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Emerald Museum & Nobelius Heritage Park

Harold Ferres 1904FERRES, HAROLD DUNSTAN GORDON (1885-1978), army officer, grazier and farmer, was born on 4th September 1885 at Ararat, Victoria, the fifth child of Robert Ferres, a native-born civil servant, and his wife Caroline Elizabeth, née Tonkin, from England. In 1894 the family moved to the Gippsland district and took up farming. Nicknamed 'Pung', Harold attended Alberton State School and became a good footballer, cyclist and horseman. He cleared and improved grazing blocks around Toora, and raised cattle. An acclaimed shearer, he worked on stations as far away as North Queensland.

On 13th January 1915 Ferres enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. Commissioned on 29th May, he sailed to Egypt and briefly served in the 5th Battalion before transferring to the 57th Battalion in February 1916. The unit arrived in France in June and next month fought in the battle of Fromelles. In August Ferres was promoted captain and posted to the 58th Battalion. He was mentioned in dispatches for outstanding conduct as a company commander from July to September. Suffering from fever, he was evacuated to a hospital in London in April 1917 and did not return to the 58th until October. On the night of 13-14th March 1918, near Messines, Belgium, he led a successful raid against enemy trenches and was awarded the Military Cross. After the Germans broke through the front line east of Hamel, France, on 4th April he organized defences to prevent them from reaching the Somme Canal; for this work he won a Bar to his Military Cross.

Ferres Saddle May 2017 1Colonel Ferres' Saddle on display at the MuseumPromoted temporary major in May 1918 (substantive in September), Ferres was again mentioned in dispatches. On 2nd September he commanded his battalion in an attack against Péronne. Although he was severely wounded in the thigh, he continued to direct the assault, despite intense pain and loss of blood. His quick decisions and resolute actions led to the taking of the strongly defended town, with minimal casualties to his own men. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. While recovering from his wound in Scotland, on 16th December 1918 he married Joanna Mary Scott Todd with United Free Church forms at her mother's Edinburgh home; they were to have four children.

Back in France, Ferres commanded in turn the 58th and 59th battalions as temporary lieutenant colonel. In May 1919 he embarked for Australia where his A.I.F. appointment terminated on 29th December; as major, he was placed on the Reserve of Officers in 1922 and transferred to the Retired List in 1925. One of the A.I.F.'s most decorated soldiers, he maintained links with his battalion association, but avoided publicity and 'was reticent about his own deeds'.

In 1919 he had resumed farming on a new property near Emerald, Victoria; he devoted the rest of his life to his family and his passion for the land. 'To him, the outside world was unimportant'. He was never idle and had stern words for those who were. Predeceased by his wife, he died on 5th July 1978 at Kallista and was cremated with Anglican rites; his daughter and two of his three sons survived him.

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