Jerome Locke


Reproduced from the Lock family in WWI by Philippa Scarlett, original from the collection of the Darug Tribal Aboriginal Corporation.

Service number 117A

Service Number 85938

Link to Service Record:

Jerome Locke was born 13th August, 1866, at St Marys, NSW.

Jerome belonged to the notable Locke family of the Darug people who had lived on the Cumberland Plain of New South Wales and whose presence there can be dated back to at least 25 thousand years.  Jerome’s grandmother was Maria Lock, the sister of Colebee, whose father, Yarramundi, Chief of the Boorooberongal clan and grandfather, Gombeeree, had met Governor Phillip in April, 1791. So far an unbroken link to this clan goes back to 1740. (See Locke Family Lineage)

He married Elizabeth Maud Arnold, a white woman, in 1891. They had 7 children, 5 sons and 2. Both girls died in infancy. Elizabeth, also known as Maud, was actively involved in helping at the Plumpton Mission, St. Marys. During an epidemic at this time Elizabeth died of pneumonia.

Jerome Locke (right) with his sons William (centre) and Olga (left).  Courtesy Noel Morley.


Jerome lived in Liverpool Road, St Marys and his occupation was listed as “contractor”. He was of dark complexion, brown eyes and dark hair.

Jerome was a keen rifleman. He belonged to St. Marys Rifle Club and was a former member of Windsor Volunteer Rifles/Windsor Corps. He also joined the Rifle Reserve Thousand (RRT), a group which had been inspired by the first recruitment march held in NSW. The Windsor Corps uniform can be seen in the photograph above.

He and 2 sons, Olga Cecil  (born 1895) and Leslie John “Jack” (born 1899) enlisted and served in the AIF during WWI. Jerome enlisted twice, first on 3rd January, 1916 at Liverpool, NSW (He gave a false age as 44 years 5 months, presumably so that he would be accepted) and then again on 11th June 1919 at Holsworthy.

On 13th of May 1916, Jerome and Olga left Sydney for Europe on the same ship, the HMAT Beltana. They served overseas in the 36th Infantry Battalion and the 53rd Australian Infantry Battalion in France. (Leslie John “Jack”, the younger son did not enlist until 25th May 1918 at age 18). Jerome was hospitalised on the 12th of November, 1916, at the 1st Eastern General Hospital with ‘Trench Feet’, a common condition suffered by the troops due to the appallingly muddy trenches (See ‘Additional Material’).

“The 53rd spent the freezing winter of 1916-17 rotating in and out of trenches in the Somme Valley. During this period the battalion earned the nickname “the Whale Oil Guards” after the CO, Lieutenant Colonel Oswald Croshaw, ordered the troops to polish their helmets with whale oil (issued to rub into feet as a trench foot preventative) for a smart turn out on parade. In March 1917, the 53rd participated in the advance that followed the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line. It was spared the assault but did, however, defend gains made during the second battle of Bullecourt. Later in the year, the AIF’s focus of operations switched to the Ypres sector in Belgium. The 53rd’s major battle here was at Polygon Wood on 26 September.”

Australian War Memorial References:

  • J. J. Kennedy, The Whale Oil Guards, (Dublin: James Dussy and Company Limited, 1919).
  • AWM4/23/70/1-23/70/33: 53rd Battalion war diary

Jerome’s war came to an abrupt end when his real age was discovered. He was sent home arriving in May 1917 and discharged for being overage on the 11th of June, 1917. The requirements in August 1914 had been 19–38 years, height of 5ft 6in and chest measurement of 34 inches. In June 1915 the age range and minimum height requirements were changed to 18–45 years and 5ft 2in, with the minimum height being lowered again, this time to 5ft, in April 1917.

The irrepressible Jerome, aged 51 and with his hair now described as ‘grey’, re-enlisted in June 1919. He served with the Traffic Control Detachment, Special Service Unit AIF. His duties were to escort and guard German deportees from Sydney to England embarking on the HMAT TRAS-OS-MONTES 9th of July 1919.

He died in Newtown in 1929.