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In one of London’s busiest streets you will always find the Blue Ensign with the Southern Cross floating in the breeze.  On the double doors of the building where the flag of Australia flies proudly, you will read these words: “Open.  Welcome to the Australian and New Zealand Troops.”  It is well-known as the “Anzac Buffet,” or, as one of the boys called it, “The Dinkum Bit of Home, in Blighty.”

[The Anzac Buffet, 94 Victoria-street, 1917]




The Anzac Buffet first opened its doors at 70 Victoria Street, Westminster, London on the 13th September 1915.  It was then moved from these premises to 130 Horseferry Rd, Westminster, London in November 1915.  Closing its doors at Horseferry Rd on the 8th September 1916, it re-opened the same day at its third and final destination, 94 Victoria-street, Westminster, London, and finally closed for good on the 29th November 1919.










The Anzac Buffet – its first incarnation:

70 Victoria Street, Westminster, London – Opened 13th September 1915 – closed November 1915




The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW), Wed 8 Sept 1915 (p.9):


LONDON, Tuesday – The Australian Natives’ Association will, on September 13, open the “Anzac” buffet reading and writing rooms, adjoining the Commonwealth Office.  The club is for Australian and New Zealand soldiers.



The Times, 16/9/1915:



The opening of the Anzac Buffet in the basement of No. 70, Victoria-street, by the Australian Natives’ Association, has been hailed with delight by Australian and New Zealand soldiers visiting London after leaving hospital.  Although the Union Jack and other soldiers’ clubs were open to them, the men were more or less at a loss as to where they should go, and it was no uncommon sight to see, leaning against walls or sitting on doorsteps, gatherings of Australians and New Zealanders who could find no better place to pass the time.

Now they can have a quiet read, chat, and smoke or write letters at the “Anzac,” where from 9 o’clock to 6, sandwiches and tea are served free by Australian ladies, who are devoting their energies to the task.  Although the buffet was only opened three days ago, it has already been visited by several hundred men.

The club premises are excellently organized, and the only fault that is found by guests is the lack of a piano – a gift which would be a great boon, as many of the men are fond of music and are good musicians.



Queensland Figaro (Brisbane), Sat 20 Nov 1915 (p.19):


During the few weeks for which they have been established, the Anzac Rooms have proved to be the greatest boon to our troops in England (says the “British Australasian” of September 30) who, wounded or on furlough, were badly in need of some comfortable resting place in London, where they could rest weary limbs, obtain refreshment and meet their friends during the hours which must perforce be spent in waiting for the conclusion of various kinds of business at the military records office.  A huge staff there is kept busily at work without rest, but every man’s need or enquiry cannot be attended to at once, and some therefore must remain near the office until their turn comes.  At the Anzac Rooms, close by, they find the comfort and the company that mean so much to them.  Thousands of soldiers have already taken advantage of the hospitality offered, and have freely and practically expressed their appreciation of it.  The only trouble now is that the rooms are too small.  Another buffet is not yet perhaps required, but there is urgent need of more room space, and simple furniture to make it habitable.  We have no doubt that the funds to supply this want will soon be forthcoming, and as the value of what the A.N.A. is doing through the “Anzac” organization becomes more widely known, there should be little difficulty in obtaining also the Australian hut, which Mrs Cox Roper is anxious to establish on the same lines as the Canadian hut, already in existence.



The Mirror of Australia (Sydney, NSW), Sat 4 Dec 1915 (p.4):

The Anzac Buffet

The Anzac Buffet, which has been established in London for the convenience of Australian wounded, is in charge of Mrs Cox-Roper.  The premises have already proved inadequate to accommodate the flow of Australian wounded, and when the last mail left there was talk of extensions.  By the way, the number of voluntary lady workers was in excess of requirements.



Queensland Figaro Sat 8 Jan 1916 (p.8):


May I be permitted to bring under the notice of your readers the good work being carried out by the Australian Natives’ Association for the benefit of the Australian and New Zealand soldiers when in London? writes the President of the A.N.A., Mr A. H. O’Connor, London, in the “British Australasian.”

The association recently established the “Anzac” Free Buffet and Clubrooms, at 70, Victoria street, immediately adjoining the Commonwealth offices, which during the first two weeks were taken advantage of by over 1,500 men.  The facilities provided are greatly appreciated by the “Anzacs,” many of whom, fresh from hospital, are compelled to wait about the Commonwealth offices for their pay, clothing, furlough passes, etc.  In some cases the men have drawn no pay for months, and it is to meet their needs while temporarily ‘out of funds’ that the free buffet has been established.

Through the generosity of our members and their friends, a comfortable reading, smoking, and music room has been provided.  The value of this will increase as the winter weather comes in.  The association feels that it is a privilege to be thus able to entertain the Australians and New Zealanders, and believes that there are many who would desire to associate themselves with the movement by contributing to the Maintenance Fund.

We confidently ask for practical support in this excellent work, either by contributions in cash or kind, or by weekly subscriptions to the Shilling Fund, which has now been started.



The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW), Wed 17 May 1933 (p.10)



Sir – Might I draw your attention to an inaccurate report from your special correspondent in London in the “Herald” of 1st instant, in which it is stated, inter alia, that a Miss Watson was the only woman among the five founders of the Anzac Buffet in Victoria-street, and that she sent circulars to 3000 Australians in London and received £3000 to start the buffet, etc.

The history of the origin of the Anzac Buffet is as follows: – An Australian lady, Mrs Cox-Roper, then resident in London brought under the notice of the High Commissioner, Sir George Reid, the plight of Australian soldiers who had been invalided from Gallipoli, and convalescent in London.  Although the High Commissioner had no authority to grant financial assistance, he was instrumental in arranging for premises suitable for Mrs Cox-Roper’s purpose in the vicinity of the Commonwealth Buildings.  The preliminary expenses and furniture were contributed by Mrs Cox-Roper and numerous Australian women and men resident in London.  The buffet was carried on under the direction of Mrs Cox-Roper for six weeks, during which period some 200 ladies were in voluntary attendance under a roster.  Owing to a breakdown in health, Mrs Cox-Roper handed over the control of the buffet to Mrs Ratigan, of Queensland, who got in touch with Miss Ada Reeve, and it was at Miss Reeves instigation that an appeal for funds was made to the Australian public.  The liberal response made the continuous functioning of the buffet possible.

I am, etc., J.S.Ryan (1st F.C.E.)

Strathfield May 4



The Land (Sydney, NSW), Fri 24 Aug 1923 (p.17):


The return of Mrs Cox-Roper and her daughter Decima to Australia was effected as quietly and unassumingly as their splendid war service in London, which won for them the love and goodwill of numberless Diggers, and the hearty appreciation of all who knew them.

Later she founded the famous Anzac Buffet, and took charge as superintendent.  For seven weeks she laboured day and night.  Then her health broke down, and she relinquished her position to Mrs Rattigan, of Victoria, contenting herself on her recovery with filling any position required of her. 




Second incarnation at new premises:

The Anzac Club and Buffet, 130 Horseferry Rd, Westminster, London – opened in November 1915 – closed 8th September 1916



The Herald (Melb, Vic), Wed 8 Dec 1915 (p.1):


(FROM OUR LONDON OFFICE) 92 Fleet Street, October 28

This week the High Commissioner successfully concluded the negotiations with the various authorities in London whose consent was necessary for securing an addition to the new Commonwealth premises in Horseferry road.

These premises, which are behind and adjoining the Australian Military Offices (formerly the Wesleyan Training College) in Westminster, have been occupied by an elementary school under the Wesleyan denomination, but the Wesleyan authorities agreed to the transfer of the building to the High Commissioner, provided they could obtain another building and a playground for the children, and that the educational authorities (which include the London County Council and the Board of Education) would give their consent.  A building was secured, ………………………

The Anzac Buffet, which is to have space in the additional premises, will now be transferred immediately from the present cramped quarters in Victoria street to the building adjoining the Australian Military Offices, of which they form a part.

The new quarters were inspected this week by Lieutenant-Colonel W.T. Reay and Mr Molden (vice-presidents of the London A.N.A.), and by Mr G.V. Shillinglaw, hon secretary of the Buffet.  The Australian soldiers will find in the new quarters accommodation, convenience, and comfort superior to anything which has heretofore been provided for them by this or any other organization in London.

In the matter of convenience alone, the Anzac Buffet is easily first.  The payments now made at the paying counter in the Military Paymaster’s Branch of the Australian Military Offices amount to an average of £4000 a day, and as these payments are mostly in comparatively small sums, this fact alone will give some idea of the large daily attendance of soldiers.  It is calculated that between 400 and 500 soldiers call at the Military Offices daily.  ………………………………

Most of these men find their way to the Anzac Buffet, and, now that it has premises large enough to meet the needs of an attendance of 400 or 500 a day, the usefulness of the institution will be shown more than ever.  There is one large hall, in which tea, coffee, mineral waters, etc. (the buffet does not cater for those who require square meals), may be supplied to as many as a hundred men at one time.  There are other rooms, which may be devoted to music, games, reading and writing.

When Sir George Reid visited the buffet this week he left the following note in the visitors’ book.  “The Anzac Buffet has a wonderful record of usefulness.  Long life to it.”



Mudgee Guardian and North-Western Representative (NSW), Thur 30 Dec 1915 (p.12):

An Interesting Letter

From Private Don Lowe

The following letter has been received by us from Private Don Lowe, of Mudgee, from the military pay office, in London, dated 17th November, 1915: –


“On arrival in London I met some of my battalion mates, and a host of Australian ladies and gentlemen at the Anzac Club, controlled by members of the Australian Natives’ Association.  Our ladies are doing wonders for our soldiers on furlough in England.  The Anzac Club is a free house for our men, situated in the heart of the city, where tea, smoke, and reading rooms are provided for Australian soldiers.  I was present at the opening of the new club premises adjoining the military buildings.  Sir George Reid and Sir Ian Hamilton being present, and giving addresses to the large crowd of Australians who are interested in its welfare.  …………………




The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW), Fri 31 Dec 1915 (p.8):




At the Anzac Buffet – now grown to the Anzac Club and Buffet – an at home will be held on Saturday next in honour of the Australian V.Cs now in London.  Many hundreds of Australians are expected to be present, and the occasion will thus be a notable one.  But the Anzac Club and Buffet does not exist merely for this sort of full-dress, ceremonial function.  It is at its best, rather, in its everyday aspect of a cheerfully informal rendezvous for the Australian soldier who, coming out of the London streets for a chat with friends and compatriots, will never fail to find them in large numbers within the comfortable rooms of the Anzac Buffet.

Begun modestly, as will be remembered, in a basement room near the Commonwealth Office in Victoria-street the Buffet made a success so instantaneous and so quick to develop that the overflowing stream of its patronage made new arrangements immediately necessary.  After something of a debate with the Commonwealth Office, these new arrangements resulted in the present Anzac Club and Buffet, a spacious and comfortable set of rooms in the new Commonwealth premises in Horseferry-road.  To have established the Anzac Buffet at all is to the lasting credit of the officials of the London branch of the Australian Natives’ Association, whose scheme it was.  To have secured these fine rooms is something of a triumph.

For by virtue of them the scheme has just the opportunity it needed to meet the demand upon it.  Hundreds of our boys come there daily.  Their welcome is assured to them.  Little tables are all about the main room, and tea and coffee and light refreshments are always ready for the soldier.  Not only is it given to him gladly, and free of charge, but the service of it is in the hands of Australian ladies, who by this time are expert and enthusiastic tearoom waitresses.  There are now, I understand, some 230 of them.  They take their turn in the Buffet in shifts of 16.  Once in their hands, as will be quite well understood, the Australian soldier is safe for a pleasant half-hour.  And alongside the tea-room is a reading room, where the Australian newspapers are provided, while not far off is a concert room, where on most days of the week music, and sometimes the excellent music of artists, is at disposal of the patron of Anzac.  The latest addition to the equipment of the rooms is a billiard table, which is now in active operation, so that by and large the Anzac Club and Buffet is a most desirable refuge for Australian soldiers who are for the time being wanderers in London.  In the winter months especially soon to be the strange surrounding of our men, the comfort and cheerfulness of the place will give them effective relief from the London streets.

Australians at home will, one thinks, agree that this is a splendid Australian institution.  They should know also that it is one more instance of Australia’s enthusiasm for voluntary war-service.  Anzac Buffet is entirely due to voluntary effort.  It was started voluntarily by the A.N.A.  It has been supported – and its financial necessities are by no means light – by voluntary subscriptions.  All the other help needed by it is secured to it by voluntary workers.  The bearers of the burden of Anzac in London are thus too many in number to be named.  But one ought to mention in respect of it at least Mr A.H. O’Connor, and Mr H. Kneebone, who, as president and secretary, respectively, of the London A.N.A., have done much towards the present splendid showing of the scheme; Mr G.V. Shillinglaw, of Melbourne, who gives the whole of his time to personal supervision of the rooms; and Mrs Huck, of Sydney, who is in similar charge of the many feminine activities concerned.



The Argus (Melb, Vic), Tue 4 Apr 1916 (p.8):



The Anzac Buffet at the Australian military headquarters in Horseferry road is the chief meeting-place in London for the men of Anzac.  On Saturday there was a special entertainment in honour of Mr and Mrs Fisher and their “quiverful.”  A great gathering of Australian soldiers, sailors, and nurses assembled to greet, the new High Commissioner and his wife, and a large party of Australian children also assembled to welcome the little Fishers.  Mrs Sinclair Ross was in charge of the musical programme for the “grown-ups,” while Mrs Hardie, Mrs Monte Bayly, and Mrs Rees looked after the jueveniles.  ………………………………………………




Bendigo Advertiser (Vic), Tue 11 Apr 1916 (p.7):


In a letter to Mr G. Mackay, Miss Nancy A Byrne, formerly of “Gannawarra,” View Hill, Bendigo, but now of 69 Madeley road, Ealing, London, a granddaughter of the late Mrs Millin, writes as follows: – “In a recent issue of the ‘Bendigonian’ I saw a reference to the reception of Australian V.C.’s held in the small canteen, which entertains 2300 Australian soldiers a day.  As I have been working at the Anzac Buffet practically since it was started, I thought it might perhaps interest you to have a few details of the Australian headquarters in London.  These are situated in 130 Horseferry road, Westminster.  The premises were formerly used as national schools for boys and girls.  In addition to the military offices, pay department, post office, medical board, etc., there is the Anzac Buffet, which consists of a large room where refreshments are served gratis to all Australian and New Zealand soldiers.

This room has seating accommodation for 200.  About 1000 men a day are served with refreshments there between 9.30 a.m. and 8 p.m.  The average daily consumption of food is as follows: – 45 to 50 quarten loaves, 40lb butter, 112lb cake, 30lb meat, 10lb tea, 6lb coffee, 80 quarts milk, 30lb sugar.

There are also in the same building a music room, reading and writing rooms, and a billiard room, with full-sized table.  Entertainments are given nearly every day to the men by parties of both professionals and amateurs.  Last Saturday a reception was given in honor of Mr A. Fisher, the new Commonwealth High Commissioner, and we finished up with an impromptu dance.  I have met several Bendigo boys, and I am sure when they return they will speak well of their London club.  With kind regards, in which my mother and my uncle (Mr C.F. Kennedy) join.”



Camberwell and Hawthorn Advertiser (Vic), Sat 15 Apr 1916 (p.4):






The Mercury (Hobart), Sat 14 Oct 1916:


By Clio

Australians in Exile

An Australian soldier, returned for a time to his native land from those fiery lines in France, has been telling with enthusiasm of the work Australian women are doing in England, ……….

But London is an immense place, and there are Australians everywhere helping the Australian boys.  But I shall tell you of the Anzac Buffet, Horseferry-road, Westminster, the Mecca of Australian soldiers in London.  I cannot describe the kind of feeling which takes possession of us, and instinctively makes us set our feet towards the Anzac Buffet, and there sit and be with our own folk again.  The buffet is so cheerful and bright, the girls – every one Australian-born – are so jolly and pleased to do anything, that it is one of the greatest pleasures in London for us to get round to the buffet, and be once more in Australia.  I could almost imagine being in Sydney again, when going into the buffet, to find Mrs Phipps and her sister, Miss Johnson, there, and Mrs Hughes, Miss Manning, and Mrs Sinclair Ross, Miss Evertt, and Miss Allen, a Queenslander.  But there are 300 of them, so it’s impossible to name them all.  They all work so hard, and are so cheerful about it, that the boys are always there.  There are many English girls, I am told, who would like to help in the buffet, but it is only Australian-born who help the Anzac to his coffee.



The Age (Melb, Vic), Mon 21 Aug 1916 (p.7):

Removal of Anzac Buffet

The Australian Natives’ Association in London sent a deputation to Mr Fisher on Friday, which protested against the military order to remove the Anzac buffet on the ground that the rooms are required for the extension of the military headquarters.

It was pointed out that there is considerable feeling among Australians, because they have the impression that the military authorities, regardless of the excellent work done at the buffet, desire to remove competition with the new club.  The military had determined that the troops should pay for comforts, and there was some criticism of the action of the Sydney War Chest management in granting £4000 for the club, which was a trading concern.

Australians in London understood that subscribers to the war chest intended that the money should be spent in the free distribution of comforts, and considered that the Government ought to finance the club, as now established, seeing that the military institutions were intended to be self-supporting.

The Australian Natives are still hopeful of establishing a free hostel.

Mr Fisher, with Mr Watkins, M.P., and Senator de Largie, visited the new Australian soldiers’ club on Friday and dined with the soldiers.  The three visitors made speeches.

Mr Fisher congratulated the soldiers on having a self-supporting club.  Referring to the war, he congratulated the soldiers on their arriving at a fortuitous moment, when the dark war clouds had broken and light was shining on the road to unequivocal victory.




Third and final incarnation at new premises:

The Anzac Club and Buffet, 94 Victoria-street, Westminster, London – opened on the 8th of September 1916 – closed 29th November 1919



The Argus (Melb, Vic), Fri 22 Sept 1916 (p.7):

New Anzac Buffet

The new Anzac Buffet was opened in London on Wednesday.  The Australian High Commissioner (Mr Andrew Fisher), speaking at the ceremony, expressed appreciation of the efforts of the voluntary workers, and promised them every assistance.



The Border Morning Mail and Riverina Times (Albury, NSW), Fri 8 Dec 1916 (p.4):



Sir, – From a letter received from Mrs A.W. Watson, of Gerogery East, who has been in London for some time past, I know she would be pleased to receive some financial assistance from the Albury district towards the Anzac Buffet, London, where she has been one of the energetic honorary workers for many months past.  ………………………………………..




Sunday Times (Sydney, NSW), Sun 3 Dec 1916 (p.26):


V.A.D.’s Fine Work

Mrs E. Marie Irvine, who returned to Sydney by the Malwa, after a trip to England and America, has many interesting things to tell of women’s war work in London.

Mrs Irvine, who is a commandant of the Darlinghurst V.A.D., ……………………………………

Mrs Irvine took up work in the Anzac Buffet, as all Australians do.  It is the one spot in London where an Australian soldier feels that he is at home.  Miss Innes-Noad, a former Sydney girl, is doing good work there with newspapers.  The men leave their addresses with her, and the papers are sent to the trenches.  Their cry is for the Bulletin and Sunday papers, especially the Sunday Times, which is most popular.  The Buffet is typically Australian.  The girls add green aprons embroidered with wattle to their costumes.  Mimosa adorns the walls, and Australian papers are seen on all sides.  Two thousand men are catered for daily.  An interesting fact about the Buffet is that the patent sink, which minimizes the work of washing up, was invented by an Australian.  …………………………………



The Ballarat Courier (Vic), Thur 8 Feb 1917 (p.4):



Miss Pennefather, who has taken an active part in the Anzac Buffet, England, sends interesting particulars relative to Australian wounded soldiers in hospital in England in the following letter to her sister, Miss A. Pennefather, Launceston: –

“My last letter acknowledged the receipt of £37 sent me by Miss Corney, and I have written to each one of the kind subscribers; and last mail brought a very substantial and generous gift for the soldiers from Mr Percy Smith, Launceston, and Mr Marcell Conran, formerly of Geelong, to both of whom I have sent the grateful thanks of the boys.  I hardly know what I have told you, as it is three weeks since I wrote, and hope there will not be very much repetition.  The dear little buffet and club, which has been the only and nearest approach to home that our soldiers have known in London, now exists no longer in the military headquarters in Horseferry road, for we moved on Friday, 8th September to 94 Victoria street, close to Victoria station, and the boys had their last meal at the old Anzac at 3 o’clock, after which it was closed, and the general upheaval commenced.  Our president (Mr O’Connor), secretary (Mr Evans), and our indefatigable superintendent (Mrs Rattigan) spent many hours scouring round Westminster to get suitable premises for the club, and these are the best that could be found at so short a notice.  They are much smaller and more limited in every way; but are only about five minutes walk from headquarters, in the vicinity of which it was considered so essential to remain – and, after all, the Anzac still exists!  The main facts of the case are these: – When the English Government gave over to the Commonwealth the magnificent premises of the Westminster Wesleyan Training College for their military administration, Sir George Reid set apart for the Anzac buffet (which had started in an unpretentious little basement in Victoria street) for the duration of the war the rooms which it has occupied for these many months; and everything ran smoothly, and each day gave increasing proof of the need it was filling, and the comfort and blessing it was to the Australian soldiers.  No charge was made, the A.N.A. wishing to offer as nearly as was possible to the boys the hospitality they would receive in friends’ houses; but I don’t think very many boys went out without dropping a coin into the box for donations.  However, the A.N.A. were determined to carry on somewhere and somehow.  At 94 Victoria street we are no longer under military regulations, and the boys can come and go as they please.  But we are now saddled with rent, in addition to the ordinary expenses of carrying on.  All the same, since its inception the Anzac has been run by funds voluntarily subscribed by friends and sympathisers, and I don’t think those givers will fail us now, when the needs of the club are so much greater.

“I would like everyone who reads this to remember the blessing that this ‘little bit of heaven’ (as an Australian soldier once said to me) has been, and continues to be, to our boys; and when they want something to give to – and Australians I do think have proved the most generous givers in the world – not to forget the Anzac Buffet.”

Miss B. White of Ewins’ book store, has collected £4 from her friends to send to Miss Pennefather to assist the Buffet.  Miss White will be pleased to receive further contributions.  Donations may also be left at “The Courier” Office.




Cairns Post (Qld), Mon 2 Apr 1917 (p.6)


An Appeal for the Anzac Buffet

Miss G.B. Lancaster, the well-known authoress, sends the following which it is hoped will induce some Queenslanders of means to send to the Anzac Buffet in London: –

Dear Fellow Australians – Because you used to be good to me in the days when I wrote for “The Australasian,” “Bulletin,” and “Lone Hand,” I am now paying my debt by giving you the chance to be good to those who, if I know anything of you, you would sooner help than any other.  Perhaps the ugliest and most common battles which our men have to fight over here are those against loneliness and shortage of money, and it was to outwit these two devils especially that the Anzac Club and Buffet was formed when the Australians first came to London.  This club will almost certainly have to close down in a month or two, owing to lack of funds, and then you in Australia will say: – “We could easily have kept it going if we had known.  Why didn’t someone tell us?”  And so I am telling you.  I am going to be very explicit, and assure you that our Australian lads need saving from very much more than the German guns, and that the Anzac Buffet – and many other clubs and buffets – are making a gallant struggle to help your brothers and sons and husbands to come back to you unscathed by anything more than powder, shell, and steel.

The buffet opens at 7 a.m., and by 9 a.m. a hundred men have often been comforted by hot coffee, cocoa, tea, or milk, sandwiches of all kinds, cakes, and buns.  There is a large room in the basement, where, one afternoon at 3 o’clock in last week, I counted 51 men, sleeping in easy chairs, writing letters at the many little tables, playing billiards, singing at the piano – and all in a very home-like atmosphere of smoke and Australian pictures.  Just outside is the counter where Miss Innes-Noad distributes and re-addresses the many Australian papers sent her for hospitals.  Above is the long canteen, cheerful with spring flowers, and the light green overalls of the helpers, and sown thick from end to end with khaki and the hospital blue.  At a little table near the door Mrs Fisher used to present free theatre and concert tickets.  Lately a most generous English lady – Mrs Hammersley – asked permission to the buffet to elaborate this scheme, and now entertainment in the form of motor-drives and all kinds of amusements is arranged for between 200 and 300 men a day.

If the Anzac Buffet has to be turned into an ordinary self-supporting restaurant those most in need of entertainment will be debarred from getting it.  At the buffet lonely men meet their mates and their fellow countrymen, and this is much.  But they meet also the ladies of their own land who know by instinct how to talk to Australians, and this, to many of them, means a good deal more.  “The ladies seem to know just how you’re feeling,” said one.  “If you are lonely they come and talk.  If you want to be quiet they let you alone.”  “I haven’t enjoyed anything so much since I left home,” said another, who came up for an hour from hospital.  “All the ladies talked to me, and they seemed so glad to see me.”  “It’s like home,” in the judgment of most, and indubitably there is an air of good-fellowship and ease which is essentially Australian, although – and this is a very illuminating little point – the respect which the men feel is proved by the fact that most of those just out of hospital address their waitresses as ‘sister.’”

Plenty of lads there are, who confide their troubles to these green-overalled “Sisters,” and are the better for it; plenty who come again and yet again, looking on it as a ‘bit of home.’  If a man confesses himself Queenslander-born a Queensland helper is called up, when practicable, to talk to him.  If a man comes from New Zealand – for the Anzac Buffet, as its name implies, caters for both, although Australians very much predominate – there is someone to speak with him of tussocks and kauri gum – and the other things which hold his heart.

Let it be granted that all the clubs and hotels brought into being by the war are doing useful work.  Let it be granted that they each represent so many square feet of solid comfort and physical, mental, and moral aid to the soldier.  And yet the Anzac Club and buffet has a certain distinction of its own.  With the exception of the Victoria League Club – which is practically a restaurant – it was the first club started for Australasian soldiers in England.  With the exception of Waterloo station it is possibly the best known place in London to Australians.  With the exception of not anywhere at all it is the most fully-staffed with our own country-women.  Now, leaving exceptions, we come to the last undeniable fact.  The Australian soldier in London needs, and will have, feminine society.  If he cannot get from these hard-working and gracious ladies of the Anzac buffet the kindly friendship which they have been dispensing with their cakes for so long, he is going to be the worse man for it when he gets back to Australia.  It is for you in Australia to decide about that, only you must be quick.  With the great care which is exercised in catering, the voluntary subscriptions, and the staff chits, it is calculated that £3000 a year would keep the buffet going.  But I think you will have to get your Mayor to cable some of it home very soon.  Words are shadows at best.  But if I have driven home to even a handful of you something of the vital need of our men for all the help and sympathy which they can get, I will no longer have to look at those rows of looped hats in the canteen with the heartsick fear that our lads may ask for bread, and we of Australia may give to them a stone.

You can wait for the post, and the chance of submarines to thank me for telling you all about this.  But I hope that you will communicate by cable with Mrs Rattigan, the Anzac Club and Buffet, 94 Victoria-street, Westminster.  You would if you saw what we see daily here.




The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW), Wed27 Jun 1917 (p.5):


In one of London’s busiest streets you will always find the Blue Ensign with the Southern Cross floating in the breeze.  On the double doors of the building where the flag of Australia flies proudly, you will read these words: “Open.  Welcome to the Australian and New Zealand Troops.”  It is well-known as the “Anzac Buffet,” or, as one of the boys called it, “The Dinkum Bit of Home, in Blighty.”

Inside, what is to be seen? – Chairs and tables, and numbers of Anzacs.  What are they doing? – Just having tea (or coffee, if they prefer it), and cake and sandwiches, all made by Australian women, who wear a green overall, with wattle sprays.  All the work is voluntary, and I may add thoroughly enjoyed.

Have you heard of this spot? – No.  Well, just ask the next returned soldier you meet and ask if he has, and I’ll guarantee he’ll say, “It’s the best buffet in London.”  Some of the many advantages offered for the men are, besides the care of the “inner man,” theatre tickets given freely and graciously by the managers.  An invitation bureau, from which are issued invitations from English hosts and hostesses, for teas and dinners, tours, etc.  And last, but not least, “The Australian newspaper department.”

Now, it is of the last-mentioned item of which I want to speak.  I have charge of that department, and for the past 18 months the people at home have been sending me papers for the men.  I want all who read this to continue their help.  I want illustrated weekly editions of the papers, sporting, and dramatic, and country papers.  Everyone who will send to me is asked to make a note of my name and address, and then to pass it on to their neighbor.  I send bags to different hospitals, and have my particular hospital visitors, who take bundles of 15 to 20 papers weekly.  So you see I want a big supply to keep things going.  So keep on posting till “peace” comes, won’t you?

Now that question has been asked I want to venture to ask you if you’ll send me donations.  Organize bazaars, tea-parties, concerts – anything, as long as you get money, and send it along for the “boys.”

The donations and contributions, etc., for the year, March, 1916, to March, 1917, were £5442 4s 6d, and the total expenditure £5389 4s 7d.  The number of soldiers served during the last six months was 137,760, and the average cost per man was 3.27 pence, which is really marvelous, considering the daily rising of food prices.  Other figures that might be interesting to you are the amounts of food used – Bread, 16,975 loaves; sugar, 5945lb; tea, 1692lb; cake, 37,374; butter, 9670; meat, 10,211; milk, 27,884 quarts.

If you could only hear or see the gratitude of the men about our work you would send me every penny you could collect.

If it is desired I will see that donations are spent on a wounded man from a particular battalion, or for the wounded from hospitals, who come in in flocks.  Please mark your letters “S.M.H. Anzac Buffet Fund,” and address to Miss Innes-Noad, Anzac Buffet, 94 Victoria-street, London, S.W.1, England.





St Arnaud Mercury (Vic), Sat 16 Mar 1918 (p.4):



In a letter to friends in St Arnaud, Mrs Percy Evans (known to local residents as Miss Lizzie Schultze), writing from the Anzac Buffet, 94 Victoria Street, London, under date Dec 9th, says: – Perce is not now secretary of the Buffet as he found it too much to do with his own business.  He has an office next door, but still spends a lot of his time amongst the boys; he is still on the committee and keeps in close touch with everything.  I go every day but one during the week; some days I am in charge and just love the work of doing what I can for our brave boys from home.  No doubt it is a bit of Australia in London, and the boys know it.  Thanks to Ada Reeve we have no fear of closing, and are still able to give the boys plenty to eat.  In case you have not heard the work we do, I will state a little.  It is a free club.  The boys can have as much to eat as they like, and at the door there is a voluntary box, but they can please themselves as to putting anything in.  No Australian need therefore starve in London.  Light refreshments are available all day long, and for two hours during lunch time, meat, salads, and potatoes are served.  All the workers are voluntary, and we average 6000 to 7000 men a week.  I wish I had kept the names of the boys I have met here the last two years from St Arnaud and district.  You would feel proud of our men here.  The Australians all look so well and are doing so well wherever they go.  It is nearly three years since we left sunny Australia.  We both love London and feel it a great privilege to do something for our brave men.  Some are so lonely, and if you can only talk to them about the place they came from it does brighten them up.  We see many sad sights of legless and armless boys who come from hospital.  They are so bright, especially the blind ones.  I was talking to a blind boy one day and told him I had been feeding one with both hands off.  He replied – “How sad.

………………………………… [the rest of the letter too difficult to read]




The Queenslander, Sat 14 Jun 1919 (p.12):


Mrs M.A. Bell [sic, G.A.], of Coochin, writes from Knightsbridge, London, under date April 6: Knowing your willingness to publish anything connected with “our boys” in this far country, and thinking you may not have yet had pictures of the Anzac Buffet, I am tempted to send you a few.  I daresay you know what a tremendous boon it has been to the men on leave or waiting in camp for their ships.  I am often touched by their openly expressed gratitude to the A.N.W. and all the workers in the buffet; and one realises how short they are of money at the end of their leaves and while they are delayed in being repatriated.  From 8 in the morning till 8 or 9 at night the doors are always open, and food and drink ready, and quite free of charge to all comers.  The average number of visitors each day has for some time past been 2200, and the record was reached one day lately at 20,800, which you can guess meant some hustle to all the helpers.  Formerly we gave a hot meal in the middle of the day, but with the large increase in numbers we were obliged to mince the meat and make it into generous sandwiches, to which is added a currant bun, a scone, or meat pie, with tea or coffee, ad lib.  The helpers all wear green overalls and white head squares.  Mrs Rattigan has been wonderful in her devotion, and keeps all the tables bright with lovely flowers, freshly arranged every morning by herself.  Downstairs is a cosy lounge, with piano, a billiard table, writing tables, and papers.  There is a large space shut in by doors, in which on hooks are hung the men’s coats or any articles which they want safely kept; being locked up, they cannot be stolen or lost.  Gray, who looks well after the boys, sees that they can have their boots dried, and if necessary goes to Mrs Rattigan for new socks, so to many it must seem almost a home.  At the desk or counter they can get any information they need, and often seats for theatres and invitations to parties and trips.  A piano affords a good deal of pleasure, as some of the men are professionals, and numbers of the men gather round and join heartily in the choruses.  Hoping I have not bored you with too long a letter, and hoping soon to see dear old Brisbane before long, as we expect to leave via Canada next month.  (Two of the photographs forwarded by Mr Bell are reproduced in this issue: – Ed. “Q”)



The Ballarat Star (Vic), Sat 29 Nov 1919 (p.1):


It is announced that the Anzc Buffet will be closed on November 29.  It has provided 1,500,000 meals for soldiers since September, 1915, at a cost of £30,000.



The Week (Brisbane, Qld), Fri 31 Dec 1920 (p.7):

The Social Circle

The “British Australasian” of 4th November, reports a reception held by the London branch of the Australian Natives Association, at which were distributed by Colonel Reay, the Commonwealth Government war service badges, chiefly to several workers at the original Anzac Buffet in London, in the earlier years of the war.  The recipients included Colonel Reay himself, and Mr and Mrs A.T. Sharp, Mr and Mrs C.C. Cherry, Mrs Walter Rosenhain, Miss Nellie Rees, Mrs Lewis, Miss Josephine Lewis, Mrs Montague Robinson, Miss D. Fulton, and Mr C.H. Chomley.








*COX-ROPER, Edith Mary (Mrs, nee Tindale)

*RATTIGAN, Minnie Augusta (Mrs A.M., nee McFarland)


ALLEN (Miss) – a Queenslander

ARMYTAGE, Leila Matilda Buckland (Mrs Norman, nee Halloran)

BAYLY, Diana Hope (Mrs Monte, nee Bloustein)

BELL, Gertrude Augusta (Mrs J.T.M., nee Norton)

BLACK, Agnes (Mrs A.J., nee Curdie)

BOURKE, Susan Georgina

BREBNER, Alice Rose Ewing (Mrs Arthur, nee Steven) – non Australian

BYRNE, Nancy Adele

*CAMPION, Bessie Maude

CHERRY, Henrietta Lucy (Mrs C.C., nee Guest)

CROOKS, Kathleen Emily

CURD, Mary Fanny (Mrs Brisbane, nee Wells)

*CUSACK, Aline Margaret

*CUSACK, Edith Eleanora

EVANS, Elizabeth Emily (Mrs Percy, nee Lizzie Schultze)



FULTON, D (Miss)

GOODSIR, Agnes Noyes

*HALL, Helena Margaret

*HALL, Mary Elizabeth

HARDIE, Mary (Mrs Alfred)

HARDIE, Jean – daughter of Alfred and Mary

HORDERN, Viola Sydney (Mrs Tony, nee Bingham)

HUCK, Beatrice (Mrs J.F.K, nee Thom)


INNES-NOAD, Alice Margery

IRVINE, Emily Marie (Mrs, aka Bill)

IRVINE, Lilian Roma May (aka Roma MAY)

JOHNSON (Miss) – sister of Mrs Phipps

KELLY, Florence – sister of Mrs Shannon

LAHEY, Frances Vida

LEWIS, Lucie (Mrs J.R.H., nee Theobald)

LEWIS, Josephine Lucie – daughter of Lucie

MacPHERSON, (Mrs Alan J)


*PENNEFATHER, Carine (Caroline Frances)

PHIPPS, Margaret Jane R (Mrs J.H., nee JOHNSON)

REES, Nellie

REYNOLDS, Linda Mary (Mrs C, nee Temple)

ROBINSON, Emilie Hermine (Mrs Montague, nee Groth)

ROSENHAIN, Louise (Mrs Walter, nee Monash)

SHANNON, Jessie Currie (Mrs, nee Kelly) – sister of Florence Kelly

SHARP, Lilian (Mrs A.T., nee Watchow)

SIMPSON (2 Misses)

SINCLAIR ROSS, Eve (Mrs, nee Buckleton)

SMITH, Olivia

STOHR, Elsie Maude Stanley (Mrs, nee Hall)

*TELFER, Maude


WATSON, Mary Elizabeth (Mrs A.W., aka Sissie)

*WHEELER, Portia

WYATT, Alice








Built in Belfast by Harland and Wolff between August 1896 and February 1897, the SS Gascon was a Union Line ship until the merger with the Castle Line in 1900, resulting in the new company, Union-Castle Mail Steamship Co. Ltd.  The company(s) operated between England and Cape Town, and South Africa and New York.  “She is 430 ft. long, 52ft. wide, and 33ft. deep, and has a tonnage of 6,287.  Her twin screws are driven by two sets of triple-expansion engines, the cylinders of which are 19, 31, and 52 inches in diameter, the length of stroke being 48in.”  Under the command of Captain W. Martin, the Gascon’s maiden voyage departed Southampton on the 20/3/1897 carrying 234 passengers for South Africa.


With the outbreak of the (2nd) Boer War in 1899, the Gascon was among those requisitioned as a troopship.  Her service included the departure from England with troops on the 21/10/1899 and arrival at Cape Town 12/11/1899.  Other dates included: 16/12/1899 to the 7/1/1900; 20/2/1900 to 11/3/1900; and 16/3/1901 to …..


She also returned to England carrying wounded, sailing from Cape Town on the 28/3/1900 and arriving Southampton 22/4/1900.  Wounded and invalids were also returned to England in August 1900, embarking at Cape Town on the 25/7/1900, and disembarking 760 patients at Southampton on the 16/8/1900.

Among the latter was Corporal William Henry Bryce (95) of the 1st Queensland Mounted Infantry, suffering with enteric fever, and in a letter home he wrote: “We had a very good passage.  Being invalids we were treated better than ordinary troops on a troopship.  Most of us slept in hammocks, and beds were provided for the worst cases.”

Another on board was Herbert Gerald Hinton (110), also of the 1st QMI suffering with enteric fever.  He went on to serve as a Lieutenant with the 2nd Australian Light Horse in the Great War, before being killed in action during the Gallipoli campaign on the 7/8/1915.


In between the wars the Gascon continued to carry passengers and mail.  One such passenger travelling from Cape Town to England in July 1904 noted that: “Life on a Cape liner is very pleasant, the long, shady decks affording ample space for promenades, or games of various sorts.  …………  Some of the officers of the Gascon, in common with other ships of the Union-Castle line, were “Naval Reserve” men, and everything on board was managed with naval precision and immaculateness.  Sundays, the crew was up for inspection, toeing the line on the main deck, then marching to service, read by the Captain;……”

The first representative South African Rugby Team to visit Great Britain also travelled on the Gascon, arriving at Southampton on the 20/9/1906.



In 1914 following the outbreak of the Great War, with William Francis Stanley (Mercantile Marine) as Master in command of the ship, the Gascon departed Southampton early in August to carry the mail to the Cape.  Captain Stanley was given instructions by Sir Owen Phillips (Lord Kylsant) to “Go as you like and take as long as you like, but don’t get collared.”  Ignoring a suspicious radio message received on the way, which turned out to have been an enemy trap, the Gascon made it safely to Table Bay on the twenty-third day out of Southampton.


Leaving Durban on the 11th of the following month, the ship was to connect with the H.M.S. Pegasus at Zanzibar to deliver reliefs and stores.  However, as they neared their destination on the 20th they were intercepted by the lighthouse keeper who warned them of the proximity of the German cruiser Königsberg.  Captain Stanley ordered the ship to be turned around and head as fast as possible to Mombasa.  On arrival later that day the Gascon was immediately requisitioned as a hospital ship, and received permission to fly the Red Cross Flag as of the 23rd of September.


Meanwhile at Zanzibar the Pegasus had been shelled by the Königsberg and eventually sunk, with the survivors and wounded having previously been evacuated by boats from the Banffshire.  Later, when it was considered safe to do so, the Gascon returned to Zanzibar where it collected the men of the Pegasus and carried them to Simonstown.  By mid-October 1914 the Gascon was once again docked at Durban.




Early in 1915, staffed with members of the Indian Medical Service (IMS) under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Edward Victor Hugo (IMS), His Majesty’s Hospital Ship Gascon was transporting sick and wounded Indian troops from England and France to Egypt, en route to Bombay, India.  This continued until their arrival at Alexandria (Egypt) in mid-April, when orders came through on the 14th that the ship was to be refitted for the accommodation of British patients with the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force (MEF).


The refit was underway by the 16th of April 1915, and 18 Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) orderlies were brought on board under the command of a Corporal.  Following on from these changes, Lieut Col Hugo noted that: “Our native personnel has been cut down and now stands as follows:- Two sub-assistant surgeons, two store-keepers, two asst. store-keepers, two tailors, two Mahomedan cooks, eight sweepers, two writers, nine A.H.C. ward servants, two Hindu cooks, three extra ward orderlies, four Dhobies.”

Lieut Col Hugo himself had originally joined the IMS in 1892 and was an experienced and decorated veteran of the North-West Frontier Campaigns from 1894 to 1898.  Before returning to military service at the outbreak of WW1 he had held the position of Professor of Surgery at King Edward’s Medical College in Lahore.  He was considered by his peers to be an excellent surgeon.


On the 17th the medical staff was increased again when Lieutenant Colonel George Adlington Syme of the Australian Army Medical Corps (AAMC) came on board as a consulting surgeon.  He commented that “the Gascon was well equipped with a good operation theatre, having full provision for sterilization; a fair supply of ordinary instruments and apparatus; and a good X-ray plant.”

With him were 3 nurses from the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS) and the British matron Susan Winifred Wooler of Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMNS).  The AANS nurses, Sophie Hill Durham, Ethel Alice Peters and Katherine Minnie Porter were all members of the 2nd Australian General Hospital (AGH) and had departed Australia at the end of 1914 on the A55 Kyarra.


The Gascon left Alexandria around midday on the 19th; at first in a convoy escorted by the French cruiser Jeanne d’Arc, but parting from it the following morning due to its slow progress, and they crossed the boom into Mudros Harbour (Lemnos Island) on the morning of the 22nd.  By this time the harbour was full of ships that had been gathering in preparation for the assault on the Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey, and Lieut Col Syme described their arrival:

“We entered a fine harbor divided into an outer and inner port.  Outside destroyers and torpedo boats were patrolling, and also large warships.  The inner harbor was full of transports and warships, with destroyers and torpedo boats, submarines and trawlers.  There was also a naval hospital ship, and the hospital ship “Sicilia,” on which Lieut-Col. Bird is Consulting Surgeon.”


