24 October 2021

Vivian Gilbert Garner

Vivian Gilbert Garner was a 24 year old railway clerk when he enlisted in the AIF on 18 September 1914. He was allocated to 14th Battalion, AIF. His regimental number was 54 which suggest that the day he enlisted on the same day that the battalion was raised. Vivian progressed though the ranks, being promoted to Corporal and then Sergeant before being commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant on 27 April 1917. His service record is at this link

The 14th Battalion took part in the landing at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. Vivian was wounded at Gallipoli when he received a bullet wound to his chest on 2 May 1915. He then was sent to England to recover. His service record indicates that he spent a bit of time in the England at the Australian Headquarters and attended some training courses before being commissioned. Vivian re-joining 14th Battalion, 'Jacka's Mob', in France on 20 May 1917. Vivian was killed in action on 8 August 1917. He is memorialised at Menin Gate.   

This photo is of Vivian as a Corporal.

Despite having seven siblings, I did struggle to find a relative past the 1940s. There are several family trees on Ancestry which include the Garner family but they are either owned by people with no knowledge of the current generation of this family or label the current generation as private with no identifiable information for me to search. Vivian also changed his NOK on several occasions as his parents died while he was serving overseas. I was a little stumped for a few hours until I focused on Vivian's brother Leslie. 

Leslie was a teacher in Victoria and he moved around Victoria a bit as he taught at different schools. Leslie was married to Muriel and had two daughters. However, Muriel died in 1928 leaving Leslie to look after his five year old twin daughters. Leslie later married Marjorie Collins and I found their headstone but there I got no closer to the current generation.

Very often the online newspaper archives on Trove provide the answer to many of these research conundrums, it just takes the right search combinations to find the information. By searching for Les Garner I narrowed down the name of his twin daughters and then came across the following interesting articles.

Trove then came to the rescue again which provided the clue that connected me with Vivian's nephew. By searching 'Garner', 'Collins' and 'Bendigo' I found a birth notice from 1944 for a son by the name 'William'. No middle name and no other clue. On a hunch I searched Ancestry for 'William Garner' as a resident of Bendigo and found just one entry. The result was the name William Vivian Nigel Garner. This name combination was just to coincidental not to follow up. 

From there William was easy to find.  

Bill Garner i(24 works by) (a.k.a. William Vivian Nigel Garner)
Born: 1944 Bendigo, Victoria ;


Bill Garner graduated from the University of Melbourne with a BA. His career as an actor and writer began in the Carlton theatre scene of the 1970s. He has written widely for stage, television and radio. Garner's first play Cake was produced by TheatreWorks in 1986.

Garner collaborated with Peter Corris to produce the mini-series, Pokerface, for television. This resulted in a further collaboration to produce a series of spy novels featuring their protagonist Ray Crawley. Garner's name also appears on the credits of the successful television shows Blue Heelers and Chances. He was also a writer on Gillies Republic.

The next issue I faced was how to contact Bill. As it turns out , Bill and I have a mutual friend on Face Book, so I enlisted Lambis' help to connect me with Bill.

Bill and I have now spoken and he has provided me a wealth of family history information about Vivian. Bill developed a performance piece of Viv's story. It is an emotive piece and with Bill's kind permission I have chosen to share the final paragraphs. 

As my grandmother lay on her own death bed four months after Viv died, one of her daughters whispered in her ear that she was soon to have a wonderful surprise. She would see Viv again.
So, what legacy do I carry? The name Viv was a time bomb. At state school every Armistice Day, during the one minute silence, I would dutifully think about Uncle Viv as hard as I could, but nothing would come into my mind except the picture which always hung on dad’s wall and, after a while my mind would wander. But at thirteen, I was the best dressed cadet in the school. I volunteered for extra camps. I could alpha, bravo, charlie and butt, barrel, bipod better than anyone. At seventeen I was a Cadet Under Officer and I knew dad was quietly pleased: I was doing the right thing. But when a war came along for which I was the right age, it was the wrong war, and I opposed it. Vietnam soured any feeling I had for the military and for many years I pretty much forgot about uncle Viv, too. I travelled through Turkey without even thinking of going to Gallipoli. Then, twenty years ago, an article appeared in the local paper about a new edition of Ted Rule’s book Jacka’s Mob. They wanted photos. Now more tuned to family history, I contacted the editor, Carl Johnson, and took him a picture of Viv. Talking about Viv in Carl’s little militaria shop in Bentleigh, I felt tears welling up. Where were these coming from?
August, 1917.
The thing was still unfinished.

There was a duty I had to discharge. I had to honour that young man. I had to do this for his sake, and my father’s sake and for my own sake. I had to see Viv myself.

Bill has also provided me with a photo of Viv which was in his family home and Bill prefers tot he photo of Viv in uniform.

Below is the Memorial Plaque that Viv's family received. It was signed for by his brother Albert.

One last touching piece of information I stumbled across is Viv is also memorialised on his mother headstone.

Thank you to Leanne for sending me this Memorial Plaque. To Lambis for your help. And to William 'Bill' Vivian Nigel Garner who has been so generous with information about his uncle Viv.
The returned medal tally is now 2678.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Glyn,
    Vivian Garner is a soldier who features on my website of the Volunteers of Essendon and Flemington. It was lovely to see his photo bob up in my blog roll. http://empirecall.pbworks.com/w/page/30506283/Garner-V-G-Cpl-54
    So glad to see his plaque re-united with Viv's family.