Tramway ANZAC: James Henry Harvey

A motorman’s Gallipoli journey

Immigration has always played a key part in supplying workers for Melbourne’s tramways. Indeed, this is well known in the context of the 1950s, when the M&MTB actively recruited in the United Kingdom through Australia House, and supported this scheme through the operation of accommodation hostels.

What is not so well known is that immigration was also important in the tramways trust era, before the formation of the M&MTB in 1919. Skilled tramways staff travelled to Australia from the UK to take up opportunities that existed before the First World War.

One of these people was James Henry Harvey, born in 1885, the son of James and Susan Harvey (nee Pell) of Norwich, England. He was appointed as a conductor in the Norwich City Tramways on 25 May 1906, and subsequently trained as a driver but did not obtain a permanent appointment as such.

City of Norwich conductor licence for James Harvey. From the collection of Richard Adderson.City of Norwich conductor licence for James Harvey.
From the collection of Richard Adderson.

He was brought up a staunch Methodist, and married Helen Carr, with whom he had two children, Margaret Susan McDonald Harvey, and James Campbell Wilson Harvey. Unfortunately, he became estranged from his wife, and decided to immigrate to Australia, resigning from Norwich City Tramways on 12 April 1913.

Relations of his mother had previously immigrated to Australia and had settled in the township of Colac, Victoria. James stayed with the family while he applied for a job as motorman with the Prahran & Malvern Tramways Trust (PMTT), becoming close friends with his cousin Ada Pell.

James passed his medical examination, and Chief Inspector H.J. Hilton [1] asked him to present at interview on 9 June 1913 for the position as motorman. He landed the job – no doubt helped by his Methodism, as the PMTT (and all the municipal tramways trusts) favoured Protestant employees, unlike the Victorian Railways, which was a stronghold of Catholicism. Discrimination on religious grounds, for employment and many other matters, was an active practice in Australian society at the time.

James was issued with PMTT badge number 65, and he moved to 40 Kelvin Road, Armadale, not far from Malvern Depot, the only PMTT tram depot at the time.

Glenferrie & Riversdale Roads in 1913-14. From the collection of Richard Adderson. Glenferrie & Riversdale Roads in 1913-14, showing MTOC horse tram No 29 on its way to the Richmond cable tram terminus, and PMTT F class No 36 about to head northwards up Glenferrie Road. The building constructed on the vacant lot behind the horse tram became known as Stott’s Corner, after the business college that operated at that location for many years. Is the driver of No 36 James Harvey? We will never know. This postcard was found in his personal effects.
From the collection of Richard Adderson.

His time as a driver at the PMTT was not uneventful. On 26 June 1914 he was driving trip 235 from Malvern Town Hall to Deepdene along Glenferrie Road, when a motorcycle passed his tramcar after departing from the Manningtree Road stop. An eleven year old girl on her way home from school, Carrie Williams, ran out from the side of the road and was struck by the motor cycle and rider, all falling in front of the tramcar. James immediately applied the electric brake, and brought the tramcar to a halt in one tramcar length, but the tramcar had already struck the motor cycle, the rider and the girl, scooping them all up in the lifeguard.

The motorcycle rider, Mr David M. Evans of Caulfield, was not seriously injured, but the young girl suffered from severe shock and deep abrasions over most of her face and body. She was immediately taken to the nearby rooms of Dr F.E. Keane, and then to a private hospital where she was listed in a critical condition.

Luckily for James, he was adjudged to not be at fault.

Two days after James’ accident, Gavrilo Princip assassinated the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria and his wife in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Europe slid inevitably into war.

On 4 August, the British Empire declared war on the German Empire. James, a loyal British subject, joined up at Surrey Hills on 14 August 1914 as one of the earliest Australian volunteers. He was given regimental number 789 and assigned to B Company of the 8th Infantry Battalion, Australian Imperial Force.

James Henry Harvey, 1904. From the collection of Richard Adderson. James Henry Harvey, 1904.
From the collection of Richard Adderson.

His great-nephew Richard Adderson [2] found James’ personal documents at his mother’s address in England some 60 years after he left for Australia. Amongst the papers was one of only two known photographs of James, showing him to be of slim build and fair complexion. His enlistment papers state that he was 5 feet 9¼ inches tall, with a chest measurement of 35¼ inches, and he weighed 12 stone 2 pounds. His complexion was judged to be fresh, with fair hair and blue eyes, and he had only one identifying mark – a scar above his left ear.

8th Battalion embarked at Melbourne on HMAT A24 Benalla on 19 October 1914, headed for Egypt, where they were to be trained in the modern art of warfare. This battalion landed at Anzac Cove on the Gallipoli Peninsula on 25 April 1915 as part of the second wave around 0620 in the morning, along with other units of the 2nd Brigade AIF. James thus became an original ANZAC, but we all should remember that many of them were not Australian by birth, and that the Gallipoli campaign was not a purely Australian tragedy.

James was killed in action on the evening of 25-26 April 1915 after less than one day in combat. He was buried in an isolated gravesite at the top of Clarke’s Gully, ½ mile south of Anzac Cove. This site was to remain close to the front line for the entire duration of the Gallipoli campaign. After the war, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission exhumed his body and moved it to the Shell Green Cemetery, ¼ of a mile away.

Shell Green Cemetery. Photograph courtesy of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Shell Green Cemetery.
Photograph courtesy of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission..

James left his money to his cousin and all his possessions to his mother, who was then living at 8 Angel Road, Norwich, England. His wife was estranged from the rest of his family, as she was living at the Royal Hotel, Norwich – definitely not a location that would be approved by strict Methodists, so her children were being cared for by a Mrs Hardy of 107 Highland Road, Unthank Road, Norwich, England. Pensions were granted by the Australian Government to James’ kin as from 21 July 1915:

  • Susan Harvey (mother): £26 per annum
  • Helen Carr Harvey (widow): £52 per annum
  • Margaret Susan McDonald Harvey (daughter): £13 per annum
  • James Campbell Wilson Harvey (son): £13 per annum

Helen was later issued with James’ campaign medals.

The lives of many young men like James Harvey were ended by the Great War of 1914-18, as can be attested by the memorials scattered through the towns and cities of Australia and other countries, and volunteers from the staff of Australian tramways were among them.


The Argus (1914), Motoring accidents, 27 June 1914

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

National Archives of Australia, Service Records of No 789 J.H. Harvey 8th Battalion AIF

Personal papers from the collection of Richard Adderson

Carlyon, L. (2001) Gallipoli, Pan Macmillan Australia


[1] Henry J Hilton previously leased and operated the Box Hill to Doncaster Tramway from April 1894 to January 1896.

[2] This article came about as the result of an e-mail query regarding the PMTT from Richard Adderson, who is resident in the UK. Richard’s grandmother was the sister of James Harvey.