1915 – PRIVATE FRANK CURRAN died before he could make it to World War I, but the Catholic priest who anointed him as he died proclaimed him “as big a hero as if he had died in the trenches”.
The second son of the Coonabarabran postmaster, Frank was only 19.
According to his enlistment records, he was five foot three-and-a-half inches (161cm), had a ruddy complexion with hazel eyes, brown hair and was a Roman Catholic.
Armed with his father’s consent, he had left his rural central NSW home, along with three other sons of the region – George Douglas, Claude Nelson, and Jack Loudon – to enlist at Liverpool training camp.
Liverpool, 30 km west of Sydney, was the main camp for the reception and basic training of recruits for the AIF in New South Wales during World War 1. It housed about 6000 men when Curran arrived in late July, but by September, there were nearly 17,000 living there.
At the training camp the boys underwent health checks and were vaccinated, after which Frank developed a cold. He seemed to be getting better until the morning of Monday, August 15, when he complained to his mate that he felt unwell.
The doctor felt he was ill enough to put him under observation, but the following morning he lost consciousness and was taken to hospital.
He died on the Wednesday, a little more than a fortnight after he had arrived.
His father had been sent for the day before, and arrived before he died, but did not see his son conscious again. Frank’s death certificate ascribes his demise to cerebro-spinal meningitis.
On the night of his death Father O’Brien, speaking to Curran’s fellow soldiers in the Catholic military tent at Liverpool Camp, held him up as an example to follow.
He explained the beautiful holy death he had, and proclaimed him as big a hero as if he had died in the trenches.
The Light Horse Band accompanied a funeral procession to Liverpool Station, from whence he was taken to Gunnedah, given another funeral, and then taken to Coonabarabran.
There, his local Reverend Father parker paid a glowing tribute to his memory.
“A few weeks ago, we were all in admiration of the noble example and self-sacrificing spirit displayed by Frank Curran, who left home, relatives and friends under the standard of justice and freedom to prepare himself to fight the battle of natural and national rights.
A squad of riflemen fired three volleys, and the Last Post was sounded.
Sources: Freeman’s Journal, Thursday 9 September 1915 p 21
The Daily Telegraph Tuesday 24 August 1915 p 5
National Australia Archives at https://www.naa.gov.au/explore-collection/defence-and-war-service-records
NSW State Archives and Records at https://nswanzaccentenary.records.nsw.gov.au/in-service/liverpool-riot-1916/