Charles James Wilson FARNINGTON MBE, DCM

FARNINGTON, Charles James Wilson

Service Numbers: 5788, VX27387, 3105
Enlisted: 20 June 1915, Broadmeadows, Victoria
Last Rank: Major
Last Unit: Australian Army Provost Corps (WW2)
Born: Richmond, Victoria, 31 May 1895
Home Town: Carlton North, Melbourne, Victoria
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Pastry cook
Died: Cerebral Thrombosis "Stroke", 371 Mont Albert Road Mont Albert Vic, 3 March 1955, aged 59 years
Cemetery: Springvale Botanical Cemetery, Melbourne
Family Plot Details - Grevillea Garden Tree No. 100
Show Relationships

World War 1 Service

20 Jun 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 5788, Broadmeadows, Victoria
4 Apr 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 5788, 5th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Euripides, Melbourne
4 Apr 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 5788, 5th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
1 Aug 1916: Promoted AIF WW1, Corporal, 5th Infantry Battalion
23 May 1917: Promoted AIF WW1, Sergeant, 5th Infantry Battalion
20 Sep 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Sergeant, SN 5788, 5th Infantry Battalion, Menin Road
20 Sep 1917: Wounded SN 5788, 5th Infantry Battalion, Menin Road, GSW (left shoulder)
22 May 1919: Discharged AIF WW1, Sergeant, SN 5788, 5th Infantry Battalion

World War 2 Service

15 Jun 1940: Enlisted 2nd AIF WW 2, SN VX27387, Caulfield, Victoria
1 Jun 1952: Discharged 2nd AIF WW 2, Major, SN 3105, Australian Army Provost Corps (WW2)


Family History as written by the late Roma Jean Donnelly nee Farnington 1924/2009, Charles and Lilla’s daughter.

Provided by Greig Donnelly "Roma's son"

