This page summarises Ralph Valentine EDWARDS (also known as Valentine Henry KIRBY). He was a colourful character, but this page will not delve too deeply into his dodgy past.
Birth and Early Years
Valentine Henry Kirby was born on St Valentines Day (14 Feb) 1906 in Hobart, Tasmania. He was the first child of Henry Edward KIRBY (1870 – 1926) and Elizabeth May BOTTRELL (1873 – 1932).
The Kirby family migrated from Gloucestershire where they lived for at least three generations around Bristol, dating back to the 18th century. Henry immigrated to Australia around the turn of the century. See the Kirby Family page for more details. Elizabeth was born near Bathurst in NSW; with her father’s family (Bottrell) came from Cornwall and her mothers family had been in Australia since the turn of the 18th century. See the Bottrell Family page for more details.
Henry Edward KIRBY and Elizabeth May BOTTRELL met and were married in Woonona (Woolongong), NSW in 1904. Elizabeth had been married previously to a Tom Smith and had three children. They divorced in 1903 and he took the boys.
The parents may have been living in Hobart at the time of Valentine’s birth, but soon moved to Melbourne. Over the next few years they had three more children; Harry (b. 1908), Irene Ruth (b. 1910) and George Harley (b. 8 May 1912). They first lived in Coburg, then Surrey Hills and Hawthorn/Auburn area. Henry was a cabinet maker and may have moved his business a number of times, with one address being the corner of Canterbury Rd and Alexander Cres in Surrey Hills, which is a shop.
He attended school in Camberwell and may have spent some of his teens in the RAN (Royal Australian Navy). He was apparently quite clever and did well at school; “was very clever and was dux one year, but he left state school and went to the local Catholic school (his choice I believe) this may be why he became Catholic, as his father Henry was very religious and was a lay preacher and they were all brought up as “Bible students” Henry’s grand father was a preacher in Ireland.“.
Of his siblings, we know that:
- Harry KIRBY (b. 1908) married Vera GILLESPIE in 1929 and lived around Glenferrie and Camberwell in the 1930’s and 40’s.
- Irene Ruth KIRBY (b. 1910) married Thomas William MARSHALL and lived around Camberwell, Kew and later Heidelberg.
- George Harley KIRBY (b. 8 May 1912) was charged with shopbreaking in 1930, served in the 2nd AIF in WWII. He is listed as serving with 2/7th Batallion and at his death with 1 Headquarters Guard Battalion. According to military records (such as the Australian War Memorial record and his WWII Nominal Roll entry) he was killed on 1 Jun 1941 in the defence of Crete; “Private Kirby, aged 29, died while defending the island of Crete against the German land and airborne invasion on 1 June 1941. He was the son of Henry Edward and Elizabeth May Kirby, of Abbotsford, Vic. He is commemorated on the Athens Memorial Face 11.“. There is conflicting evidence of him living in 1943 (age 31) with his brother Harry in Camberwell (at 58 Glen Iris Rd).
Valentine Henry KIRBY in the 1920′s
He apparently joined the Royal Australian Navy in 1920 (age 14?), perhaps as an apprentice. The documents show him finishing up in 1921, but there’s also mention of service commencement from 1924 for 12 years. He listed his occupation as bachelor and student during the mid 20’s.
On 1 Sept 1926, at age 20, he married Christina Iona BURROWS at a church in Victoria Parade, Collingwood (Melbourne). They had one child, Maurice Edward Arthur KIRBY, in 1928. I believe this was the famous Maurie Kirby, MBE, sports commentator.
At some time during 1926 his father died.
They later split and he migrated to NSW for some time before returning to Victoria.
Ralph Valentine EDWARDS in the 1930′s
At some stage around the late 20′s/early 30′s he changed his name to Ralph Valentine EDWARDS. The first appearance of Ralph Valentine EDWARDS was in the 1931 Electoral Roll. It lists him as resident at 43 Park street in Glenferrie, Kooyong (Melbourne) with an occupation of “agriculturalist”. This is in behind where Swinburne University is now.
In January 1932 he enlisted in the militia with the “2nd Cavalry Division, Australian Army Service Corps (AASC)”. I think this means the Australian Army Service corps unit attached to the 2nd Cavalry Division. The AASC provided many of the support functions for fighting units, meeting “the responsibilities of road, transport, air dispatch and postal functions”. He listed his occupation as journalist, with a business address of c/o Richmond Weekly, Swan St. Perhaps he had a go at being a journalist. He did say he was studying for an arts degree.
