Delving into Diversions and Deviations – An Australian in the German Army

As Family Historians we are urged to stay focussed and stick to the research plan that we should have already worked out.  But we delve into the diversions and deviations that frequently appear in our quest – searching the internet and books for time and place material, tracking who else lived in the street and what was their trade in the 1861 census and, if you are an Ancestry member, getting inundated with tips that seem totally irrelevant.  No – Mary Ann Carey was born in Brisbane, Queensland not Delaware, Ohio!  Along the way however, there is always something to pique the interest and the grass often seems greener in someone else’s family tree!  In this manner, I discovered an Australian citizen serving in the German Army in World War I. Continue reading

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Congress 2015

This a first and last post.

The first being is this is a first time experience writing a post on the fly from a hotel room on iPad. The last because I am determined to become a better writer and this is the last post without an adequate writing structure. You see – I have comer under the spell of Carol Baxter, author of Writing INTERESTING Family Histories, among many other publications.

Having to make the difficult choice of which sessions to attend several weeks prior to the Congress, I opted for Jennie Norberry from the Austrlalian War Memorial’s Research Centre over Carol’s Help! What information is correct? After all, it was Jennie who had telephoned me personally to respond to my logged in query about copyright on a book I wished to cite.  Anyway, I met Carol – had an interesting chat and purchased her book. Now  all I need do is buy Blogging for Dummies!

The 14th Australasian Congress on Genealogy and Heraldry in Caberra is the first such event I have ever attended.  While somewhat intense, it has been thoroughly enjoyable and I have learned a lot. The Congress itself went off like clockwork – every session  timed perfectly, lunch ready on time, no speakers going over their allotted time and just enough time for a quick coffee (and a fag- fortunately there a couple of others and so the opportunity for  deeper conversations)  between sessions.  The welcome function at the Anzac Hall under the wings of the famous Lancaster bomber “G-for-George”  adjacent to the gallery of WWI fighter planes was special. There I met the the ladies from the Western Australian Genealogical Society (WAGS). And wags they were too!  I got myself assigned to their table for the Congress Dinner at Parliament House on the Saturday night. Later – the next day, not that night – I had an one-on-one session with Margaret, the foremost authority on the Enrolled Pensioner Guard in WA’s convict era.  Through my 3 x great grandfather Patrick Brennan, I am eligible for membership of the WAG Enrolled Pensioner Guard Special Interest Group.

All of the presentations were excellent and thoroughly educative.  Naturally, some stood out.  Joshua Taylor from FindMyPast (and several other other USA and Canada organisations), David Reacher from and Paul Milner,  born in England but resident in USA, were simply brilliant and the stand-outs for me. David Rencher’s Irish census and substitutes and Chasing the poor and the landless, Richard Reid’s If you are ever going across the sea to Ireland and Perry McIntyre’s  The infernal villian will be sent way are particularly useful for my planned Irish research. Including how to plan that difficult research. I attended both of Kate Bagnell’s sessions on Early Chinese Families and Researching your Chinese Roots which have given me a few clues on how to expand the project on my mother-in-law ‘s  Chee Quee family.  Did you know the first recorded legal marriage between a Chinese man and Caucasian woman  took place in New South Wales in 1830, an era when there were only two Chinese women in Australia?

Perhaps the most inspirational address for me was Paul Milner’s  Tracing your PreWWI British Soldier – I’ve made some progress with the four or so that I am researching and now I know how to take that further.  An honourable mention must go to Grace Kersens with her Men, women, sex and desire: family history history on Australia’s  frontier which amply demonstrated Carol Baxter’s maxim – ” … A bad ancestor is more interesting Than a good one.”  

All in all, a great five days and now it is back to work to finance this rather expensive hobby.  All we needed was Jess to bring the average age down!





