Wartime Heroics

The daring deeds of two men
named Gilbert Cory

No, this is not a story about split personalities. It is a story about two Australian men who shared the same name and made their mark in Australia’s fighting services.

GILBERT ERNEST CORY was awarded the Military Cross after leading two platoons of soldiers on a daring raid on a Japanese camp on the north coast of New Guinea in 1945 that threw the Japanese into chaos and inflicted heavy casualties.

GILBERT RICHARD ISLER CORY was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his role in operations in New Guinea with 5 Squadron, also in World War 2.

They probably never met, but their deeds in New Guinea during World War 2 are part of Australian military history. Both men had links to the Armidale area of the Northern Tablelands of NSW.

Gilbert Ernest Cory, originally from Saumarez near Armidale,  was involved in controversy before and after his war service, finding himself entangled in legal issues that saw him first disbarred as a solicitor in 1929 and more than 20 years later after a distinguished career in the military, charged then acquitted in 1953 of three counts of having uttered forged endorsements on promissory notes.

It was during the 1953-54 case that his wartime heroics emerged.

Cory’s counsel, Mr A.G. Brindley, told the Central Court of Petty Sessions that his client had been mentioned in despatches 15 times, was wounded 9 times and was commissioned on the battlefield.

Cory was alleged to have failed to honour promissory notes to the value of 270 pounds he gave to Clement Emerson Rich. He pleaded not guilty and claimed he was owed money by Rich “for work done.”

The borrowed money was said to be related to Cory’s attempts to regain registration as solicitor.

Neville John Harris, a grazier, of Brewarrina, said he had known Cory for 25 years. He had seen Rich about a fortnight previously and offered to pay him the money that Cory owed him but, he said, Rich refused to take it.

The magistrate set the matter down for trial. On 19 May 1954, at the direction of Judge Stephen, a Quarter Sessions jury acquitted Gilbert Ernest Cory, 46, salesman, of Edward Street, Bondi, on three charges of having uttered forged endorsements on promissory notes.

Gilbert Cory’s story is related in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Gilbert Ernest Cory was born on 23 December 1906 at Saumarez, son of Frederick Ernest and Blanche Cory. Frederick was the son of Gilbert and Charlotte Cory.

He was educated at Maitland East Boys High School and worked on the land for a year before being articled (1926) to Moree solicitor William A. Cole. He later enlisted in the AIF (2nd/3rd Battalion). Citations for the DCM and MC listed him as being from Bendigo, Victoria.

According to the Australian War Memorial, the 2/3rd’s first campaign against the Japanese was the advance along the Kokoda Trail to the Japanese beachheads between September and December 1942. It fought major engagements at Eora Creek (22-28 October), Oivi (5-12 November), and on the Sanananda Track (21 November-19 December). The battalion spent 1943 and 1944 training in northern Queensland. It’s  last campaign of the war was the operation to clear the Japanese from the Aitape-Wewak region of New Guinea between December 1944 and August 1945.


Adjutant Captain (Acting) G.E. Cory 
with Major L.E. Powling at Mission Point,
New Guinea, in October 1945.

The 2/3rd Battalion disbanded on 8 February 1946.

Ian Grant, writing for the Australian Dictionary of Biography in 1993 records: “On 17 February 1931 in St Thomas’s Anglican Church, North Sydney, Gilbert Cory married Helen Louie Annie Vaughan. He was admitted as a solicitor on 13 March.

“In early 1939 a friend who had lent him money abruptly asked for repayment in full. Unable to comply, Cory was issued with a bankruptcy notice. Without disclosing his financial affairs, he obtained a loan from a client of his employers. Rather than defending his conduct in court, Cory fled to Canberra and adopted the alias ‘Graham’. He was struck off the roll of solicitors on 18 May. During this period his marriage broke down. After working as a motorcar salesman at Uralla, New South Wales, on 2 November he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. He was posted to the 2nd/3rd Battalion and on 9 January 1940 embarked for the Middle East. From February to July 1941 he saw action successively in North Africa, Greece and Syria, and was mentioned in despatches.

