Cusack Brothers


He quickly led a party against the enemy strong post and personally bombed and silenced two guns, capturing or killing the crews. His devotion to duty and personal example to his men was of the highest order.   

 

The majority of the Cusack’s arrived in Western Australia in 1900 on the ship Paroo, having previously lived in Scone NSW. On arrival they initially took up residence in Katanning but soon moved to Fremantle where they took up residence at 185 Holland Street. (In the 1930s the street was re-numbered and the residence became, and remains, 110 Holland Street.)  

Below is a picture of one of the Cusack sisters, Mary ‘Agnes’, outside her home at 110 Holland Street.

Robert and Anne Cusack had seventeen children in all, though only 13 lived past infancy.

Their eldest son was Edward Patrick Cusack who had preceded his family to WA and he initially lived in the South West where he was employed in forestry work. He joined the police force for several years and then took up farming in Narembeen near Wandering.

Joe and Luke Cusack also joined him there though Luke would return to live in Fremantle.

Mary 'Agnes' Cusack (pictured above) had also preceded her family to WA as she arrived in 1899 and worked as a governess to a mining engineer G.R. Lovell and travelled the world with the Lovell’s. Agnes and the Lovell’s had planned to take the Titanic on its return trip and news of its sinking was thought to have caused Anne Cusack to have a heart attack when she heard the news! After her mother’s death Agnes returned home to Fremantle to take care of her family and she found employment at the Old Women’s home in Finnerty Street.

At this stage, in 1912, Robert, Matthew, Luke and Bernie were still all living at home in Holland Street. Below are the stories of the 5 Cusack boys that served in the first world war: Joseph M. Cusack; Robert J. Cusack; Matthew P. Cusack; Bernard Cusack & William L. Cusack.

 

JOSEPH CUSACK 

Joseph Cusack had been working as a shearer when he enlisted in the AIF on 16 November 1915. He was thirty years old on enlistment and the medical examiner found him fit for service and recorded his physical attributes as: 5 feet 8½ inches; 154 lbs; chest measurement of 36-39 inches; dark complexion; dark eyes; and, black hair. 

Upon his successful enlistment Joe was sent to Blackboy Hill Camp where he was initially assigned to No.36 Training Depot. On 16 December 1915 he was assigned to the 14th Reinforcements of the 12th Battalion. He spent the next few weeks training with this group but on 4 January 1916 he transferred to the 14th Reinforcements to the 16th Battalion. He spent a further month training with this group in WA but he was then transferred again to the 15th Reinforcement to the 16th Battalion.

On 1 April 1916 Joe boarded HMAT Ulysses in Fremantle and set sail for Egypt, arriving there on 26 April 1916. Joe was then transferred to the 4th Training battalion and on 5 May 1916 he joined the No.4 Company of the Imperial Camel Corps. He spent the next few months serving with this unit in the Egyptian desert until a septic foot saw him hospitalised for a few days in August 1916. He returned to his unit to see action at Romani and the retreat of the Turkish forces through the Sinai desert. In November 1916 Joe had another stay in hospital due to dysentery which was a common ailment for the troops in the desert conditions.

While recovering from his illness, Joe ran afoul of military discipline, being charged with being drunk and disorderly conduct and for also being absent without leave. As a punishment he was given eight days of Field Punishment at a Field Compound in Abbassia Egypt.

On 3 January 1917, Joe rejoined the Imperial Camel Corps and he served with his unit at the capture of Rafa in January 1917 and also the unsuccessful assault on Gaza in April 1917. Joe served with his company for the next five months through to October 1917. He then came down ill and spent a month in hospital.

He rejoined the Imperial Camel Corps on 5 November 1917 and spent the next seven months with his unit, during some of which time they were located in the Jordan Valley. He served at the operations at Es Salt in April and May 1918 but on 13 May he was sent to the ICC Field Ambulance with malaria. He was then transferred to hospital in Gaza and spent the next month being sent to various hospitals eventually making it back to Cairo in mid-June 1918. 

By the time his health had improved in July 1918 the Imperial Camel Corps was being disbanded with the Australians going on to form two new Light Horse Regiments. Joe joined the 15th Light Horse Regiment and he saw much action as the Turks were being pushed back towards Damascus. On 4 October 1918 Joe again was hospitalised with ill health and he was diagnosed with debility. He saw no more action as the Turks soon surrendered.

On 15 March 1919 Joe boarded HMAT Euripides and set sail for home. After arriving in Fremantle over three weeks later he was admitted to hospital in Fremantle due to his malaria but he was soon released and he was officially discharged from the AIF on 10 August 1919. 

Unfortunately his health would be affected over the coming years due to his war service. He married in 1921 and in 1930 he returned to Holland Street, Fremantle, where he lived until his death in 1956. 


