Historical information

John Lawrence Coleman (1934-1965) born January 10, was the son of Raymond John Coleman and Hanna May (Gillet) Coleman. He married Margaret Frances Dare in 1955 and was the father of two children. He died whilst attempting to rescue an older man trapped in the bushfire at North Eltham on March 3, 1965

He died at Eltham (Herald, 4 March 1965, p3)
[Picture of John Lawrence Coleman]
Builder Mr John Lawrence Coleman, 31, of Main Rd., Eltham, one of three men burnt to death yesterday in the fire at North Eltham.
The other two were XXXXX, 33 who lives opposite the Colemans and Mr William Elwers, 64 of Batman Rd., Eltham.

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Frank Martin was a volunteer with the Eltham rural fire brigade at the time of the 1965 bushfires which burnt Eltham North and Research. Frank was asked to assist with the removal of three bodies from the back gully (now Orchard Avenue). They were badly burnt and one was found stuck under a fence as though trying to escape. Volunteers John Coleman Jnr, William Elwers and George Crowe were killed trying to protect Eltham from bushfire – they were local heroes. At the time, John Coleman Jnr was survived by his wife Margaret and two young children – John 11 and Vicky 2. Margaret Coleman lived in the family home until 1992 when she sold it and moved to Tasmania to be close to her son. She died in 1997 aged 65 years.

75 yr old Ken Gaston grew up on Edendale farm, which was originally a poultry farm but is now owned and run by the Shire of Nillumbik as an educational farm for schools and visitors. He was Captain of the Eltham rural fire brigade in 1965 when John Coleman Jnr was burnt to death in the Eltham North bushfires serving as an unofficial volunteer. He was able to draw where the original Wattletree Road was and at the time was verified with the location of some remaining bitumen and a post from the original bridge over the Diamond Creek located near the junction of the Diamond Creek and another small creek which is further down from Research or Christmas Creek as locals refer to it. The original Main Road ran behind Colemans before the railway line was built beyond Eltham in 1912.

(Information recorded by Harry Gilham, President EDHS c.2011)

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Bushfires rage in Victoria, Snowy: Three dead (1965, March 4). The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995), p. 1. Retrieved May 19, 2022, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article131758981
Includes two photos of the fire in North Eltham
“Firemen make for safety as fire rages in Upper Glen Park Road, North Eltham, Victoria. The smoke hides a house.” and
“A house explodes into flames at North Eltham, Victoria. Firemen said bottled gas went up.”
Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995), Thursday 4 March 1965, page 1
Firemen make for safety as fire rages in Upper Glen Park Road. North Eltham.
Victoria. The smoke hides a house.
A house explodes into flames at North Eltham. Victoria. Firemen said bottled gas went up.
Bushfires rage in Victoria, Snowy:
Three dead
MELBOURNE, Wednesday.—Three people died today in a bush» fire which raged through North Eltham, about 15 miles from Melbourne.
The victims were three men. A fourth man is feared to be dead.
Another bushfire. sparked off by the heatwave sizzling over south-eastern Australia, is burning out of control in the Kosciusko State Park, in the Snowy Mountains.
Firefighters fear that if it reaches pine forests up the Yarrangobilly River, they will be powerless to stop it.
The three victims of the North Eltbam fire were trapped by flames in a valley. Their bodies were found only a few yards apart.
They were named by police tonight as Mr. George Crowe, 78, of North Eltham, William John Ewers, 64, and John Laurence Coleman, 31, both of Eltham.
The other two have not been identified. They are believed to be a man aged about 40 and an 18-year-old youth.
At least 12 homes were destroyed by the fire, the worst in Victoria since 1962, when eight lives were lost and hundreds of homes burnt down at Warrandyte.
At one time the township of Eltham was threatened, but a cool change swept in from the south and held back the wall of flames.
More than 100 dogs, worth about £4,000, died when the fire raced through two kennels in Short Street, Eltham. and Upper Glen Park Road, North Eltham.
A trickle of water
Residents ran into the streets as the blaze raced towards their houses. Others frantically dug firebreaks around their homes.
Mrs. Sue Recourt wept when firemen arrived while she was vainly trying to stop the flames with a trickle of water from the garden hose.
A stack of firewood was blazing, but the firemen managed to save the house and rescue four goats.
Many homes in Eltham were saved after flames had crept to within feet of their fences.
Students at North Eltham State School had to be evacuated when the blaze threatened the building.
Fire fighters were severely hampered by lack of water and narrow roads.
The blaze, which began in above century heat, turned toward Wattle Glen, where two houses were gutted.
Then the flames raced towards Hurstbridge to the north. Firemen battling desperately, controlled the fire late this afternoon.
Five forest fires were still burning in Victoria tonight.

