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Daily, the Grand Library receives emails and phone call requests to research a wide variety of matters related to Freemasonry, and while it can be very arduous it can also be very exciting.
So it was when a request was made regarding former Victoria Cross awardees. Searching through every Victorian amongst the VC awardees, regardless of where or when or by whom the Victoria Cross was awarded, I came across Albert Chalmers Borella, VC, MM (7 August 1881 – 7 February 1968), a Brother not previously well known.
Brother Albert was 44 when he joined Freemasonry, and listed his occupation as farmer. His VC was not noted on his membership card (unlike some others) as it appears that he preferred to be quiet and unobtrusive, as so many were after their horrid experiences in the war.
He was initiated on 21 July 1925, passed on 2 February 1926 and raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason on 6 April 1926 in the Grange Lodge (Hamilton region) No. 45 on the Register. But his membership was not without some problems and after being excluded once and then returning he resigned on 31 December 1951.
His Australian War Memorial record records his VC as such – In 1918 Albert Borella led a platoon in an attack to straighten the front line beyond Villers-Bretonneux, from which a major British offensive was to be launched a few weeks later. While ahead of his troops, he single-handedly captured a machine-gun. Then, after clearing a trench and dug-outs, he inspired his men to hold out during heavy enemy counter-attacks. Borella had earlier received the Military Medal and been Mentioned in Despatches.
Born in Borung (in the Shire of Loddon, Victoria), Borella also served in the Second World War and retired with the rank of Captain.
He married Elsie Jane Love at Wesley Church, Hamilton, on 16 August 1928, with whom he had four sons. In 1939, he changed his name by deed-poll to Chalmers-Borella, Chalmers being his mother’s maiden name.
In his life he worked as a fireman, a farmer and a public servant (inspector of dangerous cargoes). He also sought election in 1924 as a National party member for a Victorian seat but was unsuccessful.
But as well as his citation for the VC is how he came to join the army. At the time of his enlistment he had been living in the Northern Territory When war broke out he immediately sought to enlist. However, Australian authorities were not accepting recruits from the area and so he had to travel to Townsville.
To do so he walked some 140 kms with an aboriginal gentleman named Charlie, swam across several flooded rivers and finally borrowed a horse for the long ride that remained to eventually catch a train that took him to a ship that got him to Townsville where he was one of the very first to enlist.
Bro Borella died in 1968 in NSW and was buried with full military honours. He was survived by his wife and two of their sons.
Bro. Ange Kenos
Volunteer – Grand Library