Friday, 27 August 2021

Allan Bewley

Allan Bewley--Biography*

 Early Life

Born in Gordon, NSW on the 8th June 1925, Alexander William Bewley was the eldest of 3 brothers and 7 sisters. He was called Alex or Alec by his family, but then became known as "Allan" after joining the Army and being called thus (and nick-named 'Snow') throughout his life by colleagues and friends. When he was 4 years of age the family bought a house in Fletcher St. Wentworth Falls, where he later noted that in winter there were icicles from the dripping gutter a couple of inches thick and 2 feet long

A very young Allan Bewley in the family garden (1920's)--in many respects Allan had a classic 'Mountains Upbringing', living at Wentworth Falls and being schooled at the local Public School and Katoomba High. 

He attended Wentworth Falls Primary School and Katoomba High. In the 1930's corporal punishment was dished out at school on occasions for talking or some other misdemeanour, so that once Allan was given 4 of the best for being caught reading a comic. He remembered ruefully that this was his only transgression during 6 years of primary school.

 Each Monday morning the children were lined up outside in parade ground fashion while the flag was raised and the National Anthem sung. In the corridor was a painting of the ANZAC’s storming of Gallipoli – those were the days when patriotism put God, King and Country before all other considerations.


Allan and his favourite auntie 'have gone to town', to Sydney's CBD, doing some shopping very formally in his Katoomba High Uniform.

Allan’s early life in the 'Mountains was a time of few shops, so the milkman came round with his horse and cart, and the butcher and the baker all came daily. The iceman came 3 times a week and even a haberdashery man visited selling children’s clothing, materials etc. Occasionally the ‘rabbito’ would come selling rabbits for sixpence a pair. Mr Ross-Kelly, the sanitation man called once a week to collect 'the pan'.

Work was scarce in these early days so Allan’s father Bill took on many odd jobs: he spent many months breaking stone on the Bell’s line of Road before becoming a ranger building pathways in the Valley of the Waters and throughout the Wentworth Falls reserves. A veggie patch and fruit trees were planted in the backyard to help feed the ever growing family and Allan particularly loved his mother’s Irish stew with dumplings, her golden syrup dumplings, baked apples and chocolate biscuit cake.


The Depression years found his father taking road and track-building jobs in the Mountains while Allan found a variety of ways to add to his own, and the family income. Yet he also found time to hunt, fish and bush-walk whenever possible.

During his early years Allan was never idle--a trait he carried on through life. He was always looking for ways to make pocket money: mowing lawns, collecting kindling wood for the Reverend Davies, delivering newspapers before and after school, delivering medicines for the local chemist on Saturdays, working as a telephonist at the 'phone exchange from 10pm till 7.30am and even catching leeches in Wentworth Falls Lake and selling them to Katoomba Hospital.

 In 1937 Allan recalled the celebrated opening of Radio-station '2KA', when a full-sized bullock was roasted over an open spit for more than 24hrs. The same year he, along with many others, lined the railway fence to wave to the Royal Train taking the Duke of Gloucester to visit Orange. According to his memoirs, he had a feeling of immense pride to have been so close to a member of the Royal Family...

Teenage Allan (second from left) with some 'Likely Lads' outside the Royal Easter Show, 1939

Upon leaving High School he started working full-time (5 ½ days a week) at Curries’ Grocery and Hardware Store, in 1941, for 21 shillings a week. At the same time he had developed a passion for shooting. He often went shooting with friends in the bush and round Cox's River though if caught by Mr Swan the policeman, riding his motor bike with sidecar, he'd be given stern warnings and told to go home.

When war loomed, the Federal Government called in all recent models of privately owned rifles and Allan had to hand in his new Winchester pump action .22 rifle at the local Police Station. Young Allan Bewley's "idyllic childhood" had come to an end, and he began to contemplate ways in which he could join the armed forces and play his part in World War II...

 Military Commitment

 More than a third of Allan Bewley’s life was spent serving in the Australian Army. In 1942, Allan exploited a loop-hole in the enlistment process to become a member of the Citizens Military Force, five months before his 17th birthday, the minimum enlistment age. He registered at the Katoomba Post office, bypassing the RAAF and Army enlistment officers who required proof of age. So on the 26th February 1942, 10 days after the fall of Singapore, Allan’s 33 year 3 month military career commenced.