A very pretty wedding was solemnised at the Victoria-street Methodist Church on Saturday last, [17 January 1920] the contracting parties being Miss Lilla Dower, only daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Dower, of William-street, and Mr. C.J.W. Farnington, late of the A.I.F. The Rev. P. E. Mallalieu officiated. The church was tastefully decorated by Miss E. Long. The bride, who was given away by her father, looked charming in a graceful gown of cream crepe-de-chine and georgette embroidered in pearls. She wore the customary wreath and veil, kindly lent by Mrs. Claude Smith, and carried a shower bouquet of water lilies and lily of the Valley. She was attended by Misses Linda Riddell and Audrey Greig, who were daintily attired in pink, with black tulle hats. Each carried an 1830 posy, and wore the gift of the bridegroom, an opal ring and pearl spray brooch. Mr. W. Famington acted as best man, and Mr. S. Dower as groomsman. Mter the ceremony the guests adjourned to the Masonic Hall, where a reception and wedding tea were held. An enjoyable evening was spent. The happy couple, who were the recipients of many useful and costly presents, are spending their honeymoon at Healesville.
This description is from an unnamed newspaper cutting, probably the Footscray Mail., and marked the beginning of a very successful marriage. They had known one another for most of their lives -had gone to school together, etc., and became engaged just prior to Dad going overseas with the First A.I.F. Meeting a close friend the next day, my mother said, 'I'm engaged'. 'Good heavens! Who to?', gasped the stunned friend. My parents had never been out together before they became engaged. If it had not been for the war, heaven knows how long it would have taken Dad to get around to asking her to marry him.
Dad enlisted as a Private in the AIF on 20 July 1915, aged 20, and embarked for overseas on 4 April 1916 as an acting Sergeant with the 5th Battalion. He disembarked from the Euripedes in Egypt on 11 May 1916 and immediately joined the 2nd Training Battalion at Tel-el-Kebir. On 28 May he left Alexandria for Marseilles with reinforcements for the British Expeditionary Force, and on 30 July 1916 he rejoined the 5th Battalion in France and briefly reverted to the rank of private, being promoted to Corporal on 1 August 1916, to Lance Sergeant on 4 November 1916 and to Sergeant on 23 May 1917. On several occasions he was hospitalised with dysentery, at first in France and then in England, and was incredibly lucky on 20 September 1917 when he was wounded in action by a bullet going right through his body just below the left shoulder without touching anything vital. He bore the in-and-out indentations for the rest of his life. On 31 October 1917 he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM), the citation reading:
'for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. During the consolidation of a captured position, his company was suffering heavy casualties from a machine gun in a strong point about 100 yards ahead. He went forward, rushed the position, single-handed, and captured the machine gun and nine prisoners. He showed splendid courage and initiative'.
At the time he was recommended for the Victoria Cross. From 30 November to 14 December he again spent leave with his father's sister, Jane Geddes, in Scotland, returning to France on 28 March 1918. He had had several other bouts in hospital in France -the gun-shot wound apparently playing up and he also caught measles. He became totally deaf in one ear after losing an ear-drum when a bomb burst in front of him, burying him for a short time, and his active service ended on 10 June 1918 when he embarked for England where he remained for the rest of the war. On 19 February 1919 he sailed for Australia on the Orca, disembarked at Melbourne on 7 April 1919 and was discharged, medically unfit, from the AIF on 22 May.
Being a pastry-cook was not really his metier and he had had a short stint as a clerk with Berry's, the tea merchants. I am not sure why he rejoined the army, or if he ever really left it, because from 3 June 1919 to 7 April 1920, as an acting Staff Sergeant-Major, he attended the No.1 Special School of Instruction, following which he was accepted as a member of the Australian Instructional Corps on 8 April 1920. He remained in the army for the rest of his working life, at first being stationed at Footscray; then at Horsham from 1933 as quartermaster (at first Warrant Officer 1, then Lieutenant) with the 1st Armoured Car Regiment; and in 1939 in Sydney as Adjutant (Captain) of the 2nd Armoured Car Regiment based at Ashfield. In 1937 he spent five months overseas as a member of the Australian Contingent for the coronation of George VI -at that time he was a Warrant Officer 1 -and for his services to that he was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) on 7 June 1938. While in Britain, he again stayed with Aunt Jane and his Scottish family.
My brother, Leslie James, was born on 1 April 1922. At that time my parents were living next door to Nana Dower in Footscray and she still had a great deal of influence over my mother. Nana wanted Les called Laurence, but Dad objected strongly so my mother promised Nana that she could name the next baby. As a matter of interest, the eldest son of the Farnington family had been called James since time immemorial but obviously in the last two generations it had been relegated to the second place. When I arrived on 12 December 1924 Nana chose Roma, so I became Roma Jean. I don't think Dad was too keen on Roma either because I always knew when I needed to watch my behaviour -usually he called me Jean, but when I was 'Roma', it was time to be careful. He was a loving, considerate husband and father, very tolerant, but there were standards that one was expected to maintain. Duty and responsibility, as well as politeness to others no matter who they were, were among them. I