“Returning to Australia as a sergeant, in September 1942 he went with his unit to Papua. On 28 October at Eora Creek he led No.14 Platoon in an assault against a strongly-defended Japanese position. When the platoon lost most of its non-commissioned officers, Cory moved between sections and directed operations. Although shot in the face and temporarily blinded, he continued to take charge until he was evacuated. Awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, he was promoted lieutenant on 1 February 1943. His wound required extensive plastic surgery in Australia, and it was not until July that he re-joined the battalion at Wondecla, Queensland. By January 1945 he was involved in the fighting east of Aitape, on the north coast of New Guinea. At Long Ridge on 1 February Cory commanded two platoons in a daring raid on a Japanese camp; the attack disorganized the enemy and inflicted heavy casualties. For his deeds he was awarded the Military Cross.

“Promoted temporary captain in June 1945, he transferred to the 67th Battalion in October; he served on Morotai Island and from February 1946 with the British Commonwealth Occupation Force at Kure, Japan. He was repatriated in May due to ill health. Following postings in the Sydney area, he left the army in February 1949 with a disability pension.

“On 16 September 1950 Cory married Florence Alvin Joy Pugh with Methodist forms at Concord West. They lived at Bondi. He had found a job as a managing clerk in a solicitor’s office but was bitterly disappointed when his application for readmission as a solicitor was rejected in November 1960. With his wife, he retired to South West Rocks in 1972. Survived by her, he died of emphysema on 4 September 1977 at Kempsey.”

Gilbert had two brothers and two sisters.

The NSW Government Gazette records that Gilbert Ernest Cory was appointed to the NSW Housing Commission as a clerk on probation in 1960 and appointed to the Housing Commission division of the Public Service Board in 1961.

The tabloid press made a great play of Cory’s divorce proceedings with his first wife in 1940. A divorce was granted.

Gilbert Richard Isler Cory was born on 2 August 1910 at Copmanhurst, near Grafton, NSW.

His father, George Gilbert Cory, left the family home at Paterson in the Hunter Valley area of NSW to become a jackeroo at the Rockwood property near Armidale where he arrived in 1891. He eventually became manager of the property.

Gilbert was one of George and Estelle Jean Cory’s 10 children. George Cory fought in the Boer War and married Estelle (nee Wiseman) in Bundarra, west of Armidale.


Records of Gilbert Richard Isler Cory’s early days are scant, but the register of The Armidale School, (private school known as TAS) shows he was there from July 1924 to June 1928 and was a chapel warden. It appears he moved around with his father who managed various properties from the Armidale area, Grafton and the north coast and finally the granite belt of Queensland around Warwick and Stanthorpe. Warwick is given as his home address in official war records.

The National Archives record that Flight Lieutenant Gilbert (Gil) Richard Isler Cory was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and mentioned in despatches in 1942.

His place of enlistment is given as Brisbane and his next of kin as Elma Cory (nee Bale). Birth notices indicate at least one child, born in 1943.


No. 5 (Army co-operation) Squadron RAAF
and AIF personnel at Torokina, Bougainville,
in January 1945. Flt Lt Gil Cory is second from the right.

Much of the Gil Cory story that’s in the public domain is told in the book, Great Air Escapes, by Robert Piper, published by Pagemasters in 1991, in a chapter titled “Santa’s Sleigh was a Wirraway.”

This is how several newspapers of the day introduced the story on 23 January 1945: “Bougainville – This is a strange tale of a couple of Flying Santa Claus, who went out on Christmas Day with a plane load of presents for Australian troops and crash-landed into a fortnight of adventure, says an announcement by the Directorate of Public Relations of the Australian Military Forces. From the moment their Wirraway hit a mountain at dinner-time on Christmas Day scores of their RAAF and Army friends on Bougainville Island followed their progress through the Jap-infested jungle, across razor backs and down streams, until they reached home this week, with sore feet and their story.”

