Triple Tragedy: Childbirth, Infancy & War


Loving Memory
beloved wife of
who fell asleep 3rd August 1914
aged 24 years
Her sun went down while it was yet day

darling daughter of the above
who died 11th Sept. 1914, aged 7 weeks
“Safe in the arms of Jesus,”

Killed in action at Zonnebeke, Belgium
4th Oct. 1917, aged 33 years.

At his request this stone was erected
to the memory of his wife.

They are not dead, but only sleeping
On the sweet refuge of their Master’s breast,
And far away from sorrow, toil & weeping,
They are not dead – but only taking rest.

DSCF4576The monument is a tall marble slab and is surrounded by an iron (?) fence that stands to about knee height. Some of the fence has come loose and has been placed on the grave. The monument is much larger and more elaborate than the other throughout Wonthaggi cemetery and as such immediately drew my attention.

The story of the Padfield family has been pieced together using records available on the Ancestry website and the war record of William Padfield, which provides a touching insight into the erection of the grave marker.


William Herbert Padfield married Florence Louisa Sparrow in 1910 at Saint James, Trowbridge, England. The grave says that Florence was 24 when she died in 1914 so she must have been approximately 20 when she married Herb*. When Herb joins the AIF in 1914 he states he is 30, so he would have been approximately 26 when they married. An entry on the Ancestry site records Herb and Florence emigrating to Australia in December, 1913 although I have been unable to verify this but what is known is that sometime between their marriage in 1910 and Florence’s death in 1914 the couple moved to Wonthaggi in Victoria, Australia.

Their daughter, Edna Florence, was born in late July, 1914. Florence died of septicemia on August 3rd and Edna died from umbilicus cellulitis on September 11.

In December, 1914 Herb voluntarily enlisted with the AIF to fight in the First World War. He was in the first wave of enlistments and embarked for the war on 2 February, 1915 onboard the HMAT Clan McGillivray, part of the reinforcements for the 6th Battalion. The 6th Battalion was part of the second wave of the Gallipoli landing on April 25 and also was involved in the battle of Lone Pine. On the long list of names and marital status on the Embarkation Rolls for his ship Herb is the only man with a ‘W’ (for widower) amongst all of the S (for single) and M (for married).

In July he fell ill and spent some time on hospital ships, but rejoined his battalion at ANZAC in August. By September, Herb was ill with dysentery and then enteric fever. He spent time in army hospitals in Egypt before  he was shipped back to Australia to rest and recover June, 1916. Returning to Australia for a few months of rest and recuperation was a relatively common treatment for diseases such as enteric fever during the First World War. This practice relieved the strain on the overloaded army hospitals and also helped to fill up the troop ships that typically returned to Australia virtually empty.

Most men never returned to the front but after recovering his health in Australia William Padfield headed back to the fighting in July, 1916. By this time the fighting had moved to the hell of the Western Front in France and Belgium. Herb transferred to the 14th Battalion (but later transferred back to the 6th) and in October was admitted to hospital with a “self-inflicted wound” to his ankle. Despite the dramatic wording on his war service record the “wound” was “self-inflicted” was a sprained ankle from playing football, which would trouble him for the remainder of his war service. Two further hospital admissions for a sprained ankle note that “he was in no way to blame”.

Sadly, William Herbert Padfield died in battle on October 4th, 1917 in Zonnebeke, which saw intense fighting during the First World War. His war service records, which are viewable online at the National Archives of Australia reveal a few details about his death, and also let us know that his sister called him ‘Herb’ and his soldier mates called him ‘Pad’. A couple of witnesses recall seeing him injured to the head during the fighting. Private Wilson, a stretcher bearer, states that he bandaged Herb’s head and put him in a shell hole, but when he returned two hours later he couldn’t find Herb. Private D Gray states that he was behind Herb as they headed to the front line “when a high explosive shell exploded near him, a piece entering his head and mortally wounding him.” William Herbert Padfield’s body was never found so his name appears on the Menin Gate in Ypres, along side the other 54388 Allied soldiers whose remains were never recovered.

