Fairbridge Farm School

Kingsley Fairbridge’s project Pinjarra Fairbridge Farm School commenced about 1910. Until WWI about 30 boys had passed through. Following the end of WWI and in 1921 parties of boys and girls once again began arriving at Fairbridge. From Fremantle the first group of 15 boys and girls took the train to Pinjarra where they were met and transported to Fairbridge.  The first group was initially accommodated at another less permanent location on the farm until two cottages were completed at the current site. Shakespeare for  girls and Warren Hastings for the boys. Kingsley Fairbridge was himself living in a tent as his home was in the early stages of construction.

Over the years further houses, workshops, school, dairy shed, machinery shed, etc. were constructed.

Sadly Kingsley Fairbridge died in 1924, however his ideals were continued under the guidance of Fairbridge Society, well that is up to and including WW2.  The formula changed after WW2 and it is believed Fairbidge’s ideals were no longer relevant.

 

Map of Fairbridge 1996
(Tourism ) Map of Fairbridge 1996

 

The children were always referred to by the surnames, never their christian names.

At most times the School housed 340 students.

There were 7 girls’ cottages housing 100 girls and 16 boys’ cottages housing  234 boys.

Research shows 70% of all Old Fairbridgians enlisted into the WWII Australian Forces, which is a remarkable number. One wonders whether they were fighting for Australia or England!

In reality the reason so many former students enlisted was for the following reasons:

To escape their current working positions and life which really held very few options.  They were contracted through Fairbridge and were Wards of the State until they were 21 years old.  In reality a very large percentage of the Fairbridge workforce were seen as hardworking (due to their disciplined early life) and they were inexpensive.  These were difficult years before WW2.  Enlisting offered the opportunity for adventure and to see the World!  For some it was the means of a dream to return to England.

1500 students students passed through Fairbridge up until WW2. 620 young women and men enlisted with the Australian Forces – the largest contingent in Western Australia.  500 returned home to Western Australia.

Those who enlisted with the AIF mostly joined the 2/28th or 2/4th MG Battalion.

Once you turned 14-15 years of age children were found employment within the state. Girls to domestic jobs in rural areas and the boys to assist with farm work, i.e. agricultural labourers.

Many were fortunate to be placed with kind and generous employers and for others, it was anything but ideal. They encountered isolation in remote locations, particularly in the north-west and wheat belt regions, inadequate accommodation and discrimination. Communication with Fairbridge and friends was by letter only. The cost of telephone calls was prohibitive in rural regions.  Many young women and men lived in remote and sometimes isolated positions. They often worked alone, were unable to visit the local town, did not know where their former school friends were and would spend their day off at the property.  Some never had or rarely had a free day.

There have been many humorous stories over the decades.  This one concerns Reg Pascall, a most gentle and delightful man.   He was employed on a farm where he was regarded as nothing more than a ‘slave’.  When the farmer and family drove away for the day Reg recognised an opportunity to take a proper bath in warm water!   He filled the bathtub to capacity with nice warm water. Naturally he didn’t think to clean the evidence and tell -tale deep-water bath stains.  Reg was soon sent on his way!  (and of course he did not have running water nor a bath for his own use!)

Fairbridge representatives would drive around the countryside and check on their wards, however it could be a long time between visits.  Several reports printed in the “Fairbridgian” Magazine barely mention the names of the Fairbridge kids they were visiting, only writing of ‘their’ interlude with the property owners, describing morning or afternoon tea, conversations, how many miles, how many towns they visited and how many children!

Reports from these visits were however compiled on each child, in particular the quality of accommodation, etc. These employment records, school reports and records for every Fairbridge kid was maintained and unless collected by families, are today kept at the Battye Library.

Noel Matthews’ (aka ‘Cowboy’) first job was on a farm south of Fairbridge.  His accommodation was in the shed that housed the stallion.  He was absolutely terrified as this horse kicked and lashed out at the walls every night as he tried to sleep in the loft above.  

