Sergeant Alex Young served in the Great War
Sergeant Alex Young served in the Great War Contributed

Tweed to the Great War for decorated soldier

IN WHAT is the centenary anniversary of the assault on the Western Front, Australia poignantly remembers brave men like Murwillumbah's Alexander Jeffery Young DCM, who stormed the Western Front of France and Belgium.

Some 46,000 young Australians lost their lives and 132,000 were wounded on the unforgiving terrains of Fromelles, the Somme, Bullecourt, Messines, Passchendaele and Villers-Bretonneux following the ill-fated landing at Suvla Bay on August 6, 1915, and the subsequent evacuation in December of that year.

Among those young men who served their country with honour during the Great War were two of Mr Young's brothers; Fredrick, who was killed in action in Gallipoli, and Bernard, who made his way back to Australia in 1916 after being medically discharged.

A fourth brother, Ivor, signed up but had his enlistment cancelled as he was under-age.

While Ivor was knocked backed, Mr Young flourished. Standing over 180cm, 5'10 in the old, Mr Young's physique hadn't developed upon enlistment, but he went on to cut an impressive figure with his stature and fitness.

"He was a physical man - he was 5'10 and a half and a tall man for his time. They were all quite tall," granddaughter Angela Jackson said.

"When he first enlisted he looked like a scrawny bugger, but he ended up being a fitness instructor for the troops. He was an all-rounder in physical and bayonet training."


Elizabeth Anne Young at the Young family's Murwillumbah home in the early 1900s.
Elizabeth Anne Young at the Young family's Murwillumbah home in the early 1900s. Contributed

Mr Young served with honour and courage, going on to be awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his gallantry on September 18, 1918 in Villeret, France.

Like his brothers, the Western Front and the Turkish peninsula must have seemed a world away from home for Mr Young, where they helped cultivate the Tweed in the early 20th century population growth of the region, making their name synonymous with its foundations.

Arriving on the Tweed in 1901 after mother Elizabeth Young fled her husband, Mr Young (second youngest) and his eight siblings found their place on River St, South Murwillumbah, before playing an integral part in the blossoming community.

"They were a well known family in the Tweed District and he had a great affection for the Tweed," Mrs Jackson said.

"He did his apprenticeship with AJ Stumm as a monoline operator at Murwillumbah and he was also one time attached to the mechanical staff of the Tweed Herald."


Sergeant Alexander Young with his WW1 medals
Sergeant Alexander Young with his WW1 medals Contributed

Like Mr Young, other siblings also became active on the Tweed, with one brother owning and running a general store, on top of a bus and milk run.

An avid writer, Mr Young had articles published in local print, with selected letters and extracts published in the Daily.

"I know that when he was in Egypt and Greece he wrote a letter. I got it out of the Tweed Daily," Mrs Jackson said.

"It showed me the love of the man and his love of the Tweed. He was a man of passion for his family and background."

After returning from war, Mr Young returned to the Tweed, owning and operating seed and produce merchant store, Young Bros, in Murwillumbah from 1920-25.

Along with the love of his life, Olive, Mr Young made his way to Brisbane after the company's' ill-fated demise due to the early onset of the Great Depression.

"He actually went bankrupt but he was pretty good, he let things slide," Mrs Jackson said.

"They moved to Eumundi and had a shop up there for a while but there was a great fire, which took out all the stores."


Alex and Olive Young in their garden at Greenslopes.
Alex and Olive Young in their garden at Greenslopes. Contributed

Unfortunately, with insurance fraud prominent during the late 1920s, the pair weren't insured and were forced to start over from scratch for a second time.

"They lost everything again, it was heartbreaking but they had a lot of faith - faith in religion and faith in people - and they bounced back," Mrs Jackson said.

Relocating to Brisbane, the pair lived at Mr Young's sister's home in Kelvin Grove before finding their permanent home after enduring hard times.

"They moved back to Brisbane during the Depression, grandfather looked for work for many months," Mrs Jackson said.

"Grandfather got a job on the Brisbane City Council, and because of bankruptcy, grandmother brought a house at Greenslopes and everything was in her name."

The couple had three children; Keith, who passed away in 2007, and Raymond, 85, who lives in Wurtalla Beach, and Lorna (Mrs Jackson's mother), 81, who lives in Cleveland.

They lived in the home until Mr Young retired in 1967, even building an underground air-raid bunker during the Second World War and spending plenty of time in the yard.

"He loved gardening. He was married to a farmer's daughter so he had to love it," Mrs Jackson said.

"My father was a Church of England priest, but associated with the Naval Reserve so we travelled up and down the coast and while grandfather was alive I spent a lot of time with him."

Mrs Young tragically passed away from cancer in 1968, a year after Mr Young retired.

Mr Young had received a letter to apply for a war pension, but the loss of his soulmate meant he never had the chance to fulfill it.

"They were applying for a war pension then, but they never made the interview," Mrs Jackson said.

"Grandfather was so overwhelmed with everything to do, she was his soulmate and first and main priority."

For the last two decades, Mrs Jackson has fought hard to have her grandfather's grave emblazoned with The Anzac insignia, to honour his service to his country.


Alex Young's headstone
Alex Young's headstone Contributed

With the lack of a pension and scattered service records, Mr Young wasn't identified for his service at his final resting place at Hemmant until recently.

While never making it back to the Tweed, Mr Young and his family legacy are forever linked to the annals of the region's rich history, built on the back of families like theirs.

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