Irvine and Mary Coulter married in 1872. They had seven children, two girls and five boys. The five Coulter boys all rowed at Ballarat City Rowing Club. They became involved in the early 1890’s when eldest son Irvine (1873) joined the club. Sydney(1876) and brother Jason (1877) or Jay as he was known, probably joined about the same time. Graham (1879) possibly joined a little later about 1897 and youngest son Leslie Jack (20/7/1889) rowed about 1908-09. The Coulters contributed to the club both on the water and off, serving on the committee with Irvine becoming Assistant Secretary in 1894-95, Treasurer from 1895-1897 and then Captain in 1897-98. He left for Western Australia in 1902 and never returned to Victoria, dying in 1914 in a drowning accident.

Sydney, Jason, Graham and Leslie all went to war with the oldest three joining up for the Boer War where Sydney lost his life, then the First World War when both Jay and Leslie were killed in action. Graham, the sole survivor of the brothers and decorated hero of WW1 also enlisted in WW2. Graham’s contribution to the club was also extensive joining in 1896-97, then in 1903-04 became Vice Captain and the Captain from 1904 until 1910 when he resigned. When Graham returned from WW1 he did not return to Ballarat.

When we were having the Honor Boards remade I found out about Graham’s Boer War contribution and so we included his name on the board. It was only through recent research around those who served in WW 1 that I started to piece together the Coulter brothers incredible story. I think both Sydney, Jason and Leslie also deserve their place on the boards and hope that the current committee will agree to place them there. This is a brief outline of their stories.


Sydney Richard Coulter was the second eldest son of Irvine and Mary Coulter. He was born in 1876 in Ballarat. His eldest brother Irvine born in 1873 became involved with Ballarat City Rowing Club in the early 1890’s. His younger brothers Graham, Jason and Leslie also rowed at the club so it is reasonable to assume that Sydney also rowed although I have not yet verified this.

He enlisted for the Boer War in October 1899 and served for nearly 2 years before he was killed in action at Hlobane on 27th of August, 1901. He was entitled to the Queens South Africa Medal with Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Transvaal and South Africa 1901 clasps. Both his brothers Jason and Graham also served in the Boer War and then went on to serve in World War 1.

When word reached Ballarat of his death, the whole town flew flags at half-mast. His name is recorded on Ballarat’s Boer War Memorial in Queen Victoria Square, Sturt Street.



Jason (Jay) Leslie Boyd Coulter was born at Ballarat, in August 1877 to parents Irvine and Mary. He was one of the four Coulter brothers who fought for their country in the Boer War and World War 1. Jay signed up for the Boer War on 17th of April 1902 however by the time they arrived in Durban in June 1902, the war was over and he returned to Australia.  He and his five brothers also rowed at the Ballarat City Rowing Club. Jay was farewelled by the club in 1908 when he left for NSW where he was took up farming. He enlisted at Randwick, New South Wales under the name Jason Leslie Boyd on 27 August 1914. At the time Coulter enlisted, the upper age limit was set at 35 but he was 36 at the time, so he enlisted under the surname Boyd. This was later corrected on his service record. His age on enlistment was recorded as 35 and he was assigned to the 2nd Infantry Battalion.
Coulter departed Sydney aboard HMAT Suffolk on 18 October 1914. In March 1915, he was transferred to the 8 Infantry Battalion before being sent to Gallipoli. He was in the landing on Sunday, April 25th, 1915 at Gaba Tepe. The War Memorial has his personal diary and it records: “ under heavy shell fire. Got straight into action-and it was hell-God how the shells poured over us while the bullets from the enemies’ rifles poured into us-what a day of sorrow…..”Coulter’s brother, Lieutenant Colonel Graham Coulter, also served with the 8 Infantry Battalion and later commanded this unit.
Whilst at Gallipoli Jason was wounded on 1 June 1915, and returned to duty on 27 July. He achieved the rank of Sergeant during August 1915  He also sustained severe gunshot wounds to the right hand and leg with his hand amputated and gangrene set in. He was wounded in the action in defence of Courtney’s Point on the 5th of August and died on 10th August 1915 at Alexandria,Eygpt. Jason Coulter was 37 years old when he died and he is buried at the Alexandria (Chatby) Military and War Memorial Cemetery, Egypt. (Pictured is a page from his personal diary as yet no image of him has been found. His personal diary is digitised on the Australian War memorial site.)


