10 June 2016 Digger comes home to Fremantle Cottage

Former Fremantle and Beaconsfield digger Ernest Aberle MM. BEM. is the last of 10 First World War soldiers to be honoured in Defence Housing Australia’s (DHA) restoration of Fremantle’s historic Gunners’ Cottages.

A representative of the Fourth Field Ambulance in the First World War, Aberle embarked on the HMAT Benalla from Fremantle on 1 November 1915 bound for Gallipoli.

In March DHA celebrated the successful completion of the restoration of the nine other cottages and six new cottages on the site, which is destined to become homes for Defence members and their families. This final cottage was delayed due to structural damage that required additional work to be able to save the precinct in its entirety.

‘This project was all about restoring these historical cottages to their former glory, creating a legacy for Fremantle and the many Defence members and their families who lived here over a period of almost 90 years. It is apt that they will carry the names and celebrate the stories of a small number of heroic individuals well into the future,’ DHA Chairman Sandy Macdonald said.

Each of the other 10 cottages have been named after a Defence member, all of whom had strong links to the Fremantle area or lived in one of the cottages. Ernest Aberle was assigned to 11th Reinforcements to the 4th Field Ambulance and embarked for Alexandria, Egypt. Upon arriving he was sent straight to Gallipoli where he remained for a few weeks until their evacuation. 

‘Our core purpose is to provide housing for Defence members,’ said DHA Chairman Sandy Macdonald. ‘Occasionally have the opportunity to do things that are quite remarkable, and this project is one of those occasions.’

DHA has also commissioned the Military Art Program to undertake the public artworks, including two large sculptures referencing the themes of renewal, service and family. The artwork is designed to reflect on the sites’ historical link to Fremantle and the military families. They have been designed and created by two current serving soldiers.