Monday 22 March 2021

Tuesday 25 April 2017

Great War Diary - Part 6

A deadly stalemate had developed at Gallipoli, with the Anzacs unable to break through to the Dardanelles and the Turks unable to push them back into the sea. The situation was taking its toll through illness and stress, but there was a 'big move' being planned by the Allies that gave hope to everyone at Anzac Cove including our Dr John Corbin. Those hopes were to be short-lived.

Thursday 22nd July

A heap of sick to be seen and many of them now are very sick men. The men who have had persistent diarrhoea look dreadfully ill and wasted. The number of shock cases is increasing and the strain of life in the trenches is tremendously apparent. The variety of nervous manifestations is extraordinary.

Wednesday 22 March 2017

Great War Diary - Part 5

More extracts from Dr John Corbin's compelling diary from Anzac Cove:

Tuesday 25th May:
HMS Triumph

Off duty, went up hill and slept in sun. At about 12 o'clock returning saw great excitement in fleet. The [battleship] Triumph coming inshore listing steadily and at 12.30 she turned completely over and sank. We hear varying accounts of the casualties from 50 - 350. I shall not forget the feeling as the big ship rolled over and sank. The submarine got clear away.

Monday 25 April 2016

Great War Diary - Part 4

Dr John Corbin lived on the Gallipoli battlefield for four months, all the while recording his experiences in his diary. He also took photographs - since the previous article was posted we have discovered that one of the photos used in that article ('Clearing station 1 ACCS on the beach at Anzac Cove') was taken by him! A collection of John Corbin's photos is held by the Australian War Memorial. All the Gallipoli photos below were taken by him.
Views of Anzac Cove
Wednesday 5th May:

Plenty of sick in, just a few wounded. One man shot through the neck, jaw broken, facial bleeding. Sewed it up, stopped haemorrhage and sent on board.

I sent off my cable to Margaret yesterday, but found that letters were censored here and at HQ and that it would be held up for two weeks...farcical. They let the world know through the press what they have done and make it impossible for us to write to our people.

Sunday 3 May 2015

Great War diary - part 3

On a desperate first day (see previous article) Dr John Corbin, one of just five doctors in the casualty clearing unit, treated hundreds of wounded soldiers on the beach at Anzac Cove. He snatched three hours sleep that day, but none at all on day two, as we see in the diary extracts which continue below.


Monday 26th April (700 wounded):

Worked continuously to 8am dressing God knows how many. Then a cup of tea and one biscuit, on again till later on another biscuit, then all day until 5pm. Had a bathe under fire and came out refreshed and invigorated to work on to 12.30 hard at it.

Clearing station 1 ACCS on the beach at Anzac Cove

Saturday 25 April 2015

Great War diary - part 2

One hundred years ago today Allied troops began their invasion of the Gallipoli Peninsula with the aim of knocking the Turks out of the war and re-opening the Dardanelles Strait for Russia. As part of the multi-national Allied force, the Anzacs landed on the western side of the peninsula at what became known as Anzac Cove. Major John Corbin, a surgeon in the 1st Australian Casualty Clearing Station, was witness to the dawn landing and by mid-morning was on the beach and operating on wounded soldiers in extreme conditions. Here are extracts from his diary for that day, April 25th 1915. The photos, all taken on the day, are from the online collection of the Australian War Memorial.


Could not sleep. Stayed up, had breakfast at 2.30am. Gradually stole in towards the Gallipoli Peninsula. Sighted it at 3.30 in dim hazy light. First big gun heard at 4.30, followed by several others and then rattle of musketry as the 3rd Brigade landed and started on their job of taking the first line of hills. The firing became almost continuous, the shore batteries firing shrapnel on the landing parties from point and the ships trying to silence them. We were stationary about 2 miles out and as the sun rose could see well the whole front and estimate the terrors of the landing.

Friday 24 April 2015

Great War diary of Dr John Corbin

John Corbin

The centenary of Gallipoli is here but many of us would not know that there was a Corbin among the Australians who landed at Anzac Cove on April 25th 1915.

He was Dr John Corbin, one of the South Australian Corbins. He was a son of Thomas Wilson Corbin who migrated to Australia in 1865. John was born in 1878 in Adelaide. At the time of the Great War, at the age of 36, he left his practice as a surgeon in Adelaide to serve as a major in the Australian Army Medical Corps.


Dec 4th - SS Kyarra in Melbourne,
day before departure
Like many servicemen, John recorded his experiences in a personal diary. The first entry was dated December 5th 1914, noting his departure from Australia - 'Left Melbourne 6pm, SS Kyarra'. The Kyarra was a hospital ship used to transport medical units to the war. The battlefield destination, presumed to be in Europe, had not yet been decided. After passing through the Suez Canal, on January 14th 1915 they 'entered into Alexandria [in Egypt]. An enormous harbour packed with interned German vessels'.

