Hurtle William CRANWELL

Badge Number: 18016, Sub Branch: Uraidla

CRANWELL, Hurtle William

Service Number: 774
Enlisted: 16 February 1915, Keswick, South Australia
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 27th Infantry Battalion
Born: Ashton, South Australia, 4 August 1890
Home Town: Ashton, Adelaide Hills, South Australia
Schooling: Home schooled
Occupation: Market gardener
Died: Natural causes (old age), Ashton, South Australia, 10 February 1970, aged 79 years
Cemetery: Norton Summit Cemetery
Buried with his wife Maude. Grave dressed and headstone placed by son Max.
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World War 1 Service

16 Feb 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, 774, Keswick, South Australia
31 May 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 774, 27th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
31 May 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, 774, 27th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Geelong, Adelaide
4 Sep 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 774, 27th Infantry Battalion, ANZAC / Gallipoli
17 Oct 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 774, 27th Infantry Battalion
18 Dec 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 774, 27th Infantry Battalion
11 Jan 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 774, 27th Infantry Battalion
28 Jan 1916: Transferred 27th Infantry Battalion, Transfer to HT Suffolk in Suez bound for Australia for 'three month change' Typhoid Debility.
28 Jun 1916: Discharged AIF WW1, Private, 774, 27th Infantry Battalion, Medically Unfit

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Biography contributed by Cathryn CRANWELL

Hurtle William CRANWELL was my grandfather.  From an early age, I was told he had been a soldier in Gallipoli and he was a war hero.  I always thought that made me more of a 'fair dinkum' Aussie even though I never had any idea what serving in Gallipoli really meant.  He died on 10th February 1970 when I was only seven years old.  He was 80 then and the man I knew was a grouchy, sick old man who disliked little girls.  He used to shout and growl an awful lot, especially when his private jar of peppermints was empty.

As I grew up, all accounts of him said he was a difficult man, known for his subbornness, his temper and dark moods.  The family didn't talk about him much so my grandfather has always been a bit of a mystery to me.

In March 2016, I began gathering information for a book on my family and Hurtle William became a logical starting point.  I quickly became totally engrossed in researching his military service in Gallipoli because the details were just as elusive there as they had been at home.  What I uncovered was a short story but one that has left me with a greater understanding and respect for a man I never had the chance to really get to know.  With every detail I gathered, a picture of a younger man was forming in my mind and he slowly changed from being the angry old man who terrified me to a more kindly remembered Grumpy Grandpa.

Hurtle was born on 4th August 1890, in Ashton, a small hamlet in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia.  He was the first born child of William Cranwell to wife Eleda.  They were married in South Australia on 5th September 1890 and went on to have a typically large family, eight children in all but of the four sons born, only the eldest, Hurtle William, was involved in the war.

I doubt Hurtle had any formal education.  The local school wasn't built until 1907 when Hurtle was 17.  There was a schoolroom in a local church in the next town but I doubt a young Hurtle attended.  He was needed at home.  I do know he could read and write, and was able to do complex sums in his head well into his seventies and I suspect his mother Eleda was responsible for that.  Back then, life in Ashton was purely about survival in summer heat and winter cold.  In the summer, there was always the danger of bushfires and the winters up there can be very harsh, with dense fog, continual heavy rain, and sometimes even snow.

William was a market gardener.  The family grew a wide variety of fruit and vegetables to supply their own household and other farms in the Hills.  There was a dairy cow for milk, sheep for wool and meat, geese and chickens for feathers and eggs.  As the eldest son, Hurtle would have helped his father with farm work from an early age and the farm was self-sufficient in ways we can't even begin to imagine.  Nothing was ever wasted and trips into the young city of Adelaide were rare.  The Hills communities were very isolated which would also account for Hurtle still being unmarried when he enlisted at age 23.

The only thing I could find in my initial search on Hurtle's War Service was a certificate from the Australian Commonwealth Military Forces that told me very little.  It did tell me Hurtle's regiment name and the date he returned to Australia.  It appeared he was only enlisted for about a year, a short time given the length of the war.  I couldn't find any records that he was wounded and the 80 year old I knew as a child was still strong and whole.

I found an interesting signature in the rememberance book from his funeral, Sir Thomas Playford.  It seems he and my grandfather were childhood friends.  They both went to Gallipoli and both managed to come home.  Sir Tom remained a loyal friend to my grandfather throughout his life, despite his busy public life as the longest serving Premier of the State.  They shared a true Aussie mateship that stood the test of time.  Grandpa might not have had many friends but his best friend was always there for him until the very end.

Three months into my research, almost by accident, I found Grandpa's records on the National Archives and from that I was able to learn much more of his army experience.  He enlisted on 16 February 1915 and was assigned to the 27th Infantry Battalion, D Company.  After weeks of intensive training in Adelaide, his battalion embarked on the troopship HMAT Geelong on 31 May 1915 bound for the Middle East.  In Egypt, the undertook a further two months of training before being despatched on the HT Invernia to join the Middle Eastern Force in Gallipoli arriving there on 4 September 1915.