A youthful Allan Bewley shortly after 'joining up'--he found a very clever way of avoiding the age check (he was 16 when he enlisted) and saw action at an early stage, at Newcastle and then New Guinea.

Allan was allocated to the Australian Army Service Corps, where his first posting was the Newcastle Covering Force Supply Column. As a Service Corps driver, one of his duties was delivering ammunition from the magazine to the gun line, because, at the time, Newcastle was being hit by incoming fire from a Japanese submarine(!) The Duty Officer, however,  could not locate the key to the magazine. Thus the Covering Force failed to return fire! Allan was not able to complete one of his first operational tasks until it was too late.

 In the following year, 17 October 1943, he was posted overseas on war service. He served in New Guinea, Bougainville and Morotai with Motor Ambulance Convoys and a Combat Supply Platoon until the end of World War II. His courage was tested as he operated along often unprotected lines of communication where supply line interdiction was a regular enemy tactic.


For the remainder of WWII, 'Snow' (his newfound and obvious nick-name) served as a Supply operator, conveying everything from food and ammunition deliveries and ambulance service to communication support to front line troops.

At war's end, in February 1946, Allan was posted to a Supply Depot Platoon in the British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF) in Japan and allocated to an Advanced Supply Platoon. At the age of 21 he was already a substantive Sergeant.

 On 25 June 1950, the Korean War erupted. Most of the British and all of the Indian units had departed BCOF, thus the workload on Australian units to support forces in Korea greatly increased. In January 1951 there was a bread crisis--one of the basic staples--it was in short supply. Using his initiative, Allan became the head baker and was promoted to Temporary Warrant Officer Class 1. This meant, at age 25, he was the Officer Commanding the BCOF Field Bakery Platoon, an exceptional achievement.


While serving with the Occupation Force in Japan, the Korean War broke out (1950), and Allan was obliged to develop expertise in baking bread. Promotions followed apace!

On return to Australia his professionalism and dedication was repeatedly rewarded by his many postings and promotions, focussing on his expertise in military logistics. He travelled all round Australia as directed until, as Captain, he was posted to Puckapunyal, where he became the Army's foremost expert in air supply and Army/Air Force cooperation, thus revolutionising the old methods of air dispatch packaging, air drop and cargo extraction techniques which framed the systems used today.


As he rose in the ranks of the Army,  Allan continued to develop knowledge and skills which made him indispensable to military progress--promotions continued as he was posted around Australia and South East Asia.

Captain Bewley's experience was in demand in the 1950's and 60's with the outbreak of anti-communist wars in Malaya and Vietnam. Consequently he and his newly-formed family moved from Singapore, where he was first posted, back to Australia, and to a variety of bases linked to the supply of forces engaged in fighting in Vietnam. As a Major linked to the RAAF, he was then also seconded to the USA to learn the most up-to-date methods in logistics and support for use back home.

During the Vietnam War, Captain Bewley was appointed to Puckapunyal to advise instruction of troops-in-training. Now married to Lorraine, he also began his new family, which followed him around to his various postings.

Moving ever closer to Warrimoo, he was posted to Randwick, Richmond and Lapstone, performing predominantly liaison duties between the Army and Air Force, until he retired in 1975, at the age of 50.


With years of experience to his name, Allan Bewley became a valued liaison person between all the services: Army, Navy and Air Force, as well as with Australia's treaty allies, Britain and the USA. This role continued beyond his retirement in 1975.

'Retirement', however, did not sever Allan's commitment to his service: such was the esteem that he was held in military circles, that four years later, on the 21 May 1979, the Chief of the General Staff appointed Allan Bewley as Honorary Colonel of the newly formed 'Royal Australian Corps of Transport NSW'. It was a fitting reward for his determined and diligent patriotism through many years and several conflicts.

 According to Brigadier Jeff Wilkinson (AM), Colonel Allan Bewley was a "... true team player with intestinal fortitude, who cared for his subordinates. (He)... applied an excellent sense of proportion; a truly wise commander who knew what was important, sorted issues, and moved on...He made a difference, did a lot, but did not ask for much. He gave his service and support to many so freely, many of whom have predeceased him.