Graham Coulter was born on the 13th of January 1879 and was the second youngest son of Irvine and Mary Coulter. Graham had a significant role to play at Ballarat City Rowing Club along with his oldest brother Irvine. Between them they rowed and served on committee for over 15 years. Graham joined the club in 1896-97 and won his first maiden eight at Barwon Regatta in 1897.He was Vice-Captain in 1903-04 and Captain from 1904 until 1910 when he resigned the position. Graham fought in Boer War, enlisting in the 1st Mounted Rifles from 1899 returning to the club 1901 after serving fourteen months and the club made note in the Annual Report that he had returned safely. He was awarded the Queens South Africa Medal with clasps for Johannesburg, Diamond, Belfast, Cape Colony and Orange Free State.

In 1914 he was made Captain in the 8th Infantry Battalion on 4 September 1914.He embarked on the  19th October 1914 on board HMAT Benalla.  He was promoted Major on 9 May 1915 at Gallipoli and assumed command of the 8th Battalion on 27 August during the illness of Lt. Col. Brant.  After the evacuation of Gallipoli, and a time in hospital with jaundice, Graham found himself in Alexandria in January 1916.  He left Alexandria on 26 April, arriving in France on the 30th.   He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on 10 July 1917, and enjoyed some leave in England in November 1916. Graham was awarded the Distinguished Service Order on 1 January 1917 for his leadership of his Battalion in France.  The recommendation reads: ‘Lt. Col. Coulter has commanded his battalion since 6th June 1916.  In the battle on the Somme (at Pozieres) on the two occasions when his battalion was engaged he handled his battalion which was responsible for important points in Pozieres – with skill. Has the confidence of his men and is a good leader and administrator. Also for good general work since arrival in France.’ On 31 July 1916 he was recommended for a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George by Brigadier General N. M. Smythe, Commander 1st Aust. Infantry Brigade. He embarked for Australia on 10 January 1918 and disembarked in Australia on 3 March 1918.


Leslie Jack Coulter was the youngest of the five Coulter brothers. He was born in Ballarat on 20th July 1889. He was educated at Ballarat College and Ballarat School of Mines. When his brothers Sydney, Graham and Jason signed up for the Boer War he would have been 10 years old. He also rowed at Ballarat City Rowing Club from 1907 to about 1910. By 1911 he was living and working in Bendigo.

In 1914 he was working as a Mining Engineer in Tasmania and was noted for his bravery in rescue work during the Mt. Lyell mining disaster of the same year. He had military experience with the 91st infantry Regiment CMF and he applied for a commission in the Field Company Engineers on 28yh of September 1915. He joined the Miners Corps on the 1st of December 1915 with the rank 2nd Lieutenant. He was promoted to Major in March 1916. In July 1916 he was wounded in action and awarded the Distinguished Service Order on. He was also mentioned in dispatches three times. On the 28th of June 1917, while being involved in a raid to destroy German tunnels, he was shot and killed. Coulter Crater at Hill70, near Lens, was named after him. The explosion that created this crater marked the last of the German tunnelling on the now infamous Hill 70.

THE DSO CITATION:-“HIS MAJESTY THE KING has been graciously pleased to approve of the appointment of the undermentioned officer to be Companion of the Distinguished Service Order, in recognition of his gallantry and devotion to duty in the field :- MAJOR LESLIE JACK COULTER “For conspicuous gallantry during operations.  When a “Push Pipe” failed to explode, he went our, accompanied by a corporal, under heavy shrapnel and machine-gun fire, and blew up the exposed portion of the “push pipe”.  Later, when the leads were cut by a hostile shell fire, he went out, under very heavy fire, to try and light the fuse further down the sap.  Though wounded, he refused to be removed till the “push pipe” had been successfully exploded.

He is buried in Hersin Communal Cemetary Extension, Plot 1.A.2.

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