About Me

My photo
This blog will be a record of stuff I find interesting, discover or write. Interested in family & local history, cemeteries, reading & libraries, old stuff, research & writing, photography, wine and fine dining plus lots more! Immersed in local history, fascinated by technology and social media and would like more time to spend doing the things I love!

Friday, 22 April 2016


Today Australia commemorates Anzac Day, the day that not only marks the Gallipoli landing in 1915 but also “the day on which we remember all Australians who served and died in war.” Several members in our family, and connected to our family, served in World War 1 and 2 and a number lost their lives. This is their story, lest we forget.
Bob, Len and Artie Belshaw
Olga Belshaw

The three sons of Robert and Florence Belshaw all enlisted in World War 2 (WW2), much to the dismay of their parents and older sisters: Florrie, Phyllis, Lily and Edna.

ROBERT ‘BOB’ FRANCIS BELSHAW 1919-2012 enlisted in August 1940. His brother LEONARD ALLEN BELSHAW 1921-1991 enlisted in the AIF in August 1942 and was discharged six years later in 1948. In 1945 he married OLGA MERRICKLEY who had enlisted in December 1943. Olga was discharged in June 1945, two months after their wedding.

The youngest son was ARTHUR MAURICE ‘ARTIE’ BELSHAW 1923-1944 who wanted to join up when he was only 16. He had been in the air cadets and was desperate to enlist. Artie finally enlisted in the RAAF in the 43rd Squadron in July 1942, three months before he was legally allowed. He was a bombardier and flew with the Flying planes.

Artie Belshaw
Artie was killed in action when the Catalina he was crew member of, was shot down near Borneo. He died shortly after his 21st birthday, on 10 April 1944. His remains were eventually laid in the Labuan War Cemetery in Malaysia. His signet ring a 21st gift from his parents, was used to identify him. His extensive Service Records and information about his death and repatriation can be viewed on the National Archives website. The family were very close and were devastated when they received a telegram advising them he was Missing In Action (MIA) and held out hope until they finally got official confirmation. To this day the extended family cherish his memory.

One of the letters from Arties' mother, Florence still waiting for confirmation of her son's death two years after he was presumed dead.  Service Records, National Archives of Australia, A705 166/5/501

Our Gt-Grandmother Florence Belshaw, had four younger half-brothers, who served.

ALFRED ARTHUR PETTY 1899-1975, known as Arthur he enlisted at the end of WW1 in 1918 in 33rd Batt, His guardian at the time was listed as his half‐sister, Phoebe Nolen. ABRAHAM CHARLES PETTY 1901-1944 was as “Abe” and began his military service in the Australian Army in 1940 at Cowra, Service Number NX52875.  He died on 23 Aug 1944 aged 43 from dysentery as a Prisoner of War (POW) a at Ambon and at the time was a Rank Gunner and posted on the 18 Anti‐Tank Battery. He had a daughter called Joyce F. Petty who died in 1924 aged about 3 and it is believed our Mother, Joyce Nichols nee Leach was named for this child. He is buried in Ambon War Cemetery in Indonesia, grave reference 20. A. 7. HENRY GEORGE PETTY 1903-1943 but always known as “Syd” joined the Navy as a young man and served on HMS Platypus from 1918 and later the Penguin. In 1919 aged 16, he deserted but joined the Royal Navy in 1921. He enlisted in WW2 in June 1940 and was in the A.I.F. 2/30 Battallion, and his rank was Sergeant, service no. NX57356.  Syd was reporting missing in Malaya. His wife at the time was issued  with  a  notice  to  quit  their Government  tenement  at  Westlake despite being married to a member of the A.I.F. who was been reported missing and whose whereabouts are unknown to the Army authorities. He died from an illness in November 1943 in what is now known as Thailand aged 40.  According to the newspapers, his wife did not find out until 1945, two years later that he had died. His Grave reference in Thanbyuzayat War Cemetery is A5. G. 2. He was survived by his 2nd wife and 2 daughters. The youngest was ERNEST WILLIAM PETTY 1905-1989. He enlisted in Sydney in 1941, service no. was NX66790. At the time he said he was born in 1911 not 1905. He served in the Middle East in the 6th Division between 1941 and 1942. He was promoted several times, his last as Staff Sergeant in 1944 and discharged in February 1946. He was married 4 times and after the war migrated to NZ where he remained for the rest of his days.
Petty brothers, believed to be from left - Abe Syd and Ern early 1940s.

ROGER BELSHAW 1898-1970 enlisted in 1917 in Sydney having been in the Cadets for 2 years previous before serving in World War 1. Roger was a cabinet maker, the son of John and Georgina Belshaw and youngest brother of Robert Belshaw. Roger was born in Sydney and sadly was only a young child when his father, John was killed by a train at Redfern. He served in the 1st Battallion and was fortunate to return home. He also served his country again in WW2.

