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John Trewin Westaway
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Cecil Horace Westaway & Daisy Gertrude Keevil of Australia and our quest to find our English Westaway relatives !!

by Shirley Westaway of Foster, Australia

 
Cecil Horace Westaway and Daisy Gertrude Keevil on their wedding day
5 October 1918 at All Saints Church, East Harnham, Wiltshire.

Winifred Keevil, her sister, was bridesmaid but the best man is unknown.
The color patch on his sleeve shows he was a comrade in arms with Cecil in the AIF 29th Battalion.
 

My husband, Peter, and his brother, John, were born in Leongatha at the Stradbroke Private Hospital, the children of Cecil Horace WESTAWAY and Daisy Gertrude KEEVIL who took up a Soldier Settlement Allotment of 96 acres at Kardella after he was discharged from the AIF in 1920.

They were the only members of their families to come to Australia so that Peter and John grew up without grandparents, cousins, uncles and aunts and no knowledge of them. Things are now a little different as each of them has three sons and six children, so there are now 28 of us who are all close friends as well as being related and my sister-in-law, Vivian, and I acknowledge that we are fortunate in having six wonderful daughters-in-law, who are also good friends with each other.

Cecil was born in Battersea, London in 1893 and Daisy, a farmer's daughter, was born in Farley, Wiltshire in 1897. They married in All Saints, East Farnham, Wiltshire on October 5, 1918, a month before the Armistice and while Cecil was serving with the 29 Battalion of the AIF.

Daisy became Daphne by which she was known in Leongatha and among her golfing friends who called her Daff.

Peter was born in 1929 and his birth cert gives his parents' address as Ruby but two years later, John's birth cert has them living at Anderson Street, Leongatha.

At the time Cecil was working as an agent with International Harvester and on 2 May 1932, he and his fellow representative, Viv Weston of Foster, were travelling from Bennison to Toora in Mr Weston's car which was carrying a new separator, when it collided with a train also travelling from Foster at the crossing half a mile from the station at about 1.20 pm. They were both killed instantly. Jack Everitt witnessed the collision; Percy Martin was close by and heard the impact and retraced his steps to alert Constable Heinrich Clemann at Toora Police Station while the Green family called Dr Arthur Nathan of Toora.

The bodies were taken to the National Park Hotel, Toora, which was opposite The Royal Standard Hotel. Thick scrub between the railway line and the road obscured the view so that only the roof of the car likely to be visible from the train. Both men were well-known, popular and highly regarded in the district.

John was seven months old and Peter was two years and nine months. Whatever did their mother do? We don't know because she never talked about it. Occasional vague references but nothing that tells the story. She did take the little boys back to England but we have no details of when and how long she stayed. She told me once that John was 18 months old and she lived in dread of him falling overboard for the whole of the six weeks trip on the ship. What brought her back to Leongatha? Cecil is buried in the Korumburra Cemetery and it seems that is all she came back to in Australia. She never told us.

In 1936 she married accounant Keith Little, who was manager of Gippsland and Northern Co-op. in Leongatha and the boys grew up in secure comfortable circumstances in beautiful South Gippsland where they still live. Peter was given Cecil's camera which had his regimental address on it. We knew he'd been in the army presumably in England and that he came here after the war.

So it was with some surprise that we discovered it was the AIF indicating he had arrived here before 1914. Daff had his discharge certificate which she gave to Peter. She didn't know when he'd first come here and had an idea he'd been sent out here because of his health. He was the second of five children with one older brother and three younger sisters. But checking through his army records and reading of his war service there is nothing to indicate a health problem such as asthma or bronchitis that was often the reason for migration to a warmer climate. Throughout her years in Australia Daff was a regular letter writer to England but said her closest contacts with the Westaway family there were lost as they moved during the second world war, and it was never regained.

As Peter and John mellowed happily into fatherhood becoming doting grandfathers and all that goes with extended families, I suspect that they recognised the gap in their own lives and it became important that we try to fill it. Still Daff wouldn't be drawn. She died in Leongatha in 1972 but we had no way of contacting the English Westaways nor found anything more among her possessions.

Back to the discharge certificate which named Cecil's father as next of kin: Peter and I moved from Melbourne to Foster in 1984 and were stunned that so many people, strangers to us, stopped us in the street because they knew the story of the train crash which had occurred more than 50 years earlier. We had to learn more. Our son, Gavin, told us that Leongatha Library had BDM's on microfiche which led us to the death certificate of both Cecil and Viv Weston.

For years I'd been trying to find a lead to WESTAWAYs in England and knew there were other families in Australia but we had no connection with them. I could never find anyone researching the name. I joined Toora & District Family History Group at their second meeting but found no help from the Genealogical Research Directory. A couple of years later a new member asked me how to use it, so I automatically looked for the Ws and was gobsmacked to find there were three researchers listed in the UK. I wrote to all of them initially without success.

One took several months to answer, another had moved house twice and I received her reply NINE years later. But the very formal prompt reply to 'Dear Mrs Westaway' came from Ron Upham in Somerset who was unable to help but had sent my letter to Bob Westaway in London. Now it turned out that Ron, Bob and Loveday, who wrote months later, were all researching the name together and had been doing so for some years. Bob was the London link for the PRO and he recognised the London address of Cecil's parents who were next of kin on his discharge certificate.

