Service Numbers: 267, W56387
Enlisted: 21 April 1942
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 28th Infantry Battalion
Born: Devon, England, 8 April 1893
Home Town: Kondinin, Kondinin, Western Australia
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Laborer, farmer, Linesman
Died: Heart failure, Corlei Nursing Home, Como, Western Australia, 10 January 1980, aged 86 years
Cemetery: Karrakatta Cemetery & Crematorium
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World War 1 Service

29 Jun 1915: Embarked Private, SN 267, 28th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Ascanius, Fremantle
29 Jun 1915: Involvement Private, SN 267, 28th Infantry Battalion

World War 2 Service

21 Apr 1942: Enlisted SN W56387
21 Apr 1942: Involvement SN W56387

Frank Dolbear - a brief history

Birth reference-GRO 1893 June quarter 5b 64 St Thomas.
Marriage reference-WA Marriage Index-51/1919 East Coolgardie.
Death reference-WA Register of Deaths Perth 267/1980/X

Frank was born on April 8, 1893 in Round Hill, Dunsford, Devon.

He appears in the 1901 British census aged 7 living with his parents at Great Week.

The 1911 British census lists Frank as an errand boy aged 17 in Okehampton, Devon.

Frank attended the St Michael’s Sunday school in Chagford. His schooling was limited by circumstances and a labour certificate was applied for and granted to allow Frank to work in 1907. The Local Education Authority of the Devon County Council issued this.

At 20 Frank decided to move to Australia and sailed on October 4, 1913 from the port of Liverpool for Australia on the White Star liner Zealandic. He was one of 1064 nominated and assisted immigrants who arrived on the ship when it berthed at Victoria Quay on November 8, 1913. The immigrants entered Australia through “J” Shed, with the assisted passengers being despatched to accommodation in Fremantle. The remaining nominated arrivals waited until the shed doors were flung open and chaos ensued as their nominators flooded in to find them.

Frank found work with the South Kalgoorlie Mining Company in Kalgoorlie. He was a resourceful and independent fellow who could turn his hand to just about anything. There was no government support in those days. Frank, aged 21, with little formal education and no money or trade would have faced a daunting prospect in his new country. Family members always spoke of him as a tough customer, inured to hard living and highly resilient.

With the advent of war Frank enlisted on February 28, 1915 as an original member of the 28th Battalion, which became part of the Australian Imperial Force. He was assigned to B Company and his regimental number was 267. The battalion was one of three raised wholly in Western Australia.

On June 3, 1915, the King’s birthday, the 28th Battalion marched through Perth watched by massive crowds, including his fiancée Eva in white dress and hat. Eva told Frank that she would stand at a particular spot on the route so he could see her. This parade turned out to be the unit’s farewell to the city. The battalion embarked on HMAT Ascanius on June 9, 1915 enroute to the Middle East.

Frank was never wounded but in October 1915 he was evacuated from Gallipoli aboard the hospital ship Valdivia. Suffering from colic, pleurisy, bronchitis, and influenza, he was hospitalised in Heliopolis, which is a part of Cairo. For part of the time Frank was in France, he was attached to 7th Brigade Headquarters as one of the military police detachment.

He was awarded the 1914/15 Star, the British War Medal, and the Victory Medal. It is noteworthy that Frank’s Army pay between June 1915 and June 1919 was 450 pounds 9 shillings and 5 pence. Out of this amount he allotted the sum of 219 pounds to his mother Emma in England. Frank discharged from the Army in Perth on June 10, 1919.

Three weeks after leaving the Army, he married Eva Cocker on July 2, at the Church of Christ in Kalgoorlie. After the wedding they left Kalgoorlie for Perth. Briefly they lived at “Linton” in Victoria Avenue, Claremont. In 1920 Frank became the farm-manager on the property belonging to Eva’s uncle Alfred Evans, situated at Morawa. Their future at the property was briefly in peril when the couple arrived. Frank, hearing Eva scream, rushed to the rescue and made a valiant attempt to kill a snake. It turned out to be Uncle Alfred’s pet snake. It may have been in peril again at the “grand opening night” celebrating the completion of the main house, attended by locals from far and wide. Frank and Eva had prepared the dance floor with boiled linseed oil rather than raw oil. Instead of gliding over the dance floor, people found themselves sticking to it.

Taking over the operation of this farm would have been a major step for Frank who had only ever worked on farms in England. During this time, he would have had to become familiar with Australian farming conditions, vastly different from those that he had known. The pair stayed and worked the farm until Frank got the chance to branch out on his own in 1925.

During this period Frank and Eva had two of their three daughters. The eldest, Evelyn was born on August 21, 1920. The middle child Edna came into the world on February 22, 1922. Both times Eva went to Kalgoorlie to stay with her mother and the babies were born in the house at 10 Hobart St.

