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Tennant & District Times
Vol. 39 No. 05
99c inc G.S.T.
FRIDAY, 20 FEBRUARY 2015
THE BORELLA RIDE COMMEMORATIVE EDITION
THE BORELLA RIDE COMMEMORATIVE EDITION
THE BORELLA RIDE
20th FEBRUARY - 3rd MARCH 2015
THE BORELLA RIDE
THE STORY OF ALBERT BORELLA VC MM, A TERRITORY HERO
In 1915, Albert Borella journeyed
through 1000 kilometres of the
Northern Territory’s Outback from
Tennant Creek to Darwin to join
|up to fight in World War I.
He fought at Gallipoli, and the
Western Front, was wounded,
commissioned on the battlefield,
and was awarded the
Victoria Cross, the highest
honour for valour in combat.
Albert Chalmers Borella was born on 7 August 1881. His family
lived in the small farming community of Borung, located about 200
kilometres north of Melbourne.
Albert Borella was the first son for Louis and Annie née Chalmers.
He was the middle child between older sister Elizabeth and younger
sister Annie Aurora. Albert’s mother Annie died of scarlet fever in
1885 when Albert was only four. His father remarried and had five
In later years Borella changed his surname to Chalmers-Borella to
honour his mother’s family connections.
Borella was educated at local schools in Borung and Wychitella, and
grew up helping his father on the farm. As a young man he farmed
in the district and served for 18 months with the Victorian Rangers
Militia regiment. In 1910 Borella left the family farm to join the
Melbourne Metropolitan Fire Brigade.
C Company, 26th Battalion, First Australian Imperial Force. Private Albert Borella, known as “Bert”, 1st front row sitting. 1915, Borella Collection.
The Tennant and District
Times is published by
Jasmin Afianos, 139
Paterson Street, Tennant
Creek NT 0860, and
printed by Peter Baldwin,
Mount Isa Qld 4825.
The Tennant & District
Times is published
by Jasmin Afianos,
139 Paterson Street,
Tennant Creek NT
0860, and printed by
NT News - Darwin
Print Centre, 1
Darwin NT 0800.
Borella had been working there for nearly three years when, together
with his mates Ronald Parker and Albert Lewis, they read a pamphlet
advertising farming land in a place called Daly River in the Northern
Territory. By 1913 the Commonwealth had established experimental
farms at Batchelor and the Daly River and needed workers. Leases
were offered rent free with promises of cheap loans, equipment and
subsidised transport. On 17 January 1913 Borella handed in his
resignation and together with his mates Ronald Parker and Albert
Lewis booked their passage on the SS St Albans and arrived in
Darwin on 24 February.
Parker & Borella went to work at the Batchelor experimental farm
(Lewis subsequently losing interest in farming) and in April, after
being advised that they had won a block on the Daly River in the
Land Ballot, they set off for the Daly. By November Parker had had
enough and pulled out of the lease.
At the end of 1913 after months of negotiating with the Land Board,
Borella took up Block 9 in the Hundred of Hawkshaw on the Daly
River. With both partners gone, Borella found skilled Aboriginal
workmen and together they spent the next 10 months building,
clearing, fencing and digging. Despite many challenged, Borella was
able to build what the Land Council admitted was “the best house on
the Daly”. However, with no income and the promised equipment
not arriving, Borella went into debt.
In August 1914, Britain and her Dominions including India, Canada,
Australia and New Zealand entered what was to become known as
the Great War. Borella wanted to enlist but his signed agreement
meant he had to stay on the block. In October 1914 he went to
Darwin to attempt to negotiate the discharge of his lease, but instead
found work as a cook for a survey party travelling to Tennant Creek.
The government threatened legal action when they realised he had
walked off the block – but Borella was out of reach. He stuck to the
job but by January 1915 he’d had enough.
Borella on the Daly. Albert Borella 4th from left second back row. 1913, Borella Collection.
The story of Borella’s Wet Season journey from Tennant Creek to
Darwin is now the chronicle of legend.
Albert Borella set off in the harsh Territory climate by foot, walking
with his Aboriginal companion Charlie from Tennant Creek to
Renner Springs, at times swimming flooded creeks. Borella then
rode on alone by horseback to Katherine, hitched a ride to Pine Creek
on a horse-drawn mail coach, and caught the train from Pine Creek
It was February 1915
when Borella reached
the northern capital.
After paying off his
debts he was destitute
and had to borrow
the fare to travel to
Townsville to enlist as
Government was not
accepting recruits from
the Northern Territory.
On 8 March 1915, to
the sound of cheering
crowds Borella and
Darwin on the
On 15 March 1915,
Borella enlisted as
Private No. 275 with
the Australian Imperial
Force. Less than two
weeks later he was
posted to the 26th
Borella served nearly
four years with the 26th
Battalion, including at Gallipoli where he was promoted to Corporal.
