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Ernest Frank (Studdon) Welling

Australia Military Forces

HERITAGE No: 63

BIRTH: 24 July 1943
Wentworth St Millers Point, NSW
DEATH: 20 July 1916 Fleurbaix, Fromelles, France
DEATH: 20 July 1916
Fleurbaix, Fromelles, France

OCCUPATION: Storeman

RESIDENCE: Wolseley St West Kogarah 1914

GAME HISTORY

  • North Sydney RU 3rd Grade 1909
  • North Sydney RU 2nd Grade 1909
  • Wests RL First Grade 1910

Ernest

The Search

There needs to be a degree of caution applied in accepting that Wests player #63 is Ernest Frank Welling. Wests First Grade Heritage List records player #63 as E. Willings but this has been corrected. The entry now appears as E. Wellings in line with the Rugby League Project.

E. Wellings played six First Grade matches with Wests in 1910 and was on the bench on another occasion. The name Wellings, is not common so it would appear easy to track down. However that has not been the case.

There were only ten males with the surname of Wellings, and three males with the surname Welling born in NSW between 1880 and 1890. There is a possibility that this person was not born in NSW however a check of public records has not identified anyone in this category.

A search of public records has not identified an E. Wellings of the right age and being in the right location to have played for Wests in 1910. The closest Wellings that might fit such a profile is the photographer and filmmaker, Charles Ernest Wellings. He moved to Strathfield in the mid 1910’s for a short period. Charles Wellings married Mary Harvey at Burwood in 1914, but there is no connection with Wests Rugby League team in 1910. It is known that for part of 1910 he was in his home town of Eden NSW, filming whale hunts and documenting killer whales.

An Edwin Willing lived at Auburn NSW, however this person was far too old to have played for Wests in 1910. There were no children of Edwin Willing that might have been likely candidates.

Ernest Frank Welling

Another search identified the name of Ernest Frank Studdon. Studdon was the birth name of Ernest’s mother. Ernest from an early age went under the surname of his step-father Alfred Welling. Ernest Studdon was always known as Ernest Frank Welling throughout his life. He was born at Miller’s Point in Sydney.

The Welling family originally lived at Newtown, but by 1890 the family was living at St Leonards in North Sydney. Ernest’s maternal grandmother and aunts also lived in North Sydney. An E. Willing was living at McDougall St North Sydney in 1909.

A player by the name of Welling, also spelled Willing, played for North Sydney 2nd and 3rd Grade rugby union team in 1909. Given the residential address of Ernest Welling, it is quite likely that it was Ernest Welling that was listed in the North Sydney team.

A search for a residential address in the Western Suburbs District circa 1910 has not been found. The availability of records from this time is limited. An absence of a residential address confirming that Ernest Wellings was residentially qualified to play with Wests is of concern. So there needs to be caution in confirming this person as Wests player #63.

Ernest Welling was living at North Sydney in 1911 when he married Florence Bryant at St Barnabas’ Church Sydney. Ernest and Florence had one child who was born at Annandale, NSW. Tragically the child died in 1913 at Annandale. The death notice mis-spelled the surname as Willing. Ernest F. Welling was living at Wells St Annandale in 1913 and 1914. It is also known that Ernest Welling had extended family in the St George District which was part of  Wests catchment in 1911.

In 1914, Ernest Welling’s wife, Florence Welling died at St Georges Cottage Hospital, Kogarah. The family was living at Wolseley St West Kogarah at the time. Ernest remained at Kogarah until he enlisted in the First World War. Ernest Welling within a few years had lost his infant child and his young wife. Perhaps this is what drove him to sign up with the AIF in August 1915.

War Service

Ernest arrived in Egypt in December 1915 and underwent training before deployment to the Western Front. He arrived in France in late June 1916 and was with the 30th Battalion when it was posted at Fleurbaix.

The 30th Battalion faced the German Army at the Battle of Fromelles on 19 and 20 July 1916. Ernest was reported missing in action and was pronounced “Killed in Action” by a Court of Enquiry on 23 July 1916. Fromelles was a disaster for the Australian Forces. The 30th Battalion initially undertook a support role providing ammunition to the front line but was soon in the thick of battle.

The Australian battalions lost more than five thousand of their number. Almost five hundred were captured but most were killed by withering machine gun fire or from blasts of shrapnel. No man’s land was littered with the dead and body parts and many were unable to be found. Others could not be identified and were buried in mass graves. A project is now underway to identify the unknown soldiers from the Fromelles battlefield. One hundred and fifty nine soldiers have now been identified and have been re-interred with proper recognition.

Ernest Welling is remembered in the VC Corner Cemetery, two kilometres north west of Fromelles on the road to Sailly. The cemetery, made after the Armistice, contains the graves of over 400 Australian soldiers whose bodies were found on the battlefield. Not one of those bodies could be identified at the time. It was decided not to mark individual graves, but to record on a memorial the names of all the Australian soldiers killed in the battle, and whose graves were not known.

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