Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Thomas Francis Arnold (1897–1960)

by Michael R. Downey

This article was published:

Thomas Arnold

Thomas Arnold

photo provided by family

Thomas Francis Arnold (1897-1960), soldier and farmer, was born on 5 May 1897 at Watraba, South Australia, son of William Berry Arnold, sheep-farmer, and his wife Alice Lydia, née Paine. He spent his childhood on St Francis Island, Nuyts Archipelago, which his father had leased for grazing, and was educated privately before attending Norwood State School, Adelaide. When he was 16 his mother died and he returned home and worked on the island until the outbreak of World War I.

Arnold enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 7 September 1915; he embarked for France next February with reinforcements for the 10th Battalion and joined his unit at Pozières late in July. On 31 October 1916 he was transferred to the 48th Battalion and went into the front line, first at Flers and later at Gueudecourt. He soon showed aptitude for scout work and, during a patrol action before the first battle of Bullecourt, narrowly escaped death when he broke through the enemy wire and surprised a German sentry-post. At Bullecourt on 11 April 1917 he excelled in patrolling and was awarded the Military Medal. Promoted lance corporal, then corporal in May, he won his second award, the Distinguished Conduct Medal, for 'conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty' at Messines on 11 June. This time he went out with a bombing patrol and captured two enemy strong points containing field guns; on the same day he took a prisoner and gained useful information. Arnold was promoted lieutenant in October and after fighting at Passchendaele took part in the defence of Amiens. For bravery near Albert early in April 1918 he won the Military Cross: despite heavy machine-gun fire he maintained communication between the companies of the 48th Battalion and contact with its headquarters. He later served as an intelligence officer during the attack on Monument Wood and remained with his unit in the Villers-Bretonneux sector until July. He went into the line for the last time at Flechin in September and was mentioned in dispatches.

Arnold returned to South Australia in May 1919 and resumed sheep-farming in partnership with his father. On 17 June 1922, at the Congregational Stow Memorial Church, Adelaide, he married Edith May Daniel, a second cousin whom he had met in England during the war. They lived on St Francis Island until 1927 and, when the water suddenly dried up, sold their stock and moved to the Monto district, Queensland. There Arnold selected and cleared 650 acres (263 ha) of brigalow and softwood scrub and within four years had established a successful dairy farm; he later bought a beef-cattle property in the same area and remained there until 1959. Survived by his wife, a son and a daughter, he died of progressive muscular atrophy on 14 November 1960 at Yeppoon, and was cremated at Rockhampton.

A tall, well-built man with a pleasant disposition, Arnold was a popular and prominent figure in the Monto community. He belonged to various ex-servicemen's clubs, was a foundation member of the Monto Masonic Lodge, and during World War II commanded and trained the local home guard detachment; he also served as an intelligence officer for part of the war. While at Monto he gained something of a reputation as a water-diviner; another of his hobbies was deep-sea fishing.

Select Bibliography

  • C. E. W. Bean, The Australian Imperial Force in France, vols 4, 5 (Syd, 1933, 1937)
  • London Gazette, 6 July, 24 Aug 1917, 16 Sept, 31 Dec 1918
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 6 Sept 1917
  • Morning Bulletin, 16 Nov 1960
  • Monto Herald, 17 Nov 1960
  • 48th Battalion, AIF, war diary (Australian War Memorial)
  • private information.

Citation details

Michael R. Downey, 'Arnold, Thomas Francis (1897–1960)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 21 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (Melbourne University Press), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Thomas Arnold

Thomas Arnold

photo provided by family