We remember: Arch and Andy Blackwood

AJ Blackwood

A century on from the end of World War I we acknowledge their service …
Lest we forget.

Trooper Archibald McDonald Blackwood
Born: 19 May 1893 Stratford, Victoria. Died: 19 December 1975 – Melbourne
Enlisted: 13 July 1915 aged 22
Served: Egypt and Western Front

Trooper Andrew Joseph Blackwood
Born: April 27 1897 Stratford. Died: 6 June 1987 Pakenham
Enlisted: 13 July 1915 aged 18
Served: Egypt and Western Front

Arch and Andy Blackwood were sons of John Blackwood and Mary Ann Cadd, who had met in Berwick, where Mary Ann worked at the Berwick Inn. John’s death in 1902 left Mary Ann a widow with 10 children to raise alone. In an era before widow’s pensions and child endowment, Mary sent some of the children to live with aunts and uncles. Later, Mary acquired a 100 acre property at Pakenham South known as “The Island” because when it flooded, the homestead remained above water. The family, including Arch and Andy, was reunited there. These were still pioneering days in the “Swamp Country” and the Blackwood boys had to clear their own property.

Arch and Andy were assigned to the 13th Australian Light Horse (ALH), 6th Reinforcement when they enlisted. The two brothers had consecutive service numbers and subsequently served together for most of the war. While training in Egypt, Arch and Andy had a got lost in a sandstorm while out on patrol with their horses. In early 1916, much of the Australian Army in Egypt was redeployed to the Western Front in France, including the 13th Light Horse. When he got the news that he was likely heading for France, Arch wrote home: “we won’t be sorry to get away from the flies”.

Following the war, Arch and Andy were sent back to England for repatriation to Australia. Interestingly, both went absent without leave (AWOL) for four days in April 1919. Perhaps they were enjoying a bit of last minute sight-seeing before returning to the farm in Pakenham South. They both forfeited several days pay for the experience! The brothers returned on the HMAT Ypiringa on 5 July 1919, while their older brother James (who had enlisted in October 1916) returned in September. Mrs Blackwood must have been very relieved to have all three sons back safe and sound.

Arch went back to the land, firstly on “The Island”, then he applied for and was granted a 74 acre soldier settler block at Hagelthorn’s Estate. There, he milked dairy cows and grew fodder and vegetables. In 1924 Arch had married Elsie Jeremiah, the daughter of another well-known Pakenham South family. The couple eventually had four sons and two daughters. In 1949, Arch and Elsie celebrated their silver wedding anniversary. Tragically, Elsie died of leukaemia a few weeks later, aged just 46. Elsie’s was one of the largest funerals in the district’s history, with the cortege from the church to the cemetery being over a mile long. Arch then raised his young family alone. Arch remained active in the Pakenham South community for many years, was well known locally for his keen interest in football (he was a life member of the Rythdale-Cardinia Football Club) and horse racing. He served on the Pakenham Racing Club committee for many years. Arch died in December 1975 aged 82. In paying its tribute to Arch, the Pakenham Gazette said of him: “Highly esteemed by all who knew him, he will be sadly missed by a wide circle of friends”.

Andy worked for a time on the dredges draining the Kooweerup Swamp. In September 1922, he married Gladys McLaine and eventually had nine children. By the 1930s, Andy had sold his share of the family farm and moved with his family to Stratford, where he was involved with the dredging for the Glenmaggie Weir. He then worked for a period at the Maffra Beet Company and later as a rabbit trapper before moving to Morwell Bridge, where Andy worked for many years at the Yallourn open cut mine, then as a boiler attendant at the local hospital. After retirement, Andy and Gladys moved to Morwell, before building a house at Noble Park. They did not like “city life” much, so moved back to Pakenham, where they settled in Anderson Street. Andy and Gladys celebrated their diamond (60th) wedding anniversary in 1982, receiving congratulatory telegrams from The Queen, the Governor General and Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser. Andy and Gladys attributed the success of their marriage to “always doing things together and always talking things over”. Andy was probably the last of the original WWI Diggers still living in the district when he died at Pakenham in 1987 aged 90.

This is an extract from Patrick Ferry’s book A Century After The Guns Fell Silent – Remembering the Pakenham District’s WWI Diggers 1914-18.
For more details on this and other profiles in the book, head to the website www.pakenhamww1.com

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