Four men attached to No 5 Squadron thought it would be a good idea and morale-booster for frontline troops to have a Christmas celebration. The instigators were said to be Cpl Jack Webb of Orbost, L/Cpl Ray Thompson of Marylands, Pte Noel Derbyshire of Preston and Pte Aubrey Hain of Glen Innes.

Christmas fare was gathered by pilots and ground crew – puddings, cakes, smokes, books, packs of cards and mail – ready to be flow to the soldiers on the ground around the Torokina Peninsula on the west coast of Bougainville.

Christmas morning saw two vehicles loaded with the goods that were stashed in “storepedos” under the wings of a Wirraway.

A “storepedo” is fitted to a Wirraway at Torokina

In control of the Wirraway was Flt Lieutenant Gil Cory with Flying Officer Bill Tucker. They were ready to go when a photographer thought it a good idea to snap a picture.

That, Gil Cory was to comment later, was the start of the trouble. He was quite superstitious about having his photo taken before a mission. Bill Tucker was similarly wary.

They put those thoughts aside to get on with the job and took off in weather that wasn’t good.

As they flew up a valley the Wirraway’s engines spluttered to a halt. There was no time to find a suitable landing spot and Cory put the plane on to a flat 30 ft by 60 ft (9 m by 18 m) ledge on the side of a ridge. Some were to refer to the crash as a “miracle landing.”

The plane was smashed but the two men were able to crawl out, though injured. It was later found that Cory had four broken ribs. His leg was badly gashed. Tucker’s legs were cut and bruised, and he had a broken hand.

The two men didn’t know where they were – they could have been near the enemy or they could have been in the midst of unfriendly natives.

As it turned out they were discovered by friendly locals who came to their aid and in return were invited to share the Christmas fare that had been on the plane.

Back at the squadron’s base, search parties were organised when contact had been lost and the Wirraway hadn’t returned. The weather worsened and the Wirraway and Anson search planes were grounded for days.

The locals took Cory and Tucker to their village further up the mountains and fed and sheltered them.

A bow-and-arrow troop was sent out to tackle Japanese soldiers known to be just a few miles away.

Some of the natives spoke a little pidgin so Cory and Tucker were able to communicate with their rescuers who were able to beat off a Japanese patrol that strayed too close. Contact was made with other Australians and searchers identified the likely position of the two airmen.

Wirraways eventually defied the bad weather to drop supplies to them and their rescuers.

An Australian search party reached the village to find Cory and Tucker in good care.

The rescuers and the rescued were still able to get to some of the Australian troops and deliver their much-appreciated Christmas mail.

It was then time to get back to base. This involved a trek through swampy jungle and crossing the Jaba River. On January 6 they reached a commando headquarters on the Takessi River. From there they travelled down river in a collapsible boat to Brigade HQ on the coast for a launch ride back to Torokina.

The Canberra announcement of the award of the DFC to Flt Lt Cory said: “Flt Lt. Cory has completed three arduous operational tours. As second in charge of No. 5 Squadron his example has been an inspiration to personnel. His aerial reconnaissance work has been of a high standard. His cool control and direction of 40 RNZAF Corsairs on a bombing and strafing mission in close support of Australian troops, was admirable, and the subject of congratulations from the New Zealand Army Brigade Commanders, Cory’s boundless enthusiasm and tireless energy have served as on inspiration to the squadron.”

After the war, Cory returned to his property, Glentanna, at Dalveen in Queensland. A report said he died in 2010 aged 99.

Bill Tucker, a school teacher from Bundaberg, died in 1973.

Exploring the North – Cory to the fore

Cory is a surname that occurs regularly in historical references to the Paterson area of the Hunter Valley, the New England region of NSW and the Darling Downs of Queensland from the early settlers to this day.

Many share the surname and it is often the middle name that determines just who is/was who.

For example, there were more than two men named Gilbert Cory.

For instance, there was Gilbert Gostwyck Cory, born in Vacy, NSW in 1839. His parents were Gilbert and Jeannette Georgianna (nee Rens) Cory, of Vacy, and his grandparents were John and Mary Cory.