Herb’s war service records reveal one other interesting fact that is alluded to on the grave marker at Wonthaggi cemetery. His sister, Rosina, was listed on his attestation papers as his next-of-kin but, sadly, she was put through the wringer by the powers that be to gain access to Herb’s army pay despite being named on his Will. In an effort to prove her entitlement Rosina provided the army with the following extract of a letter that Herb wrote:

My Dear Sister,
…..If I should not come back to Australia you must draw all my Pay. Then spend one half of it as you think best in the Cemetery, and divide the rest equally between you and Pam or in the event of anything happening to her you it yourself….
Your Loving Brother,


RIP Florence, Edna and Herb

* William Herbert calls himself Herb in his war records.






Empty Cemeteries

Step into a cemetery in Australia that stretches back a hundred or so years and you might think that a large percentage of it is empty. This is particularly evident in country areas more so than the large urban cemeteries. It might look like only a few people were buried there but, in most cases, this would be wrong.

A good example of this is Corinella cemetery in Victoria.

DSCF4650This photo is of the Anglican portion of the cemetery and it seems like only twenty or so people were buried here. However, there’s an information board at the entrance to the cemetery that has a map of all the plots and the names (if known) of who was interred there.

DSCF4614Most of the plots are occupied, but over time the grave markers haven’t survived. In essence the grave markers that we see from the late-nineteenth century really only represent the portion of the population who were wealthy enough to afford a marble grave marker. Less affluent people would have opted for cheaper options like wood, that just don’t stand the test of time, and this means that there is very rarely a trace left of their lives.

There’s not much that can be done about this but it’s great to see that some of the cemeteries in Gippsland have included maps and lists, although sadly many old cemetery registers have been lost or destroyed over the years so this isn’t always possible.

Missionary & Interpreter

BORN 17TH FEB. 1871. DIED 9TH DEC. 1946.


Florence May Freeth is buried in the Anglican portion of Guildford Cemetery in Western Australia. The grave is a table monument, which means there is no head stone and the inscription is written on the flat part of the grave marker. Her grave marker intrigued me because of the “C.M.S. Japan” inscription.

Florence May Freeth was born on February 17, 1871 in England to  Sir Evelyn and Lady Freeth. Wikipedia reports that Sir Evelyn was a civil servant who was an expert on death duties and he received his knighthood in 1908. Florence was one of eight children in the Freeth family.

Florence’s obituary published in The West Australian sheds some light on her interesting life. She worked as a missionary in Japan for 45 years with the Church Missionary Society, which explains the “C.M.S. Japan” on the grave marker. Just prior to Japan entering the Second World War Florence moved to Guildford in Western Australia where her brother was the headmaster at Guildford Grammar School.

After 45 years in Japan Florence must have been fluent in Japanese and during the war she acted as a translator for the district censor’s office and the Department of the Army. Her obituary notes that these departments “relied almost entirely upon her for both the translation of Japanese documents and personal interpretations” and a former colleague states that she “had done remarkably good work”.

RIP Florence

Two Wives, One Plot


to the memory of


beloved wife of


Died 5 July, 1892

Aged 80 years



Beloved second wife of the above

Died 22. June, 1897

Aged 36 years

Mary Ann Aldridge and Fanny Aldridge, both who were married to Alfred Aldridge, are buried in the same plot in the Anglican portion of the San Remo cemetery in Victoria, Australia. The grave marker is a large marble slab and the grave is bordered by a low metal fence.

This grave marker is intriguing for two reasons. Firstly, burying two wives in the one plot is not typical, and secondly, there’s a significant age gap between Mary Ann and Fanny.

DSCF4687 (2)Using the Victorian Births, Deaths and Marriages site, as well as online newspapers, I’ve pieced together the following about the Aldridge story.

May 28, 1857 – Alfred Aldridge, aged 29, married Mary Ann Rollason, aged 38, in Maldon, Victoria. Alfred was listed as a bachelor and his occupation is a miner (which would have most like been a miner given the time and place). Mary Ann is a widow, and the notes reveal she has one living child from a previous marriage and seven deceased children.

