Feature

After horrors of WWI Tom spent life helping other veterans

Woodlark Street, Lismore, c.1920
Woodlark Street, Lismore, c.1920

WHAT happened to the soldiers who returned from the First World War?

Were they able to pick up the pieces of their previous civilian life, or were there major problems of re-adjustment?

And what about the young men who had immigrated to Australia only years or perhaps months before enlisting?

One of these was Thomas (Tom) Cooling, of Lismore.

Tom Cooling was born in Lancashire, England about 1883 and came to Australia in 1910, aged 27.

He had been working as a clerk in England. In 1912 he settled at Byron Bay, but perhaps intended returning eventually to England for, when he enlisted in 1915, he gave his mother's address in Middlesex as his own.

His occupation was given as engineer. He was initially attached to the 19th Battalion, but later was with the 2nd Pioneers and possibly the 17th Battalion.

He fought at Gallipoli and later in France and Belgium. He returned to Australia in May 1919. He had spent some time in England prior to his return as, according to his obituary, he had lost a leg in the War.

He returned to this area and in 1921 married Doris Eugenia Jagger, an English school teacher who had come to Australia with her family in 1913.

She may have been the reason for his return to Australia!

Some time later, he helped to establish the ironmongery business of Cooling & Maxwell in Woodlark Street, Lismore. After about 15 years, he relinquished his interest in this business, perhaps because of his war injuries.

He had also become very interested in the welfare of other returned soldiers and this interest was to become his mainstay for the rest of his life.

He had been a member of the Lismore Sub-branch of the RSL, almost from its inception in 1921.

He was branch secretary for several years, was a committee man, and was the Problems Officer for many years until his death in 1959.

He was on the committee which organised and built the Lismore Memorial Baths and was on the Swimming Club committee for several years.

Later, he was on the committee formed to build the Ex-Servicemen's Home at Ballina. In 1947, he was made a life member of the RSL. He was also a member of the Lismore Masonic fraternity and a Justice of the Peace.

Tom Cooling died in St Vincents Hospital, Lismore on July 26 1959, aged 76.

It is said that, although he had lost a leg in the War, he had fought back and had overcome the disability.

He knew better than some the problems faced by returning soldiers and did all he could to help others. He had been an honorary recruiting officer during the Second World War, so this included servicemen from both World Wars.

Tom Cooling's funeral was held at St Andrews Church of England, Lismore, and was one of the largest ever held there.

The guard of honour stretched from the church doors to the intersection of Keen and Zadoc streets.

A police escort accompanied the cortege all the way to the Mount Thompson Crematorium, Brisbane. This would probably have been unusual for the escort to continue all the way.

Another unique feature was the reciting of the Recessional by Ted Fisher and the playing of the Last Post by Monty South in the church grounds.

Archdeacon Robinson conducted the service. Besides his wife, Tom left a daughter, Mary, and a son, Raymond.

Topics:  anzac-centenary world war 1


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