The Ronald Lister Collection at the Northern Territory Library includes photographs of a group of the third contingent of Territory volunteers who sailed on the SS Aldenham to enlist at Townsville, Queensland. The group included Victorian-born Albert Borella, who had walked and ridden from his farm at Daly River to Darwin, over 900 kilometres away.
The life of Albert Borella demonstrates the difficulty of fixing the ‘ownership’ of a hero in a single community. Borella, indisputably a heroic figure, is claimed in various written accounts as Albury’s only VC winner and in others as the only VC recipient from the Northern Territory. Communities in other states, including Queensland, have made similar claims. In one sense they are all fair.
Borella, born at Borung in the Wimmera in August 1881, was educated there before becoming a farm labourer. He served for a year and a half in the Victorian Rangers, then from 1910 to 1912 he worked for the Melbourne Metropolitan Fire Brigade. In January 1913 he took up a farming lease at Daly Waters.
A capable soldier, he quickly adapted to military life, achieving the rank of Lieutenant. His bravery was recognised by the award of a Military Medal at Malt Trench, Warlencourt, then the award of a Victoria Cross for conspicuous bravery at Villers-Bretonneux.
He returned to Australia on 1 January 1919, taking up a soldier-settlement farm near Hamilton in Victoria.
During the Second World War he was appointed 2nd Lieutenant in the 12th Australian Garrison Battalion, attached to the Prisoner of War Group at Rushworth in Victoria. Promoted to the rank of Captain on 1 September 1942, he commanded the 51st Australian Garrison Company at Myrtleford, Victoria. After being discharged he spent his last years in Albury, where a life-sized bronze statue of him was erected in November 2014.
In February 2015, Borella’s epic journey to enlist was recreated as a major event in the Centenary of Anzac calendar. His grandson, Richard Borella, made the journey to mark the original feat and to honour his grandfather.
They Dared Mightily, L Wigmore ed., Canberra, 1963
Australian Dictionary of Biography: Jean P. Fielding, 'Borella, Albert Chalmers (1881–1968)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/borella-albert-chalmers-5296/text8937, published first in hardcopy, 1979.
ABC News footage of Albert Borella Ride: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-20/ride-commemorating-war-hero-albert-borella-departs-tennant-creek/6164902
Published press report of commencement of Borella Ride, Daly River to Darwin, commenced 21 February 2015: http://www.theborellaride.com.au/albert-borella/
NT Chief Minister’s website: http://www.dcm.nt.gov.au/anzac_centenary/borella_ride/borella
Extensive Albert Borella site, which includes numerous family photographs: http://worldwaronelink.com.au/projects/borellas-war-making-legend/#.VOlvS8IfqM8