The following day (23rd) Gascon received four more AANS nurses from the 2nd AGH who were transferred from the hospital ship Sicilia, which had been at Lemnos since the 15th and had twelve nurses on board.  Elsie Maud Gibson, Ella Jane Tucker and Muriel Leontine Wakeford had also been members of the Kyarra, while Clementina Hay Marshall had originally sailed on the A8 Argyllshire with the First Convoy to leave Australia.  This brought the total of female nursing staff to eight, with seven AANS nurses under the command of Matron Wooler.


Both the Sicilia and the Gascon were to provide a ferry service between Turkey and Egypt, for the serious casualties sustained during the landing and the ongoing campaign.  As official hospital ships, in compliance with the protection of the Geneva Convention, they were painted white with a green horizontal band running the length of the hull, broken in (three) places each side with red crosses.  Darkness required added protection with “a row of green electric lights along each side from bow to stern and a big red cross electric light in the centre.”


Throughout the day of the 24th of April those on the Gascon watched as the harbour began emptying of ships, the troops on the transports singing and cheering as they left, full of the excitement of finally being on the move.  Later that afternoon the Gascon also moved out of the harbour, but anchored again outside the boom.  In the early hours of the morning of the 25th of April she weighed anchor and proceeded to her destination, arriving in the waters north of Gaba Tepe around 7 a.m.  The landing was well under way, and her task this day was to cater to the serious casualties of the Australian and New Zealand forces at what soon became known as Anzac Cove, while the Sicilia catered to the British 29th Division at Cape Helles.


Orders were to anchor near HMS London, but before this could be achieved the Galeka was alongside with wounded, and the boatloads kept coming, so that it was midday before they reached the London.  As the vessels came alongside the ship, ‘stewards climbed down to sort the living from the dead’, the dead being left in the boats to be returned to shore, while ‘all firemen and sailors off duty turned to and did magnificent work’ helping to bring the wounded aboard.  Those on stretchers, the ‘cot cases,’ were lifted onto the ship in a box hoist and then the stretchers were lowered to the wards via a lift.


Lt Col Syme noted that “the wounded began to pour on board, first from a transport, then from lighters, launches and torpedo boats.  …. the bad cases were put in “swinging cots” in the wards, the less serious were put in “bunks” in tiers, and on the deck and in the smoking room.  Cases of haemorrhage were taken to the operation room and dealt with as soon as possible.  When the cases had got fairly sorted, we began operating.”

“The Gascon was fitted up for 350 patients.  By putting mattresses in the smoking room and on the floors, hatchings and decks, we arranged to accommodate 150 more….”


Various other transports had been allocated to take on the less serious cases, but with the Gascon the only clearly marked hospital ship in the vicinity, it was only natural that most of the vessels carrying wounded headed straight for her, and before long she was filling rapidly with all manner of cases.


Ella Tucker in a letter home wrote: “We were right up in the firing line – several gunboats were behind us, firing right over us.  Several shots from the forts splashed very near us.  About 9 a.m. the first patients were brought on board.  It was awful to see them, some with scarcely any clothes on, blood pouring in all directions, some limping gaily, others with an arm bandaged.  Several died as they came across in the boats to us.”

“They just poured into the wards all day.  My ward holds 96 – and I was responsible for about 40 on deck.  I had three orderlies and a sergeant-major to assist.”


Elsie Gibson who was in charge of Ward V capable of holding 113 patients, with the assistance of 3 RAMC orderlies, 2 Indian orderlies and 2 Indian sweepers, noted in her diary that: “About 9 a.m. my first patients from battlefield commenced to pour in.”

“We went for worst cases first and worked like fury….”

“We took on board 570 wounded.  Some minor cases gave up their beds and after wounds dressed went off to Transports…”

“In my ward I had 118 patients (one Turk badly wounded) and some slept anywhere on deck and gave their bunk or stretcher or floor to more badly wounded.”


Sophie Durham made reference to the fact that the decks were soon covered with wounded, and how a ‘native’ orderly was wheeling a trolley of dressings and instruments behind her, when “ ‘Queen Elizabeth’ fired a salvo.  The blast rolled the trolley, the orderly, and me over the top of it.  I just sat up and cried.  The orderly said, ‘I think we dead now’.”  The Queen Elizabeth had come up from Cape Helles during the day and anchored at the rear of the Gascon firing over her for several hours.

Elsie Gibson made everyone laugh when she was crossing a hatchway at the time the London lying alongside them fired its guns: “the flash went before my eyes and then the awful report.  I could not help it and I cannot help laughing when I think of it, but I put both hands to my face and screamed.”


The effect the wounded had on Captain Stanley was also mentioned by Sophie Durham:

“The ship’s captain was a tough old chap with no time at all for any sort of colonial.

I caught him putting his own air cushion under a Digger’s head.  He came up to me, patted me on the back, and said, ‘Now I know, Sister, why you are so proud of your boys.  I never thought to see such men’.”

She later commented that: “It was our first experience of war-time conditions, and we all wondered if we’d run away if our ward was shelled.  Shells were, of course, passing over the ship the whole time, but once we got our first batch of wounded we didn’t have time to think.”


Towards evening with no more room available, the Gascon left for Mudros Harbour with 547 wounded, including 23 Officers; arriving there at midnight.  Private William Walsh (826) wrote later to his parents “that just before our hospital ship steamed out the Turks fired two volleys at us, just missing our ship by a few yards….”  He went on to say: “Well, we had a good trip back on the hospital ship, lovely beds to sleep in, lovely nurses to look after us, Indian soldiers to wait on us, and the best of food (three-course dinner).”


Elsie Gibson noted in her diary: “We got to bed between 2&3 a.m.  2 Sisters stopped up all the time.  We got up again 6 a.m. & then two Night Sisters went to bed 9 a.m.”

In a letter home Muriel Wakeford recorded: “28th April, 1915 – Just off duty.  We have had a terrible time and no one but ourselves will ever know how we feel about everything that has happened.  Rest assured we have all done our very best.”  “Two of us are doing night duty, Sister Durham and I.  We do half the ship each, with a number of orderlies.  The day staff come on very early and go off very late, and in that way get through a fair amount.

On that first day Clementina Marshall, an experienced theatre nurse, was also on duty in the operating theatre for 21 consecutive hours, the beginning of many such long hours, for which service she was later mentioned in despatches.

Elsie Gibson commented on their second day on the wards that “There is no end to the work you just leave off when it is impossible to work more or you get orders to go off duty.  ……..  We give Morphia ad lib.”


With some expectation that she might unload the patients at Mudros, the Gascon was however left waiting in the harbour until the evening of the 26th before orders finally came through to sail to Alexandria, and she eventually left at 6.30 p.m.


Throughout the journey from Turkey to Egypt the ship was slowed on various occasions in order to consign the departed to a watery grave.  Each man was covered with the Union Jack and following a funeral service conducted by Captain Stanley, they were carefully slipped over the side.  These men are all commemorated on the Lone Pine Memorial.

Members of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF):

DOW 25/4/1915: *Pte Allan Robert OLLEY, 357, 7th Bn; *Pte Thomas Anderson WHYTE, 47, 10th Bn; DOW 26/4/1915: *Pte Alex BLOOMFIELD, 1205, 1st Bn; *Pte George Clarence CAVANAGH, 493, 7th Bn; *Pte Stanley George CHARLESWORTH, 391, 7th Bn; *Pte George STRAKER, 1429, 1st Bn; DOW 27/4/1915: *Pte Arthur Leslie ANDERSON, 152, 12th Bn; *Pte Sydney Robert CROSS, 1011, 12th Bn; *Pte William Henry VICK, 1042, 10th Bn (C Coy); DOW 28/4/1915: *Pte Ernest MAY, 985, 7th Bn


Katherine Porter had been nursing Thomas Whyte (47) before he died, and she later wrote to his fiancé “I remember Private Tom Whyte very well.  The poor man came on the Gascon during the morning.  He had an abdominal wound and was taken to the operation room almost at once and everything possible was done for him… it was knowing that he was engaged made me stay on duty a little longer to be what comfort I could to him.  It was a terrible day for us all and I saw so much that was awful that day.”


Arriving at Alexandria just before midnight on the 28th, the unloading of 535 wounded was carried out throughout the following day (29th).  Elsie Gibson said “It was a sight to see all the Red Cross Waggons waiting to carry wounded to entrain for Heliopolis No.1 AGH.  Serious cases were sent to Hospitals in Alexandria and were saved the train journey.”  Ella Tucker commented on what a pathetic sight the wounded made, with hardly any of them wearing shirts, which had been so blood-stained and torn that they’d been thrown overboard.  “Others had their coats and trousers split, and hurriedly sewn over.  Some were minus a boot; very many minus socks.”  She went on to say: “It took hours getting the stretcher cases off.  We started at 9 a.m.  The last was landed at 4.30.”

Also taken ashore that day was the body of Private Frederick Allen DOODSON, 927, 1st Bn.  He had died of his wounds as they approached Alexandria, and was buried on the 29th in the Chatby War Memorial Cemetery.


With their wards empty the nurses set to work preparing them for their next load of patients.  They made bandages, padded splints, and washed out some of the blood stained pyjamas that had been left on board.




Empty of patients, and replenished with coal and water, the Gascon left Alexandria at 6 pm that evening (29th), and arrived back in Mudros Harbour in the early hours of the 2nd of May.  By this time the Bay was almost empty of ships, but they handed over supplies to some that remained.  Later that afternoon they returned to the waters off Anzac Cove, and Muriel Wakeford noted that not long after their arrival “a terrific bombardment commenced, seven or eight battleships firing practically together made a din and a terrific one…  The rifle fire is continuous and as soon as darkness comes the flashes are visible.  I could scarcely have believed we were so close, and feel absolutely no fear.  There is just a feeling of intense excitement.”


The wounded began arriving at 3.30 a.m. the following morning (3rd).  Although dressing stations had now been established ashore, allowing wounds to receive some professional attention, many of the men were in much worse condition than the first group, following a week of exposure, the strain of being under fire, the inability to wash and very little sleep or food.  Lance Corporal George Tidex of the 13th Battalion when taken on board with a thigh wound thought he was in heaven: “….when I saw the row of white beds with proper pillows and green shaded lights, it was just like entering Heaven after six days in the trenches.”


During the day the ship had to move further out due to shells falling unpleasantly close and some shrapnel hitting the deck.  As luck would have it, they had not long moved on when a shell dropped in the water where they had been.  They continued taking on wounded until midnight of the following day (4th); many deaths having occurred during this time.  Elsie Gibson felt that those who had been killed outright were more fortunate compared to some they received with their ghastly wounds; citing gangrene and amputations in large numbers.


The Gascon once again sailed for Alexandria at 12.30 a.m. on the 5th of May, travelling via Cape Helles to deliver some Red Cross goods, and arriving at 9 a.m. on the 7th.  Throughout the day 434 sick and wounded were disembarked, and with them went Lt Col Syme.  His reason for leaving the ship: “by some means – presumably in the operating room – my right hand became poisoned, and I went into hospital at Alexandria…”


There were a total of 41 deaths on board since they had begun taking on wounded, and the majority of the funerals this time were officiated over by Lt Col Hugo.  The following casualties were members of the A.I.F.:

DOW 3/5/1915: *COWELL, Harry Stephen – Pte 1403, 16th Bn (D Coy); *SMITH, Quintin Robert – 2nd Lieut, 14th Bn; *SNELL, Francis William – Pte 956, 15th Bn; *STEIN, Alfred James – Pte 1247, 15th Bn; *WARD, Henry Holdford – Pte 1669, 16th Bn;

DOW 4/5/1915: *BUTTERFIELD, Ernest, Cpl 76, 15th Bn –; *CARTER, Harold Reginald, Pte 1549, 16th Bn; *COLLYER, John, Pte 1241, 4th Bn; *FAIRBEARD, Charles Henry, Pte 55, 16th Bn; *HABBLETT, Harold, Pte 396, 16th Bn; *HUNTLEY, Clive Neilson Reynolds, Lieut, 1st FCE; *LAMOND, Alexander, Pte 1201, 13th Bn; *MAHONY, David, Pte 692, 11th Bn; *PALIN, Archibald Edward, Pte 938, 13th Bn; *SMITH, Alexander John Ross, Pte 888, 5th Bn; *SPARSHOTT, Frank, Pte 948, 11th Bn; *WALSH, John Thomas, Pte 1181, 8th Bn; DOW 5/5/1915: *DOUGLAS, William Bowman, Capt, 3rd Bn; *HARDMAN, Roy, Pte 1615, 15th Bn; *BYRNE, Herbert Horan, Pte 115, 15th Bn;

DOW 6/5/1915: *CROWLEY, Matthew Nicholas, 839, 13th Bn; *ELPHICK, Arthur Thomas, LCpl 1262; *FRANCIS, Thomas, Pte 504, 13th Bn; JAMES, Jonathan Albert, Pte 1094, 4th Fld Amb; DOW 7/5/1915: *BLANN-HAY, Henry James, Pte 125, 1st Bn.


Of these men, Pte John Collyer (1241) has had his story told by Kit Cullen in “Jack’s Journey”, and was one of those whose wound had been infected with gas gangrene.

One of the members of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) known to have lost his life, Robert TORRIE, 8/1109, Otago Regiment died of wounds 3/5/1915.

There were also at least 4 casualties from the (British) Royal Naval Division.  These were *Pte Frank DIXON (RMLI) and *Abel Seaman Alfred Oswald HALL (RNVR) who died on the 3/5/1915; and *Stoker Michael DUNPHY (RN) and *Sub Lieutenant Graham Morton PATON (RNVR) who died on the 4/5/1915.




Departing Alexandria at 7.45 that same evening (7th) the Gascon arrived back at Anzac Cove on the morning of the 10th of May, anchoring about 2 miles off shore at 7.30, and began taking on wounded immediately.  Filling the ship was a lot slower however, as the wounded were brought on board in small numbers throughout the following days and nights.


Among the wounded embarked on the 11th was Lieutenant Alfred John Shout who had already distinguished himself earning the Military Cross, (to be followed in August with the Victoria Cross, posthumously).  Another was Major (later Major General) John Gellibrand.

Then on the 15th of May, Major General William Throsby Bridges, the officer commanding the 1st Division A.I.F, was brought on board accompanied by his chief medical officer Colonel Neville Howse VC, and Gellibrand moved out of his bed for him.  One of the nurses commented on how brave the seriously wounded General was, and his words to his carers: “Don’t worry about me.  You must have plenty to do, and I’m done.”  Various officers including Lieutenant General William Riddell Birdwood, the commander of the Australian & New Zealand Army Corps, visited Bridges before the Gascon departed, and Howse remained on board attending to him when the ship finally sailed for Alexandria at 11.30 a.m. on the 17th of May.  During this time Elsie Gibson noted that they had had a number of working visitors, including the Assistant Director of Medical Services, Surgeon General Charles Snodgrass Ryan who worked with Lieut Col Hugo on some of the surgical cases whilst on board.  General Bridges died the following morning (18th) at 5.45 a.m., but although they were still almost 2 days from Egypt, he wasn’t buried at sea.


Arriving at Alexandria at 6.30 p.m. on the 19th of May, disembarkation was begun immediately, including all walking cases and 48 of the stretcher cases.  The remaining 391 patients were disembarked throughout the following day (20th), and Maj General Bridges was buried in the Chatby Cemetery.  [Note: His remains were exhumed on the 27/7/1915 and returned to Australia to be reinterred at Duntroon]


Elsie Gibson noted that they were all very tired after a long trip, but she managed to go ashore in the afternoon of the 20th with Matron Wooler and Major Illius (IMS) to do some shopping.


Forty deaths had occurred on the ship between the 10th and 19th of May, and most of the funeral services while the Gascon was still at anchor off Gallipoli, had been conducted by the Chaplains from HMS London (Rev A.C.W. Rose) or HMS Prince of Wales (Rev H.D.L. Viener).  Together with a photograph of 'Boat No. 705' forwarded to the 'Sydney Mail', a correspondent wrote on the 17th of May: "Many of our dear lads went out to their last resting-place just at the outside edge of the harbour.  It is a pathetic picture.  I snapped it just as the boat was returning from its daily task of burying the dead, which it received from the hospital ship at anchor in the harbour.  The bodies were covered with the Flag the gallant young fellows had given their lives for.  A clergyman accompanied the vessel on each of its trips, and I could see the touching scene as the burial service was being read before the bodies were committed to their watery grave.  War is indeed a rotten game, as I could not help thinking seeing those brave boys going ashore full of life, and being brought out on boat 705 to be buried, for sanitary reasons, at sea."


The other funerals were conducted by either Lt Col Hugo, or Reverend Alfred Lee-Warner.  One of the nurses later described Lee-Warner as “a delicate man, on leave from Khartoum.  He was spending his furlough on the “Gascon,” and was, I think, the finest character I ever met.  He did all the writing home for the severe cases, sat with the dying, and helped with the bandaging.  In fact, he did everything but cook.”  In the letter that he wrote to the father of Oliver Harris (624) two days after his death, he told him that Oliver had “asked particularly that a letter be written to tell you.  He was conscious for a long time, and I was able to converse with him.  The sister tells me what a nice boy he was.”


Including Oliver, the following members of the AIF were amongst the 40 deaths:

DOW 11/5/1915: *JAMES, Reginald, Pte 622, 13th Bn;

DOW 12/5/1915: *BATES, Wilfred Froud, LCpl 51, 16th Bn; *JONES, Octavious, Pte 1198, 13th Bn; *WILLIAMS, Anthony George Herbert, LCpl 1009, 12th Bn; *PENINGTON, William Ronald, S/Sgt 3, 4th Bde HQ;

DOW 13/5/1915: *BROWNING, Joseph, Pte 1460, 4th Bn; *DONALD, John Gordon, Pte 181, 16th Bn; *KING, William, Pte 626, 13th Bn; *ROBERTSON, Gordon Holmes, Tpr 378, 2nd LH; DOW 14/5/1915: *BRIDESON, John Thomas, Pte 167, 1st Bn; *HICKS, Colin, Pte 1003, 14th Bn; *PENHALIGON, Sydney John – Pte 77, 3rd Fld Amb; *PHILLIPS, Thomas Harold, Tpr 199, 2nd LH; *WILLIAMS, Percy James, Pte 1534, 16th Bn; *WORTABET, John Cecil, Pte 1625, 9th Bn; DOW 15/5/1915: *BENNETTS, Edward James, Pte 1559, 10th Bn; *BURROWS, Albert Frederick, Pte 1518, 1st Bn; *CAMP, John, Pte 1317, 10th Bn; *PILKINGTON, Ashley Ford, Pte 176, 3rd LH; *WOODS, William Henry Rankin, 71, LH;

DOW 16/5/1915: *ADELT, Carl, Tpr 554, 1st LH; *BUTLER, Edwin MacMullen Everitt (Ted), Cpl 701, 3rd LH; *BUTLER, Ernest Rupert, Tpr 723, 2nd LH; *DENDTLER, Robert, Pte 693, 1st Bn; *NORRIS, Walter Herbert, Pte 563, 16th Bn; *WRAGGE, Clement Lionel Egerton, Tpr 647, 2nd LH; DOW 17/5/1915: *HARRIS, Oliver, Tpr 624, 2nd LH; *ELWOOD, Alfred Terah, Pte 507, 2nd Bn; *PHILIPPSON, William Felix, Pte 1616, 11th Bn; DOW 18/5/1915: *BRIDGES, William Throsby, Major General;

DOW 19/5/1915: *WEIR, Joseph, Pte 848, 9th Bn;

Note: Douglas Elliott SCOTT, Sgt 68, 3rd LH, is listed as having DOW aboard the Gascon on the 20/5/1915 and buried at sea – however, if he died on this date he would have been buried ashore.  Either the date is incorrect or he died on another ship.


Other deaths included: A member of the New Zealand Forces (NZEF): *Sapper Walter NAYLOR (4/233A, NZ Engineers) – DOW 10/5/1915.

Members of the Royal Naval Division: *Pte William Albert COKER (RMLI) and Stoker Henry MILES (RN) died on the 14/5/1915;




With all patients disembarked and all staff back on board, the Gascon left Alexandria once more at 10 p.m. that evening of the 20th of May.  Having arrived back at Anzac Cove at 7 a.m. on the 23rd of May, Elsie Gibson made mention of the “roar of cannon and shrapnel bursting into the sea, some 100 yards from us.”  A church service was held on board at 10.30 a.m., and later that day, still free of patients, they received orders to proceed to Mudros Harbour, arriving there at 5 p.m. that evening.


The following evening (24th) they received 50 wounded from HMS Reindeer and another 39 from a Fleetsweeper on the 25th.  Whilst in the harbour the nurses were visited by officers from the 1st Australian Stationary Hospital which was situated ashore.  They also witnessed 3 (friendly) submarines maneuvering about the harbour close to their ship.


Orders were then received to transfer their sick and wounded to the Dunluce Castle, and proceed to the Island of Imbros.  This was carried out on the 27th of May and they left the harbour at 7.15 that evening; the crews of the warships cheering them as they passed.  They arrived off Imbros at 1 a.m. on the morning of the 28th, and at 4.30 a.m. began taking on the seriously wounded cases from a Minesweeper.  They then sailed for Anzac Cove, arriving there at 10.45 a.m., and slowly took on wounded for the rest of the day and night.  At this time the area was empty of ships due to their withdrawal following the recent torpedoing of HMS Triumph.


In the early hours of the morning of the 29th of May, Elsie Gibson noted that there was “Terrific firing on shore”, and wounded began arriving throughout the day in larger numbers, including some very serious cases.  This would have coincided with the Turkish assault on Quinn’s Post, in which Major Hugh Quinn lost his life.  The Gascon also found herself on special alert this day, moving position a number of times, as a submarine periscope had been sighted and they had orders not to anchor.


Around 9 p.m. on the 30th of May the Gascon moved in closer to shore as another battle was expected.  Elsie Gibson had been on duty from 6.15 a.m. to 10 p.m. and was dead tired and almost “reduced to a grease spot”; the weather being so hot made the wards almost unbearable.  Ethel Peters had collapsed that morning.


By the end of the following day, the last day of the month of May (31st), they had lost the following members of the A.I.F., with Rev Lee Warner conducting their funeral services:

DOW 28/5/1915: *PARMENTER, Albert Osborne, Pte 964, 2nd Bn; *WEST, James, Spr 207, 2nd FCE [real name Ernest Rudolph LOVELL]; DOW 29/5/1915: *BLACKWELL, Henry Albert, Pte 535, 9th LH; *BLYTHEN, Duncan Tonkinson, Pte 1573, 14th Bn; *DICKSON, Robert Lang, Pte 1105, 13th Bn; *EVANS, Frank Richard, Spr 96, 3rd FCE; *FOGARTY, Mervyn, Dvr 3519, 1st Div Arty HQ; *LIONE, Ernest Arthur, Pte 1792, 1st Bn

DOW 30/5/1915: *BAX, Alec Hartly, Tpr 524, 3rd LH; *BOURKE, Edward William, Pte 110, 15th Bn; *DENFORD, Dustin Lee, Dvr 5442, 4th Div Tn; *FARRELL, Harold Alexander, Pte 1605, 13th Bn; *GIRLING, Frederick Horace, Pte 259, 13th Bn; *JACKSON, Ernest, Pte 751, 3rd LH; *JONES, Herman Hill, Pte 1096, 13th Bn; *MURRAY, David James, Pte 12, 5th LH; *SELLERS, Frederick, Pte 353, 1st LH

DOW 31/5/1915: *BALDWIN, Charles Robert, Pte 1522, 4th Bn; *BLACKIE, Norman Robertson, LCpl 520, 5th LH; *JARVEY, James, Tpr 500, 8th LH; *KELLY, Charles Oswald, Pte 868, 4th Bn; *LAWSON, Martial, Pte 1156, 13th Bn; *PAUL, Ernest Clifton, Pte 1806, 7th Bn

Member/s of the NZEF included:

THOMSON, Arthur John, Tpr 9/223, Otago Mtd Rifles – DOW 31/5/1915

And possibly: WINKS, Lawrence, Sgt 11/457, Wellington Mtd Rifles – everything in his service record states DOW 31/5/1915 on the Gascon, but the CWGC lists him as DOW 1/6/1915, and buried in Ari Burnu Cemetery, D.12


The first day of June and the Gascon was still receiving the sick and wounded from shore. 

Much needed extra help was also received with 2 members of the 2nd Australian Field Ambulance being brought on board for duty.  These were Melbourne Surgeon, Major Charles Gordon SHAW and Bugler James Baker McBEAN (151) who was serving as an orderly.  They both remained with the ship for the following 2 months.


That night Elsie Gibson took a break and sat in one of the deck chairs on the Starboard side of the ship, until a ship’s officer who had survived a ‘narrow shave’ himself, advised her to move to the Port side as she was in the line of fire.

The following day (2nd) the hospital ship Sicilia anchored nearby and they received a welcome visit from some of the Officers and Nurses.  Lieut General Birdwood also paid a visit on the 3rd of June and took the time to speak to many of the patients.  By this time the hospital staff were exhausted from the long hours and the heat, and Muriel Wakeford was forced to take a ‘sickie’ herself.  Katherine Porter was also very ill.

Although the medical staff were stretched to their limits, Captain Edwin Thomas Kerby, had written to his mother on the 1st of June: “On board …. everything points to efficiency: dirt and untidiness are absolutely tabooed; comfort and skilled attention are just showered upon one, so that almost before you know that you are on board you are in bed, washed, and comfortable.”


Finally, they left their anchorage off Anzac Cove and returned to Mudros Harbour, arriving at 8.30 a.m. on the 4th of June.  After taking on 100 ‘walking cases’ who had been transferred from Cape Helles, they left again at 7 p.m. for Alexandria.  During the voyage Measles broke out in Elsie Gibson’s ward, as well as a Tetanus case that needed special care, and her best Orderly was sick.  On the afternoon of the 7th of June she confided to her diary that “I nearly disgraced myself by fainting 1.30 p.m. but bucked up again & got at it.”

Clementina Marshall wrote: “Well, we are almost at Alexandria again, on our fourth trip, with about 500 wounded on board.  We have had a very heavy trip, lasting about a fortnight.  We have been operating day and night, and I am beginning to feel very weary.  However, we have finished this stunt, and will have a rest for a few days until we get back again.”


They reached the outer harbour at Alexandria at 10 p.m. on the 7th of June, and came into the wharf at daybreak on the 8th.  Throughout the day 473 patients were disembarked, including 32 Officers.  Twenty more deaths had occurred between the 1st and 7th of June, mostly due to gunshot wounds of the abdomen and head.  One of these had been John Alfred LANE (Pte 1148, 2nd Bn) who had died of a head wound on the 7th – his body was taken ashore and buried in the Chatby Military Cemetery.

The other members of the A.I.F. who had died during this time and were buried at sea, were:

DOW 1/6/1915: *BOYCE, Harold Paull, Pte 1704, 12th Bn; *BROWN, John – Tpr 856, 3rd LH; *HORNBY, William Robert, Pte 1649, 2nd Bn; *PATTRICK, Eroll McLeod Nunn, Tpr 748, 6th LH;  DOW 2/6/1915: *CLOUGH, Richard Henry, Cpl 365, 5th LH; *ELLIOTT, John William, Pte 1130, 7th Bn;  DOW 3/6/1915: *GRIFFIN, Edward Denis, Pte 1191, 13th Bn; *READ, Alexander James, Pte 1166, 1st Bn; *VINE-HALL, Noel Francis, Lieut, 13th Bn;  DOW 4/6/1915: BOYLE, Owen Dunigan, Pte 369, 2nd Bn


Members of the NZEF:

WEIR, Frederick James, Lieut, 3rd Auckland Mtd Rifles – DOW 2/6/1915

MORGAN, Malcolm, Tpr 13/217, Auckland Mtd Rifles – DOW 3/6/1915

McDONALD, Duncan Buchanan, Lieut 11/555 Wellington Mtd Rifles – DOW 6/6/1915

PATERSON, George, Cpl 11/557, Wellington Mtd Rifles – DOW 6/6/1915


Muriel Wakeford writing from Alexandria on the 7th of June, wrote: “Back again after the worst trip we have had.  We can just manage to last out with four or five hundred patients for four days.  This time we’ve been eighteen days and I can tell you it was pretty tough.

Owing to the strenuous nature of this trip, we nearly all succumbed more or less.  I had a rather bad sore throat, consequently had to give up for a day or two, which was very much against the grain.  I am nearly right again which, in these circumstances, is something to be thankful for.”




With all patients ashore, the Gascon left Alexandria again at 6.30 that evening of the 8th of June, and with some relief, the nursing staff had been increased from eight to ten.  Elsie Gibson noted that “2 more Sisters have been sent to help us.”  Both these nurses had been chosen from the 1st Australian General Hospital, and had originally sailed on the A24 Benalla with the First Convoy to leave Australia; they were Alice Elizabeth Barrett Kitchin (aka Kitchen) and Hilda Theresa Samsing.  Alice Kitchin wrote in her diary that “Every one is kind & nice & glad to see us as the work is heavy.”


During the return trip with the weather still very hot, the nurses received permission to sleep on deck, and Elsie Gibson, Clementina Marshall and Muriel Wakeford took advantage of this concession.  Having arrived in Mudros Harbour at 6 a.m. on the morning of the 11th of June, their departure orders didn’t come through until the 14th, so at last, the medical staff at least, had a few days break.  During this time there were opportunities to go ashore and do a bit of sight-seeing as well as visit the 1st Australian Stationary Hospital.


They eventually sailed at 6.30 p.m. on the 14th and anchored in their usual spot off Anzac Cove at 5 a.m. on the 15th.  The hospital ship Sicilia, which they were to relieve, was still at anchor and didn’t depart until later that night, so the Gascon only took on a small number of wounded.  That morning a hydroplane flew over, and when fired on by the Turks, some shrapnel fell on the deck injuring one of the orderlies.


On the 16th of June Elsie Gibson commented that she was “..to do duty (night) at acute Wards.  The very worst are down this end & mostly operation cases.  We have cots for these serious cases & they are not double-banked as in the big Wards at stern & the patients not so numerous.  They are abdominal, head, chest & amputation chiefly.”


Over the following days they continued to take on wounded in small numbers, and on alternate days they also took on lighter cases for treatment, while one of the fleet sweepers that would normally have carried them to Lemnos was undergoing repairs.  Lance Corporal Robert William Crawford (75) was one such case.  He was taken on board with a badly sprained ankle on the 17th, and the next day was transferred to a fleet sweeper and taken to Lemnos.


Despite the protection ‘enjoyed’ by hospital ships, the fear of being torpedoed still existed, and added to the physical discomfort of patients and medical staff, as Alice Kitchin pointed out on the 17th of June: “Very warm down below.  At 9 pm the port holes are all closed for fear of submarines; the wartertight doors can be closed quickly & then it would take us longer to sink.”  A few days later she also wrote “The work gets heavier daily & the flies a pest & the atmosphere very oppressive down below & there is so little time to take the air on deck.”


The ship was once again visited by Lieut General Birdwood on the 19th June, along with Brigadier General Robert Alexander Carruthers (Quarter-Master General).

After taking on the last of their wounded late on the 26th of June, they finally left their anchorage at 11 p.m. and headed for Lemnos.


All funeral services during this time had been conducted by Rev Lee Warner, and the members of the A.I.F. who had lost their lives were as follows:

DOW 16/6/1915: *ELLISS, Baizel Dudley, Pte 10, 12th Bn; DOW 17/6/1915: *DENSLEY, Benjamin, Pte 82, 2nd Fld Amb; *WARREN, Francis Edgar, Pte 616, 8th Bn;

DOW 19/6/1915: *NORTON, William Thomas, Pte 366, 2nd LH;

DOW 20/6/1915: *COLLIE, John Alexander, Pte 1328, 11th Bn; *CROUCHER, Harold, Pte 814, 8th LH; *O’CONNOR, William Henry, Pte 370, 2nd LH; *OWEN, John Richard, Pte 1664 14th Bn; *PAWLEY, Arthur James, Pte 441, 7th Bn; DOW 21/6/1915: *ROADS, Richard Leslie, Pte 184, 3rd LH; DOW 22/6/1915: *CADELL, Thomas Leonard, Lieut 3rd Bn; DOW 23/6/1915: *HOLMES, Louis Gordon, Capt 3rd Bde HQ; *KEID, William, Tpr 170 2nd LH; DOW 25/6/1915: *DOLLA, Carl, Pte 489, 16th Bn; *KISSICK, John, Pte 292 4th LH; *SMITH, James, Pte 2022, 3rd Bn; *TOSDEVIN, Robert, Pte 110, 11th Bn;

DOW 26/6/1915: *MEREDITH, Thomas Herbert, Cpl 1129, 1st Bn; *WATSON, Wallace Frederick, Pte 143, 12th Bn

Members of the NZEF:

ENDEAN, Arthur Stanley, Tpr 11/248 Wellington Mtd Rifles – DOW 25/6/1915

SINGLETON, Wilfred, L/Cpl 3/95, NZ Medical Corps – DOW 26/6/1915


The Gascon arrived in Mudros Harbour at 4 a.m. on the 27th of June.  During the day they transferred 43 light cases and 6 Officers to the shore hospital, and took on board 175 walking cases who crowded the decks.  Leaving again for Alexandria at 5 p.m., they arrived at 7.30 p.m. on the 29th of June, and anchored in the harbour overnight.

The following day (30th) they disembarked 462 patients including 18 Officers


There had been a total of 43 deaths on board since the 16th of June, including the following four members of the A.I.F. that had died since leaving Lemnos. 

DOW 28/6/1915: *MORGAN, Henry Eustace, Pte 2007, 6th Bn;

DOW 29/6/1915: *MacFARLANE, Norman, Bdr 2257, 3rd FAB (7th Bty); *PARKINSON, Vere, Pte 348, 5th Bn; *PHILLIS, Horace Vincent, Pte 814, 10th Bn

Once again the majority of the deaths were due to wounds of the abdomen and head.


Unlike the previous trips, the Gascon this time remained alongside the wharf for a full day after it had been emptied of patients.  Cleaning up the ship and the restocking of necessary stores throughout the 1st of July allowed the members of the medical staff to spend a free day ashore.  This gave them the opportunity to catch up with friends, go for a drive, have lunch, shop, etc.  It appears that the Reverend Lee Warner left the ship at this time.




The Gascon left Alexandria at 5 a.m. on the 2nd of July for her 6th trip to the Gallipoli Peninsula.  The sea was a little rough during the morning and most of the nurses were unable to eat or to do any work preparing their Wards until the afternoon.  Elsie Gibson felt so terrible she took to her bed, and again on the following day (3rd), while the sisters that were allocated to night duty this trip prepared her Ward for her.  Arriving off Anzac Cove at 11.50 a.m. on the 4th of July, they anchored near the hospital ship Neuralia which was almost full, but remained until midnight on the 5th.  The Gascon took on some patients later in the day of the 4th, but these were mostly medical cases that were to be transferred to a Fleet Sweeper the following day.


During the afternoon of the 5th a little excitement was had when an enemy submarine was sighted in the direction of Imbros.  As those on board the Gascon looked on, a seaplane circled the area looking for it, while one of the Monitors fired several shells in the general direction, until she too was fired on from shore and moved away.


Another visit was had from Lieut General Birdwood on the afternoon of the 7th of July, and with him was the commander of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF), Major General Alexander John Godley.


Two mates in the 7th Battalion were also brought on board on the 7th and were returning for their second evacuation on the Gascon.  They were Bertram Hilton Biggs (652) and Ernest Harcourt Ely (702), both having originally been wounded and evacuated on the first day of the Landing (25th).  Bertram could be said to be the lucky one of the pair; he eventually had his left leg amputated in England and returned to Australia in 1916.  Ernest was killed in action in August 1916.


Over the following days, sick and wounded continued to be brought on board, including a large number of light cases that had to be received after the Fleet Sweepers had left for Lemnos.  Most of these cases were suffering from bowel complaints and diarrhoea, which due to the worsening conditions on shore, was on the increase amongst the troops.


As the ship continued to fill and the medical staff became very busy, Alice Kitchin commented on the 11th that: “The staff is not adequate for the heavy demands on it especially the night when the wounded always come in, in 2 or 3 batches.”  That evening there was also a lot of shelling going on between ships and shore; some of the shells falling close to the Gascon, and Elsie Gibson wrote: “We watched Monitor & Torpedo getting shells at her right & left as she got out as quickly as possible – so did we.”


Between the 5th and 14th of July, as well as the patients who remained on board, they had also treated 998 light cases before transferring them to Fleet Sweepers to be taken to Lemnos.  With the ship quite full, and the Sicilia arriving to relieve them, they finally left for Lemnos themselves at 3 p.m. on the 14th.  Reaching Mudros Harbour at 8 p.m., they anchored until morning, and during the 15th 5 Officers and 12 Indians were transferred to the shore hospitals and about 75 light cases were brought on board.  Instead of their usual trip to Egypt, orders were received to proceed to Malta and they sailed at 6.30 p.m.


Arriving at Malta at 6 a.m. on the 18th of July, they were directed to enter Quarantine Harbour, where the patients had to be taken off the ship in Lighters as there was no wharf to dock beside.  426 rank and file and 35 Officers were disembarked throughout the day, and as their wards were emptied the medical staff were able to go ashore for some sightseeing.

As well as her impressions of Valetta, Ella Tucker wrote home that: “The Malta people are so good to our men.  There was a pyjama suit and a blanket sent down to the ship for every man.”  Trooper Robert James Rodd, 451 6th LH, who had been evacuated with a head wound, also wrote home from Malta: “Coming over on the hospital ship (the “Gascon”) there were two Sydney Hospital nurses.  Nurse Durham, and Nurse Porter.  They were both lovely nurses.  They treated us so nicely, and the doctors were exceptionally good and nice to the wounded.”


During this trip there were a total of 37 deaths, and their funerals were conducted by Reverend William Cyril Mayne (Royal Army Chaplains Department), who had replaced Rev Lee Warner.  The following being members of the A.I.F.:

DOW 7/7/1915: *LOGAN, James John, Sgt 1783, 8th AASC; *MacLURE, Valentine Murray, Pte 157, 3rd Bn; * WELLS, Cecil Frederick John, Pte 1450, 7th Bn;

DOW 8/7/1915: *BENNETT, Cyril Arthur, Tpr 711, 7th LH; *GANNON, Frances Joseph, Tpr 166, 7th LH; DOW 10/7/1915: *CAIN, Sydney Alexander, Pte 385, 2nd Bn;

*KENT, Francis Burwood, LCpl 292, 9th LH; *PENNINGTON, Rowland John Robert, Dvr 2155, 3rd FAB; DOW 11/7/1915: *COOPER, Volney Leonard, Tpr 537 7th LH;

DOI 11/7/1915: *WORSLEY, Tasman, Pte 512, 12th Bn;

DOW 12/7/1915: *CREER, Errol Joseph Hart, L/Cpl 392, 6th LH; *REDMAYNE, James – Pte 2017, 2nd Bn; *STOKES, Henry – Cpl 552, 12th Bn; *WALKER, Kenneth Leigh, 2nd Lieut/438, 7th Bn; DOW 13/7/1915: *SOANES, Henry Donald, Pte 150, 7th Bn; *THOMAS, Colin, Dvr 283, 2nd Fld Amb;

DOW 14/7/1915: *BENSON, Henry, Pte 167, 6th Bn; *BLACKSTOCK, Wilfred Lawson, Pte 1753, 12th Bn; *BRADY, George, Pte 696, 12th Bn; *GARNER, George Godfrey, Sgt 411, 7th Bn; *GILES, George Leslie, 1101 / 2169, 8th Bn; *JOHNSON, Cyril Allen – Pte 1340, 15th Bn; *PERMEZEL, Cedric Holroyd – Capt, 7th Bn;

DOW 15/7/15: *BERKIS, Arvid, Pte 1507, 6th Bn; *POPLE, William, Cpl 1166, 7th Bn; *FLOCKART, Robert Pearce, Maj 5th Bn; DOI 17/7/1915: *HAGUE, Henry, Pte 1340, 3rd Bn; DOW 18/7/1915: *PRESTON, William, Pte 1059, 7th Bn

Members of the N.Z.E.F:

DREAPER, Reginald Charles, Tpr 11/757 Wellington Mtd Rifles – DOW 11/7/1915

PALMER, Harry Thomas, Capt, Wellington Mtd Rifles – DOI 15/7/1915

Captain Palmer, who died from pneumonia, had written to his wife on the 8th of July: “I came on board ship on Monday night, and in the interval have been very rocky, but as I am getting the best of attention and plenty of medicine, will come out of it smiling, don’t worry.”




Having left Quarantine Harbour at 10 a.m. on the 19th of July, they experienced very rough seas the following day causing a great wave of seasickness among the medical staff.  They arrived back in Mudros Harbour at 7 a.m. on the 22nd of July, passing the HS Neuralia which was just leaving full of wounded.  Once again their routine was broken when they received orders to proceed to Cape Helles instead of Anzac Cove, and sailing at 5 p.m. they reached Cape Helles about 9 p.m.  The Gascon was to relieve the HS Grantully Castle which then departed the following morning (23rd) and the Gascon began taking on wounded that evening.  During the 23rd they also received a visit from (Lieutenant) Colonel John Girvin of the Royal Army Medical Corps (R.A.M.C., A.D.M.S.)


They continued to take on patients each day until the 29th of July at which time they received orders to sail the next morning.  Leaving Cape Helles at 6 a.m on the 30th of July, they arrived in Mudros Harbour at 9.30 a.m., where they took on board 177 cases from the shore hospitals, bringing their total to 468.  Sailing again later that evening, they arrived at Alexandria early on the morning of the 2nd of August.  Throughout the day 464 patients were disembarked, including 23 Officers.

Among the deaths during this time were four cases of gas gangrene.  Deaths included: Able Seaman Aaron Johnstone (RNVR) died of dysentery on the 26/7/1915; William Barlow, Pte 2141, 1/8 Bn, Lancashire Fusiliers died 28/7/1915;  Joseph Bolton, Pte1656, 1/5 Bn Manchester Regt died 30/7/1915


One of the cases taken on board at Mudros on the 30th was Private Charles Burke (1719) of the 15th Battalion, AIF.  He died of Enteric Fever as they neared Egypt on the 2nd of August, but was buried at sea by Rev Mayne.

The ship remained in port all the next day of the 3rd while coaling took place, and the medical staff were given a free day to go ashore.  Amongst her shopping, Alice Kitchin “laid in a stock of Mothersill & Worcestershire sauce”; remedies for seasickness.




