Cunninghams - For King and Country

Nearly every Australian city, town and village has a memorial honouring the names of the fallen from the various conflicts Australians have fought in. And most families have had someone from their family involved in one of these conflicts, a father, grandfather, uncle.

In researching my family history, I have been in awe of one particular family, and the contributions they have made. In documenting the efforts of the Cunninghams in World Wars I and II, I do not wish to take away from the efforts of other families, but just show my respect and pride for family members I didn't know, but who heard the call, so that those who came after would live in peace.

World War 1 - The war to end all wars

When World War I started, it was thought it would be over quickly. When it finished four years later, 416,809 Australians had enlisted, over 60,000 were killed and 156,000 were wounded, gassed ot taken prisoner. Given Australia's population at the time was less than 5 million, this was an amazing effort. This is the story of 10 of these men, all from the same Cunningham family, cousins and brothers, all grandsons of Edward and Catherine Cunningham of Tarlo. Albious Bede Cunningham, Innes Clare Cunningham, Alexander Ambrose Cunningham, Clement Francis Cunningham, John Francis Cunningham, Mervyn Kennedy Cunningham, Noel Hilary Cunningham, Norbert Mannell Cunningham, Austin Valentine Moloney and James Clement Sheekey

Albious Bede Cunningham (1891 - 1917)
Regimental Number 3017

Albious Bede (Alb) Cunningham was born in June 1891, the third son and the sixth of the fifteen children of Mathew Cunningham and Mary Anne Barry. Mathew and Mary Anne had lived at "Woodlands" Tarlo. After Matthew's death in 1910, Mary Anne moved into Goulburn, and lived at Addison Street. She was found drowned in an underground tank on 7 October 1917.

Alb enlisted at Goulburn on 20 September 1915, in the 34th Battalion, 7th Reinforcement with the rank of Private. He was aged 24 years and 3 months, and was a clerk at A G de Lauret and Co Stock and Station Agents in Goulburn.

On enlistment, Alb was initially based in the Goulburn Depot, before being to transferred to Liverpool Depot in 1916. He embarked with the 34 Batallion on the "Anchises" at Sydney on 24 January 1917, they disembarked at Devenport on 27 March 1917. He suffered an accidental injury to his foot on 26 April 1917 and was admitted to 2 Auxilliary Hospital Southall, he was discharged from the hospital on 18 May 1917. Whilst he was recuperating at the hospital, his brother Jack, who had also been injured, came to visit him. After this visit, Alb wrote a letter back to his brother Ted (Edward) Cunningham, telling him about his visit with Jack. This letter was published in the Goulburn Evening Penny Post on 17 July 1917.

On his discharge from hospital, Alb embarked for France, arriving at Depot Etaples on 26 June 1917. He rejoined the 34 Batallion on 13 July 1917, and was killed about 10 pm on 16 July 1917, during a raid to capture a German strong point at Gappard on the Messine Ridge. His body was found the next day in No Man's Land, and he was buried behind the Batallion's lines. It was believed that he had died instantly.

Alb's grave has never been found, he is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial (Panel 23) Belgium. By the time Alb's family and friends were reading his letter in the Goulburn Evening Penny Post, Alb was dead. For the next two years, an "In Memoriam" was placed in the Sydney Morning Herald by Edyth A Byrne on the anniversary of his death. Edyth was a music teacher, and taught several of the Cunningham girls who lived at Tarlo.

John Francis Cunningham (1885 - 1950)
Regimental Number 2236

John Francis (Jack) Cunningham was born in March 1885, the second son and second child of Mathew Cunningham and Mary Anne Barry. John enlisted at Goulburn on 19 July 1915 with the rank of Private. He was aged 29 years and 2 months. On his enlistment papers, he stated that he had served in the Light Horse for 3 years.

Jack was posted to to 4th Reinforcement 18 Battalion at Liverpool Camp and embarked with them on the transport HMAT A8 Argyllshire at Sydney 30 September 1915 disembarking at Suez around 1 December 1915, going to Tel el Kebir Camp; after the battalion returned from service on Gallipoli JAck joined the battalion at Tel el Kebir 10 January 1916.

Jack boarded the transport Ascania at Alexandria 18 March 1916 and disembarked at Marseille France on 25 March 1916, he then arrived at Thiennes 29 March 1916. He was involved in the Battle of Pozieres August 1916. On 15 November 1916, he was promoted to Corporal.

Jack was wounded in action in the Martinpuich area 26 February 1917, and treated for gunshot wounds to his right thigh and right arm. He was transferred to 1/1 South Manchester CCS, then to 8 Stationary Hospital Wimereux on 28 February 1917. On 10 March 1917, Jack was evacuated to 3 London General Hospital Wandsworth England, then he was transferred to Grove Military Hospital Tooting on 2 May 1917. It would have been during this period that he visited with his brother, Albious, who was also in hospital in England. He was transferred to 1 Auxiliary Hospital Harefield 23 August 1917, before being discharged to furlough 31 August 1917.

On 14 September 1917, Jack returned to duty at 3 Command Depot Hurdcott, on 4 October 1917 he transferred to 2 Command Depot Weymouth. On 31 October 1917 Jack embarked on the transport Berrima for return to Australia, he disembarked at Melbourne 30 December 1917. Jack was discharged medically unfit because of his wounds 30 January 1918. For his service John was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal.

On 31 January 1918, Jack was granted a war pension of 68/- per fortnight. His address at this time was "St Albans" Hill Street Forbes.

In 1942 Jack made a statutorary declaration regarding the loss of his medals as the result of a fire. He gave his address as "Woodlands" Tarlo, whilst the declaration was made at Boolooroo Station Moree.

Jack Cunningham died at Ryde Soldiers Memorial Hospital NSW 8 April 1950, and was buried at Orange.

Innes Clare Cunningham
Regimental Number 4394

Alexander Ambrose Cunningham
Regimental Number 3032

Clement Francis Cunningham
Regimental Number

Mervyn Kennedy Cunningham
Regimental Number

Noel Hilary Cunningham
Regimental Number

Norbert Mannell Cunningham
Regimental Number

Austin Valentine Moloney
Regimental Number

James Clement Sheekey
Regimental Number

References:

  • Australian ANZACS in the Great War 1914 - 1918
  • Goulburn Evening Penny Post articles viewed on Trove
  • National Archives of Australia (NAA):B2455,3476508 (Albious Cunningham)
  • NAA:B2455,3476513 (Alexander Cunningham)
  • NAA:B2455,3476665 (Clement Cunningham)
  • NAA:B2455,3476969 ([Hilary] Noel Cunningham)
  • NAA:B2455,3476986 (Innes Cunningham)
  • NAA:B2455,3477072 (John Cunningham)
  • NAA:B2455,3477189 (Mervyn Cunningham)
  • NAA:B2455,3477238 (Noel Cunningham)
  • NAA:B2455,3477240 (Norbert Cunningham)
  • NAA:B2455,7982655 (Austin Moloney)
  • NAA:B2455,8081499 (James Sheekey)
  • Sydney Morning Herald articles viewed on Trove
  • Trove