Wednesday 31 December 2014

150 Years in Australia

The year 2014 nearly passed without anyone noticing that it is a Corbin anniversary. As we discovered not long ago, James Bentley Corbin landed in Sydney on the ship Aerolite in 1864 - that makes 2014 the 150th anniversary of his arrival and therefore of the arrival of the Corbin family in Australia. (The other Corbin patriarch, James' cousin Thomas Wilson Corbin who settled in South Australia, is thought to have landed in Adelaide in 1865, the year after James' arrival in Sydney.)

To mark the anniversary year, I have just registered James for the Welcome Wall at the Australian National Maritime Museum at Darling Harbour. The wall records the names of people who have migrated to Australia at any time in our history. James' name will go up on the wall sometime in the new year, I'll post an update here when it happens. There will also be an entry on the Welcome Wall website where James' story can be briefly told.

Monday 10 June 2013

Opening of the Victoria Arcade

As mentioned in the first item on this page, we now have the opening date for Corbin & Nicolle's Victoria Arcade, after finding newspaper reports of the time. These finds are thanks to the wonderful National Library online resource Trove. The arcade was opened on 28 November 1887.

Earlier that year (23 March), under the heading PUBLIC IMPROVEMENTS, the Sydney Morning Herald published a lengthy article describing the project, beginning with...
VICTORIA ARCADE. Nearly opposite Wentworth Court in Elizabeth St, and extending through to Castlereagh St, a large block of land has been cleared of the tumble-down offices and rickety workshops, etc, which used to disfigure it. ... On this fine site a grand arcade, to be called the 'Victoria Arcade', is being erected.
The day after the opening (29 November) the Herald reported glowingly...

Wednesday 17 April 2013

Sunday 31 March 2013

Two Anniversaries

I can't let this month pass without mentioning two March anniversaries.

Friday 22 March 2013

William Corbin & Mary Bentley

Here is another of the updates from 2010. This one gives details of the marriage of William Corbin and Mary Bentley in London in 1810. The update was sent out to mark the 200th anniversary of their marriage. William & Mary were the grandparents of James Bentley Corbin and are our earliest known Corbin ancestors.

We were lucky to be able to celebrate the bicentenary. Ruth, working online with two fellow researchers in England, had 'discovered' Mary Bentley just a year or two earlier. Cath Corbin, reading through some of Ruth's research material early in 2010, noticed the date of the marriage and realised a major anniversary was upon us. And Ray Corbin, who happened to be living in London at the time, joined in with some on-the-spot investigations which revealed exactly where the marriage took place. When the day of the anniversary arrived he was able to stand on the spot where, exactly 200 years earlier, his great-great-great grandparents had been married.

23 JUNE 1810
William Corbin of Hampshire married Mary Bentley of London at the church of St Michael, Crooked Lane, Candlewick Ward, London on 23 June 1810. See marriage record below. (The previous idea that the wedding took place at Cripplegate was incorrect.) William was 'of this parish', i.e. a local resident, at the time of the wedding. The celebrant was a William Ireson. There is nothing familiar about the names of the witnesses - no Corbins - with the family being based out of London perhaps few of them attended.

Record of marriage of William & Mary, 23 June 1810

Church of St Michael
(Extreme right: Crooked Lane)
(Right background: London Monument)

The church of St Michael Crooked Lane was, like St Paul's Cathedral, built by the famous English architect Christopher Wren. Sadly, St Michael's was demolished in 1831 to make way for a new road, King William St, on the approaches to a new version of London Bridge.

St Michael's viewed from Crooked Lane
St Michael's in the path of
new London Bridge

Ray at the site of St Michael's (yellow outline)
on William & Mary's 200th anniversary, 23 June 2010

Nice that our Corbin story now has a London connection.

Sunday 25 March 2012

James Bentley Corbin's ship to Australia

As with the previous item, the information here was emailed out by Ruth with other updates in 2010. Relevant sections of The Story will be rewritten when time permits.


The biggest of the family mysteries which remained unsolved at the time of the reunion in 2008 was 'when did James arrive in Australia and what ship did he come in?'  It has long been thought that he came out sometime in 1861, name of ship unknown. The question has been answered thanks to persistent research by Ruth.
Shipping record for the arrival of 'James Corbin'
on the 'Aerolite', April 1864
(see first column, second last name)

A shipping record has been found which shows that James arrived in Sydney on the ship Aerolite on 26 April 1864.

The age, 19, is consistent with James' known birth date, and the position of Assistant Cook tends to support the family story that he worked his passage to Australia.

These revelations change the story somewhat, not just in the year of travel and the age of James when he emigrated, but also in the fact that when James' father (James senior) died in February 1863 James was still in England.

We speculated in the story pages that a factor driving him to leave England (assuming it was 1861 and therefore that his father was alive) could have been James not getting along with his stepmother. Now we have a different picture - his father had died, both parents were now gone, it was time to move on.

The Aerolite, English-built for 'the Australian and China trades' was promoted as 'the celebrated China clipper and favourite passenger ship ... one of the fastest ships afloat'.  The unusual name Aerolite has its origins in the science of astronomy - an aerolite is a type of meteorite.

If I had known at the time, the name of James' ship could have been added to the title of my 2008 booklet:
Alresford to Australia on the Aerolite !