Bernard Maher (Service No. 3348)
(1897 - 1966)
Bernard Maher was born on 16 November 1897 in Brunswick to parents Bernard Joseph Maher and Margaret Maher (nee Fox). Young Bernard was the eighth child born to the couple who already had seven children aged between two and fourteen.
At the time of his birth Bernard Joseph and Margaret had seven children aged between 14 and two, they had lost their first born, a daughter at around the age of one. The early years of the Maher family began at North Melbourne, where Bernard Joseph Maher was working as a wood merchant. After this the family moved to Brunswick where he was working as an insurance inspector but later took on occupations as a hotelier, police constable and a commercial traveller whilst residing in South Melbourne and Armadale.
By 1912 the Maher family moved to the small township of Laverton where Bernard Joseph Maher continued working as a commercial traveller before establishing a business and farm on the outskirts of the township. The Maher’s became prominent members of the Laverton community and the Werribee district. Bernard Joseph Maher was successfully elected to the Werribee Shire Council in 1914 representing the East Riding within the Shire council. He served as a councillor for approximately 15 years and was elected mayor for one term in 1916, during the war years.
Bernard Maher enlisted into the Australian Imperial Forces just three months after his 19th birthday, on the 17 February 1917. He had the consent of his parents and followed in the footsteps of his elder brother, William Joseph Maher, who had enlisted in July 1915. Prior to him enlisting, Bernard had previous military experience having served with the 18th Brigade, 69th Battalion, Williamstown (‘D’ Company at Werribee) senior cadets. ‘D’ Company conducted its training at the Werribee Drill Hall and as well supported by Captain John Percy Chirnside. Bernard had also served with the 29th (Port Phillip) Australian Light Horse that was formed in 1912 and he was a member of ‘C’ Squadron based in Werribee.
Bernard was first sent to the Recruits’ Battalion at Royal Park and remained there until 11 April 1917 when he was appointed to the rank of private. He then moved to the Broadmeadows training camp where he remained until 21 May 1917, and then completed three days training at the Seymour Camp on 24 May 1917. Following this, Private Maher was then given the rank of trooper with the Australian Light Horse.
On 22 June 1917 Trooper Bernard Maher and the 3rd Light Horse Brigade, 8th Light Horse Regiment embarked from Melbourne aboard HMAT Port Lincoln A17 and sailed to Egypt. Here they disembarked at Suez on 5 August 1917 and were immediately sent to an isolation camp at Moascar for one month. (This was usually a precautionary measure to ensure diseases such as measles were not introduced into the community by men arriving from Australia). On 19 September 1917, Trooper Maher was transferred to the 8th Light Horse Regiment, who were stationed on the front line at Tel-el-Fara in Palestine fighting the Turkish forces.
At this stage of the war, the 3rd Light Horse Brigade (including the 8th Australian Light Horse Regiment) participated in the capture of Gaza from the Turkish forces. The battle involved a wide outflanking move via Beersheba, which began on 31 October 1917 and successfully concluded with the fall of Gaza on 7 November. The Turkish position in southern Palestine then collapsed. Immediately after this campaign but Trooper Maher was admitted to hospital for a minor ailment (lower back pain). By 9 December 1917 he had fully recovered and re-joined the 3rd Light Horse Training Regiment at Moascar.
On 3 January 1918 Trooper Maher transferred back to the 8th Light Horse Regiment who were now 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. In May, the regiment relocated to Wadi-el-Auja, and in June of 1918 they were moved to Solomons Pools. The key battle of Abu Tellul began on 14 July 1918 and the 8th Light Horse Regiment were relocated again, this time to Mussallabeh to defend the heights on the edge of the Judean Hills. Here they came under enemy shelling every day from both the Turkish and German forces.
On the 23 July 1918 there was only light enemy shelling and just two men were injured. One of these 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 an Australian convalescence camp at Helouan when peace was declared on 11 November 1918. He rejoined his 8th Light Horse Regiment who were still on duty 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 therefore 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 HT Malta on 3 July 1919 and docked at Port Melbourne on 7 August 1919 and the men were then taken to Victoria Barracks, before being reunited with their families. Bernard initially returned to Laverton and was living on the family property known as ‘Laverton Park’. Bernard Maher was presented with a Shire of Werribee gold medal at a function held in the Mechanic’s Hall in December 1919.
In 1925 Bernard married Lilian Rose Stewart and the couple moved to Clarke Street Northcote. By 1931 Bernard was now employed as a postal worker in the Northcote/Brunswick area and the couple had two children Bernard (Jnr) and Sylvia May. Tragedy struck the family in 1939 when their only son died at the age of 12. At this time the family were still living in Brunswick. By the early 1940’s the family moved to live in East Brunswick and Bernard was still employed with the postal service.
Bernard Maher continued working in the postal service until his unexpected death on 26 December 1958 at the age of 61. 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. Lillian Rose Maher remained living at East Brunswick until she passed away on 19 October 1962 at the age of 58. Lillian is interred at the Fawkner Memorial Park.