Richard Fenton Toomey – Lest We Forget

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

©2011 – Blair Archival Research All Rights Reserved

  1. Bob Piper’s avatar

    A fine story and photos. Thank you.

    Around 1962/63, aged 16/17 I use to walk over to Mt Elliot and down the other side from Springfield. Generally a south to north walk. Just a sandy track and never saw a soul. In fact fox hunting the area. A beautiful lonely place and a tough walk.

    A young fellow called Geoff Kell, who lived on Ridgeway Road to the north of Mt Elliot, worked as a labourer on my uncle’s farm at Springfield (Rod Quin). Would you believe he use to walk there and back each day to work.

    Anyway, one day he pointed at a home set back in the bush on the climb up to Mt Elliot from the Riddgeway from the north side. He said that an ex army officer lived in there and had a magnificent set of old firearms of all descriptions. Now Geoff was a lad prone to good stories but he and his family had lived there in the area for quite a while. He claimed to have been shown the collection.

    It is amazing nearly 50 years later that this story may coincide with Major Toomey. Did he collect guns.

    I passed down the road recently but could not spot the old home. There are many new ones there and it may have been renovated.

    As background I later went to New Guinea and am an aviation/military historian based in Canberra.

    I hope you enjoy this snippet.

    I am sure the new road there is named after Major Toomey. Council records would have the info tucked away somewhere.

    He may also have served in WWII under a different service number.

    Best regards,

    Bob Piper.
    Military & Aviation Research Services
    Canberra.

  2. Ruth Blair’s avatar

    Thanks for the stories Bob I enjoyed reading them.

    I don’t know about a collection of old firearms but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t one. I will try and find out about it.

    The local council could not answer my question about the history of the name of the road but the more I find out the more I am convinced that it is named after my Great Grand Uncle.

    Richard could have participated in the Second World War but he would have been well over 50 years of age so it could have been on the home front.

    It would be nice to see a picture of the house. I know that the farm and house were destroyed by bush fires at one point.

    Regards,
    Ruth Blair

  3. Bob Piper’s avatar

    Hi Ruth,

    Have just been up to Mt Elliot (Saturday) for another visit. Spoke to a lady called Rita who was walking her dog. She has had a five acre block up there, with house, for 20 years.

    Rita knows a lot of local history and I can supply her email details if you wish. She mentioned something about Richard Toomey having a brother down in the valley towards Naraha (close to Gosford) and that he used to walk back down the track (possibly Maiden Brush Road) and signal each other by torch that they had arrived safely.

    I also picked up a 1930 (35) newspaper clipping about a lost ocrhardist from who eventually wandered into Richard’s arms at his farm. The police were even searching for the WWI veteran using a dog.

    If we can pinpoint Richard’s old farm it may still be up there. Rita may know where. Then a photo can be made and sent.

    I did note a few ancient buildings still tucked away in the bush but was hesitant to approach them as it appeared somebody was residing in them. In these cases you use a local or write letter to the address first.

    The home with the war veteran and firearms collection might have been further down the mountain on the northern approach and not your relative.

    I am quite sure that Toomey Road is named after your relative. Such an unusaul surname. Phillip Street in Sydney is where all the legal fraterntity have always resided so it is possible his surveying work was tied up with this aspect.

    Feel free to contact me direct, if you wish.

    You are aware of the Atkinson family at “Hillaroo” that lived on Mt Elliot from 1908 to 1935 and the beautiful photos you can view on Google on their life up there ? Perhaps only two families in those days.

    It’s a bit on an eerie place to walk around as the Aboriginals were there for thousands of years and remnants of their life in the form of carvings, paintings and shell middens are still there.

    Regards,

    Bob Piper.
    Canberra.

  4. Ruth Blair’s avatar

    Hi Bob,

    I will contact you privately.

    Ruth

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