Kenneth Laird

Honour roll location: Pillar 6C

Feature story location: Pillar 6A

When Kenneth Laird enlisted he was 26 and newly married to Mary Laird. Prior to enlisting, he was a farmer at Calivil who was well-known as a talented footballer for the Calivil Football Club and a long distance runner. He was the fourth son of Donald and Isabell. His late father, Donald Craig Laird had been an East Loddon Shire councillor.

Gunner Ken Laird

Ken enlisted on the 13th of July, 1915. In just under a year he was killed. He was sent to Gallipoli in late October as part of the 22nd Battalion, 3rd Reinforcements and was one of the last to evacuate from the trenches.

He was transferred to the 6th Trench Mortar Battery in France in May 1916.

On the night of the 2nd of July, while Ken was on guard, a shell exploded and severely injured him. His abdomen was damaged and his bowels were protruding from his body. His right leg was shattered and his left arm wounded. He was treated at the 6th Field Ambulance but died at the Canadian Casualty Clearing Station. He is buried at the Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension, France.

Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension in Nord, France. It is not far from the Belgian border.

Mary received a letter from Lieutenant J. A. Gray explaining how Ken died:

Your husband was on guard over ammunition, well in rear of the lines, on the night 1st/2nd July. He was on duty from 12 till 2, and about 1.30 a.m. a large shell burst beside him, inflicting terrible injuries. He died in the ambulance on the way to hospital.

Poor Ken was our first casualty. He has done magnificent work. He has been in the thick of all the activity that has marked our front during the last six weeks, faithfully doing his work under violent bombardments, and after being preserved through all this he was caught by an isolated shell on a comparatively quiet night.

I cannot adequately express my feelings at losing him. He was universally loved by the men of the battery. He always exercised a restraining influence on his younger comrades, who naturally looked to him for advice. He showed great coolness and devotion to duty under fire, and has contributed largely to our recent success against the Huns.

In these circumstances, I can say no more. May you have the consolation of Him Who said Love is the fulfilment of the Law and ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’

‘Gunner Ken. Laird’, Bendigonian, 14th of September 1916, p. 24

 

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Robert James Dobbie

Honour roll location: Pillar 5B

Robert James Dobbie enlisted in 1918, but the Armistice Peace treaty was signed before he ever saw action.

Robert James Dobbie was born in Calivil on 2nd of March 1898 to father Robert Fraser Dobbie and Kate Dobbie (Newman.) Robert started his life as a farm hand then enlisted in the A.I.F. (Australian Imperial Force.) He was a late enlister, signing up at Bendigo on 8th of March 1918 at the age of 20. His service number was 61845. He had dark brown hair and brown eyes. He was 5 foot, 10 ½ inches tall and 10 stone, 7lb (66.8kgs.)

On the 5th of October 1918 he embarked on the requisitioned White Star Liner, S.S. Zealandic to go and fight for his country. Whilst travelling to Europe, Robert Dobbie became ill on the ship and was admitted to the ship’s hospital on 14th November 1918, three days after World War I had officially ended.

The SS Zealandic

Private Dobbie was discharged from the hospital, at sea on 26th of November 1918. He disembarked from S.S. Zealandic on the 5th of December 1918 at London. He was then assigned to the 22nd Battalion on 7th of December 1918. Private Dobbie’s battalion was posted to Southampton on the 28th of January 1919. Much to his dismay he became ill with Bronchitis on 29th of January 1919. Whilst sick with Bronchitis, Robert was admitted to a staging camp in Europe until he was T.O.S. (Taken on Strength) to rejoin with his battalion in France 15th of February 1919.

Due to the war ending Private Dobbie and his battalion did not see active service. They were, however, present for the aftermath of the November Armistice Peace Treaty which was signed on 28th of June 1919. Once the Armistice Treaty was formally signed and administered, Robert and his battalion disembarked at Southampton on 30th of May 1919 to begin their journey home to Australia. Robert finally arrived in Australia on the 26th of February 1920, now 22 years of age.

For service to his country he received a British War Medal, 1914 to 1915 Star Medal and the Victory Medal. Due to Private Dobbie not engaging in active service during the war there was some dispute about him receiving the Victory Medal. Despite him being informed that he was ineligible for the medal, he was later issued with it.

In 1928, Robert married Doris Isabela Richards. When his father died in 1949, Robert was listed as a farmer in Jarklin.
He later moved to 4 Eaglehawk Road, Bendigo. He died in August 1972 at age 74 and is buried in the Eaglehawk Cemetery.

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