Chapter 9 part 3: War weddings


Viv married Kathleen Clytie McPhee on 12.6.15 after he enlisted

His brother Percy wrote in his diary---

Sun. 6.--- A.D. Mum arrived with Clytie and Jean and Rita and Gordon. Clytie gave me a shock by asking me to be prepared to act as "best man" next Saturday. I had been sure that Viv would have persuaded her to give up the idea, but it seems she has prevailed in her intention to marry him before he leaves. Oh, well, things have been happening in a big scale since the war started. I wonder what will happen next. It seems a shame for a young couple to marry, and in a few weeks be separated, perhaps for years, perhaps for life. I am to be "best man" which certainly will be a pleasant privilege. The great event - it is indeed a great event, the first wedding in our family - is to take place at 4 p.m. next Saturday at McPhee's place. I don't seem to be able to realize that it is true. It seems no time since we four boys were little children playing about, and now we are all grown up men, and Viv is the first to go off the shelf, and under such strange circumstances, too. Marrying a girl and then going away to the war, perhaps never to return.

Taken upon Viv's return to Australia

Sat. 12.  Dad arrived from Coolamon. Slept in this mng. A.B. went in to Sydney and called in at Boesser's workroom. Neither Elsie nor Joe were working, as trade was slack. Stayed there for awhile, and then went and had some lunch at Sargent's, got the bouquet at Searl's and went to Gladesville, to Watts'. Viv arrived there a few minutes later. I went on ahead to McPhee's to get some papers fixed up.
They had the table spread with a very nice wedding breakfast. There was also a lovely wedding cake, made by Jean. After a while Mum and Dad and the others arrived, and we waited there till all was ready. Clytie looked very pretty in a navy serge costume, and with the bouquet I had got at Searl's.
It was a very quiet wedding. After the ceremony was over, and Viv and Clytie were pronounced man and wife, we retired to the dining room. After a pleasant wedding breakfast, the bride and groom and Jean and I (bridesmaid and best man) got in a motor and went to Sydney to the Crown Studios to have some photos taken.  



Perce married Dorothy Jewell in Scotland on 7.6.1919.  

As Dorothy's parents refused to grant them permission to marry, they decided to elope to Scotland. There were some unpleasant conversations with her parents about the wedding. Perce had written to Scotland to make arrangements and was advised that at least one of them had to reside there for 15 days prior to the date of the marriage.
Dorothy was able to board with a family during the wait in Glasgow and Percy had to return to London. There were only a few people at the short ceremony and the honeymoon was spent in Scotland. Full story here.










Vern married Mary Hyndman in Ireland on 16.2.17
There are no letters or descriptions about Vern’s wedding in Ireland.  In one of his last letters his brother Bert wrote to him –
“You have had more than a fair whack & as you now have a wife, you should consider her & stay in Blighty. You can easily get a staff job. Kick out some of those officers who haven't been near the front & give your wife a sporting chance of having a husband in one piece when this job's over.











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Below is a paragraph from a letter Bert wrote home from Mena Camp in Egypt on 23 Jan 1915. I was curious to find out more about this event and not knowing the groom's name did not expect to find any answers. I entered a query on social media recently and was pleased  to receive a response the same day. Bert was mistaken about the number of the Battalion, as well as some of the other details probably gained from gossip/rumours. There was no happy ending and I was disappointed and sad to learn the soldier Philip De Quetteville ROBIN was killed in action at Gallipoli on 25 April, 1915 - the day of the landing and that his bride had died in childbirth at Kensington, London 19 November 1915. The baby, a boy also died. A tragic, true story. There were a couple of letters/reports stating he died on the 28th but the Service Documents show the 25th of April.

Bert wrote: "Last Sunday the 17th of Jan there was rather a romantic wedding celebrated here in camp in the 4th Bn. A young English angel being very much in love followed the object of her affections to Australia & finding that he had enlisted & sailed with the troops & still being very much in love followed him here & at last was rewarded by finding her quarry having a fine old time with the troops. So she decided to put the acid on him & with the aid of the 4th Bn chaplain she did it. The ceremony eventuated in the 4th lines & after the nuptial knot had been tied, the happy pair marched to the taxi waiting on the road. The march which was very impressive, despite the fact that one of them was out of step, was between two ranks of the grooms friends, who with fixed bayonets formed an avenue & arch of glittering steel. There were a large number of snapshotters present & they secured several good pictures of the unique wedding. The happy groom obtained a fortnight’s leave of absence in which to have his honeymoon & considering what a pretty bride he has one could hardly blame him if he forgets to come back."

