Bernard Maher (Service No. 3348)
(1897 - 1966)
Bernard Maher was born in 1897 at Brunswick to Bernard Joseph Maher and Margaret Maher nee Fox. He was the second youngest of ten children born to Bernard and Margaret. The family had moved into the Laverton area in 1912 and initially Bernard Joseph Maher worked as a commercial traveller before establishing a business in the small town. The Maher’s became prominent members of Laverton and the Werribee district when Bernard Joseph Maher was successfully elected to the Werribee Shire Council in 1914 representing the East Riding and served on the Shire council for approximately 15 years.
At the age of 19 years and 3 months Bernard (Jnr) enlisted into the AIF on 17 February 1917 he had previous militia experience prior to him enlisting for service having served with the Army Cadets 18th Brigade, 69th Battalion, Williamstown (‘D’ Company at Werribee) and the 29th (Port Phillip) Australian Light Horse.
Bernard was first sent to Royal Park for training remaining there until 11 April 1917 when he was appointed as a private. He then undertook further training until 21 May 1917 and was appointed as a trooper to the Australian Light Horse. On 22 June 1917 Trooper Bernard Maher embarked from Melbourne aboard HMAT A17 Port Lincoln as a member of the 3rd Light Horse Brigade 8th Light Horse Regiment’s and sailed for Egypt.
Trooper Maher disembarked at Suez on 5 August 1918 and was sent to the isolation camp at Moascar for one month as a precautionary measure to ensure diseases such as measles were not introduced into the community. On 19 September 1917 he was transferred with the 8th Light Horse Regiment on the front line at Tel-el-Fara in Palestine.
It was at that time that the 8th Australian Light Horse Regiment participated in the capture of Gaza from the Turkish forces. This involved a wide outflanking move via Beersheba which began on 31 October 1917 and successfully concluded with the fall of Gaza on 7 November 1917and the collapse of the Turkish position in southern Palestine.
Immediately after this campaign Trooper Maher was admitted to hospital for a minor ailment. By 9 December 1917 he had recovered and was discharged to the 3rd Light Horse Training Regiment at Moascar. On 3 January 1918 Trooper Maher transferred back to the 8th Light Horse Regiment who were then located at Belah in the Gaza Strip. They remained there for several months before moving up to Selmeh. It was here that the Regiment participated in a successful attack on Es-Salt commencing on 30 April 1918.
The important battle of Abu Tellul began on 14 July 1918 and the 8th Light Horse Regiment were relocated to Mussallabeh to defend the heights on the edge of the Judean Hills. Here they came under enemy shelling every day from Turkish and German forces. There was only light enemy shelling on 23 July 1918 and just two men were injured. One was Trooper Maher who required evacuation while the other man was able to remain on duty.
Bernard Maher had received a serious shell wound to his right thigh and was treated by the 3rd Light Horse Field Ambulance before eventually being transferred to the 31st General Hospital at Abbassia in Cairo where he remained until 3 November 1918.
He was at Helouan when the armistice was signed on 11 November 1918 he rejoined the 8th Light Horse Regiment who were also at Moascar in Ismailia on 4 March 1919. The regiment then relocated to Minet-el-Gamh where they were utilised in protecting the railway and telegraph lines between Benha and Zagazig. These facilities were constantly being attacked by local tribesmen and daily patrols were necessary.
Following disturbances by the natives at Zagazig on 14 May 1919 the regiment relocated their camp to that city and continued their protection duties before returning to Moascar in early June 1919. The 8th Light Horse Regiment embarked at Kantara onboard HMAT Malta on 3 July 1919 and docked at Port Melbourne on 7 August 1919.
According to the Victorian electoral roll Bernard returned to live at the family property known as ‘Laverton Park’ in Laverton after leaving the military. He remained there until 1925 and was employed as a labourer. Trooper Maher was presented with a Shire of Werribee Gold Medal at a function held in the Mechanic’s Hall in December 1919.
In 1925 he married Lilian Rose Stewart and they moved to 197 Clarke Street Northcote. By 1931 Bernard was working as a postal employee in the Northcote/Brunswick area and the couple now had two children. Tragedy struck the family when their only son, Bernard jnr, died at the age of 12 in 1939. Bernard Maher continued working in the postal service until his sudden death on 26 December 1958. He is buried within the Melbourne General Cemetery, alongside his father, Bernard Joseph, and his sister, Florence Barden, in the immediacy to the final resting place of his mother, Margaret Maher, all within unmarked graves.