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australian rowers profiles and history

LTCOL Graham Coulter

Ballarat City Rowing Club (VIC)

LIEUTENANT-COLONEL Graham Coulter. DSO, MD,VD , 13 Jan 1879 - 6 Sept 1960

Graham Coulter was born on the 13th of January 1879 and was the second youngest of five sons of the seven children of Irvine and Mary Coulter. Irvine Coulter was a well-known merchant in Ballarat. Graham was educated at Grenville College graduating and working as an accountant. Graham played a significant role in Ballarat City Rowing Club from 1896 until 1910 along with his oldest brother Irvine who joined in 1893. Between them they rowed and served on committee for over 15 years. His three other brothers Sydney, Jason (Jay) and Leslie (Jack) also rowed at Ballarat City with Jack the youngest competing in 1908-09.

Graham joined the club sometime in 1896 and would have spent some time learning to row. He quickly made his mark competing in the club Trial fours in 1897. This year the club had 19 crews, approximately 80 oarsmen vying for the 10 pound trophies. Trial racing was very important for clubs as there were only 4 or 5 regattas a year and the trial process gave members racing experience and the selection committee used it to select regatta crews. His crew won the Trial fours and Graham went onto win his first Maiden eight at the Barwon Regatta in 1897. In 1898 he won Maiden fours at Nagambie with H. Bull, A. A. O’Dea, and C. E. Suffren. The same crew won Maiden fours at Upper Yarra Regatta. In 1899 he won Junior fours at Ballarat Regatta. Earlier in 1899 he raced in the club Trial pairs with his brother Jay.  Graham was also elected to the committee and served on committee for 1896-97, 1897-98 and 1898-99. His rowing career was then put on hold, when he enlisted to fight in the Boer War in the 1st Mounted Rifles. His older brother Sydney also enlisted in October 1899 and was sadly killed in action at Hlobane on the 27th of August 1901.

Graham survived 14 months of fighting and returned safely in late 1901. The club made note in the Annual report that he had returned and tendered a “Welcome home” for him. He was awarded the Queens South Africa Medal with clasps for Johannesburg, Diamond, Belfast, Cape Colony and Orange Free State.  On his return he wasted no time in getting back into club life and in 1902 won Junior pairs at Ballarat Regatta with A.A.O’Dea. They were presented with the Massy Harms Cup for this race. He was elected Vice-Captain in 1903-04 season and then Captain from 1904 until 1910 when he resigned the position. He married Violet Palmer in 1908 and in 1910 on 22nd of August, their only son Brian Ross Appleton Coulter was born.

In 1914 he enlisted again for World War 1. 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.’

He returned to Australia on 3 March 1918. He did return briefly to Ballarat after the war but by 1924 was living in Brighton. It would appear he did not return to his family after the war. In 1932 Violet his wife died and was buried in Ballarat. By 1933 Graham was living in NSW in Darlinghurst West. During WW2 he again enlisted as Lieutenant-Colonel at Paddington in July 1940 and was one of a handful of men who served in the Boer War, WW1 and WW2. In 1954 he was living in Double Bay and working as an accountant. He passed away on the 6th of September 1960 aged 81.

Kate Elliott
August 2021

Sources include: Boer War – Page 2 – ANZAC Biographies (

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