ROBERT CUSACK

Robert had been working as a shearer and labourer when he enlisted into the AIF in Geraldton on 13 August 1915. He was passed as fit by the medical examiner who recorded his physical attributes as:  5 feet 11 inches; 145lbs; chest measurement of 33-37 inches, dark complexion, brown eyes and black hair. He was sent to Blackboy Hill Camp where he was initially assigned to No.23 Training Depot.

On 16 October 1915 Bob was transferred into the 6th Reinforcements to the 28th Battalion. This group embarked from Fremantle aboard HMAT Ulysses on 2 November 1915.The transport ship reached Egypt at the end of the month and Bob was transferred into the 7th Training Battalion. He spent the next few months at this training base and on 3 March 1916 he was transferred into the newly created unit, the 51st Battalion.

The 51st Battalion trained in the Egyptian desert until June 1916 when they embarked for France. They had their first taste of Western Front trench life near Fleurbaix and in early August they took part in the Battle of the Somme. On 16 August Bob was slightly wounded by shrapnel and was sent to the Field Ambulance for treatment but he managed to rejoin his unit three days later. 

On 3 September 1916 the 51st Battalion were tasked with the capture of Mouquet Farm. After initial success, the Germans rallied and inflicted heavy casualties on the Australians. Bob was severely wounded this time with bullets piercing him through the legs and abdomen. After initial treatment in France, Bob was shipped to England where he was admitted to the 3rd London General Hospital in Wandsworth. The wound to his abdomen was severe and had done much internal damage. He spent a month in hospital in England and was marked for a return to Australia once he was well enough to travel.

On 16 October 1916 Bob was stretchered aboard HMAT Karoola and the ship set sail from Southampton to Fremantle. On arrival in Fremantle on 25 November 1916 Bob was admitted to No.8 Australian General Hospital in South Terrace for further medical treatment. Robert Cusack was discharged from the AIF on 12 March 1917. Due to his severe injuries he was granted a military pension of 15/- per fortnight. 

In 1919 Bob married Catherine O’Connor and they set up residence in Allen Street, East Fremantle. Robert died on 20 September 1937. 

 

MATTHEW CUSACK 

Matthew Cusack was working as a milkman when he enlisted into the AIF on 26 June 1915. He was 21 years old when he enlisted and was passed as fully fir for service. The medical examiner recorded his details as: 5 feet 7 inches; 136lbs; chest measurement of 35-37 inches; dark complexion, brown eyes and dark hair. This image of Matt Cusack was taken in Weymouth, England, around 30 October 1917.  Matt enlisted with his friend Bert Ellement of Fremantle. Among Matt’s photo collection was the following photo of his friend Bert: 

 

Upon his successful enlistment Matt was sent to Blackboy Hill Camp where he was assigned to the 3rd Reinforcements to the 28th battalion. Pictured below in camp at Blackboy Hill is Bill Sheldrake, Bert Ellement and Matt Cusack (all front row). This photo was taken on 21 July 1915.

His group left Fremantle on the 2nd September 1915 aboard the HMAT Anchises and just over three weeks later they had arrived in Egypt. He didn’t have long here as he was soon sent to Gallipoli where he was taken on strength of the 28th Battalion. It appears that Matt didn’t spend much time at Gallipoli as he returned to Mudros in late November 1915 and was attached for duty to the advanced base details camp.

The Australians were evacuated from Anzac in late December and Matt rejoined the 28th Battalion. The 28th Battalion then returned to Egypt and spent the next two months on training and holding positions in the Suez Canal defence line. On 16 March 1916 the 28th Battalion, as part of the 2nd Australian Division, embarked for France, arriving at Marseilles on 21 March 1916. They were then entrained north and had their first experience of the Western Front at Armentieres.

On 11 April Matt was evacuated to the 7th Field Ambulance with mumps and subsequently spent several weeks in hospital. He rejoined the 28th Battalion on 7 July 1916. The 28th Battalion were soon to be in action on the Somme front and on 29 July 1916 they were tasked with capturing a section of German line near Pozieres. Unfortunately the Germans were waiting and unleashed a murderous machine gun barrage which ripped into the ranks of advancing Western Australians. Matt was hit by a bullet through the right leg but managed to make his way back for medical attention. Stretcher bearers then took him to the Field Ambulance.

Matt was initially sent to hospital in Boulogne but on 31 July he was shipped to England where he was admitted to the 3rd Northern General Hospital in Sheffield. Fortunately it was a clean wound and Matt recovered quickly. On 19 August he was sent to the 7th Training Battalion on the Salisbury Plains. Matt remained at the training camp for several weeks and returned to France on 14 October 1916. He spent a further two weeks at the 2nd Australian Division Base Dept at Etaples, eventually rejoining the 28th Battalion on 30 October.