After about six weeks in the trenches, his CO reported him sick and he was moved by the 7th Field Ambulance on Gallipoli Peninsula.  It seems disease took a heavier toll on the 27th Battalion than enemy fire and while Grandpa was good at doging bullets, he had no defence against the disease.  What began as diarrhoea became dysentery.  He was shipped out of Gallipoli on the HS Delta and taken to the 1st Australian General Hospital in Helipolis.  He spent the next three months being moved from hospital to hospital in Egypt as his condition continued to deteriorate.  There was a bout of bronchitis and the dysentery became severe.

In January 1916, he was declared to have typhoid and was transferred to the HT Suffolk to be returned to Australia for a 'three month change'.  In Australia, he slowly recovered but the army deemed him medically unfit for future service.  He was discharged on 25 June 1916.

A fit and healthy 23 year old went to war.  The 25 year old who came home to Ashton was in poor health and bitter from his war exerience.  It seems to have taken him seven years to recover enought to move on with life.  On 23 February 1923, he married Maude Ellis, a fragile English rose, eleven years younger than him.  She lived near the Army barracks where he trained and I suspect it was an Army connection that bought them together.

The couple had three children, Kathleen Rose, Lawrence Walter and Maxwell Lavis.  They lived a peaceful existence on the family farm surrounded by extended family on nearby farms until World War II broke out.  All three children were old enough to serve and enlisted with personal refernces provided by Sir Tom.  During the war, Hurtle suffered two major losses.  His mother died in 1944 and his wife died in 1945.  I honestly believe his grief over losing the two women he loved the most, and the fact that his children were all away fighting the war, led him to make a decision that ended up fracturing the family badly.  The three children came home in uniform for their mother's funeral but only stayed a matter of days.  After they returned to War Service, Hurtle sold the family farm inherited from his father.

When the war was over, the children returned to Ashton to find that without the farm, they had no home to live in.  Naturally, all three of them were very upset and had heated arguments with their father about it.  They could have lived with relatives but Kathleen and Maxwell returned to Melbourne to make new lives for themselves, rarely contacting their father again.  Lawrie as eldest son, stayed in Ashton and worked very hard to buy a property of his own.  He married Ruby Mison, a nurse from Sydney, and began a new market garden but his relationship with his father was always a fiery one.  Lawrie went on to have two children, son Peter Lawrence and daughter, Cathryn Ruby.  They were the only natural grandchildren for Hurtle.  Maxwell never married and Kathleen adopted two children.

After the farm was sold, Hurtle moved down the hill into a second farmhouse where his younger unmarried sister, Elsie, 'kept house' for him.  The house was shared by a mentally disabled brother, John, and two unmarried younger brothers until those brothers later married.  Hurtle worked with his brothers as a market gardener until he was in his late seventies.  He lived his entire life in Ashton except for the time he was enlisted in the army.

All his life, he hated doctors and point blank refused to go near a hospital again until he was too old and ill to remain at home anymore.  Elsie took care of him until her death in June 1969.  Her death also hit him hard and after that, my mother, Ruby, nursed him at home but he was increasingly difficult and very cantankerous, often leaving her in tears.  Finally, Lawrie said enough and Hurtle was admitted to a small local hospital in February 1970.

He proved to be even more of a handful to the doctors and nurses there because he wouldn't allow anyone to touch him.  He ripped out drips, wouldn't swallow tablets, wouldn't allow them to wash him and he refused to eat any of the hospital food.  Ruby used to take food to the hospital for him every day but he deteriorated rapidly.  He seems to have made up his mind he was in hospital to die.

A large bedsore had developed in the middle of his back and because he wouldn't let the doctors treat it, gangrene set in radidly.  He refused all pain medication, wouldn't allow the drips for antibiotics and the only thing he would eat in the last two days of his life was his favourite peppermints.  His stubbornness was formidable to his last breath.  He finally slipped into unconsciousness and died that night, within a week of being hospitalised.

He was buried beside Maude at the Norton Summit Cemetery on the hill overlooking Sir Tom's old home.  His parents are nearby in an unmarked grave.  The headstone for Hurtle and Maude was provided by son Max shortly before he died in 1990 even though they hadn't spoken for years.  Max simply said he didn't want his parents lying in an unmarked grave too.

Hurtle's life was a hard one right to the end but without this incredibly stubborn old man, I don't exist, and that's a powerful leveller.  I understand him better now that I've taken the time to research his life and with a smile, I have to admit, I'm a lot like him.  I know I'm just as stubborn as he was and strangely, I share his distrust of doctors and hospitals.  I have incredible memories of growing up on a farm in Ashton and I loved my close family very deeply.  They are all gone now too but by researching Grumpy Grandpa, somehow they all feel close to me again.  This is a short account of Hurtle's life and war experiences but a more detailed account of his life and that of his extended family in Ashton can now be seen on (

I've done my duty, Grumpy.  You'll always be remembered now.

With love, granddaughter Cathryn.