Courtesy of Florence and Keith Smith
Corporal Thomas Francis Maher
Pakenham & District War Memorial & St Patrick’s Catholic School Roll of Honour
Born: 20 September 1899 - Buchan, Victoria
Enlisted: 22 October 1917 aged 18
Unit: 1st General Service Reinforcements (Victoria) (SERN: 50190)
Served: Western Front
Died: 25 September 1966 - Kew, Victoria
Known in the family as “Tom”, Thomas was one of Stephen and Bridget Maher’s younger children. Tom studied at St Patrick’s School, and was recognised as a “meritorious candidate” in the 1914 Melbourne Catholic Archdiocese scholarship examinations (1). He was studying mixed farming at technical or agricultural college when he enlisted in 1917 (2). Tom had only just turned 18, so he needed his parent’s permission to do so. His enlistment papers were marked with the condition that he remain in Australia until the age of 18 years and 6 months (3). Tom trained at the Broadmeadows Army Camp with re-enforcements for several battalions before embarking for the UK in March 1918. In May 1918, he was allocated to the 22nd Battalion and after further training, proceeded to France in August 1918. While at the Front, Tom wrote to his parents in Pakenham saying he had met his brother Ray in France, while his other brother Jack was convalescing in the Middle East from malaria (3a). In early October 1918, the 22nd battalion took part in the Battle of Montbrehain, the last battle fought by the AIF on the Western Front. During this, on 4 October 1918, Tom was lightly wounded, but remained at duty (4). Following the end of the War, he caught influenza and was hospitalised in Rouen, France. The deadly “Spanish Flu” was already raging across the globe, but fortunately Tom survived. He remained with his unit for a few more months and was promoted to the temporary rank of Corporal in April 1919 (5). He arrived back in Pakenham in September 1919 and was welcomed home at the Railway Station by family and friends, then entertained at his parents’ home (6). Tom was one of the returned soldiers formally welcomed back to Pakenham and presented with gold medallions in October 1919 (7). He was listed on the Pakenham & District Soldiers’ Memorial as “F. T. Maher”.
During the War, Tom’s father Stephen had been granted an 80 acre block of land in Pakenham on the condition that one of his sons took it over after returning from the Army. It was Tom who did so, clearing and ploughing the land and having it transferred to him under the soldiers settlement scheme (8). During the early 1920s, Tom was actively involved with the Pakenham Picnic Racing Club, which had strong connections with his former school, St Patrick’s. Unfortunately after a few short years, sickness forced Tom to relinquish the farm, which was transferred to his father Stephen. Tom attributed his ill health to the lingering effects of a gas attack on the Western Front in September 1918 (9). Later, he worked as a technician with the PMG and moved to Kew with his wife Claire, who died in 1949 (10). Tom died in September 1966, and is buried in Box Hill Cemetery.
The assistance of Tom’s niece, Florence Smith and great-nephew Keith Smith is gratefully acknowledged.
(1) The Advocate 3/12/1914 p. 12
(3) & (5) NAA B2455, Maher, T F
(3a) Pakenham Gazette 25/10/1918 p. 2
(2) & (8) PROV VPRS 5714/P0 unit 801, file 480/12
(4) Pakenham Gazette 1/11/1918 p. 2
(6) Pakenham Gazette 12/9/1919 p. 2
(7) Pakenham Gazette 17/10/1919 p. 3
(9) NAA B73, M82574
(10) The Age 20/5/1949 p. 2