Written by Norman Cramp, Director Darwin Military Museum.
Roydon travelled to and from Darwin on several occasions as a boy and it is possible he left Darwin with his mother prior to the outbreak of war. He was mentioned in the Northern Territory Times and Gazette (NTT&G) as having sailed on the S.S. Eastern for southern ports on 27th November 1908. He returned to Darwin aboard the S.S. Empire on 3rd January 1911 and, it appears, remained in Darwin until 1913. He is mentioned in the NTT&G again as having left Darwin for southern ports aboard the S.S. Mataram on 7th July 1913. As there is no further mention of him in the NTT&G, it seems he never returned to Darwin.
The family separates
When William enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF), he nominated his mother, Florence, as his next of kin and provided her address as ‘c/- Mrs Pott, Darwin’. This was later ruled through and the address of Sherwood Road, Rocklea Brisbane included. William enlisted as a Private in the 1st AIF at Darwin on 8th March 1916 and was allocated service number (SERN) 2391. At that time, he was 20 years and 10 months of age, single and employed in his trade of fitting and turning, presumably at the railway workshops. He stood five feet ten and a half inches tall, was of ‘medium’ complexion with brown eyes and dark brown hair. Interestingly, his weight was not recorded on this enlistment documents.
He arrived in Plymouth, England on 9th December 1916 and was posted, initially, to Number 13 Camp at Codford, following which he was posted to the 12th Training Battalion at Folkstone. He completed his infantry training and ‘proceeded overseas’ aboard the S.S. Victoria on 2nd February 1917, arriving at Etaples, France two days’ later. He was soon in trouble again as a result of going absent without leave (AWL) between the hours of midnight to 8:30pm on 1st January 1917. Perhaps he had been seeing in the New Year and wanted a (perhaps last) fling before moving up to the line.
Missing in action
Although Roydon claimed to be nineteen and one month, in fact he was eighteen and one month as he was born on 24th June 1900. At the time he enlisted, he also stated that both his parents were deceased, probably as means of avoiding the AIF checking his age with his parents in the event the matter arose. As it eventuated, the ruse was unnecessary as Roydon was re-examined and rejected on the grounds of being medically unfit as a result of an ‘Old injury to foot – Wasted by’. Given the war had only five months to run, it is highly unlikely Roydon would have seen any action given he would have undergone basic training in Australia prior to embarking for England, then having to complete his infantry training prior to being posted to the front.
The Budgen Family mystery
The matter was left in abeyance until November 1923 when Base Records wrote to Headquarters (HQ) 1st District seeking information regarding any pension being paid to Budgen’s family. HQ 1st District advised that no pension payments had been made via the War Gratuity scheme regarding the deceased person, William Ernest Budgen SERN 2391. That same year, Base Records wrote to HQ 1st District seeking updated information on Mrs. Budgen’s postal address to which HQ replied they had the same address as Base Records and no other.
In June 1923 the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions wrote to Base Records inquiring if W.E. Budgen’s next of kin had received any pension for his wartime service and death. Base records replied there had been no pensions payments made to the Budgen family. Correspondence on the matter continued until July 1923, without any progress being made on locating Mrs. Budgen, and then stopped. The AIF and the Commissioner for Pensions had given up and the matter was now closed.
Roydon married Lilly May Cox in Brisbane on 17th February 1927 and found employment as a Tramways Employee, although it is not clear as to what exactly his role was. The Budgen’s lived at 161 Kent Street, New Farm, Brisbane until he enlisted in the 2nd AIF on 23rd April 1940 at Kelvin Grove Brisbane. He was issued service number QX7277 and was attached to the 2/2/Machine Gun Battalion in which he served in the Middle East.
He was discharged from the 2/AIF on 6th December 1941, probably as a result of injury or wounds, as a Private attached to the Australian Depot Battalion. Post-war he took employment with the Post Master General’s Department at the General Post Office, Brisbane, and became the Honorary Secretary of the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers’ Association in Queensland. He was survived by his wife, a married daughter and two sons.
And so the final details of William, his mother and his brother remain a mystery. For example, where is William’s exact place of burial (i.e. name of cemetery, place of cemetery, grave and lot number), did Florence and Sydney Budgen separate prior to the outbreak of war? Why was Roydon so different in appearance to William? What happened to Mrs. Budgen – did she die prior to 1921? If not, where did she move to and why didn’t she, or Sydney, seek William’s pension? Why didn’t Roydon request his brother’s medals and/or the pension payment that were rightfully due to him upon his parents dying? Was Roydon estranged from the whole family and if so, why?
It all remains a mystery in 2018 and I suspect it will remain so forever!