William Charles Cheeseman (1883-1951)

(last updated: 10 April 2017)

William Charles Cheeseman (shown in the photo on the left, which was taken in Melbourne before William left for France in 1916) was the eighth child of Alfred John and Jane Elizabeth Cheeseman (nee Wright). He was born in Carngham in Victoria in 1883 and married Jane ('Jinny') Anderson (1885-1969) at the nearby township of Beaufort in 1906. Their wedding certificate shows they were married at the residence of William's brother-in-law Edward Haggis. William was then a 22 year-old batchelor labourer who was born at Carngham. Jane was a 21 year-old spinster and domestic servant who was born at Burrumbeet in Western Victoria. Her parents were said to be John Anderson, a farmer, and Elizabeth Mary Wright (I suspect her surname, which is the same as William's mother's maiden name, is a transcription error). The wedding was witnessed by two of William's older siblings: Alfred William Cheeseman and Sarah Jane Haggis. There remains some uncertainty over Jane's mother's maiden name. As we have seen her wedding certificate says it was Wright while her death certificate, described below, says it was Tapp. Although we have not been able to corroborate it we think her actual name was Elizabeth Mary Sandlant (or Sandlent) who married Scottish-born John Anderson (1838-1916) in Victoria in 1868 and had 10 children in addition to Jane, all of whom were also born at Burrumbeet: Sarah (1870-1934), John (1871-1948), George Henry (1873-89), William (1877-1947), George (1879-98), Fanny Maud (1881-1971), Alexander (1883-83), Walter (1884-1943) and Alexander Anderson (1891-1964).

After their marriage William and Jinny lived at Beaufort where William worked as a farrier and the couple had their three children: Olive Jane (born at Beaufort in 1906), Ivan William (Beaufort, 1908) and Dulcie Beryl (Mount Cole, 1910). The children are shown with their parents in the photo on the right which was taken not long after William enlisted for service in the First AIF on 17 March 1916.

William's enlistment papers indicate that he was then 33 years old and had served for more than four years in the local militia (the Victorian Rangers). He was allocated to the reinforcements for the 39th Battalion and embarked from Melbourne on the HMATS ACCANIUS on 27 May 1916. He disembarked at Plymouth in England on the 18 July and trained with the 39th Battalion in England before being posted to the 10th Australian Light Trench Mortar Battery which would serve with the 40th Battalion in France. William and his unit proceeded to France on 22 November 1916. While there he rose to the rank of Lieutenant and eventually commanded the trench mortar battery. On 11 January 1918 he was awarded the Meritorius Service Medal (MSM) for 'valuable services rendered to the the armies in the field'. A report in the Riponlea Advocate on 29 June 1918 told its readers that in writing 'of Lieut. Wm. Cheeseman of Beaufort, a brother officer (Lieut. G. A. Sidler) states that a more devoted man to his job' a better soldier, a truer pal, and above all, a man, he did not wish to see. He won his stripes and commission by ability, and had built for himself a friendship with the lads and with the officers that anyone should be proud of. [The author continued that he] had known and been associated with Lieut. Cheeseman ever since he joined the 39th Battalion at Ballarat'. Curiously we could find no soldier by the name of G. A. Sidler in the records of either the War Memorial or the Australian National Archives.

During this time in France William's younger brother, Sergeant Ralph Cheeseman, served with the 57th Battalion and was wounded three times. One of their cousins, Walter Chibnall, who also served in the 10th Light Trench Mortar Battery, was killed in action at Passchendaele on 17 October 1917. A nephew of William's, his older sister's son Stan Haggis, also joined the unit in 1918 and served as William's batman (see the photo below). William was fortunate enough not to be wounded. Unlike many of his colleagues he also remained in England for a good time after the war ended in November 1918, spending three months on paid leave in Devon where he helped out on the farm of his brother Ralph's father-in-law, Thomas Palmer of Newington. William was eventually recalled from leave and sailed for Australia on the SS NORMAN on 4 July 1919. He disembarked at Melbourne and was discharged from the Army on 2 October 1919. His great adventure was finally over.

Click here to see more photos of William's war service.

10 Australian light trench mortar battery

10 Australian Light Trench Mortar Battery taken in France sometime between 1 March 1918
(when William was promoted to Lieutenant and assumed command of the unit), and the end of the First World War.
William is seated in the centre of the second row. Directly behind him to his right is his nephew, Stan Haggis,
who served as his batman.

