Remembrance Day: The Beer brothers
Charles Beer and his wife Amelia of Rockdale had seven children and three of the Beer sons, Charles, Harold and Wilfred, enlisted and served during WWI. The Beer brothers were all active in the Cronulla Surf Club with Charles and Harold participating in the first championship of the Surf Bathing Association of NSW in 1915.
Charles was the eldest and was 28 when he enlisted in 1916. He was appointed a driver and embarked on HMAT Benalla later that year. In January 1918 Charles was accidentally injured, resulting in concussion and bruising to his head, but by May was back in France and twelve months later was promoted to Sergeant. He returned to Australia in July 1919 eventually moving to Port Hacking before his passing in 1966.
Harold, the second son in the family however was the first of the three sons to enlist in March 1915. According to the 15 May 1915 issue of The St George Call, a send-off was given by members of the Surf Club to Harold, ‘a young and enthusiastic member of the club’. In April he served as a gunner in Egypt and in October sailed to the Gallipoli Peninsula, and four months later transferring to France. He was promoted through the ranks and to Lieutenant and on February 1919 was awarded the Military Cross “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty…”
Wilfred was the youngest son and enlisted in May 1916. He was 21 when he was appointed Gunner and embarked on HMAT Aeneas in September 1916. After arriving in France, he was admitted to hospital suffering from scabies but four months later returned to duty and in November was subjected to an attack during which the enemy used phosgene, a deadly gas that had a delayed effect. He died shortly after, aged 22 and was buried in a military cemetery in Belgium.
On 19 November 1917, mourning his death, his parents, sisters and brothers, both of whom were still on active service, placed a notice in the SMH to honour Wilfred, and it included the sentiment ‘Our gift to the Empire – a man’.