Thursday, 10 May 2012

Archibald Owen Ivall (1883-1917), the subject of an experiment

Archibald Owen Ivall was a grandson of Robert Thomas Ivall, the elder brother of David Ivall (1816-1867), my great great grandfather.

Archibald was born 23 February 1883 in Chalvey, a village near Slough in Buckinghamshire. He was the youngest of six children born to Owen Ivall (b1846) and Emily Maria Ivall nee Moss (1846-1883). His mother died 18 days after Archibald was born. Owen’s occupation was a whitesmith ie a polisher or finisher of metal goods. He married again in 1885 to Sarah Smith nee Plumridge (a widow). Both lived in Eton, which is near Chalvey. They argued frequently and separated in September 1887. I cannot find either Archibald or Owen in the April 1891 census, but have found what appears to be Sarah living alone. Owen Ivall deserted his children in June 1891.

On 4 September 1893, Archibald (aged 10) was admitted to the Royal Free Secondary Boys School, Windsor. The admissions register shows the name of his parent or guardian as Archie Ivall and his address as Dagmar Road. Archibald was withdrawn from the school on 16 February 1894, and the register says "Gone to Union". Presumably this means that he was transferred to the Union Workhouse.

In 1901, Archibald, aged 18, a domestic helper, was living in Lambeth at the house of his eldest sister Emily Maria (31), her husband Oliver Carter (40) and their children Joseph (3) Ethel (1) and Ivy (4 months).

Records show that Archibald was admitted to Lambeth Workhouse on September 13th 1904. He was discharged the following day to Lock Hospital, where venereal diseases were treated.

In 1910, The Daily Mirror initiated an “interesting agricultural experiment”. They picked men from the ranks of the unemployed in London and offered them work on a farm in Essex. An article on 29 March 1910, contained the following description of how they recruited Archibald.

The Daily Mirror eventually arrived at the Salvation Army shelter at Millbank, outside which a long line of men were waiting in file to purchase shelter for the night. From among these men one was chosen and offered work. His name is Archibald Ivall, born in Windsor and twenty-six years of age. The past ten years he has been in London. He has been an odd-job man most of his life. Since Christmas he has had no work at all, and before then he had earned a living as a porter. He expressed himself anxious for work and accepted immediately the terms offered to him.

A photograph of Archibald was printed in The Daily Mirror the next day.

The following item appeared in The Daily Mirror dated 7 October 1910 : 


“Daily Mirror” Emigrants Sail Today to Farm in Australia


Two strong, healthy, happy emigrants leave England for Australia this morning. They are Archibald Ivall and William Munson, The Daily Mirror farm labourers who, six months ago, were starving on the Embankment. It will be remembered that as a result of Mr Faulconbridge’s opinion that any healthy and sound man taken from any surroundings could be placed upon a farm and as a labourer be worth a living wage at once, The Daily Mirror arranged with Mr Faulconbridge to train these two men, who were picked at random from the Embankment.


How successful the experiment was our readers have already been told, and descriptive accounts of the men’s work and progress at the farm have been published from time to time in The Daily Mirror. They have learned to plough and sow, to feed and look after cattle, build a haystack and countless other duties of farm work. A brief diary of The Daily Mirror’s farming experiment is as follows :
February 10, 1910 – Mr Faulconbridge makes offer of farm work to unemployed men
March 25 – Munson starts work at Fen Farm, Ardleigh near Colchester followed by Ivall four days later
May 5 – Men making steady progress, Mr Faulconbridge enthusiastic
July 1910 – Men so improved that offers are made for them to go to Queensland, Australia. They decide to go after harvesting.
September 30 – Work concluded at Fen Farm. Complete success of experiment.

During this week, Ivall and Munson, assisted by The Daily Mirror, have been making arrangements for their passage.


Both men have been like “fish out of water” – to use their own expression – in London this week – they have missed the open, free life of the country. They sail from Liverpool this morning on board the steamship Dorset and will arrive at Brisbane, Queensland, the first week in December.
Work has been guaranteed them on arriving at Brisbane by the Queensland Government. They will work the land and both hope to have farms of their own very soon. Ivall is twenty-six and Munson twenty-one years of age. “I shall come back to England one day with my pockets full of money !” said the younger emigrant to The Daily Mirror yesterday.

An employee of the Gatton Agricultural College in Queensland had travelled to England to buy live cattle to ship back to Australia. He offered Ivall and Munson the opportunity of work in Australia, provided that they looked after the cattle during their journey there. Shipping records show that Archibald and William Munson left Liverpool on 7 October 1910 on board the Dorset, bound for Brisbane,

An item in The Daily Mirror of 28 October 1910 said that Mr Faulconbridge had sold his farm in Essex and also left England for Queensland. Shipping records show that Archibald Ivall arrived at Brisbane on the Dorset on 9 December 1910.