Colonel Allan Bewley leading the Australian Army Service Corps veterans on ANZAC Day.

He is one of the greats of the Australian Army Service Corps, and its successors, the Royal Australian Army Service Corps and Royal Australian Corps of Transport, and in particular the air dispatch organisation...

 Allan lived by the Corps Motto:

'Par Oneri – Equal to the Task.' "

Warrimoo's Elder Statesman

 During Allan Bewley’s early military life, while serving in Japan but on leave in Australia, he came to meet the daughter of his commanding officer--her name was Lorraine Heggie. After his return from Japan the new couple's romance blossomed and they were married on 24th September 1954 at Ashfield Presbyterian Church.


Wooing Lorraine Heggie (early 1950's)...

...and the Marriage of Allan and Lorraine Bewley (nee Heggie) in September 1954

The Bewley family grew in concert with Allan's military postings: first born, Lex, arrived in Devonport, Tasmania (1954), then Andree (1959) at Puckapunyal, Victoria, and finally Lisa, in Singapore (1961). Eventually, in an effort to settle the family, eight and a half acres of bushland were purchased in Warrimoo, along Railway Parade near Allan's parents' new home.


Allan with son Lex and daughter Andree, prior to moving to Warrimoo.

The new home-building followed from one generation to the other: the clearing and excavation team, the builder and the brickies moved from one property to the next as both properties where designed with long driveways and two levelled landings before opening out to the house clearing. They even used the same coloured bricks!!


The Bewleys' new home. It was completed in 1965 and built from the same style bricks as those of his father's place, just up Railway Parade, nearby. They named their property 'Geebung'. 

The Bewleys moved into their new home called 'Geebung' in 1965 and both Lorraine and Allan very quickly became part of the community, joining committees of absolutely every organisation in Warrimoo. It was a great way to meet like-minded, interesting and socially committed people who went on to become life-long friends. The three children, Lex, Andree and Lisa, all went through Warrimoo Primary School as did several of the grandchildren.


Just up the hill from the house, the large greenhouse was built... breed and house the many plants for a Warrimoo-based Nursery, supplying large chain stores across the length and breadth of NSW.

Allan was always thinking one step ahead, so before his retirement from the Army in 1975 he had already started building and stocking what would become his second full-time occupation, and passion – 'Geebung Nursery'. His father and brother Kevin were both well known nurserymen in their own right so they had a wealth of knowledge to share and plants to propagate from. Within a very short time of the nursery becoming a registered wholesale business an old grey-blue-green Army Combie, newly acquired by Allan, was loaded up with a metal tray structure and packed with the first delivery to Coles Bathurst.


The original Combi-VW van used to transport Bewley plants from Warrimoo to all points around the state.

In no time the Nursery flourished. Word of mouth from that first Coles' Bathurst manager on the quality and variety (of mostly indoor and patio plants) led to Geebung delivering to Coles stores everywhere from Katoomba, Lithgow, Gunnedah, Orange, Dubbo and Parkes in the west and thence stores all across the state of NSW. Soon Mitre 10 at Mudgee began orders so that the Mitre 10 and then K-Mart chains sought to retail Warrimoo plants well. The 'Geebung' name was established.


Allan shows an observer the details of plant propagation--he was ably supported by employees, friends and family, including daughter Andree.

Over the next 40 years the Bewley family, especially daughter Andree, assisted Allan in his business endeavours and learned much about plant propagation. Many in the family inherited the 'Bewley Green Thumb', and their reputation assisted the Nursery's earnings to the point where overseas travel became readily available.

And Allan did indeed love travelling!! With true military precision, before leaving Australia to venture overseas, a complete itinerary was printed out in triplicate, with not just addresses, phone and fax numbers of hotels but estimated arrival times, meal times and departures. Thus organised, the family visited Europe, Britain, Russia, Israel, Asia and the United States quite regularly. He would often stop over at Vienna's Opera House and enjoy his much loved musicals in Broadway, New York--two of his favourite destinations. When daughters Lisa and Andree took to living overseas he reliably visited for a 'family catch-up'.


Income from the Nursery gave the Bewley family scope to travel internationally--they were able to consistently visit family and friends the world over during Allan's later years.

