"> Blood or Marriage linked relatives of John Robert CUNLIFFE III
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Margaret PEARSON


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  • Born: 3 Mar 1896, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  • Marriage: Ellen Maud MATTHEWS on 5 Apr 1924 in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  • Died: 18 Dec 1989, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia at age 93

bullet  General Notes:

John Robert Cunliffe was born in Sydney on 3 March 1896, the elder of twin boys and the seventh child of Margaret and John Robert Cunliffe.

The family lived in Cleveland Street and their home was very close to Centennial Park where the boys often played and they found themselves witnesses to the reading of the Constitution when the Commonwealth of Australia was inaugurated in 1901.

The twins got up to all sorts of mischief, Jack always being the ringleader, keeping their parents and elder sisters busy. Lots of tales are told....the day they were found sailing the vicar's hat in the bath when he came to call on the family; the broken leg Jack sustained falling out of a tree and how sister, Clarice, used to scrub it every day because he got the plaster so dirty and many more.

The family moved to Woollahra and Jack and Fred attended the local school. Jack's first job after leaving school was in a menswear store in the Sydney Arcade, between King and George Streets in the city. The store was owned by his uncle, Joseph Pearson. Jack played tennis and swam; he and his friends had a hut at North Bondi near the beach and they swam all summer, always a long way out. He joined the Commonwealth Cadet Corps and was appointed Second Lieutenant on 13 June 1913.

When World War 1 broke out in 1914 and patriotic fervour was running high - the threat of a white feather ensured most able bodied young men answered the call - Jack enlisted at Victoria Barracks on 9 September 1914 aged 18. The following account has been taken from the 'Active Service Writing Tablet' kept by Jack from the time of his enlistment until he reached the Dardanelles......

"In camp at Roseberry Racecourse until 22nd when the Battalion was transferred to Rosehill Racecourse.

25th Oct. (Sunday). The 13th Battalion moved to new camp at Liverpool.

24th Nov. 13th Battalion left Liverpool for Broadmeadows (Victoria) where the 4th Brigade concentrated. Very heavy thunderstorm lasting half an hour during which left half of Battalion stood at attention in the open. Troop train stopped at Albury for Breakfast and Seymour for Dinner. Rained heavily at Broadmeadows for first two days.

17th December. 4th Brigade marched from Broadmeadows to Melbourne through principal streets and back to Broadmeadows a distance of 25 miles. Large and enthusiastic crowd witnessed march.

22nd Dec. Brigade left Broadmeadows at 10am to embark on troopship, arrived at Port Melbourne 12.40pm and waited on pier until 6.15pm before embarking. 13th & 14th Battalions on 'Ulysses'(A38) and 15th & 16th Battalions on 'Ceramic' (A.). Transport drew out from pier at 8.10pm, large and enthusiastic crowd witnesses departure. Passed through Heads at 7.10am 23rd Dec.

28th Dec. Ulysses reached Albany at daylight. While waiting in Albany Harbour a severe gale raged.

On the night of the 30th Dec. about 200 of the troops were poisoned, probably ptomaine.

31st Dec.1914 Thursday. the fleet of the Second Contingent left Albany, commencing with the Ulysses (Flagship) at 8am and when reaching the open sea ranged up in three lines as follows:






BORDA *A37 *A42




The 'Willochra', 'Valeda', & 'Knight of the Garter' being the New Zealand Division

*Captured German Vessels

The 'Berrima' towing the Submarine (AE 2) is also one of the fleet but is permitted to roam at will. thus there are 19 transports and one Submarine, the latter being the only escort.

3rd Jan.1915. Another serious wholesale poisoning, over 1000 of the 2400 on board suffering from a form of ptomaine poisoning.

5th Jan. Still more poisoning this time not so severe.

6th Jan. Weather occasionally hot. First death in the fleet occurring today on 'Borda'

10th Jan. 11pm passed Equator.

13th Jan. Reached Colombo 7am.

15th Jan. Departed from Colombo. During our stay there a large number of the troops went ashore without permission but were all returned to their respective ships.

19th Jan. Troops vaccinated.

21st Jan. His Majesty's Indian Govt. Armed Transport 'Dufferin' caused some excitement by steaming parallel to the fleet and failing for two hours to reply to our signals. Eventually our submarine caused her to fly her signals.

23rd Jan. Arrived Aden and left again same day.

28th Jan. Reached Suez at 4am.

