A century on from the end of World War I we acknowledge their service …
Lest we forget.
Private George Arthur Paternoster
Born: May 1893 Pakenham. Died: 9 January 1971 Heidelberg.
Enlisted: 25 February 1916 aged 22.
Served: Western Front.
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. 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. A Royal Mail Coach would run from the shop to Gembrook South (Pakenham Upper) daily.
After finishing school, Artie worked as a storeman, presumably in the family store, and enlisted on 25 February 1916, aged 22, at a time when there was a major recruitment drive to replenish and reinforce the AIF after the losses it had sustained at Gallipoli. He left Australia for England on 2 August 1916 and in December was transferred to the 59th Battalion C Company.
On 26 September 1917, Artie was wounded in the head, hand and arm. One of his fingers also had to be amputated in an English hospital. 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. His parents later learned that Artie was making a good recovery. 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. Back home, this was reported as the third occasion “on which the young soldier has stopped a slug”. This wounding effectively ended Artie’s war, the remainder of which was spent in the UK.
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.
Artie resumed civilian life in Pakenham and was listed on the electoral roll as a labourer. He became an inaugural committee member of the Pakenham sub-branch of the Returned Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Imperial League of Australia (RSSILA). In 1920 though, Artie had to undergo surgery for the head injuries he had sustained during the War. In 1921, he married Frances Elizabeth (“Myrtle”) Davenport of Moonee Ponds. Their permanent home was listed as “Emoh Ruo, Pakenham” – being “Our Home” spelt backwards. Later, the Paternosters moved to Maffra in Gippsland, where Artie was employed by the State Rivers Commission.
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