Matt served through the freezing French winter of 1916/17 on the Somme battlefield during which time he was promoted to Lance Corporal and then to Corporal. He served through various actions at Flers and Lagnicourt and on 1 May 1917 he was sent to the 7th Training Battalion in England to serve as an instructor for the next six months. It seems that during his period of training in England he specialised in teaching bombing instruction.

On 2 October 1917 Matt returned to France and was taken back on strength of the 28th Battalion. His unit was then in the midst of the Third Battle of Ypres. He was promoted to the rank of Temporary Sergeant on 15 October but Matt only lasted another fortnight as on 30 October he was again wounded when a shell exploded close by, shrapnel hitting him in the hand, arm and legs. Matt was evacuated to the 2nd Australian Casualty Clearing Station where initial treatment was given. He was then transferred to the 1st Australian General Hospital at Rouen. He spent over two weeks here and on 18 November 1917 he was shipped to England for further treatment.

Matt was initially sent to King George’s Hospital at Stanford but was then transferred to the 3rd Australian Auxiliary Hospital in Dartford England and it was found that the wound to his hand was causing limited movement. This meant that he would be unfit for further service. On 22 January 1918 Matt was transferred to No.2 Command Depot Camp at Weymouth to await a berth on a hospital ship to Australia. Matt had to wait until 10 April 1918 when he boarded HMAT Borda, disembarking in Fremantle on 22 May 1918.

Matt would receive further treatment at No.8 Australian General Hospital in Fremantle and he was discharged from the AIF on 25 September 1918. Below is a photo of Matt after returning from war in 1918.

After returning from the war Matt opened up a workshop from the family home in Holland Street, specialising in cabinet making and furniture works. He was also a keen sailor and also worked on repairing yachts.

In 1928 he married Myra Agnes Lee in Fremantle.

 

In World War Two Matt Cusack served again, mainly at Western Command at Karrakatta Camp. After being discharged in 1945 Matt opened up a business called Claremont Joinery works, located on Stirling Highway. 

 

BERNARD CUSACK

Bernard enlisted into the AIF on 2 August 1915. He was a cabinet maker by trade and had spent five years in an apprenticeship. Bernie also had previous military experience, being a member of the 86A Cadets based in Fremantle.

He was given a medical examination and was found to be physically fit. The doctor recorded Bernie's attributes as: 5 feet 8 inches; 129lbs; chest measurement of 32 – 35 inches; dark complexion, brown eyes and black hair. Bernie also put his age up to 21 when he was in fact only 18.

Upon his successful enlistment Bernie was sent to Blackboy Hill camp where he was initially assigned to No.21 Depot Company. On 23 August 1915 he was transferred to the 1st Depot Battalion though he only spent four days with this group before he was transferred into the 11th Reinforcements to the 16th Battalion. Bernie trained with this group in WA for the next two months and towards the end of October their embarkation orders arrived.

The group entrained from Bellevue to Fremantle where they boarded HMAT Benalla on 1 November 1915.The sea journey to Egypt took just over three weeks and Bernard arrived there towards the end of the month. He would have been expecting to be sent on to Gallipoli though by the time he arrived in Egypt, the decision had been made to evacuate the peninsula so Bernie’s reinforcement group were retrained in Egypt. Bernard spent the next few months as a member of the 4th Training Battalion. On 7 March 1916 he was transferred into the 16th Battalion at Tel-el-Kebir camp.

The 16th Battalion remained in Egypt until early June 1916 when they boarded a troopship and sailed for France. After arriving at Marseilles the soldiers were entrained north. They soon had their first experiences of front line conditions near Armentieres but after a short period they were transferred to the Somme front. Bernard and the 16th Battalion went into action near Pozieres in early August 1916. On 10 August Bernie was wounded during an attack by a bayonet through the ankle. After treatment at a Field Ambulance, Bernie was was sent to the 12th General Hospital at Rouen. He spent the next nine days there and on 20 August 1916 he was transferred to hospital in England. Upon arrival in England Bernard was sent to Graylinwell war hospital in Chichester. Bernie spent the next few weeks there and on 13 September he was released, fully fit and was transferred to the 4th Training Battalion.

On 22 September Bernie returned to France and was marched into the 4th Australian Division Base Depot. He spent another few weeks here, eventually returning to the 16th Battalion on 16 October 1916. The Australians were to spend the next few months in the Somme sector undergoing the coldest French winter in decades. Many men were evacuated sick during this period and on 5 January 1917 Bernie fell ill and was sent to the 4th Field Ambulance at Allonville where he was diagnosed with mumps. He was then transferred to the 25th Stationary Hospital and remained here for the next few weeks. On 28 January he was transferred to the Base Depot Camp, eventually re-joining the 16th Battalion on 17 February 1917.