After his discharge from the Army, William farmed a block of land, acquired under the soldier settlement scheme, in the district of Trawalla near Beaufort. According to Hugh Anderson's The Flowers of the Field: A History of the Ripon Shire, William 'was growing oats and running sheep on 303 acres. Sixty acres were swamp, but 180 acres had been cultivated'. Anderson added that like many other men in the district, William found making a living from the small farm difficult: 'Cheeseman's complaint [in evidence to the Royal Commission into the Soldier Settlement Scheme] was insufficient land to work. During his first year (1922) he had made 800 from hay and wheat and his worst year was 1924 when he cleared only 400. 200 pounds had been repaid to the Closer Settlement Board in that time, leaving little money with which to make improvements and support a family of four' (pp. 157-8).

During this time, the family maintained a house in Beaufort at which William's brother, Alfred Cheeseman and his wife Alice Maud and their family, would occasionally spend the weekend, going to whatever entertainment that was on in the town. According to Alice's eldest daughter Winnie Stafford (nee Cheeseman), her parents 'loved these weekends, there was always so much fun at Bill and Jinny's, they had three children, just a small house, but Auntie Jinny could make a comfortable bed on the floor and she was a wonderful cook'.

In 1940 William was the 2IC of a home defence unit established by the Ripon sub-branch of the RSL. By the time of the 1942 election, William and Jane had moved from Beaufort to 1104/6 Armstrong Street in Ballarat where William was working as a railway employee. They were still there in 1949. William died at Ballarat two years later. Jinny died of bronchopneumonia at Ballarat on 4 September 1969. Her death certificate, which was informed by her eldest daughter, Olive Rodgers, states she was 84 years old, was then residing at 102 Ascot Street South in Ballarat and had three children, all still living. The Ballarat Cemetery records show that William and Jinny are buried together in the Ballarat New Cemetery (section 01, grave 04). What of their three children?

1) Olive Jane Cheeseman (1906-82) married Lionel Symons (1898-1951) at Surrey Hills in Melbourne on 6 June 1926. According to the Whelan Family Tree tree on Ancestry, Lionel was born at Creswick in Victoria in 1898, the son of William Langdon Symons (1869-1919) and Alice Maude Mitchell (1873-1909) who were married at Creswick on 13 June 1895. The 1937 electoral roll shows Olive Jane and Lionel Symons, labourer, living at 'Nerring via Beaufort', in Victoria. They were registered at 61 Morres Street in Ballarat in 1949 together with a Donald Symons, presser. The 1954 roll has them at 117 Barkly Street in Ballarat together with a Leonard Francis Symons, labourer, and Sylvia Ruth Symons. Lionel died at Ballarat two years later and Olive re-married (to an Ernest Rodgers with whom she had no children). She died at Ballarat in 1982. We believe she and Lionel had at least seven children: Dulcie May Symons (c1925-1928), Joy Symons and five boys (see the photo below).

olive cheeseman and sons

Supplied to us by Karen Simmons, this photo shows Olive Rodgers formerly Symons
nee Cheeseman and her five sons at the wedding of her daughter Joy.
The sons are, from L/R, Leonard, David, John, Doug and Don Symons.

2) Ivan William Cheeseman (1908-77) married Winifred Mary O'Laughlan (1909-79) in around 1931 probably in Beaufort although that has still to be confirmed. The Australian electoral rolls show that after their marriage they lived first at nearing near Beaufort where Ivan worked as a farm labourer. After he joined the Victorian railways they lived at Litchfield in the Wimmera, Dunnstown near Ballarat and, during the 1950s and 1960s at Beaconsfield outside Dandenong where we would visit them on occasion. In around 1970 they moved back to Beaufort where Ivan died in 1977 and winifred two years later. They are buried together at the Beaufort cemetery. Information provided by Jenny Tapungao tells us they had two daughters, Shirley and Lynette Cheeseman both of whom married and have two children.

3) Dulcie Beryl Cheeseman (1910-2003) who married Theodore William Allender (1905-71), the son of William John Allender (1875-1954) and Caroline Jane Thomas (1877-1910), in Victoria in 1931. According to Jenny Tapungao they had four children:1) William Theodore Allender who married Valerie Houston and has three children; 2) Geoffrey Allender (1936-70) who married Dawn Williams and had two sons; 3) Margaret Joyce Allender; and 4) Brian Maxwell Allender who married Joan pedlar and has five children.

Image Sources:
Cpl William Charles Cheeseman and William and Jinny and family, private collection.
10th Australian Light Trench Mortar Battery in France 1918, courtesy of Christina ('Teen') Bainbridge nee Cheeseman.
Olive Symons nee Cheeseman and sons, courtesy of Karen Simmons.

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