The Daily Mirror published this letter from Archibald on 1 May 1912

Agricultural College, Gatton, Queensland                                                           18 March 1912

Sir – Will you please accept my best thanks for training me through your Daily Mirror Scheme for the Unemployed for Farm Work and for sending me to Australia. I have been at Gatton College since I landed here and I have done very well. There is room for thousands more like myself, who are willing to work as I have for the last fifteen months. Mr Faulconbridge is on his way to England and when he returns I commence working on my own farm, a selection of 450 acres and I hope soon to be employing men. This will, I think, prove to you that there are many men as unfortunate as myself who might be trained on the land and better their position.
Again thanking you, yours obediently
                                                            (Signed) Archibald Ivall

There were items in The Daily Mirror on 17 and 18 May 1912 in which Percy Faulconbridge was interviewed. He talked enthusiastically of Archibald’s progress and prospects as a farmer in Australia. Percy said that he would like another 100 men to come out to Queensland to be trained by him and asked for applications. Assisted passages costing £6 would be available.

A story repeating information on The Daily Mirror “experiment” with Ivall and Munson appeared in the New York Times dated 2 June 1912. There don’t seem to be any more items in The Daily Mirror on Archibald Ivall.

The "selection" referred to by Archibald would have been an area of virgin land assigned to him by the Queensland government. It was necessary to clear the land of scrub and fence it, before it could be farmed.  It was common for farmers to "work off block" doing other jobs to generate income whilst this preparation stage was being done. Archibald is listed in the 1913 Australian Electoral Rolls as living in Laidley, Moreton, Queensland. Laidley is a small town about 50 miles west of Brisbane. His occupation is given as labourer in the first print and farmer in the second print for that year. When he joined the army in October 1915 he gave his occupation as a labourer on the railways.

The Australian National Archives website has documents recording Archibald’s service in World War 1. He enlisted on 9 October 1915 at Forest Hill, Queensland aged 32 years and 8 months. Forest Hill is a small rural township in the South of Queensland, a few miles north of Laidley. His height was 5 ft 4 inches and weight 9 stones 4 lbs. He was unmarried and gave his next of kin as his friend, Mr P Faulconbridge, Forest Hill, Queensland. This has been crossed out and Mr R T O Ivall (brother), The Fire Station, Southwark Bridge Road, London handwritten in, dated 3 January 1918 (Robert Thomas Owen Ivall, 1876-1953, was Archibald’s elder brother). Archibald embarked from Sydney on 20 February 1916 aboard the HMAT Ulysses, disembarking at Marseilles on 5 May 1916. He was a Sapper in the 1st Australian Tunnelling Company and took part in fighting near Ypres in Belgium. The Australian 1st Tunnelling Company Memorial at Hill 60 in Zwart-Leen, Ypres, remembers the men who fought above and below the ground to prevent the Germans from finding the galleries and mines. The Germans were holding this fiercely contested observation point in November 1916 when the Australian 1st Tunnelling Company took over the maintenance of the British mine beneath it. Today Hill 60 is an enclosed grassy area of craters, shell holes and mounds.

One of the most famous positions on the Western Front, Hill 60, had been formed in the 19th century from the soil taken from a deep railway cutting. It made a mound of 230 metres by 190 metres consisting of layers of clay, sand and quicksand. The hill's height of 60 metres gave it immense strategic importance in that flat country and both sides continually fought for it. The British tunnelled into the hill in 1915 and 1916 to plant mines which killed many Germans when they exploded. The 1st Australian Tunnelling Company under Major J. Douglas Henry took over the tunnels and mines on 9 November 1916. The Company's primary job was to keep intact two great mines being prepared for a major assault to break the enemy front. The galleries' drainage and ventilation was poor and to improve them the Australians sank a metal-lined shaft 130 metres from a main junction. Then they drove an additional gallery under the German line, about 400 metres away. The shaft was coded Sydney, the drive leading from it Melbourne, while defensive galleries were called Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane, Newcastle and Hobart. Protecting the mines from the Germans involved the diggers in ferocious underground fighting. The work was arduous and exhausting and six months' service in the tunnels of Hill 60 was regarded as the limit of strain any troops could stand. In one sector, the Australians reported that enemy miners were so close that their tools were shaking the earth in the Australian tunnel. They packed a ton of ammonal (an explosive) into the end of their tunnel and fired it on 16 December 1916. Recovering from this shock, the Germans continued their efforts to dig under the shallower Australian tunnels and blow them up. In March, April and May 1917, the Australians were tunnelling 5.5 metres a day in their efforts to prepare great mines for the impending attack on Messines Ridge. Every moment underground was dangerous.

Archibald died of wounds on 31st October 1917 in the 7th Australian Field Ambulance. I don’t know the circumstances of his death except that the 1st Australian Tunnelling Company were constructing dugouts near Ypres at this time (according to “The War Story of Oliver Holmes Woodward” a Captain in the Company). Perhaps Archibald was killed by a shell ? He was 34 and is buried in the Menin Road South Military Cemetery, Ypres. I have visited his grave.

Archibald’s service file contains several letters written by Mary Faulconbridge (wife of Percy Faulconbridge). She said that Archibald had told her that she was “the only mother he ever had”, that he was nominating her as his next of kin and would receive his military pay should he die. The Australian army’s reply was that nomination as next of kin on the enlistment papers gave her no rights to claim Archibald’s estate which was allocated by the Public Curator according to the law. The Public Curator told her that she could only receive his military pay if a will was found leaving her money. No will was found so Archibald’s money and effects were sent to his brother Robert Thomas Owen Ivall in England.

The War Memorial at St Mary’s Church, Church St, Slough lists 266 people, including A O Ivall (whose name is on one the stones around the base). His name is also on the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

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