Leaving Alexandria at 10 a.m. on the 4th of August, the Gascon arrived in Mudros Harbour at 6 p.m. on the 6th of August.  Later that evening 8 hospital ships and various other transports left the harbour for the Gallipoli Peninsula, to cater to the wounded from the diversionary battles that were being staged while the new landing took place at Suvla.  The Gascon and another hospital ship, the Gloucester Castle remained behind in the harbour.


During the afternoon of the 8th of August the Gascon finally received orders to proceed to Anzac Cove, reaching there at 10 p.m.  The area was dotted with the lights of the other hospital ships and the noise of the battle raging on shore was deafening.  Several boatloads of wounded came alongside the Gascon at 1 a.m. (9th), and they continued to flow in all that day.  Many of the slightly wounded were treated and then transferred to Fleet Sweepers before, the ship having been filled, left for Imbros at 6 p.m.  Before sailing, the Australian surgeon, Major Shaw and his orderly James McBean, who had been with the ship for two months, went ashore at Anzac to rejoin their Unit, the 2nd Field Ambulance.  During the day Colonel Arthur William Mayo-Robson (R.A.M.C.) had come on board as a consulting surgeon.


Joining many other ships at Imbros, they received orders to transfer all their 627 patients to other transports and then return to Anzac.  The idea behind this was to clear the clogged beaches of wounded as quickly as possible and as the hospital ships could anchor closer to shore than the other transports without being fired on, they were acting as Casualty Clearing Stations for the time being.  The transfer took place during the following day (10th), with 250 cases, including 3 Officers being transferred to the Canada, and the rest to the Ionian.  Seventeen deaths had occurred on board in this short space of time, their funerals conducted by the Rev Mayne, and included the following members of the A.I.F.:

DOW 9/8/1915: *CLARKE, Frank Graham, Pte 302, 12th Bn; *FISHER, John Martin, Cpl 439, 7th Bn; *KEEPENCE, Herbert Spencer, Pte 1599, 1st Bn; *MORRISSEY, Patrick, Tpr 663, 8th LH; DOW 10/8/1915: *HANSEN, Henry, Pte 290 15th Bn (buried at sea 4 miles from Imbros)

Those of the N.Z.E.F. included: DOW 9/8/1915: BURR, Eric Bell, Tpr 11/208 Wellington Mtd Rifles and WILSON, James Hood, Tpr 11/402 Wellington Mtd Rifles;

DOW 10/8/1915: GRIMMER, Frank William, Pte 10/731 Wellington Regt – (buried at sea in the region of the Dardanelles)


Leaving Imbros at 6.20 p.m. on the 10th of August the Gascon hadn’t yet put down anchor at Anzac, when Elsie Gibson noted that “a launch was alongside & a wounded officer for immediate op taken on.”  Later that evening Alice Kitchin commented: “Bullets fell on our deck & one wounded the dispensary Indian tonight, although the anchor was got up & we moved.”  They continued filling up all day of the 11th and by late afternoon were full once more.  Elsie Gibson wrote in her diary: “Wounded came on without ceasing.  As fast as our Orderlies could carry them off the cradle & as fast as the winch could work – it never ceased & doesn’t it make a thundering noise.”


One of those brought on board this day was the newly promoted Captain Frederick Harold Tubb of the 7th Battalion.  He had been wounded during the enemy counter attack at Lone Pine on the 9th of August, and was later awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions that day.


The Gascon left for Imbros again at 5.30 p.m. on the 11th of August where the night was spent awaiting orders for the unloading of the wounded.  The orders that came through on the morning of the 12th however, were to proceed to Lemnos, and they arrived in Mudros Harbour at 1.30 that afternoon.  There they waited for the rest of the day and a good part of the next (13th) before orders finally came through at 5 p.m. to proceed to Malta.  Leaving at 7.30 that evening, they were thankful to be on the move at last.  Elsie Gibson had noted in her diary while sitting in Mudros Harbour: “It is very hot – a stinking calm – there is no other word for it.  My patients are wet & their beds & pillows saturated & I am oozing all the time.  The wounds are very bad, very septic & offensive & some fly blown.”


The weather was cooler as they travelled towards Malta, where they arrived at 9.30 on the morning of the 16th of August.  The 463 patients, including 28 Officers, were disembarked throughout the day, and the Gascon departed once more at 7.45 that evening.


There had been 34 deaths on board since the 11th of August, and the burials at sea had been officiated over by the Rev Mayne; the A.I.F. deaths being:

DOW 11/8/1915: *CRAPPER, Oliver, 2134, Pte 5th Bn; *LEA, Thomas, Pte 2247, 13th Bn

DOW 12/8/1915: *SEYMOUR, Hobart Alfred, Cpl 487, 3rd LH

DOW 14/8/1915: *MARKS, Alfred George, Cpl 658, 5th Bn

DOW 15/8/1915: *CHATTERTON, Stanley Vine, Pte 1009, 5th Bn; *KELLY, John Thomas Henry, Pte 1391, 13th Bn

Others included:

N.Z.E.F : JAMES, Thomas Parry, Capt 11/488 Wellington Mtd Rifles – DOW 12/8/1915

British forces: KINGSFORD, Alfred Ashby, Sgt 11856, 8th Bn Welsh Regt Pioneers – DOW 10/8/1915; POTTS, John Charles Stanley, Pte 2814, Warwick Regt – d.12/8/1915;

SLACK, Harry, Pte 10448, 7th Bn, N Staffordshire Regt – d.13/8/1915; REDMOND, Patrick, L/Cpl 10851, Royal Dublin Fusiliers – d.16/8/1915.




On the return journey to Lemnos Alice Kitchin noted in her diary that her steward and a fireman were both ill, and the weather was still very ‘hot & steamy.’  She also mentioned that she spent the afternoon of the 17th“sewing & chatting with Capt Bengerfield [sic] who began as a patient & is now doing McShaw’s [sic] work.”  Captain Vivian Benjafield, a Sydney surgeon who had originally sailed with the 2nd AGH, had been evacuated from Anzac earlier that month with dysentery.  On recovery he was attached to the Gascon to fill the void left by the departure of Major Shaw.

On arrival at Lemnos the Gascon anchored near the Dunluce Castle in the outer harbour at 8.30 on the morning of the 19th of August.  Orders came through to proceed to Cape Helles, and sailing at 1 p.m. they arrived there at 6 p.m.


The Galeka left the following morning (20th) and the Gascon began taking on the sick and wounded in its place.  Elsie Gibson noted: “Very slow & awfully dismal here – patients coming about 9 & 10 daily.”  Lt Col Hugo went ashore on the 22nd of August, and everyone was very happy to see him safely return later that evening.  The Delta arrived on the 23rd to relieve the Gascon, but with only about 60 patients on board she had no orders to move out.  Three of the patients lost during this time were with the Royal Marine Light Infantry, being Pte John Witheridge Edmunds who died on the 21/8/1915 and Pte Richard Farnworth and Pte John Dring, who died on the 23/8/1915. 

Moving in close to Gully Beach on the afternoon of the 25th they took on 150 medical cases from a Fleet Sweeper and then sailed for Lemnos at 4.30 p.m, arriving in the outer harbour about 9.30 p.m.  Pte Frederick James Walker of the Manchester Regt died on the 25/8/1915.


On the morning of the 26th the Gascon moved to the inner harbour and anchored against the Cawdor Castle.  In the afternoon all ‘walking cases’ were transferred to the shore hospitals and the rest taken on board the Cawdor Castle to be transported to England.  Alice Kitchin noted in her diary: “Rained today: a very rare event since we landed in Egypt.”

Temporary Sub Lieutenant Hugh Alexander Massey of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve died this day and was taken ashore for burial.


Orders were received on the afternoon of the 27th to proceed to Imbros where they arrived about 9 p.m. and anchored outside the boom.  Around midnight 100 patients, mostly Australians, were brought from Anzac Cove by Trawler and taken on board.  Then from 5 a.m. on the 28th the sick and wounded continued to stream in all day.  Alice Kitchin commented that “the anchor was well exercised being let go & taken up 6 times while we took on cases from various barges & beaches.”  Elsie Gibson wrote: “We are clearing a Hospital at Imbros & are just inundated.  They are on decks everywhere – poop-deck, boat deck, well deck, promenade deck & smoke room.  All cots & available floor space also filled.”  Hilda Samsing mentioned that “The Chief Steward is a good fellow and went around the decks to see that everyone had been given breakfast.”  By 10 p.m. there were 940 patients on board and a signal was sent that no more could be taken.  Although a large number of these were minor cases, there were also some very bad dysentery cases.


Leaving Imbros at 6.30 a.m. on the 29th of August they arrived back in Mudros Harbour at 11 a.m. and anchored near the Dunluce Castle.  Able Seaman George Smith, RNVR, Drake Bn and Lieutenant Charles Alfred Lister, Royal Marines, Hood Bn, had both died on the 28th.  The Honourable Charles Lister was taken ashore at Lemnos and buried in the East Mudros Military Cemetery.

After waiting all day for orders, they finally came through at 10 p.m. that night.  The orders carried out on the morning of the 30th involved transferring 48 Indian Troops to the hospital ship Seang Choon, and 10 Officers, 230 rank and file and 10 wounded Turkish Prisoners to the transport Huntsgreen (previously known as the Derfflinger).  Alice Kitchin commented on how the transfer of at least these patients “relieved the strain on the ship’s resources & food.”  The Gascon then sailed for Alexandria at 11.15 a.m. with the remaining 650 patients.

Hugh COOPER, Pte 1519, 3rd Bn AIF, died of wounds on the 31/8/1915 and was buried at sea by Rev Mayne.


The Gascon arrived at Alexandria at 4 p.m. on the 1st of September and remained in port for the following 3 days, undergoing repairs and caulking of decks as well as the usual coaling.

The 649 patients, including 17 Officers, were disembarked on the 2nd, one of these however, being the body of Pte Maxwell Cannon, 1960, 1/5th KOSB, who had died the day before; and he was buried in the Chatby Military Cemetery.


Also leaving the ship that day to return to the 2nd AGH were 4 of the nurses; Sophie Durham, Clementina Marshall, Katherine Porter and Muriel Wakeford.  During her service on the Gascon, a romance had blossomed between Muriel Wakeford and a member of the crew, Sub-Lieutenant Raymond Gustave Sargeant.  The couple later married in England on the 28th of June 1916, and Muriel resigned her appointment with the AANS as a consequence.

Four replacement AANS nurses were brought on board at this time, all four having originally sailed on the A14 Euripides with the First Convoy to leave Australia.  They were Penelope Frater, Adelaide Maud Kellett, Alice Joan Twynam and Jean Nellie Miles Walker.




Departing Alexandria at 8.15 a.m. on the 5th of September, the Gascon also carried 8 British nurses who were to join the Itonus at Lemnos.  Elsie Gibson commented that a “Number of the crew & orderlies [were] down with Enteric”, and Alice Kitchin noted that “All the wards have been sulphured to make them a bit sweeter.”  Arriving in Mudros Harbour at 7.30 p.m. on the 7th of September, they received orders the following day (8th) to proceed to Anzac Cove; departing at 4.30 p.m. and arriving at 10.30 p.m.  No doubt with some relief, Alice Kitchin wrote in her diary: “It is much cooler this time & at times quite chilly.”


Patients began arriving early on the 9th, mainly medical cases, and they continued to fill up over the following days.  On the 12th of September they hoisted the ‘Blue Peter’ to let all ashore know they were full and finally left for Lemnos at 11 p.m that night.

The following members of the AIF had died during this time, their funerals conducted by Lieut Col Hugo:

*BROWN, Frederick, Pte 1149, 20th Bn and *HAYES, Charles Henry, Pte 1240, 20th Bn – DOW 10/9/1915; and DRAIN, Edward (Teddy), Pte 2343, 3rd Bn – DOW 11/9/1915.


The Gascon arrived in Mudros Harbour at 6 a.m. on the 13th of September, and amongst the many other ships at anchor were the Gloucester Castle and the Aquitania.  While waiting for orders 33 Indians and 9 Infectious disease cases were taken ashore in the afternoon, before she left for Malta at 6 p.m.  Arriving at Malta at 8 a.m. on the 16th they anchored in Quarantine Harbour and disembarked their 465 patients.

Pte Rupert Mckean, 1050, 8th Bn AIF had died earlier that morning and was buried at sea by Lieut Col Hugo.




Sailing at 10 a.m. on the 17th of September they experienced rough weather on the return to Lemnos, but no seasickness on board this time.  The Gloucester Castle was passed en route on the 18th, and they arrived in Mudros Harbour at 7 a.m. on the 20th, where it was too rough to row to the Aragon for orders.  On the 21st the Dunluce Castle left the harbour at lunch time, and the Gascon followed her at 1.30 p.m., heading for Cape Helles, where she arrived at 7 p.m.  They were still experiencing rough seas, and it was very cold and windy.


Elsie Gibson commented that there was a French hospital ship at anchor called the Charles Roux, which was a Stationary Base Surgical Hospital Ship which treated French soldiers before transferring them to other hospital ships.  The Gascon began taking on sick and wounded on the 22nd of September with 200 transferred from Fleetsweepers.  The following day (23rd) they continued taking on medical cases in large numbers.  Alice Kitchin explained how they “Went into the smooth waters near the shore & anchored till we got patients on & then out again near the French Hos. base ship.”  One of those taken on board during this time was Chaplain Kenneth Best.  He wrote: “I am put in dysentery ward and am given soup, fish and custard for lunch.  How unspeakably delicious it tasted.  I fear what the result will be, but doctor should know best.”  On the 24th they went in close to shore again and took on around 60 patients before leaving for Lemnos at 9.30 a.m., where they arrived at 2 p.m.


At 6.30 a.m. on the 25th the Gascon went alongside the Ausonia, and transferred 309 of her patients, including 17 Officers and Chaplain Best.  She then transferred 2 officers, 186 other ranks, 6 Indians, 10 Greek labourers and 4 men of the Zion Mule Corps to the shore hospital.  Also taken ashore was the body of Roderick McLeod, CSM 343, 5th Bn Highland Light Infantry, who died of his wounds this day, and was buried in the East Mudros Military Cemetery.


With 16 patients still on board they left for Anzac at 11 a.m. on the 26th, and arriving at 4 p.m. took on several patients before settling in for a quiet night.  Sick and wounded continued to be brought on board over the next 2 days, until 3.30 p.m. on the 28th September when they sailed for Lemnos with 476 cases, including 15 Officers, reaching there about 9.30 p.m.  One of the deaths during this time was Pte Alfred Frederick Percy Davies of the Northamptonshire Regt who died on the 27/9/1915.


The following morning (29th) they received orders for Malta, and disembarked 24 Indians and 7 cases of scarlet fever and diphtheria before leaving at 1 p.m.  Pte Hubert Leigh Starr, 517 25th Bn AIF, succumbed to dysentery en-route (29th) and was buried at sea by Reverend Robert Noble Beasley (Royal Army Chaplains Department), who had taken over from Rev Mayne. Two other deaths during this trip were Pte Arthur Henry Taylor of the Essex Regt who died on the 30/9/1915 and Pte Herbert Thomas Howard of the Norfolk Regt who died on the 1/10/1915.


 On the 1st of October Alice Kitchin, who was on night duty, wrote: “A very rough & roll ing sea, things smashing every where which woke me up at 4 p.m.  So I got on early with a dose of Mothersill & Worcester sauce with good effect & got through the night as well as could be expected, though going up & down staircases is a bit dangerous to life & limb.”


The Gascon arrived at Malta and anchored in Quarantine Harbour at 7 a.m. on the 2nd of October.  Orders first came through that they were to disembark their patients the following day, and then subsequently to proceed to England, but the final word was that they were to go to Gibraltar.  40 ‘deck cases’ were disembarked that afternoon, and the following day (3rd) after waiting all morning for medical supplies, they departed for Gibraltar with the remaining 400 patients at noon.  Over the previous months many of the crew had been ill with Enteric fever, and later that day (3rd), Merchant Seaman John William INKSTER succumbed to the illness.




Rough weather was experienced during most of the trip to Gibraltar and there was a great deal of seasickness.  However, by the 7th the sea was calm, and the ship slowed its speed considerably so they wouldn’t reach their destination during the night and have to anchor outside the harbour.  The ship entered the inner harbour at 7 a.m. on the 8th of October and began disembarking their patients at 8.15 a.m.  397 patients were disembarked; this number including 14 Officers, 372 rank and file and 11 Naval ratings.  Welcome assistance was received by many members of the Royal Army Medical Corps from the shore hospital, and the medical staff were able to go ashore to enjoy some relaxation in the afternoon.

During the voyage 2 patients died of illness on the 4/10/1915: Pte John Galloway, 554, 17th Bn AIF and Pte Frederick John Tyler, 403, 5th Bn Essex Regt; and Pte Guy Holbrook, 2255, 10th Bn AIF, died of typhoid on the 6/10/1915, all being buried at sea by Chaplain Beasley.


The following day (9th) while the ship was being coaled, the nurses along with some of the doctors, crossed the bay to Algeciras, Spain, and spent an enjoyable day shopping and sightseeing.  The Gascon sailed at 7 a.m. on the 10th of October for her return to Lemnos, passing the Dunluce Castle on the 11th.  However, on the 13th she received a wireless message to put in at Malta instead, and they tied up in the Grand Harbour, Valetta at 6 a.m. the next day (14th).  Orders then came through to embark patients for England, which was carried out on the 15th.




With 393 patients on board, mostly convalescents and walking cases, they left about 3 p.m. that afternoon (15th).  Alice Kitchin noted in her diary: “It has been very hot all day & W5 [Ward 5] is rather a trial being so close & full of cigarette smoke which is overpowering from 110 men who smoke incessantly.”


On the evening of the 16th of October, the Gloucester Castle which was also heading to England, caught up and passed them.  The Gascon arrived off Gibraltar at 12.10 p.m. on the 19th and despatched various cables before proceeding on at 1.35 p.m.  Throughout the voyage there was constant grumbling from the patients in regard to the poor quality and quantity of food.  Alice Kitchin also made reference to the monotony, including bad butter and sloppy rice. 


Arriving to a wet and foggy Southampton late morning on the 24th they began disembarking the 392 patients as soon as they docked, having only lost one patient on the voyage.  That patient being Pte James Fish of the Lancashire Regt, who was committed to the deep on the 21/10/1915.  Empty once more the ship left again at 3 p.m. and arrived at Tilbury at 4 p.m. on the 25th, anchoring at Gravesend, having missed the tide.  She continued on to East India Dock, London, on the 26th, arriving at 4.30 p.m.  With no steam to heat the ship, having been towed along the Thames, the nursing staff were glad to finally leave the freezing ship on the 27th; looking forward to the 2 weeks of Leave ahead of them.  The Gascon remained in dock undergoing repairs and a refit until the 10th of November.




With all the staff back on board, as well as a new addition, a Stewardess, and the entire equipment and R.A.M.C. personnel of the 29th British General Hospital (BGH), consisting of 34 Medical Officers and 201 other ranks, the Gascon sailed for Salonika on the 11th of November 1915.  She arrived after dark on the 25th and anchored outside the harbour; entering the following day (26th).  The Grantully Castle had been in the harbour for a fortnight and the Asturias, also with a General Hospital on board, had been waiting for some time, and the Gascon was set to join the waiting game.


On the 4th of December she received 75 invalids, and then on the 5th as the 29th BGH equipment and personnel finally began to be disembarked, 291 patients were brought on board to take their place.  With the onset of winter, many of these cases were suffering from trench fever, frostbite and the resulting gangrene.  Disembarkation of the 29th BGH continued throughout the day of the 6th and finally concluded at 11.30 a.m. on the 7th.  The Gascon then sailed for Alexandria at 3.15 that afternoon (7th), and arrived early on the morning of the 10th.




Two patients had died during the voyage and the other 364 patients, including 8 Officers, were disembarked throughout the day (10th).  Now that the Gascon was carrying fewer patients and the ship due to transport more invalids to England, three of the AANS nurses left the ship on the 12th to return to their original Units; these were Alice Kitchin, Hilda Samsing and Jean Miles Walker.  Sadly, Jean Miles Walker didn’t survive the war; a victim of the Influenza epidemic, she died from Pneumonia on the 30/10/1918.  Her remains are buried in St John the Evangelist Churchyard, Sutton Veny, Wiltshire, England.


Having embarked 358 invalids during the morning of the 12th, the Gascon left the harbour at 2 p.m., but promptly returned on account of a burst steam pipe.  With repairs complete the ship sailed again at 5 p.m. on the 14th of December, and arrived at Southampton on Boxing Day (26th).  Disembarkation of the 358 invalids took place that day and the Gascon remained at dock coaling and undergoing some minor repairs until the 2nd of January 1916.


During the 3rd of January, 139 Indian invalids, along with the personnel and stores of the 1st Indian General Hospital were embarked for the voyage to Egypt.  Leaving Southampton at 4.30 p.m. on the 4th, they arrived at Alexandria and anchored in the harbour at 5.30 p.m. on the 16th.  Disembarkation took place on the 17th and the ship then remained in the harbour for some time awaiting orders.  During this time the remaining AANS nurses left the ship, Penelope Frater on the 20th, Adelaide Kellett on the 22nd, and Elsie Gibson, Ethel Peters, Ella Tucker and Alice Twynam on the 1st of February.


Taking the place of the AANS nurses were 4 nurses of the New Zealand Army Nursing Service Corps; three joining the ship on the 3rd of February, and one more on the 4th.  The Gascon also embarked 290 invalids, including 11 nurses on the 4th, and departed for England once more at 5 p.m.  Stopping at Gibraltar en-route on the 12th, they embarked 32 more invalids before continuing on later that morning.  Southampton was reached on the 17th and the patients were disembarked on the 18th.  Pte Thomas Henry Lewis, 207 1/5 Bn Welsh Regt, was the only death on the voyage, having succumbed to chronic Dysentery on the 9/2/1916.


With coaling and some minor repairs seen to, 62 native invalids were embarked for Boulogne, France on the 25th of February, and following further delays the ship finally sailed at 6 a.m. on the 28th.  Arriving at her destination on the morning of the 29th, the patients were disembarked, and 347 British and Canadian patients were embarked in their place; the ship sailing for Southampton at 7.15 that evening.


Southampton was reached at 9.30 a.m. on the 1st of March, and all invalids disembarked.  The following day (2nd) 358 Indian invalids were embarked for Alexandria, and the ship sailed at 3 p.m.  Arriving at Alexandria on the 14th, all patients were disembarked during the afternoon.


On the 15th orders were received by Lieut Col Hugo to hand over command of the Gascon with all her medical stores and equipment to Major Herbert Longmore Grant Chevers of the Royal Army Medical Corps.  This took place on the 19th of March and Lieut Col Hugo and his entire IMS staff left the ship and entrained for Suez.


The Gascon continued her war service until the end of 1919, but this history finishes here (for now).




Occasionally the various diaries differ in regard to dates and times, and quite often in the number of patients carried during trips – in most of these cases I have chosen to stick with the Gascon diary.


The service records and further detail of the AANS nurses can be found at the following link: https://discoveringanzacs.naa.gov.au/browse/groupstories/16457



Sources include:

*HMHS Gascon War Diary [NA – WO 95/4145/1] (by Lieut Col E.V. Hugo, I.M.S.)

*AANS Nurse: Elsie Gibson’s Diary [AWM – PRO1269]

*AANS Nurse: Alice Kitchin’s Diary [SLV – MS 9627 MSB 478] (courtesy of a transcription from Dr Kirsty Harris)


*Snippets from various other Diaries

*Various letters from Nurses and Soldiers and articles sourced from Australian newspapers [Trove]

*Soldier’s and Nurse’s Service Records

*Great War Forum (special thanks to members), as well as various other websites and books







Gordon was born on the 31st of May 1888 in St Kilda, Victoria.  He was the youngest son of John Ross SODEN and Isabella Mary HALTON, who married in Vic in 1881.

His father, John, died in 1892, aged 44, and was buried in the St Kilda Cemetery.

Isabella, a beneficiary of the James Tyson millions, who became associated with all kinds of charitable and philanthropic work, died on the 21/11/1924 in London following an operation.  Her remains were brought back to Australia and buried with her husband.


Siblings (3):

1. John Leslie (Jack) b.1/11/1882 Kyneton – Doctor – WW1: Capt, AAMC, AIF – marr (Dr) Margaret H.U. ROBERTSON 12/2/1920 Vic – d.7/12/1930 Elmhurst, Middle Brighton;

2. Alfred Bentley b.1/8/1884 – Grazier – marr Nell BRIGGS 1925 UK – WW2: Pte V395409, 17th Bn, VDC – d.1/3/1982 Vic;

3. Henry (Harry) b.17/5/1886 St Kilda – Member of rowing (8) team 1912 Olympics – Solicitor – WW1: Lieut, MG Corps, AIF – marr. Anne QUIGLEY 25/9/1920 Vic – d.29/6/1944 Greyholm, Sandringham;


Religion: Church of England

Educated at Melbourne Grammar School

Military training in the Melbourne Grammar School Cadets

Mechanical Engineering course (3 years)

Played one seniors game with Essendon Football Club in 1906

Captain of the Melbourne Grammar football team 1907


From 1910 he was a Grazier, in partnership with his brother Alf on their New Park station, Morunda, near Narrandera, NSW


WW1 Service:

With the intention of enlisting in the Royal Flying Corps (RFC), Gordon embarked in Melbourne on the RMS Persia 10/8/1915 for England, arriving in London 17/9/1915.

On his arrival he found that the RFC weren’t accepting any more recruits for six months, so on the 1/10/1915 he enlisted as a Private in the Army Service Corps (ASC), and was stationed at the Main Supply Depot in Reading.

On the 8/11/1915 he wrote:  “I have been teaching about twelve officers to drive a motor, and last week they had to go through a military test, which they all passed except one.  I had the job of driving Lord Kitchener all round London the other day.  I had taken the Lord Mayor to the War Office, and Lord Kitchener’s car had a puncture and no spare wheel, so I had to take him round.”


It was noted in a Melbourne paper early in December 1915 that while he was:  “walking on the bank of the Thames, he saw a man struggling in the water.  Flinging his coat on the ground and himself into the river, the young Victorian swam to the rescue.  He brought the drowning man to the bank and applied first-aid methods.  Long before the man opened his eyes Ross-Soden was “famous” with the crowd that had gathered.  The whisper got around that he was an Australian.  “Bravo, Australia!” cried the crowd until they were hoarse.”

For his efforts he received a medal from the Royal Humane Society.


Eventually on the 13/5/1916 he received a commission in the Royal Flying Corps as a Temporary 2nd Lieutenant, General List, and began his training at Christ Church, Oxford.

On the 8/6/1916 he wrote from Catterick, York:  “I am quite able to fly without an instructor, and expect to be moved in a few days to a more advanced school.”  ……..

“It only takes about an hour to teach a man of ordinary ability to fly, but the landing is the hardest part.  …………..  When we leave here we are given a machine and sent off to find our way about England by air to get used to map reading, which is rather sport.”


Later he wrote: “I am up at Montrose in Scotland now, and we fly in all sorts of weather; in fact, yesterday the wind was so strong that it blew me back as I was rising, and I found it darned hard to get back to the drome.  It’s a great life, and I wouldn’t have missed it for worlds.  They are a dare-devil crowd in this corps, as all the others get weeded out very soon.  Flying soon finds them out.  I have looped the loop twice alone, and come down from 15,000 feet with my engine shut off just to see if I could do it.  It is fiendishly cold work, and it’s quite usual to come down with a piece of ice clinging to your top lip.”


Appointed Flying Officer 18/7/1916

Received instruction at the Grahame-White School, Hendon July, Aug, Sept 1916

Appointed Wing Instructor, Aerial Gunnery, Hythe, Kent 14/9/1916

29/12/1916 Temporary Captain, General List, Flying Officer, relinquishes the appointment of Wing Instructor in Gunnery (graded as a Flight-Com.), and reverts to the rank of Temp. 2nd Lieut

[7th Wing, then 25th Wing]


Serving with 56th Squadron when he was wounded on the 9/8/1917 over France:

“The weather turned bad again for the next three days, but patrols were resumed on 9 August.  Gordon Ross-Soden was wounded during the last flight of the day, having been set upon by an Albatross.  Barlow successfully drove off the enemy scout, but not before Ross-Soden had been hit in the knee.  He managed to return to Estree Blanche, from where he was rushed off to hospital.”

[Source: No.56 Sqn RFC/RAF, Alex Revell]


Before hitting his knee, the bullet had also cut a Bowden wire on his machine which threaded through his leg like a needle, and cut an artery.

Following an operation in France, he was evacuated to England and admitted to the Acheson Hospital for Officers, London, where he wrote his version of events:

“With three others I was on an offensive patrol, about 50 miles over the lines.  Two of my comrades dropped out owing to engine trouble, leaving the leader and myself.  After about two hours we saw two Hun machines slightly below us and at once attacked them.  But before I had fired more than 20 shots eight German aeroplanes dived from a cloud about 200 feet above.  They saw only my machine and soon the air about me was thick with tracer bullets.  A bullet went through the side of my machine, cutting the wires to one of my guns, cutting one of my flying wires and going through my leg.  When the bullet struck me my leg shot out like a bar of iron and jammed my rudder.  I managed to get my foot off the rudder and then saw the Huns were preparing another dive.  I had to do some fancy work to get away, for the leg that had been hit was useless and I had to work my rudder with one foot.  However, I had the satisfaction of bringing down a Hun machine with one of my parting shots.

“I then decided that it was time to go home.  How I managed this, I do not know, but they tell me that I made a perfect landing and then went off into a silly faint owing to loss of blood.  It took me three-quarters of an hour to fly home after being hit and in that time I must have bled a good deal to cause me to faint.  Two hours after having been shot I was operated on and within 48 hours I was in England.”


His wounding put an end to 9 months of fighting the Hun, and following his recuperation he was appointed Chief Test Pilot at the Brooklands Aircraft Acceptance Park (No.10), Surrey on the 20/10/1917.

Appointed Temp Lieutenant 16/11/1917


One day while testing an aeroplane, with his brother Harry watching on, the machine crashed to the ground, upside down, pinning him underneath.  Luckily he escaped with minor cuts and bruises and of course, shock.


10/1/1918 No.15 Aircraft Acceptance Park at Manchester


In early 1918 a visitor wrote:

“We went to X.Y.Z., where there were seventy new machines to be tested.  Gordon had to do all these himself, as the other test pilot had hurt his knee the previous Saturday, and will be laid up for a fortnight.  Gordon was too busy to take me up for another flight, but he did some exhibition flying in one of the machines he was testing.  I thought I had seen some good tricks done in the air with aeroplanes during my time in England, but I discovered then that I had not.  His machine was just like an autumn leaf, blown about in the wind, rolling, tumbling, twisting, shooting up and down, chasing his own tail, spinning over and over and round and round in a most marvellous manner.  I did not think such things were possible; but now I believe he could make an aeroplane do anything he liked – even to going up by itself and coming back when he called it.  No wonder his brother-officers call him a demon, and admire him tremendously!”


Appointed Temporary Captain 4/8/1918

During his time in the RFC he flew in 60 types of machines, and served 7 months as an instructor in Aerial Gunnery.

Apparently he “established a record at Weybridge Park by testing and passing 130 aeroplanes in a month.”


In July 1918 Gordon cabled his mother in regard to his marriage to Dorothy George.  The papers reported the ceremony had taken place on the 15th of June, however the couple didn’t actually marry until 1919.  Perhaps it was the engagement that had taken place on that date.


Gordon married Dorothy Ida STREET (widow, nee GEORGE) on the 18th of February 1919 in Devonport, England [she had been doing ambulance work in London, driving a car between Charing Cross and Paddington]


The couple returned to Australia together on the Norman, departing Devonport on the 5/7/1919 and arriving on the 18/8/1919


They returned to his New Park property before moving to Sydney at the end of 1923

Bankrupted 1926 (he blamed his wife’s spending)

Divorced in 1927 after his wife left him – he was selling advertising space for a living and residing at the Wembley Hotel

Associated with Mr R. Parer's aerial service, New Guinea at time of death


Gordon died of Black Water Fever on the 20th of March 1931 in Salamoa, New Guinea, aged 42

[Buried in the Outside Riverina Cemetery, Griffith, NSW]






Leader (Melb, Vic), Sat 9 Dec 1905 (p.18):


The Melbourne Grammar School sports were, as usual, a great success, and some fine performances were made.  G. Ross-Soden put up an exceptional performance in throwing the cricket ball 115 yds. 4 in. – a school record…………….


Punch (Melb, Vic), Thur Thur 20 Jun 1907 (p.24):

Fact and Rumour

Mrs Ross-Soden has bought “Grong-Grong,” on Toorak-road, where she contemplates building a house.


Table Talk (Melb, Vic), Thur 16 Nov 1911 (p.30):


Mr and Mrs Cecil Levien, late of Acland-street, St Kilda, have left for their station home, New Park, Morundah, New South Wales.  Mr G. Ross-Soden is a partner in the new venture.


The Age (Melb, Vic), Wed 17 Apr 1912 (p.12):


Gordon Ross-Soden, of “Grong Grong,” Toorak-road, Toorak, was charged with having driven a motor on 18th ult. along St Kilda-road at a speed dangerous to the public.


Punch (Melb, Vic), Thur 13 Mar 1913 (p.43):


On Friday last Mr Douglas Campbell left Melbourne for Sydney upon the Vinot car with which he will endeavour to break the Sydney-Melbourne record.  Mr Gordon Ross-Soden accompanies Mr Campbell on the run.


Table Talk (Melb, Vic), Thur 1 Jan 1914 (p.29):


Mrs Ross Soden left early this month to spend a few weeks with her sons, Alf and Gordon Ross-Soden, at their property in the Riverina.


Table Talk (Melb, Vic), Thur 17 Jun 1915 (p.30):


Mr Gordon Ross-Soden has made arrangements to leave his property in the Riverina, and come to Melbourne prior to sailing for England, where he will enlist.  Mr Ross-Soden had a military training in the Melbourne Grammar School Cadets.


The Australasian (Melb, Vic), Sat 26 Jun 1915 (p.38):


At the present time many of our well-known people are having their family circles contracted owing to their sons having volunteered for active service, and among them is Mrs Ross Soden, as her eldest son, Dr. J. Ross Sodden, will leave shortly, and he will be followed by her youngest son, Gordon.  Knowing that many of her friends are similarly situated, Mrs Ross Soden gave an afternoon party on Wednesday, June 24, with the object of bringing about a few hours of brightness.  The guests, who numbered 80, were welcomed in the drawing room, ……………………………..

She intends leaving Melbourne next week, in order to spend a week or so with her sons on their station property, New Park, N.S.W.


Table Talk (Melb, Vic), Thur 19 Aug 1915 (p.30):


Mr Gordon Ross-Soden, youngest son of Mrs Ross-Soden, “Grong Grong” Toorak, left on August 10 for London with the intention of enlisting for service.


Table Talk (Melb, Vic), Thur 9 Dec 1915 (p.6):


Gordon Ross-Soden, scion of a well-known Toorak family, secured a fresh leaf for his country’s laurel crown before reaching the firing line.  He was waiting in London his call to the front when, walking on the bank of the Thames, he saw a man struggling in the water.  Flinging his coat on the ground and himself into the river, the young Victorian swam to the rescue.  He brought the drowning man to the bank and applied first-aid methods.  Long before the man opened his eyes Ross-Soden was “famous” with the crowd that had gathered.  The whisper got around that he was an Australian.  “Bravo, Australia!” cried the crowd until they were hoarse.


The Sun (Syd, NSW), Wed 26 Jan 1916 (p.3):


Lieutenant Gordon Ross-Soden son of Mr Ross-Soden, of Melbourne, drives Lord Kitchener’s car when he travels by motor.  The young officer is provided with a whistle, and when he blows it all traffic stops to allow the car to pass without delay.


Tweed Daily (Murwillumbah, NSW), Mon 28 Feb 1916 (p.2):

Lord Kitchener’s special chauffeur is one of the wealthy young Australians who enlisted early in the war – Gordon Ross Soden, a grand-nephew of the late multi-millionaire Tyson, formerly of Queensland.  He was given a commission in London in the R.A.M.C., and proved himself by obtaining a medal of the Royal Humane Society for saving a drowning man.


Punch (Melb, Vic), Thur 13 Apr 1916 (p.28):

Fact and Rumour

Mr Gordon Ross-Soden, who left here to join the Aviation Corps in England, found, on his arrival, that no more could be taken for six months.  He has, therefore, joined the motor transport unit at Reading, from whence he was summoned to London, to “chauffeur” for Lord Kitchener.  Motor driving in London is no joke, as everyone is only allowed a small green lamp.


War Services Old Melburnians 1914-18, 10th May 1916 (p.155):

Letters from O.M.’s

GORDON ROSS-SODDEN, who recently gained the Royal Humane Society’s medal in England, writes thus from Army Service Corps, Main Supply Depot, Reading, on November 8: “I am still at the above address, and quite well and happy.  There are a good few Australian wounded round about here.  The people are awfully kind to the Australians; they can’t do enough for them.  I have been teaching about twelve officers to drive a motor, and last week they had to go through a military test, which they all passed except one.  I had the job of driving Lord Kitchener all round London the other day.  I had taken the Lord Mayor to the War Office, and Lord Kitchener’s car had a puncture and no spare wheel, so I had to take him round.  It’s pretty solid driving in London in the night now, as there’s not a light anywhere.  It makes your eyes bulge some.  Still, it’s a great life.  I’ve got a beautiful 60 Vauxhall car, six bob per day, and no responsibility but to get there in time.  I am supplied with a whistle, and if in a hurry I only have to blow it and all traffic is stopped to let me pass.  I’m on the go day and night, but get plenty of time to sleep, and am supplied with enough clothes for two men.  Remember me to all my pals.”


Punch (Melb, Vic), Thur 11 May 1916 (p.28):


Mrs Ross-Soden, of “Grong Grong,” Toorak, has received a cable from her son, Gordon, saying he has received a commission in the Royal Naval Flying Corps.  Hearing there were so many hundreds of names in front of his when he first applied some time ago, he has been working with the Motor Transport Corps at Reading.  His work there was so satisfactory that he has been granted his desire.


Flight, May 25, 1916 (p.434):

The British Air Services

Royal Flying Corps (Military Wing)

Privates to be Temporary Second Lieutenants for duty with the R.F.C.: ………..; G. Ross-Soden, from A.S.C.; May 13th.


War Services Old Melburnians 1914-18, 23rd Aug 1916 (p.159):

Letters from O.M.’s

GORDON ROSS SODEN, who was at Christ Church, Oxford, in May, writes thus from Royal Flying Corps, Catterick, York, on 8th June: “I am quite able to fly without an instructor, and expect to be moved in a few days to a more advanced school.  It is very interesting work.  We had no flying last week at all, as the weather was so bad, but last night I was up over an hour by myself.  It only takes about an hour to teach a man of ordinary ability to fly, but the landing is the hardest part….  I’m feeling fit as a fiddle; hope to remain so.  When we leave here we are given a machine and sent off to find our way about England by air to get used to map reading, which is rather sport.  This place is like a drove of bees let loose in your hat; sometimes about 30 of us flying about at all heights.  How the people who live hereabouts must curse us at 4 o’clock every morning.  The other day I was about 40 miles from camp, and seeing a nice paddock to land in near a big house, I just called in for breakfast to vary the monotony.  We often drop in for real treats this way.  They have just sent an orderly to inform me that I am to go up again, so I must float off.”  Later he writes: “I am up at Montrose in Scotland now, and we fly in all sorts of weather; in fact, yesterday the wind was so strong that it blew me back as I was rising, and I found it darned hard to get back to the drome.  It’s a great life, and I wouldn’t have missed it for worlds.  They are a dare-devil crowd in this corps, as all the others get weeded out very soon.  Flying soon finds them out.  I have looped the loop twice alone, and come down from 15,000 feet with my engine shut off just to see if I could do it.  It is fiendishly cold work, and it’s quite usual to come down with a piece of ice clinging to your top lip.”


Punch (Melb, Vic), Thur 12 Oct 1916 (p.28):


Mr Gordon Ross-Soden, son of Mrs Ross-Soden, has attained the rank of Flight-Commander, and is permanent Instructor for Flying.  Under his instructions at present are one or two boys from the Church of England Grammar School.  Flight-Commander G. Ross-Soden has been up 15,000 feet and looped the loop three times, coming down with his engine shut off.


The Argus (Melb, Vic), Thur 2 Nov 1916 (p.9):


News has been received that Flight-Commander Gordon Ross Soden, son of Mrs Ross Soden, of Grong Grong, Toorak, has been promoted in England to be wing instructor in aerial gunnery with the rank of captain.  He will be in charge of a flight, and his duties will include training in gunnery and the institution of new methods of practice.


Punch (Melb, Vic), Thur 9 Nov 1916 (p.26):

Fact and Rumour

Mr Gordon Ross Soden, son of Mrs Ross Soden, has been recently promoted in England.  He is now a Wing Instructor of Aerial Gunnery, and a Captain in charge of a Flight.  His new duties will include seeing that aerial gunnery is properly carried out, and also instituting new methods of practice.  He is a present at Hythe, in Kent, where “Zepps” pay hurried visits occasionally.


Flight, Mar 29, 1917 (p.306):

Flying Officers – ………………………; Temp. Capt. G. Ross-Soden, Gen. List, a Flying Officer, relinquishes the appointment of Wing Instructor in Gunnery (graded as a Flight-Com.), and reverts to the rank of Temp. 2nd Lieut.; Dec 29th.


Table Talk (Melb, Vic), Thur 23 Aug 1917 (p.30):


Flight Lieutenant Gordon Ross-Soden, who has been testing new airship guns at the French front, has been wounded in action, a leg having been injured.  His elder brother, Captain J. Ross Soden, of the Australian Army Medical Corps, sent his mother a cable saying he had been granted special leave to cross the Channel to see his wounded brother, and that he found the patient doing well.  Mrs Ross-Soden has also been informed that Sergeant Harry Ross-Soden has been transferred from the Infantry to the Artillery, where he will train for a commission.


Graphic of Australia (Melb, Vic), Fri 2 Nov 1917 (p.14):

Purely Personal

Mrs Ross Soden is leaving town early this month to spend a fortnight in the Riverina with her second son, Alfred, after which the latter will come to Melbourne to take charge of his mother’s residence, “Grong Grong,” Toorak, when she will pay a three weeks’ visit to friends in Sydney.  Her youngest son, Flight Lieutenant Gordon, is still in hospital in France.


Graphic of Australia (Melb, Vic), Fri 7 Dec 1917 (p.8):


Mrs Ross Soden has laid down her patriotic work for a spell and gone to the Riverina to cheer her second son, Alfred’s lonliness.  The latter, who can’t get a medical pass for the trenches, misses his three brothers, all in khaki, and at the front.  Flight Lieut. Gordon has just acquired the art of walking on crutches, after being shrapnelled in a running fight with six enemy airships.