Following the Gallipoli evacuation Borella trained in Egypt before
embarking for France and service in the trenches of the Western
In July 1916 he was injured in action, receiving a gunshot wound
to the upper right arm, and was treated for this both locally and
then in England. He was promoted to Sergeant in January 1917
and in March that year, Borella was awarded the Military Medal for
devotion to duty and general good work in the trenches:
For conspicuous bravery in action. This Sergeant in the
attack on Malt Trench, north of Warlencourt on the night of
the 1st/2nd March, 1917, did splendid work. After taking a
leading part in the furious fighting on the right of the Battalion
objective he assisted Lieutenant Ward in reorganising the
men and consolidating the line. Throughout he displayed
the greatest coolness and devotion to duty. Commonwealth
Gazette No.140, 27 August 1917
He was commissioned in April as a 2nd Lieutenant. Borella received
a Mention in Despatches in Sir Douglas Haig’s communication of 9
April, a great honour and indicative of his excellent work as a soldier.
Service with a training battalion in France followed until November
1917 when Borella, now a 1st Lieutenant, re-joined the 26th at the
‘Volunteering for active service’ Sailing from Darwin
to Townsville on SS Aldenham to enlist in the First
World War. Five of the first fifteen Territorians who
volunteered for active service. Standing L-R: Lieutenant
Albert Borella No. 275 26th Infantry Battalion VC
MM; Lieutenant Robert Dingwall Buttercase No.1376
41st Battery KIA 5 April 1918; Private James Park,
No.658 13th Light Horse, 1st reinforcements; Private
James Lawrence Cain No.2060 9th Battalion, 5th
Reinforcement KIA 20 April 1916; Private Frank
Thomson No. 2057 9th Battalion, 5th Reinforcement. 8
March 1915, NT Library Darwin 1914-1916 Collection.
In early 1918 the
Battalion fought many
tough battles across
wilderness of the
Front. During one of
these later fights, near
on 17-18 July, Borella
was leading his
opposition including a
which was firing
at the advancing
the Australians’ own
His later Victoria Cross citation read:
For most conspicuous of bravery in attack. Whilst leading
his platoon with the first wave, Lieutenant Borella marked an
enemy machine gun firing through our barrage. He ran out
ahead of his men into the barrage, shot two German machine
gunners with his revolver, and captured the gun. He then
led his party, now reduced to ten men and two Lewis guns,
against a very strongly held trench, using his revolver, and
later a rifle, with great effect, causing many enemy casualties.
His leading and splendid example resulted in the garrison
being quickly shot and captured. Two large dug outs were
also bombed, and thirty prisoners taken. Subsequently the
enemy twice counter attacked in strong force, on the second
occasion outnumbering Lieutenant Borella’s platoon by ten
to one, but his cool determination inspired his men to resist
heroically, and the enemy were repulsed, with very heavy
losses. Commonwealth Gazette No. 23, 12 February 1919
Albert Borella was awarded the Victoria Cross by King George V at
Sandringham Palace on 16 September 1918.
At age 36, Borella is one of the oldest recipients of the Victoria Cross,
and the only Northern Territory soldier to receive this distinguished
Borella returned to Australia and was discharged on 23 February
1919. He received a soldier settlement block at Hensleigh Park, near
Hamilton in the Western District of Victoria where he returned to his
former life as a farmer.
Borella married Elsie Love in 1928 and they had four sons. In 1939
he officially changed his name to Chalmers-Borella and it was under
this name at the outbreak of World War II he was appointed to the
12th Australian Garrison Battalion as a lieutenant. He served into his
mid-sixties with the Prisoner of War Group, Rushworth; and then
with the 51st Garrison Company being promoted to temporary
an officer of the
Supply and Shipping
as an Inspector of
He retired in 1956,
and went to live in
North Albury, NSW.
Albert Borella died
on 7 February 1968
aged 86, and is buried
at the Presbyterian
Cemetery in Albury,
New South Wales.
The reality of Borella’s
Territory life was that
it did not bring him
much luck. Borella
came here with hopes of pioneering agriculture on the Daly River.
Despite herculean efforts and using all his life savings up to that
point, he ended up destitute, summonsed, nearly thrown in jail and
having to go into personal debt to enlist.
Despite Borella’s many achievements and eventful life, his
extraordinary physical courage and capacity, he is recalled by those
who knew him as a quietly-spoken, modest man.
In acknowledgement of Albert Borella’s time in the Territory, we are
proud to claim him as one of our own.
Perhaps some stories do not belong to a single place or time, but
in this year of the Centenary of the Anzacs, it is fitting that we
acknowledge Albert Borella as a true Territorian.
Mention in Despatches (MID), Albert Borella’s Certificate
for his MID contains two of the most famous names in
military history: those of Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig
and Winston Churchill, Secretary of State for War.
Albert Borella VC at the Melbaourne Anzac Day Parade
1966. Borella Collection.
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