Courtesy of Graeme Blackman
Trooper Andrew Joseph Blackwood
Pakenham & District War Memorial & Pakenham South War Memorial
Born: April 27 1897 - Stratford, Victoria
Enlisted: 13 July 1915 aged 18
Unit: 13th Light Horse, 6th Reinforcement (SERN: 1207)
Served: Egypt & Western Front
Died: 6 June 1987 - Pakenham, Victoria.
Andy was an 18 year old farmer when he enlisted with his older brother Arch in July 1915. Being under age, Andrew needed his widowed mother’s permission to do so (1). Harry Worship, another of the Pakenham South diggers, did not think Andy’s widowed mother Mary Ann would let him or Arch go to the War, but she did, earning Harry’s great admiration (2). Andy subsequently served with Arch in the 13th Australian Light Horse (ALH), first in Egypt, then on the Western Front. By late 1917, Andrew was serving in a Light Horse anti-aircraft group (3). These used machine guns against enemy planes over the front line. In October 1917, the anti-aircraft section of the 13th ALH was deployed in the Ypres area to specifically defend heavy artillery against German aircraft (4). On 1 November, Andy was wounded in action, having been gassed. Andy was evacuated to the 2nd Casualty Clearing Station, then hospitalised elsewhere in France. When the news reached Pakenham, it was reported: “The casualties among our boys have been another heavy list. A fair number of our local lads have returned wounded, more or less seriously ... Andy Blackwood, of South Pakenham, is reported to have been gassed recently. His relatives are naturally waiting anxiously for further news” (5). It took a month for Andy to rejoin his unit (6). Andy was given some leave in England in September and October 1918. By this stage, most of the Australian Forces on the Western Front had been withdrawn from the front lines for a well deserved rest.
After the War ended, Andy attended Corps School, but was later hospitalised with the dreaded influenza then raging across Europe. Andy was returned to England in late March 1919 pending repatriation to Australia. Before leaving England, he and Arch went AWOL together for a few days. They were fined several days’ pay for the privilege. Andy and Arch returned home together on the HMAT Ypiringa (7). Apparently, when the ship docked in Melbourne in July 1919, the soldiers were greeted by officials who asked each of them whether they had been injured. Andy told them not to worry about him as he was able bodied, and instead pointed to a mate who was also a farmer, but had lost his arm (8). Together with other returned soldiers, Andy was officially welcomed home to Pakenham South in November 1919 and presented with a gold medallion in recognition of his service. Andy actually sang at the event: his musical abilities were said to have “been brought out during his time abroad” (9). Later, Andy also provided entertainment at the final soldiers‘ welcome home held in Pakenham in May 1920 (10).
Having returned home, Andy worked for a time on the dredges draining the Koo Wee Rup Swamp (11). In September 1922, Andy married Gladys McLaine and eventually had nine children. By the 1930s, Andy had sold his share of the family farm and moved with his family to Stratford, where he was involved with the dredging for the Glenmaggie Weir (12). Once that work was over, Andy worked for a period at the Maffra Beet Company and later as a rabbit trapper (13). The family subsequently moved to Morwell Bridge, where Andy worked for many years at the Yallourn open cut mine, then as a boiler attendant at the local hospital (14). After retirement, Andy and Gladys moved to Morwell, before building a house at Noble Park. They did not like “city life” much, so moved back to Pakenham, where they settled in Anderson Street. Andy and Gladys also spent a lot of time at a holiday shack at Shallow Inlet, where they enjoyed quality time with their visiting children and grandchildren, while Andy could also indulge his passion for fishing (15). Andy and Gladys celebrated their diamond (60th) wedding anniversary in 1982, receiving congratulatory telegrams from HM The Queen, the Governor General and Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser. Andy and Gladys attributed the success of their marriage to “always doing things together and always talking things over” (16). Andy was probably the last of the original WWI Diggers still living in the district when he died at Pakenham in 1987 aged 90.
The assistance of Andy’s grandchildren, Graeme Blackman and Janet Arrott-Watt and nephew Ron Blackwood is gratefully acknowledged.
(1) (6) & (7) NAA B2455 BLACKWOOD AJ
(2) Letter from Arch Blackwood dated “Dec 24  Somewhere in France”
(3) Pakenham Gazette 23/11/1917 p. 2
(4) AWM4 10/21/15 1st ANZAC Mounted Troops Unit War Diary - October 1917, p. 8
(5) South Bourke & Mornington Journal 6/12/1917, p. 3
(8) & (15) Information provided by Graeme Blackman
(9) Pakenham Gazette 21/11/1919.
(10) South Bourke & Mornington Journal 20/5/1920 p. 4
(11) (12) (13) & (14) G. Blackman (2005) p. 2
(16) Undated newspaper clipping - probably Pakenham Gazette Sept / Oct 1982