'Home-base', however, was always Warrimoo. Both Allan and Lorraine were hugely active in the local community. Commencing in the 60’s until very recently (2018), Allan held executive positions with the Warrimoo Citizens’ Association,[1] the Warrimoo Hall Committee, the early years of the Warrimoo Spring Fair Committee, Warrimoo Scouts and Guides(as well as being a representative at District and Regional levels)[2], the Warrimoo Tennis Court Committee, the Cross St. Bush Care Group, Rotary and Springwood Branch of the Liberal Party.  He was also a major fundraiser for the Warrimoo Bush Fire Brigade, hosting great BBQs in the back yard of the family home along with Wine Tasting nights at Warrimoo Hall. He only relented on his schedule of commitments when his hearing unfortunately degenerated to the point of him being unable to participate in group discussion.


Allan receives yet another award for community service, this time from Macquarie MHR, Kerry Bartlett.

He was the driving force behind saving government land in Cross St. from being sold for development. It was eventually turned into a nature reserve with the local community still holding regular working bees to keep it clean and tidy. That was a major battle over many years. He even saved the last local phone box !!

Allan Bewley was presented with many awards over the years for his outstanding work in the community, including the Scouts Silver Wattle Award, the 'Citizen 2000 Australia Day Award', a Plaque for Outstanding Service from The Warrimoo Bush Fire Brigade, and the Master’s Award for Service to the Blue Mountains Bushcare Program. He was especially proud of being given the Paul Harris Fellow Medal from the Blue Mountains Rotary Club for his major contributions to Blaxland and Warrimoo villages, and finally a 'Good Citizen Award' from the Mayor, Mark Greenhill and a grateful Tennis Court Committee, as well as the WCA.


Usually in collaboration with John Hollis, the Bewleys held fire brigade fundraisers in their backyard at 'Geebung'--Allan is addressing the throng, while Brigade Captain John Burley is to his left.

Undeniably, however, naming of the 'AW Bewley Bridge', for all to see into perpetuity, was a wonderful acknowledgement of his high standing in the Warrimoo and Greater Blue Mountains communities and the culmination of a lifetime of giving to others. The huge effort, dedication and local knowledge that he put into the planning of the underpasses and access roads during the major upgrading of the Great Western Highway ensured total involvement with the entire Warrimoo community, so both sides of Warrimoo village could retain their connection.

At the 'A. W. Bewley Bridge' opening  in 2001, with son Lex (who helped design the bridge) and Attorney General, Bob Debus.

Atop Warrimoo's most spectacular landmark, the 'A.W, Bewley Bridge', in December 2001, with Deputy Mayor, Angelique Henson

Despite encroaching deafness, Allan never stopped developing his own skills and knowledge … from learning quite advanced computer skills at a late age so he could write, add photos to and print out thousands of pages of his life stories to be then leather bound for future generations, to taking up woodworking to the degree that his old shed was filled with tools and machinery that were the envy of all who ventured there. He loved making small tables and even made lovely wooden boxes for (his passed wife) Lorraine’s ashes, one to be buried with him, the other taken to Scotland to be opened and the ashes scattered in several locations.


Allan with son Lex, and daughters Lisa and Andree--Andree spent the last three years with Allan in his dotage, supplying his every need and enabling his wish to die at home with his family, overlooking the beautiful bushland of Warrimoo...

In sum, Allan Bewley was an 'Elder Statesman' and icon of Warrimoo--his standing in the community was unsurpassed. He was renowned as a generous, loyal and hard working citizen. He was a meticulous writer, recorder and archivist, an avid reader, raconteur and movie buff, he could organize and motivate others, and to cap it all, he was a loving family man and great cook...surely an exemplar who has set the bar high for future Warrimoo citizens.


 * This biography is published thanks to the contributions and consent of the Bewley family, specifically via Allan's eldest daughter, Andree.

[1] A more thorough account of Allan's work in the WCA is provided in the 'Institutions' page of this Blog.

[2] Allan Bewley provided huge assistance to the rebuilding of Springwood Scout Hall after it was damaged beyond repair by fire. Because he was responsible for the building of 1st Warrimoo Scout Hall he was well aware of the difficulties facing the Springwood group and championed their cause for funding and gave the group the necessary moral support, encouragement and determination to persist for many years till a new hall was completed. 

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