02 January 2011

New England University Rugby Team 1939

The New England University College (NEUC) of the University of Sydney opened its doors to students in 1938. The following year it fielded its first rugby union team in the New England Zone Rugby Union Competition:


Back Row: Lewis Border, Consett Davis, Max Hartwell, John Rafferty, Jim Belshaw (Coach), Alf Maiden, Les Titterton, Frank Rickwood, Ken James
Middle Row: Ralph Crossley, Paul Barratt, Pat Thompson, Alan Sutherland, Peter Durie
Front Row: Ed Scalley, Harry Savage

Some notes on the players:

Lewis Border:

Like my father, Lewis Harold Border, born at Bundarra NSW on 16 April 1920, was an old boy of The Armidale School (1934-37) and the son of an Anglican clergyman, the Ven Archdeacon H. Border, of Gunnedah.  When the University College opened Border, Ken James (see below) and my father shared a room in Booloominbah.

He joined the Army on 22 August 1942 and was discharged on 20 April 1945, at the rank of Bombardier, his posting at discharge being with the 14th Australian Infantry Training Battalion (see his service record here).

Border joined the Department of External Affairs and after a couple of postings in Washington in the 1950s was Australian Ambassador to Burma (1963-65) and then to South Vietnam in the late 1960s.

In the early 1970s, as a Deputy Secretary in the Department of Foreign Affairs, he chaired an interdepartmental committee on which I was one of the Treasury representatives – a committee which worked over about a twelve month period to settle Australia’s policy positions for the Preparatory Conference for a major overhaul of the Law of the Sea.

Consett Davis (1913-44)

H.F. Consett Davis, after whom the UNE playing fields are named, was the foundation lecturer in Botany and Zoology, joining the staff in March 1939.

He was born in Sydney on 23 June 1915.  He had been a brilliant student, taking First Class Honours in both Botany and Zoology at Sydney University.  When war broke out he first joined the Royal Australian Air Force. His service record (see here) shows his date and locality of enlistment as unknown, and gives his date of discharge as 25 October 1940, at which stage he had the rank of Pilot Officer. Another service record (see here) shows that he joined the Army on 3 December 1941, the eve of Pearl Harbour, and was discharged from the 2/7 Division Cavalry Regiment 1 May 1944 with the rank of Lance Corporal.

A third service record (see here) shows him as having rejoined the Army on 26 June 1944, presumably after some period of training or briefing, and having served until his death in an air crash in New Guinea on 11 December 1944, at which time he was a Lieutenant in the 1st Australian Army Tropical Research Section.

Of his academic work, a paper on Hymenopterous Parasites of Embioptera read by Alan P. Dodd on 26 July 1939 (see here) contains a couple of references to specimens being returned to Consett Davis. There is another reference to him in a paper, The Sydney ornithological  fraternity, 1930s-1950: anecdotes of an admirer, by Allen Keast, Department of Biology, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario (see here).

His widow Gwenda succeeded him on the University staff. She joined the staff of NEUC in 1945 as a plant taxonomist, and like him initially taught both botany and zoology. As the University developed she played a major role in setting up the Botany Department. She was still on the staff when I was at UNE in the 1960s. A brief biographical note on her can be found here.

Max Hartwell

Max Hartwell was born at Red Range NSW on 11 February 1921. His Army service record (see here) shows him as having joined the Army at Glen Innes on 16 December 1942 and being discharged on 23 January 1942, as a private soldier in the Sydney University Regiment. I have no background on this but given his subsequent career it is reasonable to suppose that when the University Regiments were disbanded after Pearl Harbour someone found a better way for him to contribute to the war effort than slogging away in the infantry.

When Max Hartwell died on 24 March 2009, blogger Robert Higgs had this to say about him (here)

A native of Australia, Max enjoyed a long, eventful life. Born and reared in the outback of New South Wales, he progressed to teacher training, school teaching, service in the army during the war, graduate training, and a life of productive scholarship in England and the United States. He was an outstanding economic historian and contributed greatly to the “Standard of Living Debate,” defending the view that the Industrial Revolution, far from having been a Marxist nightmare for the working class, was the means by which they were gradually lifted from the poverty that had been their lot from time immemorial. Max spent the heart of his career at Nuffield College, Oxford, where he trained a number of outstanding economic historians. Later, after his retirement from Oxford, he alternated between teaching at the University of Virginia and teaching at the University of Chicago.

