From a slab hut in Traveston to the war front

BORN in Traveston (now Burrum Heads) in 1891 to an indigenous mother and English father, Joseph Fletcher was proud to serve his country.

Growing up in Traveston with his mum and dad and nine siblings, the family later moved to Takura where they owned a cane farm, address known as the Takura/Pialba Line, which today is opposite the Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade.

The slab hut in Takura where Joseph and his family lived was later donated to the Hervey Bay Historical Society in Zephyr St and now forms part of the Blacksmith Shop.

Joseph Fletcher died at the age of 72.
Joseph Fletcher died at the age of 72. CONTRIBUTED

Records show he embarked from Melbourne on board the HMAT A40 Ceramic on December 22, 1914.

He saw action in Gallipoli and later in France, where he was gassed. He also attended training in various other places.

Looking at his service records he served in Gallipoli, and he also travelled to various other places with the Australian Army, including Egypt, France and Italy.

His great-niece Gayle Byrne says Joseph was gassed while serving in France, and she also shared other anecdotes such as the time he had to forfeit a day's pay for travelling on a train without a leave pass in Maadi, Egypt.

"When I was growing up my mother told me the story about a bag of coins from various countries that Uncle Joe brought back with him to Australia," Ms Byrne said.

"When the war had finished and they were travelling in the back of a truck to Italy to catch the ship back to Australia, one of his mates, who was collecting the coins in a white bag, got killed.

"Apparently they went under a bridge and his mate was decapitated and therefore my Great Uncle Joseph brought the coins back with him to Australia in the original bloodstained bag."

Ms Byrne said she was proud of her great uncle serving his country in The First World War.

"Going to war for him would have been so overwhelming, coming from a small place like Takura," she said.

"It would not have been easy for him being indigenous and I am sure he would have encountered some difficulties along his journey in life."

Joseph returned to Australia as a WW1 Returned Soldier on September 14, 1918 embarking from Taranto in Italy, arriving in Australia and was discharged from the Army on January 24, 1919.

In later years he moved to the Gladstone/Yarwun area, where he started up a small fruit farm in the Targinnie area, east of Yarwun.

In 1954 Joseph Fletcher, Col Wilson and Ben de Ruiter (all fruit farmers) discovered Uranium in the Mt Larcom foothills.

Joseph Fletcher died in the Gladstone District Hospital on July 9, 1964 at the age of 72.

His grave is a Registered War Grave at the Gladstone Cemetery.

Topics:  anzac anzac-centenary anzac day burrum heads takura war

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