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The details below were  transcribed from Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW,) Thursday 18 February 1915

newspaper wedding




On January 17, 1915, on the sands of the Great Sahara Desert, beneath the shade of the Great Pyramids of Giza, where the camp of the Australian Expeditionary Force is situated, Philip De Quetteville Robin, a private of 10th Infantry Battalion, and Miss Nellie Irene Honeywell, were united in the bonds of matrimony (says the special correspondent of "The Advertiser"). The wedding was unique in the history of this force, and, for the matter of that, of any other fighting force at present engaged in Europe. It is certain that the contracting parties never dreamed that the ceremony would be celebrated in Egypt, with the monuments of a thousand years and grim fighting men as spectators. When the great war began and Australia called for volunteers to go to the assistance of the Motherland, among the first to respond was "Phil" Robin, the well-known footballer whose efforts often gave victory to the Norwood Club.  He was betrothed to Miss Nellie Honeywell, daughter of Mr. William Honeywell, formerly of Adelaide, and now of England. It was at first intended to land the troops composing the 1st Australian Contingent in England, but instead the first division was disembarked in Egypt.

Miss Honeywell had expected to see her lover in England, but within a few weeks of the landing of the Australian Contingent she, accompanied by her mother, was in Cairo. It was not then the intention of the couple to get married, but rumours regarding the movements of the contingent, and the fact that "Phil" might be engaged for many months, if not years, in assisting to fight his country's enemies, decided the matter for them, and forthwith arrangements for the holding of the wedding were commenced. The permission of the C.O. (Colonel S. Price Weir, V.D.) having been obtained by the bridegroom-elect, the officers of the 10th good naturedly took matters in hand. They set aside their big mess tent, and on the morning of Sunday, 17 January, the mess servants were busily engaged in preparing the tent in the form of a church. The altar, which was formed by a small table at the southern end of the tent, was raised somewhat. On its left were the regimental colors, presented by his Excellency Sir Henry Galway, to the 10th Infantry, just prior to that battalion's departure, and on the right the company colors of A Company, to which company the bridegroom belongs. At 11.30 the bride arrived at Mena Camp with her mother. Captain the Ven. Archdeacon R.H. Richards, Anglican chaplain of the force was the officiating clergyman. All the officers of the 10th Infantry, as well all others from different regiments, were present headed by Colonel Weir. Up the aisle, to the strains of "The Voice that breathed o'er Eden," Miss Honeywell proceeded, followed by Lieutenant L.A. Lewis, of the 3rd Light Horse Regiment, who gave the bride away. Behind them came Mrs. Honeywell (stepmother of the bride) and the C.O. Outside the tent, had gathered all the men not on duty and the neighbouring regiments also had a large number of representatives. The wedding cake and the wine had been generously provided by the officers of the 10th, who had also furnished themselves with a goodly quantity of the necessary grain, rice, and a veritable deluge was showered upon the couple while they were signing the register.

Private Phil Robin
Private Phil Robin

The ceremony having been brought to a conclusion, Colonel Weir, in proposing the health of the bride and groom, made a short, happy speech. He observed:- " But for the outbreak of the war this wedding would, no doubt, have been celebrated in Adelaide. But our surroundings, although strange, are such as to compensate for all that might have been lost. In Adelaide there could not have been the romance and the novelty which attach to this wedding. I do not suppose that a similar wedding has been solemnised so close to these mighty Pyramids for many years; indeed, for many thousands of years. We have all known Private Robin as a brilliant footballer. When he wore the red-and-blue of the Norwood Club he played hard and clean, and helped to win the game for his side. Now that he donned the colors of his country, red, white, and blue I am sure that he will be as good and brave a soldier as he was an exponent of football. We all hope that when we have defeated our enemies he will return to South Australia with his wife, to peace, long life, and prosperity. (Cheers.)

