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Carew Reynell (1883–1915)

by Bill Gammage

This article was published:

Carew Reynell (1883-1915), winemaker and soldier, was born on 16 September 1883 at Magill near Adelaide, fourth child and first son of Walter Reynell and his wife Emily, née Bakewell, grandson of John Reynell and brother of Gladys Reynell. He was raised at Reynella and at 17 returned home from the Collegiate School of St Peter, Adelaide, to learn winemaking. He soon displayed a keen commitment to the family business and about 1903 became manager.

From 1906 Reynell took a particular interest in making brandy, which did not require vineyard conversion to the new grape varieties then being introduced, and which was easily exported. By 1909 he had developed Reynella's famous 'hospital' brandy, which quickly became the leading brandy in Australia. He installed new stills and equipment, and expanded plantings. In 1913, for example, he and an assistant, Gordon Cox, planted out the Jericho vineyard at the rate of ten acres (4 ha) a day; by 1914 Reynella had about 500 acres (200 ha) under vine. Reynell also grew crops and hay, and ran horses and his grandfather's prize Shropshire flock.

On 11 May 1910 he married May Marion, eldest daughter of Douglas John Byard, head of Hahndorf College. They had a daughter and a son. Reynell also involved himself in the pastimes of the gentry: above medium height, athletic, well-built and a splendid horseman, he played polo regularly, in 1907 became master of the Adelaide Hunt Club (a drag hunt), and a dedicated citizen soldier. As a boy he read avidly on the Empire's military glory, and about 1900 tried to volunteer for the South African War, but was stopped by his father as under age. In July 1908 he joined the 16th Light Horse Regiment (South Australian Mounted Rifles) as a second lieutenant, and by November 1912 was a major in the 22nd Light Horse Regiment.

On 16 December 1914 Reynell joined the Australian Imperial Force as major and second-in-command of the 9th Light Horse Regiment, and landed with it on Anzac on 21 May 1915. He was greeted by spent bullets 'chirruping like canaries' as they passed, and next day by hundreds of Turkish dead near the trenches his regiment took over on Walker's Ridge, but he took to the life. 'We don't wash or anything of that sort but feed like fighting cocks', he told his father, 'have best of company & having a damned good time. Game (Turk) is plentifull and we have had a good bag considering'. That was the voice of the public school and the Empire's nineteenth-century wars, but behind his polished veneer Reynell proved an inspiring leader and a brave man. He gave himself the most dangerous tasks, as on 30 June when he led a counter-attack to drive Turks from the light horse trenches, and on the several occasions he patrolled into no man's land.

On 7 August he was promoted lieutenant-colonel and officer commanding after his C.O. was killed at The Nek. On 27 August he was ordered to take the maze of Turkish trenches on Hill 60, and again he placed himself in the van, leading the charge across no man's land. He was killed on the edge of a Turkish trench: half his regiment were made casualties with him. His body was brought back and buried on a nearby valleyside. His regimental history, admittedly strongly officer-oriented, called him 'one of the best Light Horse officers in the Commonwealth' and 'an officer and gentleman of the best type, a splendid soldier and born leader'. On Anzac, hearing of his death, Aubrey Herbert wrote:

For the sake of those you led, you gave your life away,
As youth might fling a coin of gold, upon a sunny day,
If Odin mustered vikings, you would rule his pagan crew,
If Mary came to choose her knights, she'd hand her sword to you.

Reynell would have liked that, but the machine-guns which killed him had made it an outmoded view of war. The war scythed the ranks and illusions of the gentry cruelly, and had he lived this brave and energetic man might have seen the barbs of war hidden among the flowers of chivalry.

Select Bibliography

  • T. H. Darley, With the Ninth Light Horse in the Great War (Adel, 1924)
  • C. E. W. Bean, The Story of Anzac, vol 2 (Syd, 1924)
  • R. Burden, Wines and Wineries of the Southern Vales (Adel, 1975)
  • Reynell's war diary and postcards (PRG, State Records of South Australia)
  • war records file under Reynell, 29/22, 29/40/5 (Australian War Memorial)
  • private information.

Additional Resources

Citation details

Bill Gammage, 'Reynell, Carew (1883–1915)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 16 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (Melbourne University Press), 1988

View the front pages for Volume 11

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