Monday, 2 June 2014

Special Collections Fossickings 37: Remembering Private Doorey

Alfred Doorey Honour Certificate, Library Archives, JCU Library Special Collections
One of the more unusual items stored in Special Collections has a poignant history. A dark wooden frame encloses an ornate certificate, signed by Townsville’s mayor and town clerk, in appreciation of the gallant conduct of Alfred Stanley Hodgson Doorey, “who served his King and Country in the Great War.”

Alfred Doorey Honour Cerfiticate - detail
According to an article in the Australian War Museum Journal these honour certificates were first issued by local town and shire Councils to newly-enlisted men in 1915 and 1916. But increasingly they were sought by families of those killed or injured in the conflict. For many families it was important to have something which they could display at home, whereas more public memorials took much longer to appear.  Designs of the certificates varied – some were militaristic featuring troopships or battle scenes. Alfred’s certificate has a more classical design emphasising freedom, courage, victory and remembrance.  But who was Private Doorey?
Photo of Alfred Doorey, July 1917, Source: State Library of Queensland
Born in West End, we know that he had a wife, Emily, and was working as a motor mechanic when, in February 1917, he enlisted with the 47th battalion.  Although only just turned 21 he already had two years’ experience with the local Citizens’ Forces, an early incarnation of today’s Army Reserve.  The young couple apparently lived with Alfred’s parents and younger sister in Main Street (now Boundary Street) in Railway Estate.  He was the only son.

On 2 August 1917, six months after enlistment, 21-year-old Alfred left Sydney for the three month voyage to Britain. Disembarking in Glasgow, he was sent south to the Wiltshire village of Codford, which hosted several large training and transfer camps for soldiers going to the front. Large numbers of ANZACs passed through Codford and Private Doorey may have drawn strength from the giant ANZAC badge which men from the 12th battalion had carved into the chalk of a nearby hill. It is preserved to this day.

In January 1918 Alfred was posted to France where he joined the 25th battalion. Seven months later, on 4 July 1918, he was killed in action in the Battle of Hamel, a joint Australian-American offensive commanded by Lieutenant- General Monash, near the village of Villers-Bretonneux .  He was then aged 22.
Photo of Doorey Street, Railway Estate, Townsville.
Alfred has no known grave but, along with thousands of others, his name was later inscribed on war memorials in Villers-Bretonneux , Canberra and Townsville’s Anzac Park. In October 1919 Doorey Street in Railway Estate was named in his memory.  But it was in a remarkable show of timeliness that Townsville City Council issued the commemorative honour certificate just four days after his death.  We can only hope it brought some comfort to Alfred’s grieving widow and family.

Story by Miniata

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