After completing his education at The King’s School, Parramatta, NSW, aged 19, Gilbert Gostwyck Cory (pictured above)  travelled to Brisbane, then on to Toowoomba on horseback.

Vacy is a village in the Dungog Shire local government area of the Hunter Region, NSW, between Gresford and Paterson. It was founded in the 1820s as a private town by John Cory, the beneficiary of a large land grant. Vacy began to prosper in the 1850s and was a busy town by the 1870s. It remained a private town until it was sold in 1927 by the Cory family.

Gilbert Gostwyck Cory (1839–1924) became a station manager after arriving in Toowoomba in 1858.

He and his wife Ann Sophie (nee Taylor) lived at the place they named Vacy Hall for 50 years from 1873 to 1924. The stately home was a gift from her father, Hon James Taylor.

Gilbert Gostwyck Cory entered local politics and was the mayor of Toowoomba, Queensland in 1891. He served as an alderman on the Toowoomba City Council from 1889 to 1894 and was also active on the Shire of Jondaryan Council, serving as chairman in 1894 and 1895 and an alderman in 1883-1919. He died on 8 August 1924.

The names Gostwyck and Vacy appear often, too, usually for properties taken up by the Cory family as they relocated.

The Cory name is traced back to Devon, in England and it is possible that all those with the surname share a common ancestry.

The appearance of the Cory name in Australia generally is traced back to the Hunter Valley, the Paterson area in particular.

In terms of Northern Tablelands of NSW history, the more widely known Cory name is Edward Gostwyck Cory.

Silhouette portrait of E.G. Cory
by Richard Dighton.
From State Library of NSW

The Gostwyck (sometimes Gostwick) name is traced to Edward’s father John Cory, grandson of Sir William Gostwyck, of Willington, hear Bedford in the UK.

Edward Gostwyck Cory was the first of his family from Devon, UK, to become interested in the fledgling Colony of New South Wales.

Regulations at the time offered free land in proportion to the capital a settler was prepared to invest in the Colony, on condition he supported one convict for every 100 acres granted. In December 1822, Edward applied to the Colonial Secretary in London for the necessary letter to present to Governor Brisbane, stating that it was his “intention to employ a capital of about 1,500 pounds in agricultural pursuits” and to arrive with “three free servants to superintend such convicts as may be placed under my care”.

Before sailing, he married Frances Johnson, the daughter of Elizabeth Johnson, a widow. His father, John Cory, his wife, Fanny and his three servants, William Chapman, Thomas Lang and Mary Hosegood made up the party that set sail from England in April 1823 on the Allies. They arrived in Sydney five months later. Edward was joined later by two brothers, John and Gilbert. The father returned to England after four months.

Any links between the families that shared the Cory name and were associated with the Northern Tablelands are not immediately obvious, even though the names Gilbert, Gostwyck and to a lesser frequency Richard, Edward and Ernest appear in various family genealogy threads.


The chapel at Gostwyck,
near Uralla

The settlement not far from Armidale, that still bears the name Gostwyck has its origins in the property established by Edward Gostwyck Cory, acknowledged as the first white settler in the Uralla area and whose party of would-be settlers were the first to make the climb over the Moonbi ranges from the Peel Valley as they headed north looking for suitable grazing land.

Little was known of the region although John Oxley, explorer and surveyor, travelling eastwards from Dubbo reached the southern end of the tablelands and followed the Hastings River to its mouth, which he named Port Macquarie.

Botanist Allan Cunningham, sent by Governor Darling to explore the interior, travelled along the western edge of the tablelands to reach the Darling Downs Toowoomba area) in Queensland in 1827.

The acknowledged first arrival in the region was Hamilton Collins Sempill, who took his flock from the Hunter valley and settled in the upper Apsley Valley near Walcha, on the south-eastern edge of the tablelands in 1832. Cory was the first settler to make it into the tablelands-proper. After that there was a steady stream of squatters arriving from the Hunter region.