John Rafferty

John Rafferty would appear to have been a local, the son of Second Lieutenant Arthur John Rafferty, Chemist of Beardy Street Armidale, who enlisted in the Army on 16 February 1915, sailed out of Melbourne on the troop transport Ceramic on 25 June 1915, and returned to Australia on 26 September 1917 (see here).

There is a service record (see here) for Arthur John Rafferty, born in Armidale on 24 August 1920, who joined the Army at Kempsey on 7 September 1942 and gave his next of kin as A. Rafferty. He was discharged with the rank of Lieutenant on 16 April 1946, his posting on discharge being with the 2nd New Guinea Infantry Battalion.

I have no further information about him.  Would anyone with information about John Rafferty please post a comment or send a twitter message to @phbarratt.

Jim Belshaw

J.P. (“Jim” or “Jimmy”) Belshaw was born in Christchurch on 23 January 1908. He was one of the University College’s foundation staff members, the first to take up duty, becoming the lecturer in History and Economics in the Faculty of Arts and Economics (each of the foundation staff had to teach two subjects).  He was the first President of the fledgling Union, and Deputy Warden in the early days. Being a New Zealander, he was clearly the best person to coach the rugby union team.

In due course Jim married Edna Drummond, the University College’s first librarian, daughter of D.H. Drummond who as State local member and Minister for education had played a critical role in gaining the support of State Cabinet for the establishment in Armidale of a college of the University of Sydney (for Drummond’s role see Booloominbah).

Service records show (see here) that Jim joined the Army (presumably the Sydney University Regiment) in Armidale on 23 September 1941, and was discharged with the rank of Private on 30 September 1945, his posting on discharge being 3 Battalion, Volunteer Defence Corps (Part Time Duty).

Upon the University becoming an autonomous institution in 1954, Jim Belshaw became the first Professor of Economics. I think I probably attended his Inaugural Lecture, which would have been given in the Teachers’ College Auditorium. My parents were meticulous in attending all of the Inaugural Lectures, and I went along – a very mind-broadening experience for a ten year old.

Jim Belshaw’s son James, who was a year behind me at Armidale Demonstration School and The Armidale School, runs a number of blogs concerning the New England region – see for example James Belshaw's New England Blog. At Belshaw Sans Words, a blog with pictures and few words, there is a 1944 wedding photo for the marriage of Jim Snr and Edna Drummond, and a photo of D.H. Drummond taken at tennis at Parliament House, Sydney during the 1930s.

       Alf Maiden

Alfred Clement Borthwick Maiden (1922-79) was born in Taree, attended Taree High School and studied economics and history at the New England University College. He became a full-time militiaman in December 1941 and transferred to the Australian Imperial Force on 9 October 1942. His service record (here) shows that he was discharged on 4 December 1945, and that his posting on discharge was as Corporal in 555 Light Anti-Aircraft Battery.

In 1946 he joined the Bureau of Agricultural Economics (BAE) in Canberra. After two postings in Washington and a stint in the Department of Trade and Industry, he became Director of the BAE in 1959.  In 1968 he resigned from the public service to become Managing Director of the International Wool Secretariat (IWS).  In July 1973 he was appointed full-time chairman of the newly established Australian Wool Corporation; he also accepted appointment as Chairman of the IWS.

He was appointed CBE in 1965, and named “Man of the Year in Australian Agriculture” in 1976.

His Australian Dictionary of Biography entry may be found here.

Les Titterton

Leslie Thomas Titterton was born in Kempsey on 12 January 1920. His service record (see here) shows that he joined the Army on 29 May 1941. He was discharged on 12 February 1946, his posting on discharge being a Lieutenant in 1 Australian Movement Contingent (General Purpose).