always loved my father and got on better with him than with Lil, my mother, but it was not until I grew up and heard of so many domineering fathers that I appreciated the way we were brought up. From an early age we were encouraged to make our own decisions and to think for ourselves, and he liked women to have spirit. He would point out the pros and cons (and no doubt slanted the points the way he wanted us to go) but we were encouraged to make the final decision. To be independent and self-reliant were, in his opinion, the most important attributes one could possess. I think it worked better with me than with Les. He could not 'talk' to his father; I could not 'talk' to my mother. And Les and I could not 'talk' to each other. We fought our way through childhood -I sometimes think the only things we had in common were the same parents, and we must have caused them a lot of anguish. But, for all that, we grew up in a stable and loving atmosphere -never wealthy, but never poor. We had everything we needed, and quite a number of the things that we wanted. We had holidays every year -sometimes staying with relatives, often at a guest house. Dad refused to camp -he had enough of that in the army. We have been among the lucky ones in this life.
Lil was a very good mother. She was always there, and like my father, was kind, loving, and dependable. As a teenager while Dad was at the war I must have made her life a misery. I liked discussing ideas and questioned everything, which drove Mum mad. Lil liked to talk on a much more personal level, and was more inclined to accept what others said -particularly her mother. I remember Mum's horrified reaction not long after I started menstruating when I washed my hair. Like my mother's, it was fine and oily and I liked to wash it fairly often but my mother always said -and this was believed by many women at the time -that it was dangerous to wash one's hair when one had one's period. I couldn't see the connection, so I washed my hair. Mum was horrified -'You'll go mad, my girl, just you wait and see' -and I really think she was disappointed that I didn' t go a little mad for a little while. Although, to be fair, she didn't make any fuss after that when I repeated the offence.
When we first arrived at Horsham we felt we had really gone bush -there was a goanna sunning itself on the garage door, the only goanna we sawall the years we lived there. Shortly after that, we got our first car -a 1926 Chevrolet, complete with side-curtains and a running board. It was the days of roll-your-own cigarettes, and Dad was a chain smoker. When we were setting off to drive to Melbourne he would have a cigarette behind each ear, more stacked in the pocket of his shirt or jacket -all within easy reach so that he would not have to stop the car. We once drove to Melbourne during a very bad grasshopper plague and Dad had to stop every few miles to clear the radiator and to shake out the blanket that Les and I were huddling under in the back seat. In 1937 we got a brand-new Chev. and -lUXury -we no longer had to stop the car and walk round the back to turn on the tail-light. Previously, it had been illegal to turn the tail-light on from inside the car.
This was also a time when electrical and gas appliances were beginning to make life easier. We got our first refrigerator -gas -in 1937, and that was real lUXury. As with cars, far more people didn't have them than did. Ice chests were used but were not very efficient -in the heat of the Horsham summer the ice melted very quickly. Many people, including us, had a Coolgardie safe on the back verandah. That was a chest with hessian sides and strips of hessian hanging from a metal tray full of water which was on the top with another metal tray for the water to drain into on the bottom. The legs of the chest stood in jam tins full of water (to keep the ants out), and standing in a draught it kept things reasonably cool. But rancid butter (ugh!) was not unknown. Without a refrigerator, shopping was a daily chore. I cannot remember not having a radio, or 'wireless' as it was known, nor my mother using flat irons that needed to be heated on the stove, although some of my friends' mothers still used them. Steam irons were still several decades in the future. Clothes had to be hand sprinkled with water and rolled up to spread the moisture evenly before the clothes were ironed. To judge the heat of an iron, one wet one fingers and quickly felt the base. There were no thermostats on ovens, and the heat was judged by either putting a brown paper bag in the oven or, if one was very experienced, by putting one hand in. I remember Lil getting her first vacuum cleaner when I was very young but it was not until after the war that she got her first washing machine. At Horsham, although underclothing was hand-washed daily, the bulk of the washing was always done on a Monday when the wood-fire copper was lit (and the dog disappeared because he was often given a bath after the washing was done), and the water for the bath was heated by a chip heater. Mter we moved to Mont Albert in 1947, we had a hot water service (still comparatively rare in suburban homes), a shower recess instead of it being over the bath, an internal lavatory instead of down the yard, or on the back verandah, and the copper was gas. Life was certainly looking up! Television finally arrived in Australia during 1956, at first black and white only. It was some years before colour was available.
Horsham was a good town to grow up in. Like 99.5 per cent of the students, Les and I both rode our bikes to the Horsham High School (proud of the fact that we could go the whole distance 'no hands' although that was disapproved of by our parents) but I was the better student. Les decided he had had enough of school and left after 4th Form (year 10), I continued through and left towards the end of Sixth Form (year 12). When we moved to Sydney in 1939, I had to repeat Third Form because, in those days, an