The Herald (Melb, Vic), Sat 5 Jan 1918 (p.5):



Writing from the Acheson Hospital for Officers, London, Lieutenant Gordon Ross Soden, Australian Imperial Forces, gives a description of a thrilling aerial encounter in which he sustained a wound in the calf of the leg.

“With three others I was on an offensive patrol, about 50 miles over the lines,” writes Lieutenant Soden.  “Two of my comrades dropped out owing to engine trouble, leaving the leader and myself.  After about two hours we saw two Hun machines slightly below us and at once attacked them.  But before I had fired more than 20 shots eight German aeroplanes dived from a cloud about 200 feet above.  They saw only my machine and soon the air about me was thick with tracer bullets.  A bullet went through the side of my machine, cutting the wires to one of my guns, cutting one of my flying wires and going through my leg.  When the bullet struck me my leg shot out like a bar of iron and jammed my rudder.  I managed to get my foot off the rudder and then saw the Huns were preparing another dive.  I had to do some fancy work to get away, for the leg that had been hit was useless and I had to work my rudder with one foot.  However, I had the satisfaction of bringing down a Hun machine with one of my parting shots.

“I then decided that it was time to go home.  How I managed this, I do not know, but they tell me that I made a perfect landing and then went off into a silly faint owing to loss of blood.  It took me three-quarters of an hour to fly home after being hit and in that time I must have bled a good deal to cause me to faint.  Two hours after having been shot I was operated on and within 48 hours I was in England.”


Flight, Jan 17, 1918 (p.80):

Schools of Technical Training

General List: ……………………….; G.R. Soden; Nov 13th 1917.  ……………………………..


Graphic of Australia (Melb, Vic), Fri 22 Mar 1918 (p.20):


Australia is coming to the fore in every direction.  Last month some of the illustrated British weeklies published pictures representing Flight Lieutenant Gordon Ross-Soden’s running air fight with several Hun machines.  Last year the same journals featured the famous cloud battle, in which Flight Major Vivian De Crespigny, another Melbourne boy – earned his Military Medal.  Mr Gordon Ross-Soden had been promoted to crutches when he last wrote, and hopes to get back to the skies to take part in the 1918 struggle.


The Australasian (Melb, Vic), Sat 20 Apr 1918 (p.33):


Second Lieutenant Harry Ross –Soden is now at Grantham doing a machine-gun course.  Flight Lieutenant Gordon Ross-Soden had an accident at Brooklands while his brother was visiting him on leave.  His machine dived into the ground and fell upside down, pinning him underneath.  Luckily, however, he escaped with some cuts, bruises, and a severe shaking.


Graphic of Australia (Melb, Vic), Fri 3 May 1918 (p.7):


Lieut Gordon Ross Soden narrowly escaped being listed with killed last month, when testing aeroplanes in Blighty.  The machine, being defective, crashed to the ground, after rising a considerable height in the air.  Fortunately the young aviator escaped with no more serious result than shock and minor injuries.  His brother, Lieut Harry Ross sodden, who was on the eve of his return to the front, was witness of the accident.  Medical Captain Jack, the eldest of the khakied trio, has sent along a message saying “All’s well,” after being twice blown out of the Aussie trenches.


The Bulletin Vo.39 No.1995, 9 May 1918 (p.20):

Flight-Lieut Gordon Ross-Soden had hardly hopped back to khaki after recovering from war injuries when he was put on to the sick list again by a defective plane.  Young Gordon had been given a machine-testing job as light employment suitable for a flying convalescent.  When the last mail left he was still too sore to go aloft.


War Services Old Melburnians 1914-18, 16th May 1918 (p.204):

Letters from O.M.’s

GORDON ROSS SODEN writes: “I have now got a nice job testing at the Brooklands Aircraft Aeroplane [sic - Acceptance] Park; in fact I am in charge of the testing.  I spent nine months ‘straffing’ the wily Hun, but he got me at last.  I tried to be too clever and took on eight, but one of them got me through the knee.  I had the satisfaction of bringing him down immediately after, but had to beetle off from the other seven, as I was about 50 miles over their lines.  On my way home I ran into another six, but evaded them.  I don’t remember crossing the lines, but I got back to my own aerodrome, on which I must have landed, for when I woke up they were pumping salt water into me to take the place of the blood I had lost.  The peculiar part was the bullet had cut a Bowden wire which it threaded through my leg like a needle, and cut an artery.  Since I came out of hospital I ran into HAROLD LUXTON and his wife in London.  He had a crash flying, and cut his face very badly.  He had been some months with the R.F.C.  I have met HARRY several times in town; he is now doing some course at Cambridge.  Jack has gone to France as M.O. to one of the Australian base depots.  Met A. COLE in the Regent’s Palace the other day, also JIM STEWART, who has one hand useless, which is bad luck.  Best wishes to the old School.”


Punch (Melb, Vic), Thur 16 May 1918 (p.11):


Amongst the young Australians distinguishing themselves abroad is Commander Gordon Ross-Soden, R.F.C.  He has charge of the testing of all new machines, and another Melbourne boy has written, “We went to X.Y.Z., where there were seventy new machines to be tested.  Gordon had to do all these himself, as the other test pilot had hurt his knee the previous Saturday, and will be laid up for a fortnight.  Gordon was too busy to take me up for another flight, but he did some exhibition flying in one of the machines he was testing.  I thought I had seen some good tricks done in the air with aeroplanes during my time in England, but I discovered then that I had not.  His machine was just like a n autumn leaf, blown about in the wind, rolling, tumbling, twisting, shooting up and down, chasing his own tail, spinning over and over and round and round in a most marvellous manner.  I did not think such things were possible; but now I believe he could make an aeroplane do anything he liked – even to going up by itself and coming back when he called it.  No wonder his brother-officers call him a demon, and admire him tremendously!”


Punch (Melb, Vic), Thur 13 Jun 1918 (p.28):

Fact and Rumour

Flight-Commander Gordon Ross-Soden, second son of Mrs Ross-Soden, of “Grong Grong,” Toorak, has established a record at Weybridge Park by testing and passing 130 aeroplanes in a month.  This he did alone, as his assistant was in hospital with an injured leg.  It meant that the young Australian spent nearly the whole day in the air.  His brother, Dr. J. Ross-Sodden, is in the middle of the big offensive, working nearly twenty-four hours a day.


Punch (Melb, Vic), Thur 4 Jul 1918 (p.26):

Fact and Rumour

A cable has just been received by Mrs Ross Soden of “Grong Grong,” Toorak, announcing the marriage of her fourth son, Captain Gordon Ross Soden, to Miss Dorothy George.  The ceremony was celebrated on 15th June, in London.  The bride comes of a very old family.  Her mother resides in Glasgow, and her father was, when alive, a Civil Engineer in the British Navy.  Her brothers, British Naval Officers, are all on active service, and she is a niece of Admiral Saunders, also on active service.  The bride has been doing war work in London since the beginning of the war.  They have been engaged for some time.


Graphic of Australia (Melb, Vic), Thur 11 Jul 1918 (p.6):


Mrs Ross Soden is in the seventh heaven of delight over her newly-established dignity as a mother-in-law.  Last mail her youngest son, Flight-Lieut Gordon Ross Soden, wrote saying he proposed to add a wife to the family tree, a Scottish girl, Miss Dorothy George, whose late father was a civil engineer to the Royal Navy.  The ceremony happened on June 15, and Mrs Ross Soden coo-eed back joyous congratulations.  Last week a cable drifted in saying the knot had been tied in Blighty, where the bride had been war-working when she met her fate in the Anglo-Australian officer.


Table Talk (Melb, Vic), Thur 18 Jul 1918 (p.34):


Mrs Ross Soden, of Toorak, Melbourne, who is a frequent visitor to Sydney, recently received news of the marriage of her son, Captain Gordon Ross Soden, to Miss Dorothy George, a daughter of Mrs George, of Glasgow.  The bridegroom is a flight commander in the Royal Corps, and while on furlough in Scotland claimed his bride.


Flight, Aug 22, 1918 (p.949):

The Royal Air Force

Flying Branch

Lieuts., to be Temp. Capts. whilst employed as Capts: ……………; G. Ross-Soden, ………; Aug 4th.


War Services Old Melburnians 1914-18, (p.364):

War Service Particulars

G. ROSS-SODEN went to England and joined R.A.S.C. on 1st October 1915.  After service in England he transferred to R.F.C. in which he obtained his commission.  He arrived in France on 7th November 1916 and served there till August 1917 being promoted to Captain on 8th February 1917.  On 2nd August 1917 he was wounded in left leg and was invalided to hospital in England for 10 weeks.  On 20th October 1917 he was appointed Chief Test Pilot at Brooklands until 10th January 1918 when he formed Acceptance Park at Manchester.  He was demobilised and returned to Australia on 25th October 1919.


The Australasian (Melb, Vic), Sat 8 Feb 1919 (p.32):


Mrs Ross Soden, Grong Grong, Toorak, has received a cable message from her youngest son (Captain Gordon Ross Soden, of the Royal Flying Corps) stating that he and his English bride intend leaving this month for Australia.  Captain J. Ross Soden, A.A.M.C., expects to remain in England until after demobalisation.  Mr Harry Ross Soden, A.I.F., is with the army of occupation.


The Australasian (Melb, Vic), Sat 23 Aug 1919 (p.43):


Mrs Ross Soden returned to Grong Grong, Toorak, last week, after having spent five months with her son Alfred, at New Park, Morumbah, N.S.W.  Mr A. Ross Soden accompanied her home, so that he might meet his brother, who with his English bride arrived on August 18 by the Norman.  Captain Flight-Commander Gordon Ross Soden, R.F.C., was away for nearly five years, and did some record flying.  He left for New Park on the following day with his brother, in order to be there for the shearing season.  So that some of their friends might meet Captain and Mrs Gordon Ross Soden, his mother gave a small impromptu dance and musicale at her home on the evening of their arrival.  The guests included…..


The Australasian (Melb, Vic), Sat 15 Nov 1919 (p.43):


A delightful ball was given by Mrs Ross Soden at her home in Toorak on November 10, as a welcome home to two (Captain Gordon Ross Soden and Lieut. Harry Ross Soden) of her three sons who were on active service, and to meet Mrs Gordon Ross Soden, an English bride.  The hostess, with the assistance of her daughter-in-law, received in the central hall.  The ballroom presented a novel effect, gained by balloons of every hue resting against the handsome white ceiling, from each one hanging a long white thread.  By the end of the second dance they were all fastened to wrists or shoulder-straps.  Refreshments were served in the billiard-room, and supper in the dining-room, where the long table was beautifully ornamented with high groupings of exquisite pink roses.  For the first part of the evening a string band provided capital music, and shortly before midnight there arrived a “jazz” band, the members of which not only played their strange instruments but sang the music.

Mr A. Ross Soden had come from his station in New South Wales, and with his brothers seconded their mother’s efforts.  Mrs Ross Soden wore a gown of pale saxe blue Liberty satin, ………………….

Also present were…………………………………, General and Mrs Edward Tivey, Brigadier-General and Mrs H. Lloyd, …………………………………………



Table Talk (Melb, Vic), Thur 12 Feb 1920 (p.31):

Captain and Mrs Gordon Ross-Soden are in Sydney.  Mrs Ross-Sodden is in a private hospital, having recently undergone two operations.  Captain Ross-Soden is still under treatment for the knee that was injured by shrapnel.


Narandera Argus and Riverina Advertiser (NSW), Tue 21 Aug 1923 (p.2):


New Park Estate Subdivision – Persons in search of land in this district will be interested to learn that the Land Settlement Board and the Government Savings Bank (Rural Bank Department) have approved of New Park estate as being suitable for closer settlement purposes.  The Bank has issued certificates, and is prepared to advance amounts ranging from £2,250 to £3,000.  Any difference between the purchase prices and the bank’s advances will require to be paid in cash or arranged for by the purchaser with the vendor, Mr G. Ross Soden.

Six farms on this estate are to be made available, the areas ranging from 708 acres to 1,603 acres.  New Park is situated about 17 miles from Narandera.  The railway from Narandera to Tocumwal runs through the property, which is 1½ to 3½ miles from Morundah siding.  The advances range from 66 per cent to 80 per cent of the bank’s valuation of the property.


The Herald (Melb, Vic), Wed 26 Dec 1923 (p.10):

Says and Hearsays

Mr Gordon Ross Soden has sold his Riverina property “New Park,” and, with his wife, will settle for a time in Sydney.


Albury Banner and Wodonga Express (NSW), Fri 18 Jan 1924 (p.6):


A clearing sale was held at New Park on the 5th December, by Messrs Lloyd Bros., on account of Mr G Ross Soden, who has left this part for Sydney, where he intends to make his residence.


Table Talk (Melb, Vic), Thur 27 Nov 1924 (p.35):


The news of Mrs Ross Soden’s death, which has saddened her many friends here, recalls a romance of the last century, which proved how true unpretentious worth will triumph over difficulties.  Mrs Ross Soden was one of the nearest kin discovered when claimants to the Tyson’s millions were hunted for.  She arrived in Melbourne after establishing her claim, quite unknown socially, and with her young sons, and soon began to make her way into society.  She neither tried to push her way in, nor made any pretentions of any kind, but her quiet, unassuming manner soon won her many friends, and she was welcomed by the most representative of Melbourne society people.  She lived at Mandeville Hall for some time, and entertained lavishly, after which she built “Grong Grong,” Toorak, and her hospitality became more lavish.  The war years brought a cessation of private entertaining, but Mrs Ross Soden lent her lovely home for patriotic activities, and gave many entertainments in aid of the various patriotic funds.  In recent years she has not done so much entertaining, and some time ago she sold “Grong Grong,” the house that was built to her own plans.


Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW), Fri 25 Sept 1925 (p.8):


Mrs Gordon Ross Soden is Navy right through.  Being Dorothy Genge [sic], the youngest daughter of Admiral Genge, she married the youngest son of Mrs Ross Soden, of Toorak, Melbourne, in London, just before the armistice in the war.  Mrs Ross Soden’s four sons served in the war.  Gordon was a Captain in the Royal Flying Corps.  His brothers are Dr John, Harry, who has a station near Deniliquin, and Alfred (also a squatter), who has just gone home to be married.  Mrs Gordon did ambulance work during the war, driving a car between Charing Cross and Paddington.  She now works for St Margaret’s Hospital.  She and her husband are living in a house they have lately bought at Cremorne.  Mrs Ross Soden hopes to return to England in February to see her people, including her sisters, who have all married into the Navy.


Daily Mercury (Mackay, Qld), Sat 12 Dec 1925 (p.10):


There was a sensational occurrence at Cremorne (Sydney) early on Sunday morning.  Gordon Ross Soden, upon approaching his home, saw a man lurking suspiciously in front of the house.  Upon going to the rear he saw two men attempting to secure the key of the back door with a piece of wire.  The intruders attacked Soden, and a desperate struggle ensued, lasting for some minutes, during which Soden used a piece of iron piping with good effect.  Eventually the three men made off.


Smith’s Weekly (Sydney, NSW), Sat 20 Mar 1926 (p.9):



Last week, Gordon Ross-Soden, of Cremorne, filed his schedule in bankruptcy.  He was a beneficiary under the will of a well-known N.S.W. pastoralist millionaire.  Ross-Soden served with distinction as an aviator in the war, and married an English woman of good family.

On her arrival in Sydney, Dorothy Ross-Soden entered into social affairs, and made a great hit in the best circles by reason of the glittering functions which she organised.

Lavish as was his wife’s mode of entertaining, the husband footed the bills.

Enormous bills they were in Sydney’s luxury trade – exclusive business houses and hosteiries.

Early in 1925 the husband inherited from the estate of his mother almost £20,000.

He began to realise that the financial tide would ebb if a change of programme was not soon operating.

The crash, however, was not averted.  It duly came, and many of the expensive furnishings of “Norrit,” the beautiful home at Cremorne, were sold.  Last December the house was sold to a well-known lawyer, and realised £6250.

A luxurious apartment at Elizabeth Bay followed suit, and the pair took up residence in a Darlinghurst flat.

The statement of unsecured creditors filed in the Bankruptcy Court shows that Ross-Soden owes dressmakers and milliners the sum of £1095, jewellers £1590, and for entertaining at one of Sydney’s high-class cafes, £50.

His own tailor’s bill amounts to only £30!

In addition, there is an overdraft of £5000 on a Melbourne bank.

The unsecured credits total £9420 18/-

Mrs Ross-Soden is now running a soda-fountain at Coogee.


The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW), Tue 20 Apr 1926 (p.6):



Examined by Mr C.F.W. Lloyd, official assignee, before the Registrar in Bankruptcy yesterday, Gordon Ross-Soden, of Elizabeth Bay-road, Sydney, whose estate was compulsorily sequestrated on February 26 last, stated that he was a beneficiary in the estate of his mother, who died in 1924, his share being about £7000.  He believed there was a little more to come.  From 1910 till 1922 he was a grazier in partnership with his brother in a property in Riverina.  He went to the war in 1914, and returned in 1919.  During the past two years he had been looking round to see what he could do in Sydney.  He had never been bankrupt before, nor assigned his estate.  In his statement of affairs he showed unsecured creditors to the amount of £9420, but that was inclusive of all his wife’s debts.  Of the amount mentioned, £5000 was owing to the Royal Bank of Australia in respect of an advance on a station property known as Newpark, at Narrandera, where he was in partnership with his brother.  The bank held the deeds of two blocks of the Newpark station property.  The cause of his bankruptcy was, principally, debts incurred by his wife without his authority or knowledge.  If it had not been for the debts incurred in that way by his wife he would have had sufficient assets to pay his liabilities.  Out of the £9420 shown in his statement of affairs roughly £3000 worth were contracted by her.  The debt of £1300 to Hardy Bros., jewellers, was contracted by her; also Farmer’s, £279; Pauline et Cie, £239 for dresses, and £273 to Pelliers for dresses.  He had a list of the debts contracted by his wife, which included: Mrs Mates, £61/19/; Poullar’s, £22/8/2; Scott and Ahern, £118; Electrolux, £17; Jacqueline, £307; David Jones, £283; Beard, Watson, £60; Marcelle, £97; Buckley and Nunn, Melbourne, £63; Lassetters, £23/1/3.  He showed Hardy Brothers at £1300 in his statement of affairs, and they had proved for £42/1/.  The balance they took as owing by his wife.

In reply to the Registrar, the bankrupt said his wife had independent means apart from him, which brought her an income of from £150 to £200 a year from shares.  She was interested in the Coogee Casino, and at the outside her income was not more than £200 a year.

To the Registrar:  There were about 6000 acres of the station property not secured to the bank; it was Freehold land, absolutely paid for, and was worth from £4/10/ to £5 an acre.  He had a half-share in that land with his brother.  Portion of the land had been sold, and his share of what remained would be about £7500.

In further reply to the official assignee, bankrupt said that after the bank was paid off its £5000 his interest in the purchase money of Newpark would be about £2500.  “I say,” continued Ross-Soden, “that my bankruptcy has been brought on by my wife’s extravagance in living, not my own.  I again honestly say that I did not know what my wife was doing.  She never consulted me in any of her dealings, but worked on the name.  She instructed people not to bother me with accounts.  Bills came in by post, and were torn up by her, and I never saw them.  She then received summonses, which she tore up, and I knew nothing about them.”

Continuing, bankrupt said that the diamond ring purchased from William Farmer and Co. in December, 1924, for £225, was a present he gave his wife before he knew she was contracting debts elsewhere.  In Hardy Brothers’ claim for £42 there was a gold cigar case for £37.  That was not for him.  His wife gave it away to someone else.  The item of the Ambassadors’ entertaining in September, 1925, for £52/8/6/ was his own.  He entertained at the Ambassadors for some months – they would give one credit for two years if necessary.  If he had been called on to pay his debts six or nine months ago he certainly could have paid them out of his share from his mother’s estate, which had since been spent.  Since November, 1924, he had had approximately £7000 from his mother’s estate.  During the last two years he had lost about £350 at the very outside on racing or betting.


Narandera Argus and Riverina Advertiser (NSW), Tue 24 Aug 1926 (p.4):


Mrs Ross-Soden’s Story

Dorothy Ida Ross-Soden, wife of Gordon Ross-Sodden, was last week examined in the Bankruptcy Court before the Registrar (Mr N.C. Lockhart).

In answer to Mr C.F.W. Lloyd, official assignee, she said she owed about £1518, and of that amount £1293 was for diamond rings and other expensive jewellery and art objects purchased on credit at Hardy Bros., Ltd., Sydney.

In February last she bought her husband’s half-interest in the Coogee Casino for £300 cash, and ran the place in partnership till April last.

“I pledged a diamond ring for £400, which I bought from Hardy Bros. for £550,” said Mrs Ross-Soden.

“There was another diamond ring, which cost £750.

“My husband bought me a fur coat for £140 guineas.

“In the last two years I’ve lost between £200 and £500 playing cards.

“At the races, during the same period, I lost about £1000.

“I never missed a meeting, and backed horses myself, but my biggest bets would be £10 to £20.”

“My own extravagance,” added Mrs Ross-Soden, “would be a cause of my bankruptcy.”

The cause of her bankruptcy, she said, was bad luck at the Coogee Casino.

Mrs Ross-Soden also said that her estate was compulsorily sequestrated on the petition of Hardy Bros., Ltd., to whom she owed £1293.


The Sun (Sydney, NSW), Thur 11 Nov 1926 (p.13):



By a kindly little action Mr G. Ross Soden recovered his general service and victory medals to-day.

Some time ago Mr Ross Soden, who was a major in the Royal Flying Corps, suffered a reversal of fortune, and among the articles parted with was a chest of drawers which, he discovered later, contained his war medals.

He had given up all hope of tracing the medals.  As he was walking along William-street to-day he saw a Digger playing a mouth organ on the street corner.

Your Medals, Sir!

Because it was “Poppy Day” he spoke to the Digger, asked how he was, and gave him his card.

The Digger, who had had both legs amputated, glanced at the card and said, “Why, I’ve got a couple of your medals here, sir!  I saw them in a pawnbroker’s window in Newtown.

“I went in and took them, telling the pawnbroker that he should not sell military medals, and I saw your name on them.”

Mr Ross Soden pocketed the medals gratefully, and the Digger has promised to go back to the pawnshop (he has forgotten the name of it) to look for the rest of the medals.


The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW), Wed 30 Mar 1927 (p.12):



In this suit Gordon Ross-Soden petitioned for a divorce from Dorothy Ida Ross-Soden (formerly George) on the ground of her adultery with one Walter Edwards (who was joined as co-respondent) between January 1, 1926, and October 20, 1926, at Kellett-street, Darlinghurst.  The marriage took place on February 18, 1919, at Plymouth, England, according to the rites of the Church of England.  A decree nisi, returnable in six months, was granted in favour of petitioner, for whom Mr S. Bloomfield appeared.  There was no appearance on behalf of respondent or co-respondent.


Truth (Sydney, NSW), Sun 3 Apr 1927 (p.14):


Dorothy Soden Confesses Her Love for Dancing-teacher Edwards



Last week in the Divorce Court he asked Mr Justice Davidson to shear asunder the marriage tie which has bound him since 1919 to Dorothy Ida Soden.

She had misconducted herself with a dancing teacher, Walter Edwards, he said, and he was there to tell his story to the judge.

Gordon Ross Soden, the man who has travelled the world over, seen dawns and sunsets in far lands, lived in a Toorak mansion, the best hotel in Sydney, and lorded it in a stately homestead at Narrandera, said that he was now selling advertising space for a living and residing at the Wembley Hotel.

His story to the court was a simple one.  There were no allusions to what he had been in the past, no reference to the state of affairs of which he had spoken in the Bankruptcy Court.

He merely said that he and his wife lived happily enough until March 23, 1926, when she left him.

“Three times I wrote to her asking her to return,” he said, “and three times she refused, and then she asked me to stop annoying her.”

In August Soden said he received the following letter from his wife: –

“Dear Gordon, – I really don’t see what use it is answering your letter as there is nothing to be said at all, except that I do not wish to come back to you ever.  You say you have proof of my infidelity to you with Bill (Edwards) so what is there for me to do but admit it.  You know there was never anyone else till I met him and he appealed to me and has meant more to me than anyone else ever could do.  I love him with all my heart and soul.  Gordon, feeling as I do I just couldn’t live with you again as I know only too well my feelings will never alter as long as he wants me.  I will never give him up.  I am sorry, Gordon, it has come to this but try and forget me.  Time heals everything, you know. – Dorothy.”





The Argus (Melb, Vic), Wed 25 Mar 1931 (p.1):


ROSS-SODEN – On the 20th March (from black water fever), at Salamoa, New Guinea, Gordon, youngest son of the late Mrs I.M. Ross-Soden, of Grong Grong, Toorak.


The Australasian (Melb, Vic), Sat 28 Mar 1931 (p.9):


Relatives in Melbourne have been advised of the death of Mr Gordon Ross-Soden, which occurred at Salamoa, New Guinea, on March 20.  Mr Ross-Soden, who was aged 42 years, was the youngest son of the late Mrs I.M. Ross-Soden, of Grong Grong, Toorak.  After having left Melbourne Grammar School he engaged in farming at Narrandera (N.S.W.).  Shortly after the outbreak of the Great War he was in England and he joined the Royal Flying Corps.  He returned to Australia after the Armistice and resumed farming at Narrandera.  Later he went to New Guinea, and for some time he was associated with Mr R. Parer’s aerial service there.



ROSS-SODEN FAMILY - Isabella and sons 1904:


ross soden family 1904.jpg



Brothers in the A.I.F.:

John: https://discoveringanzacs.naa.gov.au/browse/person/300790

Harry: https://discoveringanzacs.naa.gov.au/browse/person/300789







Mary Elizabeth Maude CHOMLEY, O.B.E.

Australian Red Cross, Prisoners of War Department, London



[Note: In some sources Miss Chomley is referred to as Elizabeth Chomley, but as most of the information available on her in the newspapers uses her first name of Mary, I have chosen to stay with that.  Photo courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.]



LONDON 1918: “Miss Mary Chomley, a daughter of the late Judge Chomley, of Melbourne, and head of the Prisoners of War Department of the Australian Red Cross.  A woman of great public spirit, Miss Chomley knows more about Australian prisoners of war than anybody else, and it is largely due to her personality and enthusiasm that our Red Cross Prisoners of War Department has earned the reputation of being not only the best-managed but the most human of any such existing organization in London.”


“By most people in Melbourne Miss Mary Chomley will be remembered as a public-spirited Australian, but to more than 3,000 men of the A.I.F., and to those civilians in London, who have seen her work as head of the prisoners of war department, she is something more than that, and not only by her unselfish devotion, but by her tact and kindliness, and her broad and human outlook, she has made for herself a unique place in their regard.  Red tape and the curt official methods which every soldier so bitterly resents had no place in her regime, and the letters which, as the sponsor for their friends at home, she wrote to these boys in captivity, did more for them, perhaps, than anyone will ever know.”


“One of our commissioners asked Quartermaster-Sergeant Edwards, of the 51st Australian Infantry Battalion, who was severely wounded, and captured in the battle of the Somme in 1916, and who has just escaped from Germany, if the Australian prisoners in Germany had any message to send home?  This is the answer.  “Please tell Miss Chomley, head of the Prisoners’ of War Department, of the Australian Red Cross, that the Australians in the German prison camps, cannot speak highly enough of her, and her work.  They cannot be grateful enough for the inexhaustible love, and sympathy, and patience, with which she and her staff, listen to all our men’s whims and fancies.”


“It wasn’t only the Australians who talked about her, all the camp did, and when there was a mail in, they’d come rushing round – English Tommies, South Africans, Frenchies, and the whole lot – to know if there were any letters from Miss Chomley.  I can tell you she was a sort of queen.”






Mary Elizabeth Maud CHOMLEY was born on the 29th of July 1871 at The Springs in Malvern, Victoria.  The first-born daughter of Arthur and Juliana CHOMLEY, she was named after her paternal grandmother.

Her parents Arthur Wolfe CHOMLEY and Juliana Charlotte HOGG had married at St John’s Church, Toorak, Victoria on the 4th September 1867, and altogether they had nine children, including two sons who died in infancy.


Arthur Wolfe CHOMLEY had been born in Wicklow, Ireland on the 4th of May 1837, and after the death of his father Francis, his mother (Mary Elizabeth nee GRIFFITHS) emigrated to Australia with her 7 sons, arriving in 1849.


Arthur, a Judge, at one time presided over the County and Supreme Courts of Victoria.

In 1889, he had the homestead ‘Dromkeen’ built at Riddle’s Creek.  It was so named, to maintain a connection with his mother’s family home in Tipperary.  This grand old homestead is now a museum that houses the ‘Dromkeen Collection of Australian Children’s Literature’.

It was at Riddle’s Creek that Mary’s mother Juliana died on the 14th of August 1896, at the age of 47.  Her father Arthur died at his home in Bruce St, Toorak on the 25th of November 1914, aged 77.






Mary was in England when she received the news of her father’s death.  She had embarked in Melbourne on the 2nd of June 1914 on the Maloja, with the intention of spending 12 months overseas.  Travelling with her were the two Grice sisters who she was acting as chaperone for.


A month after her arrival in London, war was declared, altering any plans to return home.  Early in 1915 her two youngest sisters Eileen and Aubrey joined her.


At the time of her departure from Australia Mary had been the Honorary Secretary of the Victoria League of Victoria, and well-known for her charitable and social work in Melbourne.  She had also been one of the founders and the first secretary, of the Arts and Crafts Society.


In London she did not sit still, and it was soon noted that she was working hard in the Empire’s cause; spending every morning and two afternoons a week teaching English to the Belgian refugees, while two more afternoons involved giving crochet lessons to poor women in the East End of London.


In July she was doing voluntary work at the Robert Lindsay Memorial Hospital, filling in for another Australian volunteer, Alice Fisken, while she was on holiday in Ireland for a month.  This work may have involved such tasks as kitchen and scullery duties, the mending of linen, and fetching and carrying for cooks and nurses.

Mary then crossed to France to help out at Lady Mabelle Egerton’s canteen, which was known as the Rouen Station Coffee Shop, and supplied just about everything the soldiers could wish for.  As it was kept open day and night for the convenience of the soldiers passing through, the work involved was very strenuous and so the helpers were changed every quarter.

Returning to London Mary then began work in the December as Housekeeper, superintending the domestic staff at the newly opened Princess Christian’s Hospital for Officers in Grosvenor Place.  Consisting of 25 beds and run solely by volunteers, the hospital boasted a Melbourne Ward, furnished and equipped by Mrs Susan Smith of Melbourne.


July 1916 saw the establishment of the Australian Red Cross Prisoners of War Department in London.  The initial setting up of the department was carried out by Miss Kathleen O’Connor, but as the number of prisoners of war increased, so did the workload which in turn necessitated extra staff and Mary was asked to join the organization, with the role of Superintendent / Secretary once she had grasped the details of its operation.


The main purpose of the department was to supply the prisoners with as many comforts as possible during their incarceration.  This involved the distribution of thousands of parcels throughout the war, containing food, clothing and other necessities.


As well as overseeing the department, Mary took charge of the selection of food for the food parcels, and was responsible for writing to every new prisoner of war and replying to all correspondence received from the men.  The following letter which was sent to each prisoner of war in 1917, gives a fairly good idea of the workings of the department at that time.


Extracts of a letter Mary wrote to all the prisoners of war in 1917:

“I think you would all like to know who is helping in the Prisoners of War Department, as I have no doubt that many of you will know some of them, or some members of their family, and you will feel you are being looked after by friends.

“Money Affairs – These are looked after by Mrs Mordaunt Reid, of Western Australia, whose husband has been ‘missing’ since Gallipoli, ….  She and I choose your food, so when you get something you do not like you know who is to blame.  She is helped with the accounts by Miss McCall, of Sydney, and Miss Mary Murdoch, whose father is the Commissioner of the Australian Red Cross, and is a well-known Sydney business man.  Miss Murdoch, among other duties, goes through all the P.O. and American express receipts every week, name by name, to see that no one has been omitted.  That is how we know every parcel has really gone, so if it does not reach its destination it is not our fault.

“The addresses are all kept by Miss Ruth Oliver, whose father was President of the Land Appeal Court in Sydney.  She knows all your names, numbers and addresses by heart, and goes through all your postcards each day, to see who has been moved.  The actual addressing is done by Miss Agnes Edwards – Sydney again – and a number of helpers who come two or three days a week to do it.  ………………………

Your letters that come to us are re-addressed by Mrs Kelty, wife of Dr Kelty, of Sydney, and Mrs H.R. Lysaght, of Sydney.  Miss Wagner, of Melbourne, files all the letters, and she is often complaining that I write too many!

“The clothing part is looked after by Mrs W.H. Sargood, of Geelong, Victoria, helped in the clerical part by Miss Ethel Bage, of Melbourne (whose brother went to the South Pole with Dr Mawson, and was afterwards killed at Gallipoli), and Miss Dorothea Moore, daughter of Mr W.D. Moore, of Fremantle.  This latter lady is going to look after the packing of your tobacco in future, and I hope it will be a little more satisfactory than it has been in the past.  The addressing of these parcels is done by Mrs Tom Skene, of Eynesbury, Melton, Victoria, and Lady Bosanquet, whose husband used to be Governor of South Australia.  The actual packing of the clothes is done by the two Miss Fiskens, of Melbourne, and Lady Howse, wife of General Sir Neville Howse, V.C., whom many of you will know.  The only man who is allowed to help in this department is Pte Rowlands, of Ballarat, who is always called Rowley, and I daresay is known to many of you by that name.

“Miss O’Connor, daughter of Mr Justice O’Connor, of the High Court in Australia, who was in my place at first, has now gone over to nurse in a French military hospital.  Lastly, I must not omit a very important lady, who I am afraid will be very tired of typing out this long letter, Mrs Pegler, who helps me with the correspondence.”


At some stage during the war Mary’s sister Eileen was also involved in work at the POW Department.

In spite of her enormous work load at the department, Mary still managed to find time to look into the arts and crafts work going on in England, and in 1917 wrote an account to the Vice President of the Arts and Crafts Society in Australia.


Mary’s work for the Australian prisoners of war did not go unnoticed, and in March 1918 she received the honour of the Order of the British Empire (O.B.E.).

In the second half of 1918 a committee was formed in London to gather information on all the British soldiers who had survived their captivity in Asia Minor.  This was called the Prisoners in Turkey Committee, and Mary was Australia’s representative on the executive.


Long before the signing of the armistice as the first of the prisoners began to be released from Germany, Mary, who was also the head of the Welfare Committee of the Returned Australian Prisoners of War, was there to meet them as they arrived in London.  The tasks of the department were then extended to include caring for the new arrivals, entertaining them to tea, finding them suitable accommodation, and generally spoiling them in every way possible.  Later as they returned in large contingents and were placed in concentration camps in Yorkshire and Dover, Mary also made a point of visiting the camps.


On the eve of closing the department in April 1919 the Red Cross gave Mary a party; a small affair, with her co-workers and a few repatriated Officers still in London, in attendance.  As a token of affection, her staff presented her with a bunch of roses and carnations, a little leather case containing their signatures, and a silver salver.












With the war over Mary took on a new task, and temporarily leaving her sisters at their flat at 20A Oakley St, Chelsea, she boarded the Ulysses for return to Australia.  She was travelling as the guide to two Englishwomen, Mrs M.T. Simm and Miss Pughe Jones, as part of a delegation for the Overseas Settlement Committee formed by the British Government.  The object of their mission was to inquire into employment opportunities for English women desirous of emigrating to Australia, and report back to the government on their findings.


Arriving on the 2nd of September 1919, they then spent the following 5 to 6 months visiting both city and country towns throughout the country.  During this time Mary of course was also in great demand to talk to various groups about her work during the war.  On one occasion in the October in Brisbane during an informal chat with members at a Red Cross Society meeting, she referred to the Prisoners of War Fund, stating that “parcels were sent to about 3200 Australian prisoners in Germany, 150 in Turkey, and three in Austria.  Six parcels a month had been sent to each individual in Germany and one a fortnight to each man in Turkey, …...  She mentioned the large amount of detail and the accuracy with which the parcels were despatched, and followed the owner round from one camp to another.”


Before leaving Sydney in the November, Mary visited the Soldiers’ Club on the afternoon of the 18th, to bid farewell to all returned prisoners of war in attendance.

Before she could leave their shore, Western Australian Prisoners of War also arranged a social gathering for Mary, at which she was presented with an illuminated address full of gratitude, which included the words: “In our adversity you came to us radiating sunshine and bestowing gifts that were always treasured, so hope and courage were born anew.”

Their mission completed, Mary and her delegation embarked at Fremantle on the Indarra on the 24th of February 1920 for their return to England.


Later that year the three Chomley sisters crossed to France, visiting the battlefields as well as spending some time down south.  In the July and August of 1921 Mary travelled to Normandy and Touraine, while her two sisters were visiting Wales.  1922 saw Mary elected to the executive of the Society for Overseas Settlement of British Women.  Much of 1923 was spent travelling on the Continent as well as England.  During these travels Mary continued her long-held habit of sketching, and recorded scenes of interest in water colour, amassing quite a portfolio of paintings.


In 1925 she paid another visit to Australia, during which time she held an exhibition of her water colour sketches in the November.  The funds raised from the sales totaled £130 which was donated to the Bush Library run by the Victoria League.  It was noted by one critic that Mary “cannot lay claim to great ability, but as notes of travel these sketches have their charm.  Without being a strong draughtsman, she is neat and precise, and manages her perspective sufficiently well.  Her color is not strong, but she puts it on freshly and without pretension.”


In reference to one of her paintings Mary herself commented: “I did that glimpse of Paris from the window of a hospital run during the war by two Australian women, Dr Helen Sexton and the late Mrs William Smith.  “They dubbed me ‘The Committee of Amusement,’ I used to go round sketching the men.  I remember doing one good-looking young fellow.  I was rather pleased with the result, and couldn’t understand why there was a shadow of disappointment across his face.  Then suddenly I realized I had left out his medal.  “One moment, monsieur,” I said, “I’ve forgotten your medal.”


On the 17th of December 1925 Mary was honoured at a luncheon party at the Oriental, given by ex-prisoners of war to thank her for all she did for them during their imprisonment.

With her departure imminent, her sister Mrs Julie Morris held a farewell party for her in February 1926 which consisted of many old family friends.  Mary also made time to visit Elcho to see the Government Training Farm, before she eventually boarded the Ascanius on the 27th for her return to England, arriving back in Liverpool on the 15th of April.


By 1927 the three sisters had moved from their flat in Chelsea to Green Gates in Abbey Rd, Chertsey, where they remained until their departure for Australia at the end of 1933.


During these years Mary was involved in the branch of the women’s institute in nearby Virginia Water, and the chairman of the local women’s section of the British Legion.  She also maintained her involvement with the Victoria League, of which she was a committee member, and was well known for extending hospitality to visiting Australians by putting them in touch with interesting people and places, and organizing group outings for them to keep their cost of travel low.

Early in 1933 Mary presented the idea that the Victoria League’s contribution to the forthcoming Melbourne Centenary celebrations, should take the form of an Early Victorian exhibition.  The King and Queen consented to loan some of Queen Victoria’s personal relics for the exhibition, and before leaving London, Mary visited the Victoria rooms at Kensington Palace with the Dowager Countess of Jersey, who founded the Victoria League, to choose these.


Together with her sisters Eileen and Aubrey, Mary departed England on the 1st of December 1933, travelling on the Mongolia for their return home to Australia.  She carried with her a Centenary gift for the State of Victoria, which at her suggestion was being presented by the head of a London Bookseller.  This was an ancient and historically valuable Geneva version of the Bible, believed to have been published in 1589.


Arriving in Melbourne on the 8th January 1934, the sisters at first stayed at the South Yarra home of Lady Moore, before taking a flat in Punt Hill, South Yarra, while they waited to take possession of the house they had bought at 9 Washington St, Toorak.  During March Mary was hospitalized with a serious attack of influenza, and the sisters finally moved into their new home in the May.


Mary’s ambition had been to hold the Victorian exhibition in a house of early Victorian character, but the search having proved fruitless, it was opened in a hall of the Commonwealth Bank building in Collins Street on the 8th of October.  A great success, attracting thousands of visitors, the closing date was extended from the 6th of November to the 17th, with the proceeds benefiting the Victoria League’s bush library.


The following year Mary organized another exhibition entitled “Fair and Famous Women” which was opened on the 26th of August in the Scots Church Hall in Russell Street.  On display were more than 400 portraits, most of them belonging to Mary, and the funds raised went towards the restoration of the St Katherine Church at St Helena.


The three sisters travelled to England again in 1939, leaving Melbourne on the 8th February aboard the Wanganella via New Zealand, where they transshipped to the Tamaroa on the 24th.  Planning to be away for some time, Mary had resigned her position on the committee of the Arts and Crafts Society of Victoria.  Their address in England was listed as St Mary’s Home for Waifs and Strays in Newbury, Berkshire, and it can only be assumed that they were doing their bit to help the children.


Once again Mary was in England when war was declared in the September.  This time however, she didn’t remain there during the war years, but instead the sisters flew home, arriving early in January 1940, and settled back into their home in Toorak.

One of the last gatherings Mary attended before leaving England was the opening of the Victoria League's Club for Overseas Soldiers, and she noted that it would make an ideal "home away from home" for men on leave.


Settling into war work once again, Mary loaned her reproductions of masterpieces to the French Red Cross for an exhibition in May, to raise money to assist refugees from Alsace.  Then in June she was busy with Victoria League work.  Following the decision to set up a Hospitality Bureau at Air Force House, she was supervising the compilation of a list of 500 hostesses who were willing to provide hospitality to inter-State and country members of the R.A.A.F.


She also found time on the 20th of June to speak at a Victoria League Club tea on “A Trip by Air From England During War-time.”

Not neglecting the Arts and Crafts Society, she was responsible for the arrangement of the programme for their National Costumes exhibition held in September.


On the second anniversary (1942) of the opening of the Victoria League hospitality bureau at Air Force House, it was noted that 115,000 men had so far received hospitality through the bureau, an average of 1200 men each week.  Under Mary’s direction as chairwoman, 27 League members were working voluntarily at the bureau on three shifts a day, seven days a week.  Over this time many kinds of hospitality had been arranged, including dances, picture and theatre parties, and week-end hospitality in both suburban and country homes.  They also assisted in finding homes for the wives of interstate men, and even arranging hospital accommodation when needed.


At wars end, Mary stated that almost half a million Air Force men had been provided with entertainment, and often a holiday or rest in a home during their brief periods of leave in Melbourne.  She also commented that: “The hostesses were wonderful.  They took in boys, often overcrowding their homes, and at great inconvenience to themselves.  In spite of food difficulties, and the many inconveniences of wartime living, they continued to billet boys.”

