The Old Andrean who joined Douglas Mawson in Antarctica

October 25, 2019


We’re in the process of creating a comprehensive history of St Andrew’s Cathedral School. Our school historian Vic Branson is uncovering a myriad of previously-lost information and archives, painting a rich picture of a school in rapid change.

This week, he discovered more information about Charles Francis Laseron, an Old Andrean who was a chorister at the school and joined Australian explorer Sir Douglas Mawson in his exploration of Antarctica, as well as fighting in both World Wars. Laseron was recently inducted into the School’s Hall of Fame for his nationally-recognised geology work and Antarctic expedition.

Here’s a sneak peak of his findings.

At the Choir School Prize giving in 1900 a 13-year-old boy called Charles Francis Laseron won prizes in Latin and Grammar. His father was an  Episcopalian Priest in Wisconsin, U.S.A  where Charles was born. The family moved to Australia where Rev David Laseron served as Rector of Paddington, Newtown and Lithgow. He was a man of Mennonite piety. Unfortunately, in 1882, the year after they arrived in Sydney, David was shot while travelling in a train near Redfern. He suffered from severe nervous disorders and depression.

His son, Charles Francis could sing and was good at Latin and Grammar but his flair for the Sciences was the key to his career. His parents could not afford University fees, so he went to The Technological Museum and gained a Diploma in Geology publishing a treatise on the geology of the Shoalhaven region.

He was invited to join the Mawson’s Australasian Expedition to Antarctica, and served as a surveyor, taxidermist, geologist and scientific assistant. He braved the elements on long sledging expeditions and was awarded the Polar Medal. Before Mawson and his men departed for the Antarctic, there was a service in St Andrew’s Cathedral where Mawson’s brother was a lay clerk. Laseron joined in with the Mawsons and others singing in the Choir where Laseron had learned his music.

In September 1914, as the war in Europe was beginning, Laseron joined the A.I.F. and landed at Gallipoli on the second day of the assault, the 26th April. Over the next 24 hours he was fighting but managed to scribble in his diary material which was later published beginning a career of writing. He was shot on the foot on that day and sent to Birmingham Hospital and thence to London for recovery, where he observed Zeppelins bombing the city.  On his return to Australia, he married Miss May Theodore Mason in Albury and raised a family.

He unsuccessfully stood for election in 1920 for  the seat of Ryde in the name of the Soldier’s Party. He went back to the Museum, which had changed its name to the Museum for Applied Arts and Science as a designer and decorator, after which he opened an Antique dealership in Castlereagh St Sydney, which was burgled in 1932, losing 30 pounds worth of jewelry!

He enlisted again in 1939 when the Second World War broke out as a map reading instructor but was honourably discharged in 1944 because he suffered from bronchitis and heart troubles. His great love was writing about science and he produced three notable works which attracted a popular following and very favourable reviews: South with Mawson, (1947) Face of Australia, (1953) Ancient Australia, (1954).

He is regarded as having laid a foundation for the understanding of geomorphology and geology and, in a specialist field, a reputation for the study of malacology: the branch of zoology that deals with molluscs. During his days with the AIF in Egypt and Gallipoli he joined lustily in the singing of many great hymn tunes which he had learned from his youth, with some very different words.