Courtesy of Faithe Jones / RSL Virtual Memorial
Private Thomas Bryan +
Pakenham & District War Memorial & Pakenham State School Roll of Honour
Born: 1895 - Wangaratta, Victoria
Enlisted: 6 January 1915 aged 19
Unit: 6th Battalion, 4th Reinforcement (SERN: 1709)
Served: Egypt & Gallipoli
Killed in action: 24 June 1915 - Lone Pine, Gallipoli
Thomas was the son of Edmund (“Ned” or “Fred”) Bryan and his wife Margaret English of Pakenham (later Garfield). The family originally lived at Greta West near Glenrowan in northern Victoria, where Tom first attended school (1) but later moved to a property on MacGregor’s Drain in Pakenham South when the Koo Wee Rup Swamp was drained for farmland. Tom then attended Pakenham State School, where he was taught by Miss “Freddie” Hagens. After finishing school, Thomas followed in his father’s footsteps as a farmer. Tom was an accomplished horse rider and driver and well known locally as a cyclist, having won “numerous medals” in races (1a). Interestingly, Tom was also learning wireless telegraphy, which was something his older brother Michael had taken up with a passion (2).
Tom first tried to enlist (with his father’s consent) in November 1914, aged 19 years and 6 months. He was initially allocated to the 3rd Signal Troop as a sapper, but was then discharged for some reason. He successfully re-enlisted in January 1915, this time declaring himself to be 21 years and 6 months old. Tom was assigned to the 6th Battalion. After a period at the Broadmeadows Army Camp, he embarked for Egypt on the HMAT Wiltshire on 13 April 1915. Tom therefore missed the farewell arranged at Koo Wee Rup for him and several other volunteers (2a). He joined his unit at Gallipoli on 27 May 1915, just a few weeks after the first landings at Anzac Cove. Less than a month later, on 24 June, Tom was killed at Lone Pine (3). He was buried in Shrapnel Valley about 400 yards south-east of Anzac Cove. At the time, it was reported that Tom was the first volunteer from the Pakenham district to have lost his life “for all of us” in the War. A moving tribute was paid to him in the South Bourke & Mornington Journal (4).
After Tom was reported killed, Kathleen (Kitty) Fogarty of Pakenham South wrote to the Defence Department on more than one occasion seeking confirmation of his death. Kitty was the daughter of Peter Fogarty, one of the early settlers in Pakenham South (he had been station master at Pakenham railway station). During the War, Kitty served as Secretary of the Pakenham South Recruitment Committee. In her letters, Kitty described Tom as her “very dear friend”. She also asked for the return of her letters to Tom. On another occasion, she asked for a “keepsake” from his personal effects. It ultimately took until the end of October for the telegram officially confirming Tom’s death to arrive in Australia. Kathleen was then advised that she would need to contact his next of kin if she wanted any of his personal effects. (6). Kitty may have “carried a torch” for Tom, particularly since she later wrote longing poems about a soldier who would never return to her (5).
In late August 1918, the Pakenham South community presented Tom’s mother with a gold medallion in honour of his service and sacrifice (7). Tom was also honoured on the Pakenham & District Soldiers’ Memorial, the Pakenham State School Honour Board and at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. Tom was also honoured at Koo Wee Rup, where his name was inscribed on the local roll of honour as “T. Bryant” (8). Tragically, one of Tom’s older brothers, Jack, died in Egypt during WWI, whilst his youngest brother Patrick (born in 1902) was taken prisoner by the Japanese while serving in WWII and subsequently died in a prisoner of war camp in 1943 (9).
The assistance of Beth O’Brien; and Faithe Jones of the RSL Virtual Memorial is gratefully acknowledged.
(1) South Bourke & Mornington Journal 5/8/1915 p. 2
(1a) Bunyip Free Press 9/9/1915, p. 3.
(2) AWM Roll of Honour Circular - Edward Thomas Bryan
(2a) Lang Lang Guardian 21/4/1915 p. 3. This article confuses Tom and Jack Bryan as Tom embarked on 13/4/1915
(3) & (6) NAA: B2455, BRYAN T
(4) Dandenong Advertiser 5/8/1915, p. 2 & South Bourke & Mornington Journal 2/9/1915, p. 2
(5) South Bourke & Mornington Journal 16/9/1915 p.3; Pakenham Gazette 21/2/1919 p. 3 & Dandenong Journal 3/5/1928, p.1
(7) Dandenong Advertiser 5/9/1918 p. 8
(8) Lang Lang Guardian 14/2/1917, p. 2