When the Hospitality Bureau closed its doors on the 1st of December 1945, Mary was ill in the Mercy Hospital.


During the remaining forties and fifties, Mary continued her association with her “Twins” as she called them, The Victoria League and the Arts and Crafts Society, and she and her sisters remained in their home in Washington Street, Toorak.  It was at their home on the 21st of July 1960 that Mary passed away at the age of 88, and was buried the following day in the family plot at the St Kilda Cemetery.







The Argus (Melb, Vic), Thur 5 Sept 1867 (p.4):


CHOMLEY – HOGG – On the 4th inst., at St John’s Church, Toorak, by the Rev Walter Fellows, B.A., Arthur Wolfe Chomley, Esq., to Juliana Charlotte, eldest daughter of Edward James Hogg, Esq.



The Australasian (Melb, Vic), Sat 5 Aug 1871 (p.27):


CHOMLEY – On the 29th ult., at the Springs, Malvern, the wife of A.W. Chomley of a daughter.



Critic (Adelaide, SA), Wed 9 Sept 1908 (p.16):

Concerning Melbourne

Victoria’s great official reception to Rear-Admiral Sperry and the American Fleet at the Exhibition will long be remembered by those who witnessed the imposing spectacle.


Lady Gibson-Carmichael held a reception on Saturday evening after the dinner to the admirals and officers at the State Government House, and there has been much heart-burning over the same, for many had called and left their names, but few were chosen.


Miss Mary Chomley (daughter of the handsome judge) wore an empire gown of grey chiffon satin.  Miss Chomley is tall and elegant, and is recognized as the most intelligent and highly cultured of all Melbourne’s society belles.  ……………………….



The Newsletter: an Australian Paper for Australian People (Syd, NSW), Sat 26 Sept 1908 (p.4):

Who’s Who To-day

A five-woman picture show at B…y’s rooms this week is a favourite rendezvous of art lovers…………………..

Miss Mary Chomley, of Melbourne also contributed an interesting sketch of the Melbourne Exhibition, but as she modestly refrains from placing her name on the list of the catalogue, and leaves her meritorious little picture unpriced, it must be concluded that she desires no …….



Weekly Times (Melb, Vic), Sat 28 Aug 1909 (p.10-11):




Miss Mary Chomley, daughter of Judge Chomley, is secretary of the Victorian branch.

In an interesting talk Miss Chomley told us something of the aims and work of the organization.

The League’s History

“The Victoria League,” she said, “is Imperial in sentiment, but non-jingoistic.  It aims at fostering a friendly feeling between Britons all over the world.  The headquarters of the League are in London.  Lady Jersey is its president, and, I think, founder.  ……………

Our Arts and Crafts

Miss Chomley is herself Australian, a sterling nationalist as well as a strenuous Imperialist.

She was secretary of the Affiliated Arts section of the Women’s Exhibition, and a prime mover for, and first secretary of, the newly established Arts and Crafts Society of Victoria.

“I am very greatly interested in the society,” she said; “it aims at raising the standard of design, and in rousing public interest in all the hand-works on which taste and skill are expended – in fact, at founding a school of Australian design.  …………………..




Punch (Melb, Vic), Thur 7 Oct 1909 (p.32):



Thanks were accorded to Miss M.E. Chomley for honorary secretarial work so ably and cheerfully carried on for the League since its inception; ……………………..



The Ballarat Star (Vic), Sat 19 Mar 1910 (p.2):



A meeting of the Ballarat branch of the Victoria League of Victoria was held at the City Hall this week, ………………….

An offer by Miss M.E. Chomley of the loan of lantern slides of some of the most beautiful spots in England, Ireland, and Scotland, was gladly accepted, and the secretary was desired to ask the aid of Mr F.J. Martell, in arranging a picture talk.  …………….



Geelong Advertiser (Vic), Mon 21 Nov 1910 (p.3):


Miss M.E. Chomley, who has taken an active part in the affairs of the Victoria League and the Arts and Crafts Society, leaves for India and Egypt by the R.M.S. Moldavia to-morrow.  The members of the Arts and Crafts Society presented her with a travelling bag and rug.



The Mercury (Hobart) Tue 10 Dec 1912:


The monthly meeting of the executive of the Victoria League was held yesterday, …….


Mrs Stourton referred to the visit of Miss Chomley, who is bringing 100 naval slides to be shown in Tasmania, …………………………………………………



The Herald (Melb, Vic), Fri 9 May 1913 (p.7):



Miss M.E. Chomley, secretary of the Victoria League in Victoria, wrote to the Minister for Defence recently offering on behalf of the executive committee a silver cup to be a shooting trophy for Senior Cadets.  The executive committee desired that the trophy should be regarded as a perpetual challenge cup, to be held by the Senior Cadets in that area which produces the best results in the annual musketry course in the training year.

Senator Pearce has now replied, accepting the offer, adopting the suggestion, and thanking the league for its sympathy with the universal training movement.



Leader (Melb, Vic), Sat 16 Aug 1913 (p.50):


During the progress of the annual meeting of the Victoria League on Tuesday at the Masonic Hall, Miss M.E. Chomley, the honorary secretary, had the misfortune to slip on the polished dancing floor.  Miss Chomley fell heavily, and struck her head against a chair.  Her face was badly cut, and she received a severe shaking, which necessitated her leaving for her home at once.



Punch (Melb, Vic), Thur 1 Jan 1914 (p.26):


Much interest is being evinced in a Loan Exhibition of old furniture, silver, china, etc., which is to be held at Government House in April, 1914.  Rooms representing different periods will be arranged, …………………….

A strong committee of management has been formed, …………….., and Miss M.E. Chomley as organizing secretary for this highly interesting educative exhibition.



Public Opinion (Melb, Vic), Thur 29 Jan 1914 (p.8):


The Victoria League of Victoria, which is a younger sister, so to speak, of the English League of Victoria, is like it, a patriotic association, whose aim is to promote a friendly understanding between Britons the wide world over, and to stimulate in this portion of the British Empire an interest in her own history, as well as that of the other parts of the British Dominions.  The English Victoria League was founded in 1901 in memory of her late Majesty Queen Victoria.  The Victoria League of Victoria was founded some seven years later, on Empire Day, 1908.  …………………………………..

Much of the success of the League must be attributed to its honorary secretary, Miss Chomley, who, with her ability, sound judgement and charm of manner, is an ideal secretary for an organization with so many different departments and varied interests.




The Argus, Tue 3 Mar 1914 (p.7):

[group photo including Mary Chomley – captioned: BIG GUN TROPHY FOR H.M.A.S. AUSTRALIA – PRESENTATION BY THE VICTORIA LEAGUE]




The Herald (Melb, Vic), Tue 24 Mar 1914 (p.5):



Lady Helen Munro-Ferguson is on the executive of the Victoria League, and in connection with that spoke very cordially of the hon. secretary of the Victoria branch of the Victoria League, Miss Mary Chomley, whom she met when Miss Chomley was in England with her father a year ago.



The Herald (Melb, Vic), Tue 19 May 1914 (p.4):


Miss M. Chomley, who is so closely associated with the Victoria League and Arts and Crafts movement, leaves for England next month.



The Daily News (Perth, WA), Fri 12 Jun 1914 (p.5):

Mainly About People

Miss Mary Chomley, of Melbourne, passed through Fremantle last Monday by the Maloja on her way to spend 12 months travelling in Europe.  Miss Chomley is the hon. secretary of the Victoria League of Victoria.



The Australasian (Melb, Vic), Sat 6 Feb 1915 (p.33):


Miss Mary Chomley, who received the news of her father’s death some weeks ago, has decided to remain in England for some time, and expects her sisters, Miss Aileen and Miss Audrey Chomley, will come from Melbourne to join her.



The Daily Telegraph (Syd, NSW), Wed 10 Mar 1915 (p.6):


Miss M.E. Chomley, daughter of the late Judge Chomley, has bought one of the Dyson cartoons at the Leicester Gallery in London.  Miss Chomley was in charge of the art section of the Women’s Work Exhibition in Melbourne, and was also one of the founders of the Melbourne Arts and Crafts’ Society.



The Prahran Telegraph (Vic), Sat 13 Mar 1915 (p.4):


Miss Mary Chomley has been staying at Ilfracombe, Devon.  On her return to London she will be at 10 Holland Park-road, W.



The Daily Telegraph (Syd, NSW), Wed 12 May 1915 (p.6):


News of an interesting Australian wedding reaches us from England.  The bride is Miss May Grice, the elder daughter of the late Mr and Mrs Richard Grice.  She left Australia about a year ago, with her sister and Miss Mary Chomley, who was acting as chaperone to the two girls.  ……………………………

Miss Chomley and her charges are living in a flat at Knightsbridge, where they will presently be joined by Miss Audrey and Miss Eileen Chomley.



The Daily News (Perth, WA), Fri 28 May 1915 (p.3):

Mainly About People

A Melbourne lady writes that among the many well-known Melbourne women at present living in London who are working hard in the Empire’s cause is Miss Mary Chomley, eldest daughter of the late Judge Chomley.  Every morning and two afternoons weekly she teaches English to the Belgian refugees, to whom she is devoted, and other two afternoons are spent in giving crochet lessons to poor women in the East End of London.



The Sun (Syd, NSW), Sun 27 Jun 1915 (p.8):


Miss Mary Chomley, who recently returned to London after a motor trip through Devonshire, is now staying at the Cadogan Hotel, Sloane-street.



The Australasian (Melb, Vic), Sat 21 Aug 1915 (p.46):


Miss Alice Fisken, who has been working for a long time in the Robert Lindsay Memorial Hospital, has gone to Ireland to stay with her sister, Mrs Richard O’Hara.

Miss Mary Chomley is taking her place for a time.



The Australasian (Melb, Vic), Sat 4 Sept 1915 (p.46:


Miss Mary Chomley is working at the Robert Lindsay Memorial Hospital, in place of Miss Fisken, who is on holiday in Ireland.  Voluntary workers in hospitals of this type very often work most extraordinarily hard, and frequently have to undertake kitchen and scullery duties, as well as the mending of linen, and fetching and carrying for cooks and nurses.



The Australasian (Melb, Vic), Sat 18 Sept 1915 (p.46):


Miss Mary Chomley, who has been working at the Robert Lindsay Memorial Hospital for a month, was presented, on her departure, with a fitted bag by the matron and staff.  She leaves for France shortly to help at Lady Mabelle Egerton’s canteen.



Table Talk (Melb, Vic), Thur 23 Sept 1915 (p.30):


Miss Mary Chomley, who has been working in British military hospitals, has now gone to France.  Until last month Miss Chomley was assisting at the Robert Lindsay Memorial Hospital in London, over which Mrs Lindsay (who was well known in Australia as Miss Mary Clarke, and who even as a girl followed in the footsteps of her mother, Janet Lady Clarke, as a philanthropist) presided.  Miss Chomley is now working at Lady Mabelle Egerton’s canteen at Rouen.



The Prahran Telegraph (Vic), Sat 23 Oct 1915 (p.6):


Victorians in Europe

On leaving the Robert Lindsay Hospital, where she has been working, Miss Mary Chomley was presented by the matron and nursing staff with a handsomely fitted hand-bag as a souvenir.



The Sun (Syd, NSW), Sun 5 Dec 1915 (p.19):


Miss Mary Chomley, of Sydney, has returned from Paris, and has joined her sisters at their flat, at Oakley-street, Chelsea, England.



The Herald (Melb, Vic), Tue 4 Jan 1916 (4):


Miss Mary Chomley and her sisters have taken a flat in London for a lengthy period.  Miss Chomley is housekeeping at one of the Voluntary Aid Detachment Hospitals.



The Australasian (Melb, Vic), Sat 15 Jan 1916 (p.38):


Mrs William Smith is taking a great interest, and helping largely in the hospital for officers in Grosvenor street, which is opened this week.  The whole staff is composed of voluntary workers.  Miss Mary Chomley is superintending the domestic staff, and Mrs Wood Hanbury, formerly in the Hon. Mrs Robert Lindsay’s hospital, is the matron.



Table Talk (Melb, Vic), Thur 20 Jan 1916 (p.30):


Miss Mary Chomley is superintending the domestic staff of the hospital for Australian officers, Grosvenor-place, London.  Mrs William Smith is one of the principal supporters of this hospital.  It was opened with twenty-five beds, but can be enlarged when necessary.  The whole hospital is staffed by voluntary workers, with Mrs Wood Hanbury – who was formerly in Mrs Robert Lindsay’s hospital – as matron.



Punch (Melb, Vic), Thur 17 Feb 1916 (p.32):


Queen Mary is constantly “on the go” visiting various non-working centres, personally organizing, dispensing tea to Australian wounded soldiers and giving valuable woman’s advice.  On the occasion of a recent visit to the Hospital for Officers in Grosvenor Place – of which Miss Mary Chomley is the leading spirit and Mrs Wood Hanbury the Matron – Her Majesty was immensely impressed with the equipment and management of the Melbourne Ward, I hear, and suggested that the arms of Victoria should be emblazoned over the fireplace as the central decoration.



The Herald (Melb, Vic), Tue 16 May 1916 (p.4):


Miss Aubrey Chomley is one of the busy helpers at the Chelsea Hospital, where she teaches wounded soldiers to make raffia baskets.  Miss A. and L. Fisken are doing similar work teaching handicrafts so that disabled soldiers may be able to help themselves.



The Australasian (Melb, Vic), Sat 26 Aug 1916 (p.38):


LONDON, July 13

Miss Eilleen Chomley, daughter of the late Judge Chomley, who has been rather seriously ill lately, is better.  She and her sisters, Miss Mary Chomley and Miss Aubrey Chomley, have taken a flat in Chelsea.



The Sun (Syd, NSW), Sun 12 Nov 1916 (p.15):

Social Gossip

Miss Mary Chomley is now assisting Miss Kathleen O’Connor at the Australian branch of the Red Cross Society, dealing chiefly with the work of alleviating the sufferings of prisoners of war in Germany.



The Northern Miner (Charters Towers, Qld), Wed 22 Nov 1916 (p.2):



Messrs N.E. Brookes and F.R. Fairbairn have forwarded the following report………….

The prisoners of war in Germany have greatly increased, and we now have particulars of 500.  This necessitates considerably increasing our staff.  Miss Kathleen O’Connor had organized this branch, and we have much pleasure in informing you that we are very pleased with the able manner in which she now has it running.  However, the work has grown to such large proportions that we decided, after consultation with her, to secure a superintendent to relieve Miss O’Connor of the responsibility.  We have secured Miss Mary Chomley, who has made a start to grasp the details, and will in future superintend this branch.  We already have 13 prisoners of war adopted.  Mr Smart, who controls the Publicity Department of the High Commissioner’s Office, appealed, through the British press, for adopters this week, and, judging from the applications already received, the appeal is meeting with great response.  ……………………….




Southern Times (Bunbury, WA), Sat 30 Dec 1916 (p.5):

A Bunbury Boy


The following correspondence which Mr J.T. Sinclair has received from Miss M.E. Chomley, the secretary of the Australian Prisoners of War Branch of the British Red Cross Society, serves to show in a very practical way what the Society is doing to help prisoners of war in the enemy’s country, as well as assisting in so many other noble directions: –

“The British Prisoners of War Help Committee has sent your letter to me, and I have pleasure in sending you herewith a slip to show you what we are doing for our soldiers in Germany.  We are just sending off extra parcels of some nice food for Christmas.  I presume the British Committee sent on the £2 you speak of.  If you desire to send extra parcels of food to your son we will be very glad to act as you agents, and carry out any instructions you send.  We have been sending parcels of food, bread and cheese, since August 30th, of which he has acknowledged the first four.  Please let me know if there is anything I can do.  You can write frequently, and if you send the letters to us; we will forward them to his latest address.”

Australian Prisoners of War Department.

Parcel of food sent weekly from the Haymarket.  Price about 5/8.  Bread and cheese sent weekly from Berne, Switzerland.  100 cigarettes and ½lb of tobacco sent fortnightly from the Haymarket Stores.  A large parcel of warm underclothing, toilet necessaries, cigarettes and tobacco sent from our own Red Cross Stores, as soon as we receive a new name.  When we receive the measurements from headquarters a complete outfit, including uniform, boots, and great-coat.  Blankets are forbidden for the moment.




The Armidale Chronicle (NSW), Wed 24 Jan 1917 (p.2):

Prisoners of War

The following is reprinted from the “Sydney Morning Herald”: –

Miss M.E. Chomley, secretary of the Australian Prisoners of War Department of the Red Cross Society, reports that there are now 840 Australian prisoners of war in Germany, scattered over 25 different camps.  Of these men 55 are in places so close to the war zone that parcels cannot be sent to them.  This is to be regretted, as the men were often kept there because they were wounded, and could not be sent on to the ordinary camps.  The other men were being sent parcels of food, valued between 5/6 and 6/ weekly.  Seventy-seven of the men were in hospital, and parcels were also sent to them.  Every war prisoner was sent a first parcel without delay, from the Red Cross stores, containing two sets of warm underclothing, handkerchiefs, towels, toilet necessaries, pipe and tobacco, and cigarettes, etc.  Later on a complete outfit, including a great coat, uniform, and boots is sent.  The Misses Fisken, who do the whole of the packing of the clothes, report that every man has now been sent one, and in many cases, two, of these parcels, so that they are all supplied with boots and shoes, and underwear.  In all, 1080 parcels of clothing have been packed since the Misses Fisken undertook the work.

There has been great difficulty in ascertaining the exact number of men interned, or getting any definite information about them.  Miss Chomley reports, as far as can be learnt at present, there are 108 men at the different prison camps in Turkey and Asia Minor, and their condition, though doubtless uncomfortable and hard in the extreme, is not as bad as in Germany.  Food of a kind seems to be plentiful, and as many of the men are in working camps on the Bagdad railway, where they are paid 1/4 a day, they are able to live and maintain their health.

Since the beginning of October a parcel of food value 7/6 and tobacco and cigarettes, has been sent every fortnight to each of the Australian prisoners.  It is not possible to receive acknowledgements from prisoners in Turkey under four or five months, but from recent reports the parcels sent to prisoners seem to have arrived more regularly than formerly.




Table Talk (Melb, Vic), Thur 26 Apr 1917 (p.25):


Lady Creswell, vice-president, gave an account of the arts and crafts work in England.  This was from a letter written by Miss Mary Chomley, who, in spite of her arduous war work, has not lost her interest in arts and crafts.  When the society was started here Miss Chomley consented to act as secretary and to her efforts it was largely due that the society took root at all and became firmly established.  Miss Chomley is of opinion that the war had not been detrimental to advancement of the arts and crafts movement, and goes on to tell of the recent big exhibition of the work, and particularly commends the chinaware and pottery.



The Sydney Morning Herald, Wed 13 Jun 1917 (p.5):


The Red Cross has received a letter from a prisoner of war at Schneidemuhl, in Germany, expressing heartfelt gratitude for the comforts forwarded from Sydney.  The following is an extract: - “Well, mother, I want you all at home to advertise as much as possible the splendid way the Red Cross are looking after and providing for us.  I would like you to write to Miss Chomley, of the prisoners of war department.  Australian B.R.C.S., and tell her of the way we all appreciate what she and her assistants are doing for us.  I pray God that it will not be long before we can show our appreciation in a better way for all that has been done for us.”



Daylesford Advocate, Yandoit, etc. (Vic), Tue 9 Oct 1917 (p.4):


Miss Lawry, of Fraser street, Daylesford, has kindly forwarded us for publication the following letter which she received from the Secretary of the Prisoners’ Department of the Australian Red Cross Society, 54 Victoria street, London: –

Dear Miss Lawry – Thank you very much for your letter of the 27th May.  As extra parcels have now been stopped, I think the best way is to send the money to the Red Cross in Australia, as they keep us supplied.  I am glad you brother (3296. Spr W.S. Lawry) is well supplied with clothes and writes so nicely about oud for work.  I had a letter from him direct not very long ago.  It is a comfort to know that at present they are having really nice weather; it makes them all feel very much more comfortable.  The only way you could send a little personal gift to your brother would be by sending a few shillings for books, if you think he would care for them.  They are not allowed to see newspapers or magazines, and lots of men, who are perhaps not great readers at ordinary times, would be glad to have something to take their minds off their present circumstances.  I have begun suggesting this to a great many of the relatives, as excellent books can be bought in London for 9d or 1s 3d, and a few shillings spent like this might keep him happy and interested for weeks.  If you or any other relatives of a prisoner of war should think of doing this, you must state distinctly that it is for books, otherwise it will go into general funds. – I am, yours faithfully, (Miss) M.E. CHOMLEY, Hon. Sec.



Graphic of Australia (Melb, Vic), Fri 26 Oct 1917 (p.13):

Personal and Otherwise

Medical Major Arthur Morris and his wife have arrived in America on their return from London to their native Australia.  The Major, who is the only son of the late Professor and Mrs Morris, grandson of the late Mr Justice Higginbotham, was in charge of Langwarrin before leaving here, over a year ago, on a special medical mission to Egypt and France.  Mrs Morris proceeding to England a few months later to be near her husband and sisters, the Misses Chomley, who went to London to do war work.  Miss Mary Chomley is hon. secretary to the Australian prisoners of war branch of the Red Cross Association.  Mrs Morris, who was a trainee at the Alfred Hospital when the Doctor induced her to exchange her cap and apron for a wedding ring, has been doing her bit by helping to nurse the wounded.



The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate (Parramatta, NSW), Wed 12 Dec 1917 (p.4):

For Prisoners of War – How they are Helped

Miss Ruth Oliver, a niece of Mrs F. Smart, of Fairfield, and a Sydney girl, is working in London at the Red Cross Depot for Australian prisoners in Germany, and writes interestingly of the work: - “We work from 9.30 till 6.30, and often later; but the work is so interesting that the hours fly unnoticed.  ………………………………………..

I see all the letters and post-cards which the men write, such interesting letters and so grateful for parcels.  Miss Chomley, our secretary, answers all individually, and makes a point of writing to every new man.  …………………………………….



Bendigo Advertiser (Vic), Fri 21 Dec 1917 (p.3):



After having been a prisoner in Germany………………………

To parents and relatives here of Australian boys in the hands of the Germans, Lance-Corporal Gale gave the advice that they should not attempt to send them parcels themselves, as those parcels would not be delivered.  The only parcels given to the prisoners were those officially sent by the British Red Cross Society in accordance with an agreed upon system.  The society had an office and staff set apart entirely for prisoners business, and any people in Australia desiring to know anything about Australian soldiers prisonered or believed to be in the hands of the Germans, were advised to write to Miss Chomley, 54 Victoria-street, Westminster, England.  Lance-Corporal Gale was sure they would get every satisfaction, as Miss Chomley’s department was most efficient and she knew more about the prisoners, by means of her system of obtaining information, than anyone else could.



The Argus, Mon 18 Mar 1918:


To be Officers:  ………..Miss Mary Elizabeth Maud Chomley, Miss Vera Deakin, …….



The Daily News (Perth, WA), St 30 Mar 1918 (p.5):



………………………………………, and arrived in London at 6 p.m., and were met by motor cars and cheering crowds of people, with motor horns blowing.  It was deafening.  When we drove out of the station the people rushed to shake hands with us.  Miss Chomley, Australian Red Cross, with Mrs Reid, were there to meet the Australians.  I cannot say too much of their kindness during our captivity, and since our arrival here.



Daily Standard (Brisb, Qld), Sat 30 Mar 1918 (p.5):


The Red Cross Society entertained the prisoners from Switzerland.  Captain Cull, on behalf of the repatriated men, presented Miss Chomley with a jewel case.  He said she was beloved in every prisoners’ camp in Germany.  The prisoners owed an unforgettable debt to the women of the prisoners’ branch for their unceasing care.  Captain Cull was badly wounded when leading a forlorn hope at Warlencourt.  He testifies to the skillful treatment of the German surgeons, who miraculously saved him from death. – United.



Bendigonian (Vic), Thur 9 May 1918 (p.9):




Referring to parcels, the prisoner of war says “they are arriving all right, and it is a treat to get them.  Miss Chomley, the secretary of the Red Cross, sends letters occasionally.”



Weekly Times (Vic), Sat 25 May 1918 (p.10):



Repatriated prisoners of war, who recently arrived in England, have been receiving invitations for tea and theatre parties at the rate of forty a day, it is said.  Miss Mary Chomley, who for a long time was honorary secretary of the Victorian League of Victoria, is head of the Welfare Committee of the Returned Australian Prisoners of War, in London, and meets all Australian prisoners from Germany.

The Welfare Committee for Returned British Prisoners of War has charge of arrangements for the reception of the prisoners’ train.  Bands play “Home, Sweet Home,” “Rule, Britannia,” and “Australia Will be There” while its war-worn passengers are disembarking.  The engine comes to a standstill at the smoky railway station, amid cheers and a weird chorus put up by motor horns.

A train with a number of Australians on board was welcomed in this way a few weeks ago.  Then the Duchess of Bedford and Lord Sandwich went through the carriages and gave every man a card of greeting, tied with red, white and blue ribbon, from the King and Queen.  Members of the Welfare Committee distributed small bouquets of primroses, and Australians were presented, as well, with sprigs of wattle blossom.

Miss Mary Chomley, and Lieutenant Fleming, representing the Commonwealth Government, met Australians, and saw that arrangements for their comfort were satisfactory.  Stretcher cases were carefully moved to the hospitals appointed to receive them, but the men able to get about were driven to their destinations in the cars of friends and fellow countrymen, who were waiting for them, and delighted to honor the men who had suffered all the hardships and difficulties of imprisonment in an enemy country.



[from another report – included members of a Field Ambulance / re the sprig of wattle: “which they promptly stuck at a rakish angle in their hats”]





Great Southern Herald (Katanning, WA), Wed 12 Jun 1918 (p.4):

Prisoners of War

To the Editor

Sir – Will you kindly find space in your paper for the enclosed?  I feel sure there are many anxious mothers and fathers (like ourselves) that would like to know what could be sent to our boys now in the hands of Germans.  I received this paper direct from London. – Yours, etc., A.E.


Australian Red Cross Society, 36 Grosvenor-place, London, SW.  Prisoners of War Department:  Dear Madam – Since the last regulations came into force, no parcels may be sent to Australian prisoners of war except by the Australian Red Cross, prisoners of war department.  We cannot accept any parcels of food, clothing, or tobacco to forward to Germany.  We send three parcels of food per fortnight to each man, irrespective of rank, which must not exceed 11lb each in weight.  In those we include tea, milk, sugar, dripping, or margarine, tinned meat, vegetables, rice, barley, etc.  The value of each parcel is at present 10/-, but will vary according to the price of food.  Bread is sent direct from Berne, Switzerland, to each man every week.  Tobacco and cigarettes are sent every fortnight.  The above parcels are paid for out of Red Cross funds, and as they are entirely subscribed for by private donors, we are glad to receive contributions of any amount towards the cost.  The full amount of clothing allowed by regulation is sent every six months.  Money may only be sent to Australian prisoners of war through the Australian Red Cross Society, and not more than £5 per month may be sent to any one man.  Although prisoners of war are only allowed to write three letters a month and a post card a week, they may apparently receive any reasonable number.  If it is desired we will forward any letters sent to us, as the men are often moved about, and we usually know their latest address.  No stamps are required on letters to prisoners of war.  Books may be sent direct from any bookseller who has a permit.  Used books may not be sent by private people.  The Australian Red Cross cannot receive any books from private people to send to prisoners of war, but will select them if requested by the friends of the prisoners of war, at an authorized shop.  Please always mention the name, number, battalion, etc., of the prisoner of war in whom you are interested when writing. – (Signed) M.E. Chomley, hon. secretary.




The Mercury (Hobart) Sat 15 Jun 1918:

Australian War Workers

MRS E.F. MITCHELL and Misses Mary Chomley and Deakin, of the Australian Red Cross, received their Order of the British Empire decorations at BuckinghamPalace from the hands of the King.  On the afternoon of the same day, Miss Chomley, who is associated with the Prisoners of War Department, was presented by Captain A. Cull, on behalf of a batch of newly-released prisoners from Germany, with a silver casket in memory of their arrival in London.


[Captain William Ambrose CULL, 22nd Bn – POW Germany – very long POW Statement in his records (typed copy starts p.57, handwritten copy starts p.61)]

The above took place in March, Capt Cull embarked for Australia on the 8/4/18




Williamstown Advertiser (Vic), Sat 13 Jul 1918 (p.3):

What Australian Red Cross Are Doing

Letter from Private Walter Warren to the headmaster of his old school at North Melbourne, who has kindly made it available for publication: –

“I was passed by the camp doctor in Soltau for internment in Holland.  We left Soltau on 21st March, and went to Aachen… and were again examined by some Berlin and neutral doctors.  They passed me for England.  We left Aachen on 8th April, and travelled through Holland to Rotterdam.  The people of Holland gave us a great reception.  We stayed at Rotterdam until last Saturday, and came to England on the hospital ship [censored], arriving at Boston on Sunday morning.  We came to King George’s Hospital, London, on Sunday evening.  Miss Chomley, of the Australian Red Cross Society, was up to see us on Monday.  I don’t know what we would have done without the parcels they sent us.  There would have been a great many of us ‘landowners’ in Germany, for the stuff the Germans sent us to eat was terrible.  It was one continual Black Thursday until the Red Cross parcels started to come, and then we were never short.  We could live without having any German stuff at all….  We have tea with the Australian Red Cross ladies to-morrow night, and there is something else coming off every night for a week or so yet.”



The Sydney Morning Herald, Wed 7 Aug 1918 (p.10):


Mrs Sargent, organizer and banker for the New South Wales Prisoners-of-War Comforts Fund, has made available correspondence from Miss M.E. Chomley, hon. secretary of the Prisoners-of-War Care Committee, London.  A cablegram from Miss Chomley to Mrs Sargent, under date July 17, announces the receipt of £400.  “All in Holland seem well and happy,” she adds.  Mrs Sargent was also notified by letter dated May 23 of the receipt of £595, as from July 17, 1917, to April 11, 1918.  Miss Chomley spoke incidentally of extracts from letters from the men in appreciation of the battalion colours sent to them instead of Christmas cards.  She adds: “You will be glad to know that we are able to send some nice fruit and fresh eggs, and sometimes a little honey or something of the kind to those of our men who have returned from Germany but are fairly ill.  This goes in the name of ‘Mrs Geo. Sergent and the women of Sydney.’  As both fruit and eggs are very expensive the hospital cannot always supply them in any large quantities, and it is a great pleasure for the men to receive them.”  Miss Chomley speaks also of the safe receipt by the men in enemy territory of “their extra parcels of food and money.”  Mrs Sargent points out that mothers and friends have received letters from the men confirming this.



The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA), Wed 16 Oct 1918 (p.9):


(By A.G. Rosman, London)

A committee of peculiar interest to Australia has just been formed in London.  It is called the Prisoners in Turkey Committee, and its object is to gather information about those British officers and men who have survived their captivity in Asia Minor; …………..


Australia is represented on the executive by Miss Mary Chomley, a daughter of the late Judge Chomley, of Melbourne, and head of the Prisoners of War Department of the Australian Red Cross.  A woman of great public spirit, Miss Chomley knows more about Australian prisoners of war than anybody else, and it is largely due to her personality and enthusiasm that our Red Cross Prisoners of War Department has earned the reputation of being not only the best-managed but the most human of any such existing organization in London.



Western Mail (Perth, WA), Fri 1 Nov 1918 (p.34):


Here are two notes of appreciation which have lately been received and which will greatly please all Red Cross Workers.  One is from a matron of a United States of America Hospital.  ………………………..

The other note is more directly personal and anyone who knows Miss Mary Chomley who formerly took a prominent part in Melbourne affair, will feel the tribute to be as just as it is spontaneous.  One of our commissioners asked Quartermaster-Sergeant Edwards, of the 51st Australian Infantry Battalion, who was severely wounded, and captured in the battle of the Somme in 1916, and who has just escaped from Germany, if the Australian prisoners in Germany had any message to send home?  This is the answer.  “Please tell Miss Chomley, head of the Prisoners’ of War Department, of the Australian Red Cross, that the Australians in the German prison camps, cannot speak highly enough of her, and her work.  They cannot be grateful enough for the inexhaustible love, and sympathy, and patience, with which she and her staff, listen to all our men’s whims and fancies.

Cheeri-o Australia!”



The Herald (Melb, Vic), Wed 13 Nov 1918 (p.11):


In the course of a letter, written from Holland, whither he was transferred some months ago from a German military prison, Private Leslie Phillips, son of Captain W. Phillips, of Ballarat, speaks of the scarcity of food.


“About 40 of us received tobacco and cigarette parcels yesterday from the Australian Red Cross.  We have had several letters from our dear old friend, Miss Chomley (secretary of the Red Cross in England), and this was the first lot of tobacco we had had; ……………

“Too much praise cannot be given to the Australian Red Cross for what they are doing for us unfortunate prisoners of war.  ……………….

If any one person has played a noble part in this great world struggle, it is Miss Chomley.  She has earned the everlasting gratitude of each one of Australia’s sons who has been in the hands of the Huns.  ………………..



The Australasian (Melb, Vic), Sat 22 Mar 1919 (p.38):


Miss MacLeod, who has been helping Miss Mary Chomley in the Prisoners’ of War department, will go to Melbourne in a few weeks.  Miss Chomley has been busier than usual of late, though the work is what she has been looking forward to ever since she took charge of her department.  Instead of writing to prisoners, and attending to their wants, she is meeting them, and looking after them on arrival.  As a rule, a big tea, to which a few civilian Australians are invited, is given them when they go to London, and they are petted and spoilt in a manner which might almost satisfy their friends in Australia.  The hospital cases are, of course, sent straight to hospital; the majority to the big King George Hospital, near Waterloo station.  Their experiences vary according to their prison camps.  Many have little to complain of, many have a good deal, and there are others whose stories are hideous, so unrelenting was the barbarity of their gaolers.



The Argus (Melb, Vic), Wed 23 Apr 1919 (p.5):




In a room looking over the gardens of Buckingham Palace there is nowadays a serial tea party that is continued from day to day.  On the long tables, until a few weeks ago, there used to be nothing more exciting than thousands of index cards, maddening things to the uninitiated, but dramatic enough when you knew your way about them, because they represented the present histories of our Australian prisoners of war.  Now the owners of the names on the cards are coming gradually to England, and the tables are laden instead with flowers and flags and crackers in their honour, as well as sandwiches, sweets, and – it seems like magic – real old-fashioned plum cake.

“I suppose your labours are over now the men are coming home.” I heard an outsider remark to one of the Australian girls who has given the whole of her time for several years to this department of our Red Cross.  The girl in question was too kind to retort, but it was an idiotic query, for to run a thoroughly businesslike organization, and at the same time entertain every day a hundred guests or more from 3 o’clock to 6, seems as strenuous an occupation as anyone could wish to find.  The hostesses seem to enjoy their self-imposed task, however, just as much as the guests, who, coming from a tedius and often terrible captivity in enemy lands, have found in the Australian Red Cross a little corner of London that is their own by right.  Few of them know England well, or have any personal friends here, but they all know Miss Chomley, by name at least – they will tell you she is known in every prison camp and lazarette in Germany – and so when she tells them that they are to regard the Red Cross as their London home, and that there is a sitting-room always waiting for them, and tea any afternoon, they take her at her word.

To Australians who, being outsiders, have seen most of the game, it has been a source of pride to hear experienced war-workers speak of our Australian prisoners of war department as the most human, as well as one of the most successful, of any of the organisations of the kind.  Now that these men of ours are coming in hundreds back from Germany, those of us who have seen and talked with many of them, realise anew how true that judgment is, and how the personality of one of our country-women has been largely responsible.  By most people in Melbourne Miss Mary Chomley will be remembered as a public-spirited Australian, but to more than 3,000 men of the A.I.F., and to those civilians in London, who have seen her work as head of the prisoners of war department, she is something more than that, and not only by her unselfish devotion, but by her tact and kindliness, and her broad and human outlook, she has made for herself a unique place in their regard.  Red tape and the curt official methods which every soldier so bitterly resents had no place in her regime, and the letters which, as the sponsor for their friends at home, she wrote to these boys in captivity, did more for them, perhaps, than anyone will ever know.

Every Australian detests patronage, and if that crowning impertinence had ever crept into their Red Cross letters, they would certainly not have been such cherished possessions to our Australian prisoners of war.  Under Miss Chomley’s hand the Red Cross has been to them not an aloof benefactor, but the understanding and sympathetic voice of their own people.

“It wasn’t only the Australians who talked about her,” a South Australian private assured me eagerly, “all the camp did, and when there was a mail in, they’d come rushing round – English Tommies, South Africans, Frenchies, and the whole lot – to know if there were any letters from Miss Chomley.  I can tell you she was a sort of queen.”  That little tribute is splendidly deserved, not only by Miss Chomley, but her assistants, Mrs Morduant Reid, of Perth; Miss Ethel Bage, of Melbourne; Miss Ruth Oliver, of Sydney; Miss Dorothy Moore, of Perth; Mrs Faerlie Cunninghame, of Adelaide; Miss Jessie Robinson, Miss Murdoch, Mrs Farrell, and many others.  Of the hundreds of Australian girls doing war-work on both sides of the world, none have rendered finer services than those, or done it with less ostentation.  As one of their family of 3,000 exclaimed: – “I can tell you it’s uncanny to come to London where you think you don’t know a living soul, after three years among the Huns, and find a party of ladies who know all about you and where you come from and how many children you have, and never once mix you up with the hundreds of other chaps who have come back too.  Beats me how they do it.”

Meanwhile much of the ordinary work of the department goes on as usual, even though there are no more parcels to be sent out.  Five thousand letters came to the Red Cross for the prisoners of war by the Australian mail recently, so a miniature post-office has become one of the side-lines, and all day long there is a stream of anxious inquirers, hoping for a line from home.  “I can’t bear to tell them there are no letters,” said an amateur post-mistress, as one boy went away disappointed.  “I’d rather go and write them a letter each myself.”  (It is evident the hardened villanies of the ordinary post-office do not obtain here.)  There is a miniature bank, too, and every returning prisoner must be given a full account of the money that has been held for him, and an envelope containing whatever remains to his credit.  He has an embarrassing way of wanting to refuse this.

“It is your own money,” his hostesses will point out.

“But think what I owe the Red Cross?  Why, if it were not for you ladies we should all be dead.”

“And if it were not for you men we should all be Germans,” retorts someone amid much laughter and a few protests; but the argument is quite a good one.  The “owing” is so obviously all on the other side.

From time to time you hear many stories of exciting adventures and escapes.  One man escaped with seven days’ rations, but it was fourteen days before he at last reached Holland, half starving, and half dead.  Another lad crept out of his German camp on November 10, and reached the border two days later.  In Holland he met an old priest, who could speak English, and told him he was free.

“Couldn’t think what he was getting at,” he told us.  “Funny thing, but I never thought of peace.”

Yet another man, interned in Holland, had seen the Kaiser’s train come through.  “Plastered all over with guards,” he said, “But we wouldn’t believe it was Bill, although they told us.  It seemed too good to be true.”

The Red Cross is a place of strange meeting these days.  Officers and men who have not met since they were captured, mates taken together badly wounded, and each believing the other dead, meet again in the friendly rooms.

“That chap over there,” a sergeant told us, “was in a shell hole with me just before they got us, and the last I saw of him till 10 minutes ago was a German carrying him away on his back.”

The other week three of our prisoners of war came back to England unexpectedly, arriving at Waterloo station still in their prison clothes.  By a lucky chance, Miss Ethel Bage was at the station with some of their comrades, whom she was seeing off to a party out of town.  The newcomers saw the turned-up hats, made for them, and were soon telling their adventures.  They were Private A.W. Beck, Private Edison Waite, and Private Townsend, and they had escaped some weeks ago from Germany into Bohemia.  Bohemia by that time was tired of war, so took care of the newcomers until the armistice with Austria was signed.  Then they were able to reach Triests, cross to Venice, and get a steamer to Cherbourg and Southampton.  They had an Irish comrade with them, whom Miss Bage directed to his own Care Committee.  Then she took her own fellow-countrymen in triumph to Horseferry road.

The Red Cross is doing everything possible to make the returning prisoners of war comfortable and at home in London.  Accommodation, even for soldiers who ought to have the first consideration, is a pressing problem nowadays, and Miss Chomley and her fellow-workers make a point of seeing that every one of their protegees has somewhere suitable to stay on arrival.

They are arranging, too, for amusement and hospitality for them among their fellow Australians, particularly for the younger lads and those who are strangers in London and have no friends here.  It is the least that can be done for men who have suffered so much for Australia and for freedom.




The Daily News (Perth, WA), Wed 25 Jun 1919 (p.3):

Mainly About People

Much has been said (writes an Australian in London) from time to time – but never too much – of the fine work accomplished by the little band of Australian women in London who formed the Prisoners of War Department of the Australian Red Cross.  Theirs was the responsible and difficult task of caring for the bodily and mental welfare of a family of over three thousand, scattered through hundreds of camps in Germany and Austria and Turkey.  Now that this large family is safely back in civilization at last we are able to realise how well that work has been done.  There were no prisoners of war in any country so well looked after; that is the unanimous verdict of the men, not only because the food parcels provided by Australia for her captured sons were so generous and so wisely chosen, but because of the cheering, friendly, personal interest taken in each individual prisoner by these country-women of theirs in London.  The name of Miss Mary Chomley, O.B.E., head of the department, will not easily be forgotten by the men for whom she has worked or the women who have been associated with her at Grosvenor-place.  On the eve of closing the department last week the Red Cross gave Miss Chomley a party.  It was a very friendly and intimate little affair, only her fellow-workers for the prisoners being present and one or two repatriated officers, who happened still to be in London, and who cheerfully admitted they were interlopers on this particular occasion.  A bunch of roses and carnations, a little leather case containing their signatures, and a beautiful silver salver were presented to Miss Chomley as a token of affection from her staff; and for her assistant secretary, Mrs Mordaunt Reid, of Perth, there was a gold matchbox and a little address tied with the colors of the 11th Battalion, A.I.F.  Mrs Reid is the wife of an officer of that battalion, who was, alas, posted missing in the early days of the Gallipoli campaign.  Ever since she has devoted herself to our prisoners of war.  Among others present at the party were Mrs Macartney, Mrs Sinclair Maclagan, and Miss Isabel Maclagan, Mrs Edward Bage, Miss Ethel Bage, Miss Wagner, Mrs Hammans, Mrs Maclaren, Miss Mackellar, Miss Mary Murdoch, and Miss Moore.



The Mercury (Hobart) Thur 31 Jul 1919:



LONDON July 29

The delegation of women organized by the Imperial Government to investigate the possibilities in the Dominions for women workers sailed from Plymouth to-day in the liner Ulysses.

The delegates for Australia, who are accompanied by Miss Chomley, of Melbourne, include Miss Pugh Jones and Mrs Simm, wife of the Labour member for Wallsend.

