One of my many interest is my family history. With extensive research mainly on the paternal side my sister challenged me to look more at the maternal side of the family. My late Auntie Jessie Ball provided to me a lot of information many years ago including tales about the Humphreys of Farina. Having written an article about the accidental shooting of police trooper Spicer it brought to light more information about Farina which was shared with Farina Restoration Group. With their help I was able to expand much more on my Humphreys when they were living at Farina.
Frances Humphreys (nee Andrews) my second great grandmother and an Irish orphan, arrived in 1846 and went to work at the Old Spot Hotel on the Main North Road Salisbury. It may be that William Humphreys was enjoying a light ale there when he met Frances and eventually married her. Two of their children died at outback Paney soon after they arrived there in 1852. They moved to Government Gums, (now Farina) to care for Mr Woolridge’s leases including water wells and reserves. William helped cut the survey pegs to mark out the the town’s allotments.
My link to Farina emerged via William Henry Hall,my great grand father, founder of Snowtown, when he married a grand daughter of Frances and William Humphreys.
The Humphreys had a caring role which sadly saw to the death of two people. William Humphreys was gored to death by a bull in the main street of Farina in 1879 while trying to protect children. The second death was of the town policeman Trooper Spicer who was accidentally shot by another trooper. Frances cared for the trooper until a special steam train could get him to Pt Augusta hospital two days later where he died. The story of that can be read at page 49 (“The shooting of Trooper Spicer”) in a police magazine http://tinyurl.com/k6yujf7.
Being ex military I was interested in reading the Farina Restoration Group booklet ‘A Circle Completed’, sparking an interest about the Bell family of Farina. I found that when ANZAC day was declared on April 25 1916 to mark the events of 1915 it was the same day that John Napier Bell was born. Raised at Farina with his two brothers, they later flew from Farina to school in Adelaide – perhaps bringing about an interest in aviation.
John Bell joined the RAAF in 1935 and upon completing his pilot training was commissioned as a Pilot Officer. Eventually ‘Dinger” Bell trained other pilots how to fly the Seagull plane which was launched off HMAS Sydney and other ships with a 100 lbs cordite charge . The Seagull V became known as the Walrus with the RAF and RAAF.
In the early hours of June 18, 1940 along with another Australian, Charles Harris (NSW), and a RAF wireless operator he flew from England, with an ‘agent’, to Brittany on a top secret mission ordered by Winston Churchill. My research has revealed many facts about the failed attempt to rescue General De Gaulle’s wife, Yvonne and her three children. Many were kept secret for decades.
Sadly all four lost their lives and Madam De Gaulle and family escaped by ship. In Brittany the people of Ploudaniel recovered the bodies, burying them with full honours in the local church cemetery, as the Germans invaded. Since then every year the good citizens recall the memories of this by holding a march from the crash site to the cemetery to honour their sacrifice.
A major outcome was locating of all four families and putting them in contact with each other.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of D Day and the town Mayor has scheduled a special service to mark this. A memorial cairn has been erected and it is anticipated about 30 Australians are expected to attend. The RAAF will be represented by an Officer stationed in Berlin. Peter and Diana Harris of the Farina Restoration Group along with my wife Laureen and I, have been honoured with an invitation to attend. The story of this mission has been written up and is currently going to press.
The book ‘Four Men and the Walrus’ tells of Walrus designed to an Australian tender requirement and the story of the mission before and after.
It is being published by www.bookpod.com.au (ISBN: 978-0-646-92101-3) and can be purchased from them
AAP news release re BELL and the Australian War Memorial
IRESS News Story : FED:AWM honours first RAAF dead Of WW2 19-Jun-2015 10:12.
FED:AWM honours First RAAF dead of WW2
By Max Blenkin, AAP Defence Correspondent
CANBERRA, June 19 AAP – Seventy-five years ago this week an ungainly Walrus aircraft took off from southern England carrying a RAAF pilot and navigator, a British radio operator and secret agent with a bag of money.
They never returned, crashing into a hillside in thick fog in Brittany in France, killing all on board.
Flight Lieutenant John Napier Bell and Sergeant Charles William Harris, both members of the RAAlF’s 10 Squadron, were the first Australian airmen to die on operations during World War II.
Their top secret mission on June 18, 1940 followed the evacuation of Dunkirk and not until 25 years later was its purpose revealed – to evacuate Madame Yvonne De Gaulle, wife of Charles De Gaulle, their three children, one disabled, plus the disabled child’s carer.
Gaulle had fled to England the day before and on June 18, delivered his famous BBC radio address, exhorting the people of France to continue resisting their German conquerors.
Getting his family out of France was obviously a priority. But in the chaos of the time they never learned of the rescue mission or the sacrifice of their would-be rescuers. They had sailed for England on the last ferry the day before.
Not so for the people of the village of Ploudaniel who interred the four dead in their churchyard, and of the nearby village of Carantec, where the De Gaulle family lived.
“Every year since 1910 they hold an annual service at the crash site and at the churchyard,” said historian Alan Hall.
Last year each village struck medallions for families of those aboard.
In a ceremony at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra on Thursday afternoon, Mr Hall, representing the Bell family, presented their medallions to the memorial for its collection.
That was followed by the Memorial’s popular Last Post ceremony, featuring the life of Flight Lieutenant Bell who grew up in the outback South Australian town of Farina and lost his life aged just 24.
The memorial is familiar with this story – it actually has part of the aircraft’s enyinc, recovered by a French villager and handed to RAAF officer Kevin Baff in 1970 when he was researching the wartime history of 10 Squadron.
Group Captajn David Hombsch, former commander of modern-day 10 Squadron, said the squadron was in England collecting their new Sunderland aircraft when war broke out.
“They were assigned immediately to the war effort. Whilst there were others killed in training before that day, these were the first men (of the RAAF) to die in action,” he said.