gbennion.jpgGilbert Edward Bennion, the oldest Australian World War I veteran, died on Jan. 27. Cause of death was not released. He was 106.
Born in 1898, Bennion left home at 13 to work for the Queensland Railway Department. Over the next six years, he learned shorthand and telegraphy at the local technical college, and worked his way up to night stationmaster.
In 1918, Bennion enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. He trained at Enoggera, Queensland, and passed a non-commissioned officers’ course. Just before joining the Queensland 8th Reinforcements, Bennion was promoted to corporal. Although he did not fight overseas — the Armistice ending the war was signed on Nov. 11, 1918 — Bennion was discharged as a veteran and later served during peacetime as an officer in the Citizen Military Force.
After the war, Bennion returned to his job at Queensland Rail. He worked at 35 different stations before transferring to the Tweed Heads station in northern New South Wales. Bennion became the last stationmaster of Tweed Heads when the train line from Brisbane closed in 1961.
Getting married was the best thing Bennion ever did, he once said. However, he outlived both of his wives. He wed Nellie in 1919; she died in 1973. Bennion was in his 90s when he married his second wife Rene; she died in 2000. His retirement years were spent fishing and participating in the Tweed Heads Senior Citizens Group, which he helped to establish.
In 2000, Bennion received the 80th Anniversary Armistice Remembrance Medal, the first commemorative medal in the Australian system of honors and awards. Two years later, he was presented with the Centenary medal, for making a contribution to Australian society. He is survived by his daughter Shirley, son Neville, three grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
With Bennion’s passing, only three Australian veterans of the Great War remain. They are John Ross, 105; William Allan, 105; and Peter Casserly, 106.