A similar delegation to visit New Zealand includes Miss Gridler and Miss Watkin.  Miss Gridler is now in Canada, making investigations.



The Queenslander, Sat 9 Aug 1919 (p.6):


In their fourth and final annual report, the committee of the Information Bureau of the Queensland branch of the Australian Red Cross Society express their appreciation of the work in London of Miss Chomley, “for the unvarying care and attention given to inquiries from the Queensland Bureau.”  That this appreciation was justly merited will be amply testified by almost any “digger” who has passed through London.  Miss Chomley has been particularly zealous in her efforts to alleviate the sufferings and trials of repatriated Australian prisoners of war.  There were in all some 3400 Australian prisoners of war at one time or another interned in German prison camps, and they will almost unanimously testify – officers and other ranks alike – that they could not have pulled through on the German prison ration, that they must have succumbed to starvation had it not been for the generously loaded Red Cross food parcels that regularly reached them.  And for this blessing Miss Chomley was mainly responsible.  Long before the signing of the armistice, when physically wrecked prisoners of war were coming across in dribs and drabs through Holland and Switzerland, Miss Chomley zealously visited the big London hospitals – notably the King George Hospital in Waterloo – in which they were first quartered before being drafted to the Australian auxiliary hospitals at Harefield or Southall.  She and her helpers brought these sufferers immeasurable comfort.  After the signing of the armistice, when prisoners of war began to be returned in substantial contingents from the German “gefangenen lager” (prison camps), she personally visited the great concentration and distributing camps for prisoners of war at Ripon in Yorkshire and at Dover.  Miss Chomley was unceasing in her efforts on behalf of Australian prisoners of war, and there cannot be one of them who does not bear her name in kindly if not affectionate remembrance.




The Herald (Melb, Vic), Tue 2 Sept 1919 (p.5):




As a guide to Miss Pugh Jones and Mrs M.T. Simms, delegates sent by the Imperial Government to investigate and report on conditions for English women workers in Australia, Miss Mary Chomley arrived by the Ulysses this morning.

She is a daughter of the late Judge Chomley and a sister of Mrs Arthur Morris, 120 Collins street.  Miss Chomley left Australia early in 1914, and throughout the war period had charge of the Prisoners of War Department in London, in connection with the Red Cross Society.

The possibilities of rural life as an avenue for women immigrants will be one of the phases of employment which the delegates will investigate.

The will not be the first time that Miss Chomley has interested herself on behalf of settlers from overseas.  At the time Lady Gibson Carmichael was president of the Victoria League of Victoria, Miss Chomley, as hon. secretary of the league, was closely concerned with an appeal from the Kent Colonisation Society, England.

Someone was wanted to look after several boys who were being sent out to Victoria to settle on the land.  The league arranged to keep a watchful eye on them and to find women in the townships, near where the boys would settle, to give them a little motherly attention.

While here Miss Chomley was a woman of diverse activities.  She was one of the founders and the first secretary of the Arts and Crafts Society, which aims at raising the standard of design and fostering public interest in all hand-work, in which taste and skill are expended.  She and her colleagues really laid the foundation for a school of design in Australia.  Miss Chomley took a personal interest in helping craftworkers engaged in leather work, enameling, book-binding, and decorative needle work.  She was among the first Australian women who tried to revive interest in hand loom weaving.  At the women’s exhibition organized when Lady Northcote was Australia’s vice-regal representative, Miss Chomley rendered very valuable help in connection with collecting and arranging one of the arts sections.

The photograph which was taken recently in London, shows this versatile Australian wearing her Red Cross uniform.  Miss Chomley is staying at the Alexandra Club.




The Argus, Thur 4 Sept 1919:


The following were the guests of their Excellencies the Governor-General and Lady Helen Munro Ferguson at dinner at Government House last evening:- ………………

………………Miss Mary E. Chomley, O.B.E., …………



The Queenslander, Sat 6 Sept 1919 (p.24):





The Australasian (Melb, Vic), Sat 6 Sept 1919 (p.42):


By Falaise

After an absence of over five years, Miss Mary Chomley, daughter of the late Judge Chomley, returned to Melbourne on September 2.  Her two sisters (Eileen and Aubrey) are remaining on at their home in London, as Miss Chomley’s visit is only a flying one.  During the war years she and her sisters were untiring in their efforts to help Australian soldiers.  Miss Chomley’s principal work was for Australian prisoners of war.  In July, 1916, some of our men were first taken prisoners by the Huns, and Miss Chomley at once set to work to organize a scheme to provide them with parcels of food and clothing.  The movement gradually expanded as the prisoners increased in number; but the hon. organizer and secretary continued to supervise.  That her efforts were appreciated, there is no doubt, for fully 95 per cent of the Australians, on being released, after reaching England, visited her and personally thanked her and her co-workers.  Among the Victorians who assisted in this fine work were Miss Ethel Bage, the Misses Lily and Alice Fisken, Miss Jessie Robinson, Miss Eileen Chomley (all from Melbourne), and Miss Marjorie Rowe, who is a cousin of Lady Maudsley’s, and whose home is near Ballarat.  The object of Miss Chomley’s return to Australia is a mission of inquiry.  She, together with Mrs M.T. Simm and Miss Pughe Jones – two Englishwomen – are delegates from the Colonial Office.  Recently under its auspices an Overseas Settlement Committee was formed, to give information to English people desirous of emigrating to other parts of the Empire.  There was no difficulty in helping men in this direction, but when women were applicants, the necessary information was not available.  As Miss Mary Chomley has always taken a keen interest in all matters having to do with the welfare of women, her services were obtained as one of the delegates.  It is expected that the mission will occupy about four or five months, as each of the States will be visited, and cities, as well as country places, will occupy time and attention.



The Daily News (Perth, WA), Mon 22 Sept 1919 (P.3):

Mainly About People

Miss Mary Chomley and her fellow-delegates from the Colonial Office (Mrs Simm and Miss Pughe Jones) are staying at the Alexandra Club.  They will remain in Melbourne until the end of the third week of this month, as it is thought that they will be furthering the object of their visit to Australia by attending the Royal Agricultural Show.  They will go to Queensland from Victoria.



The Age (Melb, Vic), Wed 1 Oct 1919 (p.9):


The following were guests of the Governor-General and Lady Helen Ferguson at luncheon at Government House yesterday: – Miss M.E. Chomley, O.B.E.; Miss P.N. Robertson, O.B.E.; Mrs Simm and Miss Pughe Jones.



The Brisbane Courier (Qld), Tue 21 Oct 1919 (p.8):



The interest of the meeting of the general committee of the Red Cross Society yesterday, Mr W.T. Robertson presiding, centred in the visit of Miss Chomley, O.B.E., and her subsequent informal chat with the members.  Miss Chomley referred to the Prisoners of War Fund, saying that parcels were sent to about 3200 Australian prisoners in Germany, 150 in Turkey, and three in Austria.  Six parcels a month had been sent to each individual in Germany and one a fortnight to each man in Turkey, being received by the prisoners six or eight months afterwards.  She mentioned the large amount of detail and the accuracy with which the parcels were despatched, and followed the owner round from one camp to another.  There were about 20 or 30 women on the staff, seven or eight of these being professional paid accountants as the greatest care had to be taken in dealing with hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money.  Questioned as to the appearance of prisoners one their release, Miss Chomley said they came back looking most deplorable, thin, and dirty, but she had never seen any one so happy.  The local Y.M.C.A.’s usually provided for their accommodation while awaiting transports.  Miss Chomley described their correspondence with the men the committee being their only friends in England, and gave an interesting account of the merry tea parties held at headquarters when officers waited on released men, General Birdwood being amongst the visitors.  At the conclusion of her address a very hearty vote of thanks was accorded Miss Chomley.



The Brisbane Courier (Qld), Tue 21 Oct 1919 (p.11):



Members of the British delegation – Mrs Simm, Miss Pughe-Jones, and Miss Chomley, O.B.E. – paid a visit to the Central Technical College yesterday morning.  They were received on their arrival by the principal (Mr Wearne, B.A.), and were conducted through the various departments.  ……………………….  Interest for the overseas visitors centred in the work of the returned soldiers.  They questioned each supervisor upon the probably openings for women in various branches of work, and were entertained at morning tea in the Domestic Service Block, the dainties provided being the work of the pupils, under the direction of Miss Schauer.  The delegation had an interview with the Acting Premier in the afternoon, and Miss Chomley subsequently was present at the meeting of the Red Cross General Committee.  The delegation will leave this morning for Pellevue station, where they will be the guests of Mrs Lumley Hill.  ……………..




The Newcastle Sun (NSW), Wed 12 Nov 1919 (p.1):

Miss Mary Chomley, O.B.E., and Miss Oliver were welcomed at a general committee meeting of the Red Cross Society yesterday.  Miss Chomley gave an address on the work of the Red Cross organization in London.



The Daily Telegraph (Syd, NSW), Tue 18 Nov 1919 (p.3):


Miss Chomley, O.B.E., who is a member of the Overseas Mission inquiring into opportunities in Australia for English women, and who was attached to the Australian Prisoners of War Department in London, will be at the Soldiers’ Club this afternoon to bid farewell to returned prisoners of war, all of whom are asked to be present.



Western Mail (Perth, WA), Thur 22 Jan 1920 (p.31):


Melbourne, Jan 7

Mrs M.T. Simm, Miss Mary Chomley, O.B.E., and Miss Pughe-Jones, the members of the British Delegation, who were sent out by the British Government to investigate Australian conditions regarding the employment of female labour, are again in Melbourne.

After visiting Queensland, New South Wales, Tasmania, and Victoria, the delegation leaves, this week, for South Australia, and hopes to arrive in Western Australia – rich in experience – either at the end of the month, or the beginning of February.






Daily Herald (Adelaide, SA), Tue 3 Feb 1920 (p.3):


This evening at the Working Men’s Hall, Dale street, Port Adelaide, Mrs L.E. Simm, wife of the Englis Labor member, and Miss Mary Chomley, O.B.E., will speak on “Labor Conditions in England and Australia.”  The ladies are members of the delegation appointed by the British Government to enquire into working conditions in Australia, and are capable speakers.  The meeting is open to both men and women, and the admission is free.



The Herald (Melb, Vic), Tue 2 Mar 1920 (p.4):

Events of the Day – Women and Their Work

Delegates’ Mission Ended

Mrs M.E. Simm, Miss M. Chomley, O.B.E., and Miss Pugh Jones left Perth by the Indarra on Tuesday for London to place with the Imperial authorities their reports in regard to industrial, rural and domestic occupations available in Australia for Britain’s women war workers.

Arriving here on September 2, 1919, the delegates lost no time in starting on their mission of investigation.  Since then they have visited every State in the Commonwealth, gleaning first hand information for the guidance of women overseas eager to settle in Australia.

Their mission is to give a truthful report to the Imperial Government as to the means of livelihood that would be available to women immigrants here, and whether Australia is desirous of absorbing them into the working life of the community.  ……………..



Sunday Times (Perth, WA), Sun 7 Mar 1920 (p.7):

Perth Prattle

The W.A. Prisoners of War did not allow Miss M.E. Chomley to escape without expressing their gratitude for the great services she rendered them while they were in the hands of the enemy.  A social gathering was arranged, when a large number of p.o.w.’s and their lady friends were present.  The guests of the evening were the Misses M.E. Chomley and Moore, and Mrs E. Makeham, all three having done splendid work for the p.o.w.’s in London.  An illuminated address was presented to Miss Chomley, which, after expressing gratitude, went on – “In our adversity you came to us radiating sunshine and bestowing gifts that were always treasured, so hope and courage were born anew.”  A small balance from the fund was handed to “our blind p.o.w. comrade, J.H. Barfield.



The Australasian (Melb, Vic), Sat 4 Dec 1920 (p.53):


LONDON, Oct 14

Miss Mary Chomley and her sisters, formerly of Melbourne, have returned from a visit to the battlefields and the South of France.



The Australasian (Melb, Vic), Sat 10 Sept 1921 (p.48):


LONDON, July 28

Miss Mary Chomley is spending some weeks in Normandy and Touraine.  Her sisters are at present in Wales.



The Australasian (Melb, Vic), Sat 8 Oct 1921 (p.51):


LONDON, Aug 25

Miss Mary Chomley, O.B.E., has returned from Normandy and Touraine.



The Herald (Melb, Vic), Mon 10 Apr 1922 (p.8):



I met the first detachment of Australian prisoners of war released after three years in Turkey.  They told me that they never heard of the Y.M.C.A. there, but were loud in their praise of the Australian Red Cross and Miss Chomley, whose goodness saved their lives.



The Australasian (Melb, Vic), Sat 15 Jul 1922 (p.58):


LONDON, June 1

The Misses Chomley have returned from the country to their flat in Chelsea.  Miss Mary Chomley has been elected to the executive of the Society for Overseas Settlement of British Women.



The Australasian (Melb, Vic), Sat 3 Mar 1923 (p.50):


LONDON, Jan 25

Mrs William Smith has joined Miss Mary Chomley in Naples.  They are going from there to Sicily.



The Australasian (Melb, Vic), Sat 2 Jun 1923 (p.40):


LONDON, April 19

Miss Mary Chomley, who has been on the Continent for the winter, is expected back in London this week.



The Australasian (Melb, Vic), Sat 15 Sept 1923 (p.49):


LONDON, August 11

Miss Mary Chomley is spending the summer in Devon and Cornwall.



The Australasian (Melb, Vic), Sat 17 Nov 1923 (p.48):



Miss Mary Chomley, who has been spending the summer in Devonshire, is back in London.



The Australasian (Melb, Vic), Sat 24 Nov 1923 (p.44):


LONDON, Oct 11

Miss Mary Chomley has been spending a few days at Oxford, and intends to go from there to Stratford on Avon.



The Australasian (Melb, Vic), Sat 8 Dec 1923 (p.48):



Miss Mary Chomley is going to Paris and the Riviera for a few weeks.



The Australasian (Melb, Vic), Sat 19 Jan 1924 (p.45):


LONDON, Dec 13

The Misses Aubrey and Eileen Chomley have left England to join Miss Mary Chomely at Mentone for the winter.



The Australasian (Melb, Vic), Sat 20 Jun 1925 (p.48):


Friends of Miss Mary Chomley, who has been living in England for several years, will be delighted to hear that her sister (Mrs Arthur Morris) received news this week that Miss Chomley will be arriving in Melbourne early in October.



The Australasian (Melb, Vic), Sat 18 Jul 1925 (p.58):


LONDON, June 11

Miss Mary Chomley is back in England after a long holiday in Italy.



The Daily Mail (Brisb, Qld), Sat 3 Oct 1925 (p.11):


August 5

There was an interesting gathering recently at the club rooms of the Society of Women Journalists at Wembley, to wish Miss Mary Chomley bon voyage.  Her good work with the overseas delegation for settlement of British women, need no recapitulation.  ……



The Argus (Melb, Vic), Fri 16 Oct 1925 (p.14):



Arts and Crafts in England

Miss Mary Chomley, who is a daughter of the late Judge Chomley, hardly needs an introduction to Melbourne people, for it is not many years since she elected to make England her place of permanent abode, and since then she has returned twice to visit Melbourne.  In the early days of the Victorian Arts and Crafts Society Miss Chomley was one of those who helped to place it in the sound and successful position it occupies to-day, and she also did much to impress the public with the value of artistic design in craft work.  Speaking of the work of arts and crafts societies in England; Miss Chomley says that it has become very important, and the development of the various branches of handcrafts is being regarded seriously.  The influence of pure and artistic design, which is a feature of the best kind of handicraft, is being felt by tradesmen, who are now turning to the recognized artists for patterns and inspiration.  For instance, it is said that Brangwyn, the well-known English artist, is often paid 100 pounds for a single carpet design, and he probably would receive much more from foreign manufacturers, who are ready to pay very large prices for English designs and patterns.  Miss Chomley is full of regrets that she has arrived too late for the recent successful arts and crafts exhibition in Melbourne, and doubtless those who organized it, will be sorry too, for it is probably that with her wide experience she could have given many hints and sound advice.  Speaking of the work of the Women’s Institutes, which are now established all over England in towns and even quiet villages, Miss Chomley says that their success is marvelous, and in some districts women who are glad to occupy their spare time turn out wonderful work.  She referred to the chamois leather glove making, which is carried on in some of the villages in Surrey, and described the finished articles as being equal to anything made in France.

Modern Manners

Then the conversation turned, as it so often does, to the change in the manners and customs of the younger people of to-day, of whom Miss Chomley expresses a good deal of approval.  She admires the initiative which the young girl of the moment displays when any unusual situation arises, and she says that within the last 12 months a wonderful change has come over the manners of the well-bred English girls, who now consider it bad from to smoke and drink cocktails.  They go out with their parents again to enjoy themselves, which they apparently do in a simple and charming manner.  The free and easy girls, who a year or two ago were mistresses of the situation, are now described by the 18-year-old girls of to-day as “old war girls,” and Miss Chomley thinks that there is no doubt that the description rankles.  But, at the same time, the war wave, which affected the manners and thoughts of English-speaking girls to almost an extreme degree, was felt all over Europe, for a good deal of the artificial atmosphere which encompassed French and Italian girls in their home life has been swept away.  However, French girls still curtsy when they speak to their grand-parents and friends of an older generation than themselves, and in Buda Pest, and also in Italy, young people, even tiny little children, respectfully kiss the hands of their older friends when greeting them or bidding them farewell.  According to Miss Chomley, who has spent three years roaming over Europe, the older traditions in regard to manners are slowly being broadened in Europe, while in England the pendulum is inclined to swing back.  “Of course,” say Miss Chomley, “the absurd prudery of the Victorian period, which followed on the coarse laxity of the Georgian era, has gone for good, but the innate good taste which is characteristic of the English race is asserting itself, and will surely, though the process may be slow, crush the vulgarity which was an evil of war time.”





The Australasian (Melb, Vic), Sat 17 Oct 1925 (p.54):


Miss Mary Chomley has returned to Melbourne for a visit, after an absence spent in England of several years.  At present she is staying at the Alexandra Club, but later on she will stay with her sister, Mrs Arthur Morris, Punt Hill, South Yarra.



The Argus (Melb, Vic), Fri 6 Nov 1925 (p.16):


Miss Chomley’s Sketches

An exhibition of water-colour sketches by Miss Mary Chomley will be held at the Victoria League rooms, from November 11 (when it will be opened at 3 o’clock by Dr R.R. Stawell) to November 18.  Proceeds will be in aid of the bush book committee of the league, which sends parcels of books to the smaller State schools and to dwellers in remote parts of the State.



The Herald (Melb, Vic), Wed 11 Nov 1925 (p.12):


To Help Bush Library

“I didn’t know how to get rid of my sketches, so I thought I’d sell them in aid of the Bush Library Fund of the Victoria League in Victoria,” said Miss Mary Chomley, who is exhibiting 80 of her watercolors at the rooms of the Victoria League, 419 Collins street.

The exhibition, which was opened this afternoon by Dr R.R. Stawell, is an evidence of Miss Chomley’s life-long interest in the Victoria League.  As honorary secretary she helped to pilot it through the first eight years of its existence.  Miss Chomley’s home is in England now, and, arriving here a month ago, her visit is to be a very short one, as she intends returning home in March.  She is on the committee of the Overseas Settlement of British Women, and for many years was one of the executive organisers.  On her last visit, six years ago, she spent most of her time touring the States with Mrs Sym and Miss Pughe Jones, two Englishwomen who came out to study emigration problems from this end.

All her life she has travelled.  Her sketches bear witness to that.  They serve as delightful mementos of places she has visited.  There is infinite variety in them.  An Indian mosque, a Venetian canal, Cannes in the yachting season, Edinburgh Castle, Barbizon, where Corot and so many of the old artists lived, Brompton road, London, strung with flags in war time, the Taj Mahal, a Burmese scene, the Papal Palace, Avignon, Lake Como, Kilkenny, Sark, in the Channel Islands, and the Sphinx.  Miss Chomley hasn’t found all her interest overseas, one of her “star” exhibits is an old dilapidated cottage once situated in Jolimont, which was the home of Victoria’s first Governor.  She got it just as they were pulling it down.

There is a wealth of historical and personal incident behind her pictures.

“I did that glimpse of Paris from the window of a hospital run during the war by two Australian women, Dr Helen Sexton and the late Mrs William Smith.

“They dubbed me ‘The Committee of Amusement,’” continued Miss Chomley.  “I used to go round sketching the men.  I remember doing one good-looking young fellow.  I was rather pleased with the result, and couldn’t understand why there was a shadow of disappointment across his face.  Then suddenly I realized I had left out his medal.  “One moment, monsieur,” I said, “I’ve forgotten your medal.”

The work of the Bush Library is growing steadily, and this year 51 adult libraries, 84 children’s and 42 individual parcels, with three soldiers’ libraries, have been sent to out back country centres.  Requests for books have come from New Guinea and Norfolk Island, and parcels have already reached the British Solomon Islands and Nauru.  The committee will always be glad to receive donations of books at the Victoria League rooms.



The Age (Melb, Vic), Wed 11 Nov 1925 (p.11):







The Herald (Melb, Vic), Fri 13 Nov 1925 (p.15):


Miss Mary Chomley’s Water Colors

At the rooms of the Victoria League, 332 Collins street, Miss Mary Chomley is exhibiting 84 watercolor sketches.  This collection is the fruit of travel in many countries, England, France, Italy, Ireland, India, Burmah, Egypt, Tasmania, Ceylon and Australia having all yielded subjects to the industrious brush of the artist.

Miss Chomley cannot lay claim to great ability, but as notes of travel these sketches have their charm.  Without being a strong draughtsman, she is neat and precise, and manages her perspective sufficiently well.  Her color is not strong, but she puts it on freshly and without pretension.

She makes her selections well, and if better equipped in technique would be more expressive.  A slight strengthening of her values would very much improve her work and free her innate taste which peeps out in most of her work.  It is most apparent in (2) Old House, Wittering, (13) Chelsea Beach, (14) Victory Arch, Hyde Park Corner, (15) Knightsbridge, (17) Half-Timbered House, Ludlow, (73) The Sphinx.  These show more freedom, and are evidently truer expressions of Miss Chomley’s point of view.

They and the other sketches are exhibited for a laudable end.  Any funds arising from sales will be given to the Bush Library Committee of the Victoria League.  This is consistent with Miss Chomley’s high ideal of service, of which she gave notable proof during the war.  The sketches will be on view until November 18.




The Australasian (Melb, Vic), Sat 14 Nov 1925 (p.51):


Not many artists who hold exhibitions of their work have the pleasure which came to Miss Mary Chomley on November 11, for shortly after the exhibition, which is being held in the Victoria League rooms, Colonial Mutual Buildings, Collins street, was declared open by Dr R.R. Stawell, there were very few of the charming water-colour sketches which did not carry the red sale ticket.  This state of affairs gave great satisfaction to the bush library committee of the Victoria League, for Miss Chomley is giving the entire proceeds of the sale to the fund which provides and sends small libraries into the remote parts of the State for the benefit of lonely settlers.  In declaring the exhibition open, Dr Stawell said that with her artistic gift Miss Chomley was able to give a great deal of pleasure to her friends, and through the bush libraries, her gift would bring more pleasure and interest to many of those who led lonely lives.

The League rooms were crowded, and among those who were present were…………….





The Age (Melb, Vic), Thur 17 Dec 1925 (p.13):


An address on women’s institutes as they exist in England was given at the annual meeting of The Victoria League yesterday afternoon………………

It was also announced that the recent exhibition of pictures by Miss Chomley, who was the first secretary of the League in Victoria, and who is at present on a visit to Australia, had realized £130 for the bush library.



The Australasian (Melb, Vic), Sat 26 Dec 1925 (p.52):


In honour of Miss Mary Chomley, a luncheon party was given at the Oriental on December 17 by ex-prisoners of war who had benefited by her kindly work in London during the war.  Luncheon was served in the private room at a table decorated with lovely roses, and Captain Ronald McDonald and others spoke with deep gratitude of all Miss Chomley had done in sending parcels to men in the internment camps in Germany.  Captain McDonald paid a tribute to the German officials who had been most conscientious in seeing that all parcels were delivered.  Seated round the table were Captain A.S. Robertson, Captain C. Mills, Lieut. L.C. O’Kelly, Captain R. Sanders, Captain Gower, Captain Peter McCallum, Captain Edmons, Lieut. Stuart, and others.



The Argus (Melb, Vic), Fri 12 Feb 1926 (p.13):


Party at Carnac

In view of the departure for England of Miss Mary Chomley, who will leave in the Ascanius for England on February 27, a delightful party was given yesterday afternoon by her sister, Mrs Arthur Morris, at her picturesque home, Carnac, in Punt road, South Yarra.  The guests comprised many old family friends, and many of them were descendants of those whose names were familiar in the early days of Melbourne.




The Herald (Melb, Vic), Mon 15 Feb 1926 (p.11):

Woman’s World

Miss Chomley is returning to England by the Ascanius.  She intended travelling overland on Wednesday to join the boat, but has delayed her departure for a day to visit Elcho to see the Government Training Farm.



Table Talk (Melb, Vic), Thur 25 Feb 1926 (p.60):

Miss Chomley Chats about “Her Twins”

Well-Known Australian off to England Again

Miss Mary Chomley is leaving Australia on her return to England feeling very pleased with the progress of “My twins,” as she calls them, the said twins being the Victoria League of Victoria and the Arts and Crafts Society.  This is how she described them in their infancy, when she was acting as honorary secretary to both, and was assiduously fostering their feeble efforts.  After she went to live in England she could do very little for the Victorian Arts and Crafts, but she continued with the Victoria League, and has watched its good work with keen interest even when she was plunged deep in war work.

Since her return the Arts and Crafts movement has particularly attracted her, and she is delighted to see the progress it has made, and the good influence it has exerted.

“When it was started as the outcome of the Women’s Exhibition, it was a very small thing,” she explains.  “Now I am told that at their last exhibition they sold over a thousand pounds’ worth of goods.  That is splendid.  But that is not the greatest thing; it is the high standard that the work of the Arts and Crafts is setting which is influencing taste all round.  It is firmly established on its feet now.  I should like to see it put upon a business basis, with a paid attendant on duty so that it could be open during the regular shop hours.  I believe in paid attendants when they can be induced to take a real interest in the work.  There is an art in salesmanship, which the professional acquires by experience, and knows just how much interest and encouragement to display.

“The numbers that visit the periodical exhibitions is a most encouraging feature, for there was an Arts and Crafts display in London, which included much beautiful work.  It attracted me greatly, and I paid it many visits, but I never saw another person there, on any occasion.  This must have been terribly discouraging.”

Miss Chomley hopes to stimulate migration when she gets back.  “I hope to tell them from personal observation of the real conditions and chances here, and, also of some of my experiences.  The trouble is if you tell of hard-working British settlers who have prospered and now own two or three houses they will come out and ask at once, ‘Where are the houses for us?’  They are so stupid, and build such wrong ideas from what they are told, never realizing that it all depends upon their own attitude towards things here, and their own industry.  I was speaking to some Australian girls the other day upon war experiences, and how girls in England have been settling down.  Telling them I always like to speak to groups, I went towards a little knot of girls, and was speaking to them quietly, when one said, ‘Yes, I know; I am English.  They don’t know there was a war here.’  Now this attitude is mistaken.  She meant to hurt those other girls, and show them how much superior was her knowledge.  I pointed out to her quietly that was not the way to make friends here.  One of the Australians explained, ‘We were so far away, it was hard to realise.’  But the fact remains that most of them had brothers, or relatives, or ‘a boy’ there, and had been through the strain and anxiety.  I want to try and impress upon English girls that it is a big mistake to assume this attitude if they intend to come and live here.”

The Australian girl has a staunch advocate in Miss Mary Chomley.  “I had heard dreadful things about the girl of today in Australia,” she says; “but when I came out I was delighted to discover there were still many charming, refined girls in society.  I think the manners of our Australian girls are delightful; so unaffected and natural.  Of course, there is a percentage of selfish, pleasure-seeking girls, whose attitude towards men in accepting all kinds of favors is indefensible, in England as well, just now, unfortunately, in a small proportion.  They are just middle-class, of bad form, inherently vulgar, and not very intelligent; but the standard is rising to the old refined level.”



The Australasian (Melb, Vic), Sat 5 Jun 1926 (p.58):


LONDON, April 29

Miss Mary Chomley has returned from a visit to Australia.



The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld), Tue 1 Feb 1927 (p.3):


Miss Freda Bage, M.Sc., who was a substitute delegate to the League of Nations Assembly at Geneva, and who has just returned to Australia, writing prior to leaving London, to friends in Brisbane gives some interesting details of her experiences.


Miss Bage had tea with Miss Mary Chomley at the Royal Colonial Institute.  …………




The Herald (Melb, Vic), Sat 3 Mar 1928 (p.12):


English Speaking Union in London


“Another organization that is doing wonderful things in the way of showing overseas visitors hospitality is The Victoria League.  ………………………..

Miss Mary Chomley, a well-known Australian, who is a member of the Victoria League committee, is always glad to put Australians in touch with interesting people and places.  On these excursions the visitors go in groups, and arrangements are so well organized that travelling expenses are very light indeed – a great advantage to the traveler of moderate means.



The Australasian (Melb, Vic), Sat 14 Apr 1928 (p.17):




At the end of 1917 she was made assistant commissioner of the Australian Red Cross in London, ……………………………………………Insert other media

When the prisoners of war came back she and Miss Mary Chomley had to visit all the camps, which entailed much travelling about the country and coming in contact with many interesting people.  …………………………….



The Australasian (Melb, Vic), Sat 9 Jun 1928 (p.19):


Rear-Admiral and Lady Creswell are sailing for Australia by the Orvieto.  Miss Mary Chomley, of Melbourne, gave a pleasant little farewell tea party for them at the Royal Colonial Institute before their departure.



The Australasian (Melb, Vic), Sat 4 Aug 1928 (p.19):


LONOND, June 28

Mrs Arthur Chomley and her daughter are returning to Sydney by the Demosthenes.  Miss Mary Chomley gave a farewell party in their honour at the Royal Colonial Institute last week.



The Age (Melb, Vic), Fri 30 Jan 1931 (p.10):


The town clerk (Mr H.C. Ingleton) has received from Miss M.E. Chomley, O.B.E., of Surrey, forty-five small engravings, illustrating life on Bendigo, Forest Creek, Ironbark, Eaglehawk and Fryer’s Creek gold diggings in 1852.  In a covering letter, Miss Chomley stated that the engravings had been given to Brigadier-General W.H. Dobbie during one of his visits to Australia, and his widow (Miss Chomley’s aunt) had asked her to send the engravings to Bendigo city council.  Mrs Dobbie is a granddaughter of one of the oldest pioneers of Victoria, Dr Thomas Black, who arrived in New South Wales in 1833.  He settled in Melbourne in 1841, and died at St Kilda in 1894, aged 95 years.  The city council on Thursday accepted the engravings with gratitude on account of their great historical interest.



The Argus (Melb, Vic), Fri 22 Dec 1933 (p.10):


Miss Mary Chomley will arrive in Australia in the Mongolia on January 8.  She will be accompanied by her two sisters, the Misses Eilleen and Aubrey Chomley.  Miss Chomley has been living in England since 1914, during which time she has made two short visits to Australia, once on private business and once on behalf of the British Government.  Sir Harrison and Lady Moore have lent their house, 436 Punt Hill, South Yarra, to Miss Chomley and her sisters, where they will be for a few weeks after their arrival.



The Herald (Melb, Vic), Mon 8 Jan 1934 (p.5):


[photo of Mary]




The Argus (Melb, Vic), Tue 9 Jan 1934 (p.8):


Gift From London Bookseller

A copy of the Geneva version of the Bible, believed to have been published in 1589, has been presented as a Centenary gift to the State of Victoria by Mr W.A. Foyle, the head of a London bookselling firm.  The Premier (Sir Stanley Argyle) was informed of the gift in a letter which he received yesterday from the Agent-General for Victoria in London (Mr R. Linton) who said that it was due entirely to the initiative of Miss Mary Chomley that this ancient and historically valuable Bible had been acquired by the State.  He had arranged for Miss Chomley to bring the Bible with her and to present it personally.  Miss Chomley arrived in Melbourne yesterday by the Mongolia.

According to authorities, the Geneva version of the Bible was regarded by scholars of the 16th century as of great distinction for its accuracy.  With other versions, however, it was supplanted by the Authorised Version, which was published in 1611.




Miss Mary Chomley, who returned by the Mongolia yesterday, has brought news of some interesting Victorian relics for the Victoria League Centenary Exhibition.





[Page 10: photo of the 3 Chomley sisters – not very clear]

Interested in every aspect of social work and in every phase of women’s activities, Miss Mary Chomley has returned to Melbourne to make her home here.  It is eight years since she has visited Melbourne, and in that time Miss Chomley has identified herself closely with many interests in Virginia Water, in Surrey, England, where she and her sisters, the Misses Eilleen and Aubrey Chomley, have been living.

As former honorary secretary of the Victoria League in Victoria Miss Chomley before she left London visited the Victoria rooms at Kensington Palace with the Dowager Countess of Jersey, who founded the Victoria League, to choose the personal relics of Queen Victoria which their Majesties the King and Queen have consented to lend to the Victoria League’s exhibition for the Centenary.

The relics will arrive in Melbourne in time for the league to arrange an exhibition of rooms furnished in the period of a hundred years ago early in the Centenary year.  Queen Mary is taking an active interest in the exhibition and is giving a beautiful woolwork screen which once belonged to Queen Victoria.  The embroidery is after a picture by Landseer of Queen Victoria’s macaw and her favourite dogs.  When the exhibition is over the screen will be presented to the State of Victoria by Her Majesty.

During the war Miss Chomley will be remembered as head of the prisoners of war branch of the British Red Cross Society.  Since then she has taken a keen interest in the branch of the women’s institute in Virginia Water.  She was chairman of the local women’s section of the British Legion.  At present the Misses Chomley are staying at Sir Harrison and Lady Moore’s house in South Yarra.



The Argus (Melb, Vic), Wed 10 Jan 1934 (p.15):


Before leaving for Olinda, where she will spend the next four weeks, Lady Moore gave a delightfully informal party at her home in South Yarra in honour of Miss Mary Chomley and her sisters, the Misses Eilleen and Aubrey Chomley, who arrived from England this week and who will occupy Lady Moore’s South Yarra home until her return to town.  Radiant flowers adorned the reception-rooms.  The gathering included:-

Lady Miller (who received many good wishes for her visit to England), Lady Creswell, Lady Mitchell, Mrs Reginald Boyd, Misses Gwenda and Mary Boyd, Mrs Arthur Morris, Mrs David Grant, Mrs Rawdon Chomley, Misses Kathleen and Barbara Chomley, Miss Elsa Grice, Mrs Rupert Greene, Miss Macmullen, Miss Edith Hogg, Mrs John Gurner, Miss Brenda Gurner, Miss O’Loghlen, Miss A Weigall, and Miss Rita Watson.




The Herald (Melb, Vic), Sat 27 Jan 1934 (p.16):


Miss Mary Chomley’s Gentle Protest

VICTORIANISM – somehow the term suggests an ugly era.  Perhaps because for so long it has been customary to scoff at the social domestic and fashion sphere in the Royal reign that began in 1837.  To the moderns Victoria the Good was surely too good.  Victorianism sets some of us thinking of candles and snuffers, hideous gas jets, chignons and pork pie hats, Dundreary whiskers and pomposity – in short, a medley of unpleasant incidentals perhaps best forgotten.  Miss Mary Chomley, O.B.E., begs to differ.  She has a sneaking regard for the Victorian period – part of it, at any rate.  She proffered a gentle protest today.

“I do not think that it is quite fair to label the early Victorian period as hideous.  Some of the best specimens of English furniture were made by craftsmen in the last ten years of the eighteenth century,” she declared.  “This influence permeated into the early Victorian era.  It is true that taste declined later, when machine-made goods began to flood the market, and when some of the crudities of the Great Exhibition left their mark on household belongings.  I am hoping that the exhibition of English furniture and relics belonging to the period from 1837 to about 1850, which will be held in Melbourne, as the Victoria League contribution to the Centenary celebrations, will help to remove the unjust reproach that ugliness dominated the Victorian era.  One should not forget that 1830-1840 is known as the Romantic Period.  This was before the rush and turmoil of modern life had begun.”

The idea of holding this exhibition came to Miss Chomley after visiting a famous collection of early Victorian treasures displayed in London, two years ago, in a five-roomed house in Bruton Street, in keeping with the age of the relics, which have now been placed in Kensington Palace to form a permanent exhibition of the early Victorian era.  Through the personal interest of Queen Mary, some of these treasures will be placed on loan for the forthcoming exhibition in Melbourne.  Her Majesty is making a contribution herself – a pictorial screen, worked in Italian embroidery with a Landseer study of Queen Victoria’s favorite dogs and her Macaw, forming the subject of the picture.  This screen will remain in Victoria.  The Queen has made it a gift to the State.

“Who broached the suggestion to the Queen that some of these Kensington Palace treasures might be lent to Australia?”

Miss Chomley had a long answer to this question – Royalty was reached by a circuitous route, as it were.

“I put the suggestion to Miss Drayton, secretary of the Victoria League.  She got in touch with the Dowager Lady Jersey, the League’s president.  Lady Jersey interviewed Sir Cecil Harcourt Smith, Keeper of the King’s Treasures, who approached the Queen, and Her Majesty brought the appeal before the King.  So that was that.”

A 100-year old London firm, Messrs Cowton and Son, which has papered the walls of all the Royal palaces in England and also the walls of many historic homes, has made a most generous contribution to the early Victorian exhibition in Melbourne.  Mr Cowton has made a gift of wallpapers which will be similar to those used in the Kensington Palace rooms, housing the nation’s early Victorian relics.  While conferring with Mr Cowton, Miss Chomley was shown mounted samples of wallpapers, dated and named, that furnished a complete record of the firm’s orders almost throughout its long history.

Miss Chomley’s ambition is to hold the exhibition in a house of early Victorian character.  She has been busy looking for one since she arrived from England a few weeks ago, but so far the search has been fruitless.  However, she is pushing on with her plans, and at an early date a committee will be formed to make arrangements for the holding of the exhibition.



The Australasian (Melb, Vic), Sat 24 Mar 1934 (p.10):


Friends of Miss Mary Chomley will be grieved to hear that she is in Osmington private hospital (Melbourne), following a serious attack of influenza.  With her sisters, Miss Chomley has had a flat in Punt Hill, South Yarra, which they will occupy until they take possession of the house they have bought in Washington street, Toorak.



The Argus (Melb, Vic), Fri 27 Apr 1934 (p.10):


Miss Mary Chomley will spend the next week with Mrs Reginald Boyd at Rowsley, Bacchus Marsh.  With her sisters, she will go into residence early in May at the house they have bought in Washington street, Toorak.



The West Australian (Perth, WA), Mon 19 Nov 1934 (p.4):


MELBOURNE, Nov 12 – It was a happy thought that prompted Miss Mary Chomley in February, 1933, to suggest that the Victoria League’s contribution to the Melbourne centenary celebrations should be an Early Victorian exhibition.

Certainly of the many excellent and enticing things to see here at the moment this exhibition, which was opened on October 8 by the Governor of Victoria (Lord Huntingfield), is one that no one would wish to miss.  It is a delight from start to finish and the treasures it includes have been gathered from famous collections in London and also from Australian families whose names figure prominently in Victorian history.

Centrally situated in a spacious hall in the Commonwealth Bank building in Collins-street, it has attracted many thousands of people and the closing date has been extended as a consequence from November 6 to November 17.  The proceeds will be devoted to the bush library and magazine section of the Victorian League.  ……………….




Table Talk (Melb, Vic), Thur 16 May 1935 (p.29):


Mrs Ernest Poolman, who is president of the South Yarra and St Kilda Branch of the St Martin’s Homes for Boys, lent her home in Domain Road, South Yarra, for a most successful bridge party, the proceeds of which will go towards the home.  ……………...

Other helpers included ……………, and the Misses Mary Chomley, Estelle Brett, …….



The Argus (Melb, Vic), Tue 27 Aug 1935 (p.10):


“Fair and Famous Women”

Probably only the committee knows how much credit is due to Miss Mary Chomley for her work for the exhibition of portraits of “Fair and Famous Women”, which was opened by Lady Irvine yesterday afternoon, and which Lady Huntingfield will open again to-day at 3 pm at Scots Church Hall, Russell street.

Nearly every one of more than 400 portraits belongs to Miss Chomley, and her annotations to the catalogue, which it was hoped at one time would be published in full, are a valuable contribution.

When Lady Irvine opened the exhibition yesterday she gave an outline of the history of the little church of St Katherine at St Helena, which, it is hoped, may be restored with funds raised by the exhibition.  “Because of its history and because of its beauty, it is felt that St Katherine’s should belong to Victoria as much as to the diocese in which it is situated, and so it is to Victoria that we appeal for funds to restore it to its old beauty,” Lady Irvine said.  Lady Irvine was introduced by the chairman of the committee (Lady Creswell), who presented her with a posy of primroses and hyacinths.  Afterwards she was the guest of the committee at tea.  The Rev T.R. Mappin, who is the honorary treasurer, also spoke.

The hall has been divided by screens into a series of alcoves, where the prints and photographs of pictures by great artists are hung in groups according to the schools to which they belong.  The little group of paintings and etchings of St Katherine’s by Victor Cobb is a delightful commentary on the objects of the exhibition.

This evening Mr Norman MacGeorge will lecture there on “Some Famous Women in Art and History,” with epidiascope illustrations.  The exhibition will be open to-day and to-morrow from 10.30 to 6 pm, and again at 8 pm.  On Wednesday the opening ceremony will be performed by the vicar-general of the diocese (Bishop Booth), at 3 pm.  At 8.30 pm Miss Mary Cecil Allen will lecture on “Women in Modern Art.”

Mrs Henry Maudsley is the honorary secretary, and other committee members are Miss Chomley, Mrs Harold Brookes, Mrs W.S.P. Godfrey, Miss Theo Lucas, Mrs Newbolt, Mrs Evelyn Snodgrass, Miss Ethel Spowers, Mrs Oswald Syme, Mr R.H. Croll, Dr Alan Mackay, Mr A.W. Cecil Martin, Mr Marcus Martin, and Mr John Oldham.



Table Talk (Melb, Vic), Thur 29 Aug 1935 (p.16):


Nearly every picture in the exhibition of prints and photographs of pictures by distinguished artists of fair and famous women which was opened at Scots Church Hall last Monday afternoon, are owned by Miss Mary Chomley, the result of some intensive collecting on her many travels.  This exhibition, which finishes tonight with a lecture by Miss Mary Allen, has been arranged to raise funds for the restoration of St Katherine’s church and churchyard at St Helena.

St Katherine’s is a tiny church with a romantic history all its own, dating back to the middle of the last century, and has become in the present day a popular resort for sightseers.