John Cory senior (The Elder) was granted 800 acres of land on the Paterson River in 1824 where they set up home.

Edward Gostwyck Cory and his brother Captain John Johnston Cory, a British naval officer who joined the family in NSW in 1833, received land grants at Paterson (near Dungog), and named them Gostwyck and Cory Vale.

According to Elizabeth Guildford, writing for the Australian Dictionary of Biography in 1966, moves by the Australian Agricultural Co. to expand its properties in 1832 through the Hunter into the Liverpool Plains and Peel River by appropriation of other holdings threatened to displace many of the early squatters, including Cory, Dangar and Warland. A drought in the Hunter Valley helped force their hand in seeking greener pastures.

A report held by The Royal Australian Historical Society noted: “After the return of Oxley from his journey across country to the coast at Port Macquarie, pastoralists lost no time in following his trail, and the Liverpool Plains became largely occupied prior to Allan Cunningham’s journey, by way of these plains, to the Darling Downs in 1827. Five years later, in the same region, twenty-three squatters were displaced by the Warrah and Peel River exchange grants of the Australian Agricultural Company. Among the affected holdings listed is Wollomal and Waldoo in the names of  William Dangar, E. Gostwyk Cory and W.H. Warland.”

The report noted: “The above persons were all well-known landholders in the settled districts, and were unauthorised occupiers of Crown lands beyond the ‘limits of location’” (more commonly referred to as squatters).

Settlers were not allowed to receive grants or to lease land beyond the set limits, however, it turned out the police and the military did not have the numbers to stop the push into new areas by lists (the so-called squatters in all directions outwards from established settlements. Even though settlement was not permitted beyond the ‘boundaries’ grazing rights were allowed.

Facing loss of his holding on the Paterson River, Cory and a small party set out to the north.

Mr. J. F. Campbell in a paper written for the Royal Australian Historical Society, noted: “Edward Gostwyck Cory, a settler, also from the Hunter district (Page’s River and the Patterson, and a squatter on the Page’s River, about where Tamworth is now situated), is said to have passed over the Moonboy (Moonbi) Range, along the route of the Great Northern Road from Tamworth, which route, it is also stated, was previously discovered by him, and, proceeding northerly, he camped for a time on one of the upper tributaries of Carlyle’s Gully. This tributary streamlet still bears the name of Cory’s Camp Creek, and where the camp stood may be seen in the Dog-trap paddock of Rimbanda. A memorial of his ascent to the tableland is also to be seen in the form of a rock at the foot of the second Moonboys, known to the present day as Cory’s Pillow.”

Cory’s track across the Moonbi Ranges became the route later followed for construction of the Great Northern Road. Cory found no suitable grazing country until he reached the tablelands of the Salisbury Waters, just east of Uralla. This area proved excellent for sheep, and Cory took up large tracts of it, establishing stations at “Gostwyck” (1832), “Terrible Vale”, and “Salisbury Plains”.

Cory’s “Gostwyck” grazing rights comprised about 80,000 acres, and was sold in 1834 to William Dangar, who subsequently sold them to his brother Henry Dangar.

Cory retained “Terrible Vale”, and eventually sold it to the Dangar brothers.

The western side, or homestead area, retained the name “Gostwyck”, whilst the eastern side which still has the historic octagonal woolshed, was re-named “Deeargee.”

The unsual woolshed at Deeargee (see endnote)

In 1851 Henry Dangar held all his land under licence, but under the 1847 Land Act and subsequent legislation he and his family were able to buy land, and they did so on a large scale. In 1885 parts of their holdings were resumed for closer settlement, and this process continued over the years until 1959, when the remaining family holding was 12,300 acres, in two properties, one retaining the name “Gostwyck” and the other named “Deeargee”, derived from the old “Gostwyck” wool brand, DRG, for “Dangar, Gostwyck.”

Cory’s other holding was sold to Robert Ramsay Mackenzie in 1837.

