accounts vary a little here, some saying the fighters flew by and then turned back to attack, others saying the fighters attacked immediately. Some saying the luggers were hit first and then the barge. I tend to believe that the two guns upon the barge would attract the most attention.

Gunner Alfred Price, who was among the artillery men on the barge, would later write:
"At dusk (approximately 7 p.m.) on the evening of the 16th we were travelling in a barge a few miles to the east of Cape Endaiadere when we were suddenly attacked by a number of Japanese aircraft. The aircraft succeeded in sinking our vessel. During the engagement many of our lads were wounded, and several were killed. We were forced to abandon the vessel, but not until all wounded were assisted".

Within minutes three of the luggers and the barge were sunk just a mile off the shore, losing the guns and leaving behind twenty four dead and numerous wounded. Among the dead were Robert and four other gunners of the 2/5th Field Regiment.

The other gunners were:
NX37718 Gunner Alexander Stewart Shaw. A thirty-two year old farmer from Wapra in New South Wales.
NX53000 Gunner John Dugald Alexander McDonald. A thirty-two year old teacher from Maclean.
NX17833 Gunner John Fenton Weatherston. A thirty-five year old farm hand, originally from Scotland.
NX18075 Gunner Henry Louis Switzer. A twenty-four year old mechanic from Hurstville.

A map of the coast around the villages of Buna and Gona.
The red line and star showing the convoy's route and the approximate area of the Japanese attack

News of the tragedy was slow to reach 2/5th Field Regiment Headquarters. The war diary reported the incident on 27th November, noting additionally that "this is the first time 55th Battery has been in action and it was very bad luck to be caught as they were with possibly no chance of hitting back".

Of the five men, Robert was the only gunner whose body was recovered and buried, in Bomana War Cemetery.

As you would expect news of Robert's death hit the Young family hard back in Mount Kuring-gai. Robert was the second oldest of five children born to Fred and Violet Young and the sole son. Although he was born in Waverley in August 1916 the family had moved to Mount Kuring-gai a few years later after building a small cottage in what was then Chase Street, Mount Kuring-gai.

The cottage, which Fred Young named 'Thoreau' after the American Naturalist, stood close to where the track leading down to Cowan Creek begins. I imagine that growing up in the area in the 1920s and 1930s would have been quite idyllic in many ways. In other ways not so, as Fred Young, whose craft was that of a monumental stonemason, paid dearly for his trade, succumbing to stone dust on his lungs on 1st August 1929, aged fifty-three years.

Violet was ten years younger than Fred and found herself with five children, all under fourteen, to raise alone. That she did raise the children successfully was a credit to her.

By all accounts it was a very close family and before Robert left our shores with the army he planted a rosemary bush at 'Thoreau' in order that the family would remember him whilst he was away serving. That original rosemary bush survives in a real sense due to family members taking cuttings over the years. Barbara O'Neil (nee Kirchner), Robert's niece who provided information for this story, has one of the rosemary bushes descended from the bush that Robert planted. She is known to gift cuttings to others in a pot with the story of the plants origin attached. A fine form of remembrance.

Although the chance of carrying the Young surname forward ceased with Robert's death the name can still be found in Mount Kuring-gai.

Violet Young went on to live a meaningful life before she passed away aged seventy-five years in 1967. Some years later Chase Street was renamed Young Street in her honour.

Berowra, NSW War Memorial

Robert, who served his country for well over two years in the army before tragically falling to the enemy on his first encounter, is well remembered by his descendants and is also named on the Berowra War Memorial.

Strangely he is not identified as being killed in action.

Many thanks to Barbara O'Neil (nee Kirchner), the niece of Robert Frederick Young, for information concerning the Young family.

Written and researched by Scott Wilson (08/2022)

The Bush Tele gives Barbara O'Neil permission to reprint The Bush Tele publication of the Robert Frederick Young story, as told by Scott Wilson.
Kathie Comb
The Bush Tele

Although Grandma had five children, Rob was the only son - the last of the Young line. Rosemary plant or not - he would always be remembered, and by many family members, as one by one a number of us have taken cuttings from that original plant.

