Charles Beresford Cairnes


Charles Beresford Cairnes was one of a number of members of the extended Rouse family who served with British rather than Australian forces during World War I.

Born at Parramatta on 7 June 1883, he was the oldest surviving child of Claudius Beresford Cairnes (1840–1910), manager of the local branch of the Bank of New South Wales, and his wife, Elizabeth (Lizzie) Adams Cairnes, nee Rouse (1845–1930).

After leaving The King’s School, Parramatta, Charlie served during the Second Anglo-Boer War with Kitchener’s Horse. In January 1902 he joined the 3rd New South Wales Imperial Bushmen, a regiment raised in South Africa, and was soon promoted to sergeant. Returning to Australia, Charlie joined the Colonial Sugar Refining Company as an analytical chemist and worked for them in Fiji. In October 1915 he returned to Sydney and embarked for England on the same ship as his cousin Geoffrey Terry.

Commissioned second lieutenant in the Royal Field Artillery in December, Charlie was drafted to France the following June with C Battery, 148th Brigade RFA, 30th Division. He survived the Somme offensive, in which hundreds of thousands of Allied troops perished, only to be killed in action at Arras on 22 April 1917. Charlie is remembered on war memorials in both Australia and Fiji. His Imperial War Graves Commission cemetery register entry reads ‘Native of Parramatta, New South Wales’.

Before he left Sydney, Charlie had made his will. He left £1000 each to his sisters, Mary and Dora, while the residue of his estate – almost £3000 – went to his younger brother, Beresford Henry (1886–1930). Beresford had enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in September 1914 and served as a gunner in the 1st Field Artillery Brigade on the Gallipoli Peninsula, where he was wounded in July 1915 and evacuated to a Cairo hospital. In May 1916 he was promoted to second lieutenant and sent to France, where he rose to lieutenant in August, and temporary captain in October 1917. Beresford was awarded the Military Cross in June 1918 for ‘consistent gallantry and keen devotion to duty and excellent services’ near Zonnebeke, east of Ypres, while in command of a Heavy Trench Mortar Battery, with special reference to operations when ammunition had to be transported over 2000 yards under heavy shellfire – a task he achieved despite the loss of six men. His recommendation made particular mention that

His consistent cheerfulness and courage have at all times set a most excellent example to his men.

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Jane Kelso

Jane Kelso


Jane developed a love of old buildings and the past growing up in a landscape of old country homesteads and Horbury Hunt woolsheds and churches near a country town whose glory days were ‘history’. This evolved into a lifelong fascination with the connections between people and places, and a desire to burrow into archives and libraries to piece together the stories of our past. Degrees in social history and work on a diverse range of properties, collections and exhibitions have only strengthened her passion for helping people to understand and appreciate our sometimes grimy, often quirky but always illuminating and ongoing history.

Closeup view of memorial.


Hear the poignant personal stories behind battlefield grave markers in Egypt, France and Gallipoli, as well as the stories behind workplace honour rolls, one of the most common, but often hidden, forms of war memorial in Australia

Group of men in formation in middle ground of large open area with buildings behind.

Enemy Within?

These stories explore the threat to Australia from within, from the identification of a section of the population as ‘enemy aliens’ to the formation of the jingoistic Anti-German League, and the radical ideology and activities of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)

Frayed at edges, certificate with red cross symbol in ornate diagram at top, and cursive script below.

Home Front

As the war stretched on, thousands of women at home in Australia supported the war effort by volunteering for patriotic fundraising activities


War Service

From the shores of Gallipoli to the sprawling Western Front, the stories told here reveal the powerful war experiences of ordinary soldiers. Some were decorated for bravery in the field, while others made the ultimate sacrifice