Well Represented at the Front
The first part of the article talks about four cousins, all born in Port Melbourne, who were serving at the Front. William Thomas Henry Prest, Thomas Alfred Prest, Henry Thomas Prest and William Thomas Libbis (known as Bill). They were the grandsons of William Prest, an ex-Engine Driver from Graham St.
Before the end of July 1915 a fifth cousin, Bill’s brother Leslie Fookes Libbis, had also enlisted. He too was born in Port.
The remainder of the article mentions three sons of Mr Hill, a dentist of Bay St. Alfred Wallace Hill, Roland Edward Alix Hill and Charles Edgar George Hill. A fourth son, Horace John Cedric Hill, also signed up in October 1917.
But lets learn bit more about those five Prest/Libbis cousins.
William Thomas Henry Prest was the first to enlist on 17 August 1914, a labourer aged 19 years 3 months and 5ft 10in tall. His father, also called William, was an Inspector of Rabbits living on Fishermen’s Bend (later at 367 Graham St). Assigned to the 5th Infantry Battalion, young William suffered a gun shot wound to the foot in May 1915 at Gallipoli and was wounded again in August and evacuated to hospital at Lemnos. In November 1915 he was promoted to Corporal but was wounded again in July 1916, this time in France. Still in France in 1917 he was sick and was admitted to hospital on more than one occasion. William left England to return to Australia in December 1918 and was eventually discharged in March 1919.
Thomas Alfred Prest, a driver aged 22 years 11 months 5ft 8¾in tall was next to enlist on 14 September 1914. His father John was also living on Fishermen’s Bend but Thomas gave his address as 386 Graham St. Thomas served in the 4th Field Ambulance and was reported as AWOL on 13 May 1916 from 6.30am until he was arrested in Cario at 2.15pm that afternoon. He was wounded in France in May 1917 and suffered several illness forcing him to hospital a couple of times during 1917 and 1918. Thomas sailed for Australia in October 1918 and was discharged in February 1919.
Henry Thomas Prest, an engine cleaner aged 19 years 6 months and 5ft 8in tall enlisted on 26 October 1914. His father, Robert Henry, was living at 155 Nott St. At the time of his enlistment, Henry, had served in the 52nd Infantry with the Citizen Forces for two years. He was assigned to the 2nd Reinforcements for the 5th Infantry Battalion but sometime between 25 April and 4 May 1915 he was wounded at Gallipoli and evacuated to Malta before being transferred to the military hospital at Lewisham in London. Although he returned to training in England, by May 1916, Thomas was on his way back to Australia on the HMAT Themistocles suffering from deafness arriving in Melbourne on 19 June 1916.
William Thomas Libbis (Bill), a salesman aged 21 years 2 months and 5ft 8¼in tall enlisted on 29 January 1915. His brother, Leslie Fookes Libbis, enlisted on 24 July 1915, a collar cutter aged 19 years 11 months and 5ft 2½in tall. Although both born in Port, they enlisted from 24 Nelson St, Coburg. Their mother, Sarah Ann Prest, had married William Edward Libbis and after both boys were born, the young family found themselves living in Coburg.
Prior to the family moving to Nelson St, Bill helped established the Mayfield St Football Team, named after the street where he lived. He has been identified as the player 6th from the left in the middle row in this picture of the team from around 1909 or 1910.
Bill was assigned to the 6th Infantry Battalion and took part in the landings at Gallipoli but was reported missing on 7 August 1915. Sadly, he was pronounced Killed in Action at Gallipoli as of that date by a Court of Enquiry held on 24 April 1916.
Leslie, prior to his enlistment, served for two years in the Senior Cadets of the Citizen Forces. He embarked for France in January 1916 as part of the 9th Reinforcements for the 6th Field Ambulance. However, in September 1916, Leslie was invalided to England with a gun shot wound to his right shoulder resulting in a severe fracture of the scapula. By mid 1917, he was assigned to temporary duty to several units in England awaiting transport back to Australia which subsequently departed on 22 July 1917. He was discharged on Christmas Eve 1917.
Leslie also enlisted for Second World War on 16 April 1940, aged 44 years, a clerk, living at 337 Beach Rd, Parkdale and married to Edith Grace Libbis.
1915 ‘Well Represented at Front.’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 15 May, p. 2. , viewed 21 Jul 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article91165872
National Archives Australia, Army – World War I: 1914–18 Service Records, viewed 21 Jul 2016,
Fighting the Kaiser: Coburg and the First World War, Mayfield Street Football Team, viewed 21 Jul 2016, http://fightingthekaiser.blogspot.com.au/2016/03/mayfield-street-football-team.html
Coburg Historical Society, Coburg State School Soldiers’ Book, viewed 21 Jul 2016, http://moreland.hosting.libero.com.au/documents/Soldiers’-Record-Book.pdf