Trafford O. Dell

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Headstone in the Ballaarat Old Cemetery for Oscar Dell, 2014. Photograph: Clare Gervasoni

Trafford Oscar Dell served with the A.I.F. during World War One.



Oscar Dell was born in Gordon, Victoria, in about 1885, the son of Henry Thomas Dell and Margaret Pearson.[1][2] He was the grandson of Ballarat miner, Thomas Dell.

In 1907 he was in trouble for larceny:

A BIRCHING ORDERED! Half a dozen hoys named Ralph Smith, Oscar Dell, Henry Lewis, C. and H. Herbert and C. Webster, who pleaded guilty to petty larceny, were sentenced to receive to-morrow 15 strokes with cane or birch. The judge had stated previously that it was difficult for him to make up his mind as to the best means to punish the accused.[3]

When he enlisted in October 1914, he was working with the railways.[1] He joined the 14th Battalion. His military papers show that he was 5 feet 8 inches tall, of medium build. On his left forearm he had a tattoo with the words "Death before dishonor." He left Australia on 22 December 1914. He was sent into action at Gallipoli in May 1915.[1] He was wounded in the foot at Lone Pine. In September 1915 was sent to Mudros for treatment where he was soon hospitalized with diarrhea and enteric fever.[1] He was sent back to England for hospital treatment in November 1915. He lost 5 days pay for being absent without leave in February 1916.[1] He trained on machine guns before being sent back to his unit in Egypt and then into action in France on 5 April 1916.[1]

A year later he was wounded in action with gun shots to his left forearm, 25 April 1917.[1]

PRIVATE O. T. DELL. Mrs. M. Dell, of Humffray street north, has been notified by the military authorities that her son, Pte O. Trafford Dell, was admitted to the Central Military hospital. Fort Pitt, on the 25th April suffering from wounds in the left forearm. This is the second time Pte Dell has been put out of action, as he was wounded in the foot at Lone Pine after four months active service, and was then invalided to England.[4]

Two months later he was discharged from hospital but failed to rejoin his unit.[1]

Dell was declared to absent without leave on 26 June 1917. On 17 July 1917, a court martial found his leave was illegal.[1] He surrendered in London on 11 March 1918 and was sentenced to 18 months detention and to lose 821 days pay.[1] He was held at the Lewis detention barracks, where he received treatment for a fistula in his abdomen.[1] On the 19 December 1918 he was sent back to Australia.[1] In January he was again reported as being absent without leave in Fremantle.[1] He was discharged from the army in March 1919.[1]

After the war Dell moved back to live with his mother in Humffray Street, and was back at work with the railways as an engine cleaner.[5]

In 1920, Dell married Victoria May Lang.[6]

By September 1921, Dell had left his pregnant wife and was using an alias:

Alleged Wife Desertion. TALLANGATTA, Thursday. - Oscar Dell, alias Oscar Graham, was arrested this evening by Constable G. C. Morris on a charge of having deserted his wife and family. The warrant was issued at Ballarat on October 13, 1921.[7]

His wife gave birth to a daughter on 27 December 1921.[8]

In 1925, Dell was gaoled for failing to pay support for his wife and child:

In the city court on Tuesday Oscar Trafford Dell, 35 years, was charged with having failed to observe the conditions in respect to a recognisance entered into by him regarding a maintenance order made by the bench for the support of his wife, Victoria Dell, and child. The circumstances were of an unusual character. It was stated that defendant had been in gaol in connection with the matter, but on being released he had resumed relations with his wife, and had been contributing to her support by sending her remittances instead of paying the money to the clerk of petty sessions, as stipulated by the order of the court. William Patrick Walsh, assistant clerk of courts, gave evidence as to the order made against defendant in September, 1921, for the payment of £2 per week for the support of his wife, Victoria Dell, and his child. Arrears had accumulated, and on the issue of the warrant in 1923 they totalled £70 10/. Nothing had been paid since. Mr. P. R. Coldham, for the defence, said that the case was an extra ordinary one. Defendant had been arrested pursuant to a warrant issued in August, 1923. He had been committed to gaol until he complied with the order, but was released on entering into the recognisance. He afterwards lived with his wife again, and gave her his earnings. Counsel said he did not think that any bench would put the man in gaol when he could prove that he had supported his wife. When he was not living with her he sent her money, and it was a peculiar thing that she had always asked him to return her letters. Mr. Grant, P.M., replying to the contentions of counsel, said it was quite an easy thing for a man to live with his wife and then keep away, doing as much work as suited him. He (the police magistrate) thought that defendant should go back to gaol. The case was a peculiar one. Why didn't the Crown produce the wife in court? Sergeant Paige said it was open to defendant to have his wife in attendance in court. Finally the bench found that defendant had been guilty of a breach of the conditions of his recognisance, which was forfeited. He would therefore be committed to gaol until he complied with an order made in December, 1922.[9]

Dell died in Ballarat in 1928 and is buried in the Old Ballarat Cemetery.[10]

DELL. - At 14 Humffray street, Oscar Trafford, late 14th Batt., A.I.F., dearly beloved third son of Margaret and the late H. Dell, loved brother of Thomas (deceased), William (deceased), Grace, Maud, Margaret and Alfred, aged 35 years. At rest.[11]

His wife wrote to the army in 1967, requesting his Anzac Gallipoli medallion.[1]


Honoured on the Ballarat Avenue of Honour for his World War One service.

See also



  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 National Archives of Australia, World War I records, B2455, DELL O T, SERN 974, accessed 14 December 2013
  2. Federation Index Victoria 1888-1901, Index to Births, Deaths, and Marriages in Victoria, 1893 Births, Ref. No. 4218, Macbeth Genealogical Services, 1997
  3. 1907 'A BIRCHING ORDERED.', Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1859 - 1924), 15 June, p. 2, viewed 16 October, 2014,
  4. 1917 'PRIVATE O. T. DELL.', The Ballarat Courier (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), 15 May, p. 3 Edition: DAILY., viewed 16 October, 2014,
  5. Australian Electoral Roll, Victoria 1919, Ballaarat, Ballaarat East
  6. Australian Marriage Index 1788-1950, Victoria, 1920, ref.403
  7. 1922 'Allegad Wife Desertion.', The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), 23 June, p. 5, viewed 16 October, 2014,
  8. 1922 'Family Notices.', The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), 10 January, p. 1, viewed 16 October, 2014,
  9. 1925 'COUNTRY NEWS.', The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954), 7 January, p. 11, viewed 16 October, 2014,
  10. Australian Death Index 1787-1985, Victoria 1928, Ref. 13330
  11. The Argus

Further Reading

External links

--Beth Kicinski 12:27, 14 August 2013 (EST); --Clare K.Gervasoni 01:25, 2 October 2014 (EST)

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