Over the next several months Bernie fought in several engagements, most notably at Bullecourt in April 1917 when the 16th Battalion suffered severe casualties in breaching the Hindenburg Line and at Messines Belgium in June 1917. On 24 July 1917 Bernie was appointed Lance Corporal and on 27 August to Corporal. Bernie served at the Third Battle of Ypres in September 1917 but on 1 October 1917 he was given a break from front line service when he was transferred to England for a period of duty with the 4th Training battalion. Over the next eight months Bernie served in various training camps on the Salisbury Plains.

On 1 June 1918 Bernie returned to France and re-joined the 16th Battalion on 12 June 1918. He served with his unit at the successful battle at Hamel on 4 July 1918 and on 8 August he took part in the successful advance referred to as the Battle of Amiens. From 8 August to September 18 the 16th Battalion were hardly out of the line, as the Germans were continually pushed back. During the successful action in the 16th Battalion’s last fight of the war on 18 September, Bernie was recommended for a gallantry award due to his bravery. The recommendation reads: "Is brought to notice for his outstanding gallantry on 17 September 1918, in an attack on Le Verguier, near St Quentin. During the advance he encountered and sustained casualties from an enemy machine gun. He quickly led a party against the enemy strong post and personally bombed and silenced two guns, capturing or killing the crews. His devotion to duty and personal example to his men was of the highest order.”

This award of the Military Medal was announced on 30 October 1918 and was published in the London Gazette on 17 June 1919.

After the 16th Battalion was relieved from the front on 20 September 1918, they were sent for a rest near the French coast. They were about to return to the front when the Armistice was declared on 11 November 1918. Four days later Bernie was promoted to Sergeant. After the Armistice the Australians were sent to what had been German occupied Belgium where they spent Christmas 1918 and saw in the New Year of 1919. On 30 January 1919 Bernie was returned to England where he waited for a berth on a transport ship home. On 7 April 1919 he was given a berth on a ship and sailed back to WA and just under two months later he arrived home.

Bernie was given a medical examination at No.8 AGH in South Terrace Fremantle and he was discharged from the AIF on 6 July 1919.

On 18 January 1921 he married Lou Clarke at St John’s Church in Fremantle and a daughter Joy was born in 1922.

Bernie Cusack later opened his own cabinet making business in Mt Hawthorn. He died in 1969 and is buried at Karrakatta Cemetery.

 

WILLIAM 'LUKE' CUSACK

William 'Luke' Cusack enlisted in the AIF in Kalgoorlie on 19 August 1915. Luke had been working as a plumber in Kalgoorlie though after enlisting he was sent to Blackboy Hill Camp and was allotted to No.26 Training Depot. After six weeks in camp Luke was transferred into the 12th Reinforcement group for the 12th Battalion. However as his brother Robert was in the 6th Reinforcements to the 28th Battalion at Blackboy Hill Camp, Luke managed to get a transfer to this reinforcement group.

Both Robert and Luke embarked from Fremantle aboard HMAT Ulysses on 2 November 1915 and on arrival in Egypt they were transferred to the 7th Training Battalion. On 9 December Luke was sent to hospital with bronchitis and had a few weeks in hospital, returning to the training battalion on 6 January 1916.

Both Robert and Luke transferred to the 51st Battalion on 3 March 1916 and after a few more months of training they eventually embarked for France, arriving at Marseilles on 12 June 1916. While Robert was badly wounded in the Somme action, Luke’s fortune held and he came through the actions of Mouquet Farm unscathed.

Luke saw constant front line service from July 1916 to February 1917. The cold conditions saw many men evacuated with respiratory illnesses or a horrible condition called trench feet. The cold conditions did cause Luke some foot trouble and he was evacuated for four days in February to get them treated but he soon rejoined his unit.

On 11 May 1917 Luke was transferred from the 51st Battalion for duty with 4th Division Headquarters. He spent the remainder of the war with 4th Division HQ except for two periods of leave. He had a fortnight’s leave to England in February 1918 and also a fortnight in Paris in November/December 1918.

With the war now over Luke returned to England on 30 January 1919 and on 21 February 1919 he set sail for home on HMAT Anchises. Luke arrived home in Fremantle on 7 April 1919 and was discharged from the AIF on 3 June 1919.

After the war Luke worked in the mining industry and also found employment with the WA Government Railways. He moved back to Fremantle in 1950 and died in 1971. 

 

Many thanks to Pam Caddy, daughter of Matt Cusack, for providing much of this information and these images. Thanks, too, to Andrew Pittaway for compiling the stories. 


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The City of Fremantle will be participating in, supporting, and hosting a number of events over the commemorative period. The people of Fremantle (including the greater Fremantle area) are proud to be part of the ANZAC Centenary commemorations and to have the opportunity to honour and pay respect to those who have and are serving our nation as part of the Armed Forces. ANZAC Centenary events will embrace the themes: 'Commemorate, Contemplate and Educate'.
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