For many prospective farmers it was an opportunity to have cheap labour. No doubt there would have been instances where the employer found himself with a real ‘kid’ and not employable.  The girls were employed in the farmhouses and boys outside.

At Fairbridge these children were fortunate to eat good food – the farm grew vegetables and they produced their own eggs, milk and meat. Their bakery produced fresh bread every day.  In many aspects they were tough – had never worn a pair of shoes since they day of their arrival in Pinjarra. They were rostered on chores everyday either milking cows, in the bakery or workshops either carpentry or machinery.  They were also required to maintain their cottage garden.

For this reason it would be fair to say most Fairbridge children, in particular boys were physically well developed. They had the privilege of eating well (with meat) but also exercised consistently in the form of farm-work, gardening, and sport – possibly more so than many young Australians living through the Depression with unemployment and poverty at that time.  And most importantly they were well disciplined.   They were also wards of the state until the age of 21 years and were supposedly bound to Fairbridge and their contracts.

For Fairbridge kids, from wherever they were and whenever they could, would make their way ‘home’ .  The construction of the Old Fairbidgians Club House in 1933 meant they were able to have full board whenever they wished, i.e. annual holidays. This was their ‘home’ – they could meet up with other ‘kids’, catch up with the many employed staff and be where they knew best.   They could also swim in the pool, play tennis, etc. There was a record book for names and addresses of  Fairbridgians who stayed throughout the year, with news of their lives and their locations.

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Other than two week annual holidays, Fairbridge kids would try for a Christmas lunch or other festivities to be at Pinjarra.  Another favourite was the Mandurah Holiday Camp which ran in January. The Old Fairbridgians Assoc. organised a camp for former students to use (for a fee).  This was the highlight of  student years – when the school set off for Mandurah.  Swimming, fishing and lots of fun.

OFA Rule P. 1
OFA Rule P. 1

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OLD FAIRBRIDGIANS’ ASSOCIATON

The Club House was opened June 1933 financed by donations from supporters in England. 365 pounds raised towards the erection of a club house by O.F.A. was used to furnish the building.

Prior to 1933 it was difficult to accommodate Old Fairbridgians returning to school either for holidays, illness or when changing employment. Girls were camped in rows on the Rectory verandah and at one time the boys had to sleep in a disused dairy.

Founded in 1929 the OFA had a membership of 120 with an annual subscription of 10/6. In its first year 350 members visited and in 1934 there were 400. During those years a weekly average of 20 girls and young men were staying at the club house.

Girls paid 12/6, boys 16/- per week and non-members paid a further 5/3 more. Those who were not earning wages could visit the club, provided they work for the school in lieu of their board. Girls over 21 years paid 16/- and boys one pound weekly.

The Club House was ‘home’ to Old Fairbridgians as was their cottage in school days.

For many prospective farmers it was an opportunity to have cheap labour. No doubt there would have been instances where the employer found himself with a real ‘kid’ and not employable.  The girls were employed in the farmhouses and boys outside.

At Fairbridge these children were fortunate to eat good food – the farm grew vegetables and they poduced their own eggs, milk and meat. Their bakery produced fresh bread every day.  In many aspects they were tough – had never worn a pair of shoes since they day of their arrival in Pinjarra. They were rostered on chores everyday either milking cows, in the bakery or workshops either carpentry or machinery.  They were also required to maintain their cottage garden.

For this reason it would be fair to say most Fairbridge children, in particular boys were physically well developed. They had the privilege of eating well (with meat) but also exercised consistently in the form of farm-work, gardening, and sport – possibly more so than many young Australians living through the Depression with unemployment and poverty at that time.