IN VICTORIA THIS WEEK Tragic lack of central fire authority (1965, March 9). The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995), p. 2. Retrieved May 19, 2022, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article131759928
Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995), Tuesday 9 March 1965, page 2
Tragic lack of central fire authority
From Rohan Rivett
It was the worst week for Victorian fire fighters since Black Friday 27 years ago. On that day one pilot up in a spotter plane said afterwards: "It seemed at times that half the State was on fire."
This time, for three days on end, Gippsland men, women and children had moments of conviction that their towns would have blackened into anonymity before the weekend was out.
The week began with horror at Eltham on the North-eastern edge of Melbourne. Eltham today is something of an artists' colony. Oil painters, water colourists, potters and sculptors proliferate. A number of University folk have emulated the example of Professor MacMahon Ball who pioneered the way by moving to Eltham and carving a home out of the bush in the thirties.
Innermost Eltham is barely 14 miles from the G.P.O. Farthest Eltham stretches miles beyond. It served to illustrate the tragi-ludicrous truncation of Victoria's fire control. Part of Eltham is under the protection of the Melbourne Fire Brigade. But this responsibility ceases at some invisible and incomprehensible line — apparently determined by the meanderings of the water mains. At this point everybody's property throughout the rest of Eltham is dependent on the Country Fire Authority.
Half an hour before midday on Wednesday, a fire suddenly started on the West side of Upper Glen road on the edge of Eltham. Before the fire brigade could arrive, it was burning on a widening front through timber and high grass north of Eltham.
Two wind changes in rapid succession saw the fire leaping Diamond Creek. With a freshening wind it struck home after home in three streets. More than one of them exploded suddenly as if hit by an incendiary bomb. There is no piped gas in the Eltham area, hence many housewives use bottle gas. The flames outside caused the bottles to explode. Altogether twelve homes were completely incinerated and four more were badly damaged. Thirty prize dogs perished.
About three hours after the fire started it raced suddenly down a gully hillside trapping an elderly man. Two other men apparently raced to the rescue.
Flames caught the three men within yards of each other, not 200 yards off the Upper Glen Park Road where safety lay. They were burned to death.
Next evening an angry and convincing secretary of the Fire Brigade Union, Mr. W. M. Webber, came on television and appealed to the people of Victoria to end the ridiculous and dangerous dualism in fire-fighting control.
The Eltham fire, he said, had precisely illustrated the situation. The Metropolitan Fire Brigade area touched Eltham, but where the fire had gutted and killed, was just outside its area.
Mr. Webber said his union had constantly urged one authority for the State with a complete reorganisation of fire protection. On Wednesday the union had repeated its call for an inquiry into fire protection in Victoria to the Chief Secretary, Mr Rylah.
"No matter how close the liaison between the two organisations, there are always divided sections of thinking," Mr. Webber told viewers. "I don't know how much tragedy the com-munity can take before it demands that it is properly protected."
Rumours that differences in gauge between taps and hose nozzles (as between the two authorities) accentuated the damage were denied by fire chiefs who said that all appliances were now carrying adaptors so that hoses could be linked to mains everywhere.
But there is grave concern in the Metropolitan Fire Brigade's higher councils at the action of several Federal authorities with projects in and around Melbourne. They are installing non-standard equipment without reference to the State authorities or any dovetailing of appliances and equipment.
Public alarm was not diminished by the publication on Friday and Saturday of a heart tearing letter from the young widow of John Lawrence Coleman, 31 year old father of two, who had died in the flames apparently trying to rescue the old man trapped in the gully.
By that time, a Vast area of Gippsland was in flames and the troops had been sent in to back up the overworked and often helpless fire-fighters.
By Saturday, the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Stoneham, who has previously demanded a Royal Commission into fire-fighting arrangements, repeated his demand. To add to the Chief Secretary's worries he was publicly rebuked for allegedly implying on television that lives had been lost at Eltham because people went to the wrong place at the wrong time. In a letter to the Press, Professor MacMahon Ball pointed out that two of the men involved were experienced bushmen who had gone "to help an old man in great danger fully aware of the danger to themselves".
As Victoria faced its sixth day of total State-wide fire ban, it looked likely that even official resistance was not going to silence the demand for one central authority to control the fire fiend.
At the moment, the 400 square miles where two million Victorians live in Greater Melbourne are divorced from the rest of the State in planning, communications, equipment and control of personnel. No one doubts the whole-hearted co-operation and willingness to back each other up of the M.F.B. and the C.F.A., both at top-level and among the firemen themselves.
However, when a city straggles so deeply into the country side, the absence of a single authority, to oversee and analyse the fire threat as a whole, suggests suicidal policy of divide and fuel.


Emphasis of the tragic loss of a member of a pioneering family who died whilst helping others in his community

Physical description