He appears to have died on 1 December 1974 and been buried in the Dawson River (Taree) Lawn Cemetery (see here).

I have no other information about Les Titterton.  Would anyone with information about him please post a comment or send a twitter message to @phbarratt.

Frank Rickwood

Frank Rickwood, the son of a newspaper editor, was born in the coalmining town of Cessnock in the Hunter Valley.  He took an honours degree in science, and in January 1946 became a field geologist with the Australasian Petroleum Company, for which he conducted numerous surveys in PNG.

In 1950 he became a senior lecturer in geology at Sydney University, but continued his field trips to PNG, with a particular focus on the Southern Highlands. He subsequently joined British Petroleum, and worked extensively in Latin America before pioneering the development of Alaska as a major oilfield. In 1974 he became BP’s global head of oil and gas exploration and production.

Retiring from BP in 1980, he joined the Board of Oil Search, becoming its Chairman in 1992.  AT Oil Search he played a major role in promoting oil and gas exploration in PNG, an effort which led to the discovery of the Kutubu oil field in early 1986.

He was awarded an OBE by PNG, an honorary doctorate by New England University, and the first Haddon Forrester King Medal by the Australian Academy of Science.

A copy of an obituary article by Rowan Callick, published in The Australian on 23 July 2009, is on the UNE Alumni website – access it here.

Ken James

Like my father and Lewis Border, Kenneth Alfred James, born in Lismore on 12 November 1917, was an old boy of The Armidale School (1931-35), where he had been Senior Prefect, and the son of an Anglican clergyman, the Reverend G.A.G. James of Kyogle.

His service record (see here) shows that he joined the Royal Australian Air Force on 20 June 1942. His date of discharge is not known, but his final posting on discharge was as a Warrant Officer in No. 7 Operational Training Unit.

A footnote in my father’s 1993 memoir Psychology at New England states that Ken James trained in Canada, and on completion of his military service returned there and at the time of writing was resident in Vancouver.

I have no other information about Ken James.  Would anyone with information about him please post a comment or send a twitter message to @phbarratt.

Ralph Crossley

Ralph George Crossley was born in Perth on 15 May 1902.  He was one of the College’s five original staff members, arriving direct from Germany in April 1938 to take up his post as foundation lecturer in French and German. A conscientious and effective teacher, he was described by one of his students as “bubbling over with vim, vigour, verve and vitality”.

The National Library’s “Trove” digital archive (see here) shows that in 1939 he submitted a thesis entitled Die Kaiserchronik: ein literarhistorisches Problem der altdeutschen Literaturgeschichte , copies of which are in the libraries of the Universities of Melbourne and Tasmania.

His service record (see here) shows that he joined the Army in Armidale on 27 June 1942, and was discharged on 30 September 1945, his posting on discharge being Warrant Officer in 3 Battalion, Volunteer Defence Corps (Part Time Duty).

He later joined the German Department at the University of Sydney and was its acting head when in 1947 he was appointed Principal Instructor at the first migrant camp, at Bonegilla in Victoria, and then became the consultant on teaching techniques for the other camps (see 5 March 1948 statement by Immigration Minister Arthur Calwell here and his role in a history of the Adult Migrant Education Program here).

Paul Barratt

My father Paul Eric Hunter Barratt was born in Kalgoorlie on 23 December 1917, the son of the Canon Thomas Hunter Barratt who at that time was taking God’s word to the gold miners and the chaps laying the transcontinental railway line.

He was the first student to enrol at NEUC, indeed for a couple of days feared that he might be the only one. He completed his Sydney University Arts Degree in 1940 and went to Sydney in 1941 for his Honours year. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour the University Regiments were wound up and he went into the artillery, but he was soon called upon to assist with the establishment of the Australian Army Psychology Corps and become one of its founding members. The focus in the early days was aptitude testing to enable the armed services to put their raw recruits to best use, but as the war progressed the focus shifted to prisoner of war relief.