Intermediate Certificate was awarded in year three in Sydney but in year four in Victoria. Although I had completed year three satisfactorily I did not have that piece of paper, so to meet the requirements in NSW I had to repeat the year. Then we moved back to Horsham following the death of the wife of the man who was doing the same job there as Dad was doing in Sydney. (Very complicated!) She left three young children and the husband was anxious to work in Sydney where he could have the support of the grandparents in caring for the children. Les, who was working for Anthony Hordern's, an emporium similar to Myer, remained in Sydney, living with a cousin of Mum's. By this time the war had broken out and Dad felt he should join the AIF and that Mum would be happier living in Horsham, so a swap was agreed upon. I now had my Intermediate Certificate, so I went straight into Fifth Form -missing out on Fourth Form completely. Crazy differences in standards of education between states still exist.
I had always intended to teach but that meant leaving my mother on her own, so I felt I should accept when the Town Clerk and Mayor (both friends of my father) offered me a job at the Town Hall as receptionist/stenographer. (Office jobs at the Town Hall by law had to be advertised but were always filled before the advertisement appeared! That, of course, was not common knowledge.) I worked there for eighteen months then, in 1943, joined the Australian Women's Army Service (AWAS). By this time, Nana Dower was living with us and I think my mother was glad to see the back of me! I was approaching seventeen when I left school -that was much older than most because comparatively few students went on to do Leaving Honours, as Sixth Form was then known. Fifth Form was the Matriculation year.
Like most of my generation, I can clearly recall the outbreak of war on 3 September 1939. We had been to church, praying for peace, returned home, switched on the radio and heard the Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, announcing that we were at war with Germany. It was only twenty-one years since the end of the First World War (then called the 'Great War' and supposedly the war to end all wars), so for the second time my father saw active service. As a permanent soldier he felt that it was his duty. He need not have -the Australian Instructional Corps, of which he was a member, was termed a 'reserved occupation', and he had to use influence to be released. So my mother saw him go off to war again.
On 20 May 1940 he was seconded for staff duties in the AIF as a Captain and sailed for the Middle East on 15 September 1940, arriving in Palestine (now Israel) on 13 October. On 18 March 1941 he joined the 1st Australia Corps with the rank of Major after being asked to 'volunteer' for the Provost Corps (as a regular soldier there was little volunteering about it, but service in the Provost Corps [military police] was always voluntary), and he became an Assistant Provost Marshal. Several weeks later he sailed for Greece. The Greek campaign was a debacle, and during the allied evacuation Dad was so busy organising the destruction of equipment (pushed into the sea from a high cliff) to prevent it falling into the hands of the Germans that he just managed to catch the last boat leaving Greece for Crete, where he spent some weeks ¬again a pretty torrid experience. The only wound he suffered during the Second World War was on Crete. Returning to his billet from the Officers' Mess one night in the pitch-blackness he became entangled in some barbed wire. When Japan entered the war in December 1941, the Australians soldiers in the Middle East were needed in Australia, so Dad arrived back on the Orcades on 15 March 1942. Promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel, he was posted to Toowoomba (Qld) as Deputy Provost Marshal and on 8 May 1943 to Victoria Barracks, Melbourne, where he spent the rest of the war. When he became Provost Marshal on 1 April 1946, he was the first member of the Australian Instructional Corps to become the Commanding Officer of a Corps or regiment. Permanent Staff officers (Duntroon graduates) had been made COs and plenty of wartime volunteers but for some reason there was a reluctance to promote AlC people to such a position.
My father never spoke of his war experiences and did not encourage Les to join up -he felt very strongly that war was an obscenity and that no one should see active service until they were at least twenty, even though the official age for recruits was eighteen, but when conscription was introduced Les was called up and served as a Private in the Pacific. After the war he returned to his job in Sydney and married a Horsham girl he, too, had known most of his life, Peg Arkley, at St. Kilda on 2 August 1946. They lived for a short time in Sydney, and then returned to Melbourne where Les worked as a Sales Representative. Unfortunately Les was not able to have children, and they adopted, first, a boy, Rodney James, and then a girl, Anne Elizabeth. As he approached sixty, Les was worried about the male Farnington history, which included my father, of dying before they were sixty, but as I write he is still going strong at 73. Dad's brother, Bill, breaking all the rules, also broke the family tradition by living to his mid-eighties.