29th Jan. Passed through southern half of Canal, which is strongly fortified on account of proximity of Turks. Bridge of ships barricaded against snipers. Fleet anchored in Biller Lakes for the night. Continued voyage through northern half of canal and arrived at Port Said at 4.30pm where fleet remained all night.

31st Jan. Left Port Said before daylight and arrived at Alexandria 4.30pm.

1st Feb. Right Half of Bn. disembarked at 9.30am and reached Heliopolis (Cairo) at 4pm. Left Half disembarked at 2.30pm and reached Heliopolis at midnight.

The camp at Heliopolis is situated on the desert just at the edge of the city of that name, and is about 5 miles from Cairo. Heliopolis is a modern city built about six years ago by a wealthy Belgian Syndicate and was intended as a rival to Monte Carlo, but failed in consequence of the British Govt refusing to ratify the license granted by the Egyptian Govt. The Casino is situated in the Palace Hotel, a very large and beautiful building, costing over one million pounds. The private dwelling are nearly all detached and are built on an elaborate scale. There is a fast, up to date electric tram service running between Heliopolis and Cairo.

The New Zealand contingent is camped at Zictoun, about one a half miles away from the 4th Bge.

Between the camps of the 4th Brigade and the New Zealanders there is another camp containing a Division of the East Lancs.

The 1st, 2nd & 3rd Brigades with their attendant units are camped at Mena, at the base of the three great pyramids. Mena is 12 miles from Cairo on the opposite side of the Nile.

A large portion of the Light Horse is camped at Moadi, about 8 miles out.

The most extensive camp is situated at Abbassia and is made up by troops from various English Regiments and the Australian Reinforcements, in addition to the native Egyptian troops.

In every camp, with the exception of Abbassia, the troops are under canvas.

In a fairly direct line from Cairo to the Suez Canal there is a series of towers which were built by the orders of the great French General, Napoleon. These towers are situated on the top of the Iano hills, each one within sight of the next and roughly about 5 miles apart.

Cairo contains a population of nearly one million, made up principally of Arabs. It is not what might be called an ancient city, being founded only about 400 years ago.

At the northern outskirts of the present city of Heliopolis are situated the ancient cities of on and Heliopolis, but they are now buried under the sands of the desert. The two cities mentioned date back some thousands of years and are famous for their Biblical associations. It was to the ancient city of Heliopolis that the Virgin Mary fled with her child at the period that Herod ordered the slaughter of all male children under two years of age. One of the principal sights of Cairo is the Ancient Well and Tree where Mary is said to have rested for several weeks. The well is in an excellent state of preservation and is continually used for the purpose of irrigating the surrounding land. The water is raised in the old fashioned way by buckets fastened on a large wheel which is made to revolve by the aid of a bullock hauling a pole round in a small circle. One half of the tree (a sycamore) is dead and fallen, but the other half is in good condition.

Nearby there is an ancient obelisk. This obelisk is made out of one solid piece of granite and is 65 feet high and about 5 feet square at the base. It is covered with ancient Egyptian writings, each side being the same. Cleopatra's Needle, on the Thames Embankment, London, is an exact replica and was discovered close to the one described.

The largest of the three pyramids at Mena is called Cheops and was built by Ramases the Second. It is 470 feet high and covers 13 acres at the base. It contains several tombs inside, the entrance to which is about 50 feet from the bottom and through a very narrow slit. The outside of this pyramid (as with all others) was covered with alabaster, but at a later date the alabaster was removed for the purpose of building the Citadel, a large and imposing Mosque.

There are numerous other but much smaller pyramids scattered throughout Egypt, but almost invariably along the banks of the Nile.

The Museum at Cairo is a splendid modern building and contains a vast and interesting collection of Mummies, Coffins and other and extremely valuable ancient Egyptian relics.

The Zoological Gardens are justly famous and contain representatives of all classes of animals, birds etc. from every country in the world. A feature of the zoo is the paths which are laid out with small black and white pebbles woven in a most intricate manner.

Cairo altogether is a most interesting city and contains several fine buildings, including two very large hotels.

In the heart of the city there is a district called the Wasseh. This district contains a maze of short narrow lanes running in all directions and lined with thousands of small dwellings, each dwelling being composed of not more than two rooms. Here are representatives of every nationality on earth, and is strictly tabooed by the Aristocracy.

The native women in Cairo, in fact all over Northern Africa, wear veils.

