Above: This dashing photograph of a young Douglas Bruce Black was included in the Pakenham Upper Honour Book (Courtesy of Pakenham Upper Community Church Hall).
Trooper Douglas Bruce Black +
Pakenham & District War Memorial, Pakenham Upper Roll of Honour & Pakenham State School Honour Book
Born: 20 July 1898 - Mooroolbark, Victoria
Enlisted: 25 June 1918 aged 19
Unit: 7th General Service Reinforcement (SERN: 64799)
Served: Australia & Egypt
Died whilst on active service: 12 December 1918 - Cairo, Egypt
The last of Thomas and Margaret Black’s sons to enlist was Douglas (also known as “Bruce”). Prior to the family moving to Pakenham Upper, Bruce attended Montrose State School (1). He later obtained his merit certificate at Pakenham Upper State School, then worked as an orchardist on the family properties (2). He was nearly 20 years old when he enlisted in June 1918. News that his brother Donald had been wounded reached Pakenham at this time (3). His parents though, had no objection to Bruce enlisting (4). Another son, Thomas, had remained behind to manage the family’s extensive orchards - 22 in number! (5). Bruce’s enlistment was described as Pakenham Upper giving more “of her best” to the AIF (6). Interestingly, when Bruce enlisted, preparations were being made to officially welcome home a number of soldiers. Indeed, Bruce’s father Thomas had disposed of his homestead property “The Oaks” to a Sergeant Major Leadbeater and another of his properties to a Captain Morris, as he and Margaret intended to reside in Melbourne since Margaret “had been in indifferent health for some time” (7). Tragically, news of the death of their son Corporal Robert Black reached Pakenham Upper the day Bruce was to be officially farewelled (8).
Bruce initially spent four months at Broadmeadows Army Camp. By the time he embarked from Sydney on 16 October 1918 with the 7th General Service Reinforcements, the War was nearing its end. The Armistice was actually declared while Bruce was en-route. Unfortunately, Bruce came down with influenza on the voyage, and was disembarked and admitted to the 31st General Hospital at Abbassia, Egypt. He was reported as dangerously ill. Bruce subsequently died of meningitis on 12 December 1918, and was buried in the Cairo Military Cemetery (9). The Black family placed in-memoriam notices for both Bruce and his brother Robert in The Argus on Christmas Day 1918 (10). It must have been a very difficult Christmas for the family. Bruce was the last of the Pakenham Diggers to die whilst on active service. Bruce’s service and sacrifice was remembered on three Pakenham WWI memorials and rolls of honour. Reflecting the Black family’s previous connections with the Lilydale District, Bruce was also honoured over the years on the Montrose State School Roll of Honour and Mooroolbark War Memorial (11). His name is also inscribed on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial.
The assistance of Joy Carberry of the Pakenham Upper Community Church Hall and Sue Thompson of the Lilydale & District Historical Society is gratefully acknowledged.
(1) & (11) Information provided by the Lilydale & District Historical Society
(2) Pakenham Upper State School Roll of Honour
(3) Dandenong Advertiser 6/6/1918, p. 2
(4) & (9) NAA B2455 BLACK DB
(5) Dandenong Advertiser 26/10/1916 p. 2
(6) Pakenham Gazette 31/5/1918, p. 2
(7) Pakenham Gazette 31/5/1918 p. 2; DA 6/6/1918, p. 2
(8) Narre Warren Family History Group 2016 p. 8
10) Argus 25/12/1918, p. 1