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Tuckett, Francis Curtis (1899–1953)

by R. E. Cowley

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

Francis Curtis Tuckett is a minor entry in this article

Francis John Tuckett (1875-1917) and Lewis Tuckett (1879-1960), soldiers, were brothers. Francis was born on 1 March 1875 at Beaufort, Victoria, fifth child of Alfred Curtis Tuckett, a brickmaker from Bristol, England, and his Irish wife Maria, née Bryans. About 1878 Alfred took up farming at Marraweeney, near Violet Town, where Lewis, his seventh child, was born on 1 April 1879. The children were educated locally.

A smallish, stocky man, Francis (or Jack as he was known) served in the militia with the Victorian Mounted Rifles for two years before going to Western Australia and becoming a telegraphist at Eucla in 1895. Moving to Kalgoorlie, he married Elspeth Maria Morrison on 9 June 1898 with Presbyterian forms; they were to have six children. In Perth in 1904 he joined the (Royal) Australian Engineers, serving first with the 8th Half Company and from 1909 with the 30th Signal Company. He was commissioned second lieutenant on 16 March 1913.

Jack Tuckett was appointed to the 3rd Divisional Signal Company, Australian Imperial Force, on 3 March 1916; his eldest son Francis Curtis (1899-1953) was allotted to the company six days later as a sapper. Born at Coolgardie on 28 July 1899 and educated at Victoria Park, young Francis was a bank clerk when he managed to enlist in the A.I.F. on 28 December 1915. Father and son embarked in May 1916 for training in England; Jack was promoted lieutenant in September. They proceeded to France in November where their company was responsible for providing and maintaining communications with forward units in the war zone. Lieutenant Tuckett was recommended for the Military Cross for his work in the Ypres sector in September and early October 1917; he was killed in the 2nd battle of Passchendaele on 14 October before his award was promulgated. His mates wrote to his wife that he had died while 'seeking to alleviate the distress of others'. A keen cricketer, he had been presented with the bat used when a side from his company was successful against a 10th Australian Infantry Brigade team: his family later gave it to the Western Australian Cricket Association.

Sapper Tuckett attended his father's funeral at Ypres Reservoir North cemetery. For his gallantry in operations prior to and on 12 October, Francis Curtis Tuckett was awarded the Military Medal. He was transferred to Headquarters in April 1917 and his appointment was terminated in November, after his return to Australia on compassionate grounds. Later, as a 'gun' shearer, he roamed the country. On 8 November 1953 he died of lung cancer in Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney, and was buried in the Field of Mars cemetery with Methodist forms. He was survived by his wife Eileen Theresa, née Sheridan, whom he had married at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Hughenden, Queensland, on 14 November 1931, and by their daughter.

Lewis Tuckett, like his elder brother, joined the Western Australian Postmaster-General's Department as a letter carrier in 1900 and became a telegraphist. He served in the citizen forces from 1909. Two weeks after marrying Edith Emma Keedwell at St George's Anglican Cathedral, Perth, on 11 August 1914, he enlisted in the A.I.F. Promoted sergeant, he embarked for Egypt with the 1st Divisional Signal Company in October.

Tuckett's company was attached to the 2nd Australian Infantry Brigade and landed on Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. He was awarded the Military Medal for his work in maintaining communications during the consolidation of the front line and at Cape Helles when the brigade attacked Krithia. Transferred to the 8th Battalion, he was commissioned second lieutenant on 1 December.

In Egypt in February 1916 Tuckett was promoted lieutenant. He was transferred to the 4th Divisional Signal Company next month and went in June to France where, as signals officer for the 13th Australian Infantry Brigade, he was responsible for communications with the forward battalions. He was mentioned in dispatches three times during operations at Mouquet Farm, Fleurbaix, Somme, Ypres and Flers. Disregarding his own safety at the attack and seizure of Noreuil in April 1917, he kept communications in working order with every unit. For this action he was awarded the Military Cross.

Later that month Lewis Tuckett was transferred to the 3rd Divisional Signal Company; promoted captain, he was second-in-command. Following the death of his brothers, Jack and Philip, he was granted two months compassionate leave early in 1918 to visit his family in Australia. Back in France in August, he served with the 4th Divisional Signal Company; he returned to Australia in July 1919 and his A.I.F. appointment terminated in September. He continued in the Australian Military Forces until December 1931 when he was placed on the retired list.

After the war Tuckett had resumed his job as a postal employee and later became a supervisor at the General Post Office, Perth. With blue eyes, dark brown hair and a fair complexion, he became a father figure to Jack's children and was an active member of Legacy, the Returned Sailors' and Soldiers' Imperial League of Australia and the Anglican Church. Survived by his wife and a son, he died at the Repatriation General Hospital, Hollywood, Perth, on 12 February 1960 and was cremated.

The Tucketts' youngest brother, Philip Samuel (1884-1916), was the fourth member of the family involved in providing communications at the battle front. Born on 1 November 1884 at Violet Town, he was a survey hand on the construction of the transcontinental railway before enlisting in the A.I.F. in Perth on 3 January 1916. Promoted sergeant, he embarked with the 3rd Pioneer Battalion in June for training in England. Arriving in France, he was allotted to the 49th Battalion; two days after being commissioned second lieutenant, he was killed by shell-fire while inspecting telephone lines at Flers on 24 November 1916. His brother Lewis witnessed his burial at Bull's Road Military cemetery.

Another brother, Frederick William (1873-1922), was postmaster at Halls Creek in the Kimberley, Western Australia; in August 1917 he operated on a seriously injured stockman by following instructions telegraphed to him from a surgeon in Perth. The incident reinforced public recognition of the need for a flying doctor service.

Select Bibliography

  • E. Hill, Flying Doctor Calling (Syd, 1948)
  • R. D. Williams (compiler), World War I Military Medals to Australia (Melb, 1982)
  • R. D. Williams (compiler), World War I Military Crosses to Australia (Melb, 1982)
  • London Gazette, 27 Oct 1916, 2 Jan, 1, 15 June, 25, 28 Dec 1917, 25 Jan 1918
  • West Australian, 7, 11 Aug 1917, 19 Apr 1986
  • unit embarkation nominal rolls, 1914-18 war (Australian War Memorial)
  • troopship records and war diaries, 1st, 3rd and 4th Divisional Signal Company, AIF (Australian War Memorial)
  • private information.

Citation details

R. E. Cowley, 'Tuckett, Francis Curtis (1899–1953)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/tuckett-francis-curtis-9261/text15577, published in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 3 September 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

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