Remembrance Day is a very important day here in Canada. Last year I remembered my Great Grand Uncle Horace Gibson Leitch Campbell who lost his life in the First World War fighting with the Canadian Expeditionary Force. This year I will look at the accomplishments of my Great Grand Uncle Richard Fenton Toomey who was an ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps).
Richard Fenton Toomey is on the maternal side of my family. He was born in Dublin in April of 1880 to Mark Anthony Toomey and Julia Adelaide Bourne. He was the last of six children, four boys and two girls. My Great Grandmother Jane Toomey was his sister. The other siblings were Mark (who died in infancy), Louisa Alice, Mark Anthony and Walter Bourne.
How the Toomey family got to Australia is a long story and I will elaborate on that in another post. Needless to say Richard Fenton Toomey was in New South Wales to sign up for the First World War on 1 March 1915.
There are no attestation papers in his military file. The first record is an Application for a Commission in the 12th Light Horse Regiment. This states that Richard was 35 years of age, a British subject, an accountant and that he is single. Richard was six feet tall and 11 stone (154 lbs/70 kg). His next of kin is his brother Mark Toomey and their postal address was Elbana Annandale St. Annandale NSW.
Listed under military qualifications and past military service are: 5th Lancers, Assam Valley Light Horse, Chittagong [unreadable word] Rifles, Lieut. [unreadable two words] and Lieut. Army Service Corps.
The Assam Valley Light Horse was part of the Cavalry Reserve in the British Indian Army and was formed in 1891. Chittagong was in Pakistan but is now in Bangladesh. To date no British military records have been found for Richard Fenton Toomey.
Richard was made a Honourary Lieutenant and Quarter Master on 29 June 1915. On 9 August 1915 he was transferred to the 1st Australian Division, 3rd Light Horse Brigade. On 3 January 1916 he was transferred to the Army Service Corps. He was made Quarter Master and Honourary Captain on 30 April 1916 and on 1 August 1918 he was made Quarter Master and Honourary Major.
He set sail on 12 June 1915 on board the “Suevic”. On 5 September 1915 Richard was sent to Gallipoli this was the battle that defined the ANZACS and a nation.
Richard was frequently in the hospital during his time at the front. On 3 September 1916 he was sent to hospital in Port Said Egypt with Pyorhea which is an infection of the gums. He was sent on to the hospital in Serapium and then Cairo. He was sent back to his unit on 20 September 1916.
Richard was back in hospital on 20 July 1917 with septic sores. He was sent to the hospital in Alexandria. He returned to the 4th Light Horse Regiment on 27 September 1917. He was transferred back to the 12th Light Horse Regiment in November of 1917. He was sent back to hospital with dysentery in August of 1918 and invalided in September of 1918. He left Egypt on the Morvada on 29 September 1919.
According to Richard’s military file his appointment was terminated with the A.I.F. in Sydney on 31 October 1919.
There are letters found in his military file addressed to Base Records Canberra. One is dated 20 February 1939 and Richard is requesting: “For the purpose of receiving employment in N.S.W. a discharge or Certificate of Service is required. I shall be obliged if you will kindly let me have either as soon as possible.” A copy of the form he was requested to fill out is in the file. It is stamped dated 27 February 1939. Richard’s address is Lisarow NSW.
Richard writes requesting a duplicate Returned Soldiers Badge of the one he had received “around 29 August 1919 on his return to Australia.” It appears the one he was given was lost in “think bush country” and it has not been returned or found. This letter is dated 19 February 1943 and he is a public servant and the address given is 110 Phillip Street in Sydney.
In 1919 Richard Fenton Toomey married Ellie Maud Stewart in Sydney Australia. They had no children.
I have a friend who lives in the same area as Richard Fenton Toomey. There was a family story that said he had surveyed and built a road to one of the highest points between Sydney and Brisbane and that there was a park named after him. She helped me discover that there was a place called Toomey’s Walk which we believe was named after Richard Toomey. The government body responsible for this area does not know how the name came about.
There is also Toomeys Road and these are both located in the Mount Elliot area. He might have lost his Returned Soldiers Badge while surveying this area.
She contacted the local history librarian at Gosford City Library and he sent some pictures of Richard Fenton Toomey and his wife having tea in the garden.
They also forwarded a newspaper article which talks about Richard nearly loosing his life because he had taken poison instead of medicine. Thankfully his wife was a nurse and she knew what to do.
Some Australian newspapers are online and searchable at Trove. Advertisements were found relating to a chicken farm owned by Richard and Ellie Toomey. In 1929 Ellie was selling White Longhorn chicks and the farm was called Phoenix Poultry Farm. In 1933 she was selling Khaki Campbell’s ducklings.
In 1927 Phoenix Farm was dealing with floods.
Bush fires are a common happening in Australia. It seems that in 1928 a fire wiped out the poultry farm, residence, stock and plant owned by Richard Toomey. The name of the farm seems appropriate since it rose from the ashes to start again.
Richard Fenton Toomey died in 1968 in Gosford, New South Wales and is buried in Macquarie Park Cemetery.
Lest We Forget
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