The extended family of Penhallurick was prominent in the Roma and Mitchell areas a century ago. Among the young men of the family who enlisted were Martin Penhallurick and his younger brother John Harold Penhallurick (5451, 12th Battalion). Another pair of brothers, presumably cousins, John Henry (enlisted Toowoomba) and Leslie Norman Penhallurick (enlisted Charters Towers) also served.
Martin enlisted at Brisbane on 21 June 1916. He was born at Roma in Queensland almost 24 years before; he had a medium complexion, blue eyes and brown hair. He was 5’5” tall and was of the Church of England religion. He and John were educated at the Toowoomba Grammar School. He gave his father, Daniel, of “Tooloombilla” at Mitchell, as his NOK. John listed their mother Elizabeth, of the same address, as his NOK, when he enlisted at Toowoomba on 4 January 1916.
Martin was posted to the 52nd Battalion after basic training at Enoggera. He sailed for overseas on the Ceramic from Sydney on 7 October 1916 and arrived at Southampton in England after a six week voyage. Just five weeks later he embarked for France from Folkestone. After passage through the depots at Etaples, Martin joined the 52nd on 2 January 1917. For the next several months he served with the battalion, fighting and surviving the advance to Noreuil in early 1917.
In June 1917 the AIF attacked German positions in Belgium at Messines. The battle began on 7 June when the Australians and New Zealanders stormed Messines Ridge, immediately after the explosion of mines under the German front-line. Several weeks of fierce fighting ensued. On 11 June Martin was wounded in action. He was treated by the 77th Field Ambulance for “shrapnel wounds, buttocks,” but more ominously, was treated soon after at the 2nd CCS for abdominal wounds. He died the same day. He was subsequently buried at the Bailleul Communal Extension Cemetery (grave III.C.48).
In Queensland, the news of Martin’s death was received with horror compounding the fears of his parents for his younger brother who had been wounded at Bullecourt in April. The army responded with their own telegram to London HQ, on 26 July 1917, attempting to hasten news of the sons in France:
Private Penhallurick five four five one twelfth wounded now England parents anxious progress report . . . we would be thankful if you will kindly make enquiries as to how he is doing. His parents are very much upset, just having received word of their other son’s death in France. They do not know the whereabouts of the wounded son, so you can quite understand their anxiety.
Martin’s brother, John, returned to Australia and was discharged from the army on Christmas Day 1917, with a severe “gun-shot wound, humerus, right arm”. Between 1918 and 1923 Martin’s parents received his medals and victory symbols. In October 1924 his father wrote to the army acknowledging information about Martin’s grave:
Your letter to hand a few weeks back relating to the grave of my late son . . . I thank you very much for letting me know where the site of his grave is & very pleased to hear the fallen soldiers graves are so well cared for. I would be very thankful if you would possibly get me a photo of my dear son’s grave. I would pay for it.
Martin died at 24 years of age. Elizabeth and Daniel Penhallurick remained on their property at Mitchell until after the War. Martin’s cousins both survived.
Toowoomba Grammar School Archive Records State that he started at the school on 24th July 1909 and left on 16th December 1911. The School Magazine of November 1917 states, ‘ PENHALLURICK, MARTIN-Son of Mr. and Mrs. D. Penhallurick, Toolumbilla, Mitchell-At School 1911-12. In the football XV –Died of wounds received in France. Age 22.’
In John K Winn’s book, ‘A History of the Toowoomba Grammar School Army Cadet Unit 1892-2010’ he wrote:
‘From foundation, in what was essentially a boarding school for boys from the country, a culture of shooting pervaded the times by those from the land who were virtually ‘raised with a rifle in their hands’. During this era the boarders were permitted to store their weapons at the School and to take them on weekend camping excursions into the bush. Despite these practices, which would be totally unacceptable today, no firearm ‘incidents’ occurred, although a poignant story was unearthed in the School’s Archives many years after the event.
The boys of this era also relished the freedom of the bush. Many of them spent short holiday periods in this way when it was impossible for them to travel home due to time constraints. In a letter dated 14 March 1910 the mother of brothers J Harold Penhallurick (at School 1909-1910) and Martin Penhallurick (at School 1900-1911) wrote to them, from the family property “”Toolumbilla’ near Mitchell, in a beautiful script, regarding their Easter Vacation arrangements.
‘….Dear Sons, I see by your letter that school is braking (sic) up on the 24 for the Easter Holidays but it is rather for you to come home as we would be glad to see you but midwinter will soon be hear (sic) and we see by your letter that you would like to go out camping with some of your School mates. Your father and I are quite agreeable but you must be careful and look after yourselves. If you take your rifle with you and you will want a rug and a tent and some food. Look out you don’t loos(sic) your selves and I hope you will enjoy yourselves’.
Both boys survived this camping expedition, just as, no doubt, they were destined to return safely from many more. Nothing, however, could have softened a mother’s anguish or cushioned her grief when her three sons (all Old Boys of the School) went off to World War 1 and only two of them returned. Martin Penhullrick paid the supreme sacrifice on the battlefields of France on 11 June 1917 at the age of 22 years.
Martin is remembered on the War Memorial at Mitchell, Queensland.
Toolumbilla Station many years later was host to Prince Harry, who spent his gap year working as a jackaroo (also known as a cowboy).
Australian War Memorial Honour Roll
Australian National Archives Military Records
AWM4 AIF unit war diaries 23/69/15 15TH BN JUNE 1917
Australian Red Cross Society Wounded and Missing
Photo taken by Ann Hallam
Mitchell War Memorial
Battle of Messines Anzac Field Dressing Station June 1917 – courtesy of Queensland State Library