Charles William CROWE was employed as a Miner at Cardiff, Collie when he enlisted for service in the Great War 1914 – 1918, on 23 May, 1916, at Belmont, WA. He completed his Medical Examination at Bunbury on 13th May 1916. Charles was married to wife Florence, with three young boys at home – Francis William near 7 years, Norman Ernest near 5 years and Ronald Leonard near 3 years. Florence had become pregnant with a fourth child shortly before Charles enlisted.
Pte. CROWE obviously had a dedicated commitment to the Empire, and his mates, which overrode the Family responsibilities that he chose to leave behind. Florence was to spend the final five months of her pregnancy in bed, suffering from Athritis, which the attending Doctor had earlier thought to be Tuberculosis. During this period Charles was completing basic training in Western Australia, prior to embarking from Fremantle on 30 October, 1916 bound for Devonport,England.
Pte. CROWE‘s fourth son, Charles Maxwell was delivered whilst the soldier was undergoing further training at Codford Training Camp,England, which preceded his posting to the Western Front. Pte. CROWE joined his mates from the 48th Battalion in the field in France on 16 September 1917. He served unscathed at the front, also being free of illness, until he was posted to Administration Headquarters in France on 18th April 1918, for Family Reasons.
Back home in Australia, DR. H.J. GRAY had provided the following letter to Mrs. Crowe, susequently presented to the Supreme Court Perth- ” Mrs. CROWE has been under my care for some 18 months or so. Her baby is 7 months old. She was in bed 5 months before the birth of the child suffering from athritis which I thought was probably tuberculosis. Last week she coughed up a considerable amount of blood and she has an early lesion of the right apex. I have advised her to have Sanitorium Treatment “.
On the 2nd March 1918 the Supreme Court Perth wrote to the Commandant Military Headquarters Francis Street Perth WA, and extracts from their letter follow :- ” Re. Private Charles William CROWE. No. 2640, 6/48th Battalion- I desire to place before you the following facts and will esteem it a favour if you will kindly give the matter your early and favourable consideration.
At the time of enlisting his wife was in fairly good health, but I regret to say it has been found necessary to send her to Woorooloo Sanitorium at once. I enclose herewith copy of a letter written by Dr. Gray, and handed to Mrs. Crowe , with the advice that she should make application to the Authorities for the return of her husband.
As you will see, the case is a bad one. There were three children when Crowe enlisted and the fourth one was born a few months after he left Australia. The position is, that should anything happen to Mrs Crowe, there will be no one to take care of the children, and if you are able to assist in repatriating this soldier, I am sure your sympathy will be enlisted in this distressing case.
Mrs Crowe will be pleased to interview you, if any further information is required, any time before next Wednesday when she will be leaving Perth for Woorooloo “. Signed H.S. CRAFTS, 333 Fitzgerald Street North Perth, 26/02/1918.
On 7th March 1918 , Cpl. M.P. R.Robinson wrote a report to the Army in relation to Mrs. Florence Eliza Crowe who had been admitted to the Woorooloo Sanitorium. Cpl. Robinson reported that he supported the Application, because ,in his opinion, this was a genuine case. He also included the following General remarks in the record of his recommendation ” Mrs. Crowe, under Doctor’s instructions, left for the Sanitorium yesterday, she is in a very delicate state, the baby is very weak and puny, and requires constant attention and has to have special food. Mrs. Stubley 16 Blake Street North Perth has taken the children to save then being put with the State. Mrs. Crowe has no friends in Australia “.
On 30 April, 1918, a Major for Adjutant General wrote to Commandant 5th Military District Perth, WA, in response to the request of return of Pte. CROWE to Australia, stating :- ” You are informed this application has been approved and Mrs CROWE will be further notified by the Officer I/C Base Records as to the date of her husband’s embarkation for Australia. A cable has been sent to Administration London , confirming :- ” Please return No. 2640, Pte. C.W. CROWE, 48th Battalion, for discharge family reasons “.
Pte. CROWE had arrived at the No. 2 Command Depot in Weymouth England on 24th April 1918, for return to Australia. More than two months passed, without any further action from the Army, then Charles was admitted to the Burdon Military Hospital England on 3 July, 1918, in a Dangerously ill condition, with Pneumonia. Following hospitilization and a further seven weeks of convalescence , Charles finally embarked for Australia on 23rd September 1918 on the ” Runic “. He disembarked at Fremantle on 17th November 1918, then Discharged from Service on 2nd December 1918.
Service Medals Awarded
British War Medal – No. 14933
Victory Medal – No. 14623
AUTHOR NOTE :
If the Army had responded swiftly to the Supreme Court request of 2 March, 1918, it was most likely Pte. CROWE would have been able to return to his family in Australia, prior to being stricken with Pneumonia. The delays in approval compounded the harmful impact on his wife and four ( 4 ) young children. One wonders on the state of Mrs. Crowe and the Family, considering the Nine month wait from the Supreme Court letter of 2nd March 1918, until Charles was discharged on 2nd December 1918.
Did Mrs. Crowe survive the trauma , and go on to benefit from a lengthy period of motherhood?
Did the four (4 ) children recover to enjoy long, happy and healthy lives?