Artie Paternoster (left) with Albert Nye (2nd from right) and Paddy O'Halloran (right). Courtesy of Graham Treloar / BPHS
Private George Arthur Paternoster
Pakenham & District War Memorial & Pakenham State School Roll of Honour
Born: May 1893 - Pakenham, Victoria.
Enlisted: 25 February 1916 aged 22
Unit: 57th Battalion, 4th Reinforcement (SERN: 2240)
Served: Western Front
Died: 9 January 1971 - Heidelberg, Victoria
George Arthur (“Artie”) Paternoster was the only son of George and Elizabeth Paternoster. Artie’s grandfather Simon first settled in Berwick in 1862 and became a prominent local businessman, with stores in Berwick, Beaconsfield, Upper beaconsfield and Pakenham (1). In Pakenham, the family business was run by Artie’s father, George, and consisted of a general store and bakery on Main Street. Advertised as the “Busy Bee Store and Bakery”, this sold everything from bread and groceries, to drapery, ironmongery, general produce and newspapers. The Paternosters also used to also buy butter and eggs from the local farmers and residents (1a) A Royal Mail Coach would run from the shop to Gembrook South (Pakenham Upper) daily (2). Artie was educated at Pakenham State School, where his name was later inscribed on the WWI Roll of Honour. After finishing school, he worked as a storeman (3), presumably in the family store. Artie enlisted on 25 February 1916, aged 22 (4). He enlisted at a time when there was a major recruitment drive to replenish and reinforce the AIF after the losses it had sustained at Gallipoli. The Berwick Shire was given a recruitment quota to achieve, which is easily met thanks to young men like Artie who answered the call (5). Artie was initially assigned to the 57th Battalion, 4th Reinforcement. He left Australia for England on 2 August 1916. In December 1916, Artie was transferred to the 59th Battalion, C Company (6).
In April 1917, Artie wrote home to let his family know he was safe, well and in “the best of spirits”. He had been receiving plenty of letters from home and said he had met a number of his mates from Pakenham, including Billy Lewis and Les Keogh (7). On 26 September 1917 though, Artie was wounded in the head, hand and arm. One of his fingers also had to be amputated in an English hospital (7a). News of his injury reached Pakenham around the time that the death of Jack Clancy was confirmed, together with the wounding Frank Hornby and Charles Warner (8). His parents later learned that Artie was making a good recovery (9). Despite his amputation, Artie returned to his unit in January 1918, but by March was admitted to hospital again, this time suffering from “trench fever” and other conditions. He did not rejoin his unit until July 1918. The following month, on 8 August 1918, Artie was wounded in the head again. His injuries included a penetrating wound to “right temporal region” of the head and a compound fracture to the skull (10). Back home, this was reported as the third occasion “on which the young soldier has stopped a slug” (11). This wounding effectively ended Artie’s war, the remainder of which was spent in the UK. He was invalided back to Australia on the Hospital Transport “Takada”, which left England on Christmas Day 1918. Artie was discharged from the Army in Melbourne in March 1919 (12).
After returning home to Pakenham in February 1919, Artie was given “a hearty welcome. The main street presented quite a patriotic appearance, a string of flags overhanging the roadway in front of Mr Paternoster’s store. Pte Paternoster was motored home from the city by his father and spent a happy evening with his home folk and a number of relations from the city”. It was also noted that he had been wounded on two occasions and spent a total of 18 months in hospital, but had made an excellent recovery (13). In October 1919, Artie and other returned soldiers were presented with gold medallions by grateful community (14). In January 1920, he was presented with a another medal by the local Australian Natives’ Association (ANA) Lodge. Other ANA members similarly honoured at the same event were Andy Webster, James Fennell and E. A. Loveridge (15).
Artie resumed civilian life in Pakenham and was listed on the electoral roll as a labourer (15a). He became an inaugural committee member of the Pakenham sub-branch of the Returned Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Imperial League of Australia (RSSILA) (16). In 1920 though, Artie had to undergo surgery for the head injuries he had sustained during the War (17). In 1921, he married Frances Elizabeth (“Myrtle”) Davenport of Moonee Ponds. Their permanent home was listed as “Emoh Ruo, Pakenham” (18) - “Emoh ruo” being “Our Home” spelt backwards. Later, the Paternosters moved to Maffra in Gippsland, where Artie was employed by the State Rivers Commission (19). By the 1940s, he was working as a storeman in Melbourne (20). Artie died in January 1971 aged 77, while Myrtle died in 1989 aged 95 (21).
(1) Wilson (2013) p.194
(1a) Pakenham Gazette 18/5/1917 p. 1
(2) BPHS (2005) p. 99
(3) (4) (6) (7a) (10) & (12) NAA B2455 PATERNOSTER GEORGE ARTHUR
(5) Berwick Shire News 3/5/1916 p. 3
(7) Dandenong Advertiser 21/6/1917 p. 3
(8) Dandenong Advertiser 25/10/1917 p. 2. & Pakenham Gazette 26/10/1917 p. 2
(9) Pakenham Gazette 4/1/1918 p. 2
(11) Dandenong Advertiser 5/9/1918 p. 3
(13) Pakenham Gazette 14/2/1919 p. 2
(14) Pakenham Gazette 17/10/1919 p. 3
(15) Pakenham Gazette 30/1/1920 p. 3
(15a) Ancestry.com.au - Electoral Roll - Flinders - Pakenham 1921 p. 20
(16) South Bourke & Mornington Journal 24/4/1919, p. 2
(17) Pakenham Gazette 1/10/1920 p. 2
(18) Argus 10/12/1921, p.17
(19) Ancestry.com.au - Electoral Roll - Gippsland - Maffra - 1931 p. 42
(20) Ancestry.com.au - Electoral Roll - Higgins - Caulfield - 1949 p. 40
(21) Information sourced from Ancestry.com.au