My next letter was 'Dear Shirley, welcome to the family' from Ron who turned out to be Peter's second cousin. They share the same g grandparents, Samuel Westaway & Maria Baker, and Ron had been looking for years his mother's missing brother who was Cecil's father! Ron is a couple of months older than Peter and they are well matched. We now have a very close relationship with frequent constant contact.

Ron and Bob also had records of the WESTAWAYs earlier than 1400 indicating that the family origins were in the one parish in Devon, Sampford Courtenay, and all who bear the name are indeed related. Ron sent me The Westaway Chronicle on floppy discs which took quite some time to coonvert considering the state of computer technology at the time, and in the meantime he posted me many charts and and other information pertaining to the family.

In Leongatha Genealogical Society's file, I found a reference for C H Westaway, who held 96 acres at Kardella. The council town planning department provided a map showing the allotment. The PRO, then at Laverton, produced the entire file on the block, complete with correspondence, reports, inspections and every detail until Cecil and Daisy left it seven years later.

On discharge from the Army in May 1920 he took up 96 acres No. 57a No K 6645 Vol 6523 Folio 544 at Kardella under the Soldier Settlement Scheme. This was unsuccesful and he left the farm in 1927 to work with the International Harvester Co. in Leongatha.

It was yet another Soldier Settlement failure and the more I read about these schemes, I realised it has been a governmental disaster for most of Australia's history with the successes few and far between.

Lola Bailey in Leongatha, mentioned to me that her father-in-law, also born in London 1893, had come directly to Leongatha under a migration scheme to work on a farm here before WWI. I thought it possible that Cecil had come with him. But despite hours of enquiry I have found no reference to such a scheme and it looked like another dead end.

So it was back to the shipping files. Random at first but I found a Mr and Mrs L B Westaway returning from England to Sydney in 1914 and I sent this on to their descendant, Kaye Thompson who told me they were in the Indian Ocean when war was declared and within hours were chased by a German raider. Their ship had no way of escaping and the crew and passengers feared the worst. They were saved by a thick fog and were safely in Australian waters when it lifted.

Obviously needing to be methodical if I was ever going to find Cecil, on numerous trips to the PRO by this time in Melbourne, I went through the lists backwards from 1914 returning home without what I was looking for but with lots of other interesting snippets. Then I noticed the passenger lists were changing. Instead of mainly family groups there were long lists of young single men from around 16 to 22 or so, mostly described as agricultural or farm workers. It seemed I was getting warm. The PRO moved to North Melbourne in April 2004 so I picked up the trail again hoping I'd live long enough to find him. I had long felt if I did, my screams would be heard in Gippsland.

Then there was a ship that was carrying only third class passengers. It was the SS Norseman sailing from London to Sydney with 1,493 adult passengers, one of whom was a 20 year old clerk, Mr Cecil Westaway, who arrived in Melbourne on the 14 August 1913.

What he did and where on arrival, we don't know but on 4 September 1915 he enlisted in AIF and became 2435 Private Westaway and embarked at Melbourne 14 Mar 1916 aboard HMAT A 68 Anchises as Acting Corporal to serve in France with the 4/29th Battalion. Promoted to Lance/Sergeant. He married Daisy after the wedding was postponed for six months when he was recalled for service in France. He returned to France before the armistice to find the battalion had been disbanded. Back in England it seems he was stationed at AIF HQ in Horseferry Road, London, with Pay Corps until he returned to Australia in 1920 on board the 'Orsova'with Daisy.

As Daisy was reticent about talking about him, we didn't ask. She did have some mementoes and photos which have since been lost. The only photo we have is of their wedding sent to us by a cousin in England. The best man is unknown.

As the story has unfolded since Daisy's death and I've read the history of the 29th Battalion which served on the Western Front and the Battle of the Somme, I wonder just how Cecil survived the war, how together they struggled to make a farm only to walk away from it, and as they were looking to the future, he died in such tragic circumstances, leaving nothing that would support the small family. Daisy, the daughter of a farming family with a long history in Wiltshire and surrounding district and Cecil, a clerk, was keen to go on the land. Their future in Australia must have looked promising and full of hope. Yet she chose to return here where she had more than her share of sorrow. Very much a stiff Englishwoman, I think she found it difficult to express herself.

Too late, we all realise we missed opportunities to speak to others who might have added to the story and our understanding. But they are no longer around. So from two small boys who grew up without relatives, I now have a database of close to 3,000 who are all connected in Britain, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada and the United States. There are now more than 1,400 living many of whom are delving away looking for more history while we share the joys of births and the sorrows of deaths via email.

There are two lines of WESTAWAYs most likely descended from two brothers in 1400 but old records to prove this have not yet come to light. In the meantime we all claim kinship.

Tree for descendants of Samuel & Maria Baker showing relationship between Cecil Horace and Arthur Stanley Clarence Upham, Ron's father.

 

Many thanks to Shirley for sharing this lovely piece of family history with us all. Shirely has done so much for all Westaway researchers worldwide since discovering her own Westaway relatives.

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  © 2003-6 Sheila Yeo | For more information on the Westaway family and the research contained in this site email sheila@yeosociety.com or call me on +44 (0)1626 360978