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The Malcolm Quartet




blog-0104616001401502670.jpgEven when trawling through the death, destruction, and overwhelming sadness that was the Great War – occasionally you touch on something that brings a smile to your face and lightens your heart. This photo did this for me.

Immediately I wanted to know more about this happy foursome, and even though I read in the photo caption on the AWM website that they all returned safely home, I felt compelled to delve further.

The Malcolm siblings were four of five. The eldest being Norman (left of photo), whose twin brother Harold was the only one who didn’t enlist. The twins were born in the Victorian country town of Kerang in 1881, the year following the marriage of their parents Henry and Mary. We then have Stella also born in Kerang in 1886; resting on her shoulder is Eric, the baby of the family, born in 1895 and finally Edith born in 1891. Edith and Eric were both born in Hamilton.

Norman was the first to enlist in May 1916 – a married man, his first child was born that same year. Leaving the Civil Service where he’d been employed as a Surveyor & draughtsman, he worked his way up from Cpl to 2nd Lieut; his training including six months in the Engineers Officers Training School at Roseville. Finally in mid-1917, Norman sailed to England with the 9th reinforcements of the 2nd Pioneer Battalion. He joined his unit in France in October and was promoted to Lieutenant in the December. During his time with the Pioneers, he spent some time in the instruction of NCO’s in various courses including Knotting & Lashing, and Bridging (Trestles). Towards the end of the European winter, in February 1918, Norman was suffering with Pyrexia and Bronchitis. After months in hospital he was returned to England in the May, and shipped home the following month with fibrosis of the lung – his war over.

In 1919 Norman was appointed a member of the Closer Settlement Board, and continued in this capacity after they become the Closer Settlement Commission in 1933, until at least 1938. During this time he dealt with the purchasing of properties under the Soldier Settlement and Closer Settlement acts. He was also a member of the Great Ocean Road Trust, who oversaw the building of the world’s largest memorial – a memorial to Victorian soldiers built by returned soldiers.

Dying at the relatively young age of 66, Norman was cremated at the Springvale Botanical Cemetery on the 21st of July 1948, and his ashes rest in the Agonis garden beneath a rose. His wife Elinor joined him there in 1963.

Stella also enlisted in 1916, as a Staff nurse with the AANS (Australian Army Nursing Service). After 3 months of home service at No. 5 AGH (Australian General Hospital) in Melbourne, she sailed for England on the 6th December, disembarking at Plymouth in February 1917, and by the end of that month was in France. She was first posted to the 2nd General Hospital at Rouen, before being transferred to the 3rd AGH in the July. The rest of her time in France alternated between Australian Casualty Clearing Stations & General Hospitals, with fairly generous amounts of leave during this time. It wasn’t until just over a month after the armistice that Stella was promoted to the status of Sister. Finally returning to London in the March of 1919, Stella departed England on the 8th May on board the HMAT Devanha, arriving in Melbourne on the 23rd of July.

In 1923 she applied for assistance to undertake a course in Midwifery. Never having married, Stella died in 1964, age 78. She too was cremated at the Springvale Cemetery, and her ashes scattered in the grounds.

Both Edith and Eric joined the war effort in the May of 1917.

Eric had been educated at Melbourne University & pursued the career of an Orchardist. His pre-war training included 2 years as a Lieutenant with the Senior Cadets and 3 years as a sapper with the 7th Field Company Engineers, before receiving his appointment with the AIF on the 1st of May. He sailed on the Ulysses in December, as a 2nd Lieutenant with the 33rd Reinforcements of the Field Artillery. Changing ships, and travelling via Egypt, Italy & France, he finally disembarked in England mid way through February 1918. Eventually returning to France in the May, he was taken on strength with the 8th Field Artillery Brigade, and promoted to Lieutenant the following month. Just days before armistice Eric was sent on leave to the UK, but returned to his unit in France in the December. He began his journey home in the July of 1919 on board the Wiltshire, and his appointment was terminated in the September.

With his wife Alice, he lived in Warragul in 1937, and then Mornington in 1940, at which time he enlisted in the Second World War as a Recruiting Officer, until 1944. During the war the family had moved to Corio, before eventually moving to West Australia, where they were resident in Collie from at least 1949-1954. Eric’s trail then goes cold.

Edith enlisted 3 days after Eric. She had completed her 3 years of nursing training at the Alfred Hospital, and like Stella, she joined the AANS as a Staff Nurse. Embarking on the Mooltan mid June, she was eventually destined for Salonika, where she was posted to the 66th General Hospital at the end of July. From here she was transferred to the 42nd General Hospital in the November, where she remained until the July of 1918. Edith then found herself in the Convalescent Camp with anaemia. A month later a medical board pronounced her unfit for general service for 6 months and had her returned to Australia by the beginning of October. Although the war finished the following month, Edith wasn’t discharged until the 23rd of January 1919.

In 1927 Edith married veterinary scientist Ralph Bodkin KELLEY (OBE). Ralph had served through the war as an officer with the Veterinary Corps and the Light Horse. He had then been employed to train ‘rookie’ soldier settlers in the management of their livestock. Taking up a soldier settlement farm himself, he like many others failed to make ends meet, and acquired the job of managing livestock for the MMBW. In 1931, he was employed as an animal geneticist with the team that eventually became the CSIRO, and traveled extensively over the following years. Whether Edith and their son Brian traveled with him is not known. In 1935 the family was based in Sydney, and by 1954 in Queensland. Ralph died at Nambour in 1970, and was survived by Edith & Brian.


1. Norman Harty MALCOLM (1881 – 1948) – Lieut, 2nd Pioneers. 2. Stella Agnes Blyth MALCOLM (1886 – 1964) – Sister, AANS. 3. Edith Eileen MALCOLM (1891 – post 1970) – Staff Nurse, AANS. 4. Eric Hamilton MALCOLM (1895 – post 1954) – Lieut, 3rd Div Artillery. [AWM Photo PO3166.001]

Heather (Frev) Ford, 2010



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