21 OLD FAIRBRIDGIANS  JOINED 2/4TH MACHINE GUN BTN 

  • THE FOLLOWING 11 DID NOT RETURN

WX14022  BURCHELL, Ronald.  Reinforcements.  ‘E ‘Coy.  KIA South-west Bukit Timah, Singapore aged 22 years on 11.2.1942 (Enlisted 11/6/1941)

WX8397   CHIPPERFIELD, Robert William.  ‘A’ Coy with Ramsbottom.      ‘Tallest man in 2/4th’  Died illness Sandakan, Borneo of  Cardiac Beri-beri 11/2/1945 . (28 years)

WX20086  DAVIES, Gustav. Reinforcements. ‘E’ Coy.   KIA Buona Vista, Singapore15/2/1942 aged 20 years. (Enlisted 1/10/1941)

WX9131 GOODWIN, Reuben  ‘B’ Coy.  Selected in Singapore with ‘F’ Force to work on the Burma-Thai Railway.  He was evacuated sick to Tambaya Hospital Camp in Burma where he  died of beri beri and dysentery 6/11/1943 . (27 years)

WX17351  HURST, Patrick George.   Reinforcements.  ‘E’ Coy. KIA  South-west Bukit Timah, Singapore 11/2/1942 aged 20 years.  He had enlisted 22/10/1941.

WX16236  KING, Alfred Victor (aka Albert John)  Selected in Singapore to work on Burma-Thai railway with ‘F’ Force S Battalion in Thailand.   Sent to Japan with ‘Rashin Maru’ worked Yamane, Niihama.  Recovered from Japan at end of war.  Rejoined AIF and was KIA  8/11/1950 Korea aged 26 years.   (after 42 days in Korea)

WX4949  KINGSWELL Ronald James.  ‘C’ Coy.      Died 25/3/1942 appendicitis Allied Hospital Bandoeng, Java aged 25 years.

WX8425  LEADBITTER Edward Jonathan.  ‘D’ Coy.  Selected in Singapore with ‘D’ Force V Battalion to work on Burma-Thai Railway.  Died cholera following a brutal and extended beating at Kuii Camp, Thailand on 10/10/1943 aged 24 years.

WX7634   OSBORNE Sydney Albert .  ‘D’ Coy, Driver.
Taken from Singapore to Borneo with ‘B’ Force.      Died malaria Sandakan, Borneo 26/6/1945 aged 31 years.

WX7617   SCADDEN Harry Wright.  HQ Coy.  Selected in Singapore with ‘A’ Force Burma Green Force No. 3 Battalion to work on  Burma end of Burma-Thai Railway.  Evacuated sick from Burma to Tamarkan Hospital Camp, Thailand where he died of malaria  22/4/1944 aged 29 years.  * (Claude Knott enlisted same day)

WX16323  TOOZE Reginald Gerald.  ‘E’ Coy.  Batman/runner.    KIA 11/2/1942 South-west Bukit Timah, Singapore aged 21 years. (Enlisted 3/9/1941) * Tooze & Tanner enlisted same day.

THOSE WHO RETURNED

WX7600  BOUSFIELD George Reginald.  ‘D’ Coy.   Sent to Burma from Java, worked on railway with Williams Force and No. 1 Mobile Force. Recovered from Nakom Nayok Camp, Thailand.

WX7616  KNOTT Claude.  ‘A’ Coy.  Driver.  Selected in Singapore with ‘A’ Force Green Force, No. 3 Battalion for  Burma to work on Burma-Thai Railway.  Selected from Non Pladuk Camp, Thailand to work in Japan.  Left with ‘Awa Maru’ Party and worked at Fukuoka sub-Camp No. 17, Omuta. Was recovered from here at end of war.  * (Harry Scadden enlisted same day).  Harry Lucas also with Green Force and same camp Japan.

WX13752  LUCAS Harry.  ‘A’ Coy.  Driver/mechanic.   Selelcted in Singapore with ‘A’ Force Burma Green Force, No. 3 Battalion to work on the Burma-Thai Railway.  From Tamarkan Camp Thailand, he was deemed fit and selected to go to Japan to work with ‘Awa Maru’  Party and worked at Fukuoka sub-Camp No. 17  Omuta, from where he was recovered at the end of the war.  Claude Knott also in Green Force and Japan.