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Those Who Served in World War I: From the Muir-Buirchell Family Tree (Part I)

I decided long ago to publish in 2015 what I have discovered about the World War I veterans in my family trees.  Slowly I have worked towards this objective over the past couple of years and now suddenly time is upon me.  There was much more to be found than I ever anticipated and I am sure I have not found them all. Continue reading

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Family History Research – Bits and Pieces

Here we are and it’s mid-November already with only three Blog entries for the year and this will be the first since June – not the best of efforts!  Yes, Neville Jones Services has been busy and but a lot time was expended on watching AFL! Continue reading

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Memories of an Accident

In recent times the National Library of Australia has digitised and made available through its Trove project the newspaper The Great Southern Herald.  This newspaper was, and still is today, published in Katanning just 26 miles from my home town of Kojonup.  This is a fantastic development Continue reading

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Mea Culpa

In my story of Oct 2012 “The ‘Young Thief’ was my Second Great Grandmother” I referred to Richard Norrish as a Private in the 51st Regiment.  He was of course in the 96th (‘Manchester’) Regiment which relieved the last detachment of the 51st in 1847.

A more serious error was made in “Elva Trevelion – An Untold Story from Trove” (Jul 2014). Referring to the 1934 postcard of the RMS Orford and the Australian Test Cricket team as the “Invincibles” was wrong.  The Australian team earned this sobriquet in 1948, not 1934.  Before I was a family history tragic, I was a cricket tragic! Unforgiveable!

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Elva Trevelion – An Untold Story from Trove

Elva Trevelion – An Untold Story from Trove

This is a story about a story that, it seems, has never been properly told and an example of the value of Trove.  Most family history researchers understand what a treasure Trove is – Trove being the project of the National Library of Australia to digitise the newspapers of Australia.  Trawling Trove – yes, the alliterations will flow – often produces unexpected treasures.  Some time ago, I recorded from Ancestry the passenger list references for my 3rd cousin (once removed) Elva May Trevelion in my Jones-Sexton tree.  At the time, I merely noted that it was interesting that she was on a passenger liner during World War II.  Then much later, searching family notices for the Trevelion family attributions and citations, I came across a death notice referring to Elva as being overseas.  Recalling the earlier passenger list record, I set out to find more and came across a story about Elva Trevelion having served as a nurse aboard troopships.  What a story!  But – with an unsatisfactory ending as it seems a wonderful tale has been washed away in the tides of quite recent history.  Hopefully, out there somewhere is another Trevelion descendant who has been able to put down the story of Elva in a more intimate and informed manner than I am able to here.

I have previously documented the Trevelion family in my Jones-Sexton tree but in a format way too detailed for publication on this blog.  In summary, George Trevelion departed London 13 June 1849 aboard the Macedon and arrived at Port Adelaide 3 October that year.  Three of George’s sisters – Eleanor, Jane and Mary – arrived at Port Adelaide three years later on 10 December 1852 aboard the Sea Park.  Jane married James Sexton in 1853 and was my 2 x great grandmother.  George’s great granddaughter Elva May Trevelion was born in Adelaide 3 February 1908 to Reginald George and Lottie (Ascough) Trevelion.

In 1937 on 2 April, Elva sailed to England on the Moldavia – she was recorded on the passenger list as being a nurse intending to reside at 194 Queen’s Gate, London (which still exists).  In December 1942 she is listed, as a passenger, and as a nurse, on the Empire Grace arriving in New York.  The Empire Grace was a refrigerated cargo liner built in 1942 for the British Ministry of War Transport and operated by the Shaw Saville and Albion Line.  Following World War II, the vessel was purchased by the Line and renamed the SS Wairangi.  While there are quite detailed records available for World War II shipping convoys, I am unable to locate a reference to the Empire Grace.  Yet, this is a time when the North Atlantic convoys were being regularly attacked by German U-boat submarines and the sinking of merchant vessels including passenger ships was a regular occurrence.  Possibly due to wartime censorship, there seems to be no available record of the arrival of the Empire Grace in Australia but Australians (many of them with military and diplomatic connections) were predominant on the passenger list.  In July 1943, the Loxton Hospital Board announced that it had appointed Elva May Trevelion as its replacement Matron.

The Advertiser of 10 February 1937 in its column “The Social Round” carries a brief account of Elva Trevelion of Glenelg about to sail to England on the Moravia to attend the Coronation.  This was the coronation of King George VI on 12 May 1937 following the abdication of Edward VIII to marry Wallis Hope Simpson.  (Try this link to view a clip of the Coronation parade filmed six months after the establishment of the BBC Television Service )

Details of Elva’s career begins to emerge in 1940 with the following story in The Advertiser of 12 June 1940:



Vivid story of Hair-Raising Experience

A South Australian nurse who has been serving in transports since the outbreak of war had a hair’s breadth escape from flames recently, when a Nazi raider attacked a liner.  She is Sister Elva Trevelion of Glenelg, who went to England in the Coronation year for six months holiday and decided to stay.