When I called in Monday morning, I found Miss Chomley, busy with shoe, nailing up some pictures, but I managed to drag her away from her work long enough to learn from her the history of some of the pictures.  One of the most interesting was Botticelli’s Venus, which is the portrait of Simonetta Cattaneo, a young Genoese maiden who, at the age of 15, became the wife of Marco Vespucci, a native of Florence.  This girl died at a very young age, and she was so beloved by the people that when she was carried through the streets of Florence on the way to her grave, her coffin was left open and her face uncovered so that the people might see her once again for the last time.

Then there is the picture of the Virgin and Child by Cimabue, which is of the Italian school, a school which in those days was becoming staid and stiff.  The people of the country were so excited at the result of this artist’s work that when his picture was finished they carried it through the streets in solemn procession, to the fanfare of trumpets, from his house to the church where it was hung.

A plebiscite will be taken for the most beautiful women in the exhibition, and Lady Creswell has given one of Victor Cobb’s etchings, which will be presented to the winner.



The Argus (Melb, Vic), Sat 2 Nov 1935 (p.21):

Charming Setting for Tea Party

There was a personal charm and intimacy about the tea party given yesterday afternoon by Miss Mary Chomley and her sisters – the Misses Eileen and Aubrey Chomley – at their home in Washington street, Toorak.  The pretty creamy-ivory house with its great pots of cinerarias on the ivory plaza, its Italian mosaics, and gay sun-blind made a perfect setting, and each room was gay with bowls of roses, foxgloves, and variegated iris.  Miss Mary Chomley wore a deep cornflower blue chiffon gown.  ………………………




The Age (Melb, Vic), Fri 21 Aug 1936 (p.12):

Club Members Show Sketches

An afternoon gathering at which members of the Victoria League Club showed their own sketches and water colors proved a great success yesterday.  The idea was sponsored by the president of the club, Miss Mary Chomley, and enthusiastically taken up by members.  Almost every part of the world was illustrated in one or other of the sketches, which were arranged around the room.  There were many of Italy, some of Spain, others of Australian and of England; there were still-life studies and portraits tellingly sketched in.  At the invitation of the members Miss Edith Alsop made a tour of inspection of all the pictures and selected what she considered the best of each member’s work, and these were placed together in a special part of the room.  Among those who brought pictures were Miss Chomley, Mrs Gover Williams, Miss A. Currie, Mrs Runting, Mrs Moffat Pender, Miss Lewis, Mrs Walter Cobham and Lady Creswell.

Members of the club committee present were Miss Chomley, Mrs Courtney Dix and Miss E. Davidson.



The Age (Melb, Vic), Mon 14 Sept 1936 (p.10):


Rose Chapel at St Helena

A large crowd witnessed the dedication of a stone gateway at the historic St Katharine’s Rose chapel at St Helena, near Greensborough, on Saturday afternoon.  Erected to the memory of the pioneers, one of whom, Anthony Beale, built this picturesque church, the gateway was dedicated by the Bishop of Geelong (Bishop Booth), and officially declared open by Lady Creswell.

The vicar (Rev. T.R. Mappin) paid a tribute to the women who, led by Miss Chomley, had made this and other improvements possible.  ………………………



The Argus (Melb, Vic), Sat 12 Jun 1937 (p.32):


To enable some of her friends to see the new rooms of the Arts and Crafts Society in Albany Court, Collins street, Miss Mary Chomley gave an enjoyable tea party yesterday morning.  The guests included Lady Bruche, Miss E.F. Chomley, Miss A.J. Chomley, Mrs A.H. Sargood, ………………………………..



The Argus (Melb, Vic), Sat 28 Aug 1937 (p.26):

To Meet Lady Bruche

The president (Miss Mary Chomley) and members of the Victoria League Club had the happy idea of giving a tea party in the clubrooms yesterday to welcome the new senior vice-president of the league (Lady Bruche).

The rooms were gay with bowls of poppies and sunlight streamed through the windows, giving a spring-tide air.  Miss Chomley wore a black tailored suit with fox furs and a black velvet hat, and the guest of honour pinned a spring posy into her coat of black diagonal striped wool, worn with a closely fitting little cap.  The vice-president of the club (Mrs Latreille) wore a black ensemble, with a pink camellia posy and a black cap with a small veil.

Assisting Miss Chomley was the general secretary of the league (Mrs Stanley Addison).




The Age (Melb, Vic), Fri 19 Aug 1938 (p.3):


At Arts And Crafts Gallery

So that members of the Arts and Craft Society might meet Baroness Hedwig Rappe, Miss M. Chomley arranged a pleasant afternoon tea party yesterday afternoon at the society’s galleries, Albany-court.

The society is planning to hold a special display of Swedish handcraft at the forthcoming annual exhibition, and a number of Swedish residents in Melbourne are co-operating with the members to make the display a success.  When she was in Melbourne some months ago Baroness Rappe gave the society a great deal of help, and arranged for some special examples of craft work to be forwarded from Sweden for display.  It was to enable the members to express their thanks that yesterday’s party took place during the guest of honor’s brief stay in Melbourne, for she is on her way back to Sweden.  ………….



The Herald (Melb, Vic), Tue 25 Oct 1938 (p.15):

Club Chairwoman Welcomed

Mrs Rupert Greene, who was elected chairwoman of the Victoria League Club during her absence abroad, was welcomed today when the Play Reading Circle of the Education Committee gave a reading of Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Importance of Being Earnest,’ this afternoon.

Mrs Green was welcomed by the retiring chairwoman (Miss Chomley) and after the reading there was a club tea party.



The Age (Melb, Vic), Thur 2 Feb 1939 (p.3):

Social Notes

Miss Mary Chomley, who will travel to England via New Zealand, is leaving on Wednesday next by the Wanganella.



The Argus (Melb, Vic), Tue 7 Feb 1939 (p.7):

The Life of Melbourne

For Miss Mary Chomley

In honour of Miss Mary Chomley, the vice-president of the Arts and Crafts Society who is leaving for England to-morrow, the president (Mr W.A.M. Blackett) gave a tea party yesterday at the Wattle.

Among those present were the first president of the society (Lady Cresswell), Mr Marcus Martin (vice-president) Mrs John Parks (treasurer), and the following committee members:- Miss Edith Alsop, Miss Eva Butchart, Miss Edith Alsop, Miss Ann Montgomery, Mr J.S. Forman, Mr Frank Walker, and Mr R.H. Croll, and Mrs Gordon Johnston.

The secretary (Miss L Beaty) presented a spray of gardenias to Miss Chomley.



Evening Post (NZ), 25 Feb 1939:


The following passengers were booked to leave Wellington by the Tamaroa, which sailed yesterday afternoon for Southampton and London, via the Panama Canal: –

Miss E.F. Chomley, Miss A.J. Chomley, Miss M.E.M. Chomley, ………………



The Age (Melb, Vic), Thur 11 May 1939 (p.4):

It was decided at the annual meeting of the Arts and Crafts Society of Victoria, ……….

Mr Blackett announced with regret the resignation of Mrs O.J. Syme as vice-president and Miss Mary Chomley from the council, ………………….



The Argus (Melb, Vic), Mon 15 Jan 1940 (p.5):


Miss Mary Chomley, who was awarded the order of the British Empire for her work for prisoners during the last war, and her sisters, the Misses Eilleen and Aubrey Chomley, reached Melbourne last week, having returned from England by air.

Miss Chomley said yesterday that there was a "splendid feeling of quiet and calm confidence in England about this war." She had spoken to many evacuated children and evacuated mothers, and the general attitude toward their cheerful stay in the country was cheerful and appreciative.

There were thousands of young women and girls in uniform, many of whom had had professional training. One of the last gatherings Miss Chomley attended was the opening of the Victoria League's Club for Overseas Soldiers by Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone. The club was housed in the women's hostel "opposite" the London University, and would make an ideal "home away from home" for men on leave.

The Misses Chomley intend to settle at 9 Washington street, Toorak, which has been the home of some members of the family for many years.



The Age (Melb, Vic), Sat 11 May 1940 (p.21):

French Red Cross

Members of the French Red Cross have arranged an exhibition of reproductions of masterpieces, lent by Miss Mary Chomley, at “Arron,” Shipley-street, South Yarra, on Thursday afternoon, May 23, to assist refugees from Alsace.



The Age (Melb, Vic), Fri 14 Jun 1940 (p.15):

Victoria League Hospitality

As part of their war work, members of the Victoria League are organising a hospitality bureau in connection with Air Force House, and a list of 500 hostesses is being compiled under the direction of Miss Mary Chomley.

Members undertaking this form of war service are asked to give home hospitality either by day or for week ends, for inter-State and country members of the R.A.A.F. who have no relatives or personal friends in Melbourne.

Both town and country hostesses are wanted, and all types of hospitality, from a family meal to a dance party, a day’s sport or a week end in the country.  Members of the league who would be willing to assist in any way can communicate with Miss Chomley or the Victoria League office, Collins-street.



The Age (Melb, Vic), Fri 15 Jun 1940 (p.15):

Social Notes

Miss Mary Chomley will be the speaker at a club tea arranged by the members of the Victoria League Club on June 20.  Her subject will be A Trip by Air From England During War-time.



The Age (Melb, Vic), Thur 19 Sept 1940 (p.3):


Arts and Crafts Show

Fifteen countries were represented in the international pageant that was a picturesque feature of the programme at the Arts and Crafts Society’s exhibition at 9 Darling-street last night.  ……………………………………

The programme for the evening was arranged by Miss Mary Chomley, assisted by Miss Winifred Hall, ………………



The Argus (Melb, Vic), Sat 7 Dec 1940 (p.11):

Booked-out But Billets Found

When last night the accommodation at Air Force House was booked out, Victoria League Hospitality Bureau, which is situated at Air Force House, found billets for more than 100 waiting men.

Mrs W. Riddell and Miss Chomley, acting for the league’s hospitality bureau, called on people in homes all over Melbourne, from Sandringham to Ringwood, to provide week-end or over-night accommodation for airmen.

Each week the bureau has been successful in finding billets for men who cannot book at Air Force House, so that there are no airmen left to wander about seeking a room for the night.

The bureau is already beginning to billet for Christmas leave, and will welcome offers of accommodation for airmen on leave during that period.



The Argus (Melb, Vic), Fri 14 Mar 1941 (p.8):

World of Women

Victoria League Entertains

Representatives of groups of women who offer hospitality to airmen were entertained yesterday at the Victoria League, Collins st, by the Victoria League Hospitality Bureau.

They were welcomed by Miss Mary Chomley (director) and the hostesses were…………



The Argus (Melb, Vic), Fri 2 May 1941 (p.6):


In proposing the adoption of the annual report at the annual meeting of Victorian Women Journalists’ war service committee held yesterday at the boardroom, ……………..

Miss Mary Chomley, representing Victoria League hospitality committee, in moving the adoption of the treasurer’s report, also referred to the value of the work of the women journalist’s war service committee.  ………………………



The Age (Melb, Vic), Sat 4 Jul 1942 (p.4):


To-day is the second anniversary of the opening of the Victoria League hospitality bureau at Air Force House, and in the past two years 115,000 men have received hospitality through the bureau, an average of 1200 men each week.

This splendid record has been maintained consistently, and many kinds of hospitality have been arranged, including dances, picture and theatre parties, and week-end hospitality in both suburban and country homes.  Hospitality has been found for men who have just left hospital and are convalescing before resuming their duties.

Many men bringing their wives from other States have appealed to the bureau assistants to find homes for them, and they have usually been successful; also, in cases of illness, hospital accommodation has been arranged.

There are 27 members of the league acting as voluntary helpers at the bureau, working on three shifts a day, for seven days a week, under the direction of Miss Mary Chomley.

Yesterday Mrs C. Skinner, who interviews all the hostesses, paid a tribute to the wonderful response which had always been given by both men and women to all appeals for hospitality.



The Argus (Melb, Vic), Wed 24 Jan 1945 (p.4):



Sir: Perhaps the following extracts from letters just received from my nephew, Captain Malcolm Morris, Coldstream Guards, now serving abroad, might be of interest:

Nov 11: “Holland is quite as wet as I had always imagined it to be.  The only compensation is the unfailing kindliness and hospitality of the Dutch.  Even if we have spent the previous day knocking flat every second house (quite often a considerably higher proportion), they still greet us enthusiastically as liberators.”  And again, on Jan 6: “I have just had a most enjoyable six days.  I was sent on a course in a town where the (Guards) brigade is very popular.  The course itself was quite hard work, but outside working time I thoroughly enjoyed myself, living in very much greater comfort than I had known for a considerable time.  The Dutch even outdo the Belgians in the marvellous hospitality which they offer us.”

Captain Morris is a son of the late Dr Arthur Morris, of Melbourne, and grandson of my father, the late Judge Chomley, and is an old Geelong Grammar School boy and a BA of Oxford.  It would be nice for the Dutch people now in Melbourne to hear how much their kindness is appreciated. – (Miss) M.E. CHOMLEY (Toorak).



The Argus (Melb, Vic), Thur 15 Nov 1945 (p.8):


A Big Job Over

Over a cup of tea this afternoon Miss Chomley, senior vice-president of the Victoria League in Victoria, and chairman of its hospitality bureau, told of the amazing success of this bureau’s activities during the war.  Almost a half million men of the Air Force have, through its office at Air Force House, been provided with entertainment, and often a holiday or rest in a home during their brief periods of leave in this city.  The league would like to thank every woman who has been a hostess for the bureau since it opened in 1940, but obvious reasons forbid, and Miss Chomley can only say whenever the subject comes up how deep is the appreciation of the league of the unselfish way in which the women when rung up, often at a few minutes’ notice, opened their homes to the airmen in this city.  She feels that the kindliness thus evinced will surely find an outlet in work of value to the postwar world.  The bureau at Air Force House closes on December 1.



Weekly Times (Melb, Vic), Wed 21 Nov 1945 (p.22):

Thousands Entertained

Nearly half a million Air Force men have received hospitality through the Victoria League Hospitality Bureau at Air Force House.  The bureau is to close on December 1.

The bureau has been functioning daily since July, 1940, when Air Force House was opened, …………………………………….

The chairwoman of the bureau committee (Miss M. Chomley), and the hon. secretary (Mrs Cluney Harkness), and the hon. treasurer (Mrs E.E. Davies), said last week that the League could never be sufficiently grateful to the hostesses who had made their homes available, and that they wished it were possible to thank each one personally.

The bureau had about 200 billeting hostesses on its books, a further 200 hostesses for Sunday dinner, and 50 for Saturday afternoon entertainment.

“The hostesses were wonderful.  They took in boys, often overcrowding their homes, and at great inconvenience to themselves.  In spite of food difficulties, and the many inconveniences of wartime living, they continued to billet boys.  Often a boy would become a friend of the family, and spend all his leave with them after making his first contact through the bureau,” Miss Chomley said.  ………………………



The Age (Melb, Vic), Tue 4 Dec 1945 (p.5):


Friends of Miss M. Chomley, convener of the hospitality committee of the Victoria League, will regret to hear she is ill.  She is in Mercy Hospital.



The Argus (Melb, Vic), Sat 14 Dec 1946 (p.10):






The Argus (Melb, Vic), Mon 31 Mar 1947 (p.6):


Rain did not spoil the success of the garden fete arranged by the Victoria League, and held at the home of Mr and Mrs I.M. Moffatt-Pender, Court House, Gordon gve, South Yarra, on Saturday.  Objects of the fete were to raise money for the Food for Britain appeal, and to send reading matter to servicemen in Japan and to isolated settlers in the outback.  Miss Mary Chomley was organiser.  ………………

The amount raised at the fete was more than £400.



Weekly Times (Melb, Vic), Wed 3 Sept 1947 (p.39):


Although there were many oversea visitors, new members and visiting members at the tea party given by the chairman (Miss Mary Chomley) and the committee of the Victoria League Club last week, everyone soon knew everyone else, for the hostesses made a splendid job of introducing people, an important factor in the making of a successful party which so many hostesses overlook.  ………………………………




The Argus (Melb, Vic), Wed 29 Sept 1948 (p.7):

The Life of Melbourne

Admirers of the work of the late Sir Arthur Streeton visited the Sedon Galleries yesterday to see an exhibition of his water-colours, some of which are on loan.

Visitors included …………………  Other interested onlookers were ……………….., Miss Mary Chomley, and her sister, Miss E.F. Chomley.  Exhibition will remain open until October 8.



The Age (Melb, Vic), Wed 27 Jul 1949 (p.6):

People and Parties

Afternoon Tea

Following the annual meeting of the Victoria League in Victoria, held in Melbourne Town Hall, Lady Herring, accompanied by Miss Kathleen Deasey, was entertained at afternoon tea in the Victoria League Club rooms.  She was welcomed by the senior vice-president, Mrs Guy Bakewell, and by Mrs Stanley Langdon, who is the recently elected chairman of the club, replacing Miss Mary Chomley, retiring chairman.



The Argus (Melb, Vic) Thur 25 May 1950 (p.12):

Victoria League shows its work in field day


Another League foundation member well to the fore was stalwart Miss Mary Chomley. ...



The Age (Melb, Vic), Sat 3 Feb 1951 (p.5):

Victoria League Has Grown With the State

In April the Victoria League in London will celebrate its jubilee, when 50 years of promoting friendship and understanding between people living in the British Commonwealth of Nations will be commemorated.

The league in Victoria, though established seven years later than the parent body, has its own individual story of development.  …………………………..

The foundation meeting was held in the Melbourne Town Hall on May 23, 1908.  ……..

Foundation Member

Unfaded memories of this first meeting are held by Miss M.E. Chomley, first honorary secretary, who is the only foundation member in Victoria still living.  She is now chairman of the education committee and vice-chairman of the league club committee.


Miss Chomley remembers early difficulties in accommodating the league’s committees.  The group preparing books to be sent out, she recalls, worked at their binding and packing in the carriage house at Lady Mitchell’s home.  ………………………………





The Herald (Melb, Vic), Mon 2 Apr 1951 (p.8):

In Town And Out

League’s Jubilee

Coinciding with the Victoria League’s golden jubilee celebrations in London today, the League in Victoria will hold a reception at the Hotel Windsor this afternoon.  ………..

Among the 180 guests will be Miss Mary Chomley, the first honorary secretary when the League was formed in Victoria in 1908.  …………….



The Herald (Melb, Vic), Thur 19 Aug 1954 (p.23):



During the year the executive committee appointed Mrs Rupert Greene and Miss Mary Chomley life members of the executive in recognition of their many years of service to the League.  ………………………………….



The Argus (Melb, Vic), Wed 21 Nov 1956 (p.13):


The Arts and Crafts Society’s annual exhibition in the Independent Hall, Collins st., is an eye opener to overseas visitors – it shows just what Australians can achieve in craft work.


Official guests at the exhibition included ………………….., and Miss Mary Chomley, one of the founders of the society.



The Age (Melb, Vic), 22 July 1960 (p.20):


CHOMLEY – On July 21, at her home, 9 Washington Street, Toorak, Mary Elizabeth Maud, daughter of the late Judge Chomley, in her 89th year.


CHOMLEY – The Funeral of the late Miss MARY ELIZABETH MAUD CHOMLEY will leave St John’s Church of England, Toorak, THIS DAY, after a service commencing at 3 p.m., for the St Kilda General Cemetery.



The Age (Vic), 25 July 1960 (p.6):

Death of Noted War Worker

Miss Mary Elizabeth Chomley of Washington Street, Toorak, who died last week, aged 88, was the foundation State secretary of the Victoria League and a distinguished member of it for 51 years.

She was the daughter of Judge Chomley of Dromkeen, Riddell’s Creek and a cousin of the first Dean of Melbourne (Very Rev Hussey-Burgh Macartney).

Miss Chomley was secretary of the Australian Exhibition of Women’s Work in 1908-9, and secretary of the Victoria League from 1909 to 1914.

In World War 1, she was on the staff of Princess Christian’s Hospital for Officers, London, in 1915-16, and was secretary of the Prisoners of War branch of the Australian Red Cross, London, from then until 1919.  Her O.B.E. was conferred in 1918.

She was a member of the delegation appointed by the British Government to report on conditions of work for women and the prospects for female migrants to Australia in 1919-20, and from 1928 to 1933 was president of the women’s section of the British Legion, Virginia Water, Surrey, England.

She was also Australian representative on the committee of the Society for the Overseas Settlement of British Women.










It has been noted on the ‘womenaustralia’ website that Elizabeth was born in 1872, however the Vic Birth Reg Index lists her birth as being registered in 1871 in Malvern (reg. no. 24361).  The same website lists her death as 18 July 1960 – but the Victorian Probate Index lists it as 21/7/1960, it also lists Mary as a resident of Toorak, which is where her death was also registered.  (reg. no. 9579)


“Don’t Forget Me Cobber” (p.306)


Mary Elizabeth Chomley was born in 1872, the daughter of Arthur Wolfe Chomley who was the assistant Crown Prosecutor at the trial of Ned Kelly in 1880.  He later became a judge.  She was very active in women’s affairs in Victoria prior to going to London early in the war.  Initially she worked at Princess Christian’s Hospital for Officers, transferring in 1916, to become secretary of the Prisoners of War Department of Australian Red Cross in London, where she stayed until 1919.  She had been awarded the OBE in 1918.  After her work for the Red Cross she was involved in Britain in the overseas settlement of British women, and from 1928-33 president of the Women’s Section of the British Legion.  She later returned to Australia.  Mary Chomley died in Melbourne on 21 July 1960 and was buried at St Kilda Cemetery.



The Victoria League (some dates of office)

1908 – First Honorary Secretary of the newly formed Victoria League of Victoria

1936 – President of the Victoria League Club

1938 – Retired as Chairwoman of the VLC in October

1941 – Director of the Victoria League Hospitality Bureau at Air Force House

1945 – Senior vice-president of the Victorian branch, and Chairwoman of the Hospitality Bureau [which closed its doors 1/12/1945]

1947 – Vice-president of the Victoria League, and Chairman/woman of the Victoria League Club (retired as chairman mid 1949)

1951 – Chairman of the Education committee and vice-chairman of the League Club committee (the only Foundation member still living)

1954 – Appointed Life Membership



Mary is buried in the family plot at St Kilda Cemetery [CofE, Comparment C, Grave383]



Mary’s siblings:

1. Arthur Edward b.&d.1868 Malvern (19 days old)

2. Frederick Griffith b.1870 Prahran

3. Edith Gwendoline b.1873 Malvern, married Reginald Septimus BOYD in 1900

4. William Burgh b.1875 Malvern, (Assayer), died 4/8/1960, age 85

5. Julie Marguerite (Daisie) b.15/10/1878 Woodlands, St Kilda – married (Dr) Arthur Edward MORRIS 12/7/1910

6. Eileen Frances b.9/5/1880 Woodlands, St Kilda, died 1962, age 82 (unmarried)

7. Stawell Arthur b.&d.1881 St Kilda (4 months old)

8. Aubrey Joan b.16/1/1883 Woodlands, St Kilda, died 1977, age 93 (unmarried)



1934 photo of Eileen: https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/149216172


Father (Arthur’s) Obit 1914: https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/65593164




Arthur’s Brothers (Mary’s uncles) included:



*Hussey Malone CHOMLEY (1832 – 1906) – who was the Chief Commissioner of Police Mar 1881 – Jun 1902

Two of his grandsons fought in WW1 (sons of Alex Francis & Jessie CHOMLEY)

1. Lieut. Alec Leslie Rutherford CHOMLEY (6327), 3rd Div Artillery, 9/7/15 – 23/3/19

2. Rupert Rutherford CHOMLEY, AFC, 2/12/15 –

[see P.63 of “Geelong Grammarians” for details on both these men]



*Henry Baker CHOMLEY (d.1903) – he was the father of the writer C.H. CHOMLEY (Charles Henry 1868-1942)

[Henry Baker CHOMLEY married Eliza A’BECKETT in 1863]



The Sun (Syd, NSW), Sun 30 May 1915 (p.19):


Mrs C.H. Chomley and Miss Betty Chomley are staying at St Leonard’s-oSea.  Miss Isla Chomley is working at one of the military hospitals at St Jean de Luz, France.

Leader (Melb, Vic), Sat 25 Dec 1915 (p.50):



Miss Eila and Miss Frances Chomley, the daughters of Mr and Mrs C.H. Chomley, are working in a military hospital in France.



The Argus (Melb, Vic), Fri 8 Sept 1922 (p.12):


An Australian “Land Girl”

Something of the work done by the “land girls” in England during the war was mentioned recently by Miss Isa Chomley, whose father, Mr Charles Chomley, editor of the “British-Australasian” in London, was formerly a Melbourne journalist.  Miss Chomley has been spending a long holiday in Australia, after 14 years’ absence, and she expects to leave again about the end of September.  During the war she and her sister served for three years on a farm in Shropshire; and work on an English farm, as she describes it, sounds interesting, as well as hard.  ……………………………





*George Hanna CHOMLEY










            "AN ANZAC'S FAIR."


Have I been a soldier long sir?  Aye, it Deslandes - Copy.JPG

            seems like twenty years

Since we sailed away from Melbourne

            to the time we took Pozieres.

We lobbed at dirty Suez and entrained

            for Mena Camp,

Right underneath the Pyramids, where

            we soon got something damp.

We marched around the desert until our

            feet were sore,

But soon took a jerry and filled our packs

            with straw.

We went down to Ismalia, to meet old

            Johnny Turk,

But the only thing we found there was

            work, and then more work.

At last we sailed from Egypt and arrived

            at Lemnos Isle,

We rehearsed all the landing in good

            Australian style.

We heard at last the dinkum about the

            Anzac stunt,

Then all of us were pining to get quickly

            to the front.

We got there, no time wasted, and on

            that forsaken brink

We fought and starved and sweated when

            you couldn't buy a drink,

We stuck it for eight blooming months,

            when the heads made up their minds

To do the quiet, cunning trick - but we

            left a lot behind.

We retreated back to Lemnos, the mob

            was worn and pale,

I tell you sir, it was just like one coming

            out of gaol.

They shipped us on to Alex, so the boys

            couldn't spend their dough,

And they put us in the desert - we never

            had a show,

In time we got near water, heard the

            order, "He that hath

"In his harness soap and towel, may go

            and have a bath."

We were thankful for small mercies, and

            dropped in there with glee,

Its wonderful the dirt we dripped did not

            stain the blooming sea.

At last there came along the news and we

            did a dinkum dance,

Our Colonel said, "If you're good boys,

            I'll take you all to France."

The trip across was lovely, the sea of

            azure blue,

The only thing that marred it was ever-

            lasting stew.

But what a sight for sore eyes when we

            landed at Marseilles!

The people there were civilised - we had

            no eyes for males.

The girls all looked just lovely, as we

            went north in the train,

And when this war is over I'm coming

            back again.

They dropped us in a quiet spot to get

            our second wind;

The Boche pulled nasty faces, but we just

            sat there and grinned.

We stayed there for a month or so, then

            things began to hum,

They took us quietly by the hand and

            dumped us on the Somme.

"Now lads, this is the dinkum joint,

            you've got to keep your name!"

But I guess the boys of Anzac earned

            their undying fame.

We thought the place called Anzac was

            pretty rough for shells,

But blime, down there on the Somme, was

            two or three large hells.Deslandes, H (AWM).jpg

Well, I think we did our little bit, and

            we're now out for a rest;

I think the German won't be long before

            he gives it best.

Our little British Army has got him

            thinking now,

He's feeling pretty sorry he started up

            that row.

But we are getting weary of looking

            round for fight,

We'd like those clouds to turn around

            and show us of the light.

I often in the dugout dream of "Home,

            sweet home,"

And I'm sure if I get back, sir, I never

            more will roam.

But when I lob in Melbourne, and by the

            fireside sit,

I'll be proud that I in truth can say,

            "Thank God, I did my bit."






The poem “An Anzac’s Fair” was sent home by Hector [soldier on left in above photo], and published in his local paper the Inglewood Advertiser on the 5th January 1917.  Hector was killed 9 months later in the Battle of Passchendaele, and is commemorated on the Menin Gate at Ypres.



Hector Leslie DESLANDES was the youngest son of John DESLANDES and Catherine MUNRO and had been born at Inglewood, Vic, in 1894.  Hector lost his eldest brother in 1910 (age 23) and his father in 1913, so when he enlisted on the 3rd February 1915 with his remaining brother George, they left their mother virtually on her own, as their only sister had married in 1912.  Also enlisting with them was their mother’s brother, their uncle George Munro, and 3 other Inglewood boys, Thomas Murray and brothers’ Charles and William Roberts.



All six sailed with A Company of the 22nd Battalion on the Ulysses at the beginning of May, reaching Alexandria on the 9th June.  Another local boy, Phillip Thompson, also made the journey with them, but as a member of B Coy.



They continued on to Gallipoli on the 30th August on board the Scotian, minus the Deslandes’ uncle George, and Tom Murray (‘Nip’), who were both ill.  As a part of the 6th Brigade convoy, they were lucky to avoid the lurking submarine UB14 which managed to cause severe damage to one of their companion ships, the Southland.





Eventually landing at Anzac on the 5th September, they moved into trenches opposite Johnson’s Jolly the following day, where ‘Nip’ joined them a couple of weeks later, and there they remained until the evacuation.  George parted company with his brother on the 8th October when he transferred to the 4th Field Coy Engineers, but both Deslandes boys returned safely to Egypt in January 1916.



Later that month, their uncle, who had remained in Egypt on guard duty after his illness, was invalided home after a bout of enteric fever – his war over before it had really begun.  Charles Roberts also left them.  He’d found himself in a spot of trouble after falling asleep on sentry duty at Anzac, and after the return to Egypt began a sentence of imprisonment, which was soon suspended.  However, by April he was in hospital with Tachycardia and Valvular Disease, and the following month was shipped home medically unfit.  His brother Willie, Phil Thompson, Nip and Hector made the move to the Western Front towards the end of March.  It was during their stint in the nursery sector at Fleurbaix that they suffered their first casualty in action, when Willie received a bomb wound to the neck.  He had been discharged from hospital to a convalescent depot, and Hector and his unit were taking over the reserve line at Bois Grenier, when George landed in France with the Engineers in early June.



By July Hector was on the Somme and on the 25th moved into the fighting at Pozieres.  For four sleepless days he and his mates endured the horror of the attempted obliteration of Kay Sap, which was raked with enfilade and frontal fire, gas and high explosive shells.  As noted in ‘With the Twenty-Second’: “The shells, malignant and relentless, killed wounded and buried living and dead together.”  Phil Thompson was the next casualty of the group, he sustained a head wound on the 27th, and also suffering from shell shock, was sent through the hospital system to Blighty.  Nip, operating as one of the Battalion runners, (described as ‘supermen’ during this time) received a Military Medal for his efforts.



After a short rest at Sausage Gully the 22nd then took part in an attack on the German trenches on the 5th August.  Unfortunately, before the attack even commenced, they had lost approximately 20% of their men to enemy shellfire, and as they advanced, A Coy ‘were practically annihilated by machine gun fire.’  However, they took their objectives and held them until they were relieved later that night by the 24th Bn, and after leaving the front line, Nip was admitted to a rest station for a couple of days with shell shock.  Later that month they played their part in the attack on Mouquet Farm, and the battalion was then moved on to a quieter sector in Belgium.



Hector then left his mates in the 22nd Bn, and transferred to the 6th Machine Gun Coy on the 7th September.

By winter he was back in France, and after a stint at Flers, was in billets at Flesselles when a fully recovered Willie Roberts, joined him and the machine gunners on the 8th December.  Christmas was spent in the line amongst the cold and fog and slush, and the following few months were spent in and out of the line as they followed the German withdrawal towards the Hindenburg Line.



The Battle of Bullecourt on the 3rd May 1917 brought both glory and sorrow for the boys from Inglewood.  Willie and Nip both operating as runners for their units met with completely different fates this day.  Willie, following in the footsteps of Nip at Pozieres, earned himself a Military Medal.  Pinned down in a shell-hole by machine gun fire with a badly wounded Lieutenant Palling, he and another man made a dash back to Company HQ with a report and to collect a stretcher.  He then endeavoured to guide a stretcher party back until casualties prevented further progress.  Meanwhile, Nip went missing and was later declared killed in action.



From a letter to their parents from Nip’s brother Frank (Murray):

I am writing to you to-day to tell you some bad news - "Nip" is missing.  He may be in hospital, or he may have been taken prisoner - they don't know for sure where he is.  His battalion was over here to-day, and I hunted round until I found his cobbers; that was the first I heard about it.  He was bringing a message back to headquarters with a couple of mates, and they were hopping from shell hole to shell hole when he was hit in the leg and arm.  His mates tried to pull him to the hole by pushing out a rifle, but he said, "I'm beggared; I can't hold it."  His arm was broken, I think.  They did their best to get him in, but couldn't at the time.  They reported it when they reached headquarters, and two stretcher-bearers went out to get him.  One came back carrying the stretcher - the other was killed.  Two more tried and another was knocked, and they couldn't get him in just then.  Another mate of his said that later on one crawled out and gave him a drink out of his bottle.  They looked for him after but could not find him, so there is still a chance that he may have been picked up and taken to hospital, or he even may have been made a prisoner.  ………………



Nine days later, the last of the group remaining with the 22nd Bn, Phil Thompson, joined Hector and Willie in the 6th MG Coy.  Less than a month later however, he moved on to the VetHospital.  After Bullecourt Hector’s unit went out for a long rest, which actually involved moving from camp to camp for the next few months.  During this time Hector was promoted to Lance Corporal.  Finally at the end of July they left the Somme area and headed north once more, where they went into billets at Wardrecques.  From here they traveled to Ypres and began preparations for the Battle of Passchendaele, beginning with

Menin Road

on the 20th September, followed by Broodseinde Ridge on the 4th October.



Fighting was resumed on the 9th October, and Hector was a member of one of the 6 gun teams under the command of Lieutenant Wright, that were positioned behind the ruins of Broodseinde to provide indirect covering fire.  They were shelled continuously; two guns being destroyed and two put out of action, whilst Hector and five of his comrades lost their lives.  In the words of Lieut Wright; “…we were all dazed and ducking involuntarily at every burst and shaking at every sound, waiting for our ‘issue’ with just a sheet of tissue paper – it seemed – between us and sheer lunacy.”  By next morning “When word came to abandon the cursed spot, I had some difficulty in inducing the boys to stay long enough to bury their comrades.”

Hector’s body was either never recovered or not identified.



A year after his death Hector was remembered by his mother and sister in verse:

He has done his best along with the rest


And marched with the brave old boys,


Inscribed his name on the scroll of fame


As one of Australia’s boys.



Hector’s brother George, along with Willie Roberts and Phil Thompson, returned home in 1919.





Endnotes:  Menin Gate Photo taken by author.  Photo of Hector & mate AWM PO8120.003.

Hector Leslie Deslandes (1894-1917) L/Cpl 145, KIA 9/10/1917;  George William Deslandes (1885-1949) Pte 144 / Spr 4222, RTA 9/3/19;  George Alexander Munro (1873-1935) Pte 214, RTA 21/1/16;  Thomas James Murray ‘Nip’ (1893-1917) Pte 216, MM, KIA 3/5/1917;  Charles Frederick Roberts (1894-1947) Pte 238, RTA 11/5/16;  William Henry Roberts (1881-1937) Pte 239, MM, RTA 5/4/19;  Phillip Louis Thompson (1887-1956) Pte 476, RTA 19/4/19.

Frank Murray (1895-1918), Pte 6314, 7th Bn – who wrote to their parents when Nip went missing, was KIA 27/4/1918 Meteren.



Heather ‘Frev’ Ford, 2010




Knox, Hilda.jpg

“She was endowed with a beautiful disposition, and was in every way suited for the noble profession she adopted.” [Rev P.J. Edwards, Benalla]


Hilda was born at her parent’s home at Benalla in country Victoria on the 29th December 1883.

Her father James Baldock KNOX was born in London, but had migrated to NZ, then to Australia, where he had been appointed Shire Secretary at Benalla in 1878.  In 1882 he married Hilda’s mother Mary Isabella BARLOW, and they lost their first child at only one month old in 1883.  Following Hilda’s birth at the end of that year, her parents gave her ten more siblings; four sisters and six brothers, three of whom also served in WW1.


In her early years, Hilda was educated at the Benalla State School and attended the local Holy Trinity Church as a Sunday school pupil, then as a teacher, and a member of the choir


She completed her 3 years nursing training at the Homoeopathic Hospital in Melbourne in mid-1909, qualifying as a member of the RVTNA.  Shortly after this she was urgently called home to tend to her parents; followed by 4 years of private nursing.


When war broke out in 1914, Hilda was among the early selection of nurses for service abroad, joining the AANS as a Staff Nurse on the 21st November 1914 along with Amy King.  They had trained in the same hospital and would sail together on the A55 HMAT Kyarra, which departed Melbourne on the 5th December 1914.  The ship had been fitted out as a hospital ship and carried the staff and equipment for 5 hospitals, theirs being the 1st Australian General Hospital (1st AGH); and as a result was somewhat overcrowded.

Surviving sea sickness, inoculation, the heat and an outbreak of ptomaine poisoning, they arrived at Alexandria on the 14th January 1915.  Although given shore leave each day, they remained on the Kyarra until the 21st, when they were trained to their hospital which had been set up in the Palace Hotel at Heliopolis on the outskirts of Cairo.


Following the landing at Gallipoli Hilda wrote to her parents: “I have only a few minutes.  We are frantically busy, working night and day, on these poor men!  It is simply heartbreaking.”

Her brother Frank who was also in Egypt, with the 3rd Light Horse Field Ambulance, wrote to their parents at about the same time: “My word, Australia ought be proud of their nurses who came over here.  To see the poor girls (I suppose some of them would not like me calling them girls), but really I feel sorry for them, the way they work.  No doubt you are proud of your daughter.  (The fellows over here think Hilda a lovely girl.)  I am glad to have her here with me, although I see very little of her now.”


These letters were soon followed by another after Hilda had been seriously ill with cellulitis:

“I noticed the soreness behind one ear, but took no notice, thinking it a swollen gland, when it became rapidly worse.  I was ordered to bed and an incision made.  Two days afterwards as my head was very swollen and temperature 104 was given ether and two more incisions made.  Was painted with lethyol collodion and had half-hourly foments, so you may imagine how busy it kept the poor, tired sisters who have been wonderfully kind to me.  Am ever so much better now.  Of course, we have been working very hard for three weeks – day and night sometimes, because the trains come at all times and we could not cope with the work.


Jane Bell, Principal Matron (1AGH) during this time, later commented on Hilda’s illness, stating that she was one of a band of nurses who had “worked with untiring zeal until she herself became seriously ill after an acute infection.  The sister who replaced her – also an excellent nurse – used to say, jokingly, that she was tired of hearing Sister Knox’s name, as the patients were always quoting her perfection.”


Frank had been able to visit his sister while she was ill, and she was extremely proud of him as he’d received promotion to Lance Corporal.  Her happiness for her brother however, was tinged with the sadness that several men, who she’d liked very much, had been killed and numerous others wounded.


Her next letter stated: “I am better than I have been for weeks.  I am having quite a jolly time – motor drives every evening.  One never ventures out before 5.30 from here.  Yesterday was really my first day out for three weeks.  Motored to [Helouan], about 15 miles, in a beautiful touring car.  It is a delightful trip, right along the banks of the Nile for miles; beautifully fertile country all the way, and ever so many house boats (called dahabeah) and other craft on the river.  Next the Barrage I think it is the nicest run from Cairo.  The roads are perfect all the way.  Arrived there about 6.30, had tea in the charming gardens of one of the hotels, back to Cairo and dined at Shepheard’s on the terrace, a delightful orchestra played, then home.  Am going for another spin this evening, also tomorrow.”


While Hilda continued to serve in Egypt, her friends Amy King and Valerie Woinarski served on the hospital ship Grantully Castle, transporting the wounded from Gallipoli.  Both wrote to her at the end of July, and she forwarded these letters on to her parents to give them some idea of life on the transports.  She also sent home newspaper cuttings, asking her parents to save them for her, as she was so proud of the wonderful things said about their men, and she felt it was such an honor to nurse them.  Meanwhile she noted that she had forty-four patients under her care; most of whom had come from the Dardanelles.


As her brother had commented, Hilda was well loved, and not just by her own patients; as she made a point of seeking out all Benalla lads and passing on local papers, little treats and kind words to cheer them.


Trooper Sherwill of the 8th Light Horse stated that in October 1915, “I was in the Palace Hospital at Helipolis with a mild attack of typhoid fever, where Sister Knox was on duty, and I can truly say that there was not a morning but that she would come to my bedside with a cheery “Good morning,” “How are you?” and other words of comfort that are so pleasing to the sick, and she would never forget to bring me little dainties such as apples, biscuits, etc.  This was apart from Sister Knox’s duties, as I was in an adjoining ward.”


And Corporal Dobson who was a patient at Luna Park Hospital, Heliopolis, had the following to say:

“Miss Hilda Knox, of Benalla, who is a nurse (and sister of the inimitable Frank), came in to see me last night, and we had a bonzer old yarn, recalling our school days, etc., and discussing Benalla and people.  It was kind of her, and she was extremely nice.”


Hilda’s friend Amy returned to Egypt from hospital ship duty at the end of September, and on the 1st of December, having completed a year of service; both ladies were promoted to the rank of Sister.


On the 3rd of March 1916, Hilda and her two mates Amy and Valerie embarked on the Argyllshire for transport duty, tending to the sick and wounded that were being returned to Australia.


Back in Victoria, Hilda returned to her family for a visit, and a huge Welcome was arranged for her at the Holy Trinity Parish hall.  The hall was beautifully decorated for the occasion and the Boy Scouts formed a ‘guard of honor’ from the gate to the front door.  Among the many addresses the Rev P.J. Edwards informed the gathering that “During the last three months he had met hundreds of returned soldiers, and asked them if they knew Nurse Knox.  They said, “Do we not know Nurse Knox! She is one of the bravest women in the world.”  One said, “She is a bonzer!” Another said, “She is a beauty!” while another said, “She is an angel!”


Superintendent Davidson said that his son who had been shot at Gallipoli had met Sister Knox at Heliopolis, “and he said she was considered to be one of the first and foremost nurses in that hospital.  In spite of her many duties she found time to visit Australians in other hospitals.  She visited his son, and on behalf of his wife and himself he had to thank her.”


The Rev A.C. McConnan, who had a hand in Hilda’s placement at her training hospital, and ever since had watched over her career with pride, said, with great pleasure it had fallen to him to pass on to her a small token of the towns esteem: a wallet bearing the inscription “Presented to Sister Hilda Knox by the people of Benalla district.”  The wallet contained 68 sovereigns.  She was also presented with a handsome silverback circular mirror, on behalf of three local lads who she had nursed in Egypt.