WX17000  MATTHEWS Frederick Noel

WX13285  MAUDE Jack.  ‘A’ Coy.    From Java he was selected from Bicycle Camp Batavia with ‘A’ Force Burma, Java Party No. 4 Williams Force. Was later selected from Kanchanaburi, Thailand to work in Japan. Left with ‘Awa Maru’ Party with Harry Lucas and Claude Knott however separated at Moji and worked at Fukuoka sub-Camp No. 24 Sendyu.  Was recovered from here at end of War.

Jack Maude suffered all his life with the effects of radiation suffered from atomic bomb.

WX12336  PASCALL Reginald.   Reinforcements joined ‘A’ Coy.
From Singapore selected with ‘D’ Force S Battalion to work on Burma-Thai Railway.  From Chungkai POW Camp, Reg was selected for Japan with ‘Rashin Maru’  Party and worked Yamane, Nihama, Japan from where he was recovered at the end of the war.  Others with ‘D’ Force  S Battalion: Westlake, Pascall, Matthews, King.  The last four were also with ‘Rashin Maru’ Party to Japan.                     ‘

WX17393  PILMOOR Thomas.   Reinforcements, Battalion HQ, Selected from Singapore to work Burma, with ‘A’ Force Green Force No. 3 Battalion.  He was recovered from Bangkock, Thailand at the the end of the war.  Lucas and Knott also with  ‘A’ Force, Green Force No. 3 Battalion in Burma.

WX14836  RAMSBOTTOM Jack Kenneth.   ‘A Coy.  Selected from Singapore with ‘Wales Maru’  Party to work in Japan at Kobe.  He in fact spent most of his POW days in Japan.  From Kobe he worked at Kawasaki Camp, Maruyama Park Wakinohama from where he was recovered at the end of the war.  (After the war changed his name to Jack Kenneth Lane.)

WX16324 TANNER George Douglas. HQ Coy, selected in Singapore with ‘F’ Force V Battalion to work Burma-Thai Railway. It appears Doug spent a great deal of time at Brankassi Camp before being moved to Non Pladuk.  It was here he was deemed fit for Japan and selected with Aramis Party to work at Fukuoka sub-Camp No. 17 Omuta.  Claude Knott and Harry Lucas were at same camp at Omuta, although they sailed with ‘Awa Maru’ Party.  Doug was recovered from Omuta, Japan at end of the war.    *Tanner and Tooze enlisted same day.

WX9570  WESTLAKE Percival Leonard, ‘D’ Coy.  Selected from Singapore with ‘D’ Force Thailand S Battalion to work on Burma-Thai Railway.  Percy was recovered from Nacompaton Camp, Thailand at end of the war.

Chipperfield and Ramsbottom were in ‘A’ Company No 5 Platoon.

Claude Knott and Jack Maude were also in ‘A’ Company, however in No. 6 Platoon.  They were joined by reinforcements Harry Lucas and Reg Pascall.

 

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Believed to be taken Northam:  Eight Reinforcements who joined ‘Aquatania’ Fremantle 16 January1945.  Included were Burchell KIA,  Davies DOW,  Hurst KIA,  Lucas, Matthews, Pascall, Pilmoor and Tooze KIA.

The four young men who died February 1942 were part of ‘E’ Coy, Matthews was only Old Fairbridgian Reinforcements in ‘E’ Coy to survive Fall of Singapore.

There were two Old Fairidgians who were Taken on Strength Woodside Camp, South Australia 5 October 1941.  King (KIA Korea) and Tanner.

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John Lane (Left) and ‘Cowboy’ Matthews taken Fairbridge.

John Lane is wearing Fairbridge Farm School Tie.