Towards the end of the war he was embarked on the MV Duntroon, bound for India, but Japan surrendered while they were at sea, and the ship was diverted to Singapore, arriving there the day that Mountbatten accepted the Japanese surrender. He and Madge Brown, the AGH matron on board, who also became a familiar figure around the UNE campus from the post-war years until the 1960s, were involved in the medical and psychological assessment and treatment of the prisoners in Changi Gaol and those coming down from the Burma-Thailand railway line and other camps in Southeast Asia (for some more on that see Ida Madge Brown (1904-2009)).

He returned to Armidale in 1946 as an officer with the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme (CRTS), a Commonwealth funded scheme directed to the reintegration of ex-servicemen into civilian life, and a few years later took up a position as a lecturer in the Psychology Department. He retired as Professor of Psychology in 1978. His career, and some early history of the University, is documented in his Psychology at New England: an autobiographical history of the first forty years, University of New England Publishing Unit, 1993.

Pat Thompson

Patrick Thompson was born in Taree on 3 March 1920.

His service record (see here) shows that he joined the Army in Armidale on 20 April 1942, and was discharged on 23 April 1946, his posting on discharge being Private with the Northern Australia Observer Unit (NAOU – the “Nackeroos” or “Curtin’s Cowboys”). This was the unit in which the Master in Charge of Cadets at The Armidale School in my day served, and as I observed in Remembering Des Harrison, serving in this unit was not for the faint hearted. Its stock-in-trade was long-range horse-mounted patrols over a seaboard of 5500 kilometres. They were to operate in small groups, living off the land as far as possible, and operate without hope of medical assistance or casualty evacuation.

I have no other information about Pat Thompson.  Would anyone with information about him please post a comment or send a twitter message to @phbarratt.

Alan Sutherland

James Alan Sutherland was born in Barraba NSW on 29 April 1912, and was one of NEUC’s foundation students. 

In the University’s first year of operation in 1938 he topped the Sydney University Psychology I exams (my father came second).  This gave great pleasure on the tiny campus, in view of the scepticism and outright derision accorded by many at Sydney University and in the wider Sydney community to the whole idea of setting up a “university under the gum trees”. The pleasure was renewed when Alan Sutherland and my father jointly topped Psychology II the following year and were jointly awarded a Lithgow Scholarship.

My father recounts the next step in Sutherland’s career in his memoir:

At the beginning of 1940 Alan Sutherland left the College with the intention of pursuing his study for Honours in the Psychology Department of The University of Sydney. He informed me later that he was also, at that time, trying to gain acceptance for the Navy, unsuccessfully as it transpired. He enrolled in the Third Year Honours class, which brought him into close contact with Dr A.H. Martin who was then Senior Lecturer in the Department. It was not long before there was a head-on clash of personalities, so ‘head-on’ apparently that Alan withdrew from the University and enlisted in the R.A.A.F.”

Sutherland’s service record (see here) shows that he joined the RAAF on 13 February 1941 and was discharged on 19 November 1945. His posting on discharge was Flight Lieutenant at RAAF Station Bradfield Park.

Sutherland must subsequently have completed a B.Sc. Agr. at Sydney University. He became Senior Lecturer in charge of Biological Science at Armidale Teachers’ College, then University Fellow in the Centre for Curriculum Studies, University of New England. He died in 1983.

Peter Durie

Peter Harold Durie was born in Sydney on 25 January 1920.

There are two service records. The first (here) shows that he joined the Army in Armidale on 8 August 1940, and was discharged on 8 July 1942, his posting on discharge being Gunner with the 110 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment. The second (here) shows him as having joined the RAAF on 26 April 1944, and being discharged on 12 March 1946, his posting on discharge being Flying Officer with the No. 2 Malaria Control Unit.

I remember that he came back to Armidale for a year or two after the War and was very friendly with my parents, coming often to parties they would have for a mixture of staff, students and friends at the home we rented from Don Shand at 95 Marsh Street.

