There is a tree in Ballarat’s Avenue of Honour dedicated to Major Richard Wells, even though his links to Ballarat may seem tenuous.
William Richard Wells was born in Hotham – North Melbourne, once a municipality in its own right – in 1878. In all later records his names are reversed as Richard William. His parents were both born in London, but married in Victoria in 1877, and it appears Richard William was their only child.
In 1909 Richard married Miss Grace Burrow, and their son Richard Edward Burrow Wells was born in Essendon in 1909.
Richard was working as a clerk in the Victorian Railways Accountancy Branch when war broke out. He enlisted very quickly, on the 19th August 1914. He was 36 years of age and the father of a 4 year old boy… But he was also a member of various militia prior to the Great War and had risen to the rank of Captain. He joined the 6th Battalion and sailed away with the first convoy on HMAT Hororata.
And he has tree no. 151 in Ballarat’s Avenue of Honour. His father-in-law, Mr. Con Burrow, who was living in Ballarat, must have put his name forward to be included. There are many included in the Avenue, who are not Ballarat people, and similarly there are many Ballarat people who are not in the Avenue, even though it is commonly believed that all volunteers from Ballarat were honoured in the Avenue.
Michael Taffe addresses this in his 2008 thesis The Avenues of Honour, Ballarat : “the Elliot family of Ballarat had two sons overseas, one of whom was Brigadier ‘Pompey’ Elliot. Neither of these men had a tree in any of Ballarat’s avenues of honour nor is this an isolated instance. The Elliot family … chose not to so honour their children in the services. Others … honoured children who lived elsewhere and enlisted interstate or overseas.” 1
If you wish to read more about the Avenues of Honour in Ballarat – and there were many, not just the main one we all know of today – we have copies of both Michael’s theses in the Australiana Room, and in later blogs we will write more about the Avenues.
Meanwhile I will follow Richard Wells into the Great War over the coming months and will report back here.
1. Taffe, Michael. The Avenues of Honour, Ballarat : what were the origins, development and cultural meanings of Ballara’s avenues of honour 1917-1918? p. 9