Cecil Paul was born in August 1894 and was baptised at St Matthew's Bondi. He stated his 'trade or calling' on enlistment as School Teacher ('Tutor' struck out) and stated that he had been a Lieutenant, Senior Cadets. Subsequent Army documents refer to his pre-enlistment occupation as student.
Paul enlisted in November 1915, at 21 years of age. He was 5'-11" tall and weighed 140 lb. His chest measurement was 34½", his complexion fair, and he had light brown hair and eyes. 'He left Sydney by the troopship Medic on January 7th 1916 as a private in the Australian Army Medical Corps (AAMC), bound for No2 Aust Gen. Hospital, Ghezireh Palace, Cairo. No service number was then allotted to him as he took the place of a sick man at short notice. When he arrived, the hospital was overstaffed , and shortly afterwards he left for France where he was placed in camp, 2nd ADBD under Commandant Major Vaughan, with Dr Morgan as his CO'.
He was with ADBD for six months, probably doing field ambulance duties, after which he was transferred to the Australian General Base Depot with honorary promotion as Pay Corporal. However, a month later he was admitted to 26 General Hospital with Endocarditis, to be invalided to England via Calais a few days later. From January 1917 he had time in hospital, furlough, and light duty postings. He returned to Australia on the Ayrshire for discharge. He was given the rank of Corporal for the voyage only. Arriving July 20th, he underwent further examinations at No. 4 AGH Randwick and was discharged on August 15th.
Notes on his service medical history state: 'Has been before several boards with neurasthenia and boarded C1 class. 6 wks ago transferred to No.1 ADH as orderly. No improvement. Gets very nervous. A coarse tremor. Not due to service. Present weight 10st 6lb; usual weight 11st 6lb'. The Medical Board at Parkhouse had found him 'unfit for General Service for more than six months and unfit for Home Service'. Medical notes dated 31st July state: 'Coarse tremor of hands. Tachycardia. Very nervous. Requests his discharge to have treatment outside which he undoubtedly needs'.
The above records are at variance with what his father had been led to believe:
"Whilst in France he was promoted first to be Corporal then Sergeant. These promotions were honorary. His last letter to me was dated October 16/16. Since then friends have received letters from him from Leeds Infirmary, England (which I suppose is a hospital for Australian Soldiers). On the 5th of Feb. last I received a cable from him from London as follows: "Out hospital going France writing January twenty seventh". Again on the 14th of Feb. the following cable came from London: "allotted number 15631. Address Parkhouse Salisbury Plains, England. Private now February ninth". A letter addressed to him at Parkhouse has this morning been returned as not deliverable.
I am uncertain whether he is still in the AAMC. In one of his letters written several months ago, he informed me that owing to attacks of Dysentery he might have to go into hospital as an orderly, in which case he would have to forfeit his stripes. At another time he wrote saying he had a notion of asking to be transferred to the 20th Batt. Of Infantry, in which his cousin, J A Broadbent, held a commission as Lieut (now Capt. And MC and stationed as instructor at Salisbury Plains. I am wondering if he has been transferred to this or some other Batt".
He applied for a pension but was rejected '– no incapacity as a result of warlike operations'.
He moved to Victoria and married Aileen (Budge) Lehman in 1917. They had met on the Hospital ship returning from France. Aileen had also served in the 1st AIF.
A son, James, was born in 1919. Paul left his wife soon after James was born and Aileen was left to raise her son with the help of two sisters. James was schooled at Scotch College and then studied Medicine at Melbourne University. His studies were interrupted by war service, when he was a Sergeant in the AAMC. Soon after he returned, he met Nancye Hamilton Donovan, a Physiotherapy student at the university, and they married. They had six children.
James graduated MBBS in 1946 and worked at the Alfred Hospital before practising as a GP. He died in 1984.
Apparently Paul stayed at the YMCA in Melbourne, when he left home, for on 28th August the YMCA Office Secretary wrote to the Defence Department seeking his address:
'We should esteem it a favour if you could give us the whereabouts of Mr. C.P. Best. He is a returned soldier, and was working at the Victoria Barracks until about six weeks ago, when he went to the country. There are some letters waiting for him here, and we would like to forward them'
The latest address held by Base Records was c/o the Croydon Rectory. However, by this time the Bests had left Croydon and Joseph had died.
Paul appears at Sale (Victoria) in the 1919 Electoral Roll, where he worked as Diocesan Registrar for Bishop Cranswick, Bp of Sale. In 1921 he was living at a different address in Sale and stated his occupation as 'Agent' and by 1922 he had moved on. The family believe he went to Venezuela.