A newspaper reported that John Johnson Cory took up property in the Glen Innes district in 1839 and named it “Wellingore” after the Gostwyck family home in England. A subsequent owner renamed it “Wellingrove”.

Edward Cory returned to his “Gotswyck” property at Paterson. He became a Justice of the Peace and served as District Magistrate.

“Gostwyck” on the Paterson River.
Lithography by George Rowe
at the State Library of NSW.

It is noted in reports about the bushranger Thunderbolt who frequented the Hunter and Northern Tablelands regions that in his role as a magistrate at Paterson he dealt with a woman named Mary Ann Bugg, sometimes referred to as Mary Ann Ward, as she was said to be the “lady” of the bushranger Frederick Ward (aka Thunderbolt).

 
Mary Ann Bugg and Frederick (“Thunderbolt”) Ward

Mary Ann Bugg was charged with having in her possession goods suspected of being stolen (calico, derry and tweed cloth).

Unable to provide proof of purchase, she was sentenced by Mr Cory to three months imprisonment in Maitland jail. While there, a merchant came forward and identified Mary Ann as among a group of women who had purchased cloth from his store and eventually she was set free. She remained a key figure in the activities of bushranger Thunderbolt.

According to the Paterson Historical Society, Edward Gostwyck Cory was spoken of as the “King of the Paterson.”

Edward Cory died in Paterson on 7 or 8 March 1873, aged 76. His wife Frances died in 1870. The couple had no children of their own but raised Emma Chapman, the eldest child of their servants Mary and William Chapman, as their adopted daughter.

By 1970, only 13,000 acres remained of the original Northern Tablelands Gostwyck holding, divided between the two granddaughters of Henry Dangar who each held 6,500 acres.

Although his stay in the region was brief, Edward Gostwyck Cory’s discovery of a route across the Moonbi range and exploration north of Tamworth, contributed much to the early settlement of the Northern Tablelands of New England.

The derivation of the name “Terrible Vale” (sometimes referred to as “Terrible Valley”) station, about 20 km south-east of Uralla, remains the subject of speculation.

According to documents held in the University of New England archives, the most widely accepted story is that “Terrible Vale” took its name from Cory’s head stockman, “Terrible Billy”, a somewhat apocryphal figure who was said to possess “rough and ready habits … with his employees” and an unremitting “fierceness against the blacks”. There is another school of thought, probably less likely given timing, that attributes the name to the Turrubul tribe of Aborigines who frequented the area before European settlement.

DEEARGEE WOOLSHED

Originally part of Gostwyck Station, Deeargee Station and its unique octagonal woolshed gained their name from the old Gostwyck wool brand, DRG, which stood for “Dangar, Gostwyck”. The woolshed was built in 1872 replacing an earlier shearing shed that had been destroyed by fire.

Designed and erected by Alexander Mitchell, who also built McCrossin’s Mill in Uralla, the woolshed is erected on brick pillars with successive roofs of galvanised iron. The side walls contain large amounts of glass. The woolshed has all facilities required for shearing, pressing, bailing, sorting and other operations. It even has a lightning conductor.

The Deeargee Woolshed is still in use today and can be seen from the roadside.

Today the Gostwyck and Deeargee properties are known for producing some of Australia’s finest wool. Both are 11 kilometres from Uralla on the Gostwyck Road. – Uralla Visitor Centre.

 SOURCES: Trove archive of newspapers, Royal Australian Historical Society, Australian Dictionary of Biography, the Australian War Memorial, State Library of NSW, various genealogical web sites including Ancestry and Wiki Family Tree, Uralla Visitor Centre, Paterson Historical Society, Vacy Hall boutique hotel Toowoomba.

Related articles:

FEMALE BUSHRANGERS: https://floggerblogger.com/the-female-bushrangers/

WIRRAWAY WAR BIRDS: https://floggerblogger.com/2018/02/11/the-wirraway-warbird/

FOOTNOTE: Every effort has been made to verify family links and details based on information in the public domain. Corrections are welcome via feedback.