Readers may recall I introduced my grandfather Len in my story of 14 November, this is a continuation of Len’s tale after he returned from World War One.
In 2014, I came across a website called Adopt a Digger, a centenary project to map returned soldiers from the Sunshine Coast area, particularly those who had taken up land at the Beerburrum Soldier Settlement. Here I also discovered a photograph of my grandfather. It was taken at the camp in Enoggera Brisbane, one of over 30,000, about half the number of Queenslanders who had served.
I ‘adopted’ my grandfather and wrote what details I had at the time on the website. So now I knew that Len had come to the Beerburrum soldier settlement when he returned. Fifty thousand acres of virgin bush land was divided into 40 acre blocks and allocated by ballot to returned servicemen who had been injured, but who could still work. It was hoped the area would be suitable for growing pineapples. In 1916 a training farm was established, and the first ballots allocated. For the next few years, battle weary and disabled veterans arrived. To stay on the land, which was not freehold but leased they had to clear the heavily timbered area, build their own homes and establish crops on the mostly poor soil. , I found some photos from that time on a pictorial spread that was done for The Queenslander newspaper in December 1916. It looks like a very big task.
Next, I came across a map of the lots on the settlement and Len’s block was next to that of James Robertson, who later became my great grandfather when Len married his eldest daughter. The 40 year old James, with his wife and four children had immigrated to Australia from Scotland in 1914. Arriving in August, just as the war began, James enlisted in the AIF almost immediately and went to fight with the Australian troops where he fought at Anzac Cove then in France where he survived being gassed. According to my great aunt Jessie née Robertson, her father went to Beerburrum before the rest of the family came in 1918. As Len and James’ lots are adjacent, I’m guessing that the two men were there about the same time, probably not too long after they both came home in May 1917.
James was lucky in that his lot already had a house which had been built for the surveyor of the settlement and it was quite a substantial one according to an aunt’s recollections.  The settlement grew rapidly and by 1919 there were 379 farms and a population of 1200 with administration buildings, a blacksmith shop, two stores, two butcher shops, a barber, a bake house, even a school of arts and a hospital.
In May 1920, General Sir William Birdwood planted a camphor laurel tree in the Main Street, re-named Anzac Avenue. School children planted more trees for a visit by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII) in August that year. Unlike other memorial avenues in which a tree symbolised a specific fallen soldier, Beerburrum’s trees were in memory of ‘lost mates’.
In September 1920 Len married James’ eldest daughter, Lizzie. Soon after, the settlement began to decline. Some said the soils were not fertile. Many wanted transfers, but the government would not allow this and if not for a small invalid pension, many would have starved. Settlers started to leave, never to return. Apparently some desperate measures were undertaken by distraught settlers to gain money when leaving. One was to let the house burn down to claim the insurance. The departing family would pack their gear in the wagon, and then prepare for the fire. Glycerine was allowed to slowly leak into a container of Condy’s Crystals. Paper and other combustibles was packed around and when the fire started, the family would be miles away. Another method involved the family dog (who must have been thought expendable). A large meaty bone was attached to a lighted kerosene lantern under which was a pile of combustible material. Again the family departed. As the hours passed, the dog became hungry and upset the lantern when reaching for the bone.
The Beerburrum Soldier Settlement Scheme was ultimately a failure, but it did survive for a decade. Some ex-servicemen remained on the land around Beerburrum where many of their descendants are still today. Len and the rest of James Robertson’s family moved to Caboolture in 1925. That’s where I remember visiting many years later. James and Len had to find other work to support their families. Len worked as an engine driver and Mum recalls he worked on the roads driving large vehicles. 
A couple of years ago, I went to the site of the Beerburrum Soldier Settlement, it is now a pretty little quiet country town. I saw the remaining memorial trees in Anzac Avenue, and there’s a signpost and a walking track. I walked the place where I think my grandfather’s farm was and I thought about my grandparents and how they must have struggled. I thought about all the other families who likely hoped for a future here. I felt saddened as I remembered the stories of hardship of these families. I felt ashamed that the men who suffered so much for their country had been let down and I felt proud of their efforts, even though there’s not much in that place to show it.
I feel like I’ve come to know something of my grandfather, and I don’t mind that I may never know who his biological father was.
Information from ‘The Beerburrum Experiment : A History of Australia’s First World War One Soldier Settlement’ by Murray Johnson. (2016). Purchased at the State Library of Queensland.
 The Adopt a Digger Project, http://adoptadigger.org viewed 2014.
 Sunshine Coast Council website Backward Glance. Beerburrum – the first settlement for returned WW1 soldiers. 2015.
 Richard Muntz
 Murray Johnson, 2016, Australian Scholarly Publishing Ltd, North Melbourne. The Beerburrum Experiment: A history of Australia’s First World War One Soldier Settlement.
 Sunshine Coast Council website. Backward Glance. Beerburrum – the first settlement for returned WW1 soldiers. 2015.
 Australian Electoral Rolls,1901-1936, Ancestry.com