Brunswick's Men of War
Contrary to the romantic images of films such as Charlotte Grey
and The English Patient, for the Brunswick boys war
was nothing like these refined upper class romps through bucolic
France or the sensuous Middle East.
My grandfather, Edward Patrick Dorian, VX 10397 6th Petrol Coy AASC, enlisted on 22 February
1940, two months after his mate Michael Leonard Parlon, 2/5th Infantry. Parlon,
nicknamed 'Peggy' was notorious for violent misdemeanours.
When he was sentenced on 22 October 1937 at the Melbourne General
Sessions to three months gaol for loitering with intent, the magistrate
noted that his priors included nineteen convictions for assault.
By 1956 he had accumulated more than seventy convictions.
Peggy's last police mugshot.
Despite standing a whisker under 5 feet 4 inches, Parlon cut a
swathe through Brunswick during the depression. Kicking
a bloke when he was down and bashing an enemy senseless was the
dark side of his 'anti-copper' rebelliousness.In Stalag 18A he cut his mates' hair, and as the photos revealed
had lost none of his defiance.
So how did he come to be run over
by a train alongside Brunswick Baths on Sunday 12 May 1957, the
day after his mother died? And is it true that the finding of accidental
death delivered at the Inquest on 22 July was code for suicide and
that he couldn't face the prospect of being at his mother's funeral?
At 7.29pm the driver of the southbound train from Fawker told
the gatekeeper at Dawson Street 'someone's lying between the tracks
at the next gate. It's a pretty bad one.' In the fading light behind
the Brunswick Baths gatekeeper William Avent of Phoenix Street found
the mutilated body of Parlon.
Dressed in a blue suit with black shoes and white shirt and white
cotton T-shirt, Parlon was worse for wear when Senior Constable
Albert Collins came across him in Sydney Road around 6 pm on Sunday night. 'Don't lock me up. My mother died yesterday and I'll miss the funeral,' Parlon had said. When asked whether he was telling the truth he
replied 'I wouldn't lie about something like this.'
After the encounter with Constable Collins, Parlon made his way
south along Sydney Road where he met another local, Wally Smith. 'I'm a bit depressed about me mum,' he told Smith as he headed
off along Dawson Street towards the Brunswick Baths. At the baths
he turned right and walked north alongside the railway line in the
direction of Phoenix Street. It was about 6.30pm and the light
was fading when Parlon reached the pedestrian crossing.
Wally Smith still isn't sure why Parlon chose the Phoenix Street
crossing as his route home. To get to home he only needed to walk
along Dawson and turn left into Gardiner and right into Collier
Crescent, where he lived in a double fronted brick Edwardian house at number
41. For some reason he took the long way home.
The driver of the 6.50pm from Fawkner, Roderick Glencairn Wilson,
told the Coroner he didn't see anyone on the rail as he powered
towards Melbourne. Given the lack of light, it probably makes sense.
But was Parlon lying on the rail in preparation or did he walk,
deliberately or by accident, into the train? According to the folklore
he pulled his coat over his head and knelt down in preparation.
In the fifteen metres it took for the train to dispose of Parlon he
received frightful injuries. And so fierce was the collision
there was blood on the front of the train and his flesh was splattered
across the rear axle. Yet no one noticed the remnants of the tough
POW on the train until William Herbert May examined the carriages on Friday 17
Within a decade Parlon's mate Ted Dorian and the hero Jackie O'Brien
would be gone also.
Like Peggy Parlon, Ted Dorian was an alcoholic when he died in
1964 aged 49 years. In my book Cleary Independent I recount
the stories and recite the words of merciless Doctors enlisted by
the Department of Veteran's Affairs to explain away his descent
into hopelessness. Did he ever receive shock treatment, I wondered
when I ran an eye over his file and noted that on the 25/3/59 a
Doctor recorded: 'Admission to (R.G.H. H) - Clinical Notes (Cont'd):
Past History: seen twice before. Never had E.C.T. or Insulin. Last
an I.P. 1957. Present History: Ever since war - Insomnia, nightmares
of bombers, alcohol. Phys. Health: Eats one meal/day - rarely eats
John Peter O'Brien
Jackie O'Brien was born at Violet Town but enlisted at Royal Park
on 27 May 1941. His posting was REINF 2/24 BTN. Although he'd been
decorated with a Distinguished Service Medal, it wasn't enough
to ward of despair and an addiction to the drink. When they found
him down the lane in 1967 the local rats had already made a meal
of him. Five years earlier, on 18 April 1964, under the heading
War Hero Drunk Charge, The Sentinel newspaper told
how he'd been sentenced to seven days imprisonment for being drunk
and disorderly in a lane off Barkly Street.
O'Brien had enlisted on 27/5/41 at age eighteen, having been born
at Violet Town in January 1923, but had altered his age in order
to be accepted for service. From the moment he was discharged in
1944 he was before the courts. In fact, his first conviction was
for 'Desertion H. M. Service- Escaping.' At Caulfield on 11/2/44
he was sentenced to 18 months gaol, but five months later was sentenced
to seven days for offensive behaviour. By the time he died, in March 1967, he was a chronic alcoholic.
O'Brien was found face down in 'some grass off Phoenix Street' on 26 March 1967 by constable John Richard Ballard. Mr Humphries, of Prentice Street Brunswick had alerted the police. It was directly adjacent to the spot where Parlon had been hit by the train. Alongside his body, which had been there for a week, was an empty liquor bottle. He'd been released from gaol 17 March 1967 after a a drunk and disorderly conviction in January.
Roy Dorian and Billy Ottaway
Roy Dorian 2/7 Aust Inf Batt (Melbourne) and Billy Ottaway (Sth Melbourne) enlisted
on the same day - 27 November 1939. Roy was killed by a landmine
in New Guinea on 19 Aug 1943, probably during the battle for Bobdubi.
He was listed as buried at Salamaua.
more to come ...................