My parents were married in 1942 and John went off overseas leaving his new wife with her mother. Her elder sister was married in 1943 and she too stayed at “THOREAU” - the house on the edge of Kuring-gai Chase. Many years ago Fred had named his house after the writer Henry David Thoreau and had carved a wooden sign bearing the name.

So Grandma's house was full of daughters and children. I was born in April 1944, then a son to Violet's 2nd daughter and her husband a year later. Not long after a second son was born to her eldest daughter and her husband. (In the following years another 2 sons were born to my parents, plus a daughter and a son to Violet's youngest daughter and her husband).

grandma with grandchildren
Grandma with grandchildren

The war over, Grandma finally gained some peace and quiet, though there were always people coming and going. Her eldest daughter and family lived many miles away in Cootamundra which meant they didn't visit very often, but my parents and family were close by at Mt Colah, with Violet's 2nd daughter and husband and their young son living in Mt Kuring-gai, as did her youngest daughter and her husband (who she'd married in 1948).

Violet with brother Herb
Violet with brother Herb Geertz
- 1948 -

grandma and grandchildren front step 'Thoreau'
Grandma with grandchildren
Front steps of "Thoreau"

So Grandma didn't have time to be lonely. She had a multitude of friends from her years as a diligent worker for Parent and Citizen Associations of Berowra and Asquith Schools, Asquith Red Cross, and the 2GB Happiness Club. Amongst many other pursuits she had belonged to a Lodge, played the piano on the stage at Harwood Hall for Church and Sunday school and in later years was an active member of the Mt Kuring-gai Progress Association.

Many years later Chase Street, Mt Kuring-gai, the home of “THOREAU” was renamed Young Street in recognition of Violet Young's contribution to the surroundings and people with whom she had shared her life.

Violet Young
Violet Young

In about 1950 (she was 65) Grandma sold the house in Chase Street and went to live with her married daughter at Mt Kuring-gai. Her daughter's husband was a builder and had added an extension to their home in High Street.

Grandma - High St
Grandma in front of the Richards' home
High St., Mt Kuring-gai

She had a lovely room looking out on the garden - her piano was there and it was very special listening to her play. Throughout the years, right to the end, Grandma did the most beautiful crochet work - we all have some pieces - a lovely reminder of her. (see samples below)

sydney harbour bridge doyley



When Grandma was 70 she suffered with breast cancer, went through the agony of having a breast removed, and all the associated ray treatment. Thankfully, to the end of her days, the cancer never returned.

She was still living at Mt Kuring-gai when her 75th birthday came around. A neighbour of Violet's youngest daughter made and decorated a lovely cake for this very special occasion.

Barbara Kirchner with Grandma's Birthday Cake

At that time I was living with my aunt and her family in Hornsby, and remember having Grandma there for the celebration. We would often go for picnics and outings, a popular spot being picturesque Clareville Beach, and Grandma would come with us for the day.

Not long after her 75th birthday a stroke turned my precious Grandma from a gentle, loving lady into someone we still loved, but who we were never sure recognised us. She would often shake her head in answer to a question when we knew she should be nodding! I recall visiting her with Dennis before we were married in 1966. I asked her if she thought I should marry him - and she very seriously shook her head from side to side.... I know in my heart that she really meant to say yes.....

She spent her last years at “NERINGAH”, a very nice private nursing home in Wahroonga on Sydney's North Shore, and died peacefully on 27 September 1967 aged 82.

The Rev. Alan Scott (son of Fred's old friend Dave Scott from England) officiated at the burial service as he had done for Fred in 1929.

Obituary Violet Young

Grandma followed Fred's decision to be cremated, and her ashes were buried in the rose garden at Northern Suburbs Memorial Gardens, North Sydney. She also has no plaque.

rose garden
Memorial Rose Garden

A grandfather I never knew and a generous, loving grandmother I knew well and will always remember.


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