Paddy’s story

Paddy Vid­gen was too young to fol­low his older sib­ling to Gal­lipoli but he was a tal­is­man for the troops train­ing in Bris­bane.

The Courier-Mail - QWeekend - - CONTENTS - Story Alison Walsh

The five-year-old tal­is­man of the 15th Bat­tal­ion

He was only five but “Lieu­tenant” Paddy Vid­gen, clad in a tiny khaki uni­form com­plete with of­fi­cer’s pip, put­tees and a slouch hat, was do­ing his bit for the war ef­fort. In late 1914, with the coun­try in the first blush of pa­tri­otic fer­vour, he trav­elled to Mel­bourne in his role as a reg­i­men­tal mas­cot to farewell troops. By May 1915 he was march­ing through Bris­bane amid 3000 men and by Au­gust that year, aged six, he was tak­ing the salute with the Gover­nor at a “Pa­tri­otic Demon­stra­tion” of 5000 chil­dren at the Bris­bane Ex­hi­bi­tion Grounds.

Paddy, whose fam­ily lived on a prop­erty at Enog­gera in Bris­bane’s north-west – in the vicin­ity of what is now Brook­side Shop­ping Cen­tre – had come to know many of the troops in train­ing camps on their land and in sur­round­ing fields. The youngest of eight chil­dren and not yet at school, he of­ten vis­ited neigh­bour­ing Bell’s pad­dock where his old­est brother, 18-year-old Jack, was with the 15th Bat­tal­ion, which was raised in late Septem­ber 1914, six weeks af­ter the out­break of war.

Paddy – who had been chris­tened with the rather more spec­tac­u­lar names of Nor­ris Oc­tavius – be­came so well known to the men that they de­clared him their mas­cot and had an Enog­gera tai­lor kit him out. Pho­tos of him in full re­galia were sold to raise money for the war ef­fort. Paddy was also pic­tured in uni­form with the 11th Light Horse who trained in nearby Fraser’s pad­dock.

“He had feath­ers in his hat in that one,” says Paddy’s daugh­ter Kaye Tay­lor, 71, who lives with hus­band Gra­ham on the Gold Coast. “When the 15th saw this, they told him in no un­cer­tain terms that he be­longed to them, and he was their mas­cot and theirs only.”

She says that in late Novem­ber 1914, when the men of the 15th were pre­par­ing to travel by train to Mel­bourne to de­part Australia, they wanted Paddy to go with them. His mother, Frances, fi­nally agreed to ac­com­pany him on the lengthy jour­ney. The 15th, as part of the newly formed 4th Brigade, marched through Mel­bourne with Paddy in their ranks and then set sail on HMAT Ce­ramic on De­cem­ber 22, 1914. Paddy and his mother never saw Jack again. The troops ar­rived in Egypt in Fe­bru­ary 1915 and the 4th brigade went on to land at Gal­lipoli on the af­ter­noon of April 25.

On May 31 that year, The Bris­bane Courier re­ported that a 3000-strong ex­pe­di­tionary force had pa­raded through the city. “Then came the lit­tle boy mas­cot ‘Lieu­tenant’ Paddy Vid­gen, whose brother is at the front. The lit­tle fel­low, who is the idol of the men, is only five years of age and he marched five miles with the men”.

Jack, by then 19 and a 2nd lieu­tenant, was killed in ac­tion on Au­gust 8. His name is in­scribed in the lime­stone me­mo­rial at Lone Pine war graves ceme­tery on the Gal­lipoli penin­sula, one of the 3268 Aus­tralians and 456 New Zealan­ders who have no known grave. “Be­cause they didn’t find his body, his mother still thought he might come home,” Kaye says. “As chil­dren we were al­ways won­der­ing if men were Un­cle Jack, or if he had be­come con­fused and gone off to live with an­other fam­ily.”

On Au­gust 21, The Queens­lan­der re­ported that Paddy, per­haps as yet un­aware of his brother’s fate, took pride of place at the Pa­tri­otic Demon­stra­tion with the Gover­nor: “At the salut­ing base with His Ex­cel­lency, a tiny cadet, Mas­ter Paddy Vid­gen, aged six years, took the salute”.

Paddy went on to at­tend Bris­bane Boys’ Col­lege in in­ner-west Toowong and be­came an ac­coun­tant. In 1938 he mar­ried Mar­jorie Ste­wart, whose fa­ther, Dr Her­bert Jamieson Ste­wart, had treated sol­diers wounded at Gal­lipoli on the is­land of Lem­nos from Au­gust 1915. They also had an­other daugh­ter, Diana. Paddy joined the navy af­ter the out­break of World War II and be­came cap­tain of a minesweeper, the corvette HMAS Parkes, which was part of the con­voy that took the Ja­panese sur­ren­der at Ti­mor on Septem­ber 11, 1945.

Af­ter the war, Paddy worked as a navy re­cruit­ing of­fi­cer in Queens­land. His hero­ics in help­ing deal with the bar­na­cle-en­crusted World War II mine that washed ashore at Staghorn Av­enue at Surfers Par­adise in March 1966 earned him a Queen’s Com­men­da­tion for Brave Con­duct. Af­ter so many brushes with dan­ger, Paddy lived to 89. His ashes were scat­tered at sea and a me­mo­rial plaque is at St Matthew’s Angli­can Church in Grovely, a cou­ple of kilo­me­tres from the pas­tures of his par­ents’ prop­erty, now cov­ered by a hous­ing es­tate.


A few good men … Paddy Vid­gen ( cen­tre) with the 11th Light Horse in Enog­gera, Bris­bane; ( right) with brother Jack and ( op­po­site page) march­ing at the head of the band in Collins St, Mel­bourne, with the 15th Bat­tal­ion, all in 1914.

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