Bertie (Dick) BRITTAIN


Service Number: 30112
Enlisted: 12 April 1916, Brisbane, Queensland
Last Rank: Sergeant
Last Unit: 15th Field Artillery Brigade
Born: Rozelle, New South Wales, Australia, 26 July 1886
Home Town: Rozelle, Leichhardt, New South Wales
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Wool scour Manager
Died: Cancer, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, 10 July 1953, aged 66 years
Cemetery: Toowong (Brisbane General) Cemetery
Location 7A-111-12
Memorials: Ilfracombe District Honour Roll
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World War 1 Service

12 Apr 1916: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 30112, Brisbane, Queensland
8 Nov 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Gunner, SN 30112, 13th Field Artillery Brigade, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
8 Nov 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Gunner, SN 30112, 13th Field Artillery Brigade, HMAT Benalla, Sydney
10 Nov 1917: Promoted AIF WW1, Sergeant, Army Pay Corps (AIF)
26 Mar 1919: Discharged AIF WW1, Sergeant, SN 30112, 15th Field Artillery Brigade

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

Biography contributed by Timna Green

Early Life

Bertie Brittain was born in August 1886, to William Alfred and Jane [Janet] A Brittain (nee Taylor). He was born in Rozelle, Sydney, New South Wales. He had three brothers (William, Percy Leonard and Leslie) and two sisters (Dora and Eva), all of whom were born in Sydney.

Not much is on the 'public record' with regards to Bertie's early years, but he was close to his brother Leslie. In 1910, both brothers were called upon as witnesses (for the complainant Edkins, Marsh & Co) in a Court Case in Longreach - where a shearer was being taken on for breach of contract. Leslie managed the shearing and scouring branch of Edkins, Marsh & Co, shearing contractors and Bertie was the shed overseer, in charge of shearing at Darr River Downs a sheep station at Morella, in the Longreach region.

Source: SHEARERS' AGREEMENTS (1910, October 8). The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1931), p. 14. Retrieved January 26, 2017, from

When Bertie enlisted in 1916, he listed his occupation as "Woolscour Manager".

Along with Alfred Sturtridge on 14th December 1917 Bertie Brittain was granted an Occupation License for Dalgonally Station (DAL/19 Occupation license issued to Bertie Brittain, dated 14th December, 1917). Dalgonally Station, 1,840 sq miles of good cattle country, was taken up by Donald McIntyre, brother of the explorer Duncan McIntrye, in 1866. Dalgonally Station became part of the Australian Estates Co. Ltd.'s pastoral holdings in the early 1900s. Source: James Cook University Archives. 

After the War

Bertie listed his religion as Church of England on his enlistment - though when he passed away in 1953, his funeral was in the St.
Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic Church, at St Lucia, in Brisbane. Perhaps when he married Mary Gertrude O'Kane in 1920, he converted to Catholicism? Bertie and Mary had at least two children, a son (R. W. Brittain) and a daughter (Mabel Bernadette Brittain). 

On 15 November 1934, Bertie Brittain and his young son witnessed the fatal crash of Qantas Empire Airways air liner D. H. 80, VH-USG., at Barsdale, Ilfracombe. Bertie later had to give evidence as a witness to the crash, to the the subsequent Commonwealth Air Accidents Investigation Committee. 

"Bertie Brittain (Mernoo) stated he saw the machine fall; he did not see it flying. He rose early and, at about 6.45 a.m. heard the noise of the engines which came to him in bursts. He noticed that in the case of most aeroplanes one can hear when the engines cut out. He took particular interest in the . machine as Mr. A. M. Savage (Longreach) had told him it wâs worth looking at. He could not see the plane when he first heard the engines and returned to the house for his glasses. In the meantime his son had caught sight of the plane and called, out: "Oh. Dad, the plane is falling." At that moment the witness said he saw the plane; it was in a fair turn and spinning. The machine did 4 complete turns before lt disappeared below the line of trees. When the plane disappeared, the engines were running.
By Mr. A. R. McComb: In which dirction was the plane spinning? - It was spinning head down and clock-wise. I did not see the machine recover from the spin. The witness said he was about 6 1/2 miles away from the scene of the crash. He saw a log book in front of the officer on the right hand side of the cockpit. The officer's left hand was tightly clenched but the right hand was open. He noticed a spare engine at the back of the right hand wing 6 or 8 feet from the cabin. The wheel under the tail of the machine had neither moved forward - nor backward after the crash. Source: "ADJOURNED TO BRISBANE" The Longreach Leader (Qld. : 1923 - 1954) 24 November 1934: 5 (Supplement). Web. 26 Jan 2017 <>.


Crashed destroyed, Barsdale Station, Ilfracombe, near Longreach Qld. VH-USG had just departed Longreach on the final stages of the delivery flight from England to Brisbane. Kangaroo shooters saw it make a flat right turn which developed into a flat spin.

Crew Imperial Airways Captain A.R. Prendergast, copilot /radio operator W.V.Creates, engineer F.R.Charlton, plus one passenger, Shell Company representative E. Broadfoot. All killed.

(Captain Prendergast had previously flown Imperial Airways Armstrong Whitworth Atalanta G-ABTL
Astraea to Australia on a proving flight for the Britain-Australia air mail in June 1933) - Source:

Bertie must have appreciated cricket; in 1951 he was elected president of the Country and Agents Cricket Club in Ilfracombe.

Source: NEW CRICKET CLUB (1951, September 28). The Longreach Leader (Qld. : 1923 - 1954), p. 17. Retrieved January 26, 2017, from

Bertie passed away in Brisbane in early July 1953. After his funeral service at St Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic Church at St Lucia, he was buried in Toowong Cemetery on 13 July 1953 at Location 7A-111-12. 


Biography contributed by Angela Brittain

Just want to add some details to those contributed by Timna Green. I am Bertie's granddaughter.

Bertie was the 4th child of 7 children - Percy, Dora, Leslie, (Bertie), Eva, William and Eric, born to William Alfred and Jane Anice Brittain (formerly Taylor) who married in Sydney in 1880.

At the time of enlisting he was the Manager of the Ilfracombe Wool Scour.

Upon returning to Australia in 1919, he returned to Ilfracombe and in 1920 married Mary Gertrude O'Kane (known as May).

They resided at "Mernoo" Ilfracombe - a property that May had aquired in 1917 by way of a land ballot of allotments resumed from the Combe Martin section of the property "Wellshot". The original  selection was approximately 5000 - 6000 acres  in area - an impossible area to make a living from grazing sheep and the original allotment was later extended in area by other land purchases. May held the original lease for 66 years until her death in 1983.

They had two children - Richard William (known as Bill) 1924 and Mary Bernadette (known as Robin) in 1928.

It is understood by the family that by this time Bertie had surrendered the Occupation Licence for Dalgonally Station but no  details are known. 

Bertie was born and raised Church of England and converted to Roman Catholic shortly before his death from cancer in Brisbane on 10 July 1953.

Bertie's brother William also served in the AIF 1915-1918.