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Beaufort Fire Brigade, some 50 kilometres west of Ballarat, has a proud and unique history of its brigade members' AIF service during World War I.
Beaufort ex-Captain David Gerrard said the brigade made a huge contribution to the districts ‘call to arms’ in World War One. Thirteen of its 15 active members enlisted and served overseas.
“A local newspaper claimed that based on brigade membership numbers, Beaufort provided more soldiers to the war effort than any other fire brigade in Victoria at that time,” David said. “At one point during WWI, Beaufort could only muster six active brigade members.”
Minutes from a brigade meeting in 1916 indicate three members resigned at the same time to join the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) for service overseas.
Two Beaufort brigade members never returned to Australia. Walter Chibnall was 31 years old when he enlisted (centre of photo). He was killed in action at Passchendaele near Ypres in Belgium.
William Phillips was 19 when he enlisted (to the right). He died of wounds and is buried near Villers Brettoneux in France.
Most of the others were wounded or struck down with serious illness. One of the Beaufort members, ex-Captain Robert AD Sinclair, served voluntarily for two years with the Red Cross in Cairo and London as an administrator. Sinclair later became chairman of the Country Fire Brigades Board (CFBB) in the 1930s - the predecessor organisation of CFA.
Beaufort’s contribution to military service was repeated in World War II, when 11 from the brigade membership of 15 joined up to defend Australia.
Today Beaufort Fire Brigade has around 50 members.