Died due to war service

Died due to war service

With Remembrance Day coming up it seems a fitting time to acknowledge one of East Melbourne’s many residents who enlisted to serve their King and Country in the Great War. Shown here is Henri Joseph Lamande, in one of the more diverting photos in our society’s collection. 

For him perhaps there was the added incentive to visit the land of his ancestors.

Lamande was born in 1884 in Majorca, near Maryborough in Victoria. This little town was established in 1863 after gold was discovered nearby. It survived for about 50 years but is now, according to Wikipedia, a ghost town.  

Probably his parents saw the writing on the wall and moved to the city before its final collapse. By 1905 they were living in Amorique, 115 Hotham St, East Melbourne, named for the part of France where the family originated, the Cotes-d’Armor in Brittany. It was a big timber house but unfortunately not up to the standards of modern times and it was demolished in the 1970s to be replaced by units, still bearing the same name. 

The photo was taken at the back of the old house and shows Henri working on his shiny new Abingdon motorcycle. It appears to be a 1909-10 model which helps to date the photo. Henri was a bit of a motorcycle nut. His business was importing and selling motorcycles, but his real love was to sit astride one himself and see how fast it could go. He competed in races that were 100 or 200 miles long. He was never a champion, but his enthusiasm remained unabated.  

Henri’s companion, the kangaroo, looks quite relaxed. Its front paw rests on the rear wheel of the motorcycle as if it is thinking about jumping aboard. One can’t help wondering about life for such a large animal on a small suburban block. Was it allowed inside?  Did it go for “walks” in the Fitzroy Gardens? Advertisements for pet kangaroos at the time often advertised “excellent boxer”. Hopefully this one was not one of those. 

Henri’s war service started when he enlisted on November 15, 1915, and he was appointed to the 2nd Division Signal Company at Broadmeadows. He embarked aboard the Armadale on July 19, 1916, as part of the 14th Reinforcements. After another 10 months training in England, he was finally sent to France. 

The work of the signal companies was largely about laying and maintaining cables between headquarters and the trenches. It was dangerous work as the men were often operating in exposed conditions. By the time Henri was involved in the war Morse code messages were sent using Fullerphones. Unlike the standard telephone these ingenious devices could not be overheard by the enemy. Other forms of communication were used when necessary, even carrier pigeons. No doubt Henri would have hoped to spend his time aboard a motorcycle as a dispatch rider. Unfortunately, there is no record to show whether he was, in fact, given this role.

On his return to Melbourne in 1919 Henri started up a new motorcycle business, but by 1920 the advertisements had stopped. In 1929, in Sydney, he married Isabel Henderson.  Shortly afterwards he took over the management of a motor garage in Tumut but in 1933 was advised by his doctor to give up the work and he and Isabel returned to Melbourne where he continued to work as a motor mechanic. He died, as one of thousands, “due to war service”, on November 22, 1948, at the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital.

Sylvia Black, secretary
East Melbourne Historical Society 

emhs.org.au and [email protected]      


My article in the October edition of the Inner City News about the Old Men’s Shelter in Powlett Reserve, East Melbourne referred to a similar building standing in Curtain Square, Carlton. This is wrong, the Curtain Square shelter was demolished in the 1990s.  Thanks to those who pointed out the error, and sorry for the confusion. •


Image: Henri Joseph Lamande at home in East Melbourne.

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