Richard Doherty was one of six Pakenham Diggers who rode horse in the November 1918 Armistice Day parade, Courtesy of Debbie Ellett Hajduk
Driver Richard Doherty
Pakenham & District War Memorial
Born: 3 August 1886 - Shepparton, Victoria
Enlisted: 3 March 1916 aged 29
Unit: 1st Divisional Ammunition Column 19th Reinforcement (SERN: 26773)
Served: Western Front
Died: 19 June 1977 - Glenroy Victoria
Also known as “Dick”, Richard was born in Shepparton, one of Henry and Mary Ann Doherty’s ten sons. Henry Doherty owned a large area of land in central Shepparton, which was eventually sold to the Closer Settlement Board (1). In 1908, Henry was thrown from his horse-drawn gig when it collided with a stump and capsized. He was found semi-conscious by one of his sons, but later died in hospital from a brain haemorrhage (2). In 1914, Richard came to Pakenham South, where he worked on the farm owned by Henry Little, who was married to his sister Henrietta (2a). Besides his relatives in Pakenham South, Richard had a brother (Augustus) living near Garfield (3).
Richard was 29 years old when he enlisted in March 1916. He was assigned to the 1st Divisional Ammunition Column (DAC) 19th Reinforcement as a driver. He departed for England in September 1916. There, he spent several months training, including at the School of Farriery at Romney where he qualified in “cold shoeing”. This was a method of fitting horse shoes (4). Richard proceeded to France in October 1917 and was taken on strength with the 12th Field Artillery Brigade. Posted to the 112th Battery, Richard was serving on the Western Front in Belgium when he was hospitalised in December 1917. He was eventually diagnosed with valvular heart disease (VDH) and invalided back to the UK (5). In March 1918, it was decided to send him back to Australia “for a change”. At the time, he appears to have been suffering from nephritis, a serious infection of the kidneys. Not long after Richard arrived back in Australia, his brother Private John Thomas Doherty was killed near Ypres in Belgium (6). Richard was discharged as medically unfit on 24 July 1918.
A special euchre party dance and supper was arranged at Pakenham South on 21 August 1918 to welcome home both Dick and Bert Ellett. At this event, Cr Bill Stephenson presented Dick with a special gold medallion from the grateful Pakenham community, while medals were also presented to the families of Bert Ellett (who in the end could not make it to the event) and the late Private Tom Bryan who had been killed at Gallipoli back in 1915 (7). Richard initially obtained a job with Oscar Smith, one of the local blacksmiths in Pakenham (8). Dick was one of six returned Diggers who rode in the parade held in Pakenham to mark the Armistice in November 1918 (9). In1919, he married Millicent (“Alice”) Thewlis at the Pakenham Methodist Church. Alice was a sister of Syd Thewlis, another of Pakenham’s WWI Diggers. With one of her sisters, she used to have a dressmaker’s shop in Station St (10). The couple eventually had two sons. For a short time, Richard tried his hand at running a garage in Bunyip, before he applied for and was granted a soldier settler block at McGregor’s Estate, Koo Wee Rup North (Rythdale). His block was on the corner of Ballarto Rd and the Pakenham - Koo Wee Rup Rd (11). There, Richard went in mainly for potato growing. Richard was described by Closer Settlement Board (CSB) inspectors and valuers as “a good type, hard working and thoroughly experienced” and a “first class settler” who paid his own way. However, by the 1930s, Richard was struggling with the block, principally due to flooding, pests and low prices. The final straw seems to have been the 1934 floods, after which he wrote to the CSB seeking transfer to a dairying block elsewhere: “I have been in occupation here for eleven years and have lost crops repeatedly through floods, and now find that dairying is the only sound proposition, My property is too small and can be used to increase the areas of other settlers adjoining. I wish to apply for a transfer to a dairying block” (12). His request was granted, and Richard and Alice moved to Yannathan (13).
In 1956, Richard and Alice returned to Pakenham, where they resided in Henry Street. Alice died in the early 1970s, while Richard died in June 1977 aged 90 years. He was buried in Pakenham Cemetery. In his obituary, the Pakenham Gazette described Richard as one of the district’s “finest old residents” and noted that “despite his great age he was active until just a few weeks before his death. A familiar figure in the township, he was highly esteemed by a wide circle of friends” (14).
The assistance of Dick’s niece Dorothy Kellock and relative Sue Rutten is gratefully appreciated.
(1) Shepparton Advertiser 17/9/1923, p. 5
(2) Ballarat Star 26/5/1908, p.4
(2a) (8) (10) (11) (13) & (14) Pakenham Gazette 22/6/1977 p. 32
(3) & (4) NAA B2455 DOHERTY, R
(5) Narre Warren & District Family History Group 2016 p. 34
(6) Pakenham Gazette 21/6/1918 p. 2
(7) Pakenham Gazette 6/9/1918 p. 2
(9) Pakenham Gazette 22/11/ 1918, p. 2
(10) Information provided by BPHS
(12) PROV VPRS 10381/P0 Unit 211 Item 2602