Today she told the following story:-

“After embarkation from France, our troopship anchored three miles from a port.  Members of the crew were taking a siesta at 2.30 p.m. when the sirens on shore blew madly.  We could here planes droning, and then a great crash caused the ship to rock.

“I was not troubled thinking we were so far from Germany and that blasting operations were going on.  Then a violent explosion blew in the door of my cabin, instantly filling the corridors with flames and smoke.

“I was the only woman in the ship.  The ship’s lighting system was out of action, and it was a long journey to the surgery, which was filled with badly-wounded men.

“Although we heard flames roaring down upon us, we were forced to attend to the wounded for half an hour before they were wrapped in blankets and taken on stretchers to the deck.  A bomb had struck amidships.  The wounded were taken off.  I landed at the port penniless and without any possessions.”

Sister Trevelion is a daughter of Mr and Mrs. R.G. Trevelion of Broadway, Glenelg.  She was educated at Norwood school, and received her training at Port Pirie Hospital. Sister Trevelion later passed a midwifery course at the Queen Victoria Maternity Hospital.

However, do not be taken in by the first-person account: The Advertiser has exercised some journalistic licence as the paper’s follow up story of 13 June reveals:

S.A. Nurse Serving in Troopships

Sister Elva Trevelion, a South Australian nurse, whose story of a narrow escape from flames when a German raider attacked a liner was related in “The Advertiser” yesterday has been serving on troopships since the outbreak of war.  Sister Trevelion’s parents, who live on the Broadway, Glenelg, said yesterday their daughter had written regularly to them since she left for England in 1937 but her movements were uncertain because of censorship regulations.

“Most of Elva’s letters are written at sea” said Mrs Trevelion “and, of course, we do not know what ship she is serving in.”

In one of her letters to her parents Sister Trevelion stated that she was the only woman on board the troopship on which she was serving as nurse. 

The sinking of the ship seems to be first reported by the New York Times 2 June 1940:

Raid South France

Germans Kill 46, Wound About 100 – British Ship is Struck


District of Lyon Suffers Heavy Attack – Swiss Down 2 Invaders


By the Associated Press

MARSEILLES, France, June 1 – Germany’s air might fell heavily on Southern France today in one of the biggest aerial forays of the war, leaving a path of death and destruction in half a dozen towns and cities down through this rich industrial Rhone Valley.

At least 46 people were killed, thirty of them here and in the harbour of this second largest city in France.  The wounded numbered around a hundred.

The attackers in their first raid on the South of France dropped two heavy bombs in this Mediterranean port.  A cotton-laden British ship was sunk.

We do not learn the name of this ship until 13 February 1941 when the Nottingham Evening Post (the story being picked up by the Courier-Mail in Brisbane the next day) provides the necessary detail:

Nottingham Orford

Figure 1: Nottingham Evening Post13 February 1941

Numerous references to the Orford can be found but most of them scant in detail.  The ship was not actually sunk – the burn-out hulk was towed ashore and re-floated several years later before being finally scrapped in 1947.  The date of 1 June 1940 is significant; this is the time of Dunkirk when the Allied forces were being forced to evacuate in face of the German advance across Western Europe.  While the Orford could have been carrying cotton, it was already in use as troopship.  There are references available that it had earlier transported Free French troops to Madagascar and that the Orford was on loan to the French Navy but it is also reported that it was in Marseilles to evacuate troops from there.  Fourteen people died in the attack on the Orford; all of them were crew, indicative of there being no troops aboard, and they are buried in the Mazargues War Cemetery.  The remainder of the crew were apparently transported to England via Cherbourg but no details of this journey have been found.  It seems the sinking of the Orford was not officially confirmed until 13 February 1941 and the Chronicle article of 20 February reporting this fact also links Elva to the ship as well as claiming the ship carried 2 000 ‘native’ labourers from Madagascar.


Figure 2: Chronicle 20 February 1941 p.32:

The RMS Orford was built in 1928 as a liner of 20 000 tons for the Orient Steamship Company to operate between England and Australia and was a regular visitor to Australian ports.  In 1934 the ship carried the Australian Cricket Team (Don Bradman and “The Invincibles”) to England for an Ashes tour.

