Wednesday, 11 November 2020

In commemoration of Remembrance Day, our Local Studies Team would like to share the poignant story of the five brothers from Newport who all served during World War I.

The Brothers Enlist

Like many others, the First World War impacted the lives of many families around the Northern Beaches area. One of these was the family of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Porter who, out of their ten children, had their five eldest serve, becoming known as ‘The Five Soldier Brothers’.

The first brother to enlist was William into the 13th Battalion on 9 September 1914. He was the second eldest, a police constable and only 23 years old when he enlisted. William was part of the Gaba Tepe (Anzac Cove) landing at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 but unfortunately was wounded four months later in battle. His family lost contact with him after he was wounded but his service records show he died on 22 August 1915 (Sydney Morning Herald 22 January 1916, p. 10).

The eldest brother Robert, was 28 years old when he enlisted on 2 July 1915. The three younger brothers, 23-year-old Sidney, 21-year-old Carl and 18-year-old Albert, enlisted together on 15 September 1915. Sidney was assigned to the 53rd Battalion while Carl and Albert were both assigned to the 3rd Battalion (From the Australian War Memorial records).

The Brothers Reunite

It is believed that on the 14 June 1916, the four surviving brothers had a brief reunion in France.

Sidney, Albert and Carl were on fatigue duty repairing trenches damaged by German shells. Sidney was ahead of the group and came under fire, suffering a bullet wound to the chest. Carl and Albert were a distance behind when they reportedly heard that a ‘Porter’ brother had been wounded. While they were waiting for a stretcher, the eldest brother Robert appeared. He was on duty delivering messages across the trench and briefly stopped to greet his brothers before carrying on with his duties. Unfortunately, this would be the final time the four brothers would see each other.

One month following this reunion, on 22 July 1916, Albert was killed at Pozieres. After Sidney recovered from his wound in England, he was transferred to Belgium but was unfortunately killed in action on 24 September 1917 (From the Australian War Memorial records).

Life after the War

Robert and Carl both survived the Great War and returned home to Newport.

Robert won the Military Medal for ‘conspicuous gallantry’ for his efforts during operations northeast of Strazeele, on 17 and 18 April 1918.

Carl suffered a lifelong injury when he was blinded by gas during the Third Battle of Ypres but despite this, went on to being one of the most active members in the Newport community. He was a founding member of the Newport Surf Life Saving Club and President of the local P&C. He was also active in the formation of the Community Centre at Mona Vale and the RSL Clubs at Pittwater, Newport and Avalon. Porter Reserve, the oval in Newport, was named in honour of Carl Porter.

If you wish to read more on the Porter Brothers, you can read our factsheets on Albert, Sidney and William through History Hub. If you would like to find out more about other soldiers from the Northern Beaches who served during WWI, please look through our WWI Soldiers Collection on History Hub.