In 1925 Frank received a war service grant for a house and land in the group settlement scheme in Busselton (group 44). This was a largely misguided government scheme aimed at putting returned soldiers on the land. They were required to clear the land and plant crops. The mass clearing that went on due to the scheme caused major salinity problems in large areas of the southwest of Western Australia. By 1928 Frank and Eva were forced to leave the property as it proved to be too small to be profitable and the salinity problem reduced the capacity of the soil. Whilst on the farm and living in a rather primitive and cramped farmhouse, Frank showed his ingenuity and improvisation. He constructed an extension at the back of the house using hessian bags covered in cement wash, then coated with grease on the outside to waterproof it.

On Christmas day 1925, Mavis, the youngest of their three daughters was born. Like for the births of the other girls, Eva made the long journey back to Kalgoorlie. This allowed the other children to be looked after by their grandmother.

Following having to leave Busselton the couple moved to Mt Helena and rented a poultry farm and orchard. They eventually moved to another property in Mt Helena, also a poultry farm. They were on this farm when the Great Depression started. By 1933 the poultry farm was in serious trouble and Frank was forced to get work around the district to supplement the family income.

Around this time Eva’s mother Catherine was obviously worried about Frank and Eva’s ability to provide a stable, permanent home for their family. She had already given a block of land at 466 Canning Highway to Eva. Catherine now wanted her to build on it and was prepared to help with the cost until Frank got on his feet. The builders Snowden and Wilson were commissioned to build the house at a cost of 610 pounds and the family moved into their new home late in 1933.

For the next couple of years after the collapse of his poultry business Frank was on what was known as sustenance. Men would work for six weeks at two pounds per week, then have six weeks without work and receive a ration of meat and vegetables. The work Frank had to do varied. He laboured for the Main Roads Department at Sawyers Valley. Worked on Canning Dam for the Water Supply. During this time, he also worked for the Forestry Department at Mundaring and for the WAGR in various locations. The railway work took him away from home a lot. While working on the railway line at Koorda hammering dog pegs into the line, he was hit in the head and severely injured. Over the years Frank survived many a nasty accident.

In 1936 Frank finally gained full-time employment with the PMG. Eva assisted him with the paperwork and exams to get the job. He was employed as a lineman and later became a cable joiner. The job became a career when Frank gained his permanent appointment into the Public Service on March 23, 1941 and he stayed with the PMG until his retirement on March 10, 1958. Whilst working in Kondinin for the PMG Frank had another lucky escape. A tree fell on him when he was called out during a storm. The accident injured his back quite severely and required him to have a series of injections to attempt to correct it.

During the Second World War Frank enlisted once again in the Army, this time as a reservist and served in this capacity until 1946. His job with the PMG meant that he was listed under the Manpower Act and sent to Onslow to help keep communications open between Carnarvon and Port Hedland. He remained up north until 1946. This became the last of the many separations that he and Eva endured during their marriage.

Upon his retirement in 1958, he and his wife Eva took a trip back to England to visit the old country and meet up with family not seen for over forty years. They also had a need to divest themselves of some money to qualify for the full pension. Settling into retirement the pair provided a home that family and friends enjoyed visiting and who usually left with fresh flowers and other produce from their marvellous garden.

Frank remained an active person, doing odd jobs and running a lawn mowing round well into his seventies. One odd job he did for a neighbour produced another one of his lucky escapes. He was sinking a well for the neighbour and was at the bottom of the shaft when the rope hauling a bucket of sand to the top gave way. The bucket fell and struck Frank on the head requiring medical attention and a row of stitches across his scalp.

Eva suffered from back and leg problems in later life and her mind began to falter. She became less able to get around, although she did her best to remain active in the circumstances. Eva’s health declined and she moved in 1975, to Corlei Nursing Home. After what was a long and fruitful life Eva died in January 1978, aged 85 years.

Later that year, Frank, now 85 himself decided to fly to England and see his family again. Given his advanced years and the fact that he may never have been on an aircraft before, this was a rather brave decision to make. Due to his age Frank was required to have a medical before the airline would clear him to fly. It was fortunate that he made the journey at this time as it allowed him to see his sister Annie one final time. Annie died suddenly during his visit.

On returning to Australia Frank continued to live alone at home with assistance from his daughters. Around this time the government reclaimed Frank and Eva’s home for freeway development. Frank moved in with his eldest daughter for some months until, with his own health deteriorating he was admitted to Hollywood Hospital for surgery. A fall in hospital left him with a broken hip. After about a month in hospital he moved to the Corlei Nursing Home. Frank was at Corlei when he died on January 10, 1980 aged 86 years.

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