Robert (Bobby) COPELAND


Service Numbers: SN R672, 672, R672
Enlisted: 27 August 1914, 5 foot 6 inches tall; 140 pounds; 56 inch chest; dark complexion; brown eyes; dark hair; placed with 'B' Company
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 10th Infantry Battalion
Born: Glasgow, Scotland, 1877
Home Town: Port Adelaide, Port Adelaide Enfield, South Australia
Schooling: Magill Industrial School, South Australia
Occupation: Butcher, Bushman
Died: Drowning, Port Adelaide, South Australia, 22 January 1939
Cemetery: Cheltenham Cemetery, South Australia
MEMORIAL ID 100221986
Memorials: Kapunda District WW1 Honour Roll
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Boer War Service

1 Jul 1899: Involvement Australian and Colonial Military Forces - Boer War Contingents, Trooper, Unspecified South African Army Units, Dates are approximations only - served '2 years, 9 months Colonial forces in Africa'
1 Jan 1902: Embarked Australian and Colonial Military Forces - Boer War Contingents, Trooper, Unspecified South African Army Units, Embarked 'Manchester Merchant' from Capetown South Africa to Melbourne. Refer to Chronicle newspaper; Adelaide; 8/2/1902

World War 1 Service

27 Aug 1914: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN R672, 10th Infantry Battalion, 5 foot 6 inches tall; 140 pounds; 56 inch chest; dark complexion; brown eyes; dark hair; placed with 'B' Company
20 Oct 1914: Involvement Private, 672, 10th Infantry Battalion, --- :embarkation_roll: roll_number: '10' embarkation_place: Adelaide embarkation_ship: HMAT Ascanius embarkation_ship_number: A11 public_note: ''
20 Oct 1914: Embarked Private, 672, 10th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Ascanius, Adelaide
20 Oct 1914: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN R672, 10th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Ascanius, from Adelaide
2 Mar 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN R672, 10th Infantry Battalion, Ship ‘Ionian’ to join MEF Gallipoli ex Alexandria
4 May 1915: Wounded AIF WW1, Private, SN R672, 10th Infantry Battalion, ANZAC / Gallipoli, Wounded at the Dardenelles and transferred to Malta; then to Cottervoro Convalescent Hospital on 29/5/1915
30 Jul 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, SN R672, 10th Infantry Battalion, Rejoins his unit at Gallipoli.
29 Dec 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, SN R672, 10th Infantry Battalion, Disembarked 'Seang Bee' at Alexandria for leave. Two of his brothers were also in Alexandria around this time.
25 Feb 1916: Transferred AIF WW1, 50th Infantry Battalion, Transferred to 50th Battalion at Serapeum. Taken on strength at Tel el Kebir.
11 Mar 1916: Wounded AIF WW1, SN R672, 50th Infantry Battalion, Gunshot would to shoulder resulting in vein obstruction. Admitted by 13th Field ambulance to Abbassia; then Heliopolis on 27/3/1915.
11 May 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, SN R672, 50th Infantry Battalion, Embarked 'Kanowna' at Suez for Australia. Recommended for operation on shoulder.
23 Oct 1916: Involvement Private, R672, 10th Infantry Battalion, --- :embarkation_roll: roll_number: '10' embarkation_place: Adelaide embarkation_ship: HMAT Port Melbourne embarkation_ship_number: A16 public_note: ''
23 Oct 1916: Embarked Private, R672, 10th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Port Melbourne, Adelaide
4 May 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, SN R672, 10th Infantry Battalion, Rejoins unit in France from Folkestone in UK.
19 Aug 1917: Wounded AIF WW1, SN R672, 10th Infantry Battalion, Admitted to hospital with Trench Fever; transferred to England on 26/6/1917.
6 Apr 1918: Embarked AIF WW1, SN R672, 10th Infantry Battalion, Embarked ‘Borda’ from England to return to Australia.
26 Jul 1918: Discharged AIF WW1, SN R672, 10th Infantry Battalion, Discharged on return to Australia
Date unknown: Wounded 672, 56th Infantry Battalion

Help us honour Robert Copeland's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by Kim Turner


Robert Copeland was born in Glasgow, Scotland in approximately 1877. His exact date of birth is unknown. His parents were Robert and Elizabeth Copeland (nee Longridge), who originated from Northern Ireland. His father was a plasterer.

Robert was their fifth child and second son. His 3 eldest siblings were born in Northern Ireland and then the family moved to northern England where his brother Samuel was born in Lancashire. The family then appeared to move to Scotland for a while, where Robert was born. Robert would go on to have 3 younger siblings also, all born in South Australia.

Move to South Australia

Just after Robert was born, the family decided to migrate to South Australia.

The ship they chose to travel on was the SS "British Enterprise". The ship British Enterprise was built at Stockholm in 1876, being a three masted iron barque of 1694 tons with dimensions of 246 feet by 40.1 ft. wide by 23.9 ft. draft. British Enterprise was a very fast ship on the England to Australia run and in the last few years of her service she had the reputation for taking a life on almost every voyage.

The Certificate of Arrival for the British Enterprise gives the date of embarkation of emigrants from Plymouth, England as the 12th January 1877. There were more than 500 immigrants on board and a case of smallpox developed on board shortly after leaving England. The man died; his clothes were burned and the ship fumigated. Robert survived the journey as an infant.


