Few people in the Hawkesbury would know that William Thomas Charley invented the concept of the Wallaby Sniping Cage at Gallipoli in 1915. The cage was used mainly for night firing and held a rifle in a fixed position after aiming, enabling it to be fired again without re-aiming.
William Charley was born in 1868 in Ballarat, Victoria. His mother, Catherine, died when he was two years of age and his father neglected the children to the extent that from 1871, he and some of his siblings were made Wards of the State and placed in various institutions. His brother Philip had been working on a sheep-breeding station called Mount Gipps for about six years, when in 1883 Philip and six workers from the station discovered silver around the Broken Hill district. They subsequently formed the syndicate of seven who established the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited in 1885.
As Philip spent some years in Adelaide before he purchased Belmont Park in North Richmond in 1889, it was possibly due to his influence that William Charley entered Roseworthy Agricultural College. He graduated Dux of the College in 1891 and a few months after married Mary Elizabeth Tasker in Adelaide. They proceeded on a world tour, meeting up with brother Philip and party in China. While overseas, Philip Charley bought stock to improve the bloodlines of his horses, cattle and sheep, no doubt aided by advice from William who took over as manager of Belmont Park from 1894.
On arrival at North Richmond, William Charley bought 93ha on Redbank Creek and called it Redbank. He built a large dam on the property and planted citrus trees on more than 20 hectares. Some of the old varieties mentioned include Joppa, Jaffa, Parson Brown, Mediterranean Sweet, Langswells, White Silettas, the Beauty of Glen Retreat and Parker’s Special.
In 1903, William (Lieutenant) and Philip (Captain), with other locals Brinsley Hall, Charles Cox, Robert Bruce Walker and Henry Skuthorp, were gazetted into the 1st Australian Light Horse Regiment (NSW Lancers) under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Walter Liberty Vernon. William Charley was a popular lecturer at Hawkesbury Agricultural College and in 1909 was presented with a pair of inscribed silver bowls, thanking him for his dedication to the college. He also served on the Council of the Hawkesbury District Agricultural Association.
Official records state that two sons were born at Belmont Park, William in 1897 and Gordon in 1908. Gordon died on 24 March 1909 and was buried in the Presbyterian Cemetery in Richmond. William enlisted in the 6th Australian Light Horse Regiment as Major (later Lieutenant-Colonel) in 1914 at the start of World War 1 and served in Egypt, at Gallipoli and Palestine, returning on the Argyllshire in 1919. After the war William took up farming at Merlegrove in Leeton and took an active part in community activities. His wife Mary died in 1925 and he married Mary De Burgh Moggridge in Leeton in 1929. William Thomas Charley died in 1932 and is buried in Leeton with his first wife.
Carol Roberts 2019
I completed the basis of this article for the Hawkesbury Gazette published on 22 November 2017 as ‘The man behind Redbank’.
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Commonwealth of Australia Gazette, No. 2, Section No. 1033, p. 13, Commonwealth Military Forces – New South Wales, Melbourne, 9 January 1904, appointments to bear date 1 July 1903.
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‘Death, Charley’, The Murrumbidgee Irrigator, Friday, 9 December 1932, http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/rendition/nla.news-article155889800, accessed 13 November 2017.