THE HISTORY OF THE SYKES FAMILY IN AUSTRALIA
Charles Ignatius Sykes (fourth generation)
Charles was the tenth child of Stephen Sykes and Charlotte Barden, and was born on 6th March 1889 at 'Telegraph Hill', Currawang, where his mother and father lived all their married life. As a young boy he attended the Spring Valley Public School, but in 1898 moved to the Currawang Public School. Charles helped his father and mother on Telegraph, and worked around the district on fencing and dam sinking. After his parents' death, he took over Telegraph and worked the property until his death.
In 1919 Charles married Mona Purcell, an ex-student of O.L.M.C. Goulburn. They were an ideal pair, taking their place in civic, community and church life, in both the Spring Valley and Currawang district. They reared five children - Stephen (more details below), Mary, Maureen, Geoffrey (the author of this history - see photo below) and Kathleen (see photo below). For details about the descendants of Charles and Mona, see Stephen - Charles line.
During the first two years of their married life Charles and Mona spent many months in a slab hut on a selection out the back of 'Australind' (See photo right) . Angela, Charles' young sister, who was caring for their aged parents, entered the Convent of St Joseph, North Goulburn, after her mother, Charlotte, died in 1918, and so Charles and Mona moved into the house at Telegraph, and looked after Stephen, Senior, until his death in 1922.
Charles was highly respected in the district, and many a local resident sought counsel from him. He was outstanding in the practice of his faith, and had a very deep devotion to the rosary. His faithfulness to the church was clearly shown by the fact that there were 12 priests at his graveside. He died on 13th May 1958 and was buried in the Spring Valley Cemetery after a Mass, sung by a group of Marist Brothers. Father William Cantwell (a nephew) officiated at the Mass, and the grave.
Stephen Joseph Sykes (fifth generation)
The most highly decorated returned serviceman in the Goulburn district was Stephen Joseph Sykes, oldest of the five children of Charles Ignatius Sykes (fourth generation) and Mona Purcell of 'Telegraph Hill', Currawang. Born and raised in the district, Steve received his primary education at the Currawang Public School and his secondary education at St Patrick's College, Goulburn. He then worked with his father on their property until the outbreak of the Second World War.
In 1940 Steve enlisted in the 7th Light Horse but after twelve months he joined the Royal Australian Air Force. He did his initial training at Bradfield Park and his flying training at Temora. He proceeded to Canada where after a three months course he won an Honour Student Plaque presented by the citizens of Brandon. The plaque was for the highest average marks in Flying, Navigation and Air-Gunnery. He gained his wings and a commission, then he went to Prince Edward Island and Vancouver Island where he specialised in navigation.
After going to England, Steve took up duty with 455 (R.A.A.F.) Squadron of Coastal Command on 6th May 1944, and commenced operation flights on 13th May. Later he was flying Beaufighters. Appointed Flying Officer.
His plane had been hit seven times prior to his winning the Distinguished Flying Cross. His citation read, "Flying Officer Sykes, on 19th December 1944, took part in an attack on shipping in the harbour at Denhelder. In spite of fierce fire from the enemy defences, he pressed home his attack from mast height. His aircraft was repeatedly hit, and much damage was done, a large hole being torn in the nose of the aircraft on the starboard side. Flying Officer Sykes flew back to base. After landing it was discovered that three feet of the ship's mast was imbedded in the nose of the aircraft. Flying Officer Sykes is an outstanding pilot whose brilliant marksmanship and great determination has earned him much success." (This three feet of the ship's mast is in the War Memorial Museum at Canberra.)
On 10th April 1945 Steve was awarded the Distinguished Service Order when he brought back his Beaufighter over 400 miles from the Norwegian coast and landed safely. Enemy fire hit the plane 4000 yards from a ship in Ardal Fjord. His citation read, "Flying Officer Sykes, D.F.C., has completed a large number of sorties, including many attacks on enemy shipping, during which he has shown the highest standard of skill and resolution.
"His example of courage was amply demonstrated on one occasion in April 1945, when he led the Squadron in an attack on a target at anchor in the South Fjord. While pressing home the attack, Flying Officer Sykes was severely wounded in the arm and leg, but despite this he completed the attacking run. Afterwards he was given first aid and although suffering acutely he flew the aircraft to base and executed a perfect landing.
"This Officer has set a magnificent example of courage, fortitude and devotion to duty." More detailed accounts of his operational flying are recorded in Air Power over Europe , by Brian Harrington.
Steve was admitted to Military Hospital in the Shetland Islands and later transferred to a hospital near Oxford. After the end of the war, while waiting to be returned to Australia for discharge, Steve went to Bradford to visit the Woollen Mills and learn what he could of the Wool Industry from the manufacturing point of view.
After discharge from the R.A.A.F. on 22nd May 1946, at which time he held the Temporary Rank of Flight Lieutenant, Steve returned to the Goulburn district. He gained a Soldiers' Settlement Block on 'Springfield', and called his holding 'Dallachy' after the town in Scotland where 455 Squadron was stationed during the latter part of the War. Here he carried out an intensive programme of pasture improvement and established a flock of medium fine merino sheep. He was regarded as one of the most progressive and hard working settlers. In September 1948 he married Kathleen McGrath in St Peter and Paul's Cathedral, Goulburn. Kathleen is the daughter of Michael and May McGrath (formerly May Fisher of 'The Glen').
Steve was a keen and active member of Goulburn R.S.L. Club. He was one of the members who were responsible for the change in form in the Commemoration of Anzac Day to a Civic Service. His Anzac Day oration in Belmore Park was regarded as one of the most stimulating ever heard in Goulburn.
Steve was one of three men who inaugurated the meeting in 1953, called to form the Goulburn Aero Club, and became its first President, a post he held until his death. He held both a Commercial Pilots and an Instructor's Licence. As Chief Instructor of the Air Training Corps Flight in Goulburn, Steve was responsible for the training of many youths in Air Force work.
Steve died in a tragic air crash with 21 year old William Selwyn Pountney Jolly while on a training flight, on 19th January 1957. Steve left a widow and four sons. There is a photograph of Steve in the Goulburn R.S.L. Club. At the unveiling of this photo Brigadier Hurst spoke as follows: "All of us are made to different patterns, and yet all of us find qualities in Steve Sykes that specially appeal. Let us show ourselves worthy of his friendship and prove we have benefited from it, thereby preserving his presence among us. He was a man, fearless and sterling, and yet so cheerful and friendly, true to his church, his ideals and his convictions, and yet so tolerant."
The Steve Sykes Memorial Fund was established in 1957. The proceeds of this Fund were used to award Flying Scholarships to outstanding Aero Club members for several years. On l9th December 1965 at the official opening of the Steve Sykes Memorial Building at the Aerodrome, it was announced that future moneys from the Fund would be directed towards furnishing and modern equipment at the Gouburn Aero Club. He is buried at the Spring Valley cemetery.
For more on Stephen, see: Peter Burness, Sykes, Stephen Joseph (1920 - 1957) , Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, Melbourne University Press , 2002, p. 354. http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A160424b.htm
Geoffrey and Kathleen (fifth generation)
Geoffrey (the author of this history) was the fourth child of Charles and Mona, and was born in 1928 (see photo left).
Kathleen was the fifth child, born in 1932. She married Francis Grace (see photo).
Angela Sykes (Sister M. Casimir) (fourth generation), sister of Charles