Reuben (Reub) CRAIG

CRAIG, Reuben

Service Number: 2987
Enlisted: 14 August 1915, Melbourne, Victoria
Last Rank: Driver
Last Unit: 5th Field Company Engineers
Born: Stanley, Victoria, Australia, 13 July 1891
Home Town: Beechworth, Indigo, Victoria
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Locomotive Engine Driver
Died: Natural causes (bowel cancer), Canterbury, New South Wales, Australia, 25 January 1979, aged 87 years
Cemetery: Northern Suburbs Memorial Gardens and Crematorium, NSW
Show Relationships

World War 1 Service

14 Aug 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, 2987, 5th Field Company Engineers, Melbourne, Victoria
24 Nov 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Sapper, 2987, 5th Field Company Engineers, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
24 Nov 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Sapper, 2987, 5th Field Company Engineers, HMAT Ceramic, Melbourne
8 Sep 1919: Discharged AIF WW1, Driver, 2987, 5th Field Company Engineers

I Finally discovered the identity of Reuben's father in 2021

It was not until my much loved grandfather, Reuben Craig, died in 1979 that our mum discovered that we did not know who her father's father was (our great grandfather). Until then we had no idea that we did not know. It was a secret so well kept that we did not even know it was a secret. So in 1979 and thereafter, it seemed we may never discover his identity.

After 42 yrs of wondering who my grandfather's father was and doing HOURS of research on & off I finally found his identity in 2021 during the COVID epidemic. Even reading my grandfather's WW1 Enlistment Papers shows the crossings out and difficulty he had in deciding which were the best details to enter for Father, Next of Kin etc.

How did I find his father finally? Well I made my brother do a DNA Test because I thought somehow both his & mine together might help the ongoing mission.
Then......I finally got around to linking his DNA to my Family Tree and then I only had to wait 2 days and logged back in as my brother to my tree & saw a suggested father for my grandfather immediately!!!

Incredible, I am still in shock. Even found a 'Charge by Warrant' in the Victorian Police Gazette of Dec 1903 for him deserting his "illegitimate child by Sarah Craig". Reuben would have then been 12. There was a a description of the father - 40 ish, 6 feet tall, fair complexion, miner.
I wanted to ring my brother, far too late at night.
I wanted to ring my Mother (no longer on this earthly plane). Instead I had to just call out "Mum, I found Papa's father!!!". Mum I did it.

Interestingly soon after as I walked past my lovely small semi-circular table where I light my daily candle and incense I whacked my hand hard on the drawer knob, knocked a box of matches to the floor & ouch that stopped me in my tracks.......

Then I twigged - that was my grandfather & grandmother's telephone table (the thing I most associate with their home & now at least 100 yrs old). And yes I had finally found the match.
I got the message Papa, I love you Papa.

I had found his NSW Railways Pay Card for 1919-1954 2 days ago & today I found his father. AMAZING GRACE how sweet the sound.

Edward Wynn Johnson was his father. Seems he ran away from the goldmines of Beechworth Stanley Victoria and then lived the rest of his days as a miner in Kalgoorlie where he died too young of "miner's consumption" at age 60.

Looking at the photos of his father's parents, the Johnsons, I can see my brother has her cute top lip and so on with lots of little quirky things. Now we know how my brother made 6 ft tall as he always insisted he would (even as a kid) when no-one else was that tall. And now we know where Geoffrey's platinum blonde hair as a kid comes from etc etc etc.
PAPA!!! We did it. The truth shall set us free. Secrets sometimes don't stay secrets forever.

Now to help an 85 yr old lady work out how we are so closely DNA related, so she can know who her biological father was. She has been searching for decades, even doorknocked the entire Victorian town of Mudgegonga at one point... She desperately wants to know before she dies so that's the next mission in COVID LOCKDOWN LOOKAROUND.

Stay safe everyone, go gently.


Discovering more of Papa, WW1 Driver

As someone born in the 1950s, who grew up driving a car from age 16, I assumed the term "Driver" in WW1 meant someone driving a truck of some kind (albeit a vintage one).... how little we realise about history... how often we imagine things and understand according to our own frame of reference, despite all our education and awareness.