A large proportion of the poorer class of Arab resides in mud villages. The houses are made of mud bricks which are dried in the sun, and held together by a thick coating of mud. The dwellings take fantastic shapes and are all enclosed by a thick mud wall. The lanes or passages are not more than four feet wide.

The women are all dressed in a loose fitting black robe and the men generally in some dark cloth twisted in some manner around their bodies down to their feet.

The common house fly is a great pest in Egypt and is the cause of much disease amongst the native children, no effort whatever being made to keep them from the eyes of the youngsters. It is stated that 60 percent of the children born fail to reach the age of five years.

There are numerous heavy sandstorms during the summer months, and during the last few weeks of our stay in Egypt, the locust plague was very severe. These locusts are similar in every respect to what is known in Australia as the grasshopper, with the exception that in Egypt they are all the same colour, viz. dark brown body and yellow wings.

There are two large bridges spanning the Nile at Cairo, one in particular being a very fine structure. The road to Mena runs across the latter. It is a very pleasant trip out to the pyramids, 12 miles out. There is a kind of residential suburb across the river. After passing through this suburb the road runs through cultivated land. The fields are well irrigated and the beautiful green of the cultivated strip shows up in strong contrast to the surrounding desert. The fare in the train is 2 pt. soldiers in uniform half fare, a very cheap ride.

The Egyptian coin is the piastre, 97 1/2pt to the British sovereign. 1pt is equivalent to tuppence halfpenny British. Piastres are made of both silver and nickel. There is a lesser coin used by the natives called Milliemmes. 10m. equal 1pt. These coins are nickel. There are also half m's and quarter m's. made of copper, the former being almost the size of the English farthing.

The Arabs are a filthy race, those in the city at any rate, and have no respect whatever for sanitation. Every Arab is also a born thief and liar, and unconsidered trifles quickly disappear amid the folds of their picturesque toggery. Every Arab man and boy appears to have something to sell, generally in the eating line.

Before being able to obtain an article at a reasonable price it is necessary to haggle considerably over the cost.

Whenever the troops left the camp on a march they were followed mile after mile into the desert by a horde of Arab dealers, some of them carrying very heavy loads.

22nd March 1915. The New Zealand-Australian Division, to which the 4th Brigade is attached, was reviewed by General Gooley.

31st March. Similar review by General Sir Ian Hamilton.

1st April. 13th Battalion had a picnic at El Marg Oasis and concert at night. Returned to camp following morning.

2nd April (Good Friday) The (now) famous Battle of the Wasseh occurred. It originated through a New Zealander getting into trouble in a house of ill fame. His friends commenced pulling the place to pieces and throwing the furniture out the window. Others below caught the 'fever' and followed suit all along the street. Bonfires were made at intervals in the middle of the street and the furniture piled on. The fire brigades turned out but their hose was cut to pieces by the troops. The 'Red Caps' (Westminster Dragoons) who were the police, fired on the mob several times, but eventually left the scene. The Light Horse subsequently arrived and quickly succeeded in clearing the street. The official advice published states that 12 soldiers were seriously injured.

The following day the first Brigade left Egypt, the third Brigade having left of the 28th Feb.

10 April (Saturday) 'A' Company left camp for an unknown destination.

11 April 'B' 'C" & 'D' Companies struck camp, and marched out at 8pm and entrained at Palais de Koubbeh station at midnight. Train left at 2am and reached Alexandria 8.30am.

Embarked on the 'Ascot' (A33) at 6pm 12 April. The Ascot left Alexandria at 12.30pm on the 13th April and reached Lemmos Island 7am.

17th On the way up the Aegean Sea the Ascot had a fortunate escape. Something went wrong with the engines and the vessel slowed down to 5 knots. Whilst travelling at this speed a British transport, B12, 'Maniton' overhauled and passed the Ascot. The former had barely got out of sight when she was attacked by a Turkish Torpedo Boat which fired 3 torpedoes, but owing to being too close every torpedo dived right under the Maniton. The torpedo boat then left, but a few hours later was forced to run ashore by a British and French warship sent in chase. During the panic on the Maniton, 114 men were drowned.

The wireless operator on the Ascot received the message and one boat was headed for the Grecian coast along which we skirted for some distance.

In the harbour (called Mudross) at Lemnos towards the end of our stay there were 200 large vessels, including the latest super dreadnought 'Queen Elizabeth'.

