Cecil was the grandson of one of the earlier miners of the Avoca district.  He served in World War 1.

George Young, a miner, had arrived at the Lamplough Rush near Avoca in about 1859 with a wife and two young children.  A third child had been born and died at Beechworth.  John had been born in 1856 at Dunolly and Alice in January 1859 at White Hills near Maryborough.  Twins Charlotte and Harriet were born in July 1861 at Lamplough. Although the rush was moving on, perhaps the burden of four young children including new born twins persuaded George and his wife Caroline to settle.  George took up a small portion of land and continued to mine at Lamplough.  He and his wife had thirteen children.  She died in 1879 at the age of 43 leaving 8 children, the two youngest being one and three years old.  It would appear John, who was then aged 23, took on some responsibility for helping with his siblings while probably working as a miner locally.  His sister Alice was married a year later, Harriet and Charlotte married in 1881 and 1882 respectively, and Maria was married in 1884.

It seems that between about 1887 and 1894 John Young was working in New South Wales.  At Parkes he met the widow of a miner, Sarah Jane Whiteman.  They married in Melbourne in 1894.  She already had two children Robert and Mary Anne aged about eleven and ten at the time of her second marriage.  John and Sarah Jane had one daughter who died in infancy and then a son John Percy (Jack) was born at Timor in 1896.  A second son, Cecil,  was born at Rokewood in 1898 but Sarah Jane died in childbirth.

The two young boys were brought up by their aunt Charlotte who had married a schoolteacher George Wilkins. George was headteacher at Homebush near Avoca.  John Young continued as a miner at Barringhup then Burnt Creek and later Betley.  The two boys stayed in contact with their half-brother and half-sister.  Postcards from Tasmania reveal that Robert Whiteman moved to Tasmania and married there.  Later he moved back to Melbourne.  Mary Ann lived for a time at Homebush (1909) and after marriage in 1911 lived in Melbourne.  From 1911 the two boys were living at Clunes with their Aunt Harriet (Charlotte’s twin) who had been widowed in 1904 and whose youngest child was the same age as Jack and Cecil.1

As the head teacher of Homebush George Wilkins played an active role in the community: he was on the local cricket team; he played the cornet in the local band; he was frequently called to take on the roll of MC at local gatherings.  George was Lieutenant in charge of the local cadets.2 During the war George Wilkins took on a leading role organising the Soldiers’ Comforts Fund of Homebush. After the war he helped to form the local branch of the Returned Soldiers’ League.

Cecil enlisted in the AIF in December 1915.3 He was only seventeen and a half but he advanced his date of birth by one year.  He described his trade as a butcher but was not an apprentice.  He declared he had served with the senior cadets at Footscray for 9 months (no kit had been issued as the annotation stated it was an exempt area).  He was only a small man: 5 feet 5 1/4 inches tall weighing 123 1/2 lbs (just under 9 stone or 60 kg).  He had two tattoos: a ship and two clasped hands on his left forearm, a rose with “Myrtle” on his right forearm.  In April 1916 he was appointed to the 24th Battallion, 13th reinforcements.

Young Cecil from Noel Tunks_001

Cecil Young, photograph from Noel Tunks

He embarked from Australia in July 1917 arriving Plymouth, England in September and departing Folkestone, England in November 1916 and taken on strength in France 21 December 1916. He was with the 24th battalion reinforcing the second division. He was sick with scabies in hospital in mid-June 1917 and rejoined his unit at the end of the month.  He was wounded in action on 20 September 1917 with gunshot wounds to his right ear and his right thigh.  He was transferred to an ambulance train and three weeks later to hospital in England.  In January he was discharged to furlough and later that month he was admonished by a major following disorderly conduct and refusal to obey an order given by the Military Police. In April he was returned to Australia disembarking in early June and he was discharged from the AIF at Melbourne as medically unfit on 26 July 1918.  The last stamped annotation to his AIF file is  “Application for war service leave gratuity passed Feb 28 1919”.

Battle of Menin Road – wounded at side of the road. The 24th battalion’s battle honours include Menin Road. This battle occurred on 20 September 1917 so it is possible that the conditions Cecil experienced are similar to those in this picture taken by Frank Hurley.4

By August 1918 he was in Homebush staying with his aunt and uncle George and Charlotte Wilkins.  There he entertained a large number of guests together with Pte Allen, a friend of his from his war service, at the Public Hall, Homebush.  Guests were mainly members and supporters of Homebush Soldiers’ Comforts Fund.  The object of Privates Young and Allen “being to show their appreciation of the good work that is being done by the above body”.

Cecil’s brother Jack also served in World War I.  He enlisted in Melbourne on 3 October 1916. He was twenty years old. He trained as a signaller, and went to France in January 1918. He was wounded in action, gassed, in August 1918. In November 1918 Jack Young died of pneumonia in England. He is buried at Brookwood War Cemetery. John Young, his father, completed a card for the Roll of Honour of Australia.

Cecil and Jack are remembered locally on the Homebush Honor Roll unveiled in 1917 and on the memorial placed at the Homebush school in 1993. They are not remembered on any of the other local Avoca memorials.

Cecil is my husband’s grandfather.

The school at Lower Homebush where Cecil and Jack Young lived with their aunt Charlotte and her husband George Wilkins.  The Avenue of Honour can be seen.  Photographed September 2011.
The plaque at the Avenue of Honour at Lower Homebush School.

1. In the 1960s Cecil passed a collection of postcards to his son Peter. These postcards helped us to develop the family tree and understand the family history of the early twentieth century.
2. Postcard concerning uniforms for two cadets from the firm Alfred Bowley addressed to Lieut. G.E. Wilkins in 1907.
3. National Archives of Australia: Australian Imperial Force, Base Records Office; B2455, First Australian Imperial Force Personnel Dossiers, 1914-1920; Young Cecil Ernest : SERN 5115 : POB Rokewood VIC : POE Melbourne VIC : NOK F Young John
4. Picture retrieved from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Battle_of_Menin_Road_-_wounded_at_side_of_the_road.jpg 20 April 2013. This image was in turn saved from the State Library of New South Wales: Exhibition of war photographs taken by Capt. F. Hurley, August 1917- August 1918. The caption for image 35: The Battle of the Menin Road. Walking wounded returning from the battle and by the roadside a relay of seriously wounded. The battle is still raging in the background. http://acms.sl.nsw.gov.au/item/itemDetailPaged.aspx?itemID=423850 retrieved 20 April 2013.