Finding Family

One woman's obsession with family history.

During World War I many families and friends stood at the ports and waved goodbye to the young men in their lives, praying that they would be safe.  In some instances, these farewells were the last time they ever saw them again.  I can only imagine the great worry that was felt by those who were left behind.  None of them would’ve ever wanted to receive the dreaded telegram, especially knowing the risk that it may be filled with heart wrenching bad news.  Though these feelings and fears would’ve been felt equally in every household, I can’t help but consider how a mother and father would’ve felt at having to say goodbye to two or more sons.  Through my searching I’ve noticed that this was not uncommon.  One such instance occurred within my own family when William and Catherine Harwood (my Great Great Grandparents) said farewell to three of their sons as well as their son-in-law.

From left to right: William Henry Hackfath, Albert Harwood, Maurice Harwood and Arthur Harold Harwood.

William Henry Hackfath

William Henry Hackfath was born on 14 October 1886 in Goulbourn, New South Wales.  At the age of 23, on 27 April 1910, he married Myra Catherine Alice Harwood, the daughter of William and Catherine Harwood.  He enlisted into the Australian Military on 9 January 1917 and whilst serving was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal:

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty, during an hostile air attack on an ammunition depot.  A bomb was dropped on a wagon loaded with shells, which was set on fire, and he at once got into the truck and extinguished the fire.  His gallant conduct undoubtedly saved the amunition.

Albert Harwood

Albert Harwood was born on 13 November 1895 in Portsmouth, England and immigrated to Australia with his family in the early 1900s.  He enlisted in the Australian Military on 7 November 1915 and as he was under the age of 21, his parents had to sign their consent.  He soon left Perth for Melbourne and it was here that he was drafted to the 3rd Australian Divisional Ammunition Column.  After sailing for France on 22 November 1915, he joined the 6th Army Brigade Ammunition Column.  He served nearly four years in the Australian Military and once the war was over he sailed home on H.M.T. Demosthenes and was officially discharged on 12 April 1919.

Maurice Harwood

Maurice Harwood was born on 26 August 1896 in Harwich, England and immigrated to Australia with his family in the early 1900s.  He enlisted in the Australian Military on 31 December 1915 and on 6 June 1916 sailed for England with the 44th Battalion.  After joining the 3rd Divisional Ammunition Column, he sailed for France where he then joined the 6th Army Brigade Ammunition Column.  Maurice was discharged from the military on 5 April 1919 and sailed home on H.M.T. Demosthenes.

Arthur Harold Harwood

Arthur Harold Harwood (my Great Grandfather) was born on 9 November 1897 in Harwich, England and immigrated to Australia with his family in the early 1900s.  He enlisted into the Australian Military on 8 September 1916 and being the youngest of the three brothers and underage, also had to have his parent’s consent to join.  He sailed with the 11th Battalion on 13 August 1917 and went on to fight in France.  It was in France on 26 April 1918 that he was wounded in the field when he was gassed by the enemy and then later shot in the left leg.  He returned to England to recover in hospital but after being discharged the old wound continued to give him trouble.  Due to this injury, he returned to Australia on 18 November 1918 on H.M.T. Marathon and later received his disharge on 5 February 1919.

My Great Grandfather and his brothers were some of lucky ones who survived the war and returned home to their loved ones.  All continued with their lives, eventually marrying and having children of their own.  Though I never knew them I’m sure their time in the Australian Military left an impact and became a fragment of who they were.


  • Information and Image – Australia’s Fighting Sons of The Empire. Portraits and Biographies of Australians in the Great War [database on-line].
  • National Archives of Australia Mapping Our Anzacs website (  Service records for all of the above names.
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