The toast having been drunk with musical honors, Private Robin suitably replied, and Chaplain Richards made a short speech. The speechmaking having been concluded, the bride, with Colonel Weir's sword, divided the wedding cake, which was passed round, and shortly after the couple left by motor-car for Cairo. Their path over the parade ground was blocked by a huge crowd of cheering soldiers, with whom Private Robin is extremely popular. Private M. S. A. Smith (a son of Mr. Teesdale Smith, of Adelaide) officiated in the capacity of best man, and the groom was also supported by several of his tent mates. The bride presented a dainty figure, apparelled in a grey travelling costume, while the groom
was dressed in his neat khaki uniform, with belt and bayonet. The uniformity of the khaki color of the soldiers present was broken by bowls (pickle bottles and tumblers) full of roses, which had been specially obtained from Cairo for the occasion.

Private Phil Robin
The photo is part of a collection taken by
#664 Corporal Victor Cromwell.
Reproduced here by courtesy of
Michael Treloar Antiquarian Booksellers

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I was pleased when a contact on Facebook sent me a copy of the following photo of the wedding and some details. I had not expected to locate one of the wedding.

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The following was found by a contact at Yeronga Memorial Park, Queensland.  It is part of a letter from Cpl. Denis Roden (9th Battalion) and details the death of Cpl. Phillip de Quettville Robin.


From the moment people first received information of the death of their loved ones in war overseas, Australians sought knowledge of what exactly happened and what became of them. They needed that knowledge to give substance to the images they had in their minds about their soldier's last moments. They needed to know - was it painless, and did they get blessings of their faith. Mothers wished they had been there to hold their son in their arms to palliate their suffering.

It was important that if they were to come to terms with the death they needed detail. There was a therapeutic value knowing that the death was honourable. Every grain of news of a beloved son was a comfort. It became important to know if prayers were recited over that sacred spot where they died. Even if a body was not found it was a comfort to parents and wives to know that a virtual site for their grief had been sanctified by their comrades to whom the care of the dead had been assigned. Even of there was no grave then the position of where they were last seen was important.

In the obituaries below there is enough detail to show that fellow soldiers did look after their mates; that their loved ones were given religious rites, and that their deaths were honourable. I have included a letter from Queenslander Corporal Denis Rowden Ward - 9th Battalion - who wrote to a friend while he was convalescing in hospital from a wound received at Gallipoli. Letters such as these gave comfort to the families of dead soldiers. This letter had information that was vital to two families - information about the burial of a Lance Corporal Phillip de Quetteville Robin 638, 10th Battalion, who was killed at Gallipoli on 28 April 1915.

On the Thursday 20 May 100 men were sent up to Quinn's Post to act as supports and fill up gaps in the firing line. We were told we should be relieved by tea time, and so left our packs with the men staying behind. Capt. Dougall took the party up, and I went with Lieut. Ross to the left, at Quinn's Post, also with about 15 men. On the side of the communication trench was a body which no one had had time to bury, so 'Dad' Hume [ Sgt James Edward Hume, 592] and I took the dead soldier down tho gully a little way and buried him. It turned out to Lance-corporal Robin, of the good old 10th Battalion, who was married at Mena, you will remember. I took his disc, pay book, and letters, and handed them later to Major Brand. It turned out afterwards that Hume had noticed his wristlet watch, but did not say anything at the time and we buried it with Robins. He had been shot through the skull, and death must have been instantaneous.

His features were too disfigured for him to be identified so he couldn't be buried in a named grave. Nevertheless, he was buried in a religious service on sanctified ground at the Lone Pine Memorial, Gallipoli. His belongings were returned to his mother Mrs Mary Robin in South Australia and a small sum of money to his new wife Nellie Irene Robin (nee Honeywell) in Kensington, London (they were married in late January 1915 at Mena, the Anzac Camp about 45km south west of Alexandria in Egypt, and Nellie gave birth to a son Robin in November in Kensington but she died in birth).

Phillip Robin and his 'old tent mate' Private Arthur Blackburn distinguished themselves on the first day of the landing by penetrating further inland and coming closer to the objective of the Gallipoli expedition than any other Australian or Allied troops throughout the entire campaign. The pair were with the battalion scouts and after transferring from the Prince of Wales were in the prow of one of the early boats to land. Their orders were simple but very clear 'When you get out of the boat, go like hell for Third Ridge'.


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