118339 Orford and Aust Cricket Team

Figure 3: Orford postcard autographed by the Australian Test Cricket team

The Orford was photographed in Sydney in 1930 during the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and was part of a procession of ships vising Sydney for the Bridge opening in 1932.

XB1992_247_6 Orford and Sydney Harbour Bridge

Figure 4: RMS Orford, Sydney Harbour 18 December 1930

6173530359_0acaf86b83_o Orford

Figure 5: RMS Orford and the opening of Sydney Harbour Bridge 19 March 1932

At the commencement of the War, the British Government commandeered most merchant ships and liners although the vessels continued to be operated by their original owners and crew.  Elva seems to have been already serving aboard the RMS Orford which was given the designation HMT U5 and as part of Convoy US1, departed Sydney with the Australian Army 6th Division 10 January 1940 bound for Egypt.  The Orford arrived at Ismalia on the Suez Canal on 20 February 1940 where the troops disembarked.

Troops Loading Orford

Figure 6: Troops boarding RMS Orford February 1940

The "Orford" departing Sydney January 1940

The “Orford” departing Sydney January 1940

Figure 7: 6th Division AIF departing Sydney aboard RMS Orford

We can be reasonably sure that Elva was on the Orford at this time as in a later 1943 interview with the Adelaide Advertiser she says that “she had been away from South Australia for six years except for half a day when her ship, then a passenger liner, called at the Outer Harbour.”

In this interview, published 4 February 1943, it is said that her final voyage was in a troopship carrying 3000 Americans and 1000 British Commandos as part of the “North African armada” and again that Elva was the only female aboard.  This seems to be a reference to Operation Torch which was the British-American invasion of French North Africa.  Prime Minister Churchill had convinced President Roosevelt that gaining control of North Africa and the Middle East was the better strategic option rather than have the United States engage in an early Western Europe campaign.  Two convoys comprising 196 ships in total departed Clyde on 22 October 1942 (Convoy KMS1) and Liverpool 26 October (KMF1) and were on station by 7 November to deliver some 61000 American and British troops and materiel to Oran, Algiers and Bougie in Algeria.  These actions, including landings at Casablanca by the US Task Force 34 and Convoy UGF1, were against the Vichy French.  While the actions were short and successful, nevertheless the convoys were attacked as they neared their destinations and during the landings – at least three merchant ships were sunk.


Figure 8: Operation Torch Landing, North Africa

The National Library of Australia’s Trove project covers not only the Nation’s newspapers but also the Australian Women’s Weekly which published a story about Elva 27 February 1943 that adds some additional detail to the story as recounted this far.  She tells us that she saw her relatives at Outer Harbour when on her first voyage with the Orient Company and when her ship reached Australia (without naming the ship).  “Then her ship became part of the first convoy to leave Australian waters carrying Australian troops.” This squares with another family history account where the author’s father describes the Orford as being luxurious accommodation until the ship reached Fremantle where all the fittings were removed.  Elva tells us that her ship (the Orford) reached Marseilles with French troops from Madagascar and that the ship was struck by a torpedo after disembarkation.

The Australian Women’s Weekly story tells us:

In all her miles of voyaging, in all seas and in all climates, Miss Trevelion has always been a good sailor.

Ï had a small suite,” she says.  At times there would be plenty of work for me to do, nursing the officers or crew.”

Being the only woman aboard, she was looked on as something of a mascot. The only time there were other women was during the trip with the first Australian convoy when four Army sisters travelled.

Their names, and those of everyone who enjoyed hospitality in her little suite, are in a tiny autograph book which she values as the one written record of her trips.

Regulations about keeping diaries or cameras were so strict that happenings which are not written indelibly on her mind must be counted as lost.

Finally Elva described the Algerian invasion convoy as the most exciting time of her life and says:

I’ll never forget the scene there with the sea full of troopships surrounded by warships and circled above by protecting planes from the aircraft carriers.