He won my heart because when he was leaving town he gave me a wind-up phonograph, a portable machine for playing 78rpm records, and about half a dozen records, of which I remember in particular the 1931 recording of Gerald Adams singing “You Will Remember Vienna” from the film Viennese nights.  It wasn’t the latest music but having the autonomy to play my own music at the age of five or six was really something. Then someone gave me the Orson Welles - Bing Crosby recording of Oscar Wilde’s “The Happy Prince” (Part I on YouTube here) and I was in seventh heaven.

I have no information about what Peter Durie did after he left Armidale.  Would anyone with information about him please post a comment or send a twitter message to @phbarratt.

Ed Scalley

Edmund St Clair Scalley was born at Abermain NSW on 24 March 1922.

There are two service records. The first (here) shows that he joined the Army at West Maitland on 19 December 1940, while based in Armidale. He was discharged on 23 May 1944, his posting on discharge being Gunner with the 224 Australian Light Anti-Aircraft Battery. The second (here) shows that he joined the RAAF the next day, 24 May 1944, and was discharged on 28 February 1945. His posting on discharge being Leading Aircraftman at No. 7 Stores Depot.

I have not been able to find anything about Ed Scalley’s subsequent career, but have found a photo of him on the Clifford/Miller Web Site on www.myheritage.com (see here).

Would anyone with information about him please post a comment or send a twitter message to @phbarratt.

Harry Savage

Henry Lewis Savage was born in Armidale on 16 June 1921. I suspect that he entered the University College in 1939 – I don’t think he was one of the original 1938 intake of about fifteen students.

His service record (here) shows that he joined the Army on 20 April 1942 and was discharged on 30 January 1946. His posting on discharge was Sergeant in the 1st Australian Prisoner of War Contact and Enquiry Unit.

After the War Harry Savage returned to his studies at NEUC, under the CRTS, became a teacher, and was Head of English at Tumut High in the 1950s when my UNE contemporaries Laurie Piper and Don Smart were there.

Harry Savage was the younger brother of Jack Savage who, with their father, had the well-known tailoring and menswear business C. Savage and Son in Beardy Street. Jack’s son John was in my class at the Armidale Demonstration School throughout my primary school days.

Harry and Jack’s second cousin Ellen is celebrated as the only nurse to survive the Japanese sinking of the Hospital Ship Centaur in 1943. Of that episode the Australian War Memorial says here:

Despite her own injuries, 30-year-old Sister Ellen Savage nursed the wounded and boosted the morale of the others. The other eleven nurses all drowned. After a day and a half adrift on life rafts, the 64 survivors were spotted by an RAAF Anson and recovered by the destroyer USS Mugford.

Sister Savage’s courage was recognised by the award of the George Medal.

Ellen Savage’s service record may be found here, and an Australian War Memorial blog post on the sinking of the Centaur may be found here.

I have no other information about Harry Savage.  Would anyone with information about him please post a comment or send a twitter message to @phbarratt.

Overall I think our little “university under the gum trees” even in its earliest days, with all its limitations of facilities and money, made a pretty good fist of rounding up a bunch of country kids and setting them on paths that might not otherwise have been available to them. Something to reflect upon for those who think that big is beautiful when it comes to tertiary education.


Jim Belshaw said...

Hi Paul. I am using this post as a base for this week's column in the Express.

Dad played Rugby at provincial level while teaching in NZ. My memory is that Lew Border was actually sec at external affairs at one point. Alf was certainly head of the Department of Primary Industry as well as BAE.

Alan Sutherland was also a very good artist. I was friendly with his son - Hamish?

Through the column I will see if anyone in Armidale can fill in your gaps.




I remember Hamish Sutherland very well. Early in my days in Wright College he used to practice the bagpipes on a knoll near Robb, overlooking the creek. When the sun set on one of those still autumn days the sound of the pipes drifting across the landscape was quite lovely.

Hamish also had a younger sister, I recall - Ishbel?

Justin Burke said...

Hi Paul,

Frank Rickwood was my great uncle. I have collected some information on my blog: - http://jackburke.com.au/?p=342

Best, Justin Burke.


Hi Justin

Thanks for getting in touch - great to hear from someone with connections to those great days.