25th April. Left Lemnos Island for Gallipoli (45 miles away) at 10am. When still 35 miles away the deep boom of the 'Queen Elizabeth's' 15 inch guns could be heard. Steamed along the peninsula towards the gulf of Saros, past various warships belching forth their tons of metal and eventually dropped anchor opposite the Australian landing beach at 4pm...."

This is the last entry......history has recorded the mighty British blunder of landing Australian/New Zealand troops at the wrong place. The men were pinned down by heavy enemy fire. Jack sustained a severe wound to his right arm: he remained for eight days on the beach before evacuation to the UK where his right arm was amputated.

John Robert Cunliffe, Regt No.359, Sgt. 13th Infantry Battalion A.I.F. served with honour and was disabled in the Great War. He was Honourably Discharged on 31st March 1916.

After evacuation to the UK, Jack was sent to 'Webbersley', a large Mansion in Flixton near Manchester in Lancashire which was being used as a Red Cross Hospital. There his arm was amputated and he convalesced. He was befriended by a local man, a Mr Wagstaffe, who wrote to his parents - see letter. Jack remained at 'Webbersley' for some weeks before being moved to Surrey to await orders to return home. He sailed on HMAS 'Suevic' on 8th October 1915 and reached Melbourne on 19th November 1915

He returned to the family home 'Cartref' in Bellevue Hill and set about getting on with his life - he was 20 years old. He had to teach himself to write with his left hand and learn to do everything with one arm. He became a very proficient artist, examples of which hang in the family homes today.

He gained employment at the Registrar General's Department on the clerical staff.

After a time, Jack decided he needed a change and applied for a position as a commercial traveller with Taubmans Paint. This, of course, necessitated him gaining his driver's license. He acquired an 'Overlander' had it fitted with a mechanical hand which operated with his knee to give traffic signals and took lessons from an instructor in Martin Place. Time was of the essence; he had six lessons, driving between Martin Place and Central Railway, sat for his test and was successful. He had to lean against the steering wheel while he changed gears but soon he became so proficient at gear changing this ploy was no longer necessary. He was successful with his job application and so began another chapter in his life. He drove all over NSW and QLD, he always enjoyed driving and was 91 years of age when he relinquished his license in 1988.

Romance started to make its way into his life when he noticed a beautiful young lady with long black hair plaited to her waist, on the tram. Her name was Ellen Maud Matthews, known as Nell, and she became his wife on 5th April 1924. They were married at St Phillip's Church, Sydney, and my mother, Wilsie Elizabeth Golding, was their flowergirl.

Nell and Jack lived in Sydney and Brisbane, where their first son Adrian John was born in 1926. Nell was very ill with typhoid fever while pregnant with their second child, but she recovered and was delivered of another healthy son.

They returned to Sydney and Jack changed his job again - back to clerical work with the NRMA where he remained until his retirement in 1962

Nell also had a spell back at work after their marriage - she went to work in a doctor's surgery for a month and stayed 10 years.

Jack continued to play tennis and swim. He took up bowls later in his life and played until just before he died.

Nell has always done a lot of sewing and all kinds of needlework. She and 20 of her school friends held a luncheon every month, each one taking their turn but, alas, as the years moved on the numbers dwindled until it was stopped in the 1980's. They lived most of their lives in Bellevue Hill surrounded by their family and many friends.

After retirement, as well as making deliveries for a jewelry store, which Nell was not at all keen about for security reasons, Nell and Jack made two visits to Europe, away for seven months in 1962 and ten months in 1967. They regularly cruised the Pacific and took lots of interesting holidays, Jack's last trip, without Nell, to Alice Springs and Central Australia.

This grand old pair moved to 'Elizabeth Lodge' in 1983, where they remained very active, taking walks through Kings Cross, lots of day trips around Sydney and eating out at Sydney's leading restaurants. Jack never allowed his disability to be a handicap in his life and, with the loving support of his wonderful wife lived a very full and long life. He marched in every ANZAC day march and was the only Gallipoli veteran still on his feet in the latter years, an achievement of which he was very justifiably proud.

Jack died in hospital at one minute past midnight on Monday, 18 December 1989 and Nell, also in hospital at 9.20 am Wednesday, 24th August 1994.


John married Ellen Maud MATTHEWS on 5 Apr 1924 in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. (Ellen Maud MATTHEWS was born in 1900 and died 24th August 1994.)

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