Arthur Blake

The Blake Family

Arthur 1907


Arthur Browning Blake was born on 21 April 1875 at Islington, London. His parents, James and Helen, nee Wheeler, both died young and Arthur enlisted in the Army and was soon serving in India, Arabia and Baluchistan. He also took part in the Tirah Expedition on the Nor-West frontier in 1897-8.


After his service overseas, Arthur now 34, married 26 years old Kate Small, on 27 February 1910. The ceremony was performed by Assistant Curate Edward Kock at the Parish Church of St John at Hampstead, County London. The Banns for their marriage had been read on Sunday 6, 13 and 20 of February. Arthur's father, James Mayal Blake was listed as manager of a wholesale Stationery business while Kate's father, William Henry Small was a gardener.

Kate 1920s

Before long they were on the move once again, this time to South Australia where Arthur started teaching at the Sturt Street School in Adelaide. On 1 January 1914 he was appointed Provisional Teacher at Johnburgh in the Flinders Ranges. His salary was to be £132 per annum. When the school was inspected during his first year there the Inspector recorded the following observations about Arthur. 'Interested, Teaching and management good, Fine personality, Eager, willing and attentive to detail. Efficiency mark 66.2%'. During the 1915 inspection he made similar comments but increased the efficiency mark to 69.5%

With the outbreak of WWI, Arthur, who now was about 40 years old enlisted in the AIF as a Private. After his training and promotion to Corporal his Unit left Adelaide on the Miltiades on 7 February 1916 and he was soon serving at the Western Front in France. He was wounded several times, luckily never seriously. While at the front he kept in contact with his students at Johnburgh. In a letter to his daughter Irene, he wrote that all the 'schoolkiddies each wrote me a letter. On Australia Day 1916 they had a picnic up at Hombsch's Creek but it rained all day. Was not that a pity? All the children are knitting for the soldiers now and Archie Smith is knitting a face washer. Fancy that'. In another letter he expressed the hope that Irene would 'help Mummy to water the flowers'.


Arthur 1916

Without giving away any military or other information he was able to get his letters through the censors. In the same letter he explained that they were still doing their work, 'sometimes we work nearly all night and go to sleep just as the sun is coming up in the morning'. Arthur also asked his daughter if she liked playing about in the mud. If you do, he wrote, 'this would be just the place for you because we have any amount of it here'.

In another reference to conditions at the front he wrote, 'When the sun goes down and it is quite dark, horses and carts come up to our work place with stuff to do our work with. These carts and wagons come up in the dark because we are trying to do something better than some other people and so we do not want the other people to see how we are doing it'. More tellingly was the next paragraph. 'Sometimes at night the air gets full of nasty smelling smoke so we put big hats on our heads which cover up our nose and mouth like a sack. This keeps the smoke out.

In a letter written in September 1916 he explained the reason for not writing sooner. 'I started to write to you last night and when I was in the middle of it I rushed out to look at one of our flying machines that was shooting at the Germans when I fell over in the mud and that was the end of your letter'.

Irene 1930s

After the war Arthur Blake, now Sergeant Blake, was employed in the War Office in England before returning to Australia in October 1919. He arrived in Adelaide a few months later, welcomed by his wife and daughter Irene. His home coming though was not a real happy one, nor a success. After only ten days he told his wife that he had to go to the country...but never returned. He was officially discharged from the Army on 26 February 1920 and on the very same day dismissed from the Education Department.

The main reason for his, and the small family’s problems seem to have been that while in England Arthur had become involved with another woman, Florence May Hope, and eventually divorced his wife Kate. She continued to live with her daughter in Adelaide.

After the arrival of Florence in Adelaide, Arthur, who was now 46, married Florence May Hope, aged 35, on 2 May 1922 at the Registry Office in Adelaide. Florence's father was Andrew Stewart Hope. The newly married couple moved to Glossup in the Riverland where he became an orchardist on a Returned Serviceman's block. However, like so many returned soldiers, and even experienced farmers, he found it hard to make a success of it.

Arthur & Florence 1930s

After ten years battling the odds he sold his block and moved to Bower near Eudunda. Here he bought and ran the general store until the end of 1943. Although divorced, Arthur remained a loving father and kept in contact with his daughter Irene who spent a few of her holidays at the shop. Arthur was an active member of the Eudunda RSL and a regular contributor to the local newspaper. He died on 11 March 1944 at Eudunda and was buried at the AIF section of the West Terrace Cemetery in Adelaide. After his death Florence sold the shop and moved to Adelaide. It burned down in the 1960s.

Meanwhile Kate and daughter Irene remained in Adelaide In 1922 Irene did her First Communion at St George Church in Goodwood. She attended Adelaide High School until 1924 where she did well but had to leave to support her mother. Some ten years after her divorce from Arthur, Kate remarried. She married 70 year old William Grimwood on 17 November 1931. They had a good ten years together before Grimwood died on 13 February 1941, aged 80. He was buried at Kangarilla.

After leaving school Irene worked for 17 years at Allan's Music Store. When she left she held the position of Manager of their Booking Office. During WWII she, like her father, wanted to contribute to the war effort and worked at the Allied Works Council at Salisbury as a munitions’ worker. From there she moved to Alice Springs where she met, and later married, Air Force man William Walder.

They eventually moved to Sydney where their son Chris was born in 1950. At about this time her mother Kate also moved from Adelaide to Sydney to be with her daughter. Kate died in 1953 and Irene died in 1980.

Photographs kindly supplied by Chris Walder


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