Rank – Major
Division – 9th Lighthorse
Enlisted – 9/10/1914
Discharged – 01/11/1919
Date of Death – 05/11/1981
Age at Death – 89
Burial Location – Crematorium Main Path D
Honour/Award – Distinguished Service Order (DSO)
Clive Bleechmore was born 4th June 1892 at St Olive’s Norwood London.
He was the only child of Henry Stanley and Margaret Bleechmore (nee Tucker)
The family lived in Adelaide SA where his father was a stock broker.
Clive was given a pony as soon as he was able to be astride one and he had a lifelong passion for horses. He rode to and from school. He played tennis well and acquitted himself well at school sports. He later went to Adelaide University to study medicine. However he wanted to work with horses so he left University. He went to NSW to work as a Jackaroo, which he enjoyed. The outbreak of WW1 interrupted this.
Clive who was in the reserve army at the outbreak of WW1, enlisted in the 9th Light Horse Regiment on 9 October 1914 with the rank of Lieutenant. Clive embarked for overseas service in February 1915. He saw active service in both the Gallipoli and Syria/Palestine campaigns, and through natural attrition rose to the rank of Major by war’s end, and earned the Distinguished Service Order for his brilliance and bravery in the campaign leading to the fall of Damascus.
At the end of the war he found himself in Cairo, where he acted as Military Governor before being demobilized in 1919.
He wanted to take up farming & had heard that there were farms for soldiers in East Africa. While sailing down the East Africa Coast they where struck by the worst monsoon in 8 years and wondered if they’d survive. This caused Clive to reconsider and return to Australia. He arrived at Aden & found a ship due to sail for Australia, via Bombay. Once safely back in Melbourne he was finally released from active service and left the army.
He looked for land in South Australia but found any suitable land was beyond his modest savings from his army pay. A friend told him of good land available in Northern West Australia and being offered to Returned Soldiers. So he set sail for WA
Also sailing to Fremantle on the same ship was Mary Johnston (later to become Clive’s wife) She had been to Melbourne with her brother Harold, to attend a Race meeting. On their return Mary had suffered badly with sea sickness. To cheer her up Harold introduced her to a “personable young man” he’d met, Clive Bleechmore. Clive instantly fell for Mary and when Harold invited him to visit the family home in Bunbury on his next visit to WA, he agreed.
Clive inspected a property called Balfour Downs which was 360 miles east of Meekatharra. He entered into negotiations with 2 brothers called Dunnett and a partnership was formed. Over the next year Clive and Mary had a long distance courtship as each traveled between Adelaide and Bunbury. They became engaged.
Clive and the Dunnetts took over Balfour Downs and Clive realized the windmills needed urgent attention to keep water flowing for the stock. Clive wanted to take Mary, as his wife, to Balfour. Clive had written to Mary to let her know he was on his way south & that she should arrange the marriage license etc. As the story goes Clive had stopped at a station en-route and indulged in a whisky or 2 and forgot to post the letter. When he finally arrived at the railway station in Bunbury, no one was there to meet him. Fortunately he was able to get a ride to Leschenault. Imagine the surprise when he arrived. He asked about the letter and when Mary suggested he check his pockets for it, there it was!! A special marriage license was applied for and granted. The magistrate was so amused and intrigued at the reason for the rush, he charged only 2 pounds ($4). He’d never heard of such a reason for a special license!! The wedding took place on 14th Sept 1920, with the reception being held at Leschenault Homestead. They set straight off to Balfour Downs where they stayed until 1927. Their 2 sons Brian and Anthony (Tony) were born during that time. ( Brian in Adelaide and Tony in Bunbury) Three years of drought drove the young family south. Clive sold his share of Balfour Downs to the Dunnetts.
They found land for sale, just north of Boyup Brook—a farm called Camballan.
Clive was a progressive farmer and he was the first farmer in the district to use a super spreader to spread super on the clover pastures.
At the outbreak of WW11 Clive was enlisted in the 25th Cavalry Regiment, and was discharged in 1943.
Once their sons were married (in 1951) and Brian & his wife Margaret had taken over the running of Camballan and Tony & his wife Robin moved to the farm across the road called Tara, Clive and Mary moved to a farm at King River, near Albany. Again he lead the way with spreading super on the clover pastures in this district.
They finally retired to Middleton Beach, Albany. They enjoyed the beach, swimming every morning and fishing. They also enjoyed traveling around in their VW Kombi van!!
Around 1975 they moved again, this time to Busselton, to be closer to Mary’s brother Clifford (Bill) and Tony and Robin. Brian and his wife Margaret had long since left Camballan and after a time in Esperance moved to Dubbo, NSW, to be near Margaret’s family.
They enjoyed their final days in Busselton until Clive passed away on 5 Nov 1981.
As with many Returned Service Men, Clive did not speak very much about his time in either war.
Most of the knowledge the family has about his war service has been found researching the
Australian War Memorial Site and the like. In fact his family was unaware he had been awarded the DSO medal until after his passing.
Clive donated to many RSL projects, including the ANZAC War Memorial in Albany but always declined to be recognized.
Sincere thanks to Brian Bleechmore (son of Clive) and Debbie Woods (Biographer and family member) for contributing this insight to the life of Major Clive Bleechmore
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