1858 and 1861 – there are several articles in newspapers of the time that concern an Alfred Aldridge appearing before the insolvency court.

1882 – Alfred Aldridge is noted in the South Bourke and Mornington Journal as being a Woolamai Riding councillor. He is also an Assistant Inspector of Fisheries in Woolamai.

1896 – Alfred is a trustee of the San Remo Public Cemetery, as noted in The Mornington Standard.

July 5, 1892 – Mary Ann Aldridge dies of ‘jaundice (?) coma’, aged 80. She is buried in the Church of England section of San Remo Public cemetery. Her death is registered by her niece, Isabella Rollason. The death certificate notes that Mary Ann was born in Scarborough, England and that she lived in South Australia for 11 years and Victoria for 41 years. The entry is blurry but it looks like her child was Henry Rollason.

February 21, 1893 – Alfred Aldridge weds Fanny Hull, aged 32. Fanny is the third surviving daughter of George Hull, esq.

June 22, 1897 – Fanny Aldridge dies of ‘miscarriage, enemia, convulsions, failure-of-heart’. Her death is registered by her father, George, and she is buried in San Remo Public cemetery.

September 8, 1897The South Bourke and Mornington Journal notes that Alfred Aldridge sells ‘the whole of his cattle, horses, implements, household furniture, and effects at highly satisfactory prices’.

June 13, 1903 – Alfred Aldridge dies, aged 74, in Caulfield of ‘cirrhosis of the liver; exhaustion’. His death was registered by his niece, Isabella Rollason, presumably the same niece who registered Mary Ann’s death. He was buried at Melbourne General Cemetery. The death certificate states that Alfred was born in Berkshire, England and that he lived in Victoria for 51 years before his death. Only his marriage to Mary Ann is noted on his death certificate.

At the end of my digging there are still no answers as to why Alfred chose to bury both wives in the one plot. Perhaps he was thrifty? The difference in Fanny and Alfred’s ages is not that uncommon in country marriages of the time. It might have been a love match or it might have been a convenience marriage, there’s no way of telling.

Mary Ann, Fanny and Alfred’s story makes me feel sad. On the bright side, Alfred stopped running up debts and declaring himself insolvent and became a prominent member of the San Remo community, but Mary Ann’s seven dead children and Fanny’s horrendous death cast a shadow over this success.

RIP Mary Ann, Fanny and Alfred.

PS: many thanks to my friend, K, who filled in many of the facts in this story. x


I’m a post-graduate history student and one of my particular areas of interest is cemeteries but when I tell people this they look aghast. Tell someone you like checking out cemeteries and they think you’re a ghost-hunter or into the occult. This is certainly not the case for me.

I like cemeteries for the stories that the grave markers hint at. A grave marker is usually the only item we leave behind after we die, which is kind of ironic as it’s a possession few us will most likely not see. The majority of grave markers are brief and limited to the dates of birth and death, a mention of their role in the family (beloved Mother, etc..) and maybe a quote from somewhere, but on a stroll through any cemetery and their will be the odd grave marker that is intriguing. Sometimes it’s because of the uniqueness of the marker itself, and other times because of the inscription. Either way, I usually leave a cemetery keen to know more about the life of a couple of the occupants. Fortunately, the internet and it’s labyrinth is helpful and I can occasionally piece together some of the person’s story.

Cemeteries also tell the history of their local area. The size of grave markers and the materials used can be indicative of the wealth of the area. If the cemetery is divided into religious denominations it can provide an interesting insight into what faith’s the area’s people practiced, and if the cemetery is still open the changes in religious practice over time can also be seen.

During my cemetery jaunts I have a few ethical rules I adhere to. If there’s a funeral in progress I drive on by. No-one needs spectators to their grief. If there’s a person/people near a grave, I stay away for the same reason. Also, why walking around cemeteries I try and walk on the paths and not over the graves. Sometimes it’s impossible not to step on a grave but I do my best to avoid it.

Lastly, if you have an interesting grave you’d like to share send me an email!