Between the wars my parents were very involved in community affairs, particularly Dad who was an accomplished speaker. He served as President of both the Footscray and Horsham Returned Soldiers' League, and in 1948 (I think) he headed the RSL delegation to New Zealand. Ever since the First World War, the two countries had alternated in sending a group of returned soldiers to the other's Anzac Day ceremonies. Lil was involved with the Methodist Church Guild, the RSL Women's Auxiliary, the Red Cross and the Comforts Fund. Dad, when he was younger, played cricket and later, golf, Mum croquet -she was an A-grade pennant player. Both were keen card players, although Mum did not play the bridge that Dad enjoyed. But in the pre-television era, at night they would frequently play bezique, a game for two which Dad's Aunt Jane had taught him during WWl. Articulate and politically-minded, during the Great Depression of the 1930s friends approached Dad to nominate for pre-selection for Parliament, but he was not prepared to take the risk of resigning from the army, possibly losing the election and not having a job. In my mind's eye, I always see my father with a book in his hand -he would become so engrossed in his reading that it was useless to speak to him. It would take about half-an-hour for it to register that someone had spoken.
My mother obviously spent quite a lot of her married life on her own and between the wars Dad was frequently away on bivouacs with the Militia Forces, but even with two squabbling children and, later, a difficult, although not rebellious daughter, she never complained. At the time I thought nothing of that but, again, as I have had more experience of the world I realise how unusual that was -particularly as she had little confidence in her own abilities and thought my father was ten feet tall! (He was 6 feet 1 inch or 1.8Sm she was S feet 1, or I.SSm). In her own unassuming way, she was a strong, courageous woman. Of course, my father probably thought he ruled the house, but we always did what my mother wanted. Their marriage was a partnership, and a very happy one. Each had their own individual interests and their own group of friends, but they also had shared interests and shared friends. And they loved one another.
My parents loved going for drives in the country (Dad -'Let's see where this road goes!') and the family joke was the number of places where he was going to retire -always in an attractive area, where he could grow a few fruit trees, perhaps some hens, and potter. He did not retire anywhere. On 19 March 19S2 he was admitted to the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital after suffering a massive stroke. We were told he had a million to one chance of recovering. He did, but he was a different man. He was not paralysed, although he gradually lost the use of some bodily functions, but he was mentally affected. His memory, which had been almost photographic, became unreliable, he lost the ability to write -he would get half-way through a word and couldn't remember the rest, and with the passing of the three years to his death at the age of 59 at home on 3rd March 1955, he regressed in habits and mentality to childhood. It was sad to see an intelligent, fastidious man deteriorate in this way. Sandy and I had married the year before his death and were living at home -the wish of both of my parents as it would have been difficult for Lil to have coped with Dad alone -and he was a tower of strength during this period. We were determined not to let Dad go to hospital but, without Sandy, it would have been difficult to have kept him at home. My gratitude was such that, later, it influenced my own attitude to Sandy's illness.
During 1946 Dad had bought a block of land in Mont Albert Road, Mont Albert, sight unseen. That probably sounds strange, but the building restrictions and price controls that had been imposed during the war were still in force. Lil was living on her own at Horsham because housing in Melbourne was almost impossible to obtain, and vacant blocks of land for sale were as scarce as hen's teeth. Dad was living in Greycourt, an Officers' Mess in Royal Parade, Parkville, so when he saw two adjacent blocks of land in a suitable suburb advertised in the Saturday paper, he was the first to arrive at the estate agent's office on the Monday morning. He and Tom Power, who was second in the long queue which formed, were the successful buyers. Building a house on the land was not easy -twelve squares were the limit allowed by the government unless there were numbers of children, and even then the maximum was 14 squares, and all sorts of materials were still in short supply, but finally the house was finished and they moved in early in 1947. After Dad's death Sandy and I continued to live there with Lil until Greig was born, but Lil remained there on her own for a number of years until it was bought by an oil company, when she moved to a unit in Wilson Street, Mont Albert.
Lil continued to play croquet, was in several solo groups, went for frequent holidays, and remained involved in voluntary work at the Royal Melbourne Hospital until she, too, had a stroke. On the morning that it occurred, she had got up to act as a jockey on meals-on-wheels -something she did every fortnight, the alternate week working in the kitchen at the Evergreen Club which provided meals for people often considerably younger than herself. From an income point of view she was quite well off. In addition to Dad's superannuation, which was paid fortnightly, she also received the War Widow's pension as Dad had been declared 'totally and permanently incapacitated' after his stroke. She had some investments in her own right as well, so money was not a problem. Dad's stroke was caused through high blood pressure (there was no medication to reduce it in those days) and probably his heavy smoking was a factor although service in two wars did not help, but Lil's blood pressure was normal. It was a break down of an artery that caused the haemorrhage, and the results were appalling. She was paralysed down one side and was unable to speak. She had always said that there was no way she would live with either Les or myself, and had hoped she would go quickly when the time came. Fortunately she did not live long. Eight weeks after her first stroke, a second one was fatal. She died at a nursing home at Box Hill on 25 September 1973, aged 78 years, was cremated and her ashes were placed next to Dad's under a holly tree at Springvale Crematorium.

Showing 1 of 1 story