Bert Mullett with his mother Julia and son William c.1932. Courtesy of Dorothy and Sue Mullett

Sapper Bertram James Mullett

Pakenham & District War Memorial & Pakenham Upper Roll of Honour

Born: 12 November 1884 - Isle of Wight England      

Enlisted: 26 October 1914 aged 30

Unit: 3rd Signal Troop, 3rd Light Horse (SERN: 599)

Served: Egypt, Gallipoli.                      

Died: 3 August 1950, Heidelberg, Victoria 

 

Known as “Bert”, Bertram was the son of James and Julia Mullett. The family migrated to Australia in 1885 and by 1909 had settled at Pakenham Upper (1). Although his parents later moved to Marshall near Geelong. James remained in Pakenham, as did his sister Ethel, who was married to Albert Board. (1a). When Bert enlisted on 26 October 1914, he was a 30 year old farmer but also studying accountancy (2). Bert became a sapper in the 3rd Signal Troop, 3rd Light Horse and served at Gallipoli, where he was in the tenches for five months as a wireless (radio) operator. There, Bert suffered shell shock caused by concussion from an exploding shell and also contracted diphtheria (3). He was evacuated to Mudros and thence to hospital in Alexandria, where he also suffered from dysentery. According to a personal account Bert wrote, one morning he had to crawl out of bed to find the toilet as he could not get a nurse to assist him. When he returned twenty minutes later, Bert found another soldier was in his bed! Bert was ordered out of the hospital in his pyjamas and bare feet and taken to a convalescent depot, then discharged to a reinforcement unit heading back to Gallipoli (4). He never made it though, as he had a relapse of diphtheria on Mudros (5). As he was assessed as fit for light duties only, Bert was later transferred to the gift shop of Cairo’s Savoy Hotel, where the British Army had their headquarters. He was then assigned to escort duty on HMAT Clan Macgillivray and returned to Australia in August 1916 (6). Bert visited Pakenham Upper shortly thereafter “to recruit his health” (7), but was discharged from the Army in October as permanently unfit due to neurasthenia caused by shell shock (8). 

 

In 1917, Bert’s service was commemorated on a special honour roll unveiled at Pakenham Upper. He was honoured at a special welcome home for already returned Pakenham Upper soldiers held in June 1918 (9). By 1919, Bert was living in Balaclava, having obtained temporary work as a clerk with the Army Base Records Office at Victoria Barracks. He was initially refused a permanent position in the Federal Public Service on medical grounds, but subsequently served with a number of departments (10). Bert married Ruby Lewis in 1919 and later had two sons (11). The family eventually settled in Caulfield. Bert however, suffered significant ill health, particularly headaches, nervous exhaustion and sore throats which he attributed to his war service (12). He died in August 1950, aged 66 years and was buried in Springvale Cemetery.

 

The assistance of Bert’s daughter-in-law, Dorothy Mullett and granddaughter Sue Mullett is gratefully acknowledged. 

 

Sources:

(1) Ancestry.com.au - Electoral Roll - Flinders - Pakenham 1909, p. 11

(2) The Age 29/7/1929, p. 1 

(3) (8) (10) & (12) B73 M18882 

(4) (5) & (6) NAA B2455 MULLETT, BERTRAM JAMES

(7) Dandenong Advertiser 31/8/1916, p. 2

(9) Pakenham Gazette 28/9/1917, p. 2 & South Bourke & Mornington Journal 5/7/1918 p. 2

(11) The Age 4/8/1950 p. 7

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