Frederick Laban Punch (b 1891)

parents Alfred Punch and Sarah Ann Johnson

born 31 October 1891, Footscray, Victoria, Australia[1]
died 30 June 1970, North Gellong, Victoria, Australia[2]
buried 2 July 1970, Springvale Botanic Cemetery, Springvale, Victoria, Australia[2,3]

Fred's father, Alfred, worked for the Victorian Railways and moved around Victoria quite a bit, mostly country towns such as Kerang, Traralgon and Rosedale, but for a short period he was based in Footscray, an inner-west suburb of Melbourne.  Fred was born at his parent's home situated on the Railway Reserve at Footscray[1].  In those days it was common for the railways to build a few small cottages near by railway stations for employees who typically moved about the State.

Fred's second name - Laban - is unusual and he probably got it handed down from one of his mother's brothers, Laban Johnson b1872.

from Fred's birth certificate

Fred was the 6th of 14 children and by the time Fred's sister Elizabeth Sarah Victoria was born in 1893, the family had moved to Flynn's Creek in south-east Victoria and stayed there until 1895.  Between 1897 and 1906, the family lived in Rosedale and Fred's last 6 siblings were all born there. However, for a period around 1903, the family relocated back to Flynn's Creek (Flynstead) before returning to Rosedale.  Between 1908 and 1912 the family probably lived in Traralgon. 

Google Maps

Alfred struggled financially during this time.  A low paid railways job and 14 children - it all became too much at times.  Life would have been hard for the children throughout their formative years. 

From 1914 to 1919 Alfred and the younger children lived in a Victorian Railways cottage at the Glen Iris Railway Station.  Glen Iris is a leafy suburb about 12 km south-east of the centre of Melbourne.  This was Fred's address when he married Frances Ruby Kinder in 1914[4].

Marriage to Frances Ruby Kinder

Fred and Frances Ruby Kinder were married on 16 October 1915 at St Martin’s Church of England, Hawksburn, Victoria.  They did not publish Banns but obtained a marriage licence.  When Fred and Ruby were married, she was 29 years old and already had a young son, Kenneth Francis Kinder and they were living with her mother Matilda Maud and older brother, Harry (Henry Emery Kinder), at 22 Waterloo Street, Balaclava, Victoria[4].

Fred was only 23 years old and was on active service with the army - the Australian Imperial Force (AIF).  He had joined up only a few months earlier.

from Fred and Ruby's marriage licence

Fred and Ruby's marraige certificate

The Witnesses to the marriage were Ruby's older brother, Henry Emery Kinder and older sister, Eleanor Kinder.

The War of 1914-1918

Fred joined the army – the Australian Imperial Force on 28 July 1915 aged 23 years and 9 months. His occupation is stated as Labourer. His enlistment paper describes him as follows – 5 feet 5 inches tall, weight of 10 stone 3 pounds, of sallow complexion with brown eyes and dark brown hair.

Fred was initially posted to the Field Artillery Reinforcements and probably got leave to marry.

He embarked for active service on 9 November 1915 and disembarked at Suez in December 1915 and began service with the 1st Field Artillery Brigade in Egypt. During his period away, Ruby lived with Fred's parents, Alfred and Sarah at their Victorian Railways cottage nearby the High Street railway gates at Glen Iris.  Nowdays, the rail runs under High Street.

In 1916 a typical Artillery Brigade consisted of 20 officers, 579 other ranks and three 18 pounder batteries and one 4.5 inch howitzer battery.  Each 18 pounder was commanded by 1 officer with 18 other ranks including 16 drivers.  Each 4.5 inch howitzer was commanded by 1 officer and 20 other ranks including 18 drivers.

His first posting lasted only three months before his first hospitalisation for rheumatism.  After only a few days he was assigned to the 46th Battery of the 12th Field Artillery Brigade but after only one month he was again hospitalised.

He was then sent to France disembarking at Marseilles on 15 May 1916 joining the Australian Base Depot there.  Five months later (Oct 1916) he was again admitted to hospital suffering from rheumatism.  One week later, he was transferred to England and was admitted to St Luke’s War Hospital and stayed there for several weeks and was then granted a three month furlough.  At the end of his furlough he reported sick and again was admitted to hospital for rheumatism.  This time he spent three months in a series of hospitals.

In July 1917 he was sent to France and was again posted to the 1st Field Artillery Brigade.  On 6 November, in Belgium, he was gassed and transferred from the field hospital back to England.  Over the next five months he spent time on furlough and in a number of hospitals in England until in May 1918 he again rejoined his previous unit in France.

In January 1919 he returned to England in preparation for his return to Australia.  He embarked the H T Suffolk on 12 April 1919 and disembarked in Melbourne on 5 June 1919.  He was discharged as Medically Unfit on 21 September 1919.

Fred served as a Gunner and Driver in his Artillery Battery.  His rank was Private. He was awarded the following decorations – 1914/15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal.

