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Saturday, 8 August 2015

The Blickensderfer Typewriter Company's Australian Agent and the Gallipoli VC Winner

Fred Constable, of Perth, Western Australia, at a gathering of the Blickensderfer Typewriter Company's European agents in London in early January 1912.
Captain Fred Constable of the 48th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force, 1916-1918
By the time the Blickensderfer Typewriter Company's New Zealand-born Australian agent, Frederick Charles Constable (1876-1920), reached the Western Front in World War I in 1916, his brother-in-law, Hugo Vivian Hope Throssell, was already a war hero and a household name back in his home country. Just three days after he had landed in Turkey, Throssell (1884-1933) had first seen action on this day (August 7, 1915) 100 years ago, in the bloody and disastrous Battle of the Nek, on a narrow stretch of ridge in the Anzac battlefield on the Gallipoli Peninsula. Throssell, of the 10th Light Horse Regiment, was one of the leaders of the fourth and last line of attacking troops as two regiments of the Australian 3rd Light Horse Brigade mounted a futile bayonet attack on the Ottoman trenches on Baby 700, suffering 40 per cent killed for no gain. This battle became known as "Godley's abattoir", and Throssell himself called it "that FOOL charge". Nine officers and 73 men of his regiment were killed within minutes.
Three weeks later, in the early hours of the morning on August 29, 1915, Throssell's bravery at the summit of Hill 60, a trench held by the Turks between the two bridgeheads at Anzac and Suvla, earned him the Victoria Cross. He was the first West Australian to be so decorated.
Hugo Throssell VC
For Fred Constable, enlistment in the Australian Imperial Force on September 18, 1915, would mean a return to Europe. He had been there on business, from June 1911 to January 1912, as a wholesale chemist, importer and a Blickensderfer typewriter agent. He was in partnership with Francis Herbert Neale in Perth, Western Australia. During this first trip to the other side of the world, Fred Constable attended the annual convention of British Blickensderfer agents at the Waldorf Hotel, London, from January 2-3, 1912.
Neale, Constable and Company Limited had taken over the Australian agency for the Blickensderfer typewriter from another of Fred Constable's West Australian brothers-in-law, Percival William Armstrong (1866-1942), founder of the Armstrong Cycles and Motor Cycles Agency. Armstrong was married to Hugo Throssell's  sister Grace Ethel Throssell (1876-1948). Armstrong had in turn secured the Blickensderfer agency from Brisbane typewriter inventor and importer John Stephen Southerden (1865-1937), an uncle of aviation pioneer Sir Charles Kingsford Smith. 
John Stephen Southerden
Fred Constable married another of Hugo Throssell's older sisters, Ada Ranford Throssell (1873-1953), in Northam, Western Australia, on September 22, 1914, a few weeks after World War I had been declared. Ada, Grace and Hugo were part of the large family of Irish-born merchant George Michael Throssell (1840-1910), who in 1901 had been the second Premier of Western Australia.
The wedding of Blickensderfer typewriter agent Fred Constable and Ada Throssell, sister of Hugo Throssell VC. The bride was given away by her brother, Lionel Throssell, right. Hugo Throssell and Percy Armstrong were guests at the wedding.
The Constable family, with Thomas seated front right and Fred at far left, back row
Fred Constable was born in Auckland, New Zealand, in June 1876, the son of leading Auckland builder, English-born Thomas Constable (1839-1900). Thomas Constable left England at age 10 in 1849, arrived in Australia in 1850 and moved to Otago in New Zealand in 1862. He returned to Melbourne in 1889. Two of his sons, Fred and Arthur Keen Constable (1882-1953), became wholesale chemists and set up separate businesses in Perth, Western Australia.
Arthur Constable
Fred and Arthur were two of four brothers who served on the Western Front - one, Harry Constable, was killed on the Somme in July 1916. Another, Tom Constable, was wounded in France. Yet another brother, George, committed suicide at the Victoria Barracks in Sydney in 1913, aged 40.  
Fred Constable enlisted on September 18, 1915, three weeks after his brother-in-law Hugo Throssell's heroic actions at Gallipoli. Fred embarked from Fremantle on the Miltiades on August 9, 1916, headed for the Western Front as a Second Lieutenant with the 44th Infantry Battalion Second Reinforcements, but after arrival in France he was transferred to the 48th Battalion and was promoted to Captain. In 1917 the battalion fought in the first Battle of Bullecourt and the Battle of Passchendaele.
The horrors of war clearly told on Fred Constable. He returned to Australia on April 15, 1918, a broken man. He took up real estate work and farming, but died "suddenly" on February 21, 1920, while on a visit to East Bairnsdale in Gippsland, Victoria. He was aged just 44.
Hugo Throssell's wife, author Katharine Susannah Prichard, whose Remington portable typewriter is seen below:
The connection through Constable with the Blickensderfer Typewriter Company is all the more interesting because Constable's brother-in-law, Hugh Throssell VC, married the author Katharine Susannah Prichard, whose Remington portable typewriter was in my care for some months until June this year. I was asked to tidy up Prichard's Remington for exhibition purposes. Here are the after (above) and before (below) photos:
 It even acquired a"new" case:

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