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Ernest Albert Corey (1891–1972)

by Jean P. Fielding

This article was published:

Ernest Albert Corey (1891-1972), soldier and labourer, was born on 20 December 1891 at Green Hills near Cooma, New South Wales, eighth child of Thomas Corey, selector, and his wife Ellen, née Burke, both of whom were native-born. He was educated at Thubergal Lake Public School and then worked as a labourer in the Cooma district. On 13 January 1916 he left his job as a blacksmith's striker to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force, marching to Goulburn with the 'Men from Snowy River' in a recruiting march.

Corey was allotted to the 55th Battalion and embarked for overseas service in September. He joined his unit in France on 8 February 1917 and in April, as a private in 'C' Company, took part in the capture of Doignies. On 15 May, in an action near Quéant, his brigade suffered heavy casualties and Corey volunteered to serve as a stretcher-bearer: showing 'great courage' he worked for seventeen hours in no man's land and was awarded the Military Medal. He became a regular stretcher-bearer and won a Bar to his medal for 'devotion to duty' in the battle of Polygon Wood on 26 September, carrying out his duties under 'very heavy artillery and machine-gun fire'. He was awarded a second Bar for 'conspicuous gallantry' at Péronne on 1-2 September 1918 and a third during the attack on the Hindenburg Line north of Bellicourt on 30 September. At Bellicourt, Corey, who had been promoted corporal nine days earlier, was in charge of the battalion's stretcher-bearers and, despite intense machine-gun and shell-fire, directed them 'with the utmost skill and bravery'; 'regardless of personal danger … he attended to men and carried them from the most exposed positions' until he himself was severely wounded and evacuated. He returned to Australia on 30 April 1919.

After demobilization Corey worked at Cooma as a contract rabbiter, and in 1922 moved to Canberra as a camp caretaker. On 23 September 1924, at St Gregory's Catholic Church, Queanbeyan, New South Wales, he married Sarah Jane Fisher; there was one daughter of the marriage which was dissolved in 1935. In 1927-40 he worked in Canberra as an office cleaner with the Department of the Interior, then served with the 2nd Garrison Battalion in World War II. He was later employed as a caretaker, as cook for a departmental survey party and as leading hand at the Canberra incinerator. By 1951 he was almost crippled with osteoarthritis. Survived by his daughter, he died at Queanbeyan Private Nursing Home on 25 August 1972 and was buried with full military honours in Canberra cemetery.

Though small in stature Corey was powerfully built and had a lively personality. He is believed to be the only man to have won three Bars to a Military Medal. Corey Place in the Canberra suburb of Gowrie is named after him, also a fountain in Cooma Centennial Park.

Select Bibliography

  • London Gazette, 18 July 1917, 11 Jan 1918, 13 Mar, 17 June 1919
  • Reveille (Sydney), Mar 1931
  • Australian Army, 3 June 1971
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 30 Nov 1915, 25 Apr 1968
  • Cooma Express, 14 Jan–11 Feb, Dec 1916, June 1918
  • Canberra Times, 13 Apr 1935, 26 July 1971, 28 Aug 1972
  • Canberra News, 26 July 1971
  • war diary, 55th Battalion, AIF, 1916-19 and 14th Brigade, AIF, 1917-18 (Australian War Memorial)
  • private information.

Citation details

Jean P. Fielding, 'Corey, Ernest Albert (1891–1972)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 23 February 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (Melbourne University Press), 1981

View the front pages for Volume 8

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