Now I discover that Papa was one of the men who rode horses pulling wagons, often country men with horse experience. Not a truck but a horse. This has given me a whole other perspective on what he did. Totally exposed, sitting up high, a silhouette that stands out, transporting supplies to the Front Line, bringing back the wounded, collecting supplies (Papa was shot on Watering Parade in Albert, near the Somme) collecting water.

Now I have a whole other perspective on his calm, still, gentle, demeanour. It is a demeanour that I know so well in my mother Audrey (his daughter, a teacher who became a School Principal) and my brother Geoff (a Dr). I have heard others describe it in me "you are always so calm" and I have been surprised. Clearly it is something we have probably all learnt from Reuben, in that interesting family way that we do without ever realising it. I don't feel that calm, probably neither did my mother or her father Reuben. We just exude it. Perhaps we are more calm than other people but we don't realise that. Someone described it recently as "people trust you because you are safe, present and calm". That was my constant experience of my mother Audrey (so capable, so able, so calm, so present). I know my brother's patients feel the same about him.

I have just read this about the Drivers:
A driver in WW1 rode on team horses which pulled wagons, guns, ambulances, equipment. Usually a wagon had a team of 6 horses, 3 pairs of 2. Each driver was responsible for his two horses (feeding, shoeing, vet care, etc.) and he teamed up with two other drivers to pull the wagon. Drivers were usually privates in rank, but designated "Driver" to distinquish them from infantry. Drivers were essential in getting supplies, food, ammunition and equipment to the men at the front, and bringing wounded back to medical stations. It was a dangerous job as they were targeted by machine guns and artillery to prevent them getting supplies through. Their uniforms were very similar to the Light Horse except they wore peaked caps instead of slouch hats. They wore leather putties, instead of canvas, and spurs
To avoid detection by the enemy, this transport work was done at night but it was a hazardous undertaking. The area was frequently doused in mustard gas by the Germans and shelled. When explosions tore up the one–way road in front of them, the Australian wagon drivers had to sit motionless with their animals until it was repaired.

Major Russell Manton, 15th Battery, Australian Field Artillery, recalled the ordeal of the horses: … the animals came to know when a shell was coming close; and if, when halted, the horses heard the whine of an approaching salvo, they would tremble and sidle closer to their drivers, burying their muzzles in the men’s chests.
Charles Bean heaped praise on the Australian drivers, ‘unassuming, country–bred men’ who waited calmly while the road break was repaired and perhaps a shattered wagon team was hurriedly removed – ‘The unostentatious efficiency and self discipline of these steadfast men was as fine as any achievement of Australians in the war’.

I read these descriptions and realised my grandfather Papa had a deep love for horses and country yet in all our trips to the country he never once talked specifically about horses or horse riding. I guess horse riding had associations of loud noises, terrible visions, whining salvos approaching, horses muzzling into your chest for safety, and you on the other hand ... what do you do... muzzle into that place born of self discipline, that still calm place.


Showing 2 of 2 stories


Reuben was 5 feet 9 inches tall, blue eyes, 13 stone, an Engine Driver (Apprenticed at time of enlisting). A gentle kind man with a challenging childhood due to being born 'out of wedlock', taboo in those days. His mother was described as his sister to the outside world and his grandmother as his mother. He grew up on a farm, growing apples and working very hard - it was a tough upbringing in those days as the not quite legitimate child who was made to work very hard to assuage the 'guilt' of others. He loved grafting fruit trees and would have several different fruit types on the one tree - very adventurous for the early 20th Century. He later grew award winning dahlias. He was an Engine Driver with NSW State Rail until his retirement. He loved Mother Nature.

Reuben enlisted on 14/8/1915 when he was 24yrs 1mth old. His first 3mths were in Australia, then via Suez Canal to France. 15mths in France until he was shot in the leg in La Boiselle Rd, Albert in the Somme area. Some of the hottest action was in Albert. He was "accidentally injured" while on watering parade. Fractured left tibia.

