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Frederick Charles HARLEY

Rank Reg/Ser No DOB Enlisted Discharge/Death Board
Gunner 1534 25y 29 Jul 1915 26 Sep 1919 5

Gunner Frederick Charles Harley (1890 – 1968)


Family background and early life

Fred Harley was born in Brisbane on 5 June 1890, the only son of Charles Henry Harley and Eliza Ellen née Fox.  Fred had four sisters and the family lived at Shafston Road, Kangaroo Point before moving in about 1915 to Kennedy Terrace, Paddington. 

Fred’s father, Mr C. H. Harley was a master printer and prominent in Masonic circles.  It was largely through his initiative that the United Grand Lodge of Queensland was inaugurated in 1921.  When he died in 1930, it was said, “His genius for organisation, his unfailing tact, and his most driving and guiding power were invaluable.  His interest never waned, and to the end he was ever keen in all the affairs of the Masonic movement, and earnestly studious of the welfare of his brethren.”1

Standing just a few metres along the footpath from Saint Andrew’s Uniting Church, the Ann Street Masonic Memorial Temple is still the home of Queensland Freemasonry, although the name has recently been changed to Masonic Memorial Centre.  Mr Harley also served in the life and work of the Wharf Street Congregational Church where he was appointed a deacon in 1915 and remained in that office till his death in 1930.

Enlistment and service

Fred had worked as a draper before the Great War of 1914 – 1918.  At the age of 25, he enlisted in Brisbane on 20 July 1915 to serve overseas in the Australian Imperial Force.  He was given regimental number 1534 and assigned to reinforcements for the 2nd Light Horse Regiment.  His unit embarked from Sydney on board HMAT2 Suffolk on 30 November 1915 and arrived in Heliopolis on 1 March 1916.  At Serapeum in Egypt on 16 April he was transferred to the 4th Division Artillery Brigade.

Field Artillery Brigades were formed to support infantry brigades.  On arrival in France, each FAB was equipped with 12 x 18 pounders and 4 x 4.5 inch howitzers.  There was initially a lack of howitzers available to meet the establishment.  In WW 1 on the Western Front, artillery dominated and defined the battlefield.  Along with the weather, it turned the terrain into a pulverised devastated quagmire that caused discomfort, disease and death.

Served on the Western Front

On 7th June Gunner Harley sailed with the 11th FAB from Alexandria to Marseilles and travelled by train to the Western Front where it participated in battles at Bullecourt, Messines, Menin Road, Polygon Wood, Passchendaele, Villers Bretonneux, Hamel, Amiens, Albert and the Hindenburg Line. Gunner Harley of the 41st Battery was not involved in all of these; he was ill in hospital at Havre for a lengthy period in the second half of 1917 and he was wounded in action in April 1918 when he suffered gunshot wounds to the back and right arm.  He rejoined his unit in the field in June 1918 but again needed hospital treatment in Rouen and Havre before and after the Armistice on 11 November 1918.  Gunner Fred Harley remained in France till mid-March 1919 when he crossed the Channel to Weymouth but again required treatment in hospital at Hurdcott before return to Australia per HMAT Swakopmund.  On the voyage in July 1919 he was again admitted to the ship’s hospital with jaundice for four days.  After disembarking in Australia on 2 August 1919, Fred Harley’s war service came to an end. It was marked by extreme danger under fire on the battlefields of the Western Front and periods of hospitalisation for treatment of wounds and illnesses. 

Civilian life back in Australia

Assisted and encouraged by the care of his family and the comfort of home at Kennedy Terrace in Paddington, Fred Harley was able to settle to civilian life again.  Over the next ten years he resumed his occupation as a draper.  His father died on 29 September 1930 when Fred had reached the age of 40. 

Marriage and later life

A new chapter in the life of Frederick Charles Harley began on 1 November 1930 when he married Ada Joyance, the youngest daughter of Mr and Mrs W. R. Waugh of Third Avenue, Wilston.  The marriage was conducted in St Barnabas Church, Ashgrove by Canon David Garland, the Anglican World War 1 chaplain who with Rev Dr Ernest Merrington of Saint Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, made a significant contribution to the future commemoration of Anzac Day.  Fred and Ada Harley turned to fruit growing on a property at Diddillibah in the Nambour district. They lived there till about 1955 when they moved to Maroochydore and later Woombye.


 Fred Harley died on 4 March 1968, aged 77 years.  His remains were placed in the Nambour Lawn Cemetery. His widow, Ada, died in Nambour in 1994.

1. The Queenslander, 2 October 1930, page 54
2. His Majesty’s Australian Transport

• Australian War Memorial, unit histories and World War 1 Embarkation Rolls
• National Archives of Australia, military records
• Queensland Register of Births, Deaths, Marriages
Queenslander, 2 October 1930, page 54
Queensland Figaro, 13 December 1930, page 14
• Australian Electoral Rolls, 1913 – 1963
• Archives, Saint Andrew’s Uniting Church, Year Books, Wharf Street Congregational Church
• State Library of Queensland - digitised images as noted

Written by Noel E. Adsett, Brisbane, 2016 ©



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