Life Back In Melbourne

After Fred's return, he and Ruby moved about quite a lot – Andrew Street, Prahran, Victoria, where they lived with Ruby’s older brother Harry (Henry Emery Kinder and Jane Roffey) and his family.  Later they have been found at houses at 14A High Street, Malvern; Thornbury Street, Prahran then to Glen Eira Road, Ripponlea, and Huntly Street, Elsternwick all in a period of only three or four years.  Since times were very hard, families often shared houses.  A number of these may have been shared with other members of Ruby’s family.  Ruby's mother, Matilda Maud may have also been part of this entourage[6,9].

Fred worked in Canberra in some sort of census administration work which lasted about 2 years but apart from this and a little carting work, he did not work very much.  Around 1919, Fred, Ruby, Matilda Maud and Ken were living in a house on the corner of Imperial Avenue and Royal Parade, Caulfield.  Ruby was an excellent Seamstress and operated a small home business to keep bread on the table.  Fred was not working so Ruby paid for him to attend the Workingman’s College, the forerunner of RMIT University, in Swanston Street, Melbourne.  Fred completed two years study with a 1st Class Engineers Certificate.  Sadly he never put it to much use.  For a time, the family rented a house in Kangaroo Road, Oakleigh. Ruby purchased a horse and cart and Fred did some small time carting[7,8].

Sometime around 1921-22, Ruby rented a farm property at Gembrook, Victoria, on the Beenak Road.  This farm comprised about 360 acres of which 8 acres was cropped.  It had sheds, an orchard, a small saw mill and plenty of timber forest.  Ruby thought Fred might be interested in the saw mill with his engineering education.  Alas, he was not.  Fred’s two brothers, Jack and Bill also lived there and between them they just wasted their time.  After about twelve months, Ruby was taking in borders to help make ends meet[7].

During this time, Ruby fell pregnant with Lilian and moved back to Melbourne to stay with Fred’s parents again at Glen Iris.  A few more moves ensued – to High Street, Malvern, to two different places in Huntingdale Road, Huntingdale (called East Oakleigh in those days) before moving to 10 Henry Street, Oakleigh in about 1924. 

Ruby and Fred and their three children lived for more than 35 years at 10 Henry Street, Oakleigh, Victoria, approximately 10 km south-east of Melbourne[9,10].

They began by renting the house from a Mr Herbert and then he offered Ruby the chance to purchase it.

Ruby borrowed some money from her brother, George Herbert Kinder and worked very hard her entire life to pay off the debt and she owned the house solely in her own name when she died.
10 Henry Street, Oakleigh

Ruby's son, Kenneth contributed greatly to the household when he was young since he worked as a Butcher and was able to bring home meat at very low cost and he was also Caddying part-time at local golf courses and contributed almost his entire wage to the household. 

Before, the street became fully built up, Ruby used to milk a cow which was kept tethered on an adjacent block of land.  From the milk, she would get cream hand make butter[7,8].

Again Ruby tried to help Fred into work.  This time she bought a small van and again Fred did some carting but as before, this did not last.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, Fred worked a little, on the sustenance – that was, government funded public works for a nominal wage.  Apart from these brief periods, Fred never worked. 

On 27 September 1941, Fred joined the AIF for a second time and had the rank of Private.  This period of service lasted only a few months however and he was discharged on 4 May 1942.

Fred at daughter Lilian's wedding

Fred and Ruby at daughter Lilian's wedding

As a young teenager, your Author remembers visiting Fred and Ruby and he was always in bed and hardly ever left his room.  It is possible that he suffered a form of severe depression – perhaps from his war service.  It is also possible that he continued to suffer from rheumatism and arthritis for most of his life.  Ruby never seemed to complain, she cooked, cleaned and looked after him until she died.

Passing On

After Ruby died in March 1966, the family did not want to have much to do with Fred.  His relationships with his son, Alan and daughter Lilian had long since deteriorated to the point where they were not on good terms at all.  Fred was unceremoniously moved out of the Henry Street house and was put into a house as a lodger.  The house was cleaned up and sold.  Fred moved about from lodgement to lodgement but was not a person prone to keeping up his appearence or a healthy lifestyle.  Finally he entered aged care in North Geelong.

He died at the Grace McKellar Home on 30 June 1970.  His cause of death was stated as hypostatic pneumonia but he suffered from heart disease for a number of years leading up to his death[2].  He was cremated on 2 July at the Springvale Botanic Cemetery and his ashes were scattered.

Fred was survived by his two children and many grandchildren.

1.  Alan Frederick Punch was born on 5 May 1921.

2.  Lilian Florence Eleanor Punch was born on 14 October 1923.

  1. Frederick Laban Punch 1891 birth certificate
  2. Frederick Laban Punch 1891 death certificate
  3. Springvale Botanic Cemetery records
  4. Frederick Laban Punch 1891 and Frances Ruby Kinder marriage certificate
  5. Frederick Laban Punch 1891 1914-1918 war service record
  6. Australian Electoral Rolls 1903-1980
  7. Lilian Florence Eleanor Punch personal communication
  8. Kenneth Francis Kinder personal communication
  9. Sands & McDougall Directory 1874
  10. Australian Electoral Rolls 1903-1980