Unlocking diaries

Like so many Queenslanders who served in the First World War, the story of Lance Corporal Cedric Roy North, from Rockhampton is both ordinary and extraordinary.

Cedric born in 1894 in Bundaberg was one of 6 sons and 3 daughters born to Francis Jeremy and Fannie Lizzie North (nee Landsborough). Both the North and Landsborough families played significant roles in exploring, surveying and settling Queensland.

Men of the North family

Men of the North family, 1914, standing left to right: Lyster; Cedric; Roger; seated left to right: Landsborough; Sydney; Frank

The photograph of the 6 North brothers taken in 1914 is striking and also sad as Roger and Cedric were both dead by 1918.

Cedric and his older brother Roger were both members of 25th Battalion, Roger served in Gallipoli for 4 months while Cedric trained in Egypt. In 1916 they proceeded to France where they were both killed in action. Roger in the long battle for Pozieres on 29 July 1916 and Cedric at Ypres, Belgium on 21 March 1918.

Adding to the tragedy of Roger’s death was that his parent’s were first informed of his death in a letter from Cedric, received some 2 months later. This was reported in the Rockhampton newspaper, The Capricornian on 30 September 1916. Such a delay is hard to imagine in the ‘instant news’ world we live in now.

NAA: B2455, NORTH ROGER GUILFORD

NAA: BS425 North, Roger Guilford

A third brother Frank joined on 18 September 1916, not knowing that his older brother Roger had been killed in action. Frank served with the 4th Pioneer Battalion and survived the war.

While Cedric North was on active service, he kept a diary for at least part of the time and the State Library of Queensland holds a hand-copied version covering the period from 22 February 1917 until 19 March 1918. Cedric was killed in action 2 days later.

The diary was hand copied by Norma Oakes, but how the diary came to be in Norma’s hands and her connection to Cedric will never be known and we can only speculate. Cedric’s service record states that his effects went down when the ship carrying them – the SS Barunga was torpedoed and sunk in July 1918. It is likely that one of the men serving with Cedric made sure that the diary was delivered to Norma by unofficial means.

Cedric Roy North Diary

Cedric Roy North Diary 1917-1918

One of the many people Cedric wrote to was Mrs Oakes. After some research, it would appear that she was Lillian Hope Oakes, Norma’s mother although the nature of the connection to Cedric North is unclear. In the search for answers more Queensland families have been connected to their past as well as to each other, and more untold stories discovered.

Norma Gertrude Oakes

Norma Gertrude Oakes  (1898-1958)

Norma Oakes was located through a family tree via Ancestry.com and a photograph and information about Norma was received from her niece. Norma was born 1 February 1898 and died unmarried and without children in 1958. Norma apparently was a vivacious lady with plenty of style, attractive and quite tall like her brother and father.

Cedric Roy North

As was the way in those times most people were quiet and private about their family matters with little open discussion of personal matters, so we can only wonder at the connection that existed between Cedric Roy North and Norma Gertrude Oakes.

Many thanks to our Q ANZAC 100 volunteers, for transcribing and researching the Diary of Cedric North – Glen Phillips and Judy Gilloway. The diary and transcript can now be viewed online, and downloaded in high resolution.

Further Reading:

Marg Powell | Q ANZAC 100 Content Technician | State Library of Queensland