Soon after joining the militia, he married Elizabeth KEIRVEN. This was at St Ignatius Catholic Church in Richmond on 23 Jan 1932. On his original militia attestation form (from 21 Jan 1932) he listed the Park st. address. However this was overwritten with an address of 175 Inkerman St, St Kilda.
He was discharged from the militia on 2 Sept 1932, serving less than nine months. His Statement of Service listed time as a private in AASC 2nd Cav Div and as a gunner in 4 Fd Bde, totalling 179 days service. This would imply almost full-time employment with the militia for that time, although the record may just refer to elapsed time.
Ralph Gordon EDWARDS (listed as Gordon Ralph on the birth certificate) was born on 26th Dec 1932 at “The Queens Home” in Rose Park (Adelaide). I haven’t been able to find out why he was born in Adelaide.
During the 30′s Ralph Valentine was working as a Gardener in Melbourne. Towards the latter part f the decade he migrated to NSW again. In 1939 Philomena Janey Barbara EDWARDS was born.
Wartime Service and the 1940’s
As of May 1940 Ralph was living in Glebe, NSW.
At the start of Jun 1940 he enlisted in the RAAF as a cook (Service # 15495). He passed the trade entrance test and gave his experience as having worked in “Delmar Cakes” (Melbourne) for 4 years. Another document supplements this with 11yrs as a cook at “Maria’s Rest”. He also indicated experience on his Enlistment Application as “Army cook, 24th Batt. Vic” and “Shearers Cook, Stations in Riverina”, supported with a comment of “No references”.
During his time in the RAAF he served with; No. 2 Aircraft Depot (Richmond, NSW), No. 5 EFTS (Narromine, NSW), No. 4 Squadron (Canberra, ACT), No. 2 Embarkation Depot (Bradfield Park, NSW) and No. 7 Aircraft Depot (Corowa, NSW). He had a checkered history during his time in the RAAF.
He attended the No 8 Advanced Cooks Course, held at the Angliss Food Trade School (Exhibition Buildings), between 14 Feb and 3 Apr 1942. He passed the course with a grade of 67/100, but the Decision field on the course report has “Cancelled” in big red writing over it. Other than his basic recruit training at Richmond, this is the only formal training course he attended.
Towards the end of his career he was due to be posted overseas, but it seems his poor conduct record put a stop to this. He was discharged on 16 Jul 1943 under the provision of AFR 115 (r) “Services being no longer required, without disciplinary effect”. This is the equivalent of dishonourable discharge.
There must have been an arrangement between the services as he enlisted in the AIF immediately after discharge from the RAAF.
Marriages and Divorces
Whilst posted to No. 5 EFTS at Narromine in 1940/41 he met a local girl Christina May SMART. They were married at Peak Hill, NSW (south of Narromine) in 1941. She is listed, as Christina May EDWARDS, as his wife on some of his RAAF and AIF documents. Following his discharge from the AIF, he lived for a number of years in Narromine with Christina and later in Dubbo.
They had two children Dulcie Heather EDWARDS on 8 Aug 1941 and John Ralph EDWARDS in Nov 1944.
Not much is know of his service in the 2nd AIF. He joined immediately after his discharge from the RAAF; the enlistment date is 17 Jul 1943. Between his RAAF and AIF service he changed from Roman Catholic to Presbyterian. He served his time as a cook. He appears to have deployed overseas with 2/28 Bn to Lae, then Finschhafen before returning to Australia with the batallion in Jan 1944. There is no indication of a rocky time like he had in the RAAF, but his full military records are not available.
He was discharged towards the end of the war on 27 Apr 1945 after having served in 2/28 Infantry Battalion (Inf Bn) and 2/3 Field Ambulance (Fd Amb). He was discharged in Sydney.
Post-War and Final Years
Little is know of his life after the war. He returned to Christina May in Narromine after discharge from the AIF. In 1950 he was living near Dubbo, NSW. A later Stat Dec indicated he lost a lot of his possessions, including his service record, in the floods around that time.
In 1953 he was serving time in HM Gaol Bathurst. There is no indication of what he was serving time for. After his release he was working as a farmer at Deloraine, near Dubbo. This may have been the same address as previously (given as an RMB). It looks like he was no longer living with Christina by that time; they both were around Dubbo with the 1954 Electoral Roll, but living at different addresses.
In 1956 he was living at St Johns Rd in Glebe and he passed away (at age 55) on 30 Jul 1961. His death certificate lists his address as 38 Wardell Road, Earlwood (Sydney) with Marie C. Argent (no relation). His death was attributed to “barbiturate poisoning wilfully self administrated”, i.e. drug overdose. He was buried on 3rd Aug 1961 at the Church of England Cemetery in Woronora.