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Charles King UNWIN

Rank Reg/Ser No DOB Enlisted Discharge/Death Board
Lieut 38y3m 27 Nov 1915 25 Jun 1918 3

Lieutenant Charles King Unwin (1877 – 1958)


Family background 

Charles King Unwin was born at Mount Gambier, South Australia on 26 August 1877, son of William Unwin (1850 – 1884), a cabinet maker, and Catherine née Hickman (1853 - 1896).  Charles was only six years old when his father died of congestion of the lungs at Mount Gambier and his mother’s early death in Adelaide occurred when he was 19.

Move to Brisbane

Leaving South Australia soon afterwards, Charles Unwin moved to Brisbane where he was employed by the Brisbane Tramways Company. Brisbane newspapers in November 1898 reported on the theft of Charles Unwin’s stylish Chesterfield coat from his boarding house in Petrie Terrace.

Active service in South Africa

Charles Unwin served a year in active service in South Africa as part of the 3rd contingent of the Queensland Defence Force.  He was promoted to the rank of corporal but suffered an accidental gunshot wound at Mafeking and was invalided in Kimberley.  He returned to Australia on board the transport ship Sophocles arriving in Brisbane on 12 December 1900 and attended a public welcome home with other returning soldiers the following evening.

Return home

Mr F. Ranson of Gregory Terrace, secretary of the United Pastoralists’ Association of Queensland and a member of Wickham Terrace Presbyterian Church helped Charles Unwin find suitable accommodation.  Charles lived at Armagh Lodge while working as a tramway superintendent.

On New Year’s Day, 1902, Charles Unwin married Agnes Bell Sawers in the Wickham Terrace Presbyterian Church.  The Sawers family were also members there.  The minister Rev W Sweyn Macqueen officiated.  The names of Agnes Sawers’ two younger brothers are also on an honour board in the Merrington Anzac Memorial Peace Chapel.1

Charles and Agnes Unwin had two sons.  The first died in infancy and the second became a motor mechanic and truck driver and died in 2002 at the age of 97 years.

In 1913 Charles and Agnes and their son Jack moved to Wilson Street, Paddington and Charles’s occupation changed to lineman. He maintained his military connection through the Citizen Defence Forces serving with Queensland Rifles for three years.

Enlistment and service

On 27 November 1915, at the age of 38 years and 5 months, Charles Unwin enlisted to serve overseas in the AIF.  Though he was considered fit for active service, he did not leave the country till 14 June 1917 when he embarked from Sydney on board HMAT Hororata.  By then he had received his commission as second lieutenant and was attached to reinforcements for the 31st Battalion. Disembarking at Liverpool England on 26 August 1917, his unit entered the 8th Training Battalion at Hurdcott.

He proceeded overseas to France in mid-December 1917 but he spent considerable time in hospitals in Wimereux and London early in 1918.

He was promoted to the rank of lieutenant on 1 March 1918.  Unfortunately however, Lieutenant C. K. Unwin “was returned to Australia on account of rheumatism and age”.2   He disembarked at Melbourne on 22 May 1918 and returned to his home in Wilson Street, Paddington where he worked again as a line foreman.

Post war

In the 1940's and 1950's Charles and Agnes Unwin’s address is recorded as 57 Plunkett Street, Paddington and his occupation as public servant.  Charles died at the age of 80 on 22 June 1958 as the result of a heart complaint.  Mrs Agnes Unwin, his widow for another 21 years, died at the age of 99.

1. See Stories from the Honour Boards, Sawers Brothers: Alexander Stuart and Stuart Houston.
2. Letter dated 14 June 1918, Officer-in-charge, Base Records to Hilda Westell, Darlinghurst, NSW

Select Bibliography
• National Archives of Australia, military records, Queensland Defence Force and World War 1
• Australian War Memorial, First World War Embarkation Rolls
• Ancestry, on-line
• Australian Electoral Rolls, 1903 – 1958
• Queensland Register of Births, Deaths and Marriages
The Narracoorte Herald, 4 July 1884, page 3
The Telegraph, 16 Nov 1898, page 2
Brisbane Courier, 16 Nov 1898;  13 March 1903
• Annual Report 1912, Saint Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, page 15

Compiled by Noel E. Adsett, Brisbane.  January 2017 ©



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