His war record, in reference to his injury by gunshot wound (GSW), has this recorded "[If soldier to blame?: "NO"] ". The brackets are mine, everything within the brackets is written on his record. The "NO" is in capitals and underlined however later when he applied for a Veterans Pension the panel tried to cast aspersions that he may have intentionally wounded himself. This upset him profoundly and more deeply than we can imagine. It contributed to a nervous breakdown. Reuben served honourably for 4yrs 3 wks in the Austalian Imperial Force. In those days there was no access to one's Records so although the Panel would have been looking at the true Record, they seemed intent on ignoring or manipulating the written truth at the expense of honouring the veteran. [In 2014 when Susan wrote to the Defence Minister about this situation she was informed that there was no question that he may have shot himself intentionally and that the awarding of his 3 War Medals proved this. At 2016 when Susan updated his record on this site to include the details of his wounding, these have not been added into his war history and she remains unsure why this is. "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing"].

Reuben was on the front line in France for 15mths, seeing two Christmas Days there 1915 & 1916. He was there for the terrible winter of 1916-1917.

After his Feb 1917 wound, he was hospitalised in Rouen, France then sent to Plymouth England on the HS Formosa, arriving 4th Feb 1917 and spending 4mths in Harefield Hospital.

He then went to the Engineers Training Depot at Bilingsia and Tidworth, Salisbury Plains and was on command at School of Instruction in Mounted Duties. He was promoted to temp Cpl on 1/2/18 then appointed A/Sgt on 11/4/18.

He rejoined his Unit in France on 22/6/18 and was there for 5mths until V-Day 11/11/18. 3mths later he then went to the 7th Field Company Engineers. He arrived back in England on 12/4/19, spent 7 wks there then returned to Australia on the Mahia - a 6 week journey. He received 3 war medals, the 1914/1915 Star, BWM & Victory Medal.

He came home with a love of garlic, developed from his time on furlough leave with a lovely French family who he kept in contact with. He always grew garlic after that and loved to eat it raw (no Aussies would have known how to cook with it in those days!).

His tiny print, pocket sized copy of The Bible, that accompanied him throughout the war and his pocket watch departure gift are still in tact and treasured by his granddaughter Susan.

Soon after his return he met his wife Christina Jane Laverty (1898-1985), a nurse at Ovens District Hospital, Beechworth. He was then living at Junee but returning home to visit family in Beechworth. She had grown up on the land at Laggan, Goulburn (from a pioneering family of MacDonalds, McDonalds & Lavertys). They were very happily married from 24 July 1922 until his death in 1979. She was a lovely woman. He was well loved by her and their 3 children and seven grandchildren.

When the phone call came saying he had died in Hospital, Susan relayed the terrible news to Janey (his name for her, or Jean), Audrey (his daughter) and Geoff (Susan's brother, a young Dr). Janey lamented in the saddest voice, the sad words "oh it's not fair" and sat down. Clearly she had always hoped she would die before him. He was greatly missed, that quiet, kind, sensitive, gentle man who I only saw angry once.

Janey had earlier thrown out all his war memorabilia as she thought it not good for his mental state given he had two nervous breakdowns after the war. It was nearly impossible to get him to talk about the war but Susan persevered as a teenager, winning his trust over several months of engaging and asking questions. Susan's mother told her eventually that his trauma was very much about how Veteran's Affairs had treated him after the war in regards to refusing him a War pension.

He told small pieces but it was obviously extremely traumatic. He eventually told of being in No Man's Land trenches when a German jumped in to the trench & was about to kill Reuben's Commanding Officer. Reuben picked up a shovel and killed the soldier "I had to, he was about to kill my Commanding Officer". He told of the Christmas when they came out of their trenches and exchanged presents with the enemy. He would not tell much. The bullet that fractured his tibia remained in his leg all his life.

The war diary of his unit shows that from June 1918 they were very busy pushing the enemy back,  blowing up bridges across the Somme in June, July, August, Sept, Oct 1918. All the drawings of their engineering works on the trenches, bridges, gasproofing are in the Unit Diaries. They were rested in November after their extremely hard work while others kept pushing the Germans back across the Hindenburg Line & ultimately to defeat. They remained to help rebuilding until 29th March 1919.

Then homeward bound via England to Australia and the rebuilding of his life. A lovely man, well loved - Reuben Craig - to his grandchildren "Papa" (his choice - pronounced 'papaa' with a French overtone from the common French child's term for grandfather "pepere").

.....And at the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them......LEST WE FORGET.

May God bless Reuben, a good kind honourable man.