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  • Writer's pictureDavid JA Grant

Lest we forget: Remembering South Australian ANZAC footballers

The Daily Herald, Adelaide, Saturday 20th January 1917, reads: “Mrs J. Kinmond, of Sandwell Street, Peterhead, has received the information from the Authorities that her son Lance-Corporal R M Kinmond, who was previously reported missing, was killed in action in France between July 23 and 25 last year. Lance-Corporal Kinmond was the youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. Kinmond.” Robert Marshall Kinmond was also, in the parlance of the day, a “British Association Football” player.

Lance Corporal Kinmond's death was listed in the notices of The Chronicle in January 1917, six months after he was killed.

The sacrifices made by those born by chance into that era are thankfully well documented, yet countless individual tales oft go amiss simply because there are so many of them. The day's papers are full of “killed in action” notices. We can pluck a name from the 1917 newspaper in the same utterly random way that so many youngsters were cut down by bullets and bombs.

An eye-witness account states that Kinmond was in charge of six men near the Windmill at Pozières. Shells struck down the group, and the conclusion was that “there was no hope for them.” A party of men were sent back to the trench to retrieve the bodies for burial, but no record was kept regarding where they were subsequently laid to rest.

Years later, Kinmond was found and identified by his uniform and disc. A 1923 report lists him as being buried at Delville Wood Cemetery, France, some seven kilometres from where he fell six years earlier.

Kinmond spent three seasons with the Port Adelaide British Football Club – a grandparent club of the present-day Port Adelaide Pirates after various amalgamations and mergers – before he enlisted. He was employed by the British Imperial Oil Company (now Shell) and resigned to go to Europe. Aged just 22 when he was killed, his three seasons account for his entire senior playing career. As a child, he arrived in South Australia from Scotland and lived just a few kilometres from Outer Harbour.

Port Adelaide, nicknamed 'The Ports,' was Kinmond's local club. They enjoyed considerable success in the 1900s. Kinmond mainly played for the reserves, and he “held two medals, which were awarded to him on the occasions when that club won the association cup” (today’s Football SA Federation Cup).

After departing for Europe, Kinmond served five months in Gallipoli before serving in Egypt and then deploying to Pozières, France, with the 10th Battalion. At the time of his death, his brother, John (known as Jack), was in a London hospital recovering from gunshot wounds to his leg.

Correspondence from his father, John Kinmond, makes for heart-breaking reading. “I have received a telegram through the military authorities in the beginning of September that Robert was missing.” He continues, “I have since received the following cable: “Getting on alright Ma don’t worry am in London Hospital.” In short, John and Jane Kinmond were unsure whether either Jack or Robert were alive and, if they were alive, where they were. Even “London Hospital” meant little to them.

When war broke out, the organized football competition in Adelaide was merely a decade old. Numerous players, officials, supporters, and fans from all sports codes enlisted. Football was no exception, and clubs such as Cheltenham, Hindmarsh, and Sturt all waved their kin off at Outer Harbour.

The South Adelaide British Football Club lost two players within a few weeks of each other in 1917. Private Ernest Dobson, an employee of Harris Scarfe, was killed on May 10, leaving a wife and two young children. Three weeks later, Private Charles William Morton, eldest son of Charles and Mary Jane Morton, who lived at 65 George Street, Clarence Park, Adelaide, was killed.



A studio portrait of 531 Private (Pte) Charles William (Will) Morton, 43rd Battalion, of Adelaide. Morton played for the South Adelaide British Football Club. (Image: Australian War Memorial)

Countless sportsmen had fallen before them. Countless more would follow.

Lest we forget.


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