We cannot be sure what ships Elva was serving on during this time but quite a number of the Orient Steamship vessels served as troop transports.  The Orcades, Orion, and Otranto were together with the Orford in the 1940 US1 Convoy from Australia to the Middle East.  Orion, Ormonde, Orontes and Otranto were each involved in Operation Torch so it is possible that Elva was serving on one of these.  Life on a troopship was obviously hazardous given the Orcades was torpedoed off the Cape of Good Hope in 1942 as was the Oransay off Liberia having delivered French troops to Madagascar.  The Orama had earlier been sunk during Operation Alphabet, the evacuation of allied troops from Norway, just a few days after the attack on the Orford.  Elva says in the Australian Women’s Weekly article that she helped with the evacuation of women and children from Colombo, Palestine and Egypt.

Trove gives up a further reference to Elva Trevelion.  The Avro Lancaster B1 bomber, serial number WX4783 – otherwise known as “G-for-George” – was operated in Britain by the RAAF 460 Squadron.  After completing some 90 bombing missions over Europe, the aircraft was returned to Australia in 1944 for conservation purposes.  Early in 1945, the aircraft toured various provincial towns in the Eastern States in connection with the Third War Victory Loan fund raising.  Arriving in Loxton on ANZAC Day 1945, “G-for-George” was used to provide flights for official guests including Elva May Trevelion.


Figure 8: “G for George” on the Victory Loan Tour April 1945

Elva made a further trip to England in May 1957 aboard the Strathaird, itself a former P&O troopship that also participated in Operation Torch, and then she disappears from the public record.  Elva died in 1990 aged 82 years and is buried in Adelaide’s Payneham Cemetery.

Image - Elva May Trevelion

Figure 9: Elva May Trevelion 1908-1990



  • 1937, “The Social Round”, The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA: 1931-1954), 10 February, p.10, viewed 19 October 2013, 41619689
  • 1940, “Raid South France”, New York Times, 2 June 1940, p.2, viewed 19 October 2013,
  • 1940 “S.A. Nurse’s Close Call When Ship Bombed”, News (Adelaide, SA: 1923-1954), Tuesday 11 June 1940, p.5, viewed 10 Dec 2013, 132004606
  • 1940 “”S.A. Nurse’s Escape from Bombed Ship”, The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA: 1931-1954), Wednesday 12 June 1940, p.10, viewed 10 December 2013, 47197819
  • 1940 “S.A. Nurse Serving in Troopships”, The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA: 1931-1954), Thursday 13 June 1940, p.7, viewed 10 December 2013, 47197819
  • 1940 “People in the News”, The Mail (Adelaide, SA: 1912-1954), 15 June, p.7, viewed 10 December 2013, 54810566
  • 1941, “Orford: Nazis’ Belated Claim””, The Nottingham Evening Post, Thursday 13 February 1941, British Newspaper Archive,
  • 1941, “Liner Orford Reported Sunk”, The Courier Mail, (Brisbane, Qld: 1933-1954), 14 February, p.5, viewed 2 November 2013, 44883623
  • 1941, “Orford Was Sunk in June at Marseilles” News (Adelaide, SA: 1923-1954) 14 February, p.5, viewed 30 December 2013, 131427944
  • 1941, “Liner Orford Sunk”, The Chronicle (Adelaide, SA: 1895-1954), 20 February, p.32, viewed 19 October 2013, 92415144
  • 1943, “Only Woman in African Convoy”, The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA: 1931-1954), 4 February, p.5, viewed 19 October 2013, 48900261
  • 1943, “”Australian Nurse only Woman in Algiers Convoy”, Australian Women’s Weekly (1933-1982), p.16, viewed 29 December 2013, 469443468
  • 1945, “G for George at Loxton”, Murray Pioneer (Renmark, SA: 1942-1950), 26 April, p.1 and 7, viewed 19 October 2013, 109411622
  • UK Incoming Passenger List 1890-1960, Operations Inc. 2008
  • New York Passenger Lists 1829-1957, Operations Inc. 2010
  • UK Outgoing  Passenger List 1890-1960, Operations Inc. 2008
  • Britain: outbound passenger lists 1890-1960,
  • Cunningham, Sir Andrew, Commander-in-Chief Mediterranean, The Landings in North Africa: Operation “Torch”- Report of Proceedings, London Gazette (Supplement), 23 March 1949, Pp 1509-1525, HM Stationery Office, London.
  • A Family History Scrapbook


All images are available in the public domain and are free from copyright restrictions.

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