Roger Belshaw

JOHN WILLIAM NOLEN 1888-1917 was a Private in the 29th Battallion, Australian Infantry. He had married Phoebe Ponting, sister of Florence Belshaw in 1912. He had two daughters Gladys and Dulcie. He died of his wounds in the field, in October 1917. His death is commemorated at The Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Belgium.

Record of J. W. Nolen's death from his Service Records NAA: B2455
Courtesy National Archives of Australia

As things became difficult and the war developed, WILLIAM 'BILL' ROBERT NICHOLS 1903-1958 joined the Volunteer Defence Corp in Riverstone. On 22 April 1942, he enlisted in the A.I.F. and was a mechanic/fitter in the 1st Australian Armoured Brigade and served his time in the north west including places such as Broome and Marble Bar. He was always disappointed not to have been in action. Towards the end of the war William applied for a discharge as he was very concerned with his father’s health and was discharged on the 8 February 1945.

William Robert Nichols

His cousin JOHN NICHOLS 1906-1989, a mechanic, was also in the AIF joining up in June 1940. Service no. NX29590 During the fall of Singapore he was taken by the Japanese as a Prisoner of War (POW) and taken to Changi Prison Camp, a most wretched and desperate place, a place in which words possibly cannot describe. The Japanese soldiers discovered that John was handy as mechanic/driver so he was sent to Japan to work in a production camp. At the end of the war, he was liberated by the US Forces and fed nutritional food, for the first time in 3 years. He weighed only about 6 stone, he had been about 16 stone. Whilst John was being held in Changi as a Prisoner of War, he was declared “Missing in Action” with most of his family thinking he was missing and dead. He dreamt of home and wrote this poignant poem to remind him. John was finally discharged from the 2/20 Battalion in January 1946.

My Prayer compiled by John Nichols whilst a POW in Changi

Bill’s other cousin ERNEST WILLIAM NICHOLS 1902-1959 also enlisted at Richmond in April 1942 and was discharged in October 1945.

Bill Nichols rear left,  with his cousin Ern on right plus family. My Dad, Ern is left front and his brother Warren on the far right. Taken at Parramatta Park, while Bill and Ern were on leave
Another shot of Bill and Ern

Uncle Bert, ALBERT LEWIS LEACH 1916-1974 enlisted in the Australian Army in Sydney on 12 August 1942. He had two Service Number NX102768 and N107096 and was discharged on 10 May 1946.

Aunty Amy, Annie Nichols nee Richardson’s sister, was married to Jack, JOHN JAMES PORTER 1882-1918. They were obviously devoted and Amy fondly refers to him as "My Jack". From 1911 Jack was the Headmaster at Gosberton Clough School at Spalding, Lincolnshire. He enlisted in the London-Scottish in February 1915 and departed for France following his training in June 1915. His number was 511051 in "B" Coy, 2nd/14th Battalion. He was appointed to the rank of Sgt-Major and miraculously managed to survive the horrendous circumstances of the war to the final stages but was unfortunately “Killed in Action” in Belgium on the 21 August 1918 aged 36 years. He is buried at site A.8 at the Locre No. 10 Cemetery at Heuvelland, West-Vlaandereb in Belgium.

Jack Porter taken in Jerusalem in January 1918

Although not technically a family member, EWAN QUINE KEWLEY 1890-1917 was the defacto partner of Aunty Maud nee Ponting. They were together from about 1915 and during this time and up to 1920, she went by the name Mrs Maud Kewley. At the time she was married to John Joseph Moore but her divorce was finalised until 1920. Ewan Kewley came from the Isle of Mann, and migrated first to NZ in 1909 then onto Australia at a later date. Ewan enlisted in January 1916 in Sydney and described as 5’9” with brown hair, blue eyes and a tattoo of a coat of arms on his left forearm. He was Driver 9950, 31st Coy Australian Army Service Corps. In May 1916 he embarked in Sydney on the HMAT Karroo A10 and sent overseas but sent back to England to recuperate after an illness. He died from pneumonia and meningitis at the Tidworth Military Hospital on 25 September 1917. He is buried in a private grave at Kirkmouran Cemetery at Douglass Isle of Mann and remembered with honour at Kirk Marown St Runius, Churchyard. In his war records Maud states she is his wife and is listed variously as next of kin, punitive wife and friend. Maud travelled to the UK to be with him, living in Seaforth Lancashire and later Walton near Liverpool before returning home to Sydney. She later married Willie Russell and Jack Hanlon.

Family Notices The Sydney Morning Herald 29 Sep 1919 p. 8.  
Ewan's final resting place on the Isle of Mann

Our extended family are proud of those who served and will proudly remember them particularly those who sacrificed their lives.


  1. Such a sad era on our history. So many lives lost....such a waste. Thank you for this wonderful information.

  2. awesome info Michelle... please tell me, how do I find my dad's service info - is there a war records info webpage? Dad served in the RAAF during Darwin's bombing.... I loved reading the above information about our brave ancestors xox

  3. His service record is held by the National Archives of Australia, see http://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/DetailsReports/ItemDetail.aspx?Barcode=4604270&isAv=N at the top of the record you can REQUEST A COPY it costs about $30 -