The date of arrival at Port Adelaide, South Australia was 4th April 1877, a voyage of 82 days. The ship had been riddled with disease during it's journey, including small-pox, measles, typhus and scarlatina. The assistant health officer, Richard Jagoe, refused to label her a 'clean ship' and placed it in quarantine; this action was confirmed by his superior, Dr Duncan. Yet because a quarantine station had yet to be established in South Australia at the time, the health officer had some trouble enforcing the law of infected persons staying on the ship. The passengers, naturally, were much disappointed in being held in this manner in sight of their destination after a long voyage on a crowded ship and showed their displeasure with Mr Jagoe by pelting him with loaves of bread.

This forced the government of the day to charter several small vessels, and the infected passengers were divided up amongst all the boats. The children were transported to the "Fitzjames" accompanied by their mothers and, two months later, passengers began to comment 'strongly and adversely' on the situation. The health officers conversed with Captain Marshall Smith, a marine surveyor, whose ship, the "J.L. Hall", was in the Port River having partly discharged a cargo of coal.

He agreed to clean the vessel and proceed to the anchorage and take the married couples and their children on board. Two barques in port, the "Ashburton" and "Fleur de Maurice", were also chartered; they accommodated the single men and single women, respectively. After the immigrants had remained another month they were allowed to go ashore, that is, six months from the time they left London. This quarantine exercise was an expensive affair and cost about £8,000.

They had, in essence, created the first quarantine station in South Australia on the fleet of boats. This appeared to have an effect at keeping the diseases off shore, with only a few isolated cases of small-pox in the vicinity of the dock reported. The concern was so great about the potential threat of infection that the incident was even reported in the Hawaiian Gazette newspaper. Whether or not Robert and his family were infected by disease is unknown, but it should be noted that a death record for his elder sister Ellen (who died before 1879 when another daughter baring her name was born) has not been located.

Industrial School

As a child and teenager, Robert was in trouble with the law. On the 28th January 1888 (at age 11) he was admitted to the Magill Industrial School. Remarks on his admission state that he was an ‘uncontrollable boy’ and was sentenced to a term of 12 months. 

Robert did not stay at the Industrial School long. By 6th February 1888, the Industrial School committee had placed him with a Sarah Ann Gamlin, living at Littlehampton, near Macclesfield. His referree was Thomas Weatherall, Protestant Methodist minister at Mt Barker. Robert was adopted by Sarah Gamlin and she was given a subsidy for taking him in.

It appears Robert lived with Sarah Gamlin for sometime, but by 1891, when he was 16, he was back in Adelaide and appears to have been looking for his family. He was in trouble with the law again, as determined by an article in the South Australian Police Gazette, June 8th 1891. The article gave a description of Robert at the time - ""Robert Copeland, alias Longridge, age about 16 years, medium height and build, very fair complexion and hair, full face, wore grey coat and vest, dirty white moleskin trousers, and white soft felt hat with narrow rim".

Boer War

Robert's WWI record states that he served 2 years 9 months with the Colonial forces in Africa, most likely during the Boar War. A search of records in the National Archives and Australian War Memorial has found no evidence of his service at this stage, but a newspaper article states that "Trooper Robert Copeland, a member of the South African irregular corps" arrived back in Adelaide with other Boer War troops in February 1902 (The Chronicle, 8th February 1902). This meant Robert would have joined the war in approximately 1899.


Robert married May Blinman at Adelaide on the 26th January 1912. It is beleived that they spent their early married life in Kapunda, South Australia.

World War 1

Robert enlisted for WWI on 27/8/1914 at Morphettville in South Australia. Have gave his birth place as ‘Ballergate’, Glasgow, Scotland, age 36 years, and stated his trade was a butcher, having been apprenticed by a B. Watts for 3 years. He stated he was married, gave his wife’s name as next of kin and said she was living at Kapunda. He did not give any information on his previous criminal history on his attestation form.

At his medical examination, he was found to be 5ft 6inches in height, 140 pounds, a 56 inch chest measurement, with dark complexion, brown eyes and dark hair. He was given the rank of Private and placed with ‘B’ Company, 10th Infantry, A.I.F.

Robert's first experience of the was was at Gallipoli. He was wounded there on the 4th May 1915, but was well enought to rejoin his unit on 30th July 1915.

Robert was transferred to the 50th Battallion in early 1916 and was sent to Tel el Kebir. It was there that he received a gun shot wound to his shoulder and had to be evacuated to Australia for an operation.

By May 1917, he was back with the 10th Battallion, fighting in France. It was here that he developed Trench Fever and night blindness, and was hospitalised for a third time. As a result of this, a discharge was recommended and Robert was returned to Australia in 1918. 

Robert was often in trouble with the military authorities during his war service, regularly being absent without leave. He forfortied many days pay as a result and was imprisoned on several occassions. In 1916, while back in Australia for the operation on his shoulder and recouperation, he was almost court martialed on the charge of desertion.

The charge came as a result of Robert being absent from Mitcham base camp again and being eventually found drunk on North Terrace by police. A record of the proceedings into his trial exists. Robert stated in his defence that "I was bad at the time I went away. I got drunk, that is all". The court agreed with him, and the he was found not guilty of desertion but guilty to absence without leave.   


After the war, Robert appears to have worked on farms and stations in the north of South Australia, assisting with the poisoning and trapping of feral animals on properties.

In 1920, he became a key witness in a murder trial as a result of his work. The trial was described in various newspapers throughout April 1920. 


Just after 1pm on the 22nd January 1939, Robert went for a swim at Port Adelaide Dock 1 with a friend. It was a particularly hot day, and Robert went swimming in his trousers. Robert got into difficulty and called for help. Two men dived into the water to assist him, and got him onboard the deck of the ketch 'Surprise'. Robert collapsed on the deck and could not be revieved. He died, aged 62 years.

Robert is buried in the Cheltenhem Cemetery, Alberton.