Digger's farm still run by his family

23 Apr, 2015 07:35 AM
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Keith Porter.
I'm proud that we've been able to keep the farm my grandfather established
Keith Porter.

DESPITE having little memory of his grandfather Albert Beddingfield "Bert" Porter, Keith Porter is very proud of his military service in both world wars.

Keith has lived all his life and raised a family at the property known as Alva, Avoca, Victoria, which Bert established. And on the wall of the family home, where Bert spent the last years of his long life, are pictures of him in his military uniform.

"My only memory of him is him walking around the water tanks by the house because I was only a young child when he died," Keith said.

"And sadly, Dad (John Thomas Porter) died a few years after of polio, so I never got to ask him about grandpa's service either."

According to enlistment records, Albert Biddingfield Porter was 40 years-old when enlisted as a private on March 14, 1916. He joined the seventh reinforcement of the 29th Battalion, which embarked from Melbourne on board HMAT A35 Berrima on July 4 of that year.

Historian RJ Austin writes in Black and Gold: the history of the 29th Battalion, 1915-1918, that "… having enlisted as part of the recruitment drive that followed the landing at Gallipoli, and having seen the casualty lists, these were men that had offered themselves in full knowledge of their potential fate."

Bert's unit went to Egypt and proceeded to France, destined for the Western Front, in June 1916. The 29th Battalion fought its first major battle at the infamous and bloody front of Fromelles on July 19, 1916. They saw more action in France and were later sent to Belgium and elsewhere in France.

Community supports a hero

Bert returned to Australia on January 10, 1918. In September of that year, an article was published in The Avoca Free Press and Farmers and Miners Journal (available in the National Library of Australia's digital trove) that reports on a "working bee for a returned hero".

It says a large crowd of Avoca and surrounding district residents came to his selection to ring the trees; but in the afternoon the workers' attention was distracted by a visit by the Girls' Patriotic Guild!

"Mr Porter is a returned hero and justly deserves the efforts made on his behalf," the article reads.

Bert also served in World War II.

The next two generations have added to the holding, so Mr Porter now has 508 hectares.

"As far as we can tell, Bert ran sheep and the old stables indicate he kept horses. He also had a gold mine on the property," Keith said.

"When people came home from the war they could pay off farms because wool was a pound for a pound."

Now it is a mixed farm, on which the family runs sheep, both fat lambs and wool, a small herd of cattle and grow barley and oats, mainly for stock feed.

Son Ashley has brought horses back to the property, establishing the Welsh Pony stud Vanoca Park.

Keith said the surrounding district had changed a lot since his grandfather's time: "There's a lot more vineyards now".

"I've been on the farm all my life and I'm proud that we've been able to keep the farm my grandfather established.

"We did it pretty tough because dad died, but we've still got the ground and didn't sell any of it."

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