As well as thanking the townspeople on Hilda’s behalf, her father also mentioned that he had had letters from local soldiers sounding her praises, and he was proud of her and all the women performing such noble work.  The final speaker summed up with the hope “that she might be long spared to continue the good work she had taken up, and that she would return safely in the not very distant future.”


Following her short holiday with her family and friends, Hilda returned to Melbourne where she served for some time in the Caulfield Base Hospital.  It wasn’t until the 19th August 1916 that together with Amy and Valerie, she re-sailed with the 14th Australian General Hospital (14th AGH) on the A63 HMAT Karoola, which arrived at Suez on the 19th September.  Sailing with them also as a member of the 14th AGH was her brother Gordon.


They disembarked on the 20th and were taken by train to Abbassia, where the hospital was situated in the Main Barracks.  The 14th AGH were taking over this hospital from the 3rd AGH, and worked alongside them on the 21st & 22nd, before the 3rd AGH were withdrawn the following day.  The hospital at that stage only contained 366 patients.


Hilda was in charge of G6 Ward, and one can only hope that some time was taken from celebrating with her staff and patients on Christmas Day, and spent with her brother Gordon; as it would have been her last opportunity.  Gordon was seen to leave Abbassia in the early evening of the 25th, and was never seen alive again.  Twelve days later his body was found in the Nile River at Benha, and on the 9th January 1917 Hilda cabled home to Rev Edwards: “Gordon drowned, accident, writing.”


A Court of Enquiry was subsequently held, but nothing could be proved as to how he met his death.  The fact, however, that he had been robbed and that there was evidence of a violent blow on the head, lead the court to believe that he was the victim of foul play rather than an accident.  He was buried in the Greek Cemetery at Benah on the 9th, and a short Memorial Service was held in the Garrison Chapel, Abbassia on the 11th, at which every available member of the 14th AGH was present.


During this same month the hospital was beginning to get much busier due to increased fighting, yet 35 of their nurses were being sent to the Western Front.  Hilda & her 2 best friends Amy & Valerie were among them.  Only a week after learning of her brother’s death, Hilda was leaving the desert sands for the last time.  During her time in Egypt she had collected ebony & ivory elephants, as well as oriental metal work and other curios.


Embarking at Alexandria on the 16th January 1917 on HS Essequibo, Hilda and party landed in England on the 26th and then crossed to France on the 8th of February.  Writing to her parents on the 12th, Hilda informed them of her eventful journey:

“We had rather a thrilling experience on our way here.  A town where we spent the night was bombed.  The noise was terrific, and we were rather frightened.  Some anti-aircraft guns were quite close to our hotel, and we could see flashes.  The bombing started about 9 p.m., and went on at intervals of two hours until 5 a.m.  My room was the only one on the ground floor, so all the other girls trooped down, and we shivered together until 6 a.m., when we all left in the dark for our train.”


The nurses were farmed out to British hospitals around Rouen, and separated from her two mates Hilda was attached to the 11th British Stationary Hospital (BSH) on the 11th of February.  However, they were still close enough to keep in touch, and not far from her original Unit, the 1st AGH.  She called on her many friends there over the following days, and told Matron Mary Finlay, that being so close to them “was next best to being ‘home’.”


Both she and Amy had enjoyed a visit with Sister Nora Kerr on the Friday evening of the 16th, but on Saturday morning Hilda woke with a painful headache.  The effort to dress made her vomit twice and she returned to bed.  Matron Allen brought the Medical Officer to see her and prescribe something for the pain, but by 4 o’clock that afternoon she was unconscious.  Hilda died two hours later as she was being transferred to the 8th General Hospital; just seven weeks into her thirty-fourth year.  The cause of death was Cerebral Spinal Meningitis; although there had been no cases of the illness at the 11th BSH.


The funeral took place the following afternoon of the 18th to the St Sever Cemetery.  Hilda was buried in the officer’s section of the cemetery in full military style, and after the procession had reached the graveside, the pipers and drums from one of the base depots played a ‘lament’.  The large honour guard, coffin bearers and pall bearers, consisted of an equal number of members from both the 11th BSH and the 1st AGH.  Also among the mourners were the entire officer’s mess of both of these hospitals, as well every matron in Rouen.  The Base Commandant (General de Gett), the D.D.M.S. (Colonel Russell, A.M.S.), and a number of staff officers were also present.  And of course there were a great many sisters and orderlies from the 1st AGH; as well as representations from all the other hospitals in Rouen.  The wreaths were numerous and beautiful, and following a thirty gun salute, the ‘Last Post’ was played by the Australian hospital bugler.


With two children now buried in faraway lands, Hilda’s parents could not grieve at their final places of rest, but they could at least choose the epitaph for Hilda’s headstone: GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN.


Hopefully they would have also felt some little comfort from Matron Finlay’s pledge that: “The cemetery is only about ten minutes’ walk from here, so you will please have no anxiety about her grave; we will attend to it.”

She also informed them that “Every one of us who knew Hilda loved her.   She was the most popular girl in the unit, and so utterly unspoiled by it – sweet and gentle and unselfish.  You have, indeed, great reason to be proud of her life….”

And Matron Allen also had the following to say: “Miss Knox only came to me on the 11th, and in that short time we had grown very fond of her, she was so sweet.”


Nora Kerr wrote home to her sister in Kyneton: “We are all sad here.  One of our best-loved Sisters died very suddenly on Saturday night….”  “…..and not one of us with her.”  “A more beautiful character never lived…..”


Hilda’s parents also received hundreds of letters from all parts of Australia.  One lady wrote that her only son was in the 4th L.H., and was in the ward in a hospital in Egypt of which Sister Knox had charge.  He had been nursed by her, and spoke of the unfailing attention which they had received.  He said, “We used to watch the door for her to come in.  Every man of us loved her, and called her ‘Our Daughter of the Regiment’.”


Her parent’s would have also been assured of Hilda’s popularity during the Memorial Service held for her on the 4th March at their church, when it was filled beyond capacity and extra seating had to be provided.  There was also a large congregation present two months later when a new pulpit was erected to her memory.  The brass plate fitted to the front of the pulpit bore the inscription: “Erected by the parishioners of Holy Trinity, Benalla, in loving memory of Sister Hilda Knox, who died on active service, 17th February, 1917.”


At the end of 1917 it was proposed by the Homoepathic Hospital Nurses’ Club to erect a memorial to Hilda’s honour, and donations were called for.  She is also commemorated on the Women’s National Memorial in York Minster, and on the memorial to overseas nurses, in the nurse’s home attached to the Elizabeth Garett Anderson Hospital in London.



Heather 'Frev' Ford, 2015

Knox HM - Sister, AANS - St Sever Cem - Copy.JPG


Death by accident...


With war comes death – the ultimate understatement!  Yet saturated by the carnage of man killing man, and of course the inevitable illness and disease that runs rife under such deplorable conditions – there is another form of death that can somehow appear fascinating – the accidental death.



What initially sparked this strange fascination in myself, many, many years ago, was while researching my Grandad’s war-mates, I came across the death notice of Alwyn Blake in 1922 – ‘result of an accident’.  Alwyn [Gunner 4295 Alwyn Rex Blake] had lied about his age and enlisted in July 1915, just two weeks after his 17th birthday.  He’d served on the Western Front with the 5th Division Ammunition Column, and the Trench Mortar Brigade – survived sickness and gas and returned home safe and sound mid-1919.  He’d married that same year, and had his whole life in front of him, yet here he was mere weeks before his 24th birthday – dead as the result of an accident!  I remember thinking to myself, ‘how unfair!’ – a strange thought really, for someone immersed in the endless unfairness of war in general.



Later, while trawling through reel after reel of microfilm, reading the ‘Inglewood Advertiser’ (Grandad’s local paper – which is now on-line!!) and transcribing every snippet of the war years – the fate of Frederick Fergus caught my attention.  Sergeant Frederick Fergus (344) wasn’t from the local area, in fact he was actually from NSW, but having lost an eye at Gallipoli, had been invalided home, and while in Melbourne on the 23rd November 1915 had been crushed by a goods lift.  Next I found during my research on Jim Sloan, (from a well-known and highly respected local family); that he’d died when his car had collided with a goods train at Inglewood on the 30th August 1960.  Sergeant James Seaman Sloan (61691) had been a late enlistee in the war, landing in England 3 days after armistice.



The realisation soon hit me; that obviously I had the beginnings of a new database…



The Accidental Deaths Database consists of members of the Australian Forces, as well as Australians serving in Allied Forces and other capacities, who died as the result of accidents, both during and after WW1.  It presently holds 1200 men and 8 women [April 2019].  With further research, some of these ‘accidents’ may eventually migrate into the Suicides Database which currently sits at 309 [April 2019], as in certain cases it is quite difficult to differentiate between the two.



Interspersed amongst the many plane crashes; drownings; bomb and shooting accidents and various types of run-ins with horses, trains & other vehicles – there were a host of other strange and unlucky accidents that befell our soldiers.



For instance there were the 2 men who were struck by lightning in 1916, Private John Wilkinson and Pte Alfred Brooke (1786).  Pte Wilkinson, a Methodist Minister, was hit at the West Maitland Camp in NSW on the 3rd February, before he even had a chance to leave Australia; whereas Pte Brooke, a Gallipoli veteran, was struck on the 23rd June, 2 weeks after his arrival in France with the 16th Battalion.



Amongst those who were victims of the more common form of electrocution was another Brooke (no relation to Alfred), Pte Harold Clifford Brooke (1826).  A skilled electrical mechanic with the 3rd Pioneers, he still managed to electrocute himself while cleaning a switchboard at No. 1 Power Station, Rue de Messines on the 9th January 1917.  Electricity was also the catalyst in the demise of Sergeant Alfred William Askew (11199); also a mechanic.  He actually died from a skull fracture after falling from a ladder following an electric shock, which he received whilst hanging Christmas lights in the December after armistice at the Transport Section’s Belgian camp.



Deaths due to skull fractures and brain haemorrhages were the result of many different types of accidents, quite often occurring whilst ‘under the influence', but not so in the following selection.  Although the Scottish born Pte William Orr (3178) was quite sober when he fell from the rigging of his troopship Itonus on the 30th December 1915, it was noted that he had only himself to blame, as the men had been warned not to climb the rigging.  Whereas the 19 year old Pte Joseph Haines (2253) had been a part of an organised popular sport, which resulted in his death in Egypt on the 5th March 1916, after being knocked unconscious in a boxing match the day before.  L/Sgt Gerald Ryan (769), an original 14th Bn man was enjoying a day’s outing with other patients from an English hospital.  Only moments after joining in the fun of sliding on ice, he fell hitting his head and died the following day, 6th February 1917.  A late enlistee Pte Joseph Vincent Cicalese (5002), was unfortunate enough to have a spar fall on his head whilst sleeping on the deck of the troopship Ulysses, en route to England; he died 4 days later on the 7th January 1918.



Quite aside from the threat of torpedoes, troopships could be dangerous places as shown above.  On board the Miltiades during a severe storm, Pte Arthur Gillies (4641) and Pte Joseph Lancelot Rowntree (2103) lost their lives when heavy seas broke across the ship, smashing one of the latrines and pinning them under the wreckage.  Pte Gillies was killed on the spot on the 16th February 1916, while Pte Rowntree carried his injuries into the next day.  James Sager, who enlisted as Sapper Daniel O’Brien (1768) was being invalided home to Victoria on the Runic in June 1917.  En route while the ship was docked at Fremantle Harbour, he stuck his head through the port hole to talk with a lady on the wharf; and as the ship surged, one of the wire mooring ropes caught him under the chin, cutting his throat.  While Corporal John Henry Ford (4398) of the 29th Bn sustained a broken spine during bathing parade on board the Afric on the10th December 1916, when he slipped head first into the canvas bath.  Paralysed from the waist down, he finally lost consciousness before passing away in the early hours of the following morning.



Had he still been alive, Gunner Reginald Arthur Beard (2384) may have seen Pte Ford’s quick death as a mercy.  But Gnr Beard had finally succumbed to his spinal injuries on the 11th July that year, exactly 19 months to the day after his own accident.  Determined to be one of the first to climb the Cheops Pyramid, he had sealed his fate on the day of his arrival at Mena Camp on the 11th December 1914, falling from a height of 20 feet, and had languished incapacitated in hospital from there on.



Spinal injuries were also the cause of death in quite a few diving accidents, but one of note involved the selfless act of L/Cpl Ernest Poole (1018).  A member of the Provost Corps, he died in England on the 14th June 1918; a few weeks after diving from a breakwater in France in an attempt to save a drowning, French child.  Another act of gallantry that occurred in May 1918, involved Sgt David Emmett Coyne (3347), and a bomb.  Having failed to clear the parapet with his Mills grenade, he threw himself on top of it in order to save the rest of his mates in the trench.  Bombs that fell short like this, especially during training, where responsible for many deaths during the war, but this is believed to be the only case where the ‘bomb thrower’ was posthumously awarded the Albert Medal (in Gold) for his actions.



Of course bombs often had a habit of exploding prematurely, which also resulted in numerous deaths, but one of the less common situations where this occurred was during fishing expeditions.  On this particular occasion the 13th Bn were out resting at Sailly Laurette on the 11th August 1918, and Sgt Thomas Baxter (3012) and Pte Arthur Bance (3147), together with their company cook Pte Edwin George (Ted) Headon (856), wandered down to the canal with their bomb in hand, no doubt with a good feed in mind.  Tom Baxter and Ted Headon were killed outright, and Arthur Bance died of his injuries 2 days later.



There are cases of soldiers being blown up while disarming bombs, and setting camp fires atop buried shells; as well as picking up German ‘duds’, and dropping them again – only to find they were no longer ‘duds’.  But probably one of the unluckiest deaths was when Pte Charles Lewis Pulford (265) was hit in the face by the base of a minenwerfer shell, which had apparently been sent flying while he was taking pot-shots at bottles 3 yards away with a salvaged German rifle.



The various other shooting accidents included men being shot by their own sentries, shooting themselves or others whilst cleaning guns or during firing practice – although Pte James Henry McGee (2753) managed to shoot himself on the 17th June 1916, without even pulling the trigger.  Having placed his rifle on the fire step, it slipped & fired as he stretched to look over the parapet and the bullet entered his stomach & exited his neck.  Pte Robert Henry Lamport (1739) was just one of the many poor victims of a careless mate.  He was shot in the chest on the 14th August 1917 by Gordon Stanley Cannon (Pte 4402) who was attempting to clean an automatic pistol he’d souvenired from a dead German earlier that year.



It would seem that the first soldier of the AIF to be shot by one of their own sentries was the Commanding Officer of the 2nd Bn, Lieutenant Colonel George Frederick Braund.  In the early hours of the 4th May 1915 Braund had set out for Company HQ, taking a short cut through the scrub rather than following the track.  With Turks suspected of being behind every bush, the sentry had been quick to challenge and quick to shoot when there was no response.  As Braund was known to be slightly deaf, it’s assumed that he probably didn’t hear the challenge, but the sentry was rightly excused of any blame.



One of the earlier deaths by drowning was that of Driver William Tanner (2719) of the Divisional Train, ASC.  He was swimming his horse on the 17/4/1915 at Alexandria, when it appears that the horse must have floundered in deep water & rolled.  Tanner was washed off its back and may have been struck by the struggling horse and stunned, as he didn’t resurface and his body couldn’t be found, though his mates dived and dragged with nets for some time.  Another incident involving a soldier bathing his horse was actually that of a French soldier on the 15/6/1917 at Marakeb beach in Palestine.  Losing his grip on the horse he was washed out to sea by the strong current.  Many men, both French and Australian found themselves in difficulties during the hazardous rescue, and four bodies were eventually brought ashore, one of these being Trooper Walter George Smith (3131) of the 9th Light Horse.



Captain Benjamin Digby Gibson, the Medical Officer of the 9th LH also found himself a victim of the unpredictable seas.  He went for his customary early morning swim on the 14th January 1917, and a short time later RoyAlbert Wheaton (Cpl 648) noticed his body floating 80 to 100 yards out.  He immediately went to the rescue, and found that the waves & undertow were exceptionally strong that morning.  The Captain was eventually brought ashore, but could not be resuscitated.



In a different theatre of war and nowhere near the coast, Military Medal winner Pte Vincent Thomas Stone (4246) was also a victim of drowning.  In Belgium on the 15th January 1918 during the early morning hours of darkness, he was guiding a ration party up to the line; he himself carrying the rum issue.  On the parties return to HQ it was noticed that Stone was missing, and upon searching for him he was found in a shell hole nowhere near the original track, having drowned in the water accumulated therein.



As shown by some of the examples listed so far, accidents are often the result of simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time; and similar to Privates Gillies & Rowntree who fell-foul of a latrine in a storm, Pte Robert Donaldson Yule (2339) was the victim of a storm-rampant tree limb.  In the early hours of the 4th February 1916, the Fraser’s Hill Camp in Enoggera, Qld, was battered by a cyclonic storm, and as Yule and his tent mates battled to hold their tent from being blown away, he was the unfortunate soul standing right in the limb’s path.  It could be said though that Driver Edwin George Chave (1957) caused his own fate when he was hit by the limb of a falling tree on the 14th March 1917.  Part of a fatigue party felling trees for firewood, he ran to retrieve his coat from a stump in its path, and although dodging to avoid being hit, was a little off in his judgement.  Unconscious, but still alive when carried away, the whole incident must have been very distressing for his brother, William Frederick Chave (Dvr 1961), who was a member of the same fatigue party.  Edwin died 2 days later.



Trooper William Gray (1730) was another who tempted fate when he made his bid for freedom from the Citadel Detention Barracks in Cairo on the 7th June 1917.  Little more than a week after he’d been sentenced to 120 days of hard labour for helping himself to a bottle of whisky from the officer’s mess, he broke his neck as he jumped from the barrack ramparts.  Another Light Horseman who was extremely unlucky was Tpr Daniel James Campbell (282).  Having procured a lift on a wagon, he was returning to his regiment from hospital on the 21st April 1917, when he noticed some horses being led nearby.  Jumping from the wagon he ran towards them calling “That’s my pony”, when he suddenly disappeared down a well.  He died from his injuries the following day.  Hidden wells weren’t the only danger the men had to contend with in Palestine as Tpr John Haynes (1424) discovered on the 21st May 1918 when he was bitten by a snake.  He too didn’t last through another day.



In regard to Light Horsemen, it’s only natural that there were various deaths involving horses – being kicked by them, falling from them – or even having their horse fall on them, as happened to Tpr Vivian Murry Barber (2249).  Only moments after mounting, his horse reared up & then fell backwards, pinning Tpr Barber under him and rupturing his stomach.  He died on the 1st of November 1916, two days after the accident.  Bolting horses also caused various accidents; Tpr George Letts (1053) of the 4th LH was de-horsed by a tree branch after his horse bolted and he died from a fractured spine 13th November 1916.



But it wasn’t only Light Horsemen who lost their lives as a result of their connection to horses.  Corporal Norman Edgar Matthews (157), though initially Light Horse, was serving with the Provost Corps and en route to Heliopolis 4th February 1917 with Cpl 892 William Henry Raines to quell a riot.  When for no apparent reason, his horse suddenly swerved and collided with that of Cpl Raines.  Cpl Matthews was thrown to the ground, and did not survive the head and chest injuries he received.



Sergeant Major Walter Middleton Bradwell (179) of the 3rd Field Artillery Brigade was also thrown when his spooked horse reared and then slipped on cobblestones.  Unfortunately he fell head first on to the hook of a gun limber and died 7th April 1918 before reaching the nearest Casualty Clearing Station.  Then there were the two Captains; Ernest Henry George Kemmis & Robert James Smith, killed when they came down in a crash during a sports-day horse race.

See ‘Death at the Races’ for their story



Another who fell from a horse was a 16th Bn man, Pte Robert John Batty (1673A).  The batman of Lieutenant Malcolm John McGhie, he was returning McGhie’s horse to the stables when the animal took fright & Pte Batty lost control and his seat.  However, his fatal injuries occurred due to his foot remaining lodged in the stirrup, as he was dragged through ‘brick heaps’ near the Cheppewa Camp, Belgium on the 11th October 1916.



Runaway horses also towed lethal weapons, such as the Cook’s cart which ran over the head and neck of Driver Alfred James Branford (1125) whilst he was encamped and sleeping on an embankment in France on the 7th July 1918.  While Dvr Leonard Noweetsky (532) was crushed by a road making roller after it touched the heels of the horses towing it, and they bolted in fear, pulling him down in its path in January 1916.  In Boulogne on the 2nd August 1917 Pte David Donald (6110) was en route to the UK on Leave, when he noticed a driverless horse & cart careering down the street towards him.  On attempting to catch the horse he was crushed between the cart & wall and killed instantly.



There were of course, various types of Motor Vehicle accidents – involving cars, lorries and motor cycles – but one incident that I consider quite rare was between two vehicles without motors – it was a bicycle collision.  Pte Robert Ernest Elliott (4767) and Cpl Ronald Menzies Saddington (7376) were cycling toward each other in the English town of Rickmansworth on the stormy evening of the 9th September 1918.   Suddenly aware of their situation, they both wobbled to try and avoid the crash, but their reactions were too late.  Pte Elliott hit the road hard, fracturing his skull & never regained consciousness.



Eleven days after Armistice, Sapper William Rawlings Bennetts Delbridge (20019) was also on a bicycle, and was riding in a convoy on the narrow Bohain to Mazinghien road in France.  Congestion brought the traffic to a halt, and bunched up between the other cyclists he found it difficult to dismount.  Overbalancing in his attempt, he fell between the wheels of a motor lorry going the other way.



2nd Lieutenant Robert John Stanley Finlayson of the 1st Tunnelling Company also had a run-in with a lorry in Belgium in June 1917.  The lorry driver was passing a slow convoy going the same way as him, when Finlayson rounded a corner towards them on his motor cycle.  The lorry managed to cut back in to his own side of the road, but by this time Finlayson had jumped from his bike to try and avoid the collision, yet still had hold of the handlebars.  Out of control, both he and bike veered towards the lorry, which in turn came to a screeching halt, but the inevitable couldn’t be avoided.



One of the few Flying Corps men that died in an accident that didn’t involve a plane was Lieutenant Hector Nicol of the AFC.  He was a passenger in a car that was travelling way too fast over a bridge near Salisbury on the 13th October 1918.  When the wheel grazed a corner stone of the bridge it sent the car out of control and flipped it over.  Lieut Nichol died two days later, but unfortunately his death date has been listed with the CWGC as the 16th.



Planes appear to have been one of the single biggest killers, with 153 deaths listed thus far – the majority of these of course were the result of crashes, and many of those occurring in the Great War were during training flights.  Given the relative infancy of air flight and the unbelievable simplicity and flimsiness of aeroplanes, this was probably to be expected.



One accident that occurred on the ground however, was on the 20th September 1917 at Tern Hill Aerodrome in Shropshire.  Cadet Edward Jabez Cooper Treadwell (959) of the 30th Training Squadron, AFC, had been standing on the wing of a plane which was preparing for take-off; talking to the pilot and observing the instruments.  As he stepped off the wing, he stumbled backwards into the propeller and died soon afterwards of his injuries.



How a freak twist of fate can be fatal to even the most experienced of pilots was evident on the 2nd December 1917, when Captain Henry Haigh Storrer, a 1915 Point Cook graduate & his observer, Lieutenant William Norman Eric Scott, a Gallipoli veteran (originally with the Field Artillery) lost their lives.  Storrer had just taken off and turned to avoid a line of trees, when a sudden squall turned the plane upside down & brought it down onto the stone wall of Bailleul Cemetery.  The two airmen were buried side-by-side in the cemetery.



Luck also ran out on the 19th August 1918 for Lieutenant Ernest Cecil Stooke (DCM) & his observer, Lieut Louis Paul Kreig, when their plane’s engine cut out during take-off and they crashed into a moving railway engine.  The petrol tanks burst into flames on impact and blew the plane to pieces.



Trains were almost as dangerous as planes, with a present total of 112 men involved in train accidents of some kind.  As well as derailments and collisions, incidents also included soldiers run over by them, and falling from them – and of course, overcrowding didn’t help.  Although contrary to orders, it was a popular practice to ride on the roof; travel between carriages via the footboards, and to sit in the open doorways with legs dangling.



Pte Frank Lyons (3980) wasn’t sitting up top; but instead was travelling from one carriage to another across the roof of a French train on the 23rd March 1916, when apparently he was struck by an overhead bridge or the roof of a tunnel.  His body with fractured skull was discovered still on the roof when he failed to alight at his destination.  While in the July of 1916 Pte Edgar Williams (5482) was swept off the footboard of a troop train by some unknown projection on a passing Goods' Train.



In no way to blame, Trooper Arthur Poyntz Hirst (1539) was unfortunate enough to have been standing near the jammed-open door of a railway truck, when a mule which had fallen was struggling to get up, and in doing so knocked Tpr Hirst through the doorway.  His body was recovered the following day of the 22nd June 1916.



As there were no ‘conveniences’ on the trains and it was often many long hours between stops, the men had to make do as best they could.  One result of this ‘inconvenience’ was when Pte William Edwin Gravell (2856) fell from a train whilst urinating out the window.  The Irish born John Doheny, who enlisted as Pte John Sullivan (4586), had been ‘home’ on furlough after being discharged from hospital.  He’d felt unwell on the boat trip back to Wales, and after catching the train at Holyhead, had travelled as far as Bodorgan, when he stuck his head out the window to vomit & hit the side of the Bodorgan tunnel.  He died of his injuries 5 days later on the 14th December 1916.



Of the many accidents that happened after the war – some tug at the heart-strings even more than normal – the following two both involving trains.  The first is the story of the Thomas brothers who both enlisted in 1914.  Frederick George Thomas (Dvr 971) arrived back in Melbourne on the 17th November 1918, on submarine guard followed by special leave.  His younger brother Charles Albert Thomas (Spr 49) followed a month later also on special 1914 leave, making it home 2 days before Christmas.  Early on Boxing Day together with their 14 year old cousin, they were heading from Altona to the Victorian Market to purchase vegetables for their new greengrocer’s business.  Their journey came to an abrupt halt at the O’Hara level crossing, Newport when their horse made it across the tracks, but their cart took the full force of the Ballarat goods train.  A few hours later the Thomas boy’s father, unaware of the tragedy, was himself travelling by train to the city and recognised parts of the wreckage.  Frantic, he broke his journey at Newport to inquire about the accident and discovered the fate of his newly returned soldier sons.  The brothers were buried together in the Williamstown Cemetery.



The second incident is that of returning soldier Richard Warne (Pte 797, MM).  Only moments from home in the early hours of the morning of the 25th May 1919, he jumped from the train that by pre-arrangement was slowing, but not stopping at his station.  Unfortunately, the train was still moving too fast & he missed the platform altogether and was thrown under the wheels.  He was found a couple of hours later still barely alive, and when help was called for, it was his own parents who were the closest at hand.  Cradled in his mother’s arms, Richard gave up his fight for life as the ambulance neared the hospital.  [Richard’s full story can be read in Daryl Kelly’s book ‘Just Soldiers’]



Equally sad, and no doubt with long term effects on the Kelley family was the fate of William Henry Kelley (Pte 6300).  He had returned to his family on the 27th July 1919, and just under a week later was out rabbiting with his brother & sisters and a mate.  William, “while watching his brother and Antonio engaged with a ferret at a burrow, was holding his gun in his right hand, the muzzle being close to his side, when his little sister, aged seven, who was behind [him], pressed down the trigger to see if the gun would go off.  The unfortunate young man received the charge in his right side, and he died almost immediately.”



Franz Leslie Kaaden (Pte 1518) is one of quite a few soldiers who figure in more than one of my databases, and his story is doubly tragic.  Married in England on the 6th February 1919, he and his new bride Mary had arrived back in Australia in the August.  Later that same year, they were out enjoying the fine summer weather on a boating trip with friends when hit by a sudden squall which capsized the boat.  A rescue attempt managed to save their three friends but by this time the couple had disappeared.  Mary’s body was washed ashore the following day and she was buried on Christmas Eve. 




Finally – just to show the long reaching effects of the war even here in Australia – on the 28th May 1936 Edward Arthur Hollinworth (1610) was killed in his home at Coogee, NSW, and his daughter and a friend seriously injured, when a bomb he had souvenired in the war, finally exploded.  Following the inquest, the City Coroner appealed to all returned soldiers to surrender to the Defence Department any dangerous war trophies in their possession.





Heather (Frev) Ford, 2013




Links to the service records of the soldiers mentioned in this story can be found at the following link:












Message in a Bottle

blog-0758733001403672159.jpgAWM Photo E02607: Officers of 5th Brigade HQ, near Amiens June 1918 – Harry Blunt standing back row, third from left.


The Great Australian Bight’s “Bottle Post” may be slower than the air mail but it is mighty interesting. [Western Mail, 2/6/1938]


Mighty interesting indeed! What an amazing tale; washed upon the shore of life over two decades after it began. 30th of October 1915, two young lads embarking on the big adventure, pen a final word to their sweethearts, seal the messages in a bottle, and toss it into the waters of the Great Australian Bight. March the 11th 1938, Mr E.G. Eastwood just happens to find that same bottle on the beach at Cape Riche, 60 miles east of Albany, WA.


Following the devastation of the Great War, and the intervening years, what are the chances that the authors have survived to return to their loved ones, and that they can be found if so?


The two lads in question were Horace Lewis (Spr 1237) and Harry Blunt (Spr 1236), both born and raised in South Australia. They had enlisted within a day of each other; Horace on the 14th of June 1915 and Harry on the 15th. On board the A38 Ulysses, they had left their home State 3 days before and were on their way to Egypt with the 6th Reinforcements for the 2nd Division Signal Company (2nd DSC).


Harry was the elder of the pair at 23, and had been working as a Clerk with the railways before enlistment. He was writing to Gladys Severin, the young lady he had proposed to a week before sailing. Horace at 19 had qualified as a Draughtsman and was studying Mechanical Engineering – his young lady was Miss Mary Gay.

Both messages followed similar lines – “Going really well”“Just had a bonza dinner”“Concert on board tonight.” Horace added “Love to sunny South Australia;” Harry was getting in practice for France with “Au-revoir, Australia. We’ll bring the Kaiser back with us.”


In Egypt they continued their training, and served in the defence of the Canal, before finally heading to France in March 1916, where both suffered a slight dose of influenza in the April. Their work involved maintenance of communications around Fleurbaix in April, Pozieres in July & Mouquet Farm in the August. Horace was promoted to 2nd Corporal in May and then Corporal in July, but his rise came to a halt at the beginning of September when he was taken ill with Bacillary Dysentery. It was at this point in time that their stories took divergent paths.


While Horace lay ill in hospital, first in France and then England, Harry began his own rise through the ranks, culminating as Sergeant in June 1917 while his unit were out resting after Bullecourt. He was then sent to a Signal Cadet Course in England the following month. By the time Harry reached England however, Horace was only days away from stepping once again on to Australian shores; and while Harry buried his head in his studies to gain his commission, Horace received his discharge from the AIF; his war over.


Harry was appointed 2nd Lieutenant on the 5th December 1917, but didn’t re-join the 2nd DSC in Belgium until the 24th February 1918; where in just 2 weeks he was promoted to Lieutenant. During this same month, back in South Australia, Horace returned to his previously unfinished Engineering Course, and then in the January of 1919, he was appointed to the engineering staff of the Commonwealth Arsenal in Melbourne. Before Harry’s war was over, he was made O.C. of the 5th Brigade Signal Section, and in March 1919 he was mentioned in the Despatches of Sir Douglas Haig

Finally boarding the HT Mahia on the 4th June 1919, Harry arrived in Melbourne on the 17th of July, before catching the train back to South Australia, where he was discharged in the September.


So, the questions still remain – did our two boys return to their sweethearts to live happily ever after, and were they enlightened as to the eventual re-appearance of their “Bottle Post?” Well, the answer to the second question is yes, both Horace and Harry were traced, and Harry was particularly excited about the find – as was his wife.

Yes, the engaged couple, Harry and Gladys, had corresponded regularly throughout the war, and had wasted little time in taking the final step on his return. Their wedding took place in the Eudunda Methodist Church on the 2nd October 1919, and on the receipt of the 1915 message, they were thinking of having it framed to preserve it.


Horace, as we already know, returned to his Engineering studies, but alas, he and Mary went their separate ways. He didn’t settle down and tie the knot until the end of 1922, when he actually married one of Mary’s close friends Miss Minerva Smith. They had settled in Victoria, where he had been employed by the SEC (State Electricity Commission), until ill health caused an early retirement to the tranquil countryside of Woodend, north of Melbourne.

Harry had resumed his job with the South Australian Railways, but he and his wife were heading to Melbourne on holiday in the June of 1938 – and were hoping to renew an old friendship while there.


Endnotes: 1. (Spr 1237, 2nd DSC) Horace Laffer LEWIS was born 12/3/1896 Modbury, SA – son of Clarence LEWIS & Elizabeth LAFFER. He married Minerva Mary Fowler SMITH 9/12/1922 Unley, SA. They had two children – John & Jean. Horace was the inventor of a new type of Respirator which assisted in the recovery of Infantile Paralysis patients. He died 19/11/1955 Ballarat, Vic & his ashes rest in the Tristania Garden (Tree 10) at Springvale Botanical Cemetery. 2. Horace’s older brother, Clarence George LEWIS also served in WW1: L/Sgt 2448 (MSM) – 27th Bn / 2nd DSC / AA Pay Corps. 3. (Spr 1236 – Lieut, 2nd DSC; 5th Bde HQ) Harry Stephen BLUNT was born 25/9/1891 Saddleworth, SA – son of Edward Stephen BLUNT & Ellen SLOUGH. Married Gladys M. SEVERIN 2/10/1919 Eudunda, SA. They had one son, Brian (served WW2). Harry died 21/10/1984 Adelaide, SA. 4. Harry’s younger brother, Edward Keith BLUNT also served WW1: Spr 883, Enl 31/8/1914 10th Bn / 50th Bn / 2nd DSC. (Also WW2) [see following letter]



Another Message from Harry Blunt


Thankfully for Harry’s parents, he didn’t always resort to the “Bottle Post”. The following letter was received by them in October 1916, informing them of how his younger brother Keith was faring after the Battle of Mouquet Farm – as well as a few of the other local lads.


“Received your letter dated June 22nd while lying in my good old dug-out, about 30ft below the surface down in amongst white chalk walls and instruments. Well now for the good news straight away which I know you will all be pleased to hear. Keith got through the ‘stunt’ and is now a member of the company with me. I put in a claim for him on the 20th and he came up to our ‘pozzie’ on 23rd [Aug]. So that was quick and lively.


Well, here’s the lad’s history. He had a marvellous escape and if anyone deserves the military medal he does, not just because he is my brother but because he did what warrants a medal anytime, only of course no heads to push it etc., as is the general run. His crowd hopped the parapet about 10.30 pm last Saturday (well now just a mo’ I think the day is wrong) well never mind Keith did not know what day it was, date either, it must have been about the 16th or 18th August. As I said they hopped over and Keith was just back from running a message and went over with them. He got across and had a message to run back through the enemy barrage fire. He did six runs anyhow and says he never ran so fast in all his life and his steel helmet was dented everywhere with stray pieces he caught. He reckons his helmet saw him through splendidly. He got back from the sixth run and was played out not having had time, pretty well the whole day, to have anything to eat. He flopped into a shell hole and laid down and lit a smoke when up came a runner and stared wildly at him and said, “Now then who are you?” Keith said, “You know who I am,” and showed his colours. He could see the runner was “dotty” and watched him. The fellow ran off and came back again flashing his revolver quick and lively and told him to be careful what he was up to. With that the runner off for his life and Keith watched him and saw him go down. He out and dragged him back some 150 yards to safety to a big chalk pit and the fellow was unconscious but otherwise not wounded.


This is the last Keith remembers until nearly two days after when he was found in the pit by the 13th Brigade doctor. He was put in the horse ambulance and “came to” while there and was taken back to a rest station to gather his nerves again [13/8/1916 Shellshock]. He was there a day or two and we were on the move up. Dick Woodgate happened to be passing the Rest Station only about one and a half miles from our camp and Keith spoke to him and told him how he fared. Wasn’t I the most pleased man in the army when Dick told me, as the night before I dreamt that I saw Keith in a line of soldiers and passed by him and he said “Here I am Harry, O.K.” Rather strange but there it was as plain as could be to me. Now the lad is doing great.


Although he was made full corporal before the charge and was to go in again as a sergeant he is quite satisfied to come in and have a spell and be a sapper. He lost everything excepting some curios and his photos and revolver so we are fitting him out again and at present he is in the Sub-office which we used as our main office last time here but now we are in an advanced position and it is not bad. He is just knocking about in the office, attends to ‘phone a bit and enters up register of despatches; there is no telegraph there of course.


The last two days he has been out with three or four of us having a look at some of the old trenches once occupied by Fritz and the world famous mine crater. This crater is a terrific size must be 80 to 100 ft deep and a terrible width and there are some hundreds buried in it too, mostly Fritz’s. He says when they got on parade he stood off and wished the boys all “good luck” and they said he was a lucky devil to get through after nearly two years of it. You see he was the only scout left out of the lot of those running.


Two of his mates went under, he says he saw them go out. Poor old Clarrie Bishop got killed in the charge so Keith says. Hedley was missing but they had good hopes of him when Keith left his battalion. Stan was a runner at brigade so got off O.K., but said he took it very hard about his two brothers – only very natural of course. Mrs Bishop I know will be very broken-hearted but really she should find solace in that her boy died on the field and a sure hero. Clarrie was the first fellow I picked out on the church parade where I went to see Keith before they went in and I quietly crawled in and shook hands with him and had a quiet yarn while the service was on. He was looking well and was a bomber and was full of fun and seemed quite pleased they were going to have a good go at Fritz. Tim James got through but of course they have another turn to do yet. Each division has two goes and then off back somewhere else.


Still the dirtiest work has been done and some fine lads both Scotchies, Tommies and Australians have gone under. My pal (Eugene O’Reilly, Sergt. 23rd) of Wasleys got through first stunt and yesterday he rang up to tell me he’d got a nice little wound through the arm and was off to “Blighty” (London). He said he would laugh all the way there he was that pleased. Don’t worry about Keith and me we will be very “stiff” if we can’t see it thro’ together now.”


Harry’s brother Keith, had enlisted on the 31st August 1914; sailing with the first convoy, and serving at Gallipoli with the original 10th Battalion. With the rearrangement of battalions in Egypt after the evacuation, he and most of the other soldiers mentioned in Harry’s letter, were transferred to the 50th Battalion. During the fighting at Mouquet Farm, Keith was admitted to the 7th Field Ambulance on the 13th August 1916, suffering with Shellshock and a septic finger.

In the years following his transfer to the 2nd Division Signal Company on the 23rd August 1916, he suffered various bouts of illness, some serious, but saw the war through and was returned to Australia on ‘1914 Leave’ in December 1918.

He married Millie Farrant in 1921 & the couple had a daughter Helen.

Keith, a tramway employee, was severely injured in 1932 in a tram & trolly accident, and was later the victim of an armed hold-up at his wife’s shop in 1937. However, after putting his age back 3 years, he enlisted again in the Second World War, and served once more with the 10th Battalion. He died in 1978 in Walkerville, SA.



1. Edward Keith BLUNT – Spr 883, 10th Bn / 50th Bn / 2nd DSC. (Also WW2) Born 2/10/1895 Terowie, SA - son of Edward Stephen BLUNT & Ellen SLOUGH – married Amelia Elizabeth (Millie) FARRANT 1/6/1921 St Paul’s Church, Port Adelaide.

Other soldiers mentioned in letter: 2. Dick – Francis Augustus West Dunemann WOODGATE – Cpl 8434, 4th Fld Amb / 2nd DSC – RTA 18/12/1919 (with English wife) 3. Timothy JAMES – Pte 3043, 10th Bn / 50th Bn – RTA 26/9/1917 GSW L/Hand 4. Eugene Joseph O’REILLY – Sgt 627 – Lieut, 23rd Bn (Born Wasleys, SA) – enlisted Melb – RTA 6/11/1918 – d.24/1/1944

Sons of Andrew & Emma BISHOP: 5. Clarrie – Clarence BISHOP – Pte 2802, 10th Bn / 50th Bn – KIA 16/8/1916 Mouquet Farm, France (VB Mem) 6. Hedley – Andrew Hedley BISHOP – Pte 3246, 10th Bn / 50th Bn – WIA 16/8/1916 (GSW Back) – RTA 20/10/1918 – d.10/4/1953 7. Stan – Stanley Charles BISHOP (MM) – Pte 3695 / Lieut, 50th Bn (WW2) – RTA 1/5/1919

[Letter transcribed from the ‘Burra Record (SA), Wed 18 Oct 1916’]


Heather (Frev) Ford, 2013



blog-0225184001403250849.jpgPhoto of Fred’s brother, Edgar


On his 32nd Birthday Fred Symonds (533) volunteered for active service with the 1st AIF – it was the 8th of August 1914, and that same day he began a diary which he kept until his birthday the following year. Ten days later he passed the medical in Bendigo, Victoria, and on the 21st of August he left his hometown of Inglewood for Melbourne, where he went into camp at Broadmeadows. Three days after his arrival, he was surprised to find his young brother Edgar (625) had also arrived in camp, and so the pair stuck together, training and eventually sailing with the 5th Battalion.


Taking up Fred’s diary in Egypt on the 3rd April 1915 – he notes: “Leaving to-morrow for somewhere.”


4th – Leaving camp to-day for front. Left camp at 6.30 p.m., and marched to Cairo; entrained about 2 a.m.; very tired; no sleep. Reached Alexandria about 6 a.m.; boat No 12 (Nooran) [sic – Novian]; lots of transports about.

5th – Embarked on No 12.

6th – Left Alexandria at 2 p.m.; blowing a bit.

7th – Very rough; everyone sick, and decks in a terrible mess; no portholes, and very stuffy; not sick myself.

8th – Still rough and unpleasant.

9th – Reached Lemnos Island about 6 a.m.; weather calmer, and day promises to be fine. A lot of warships, transports and other small craft about; about 50 miles from the Dardanelles.

10th – Light duties.

11th – Rifle and section drill.

12th – Bathing, etc. Four more transports arrived; must be quite 60 here now; the battleships look great; the Queen Elizabeth is a splendid sight. Saw a sea-plane to-day; it went up from a boat in the harbor and flew for an hour or so over us.

13th – [Censored] left us last night; she has been tied up on our side for a couple of days to tranship provisions, I fancy. Saw Windsor on her.

14th – Got word last night that the ships had forced an entrance to the Narrows and the Sea of Marmora; expect we will be landing soon. Went ashore this afternoon.

15th – There are a lot of French and English troops here. Went ashore to-day in full marching order; ammunition makes packs rather heavy; had route march and returned to boat for tea. Our boat is “lousy.” We are scratching and hunting all our spare time; she has been an old cargo steamer, and has done a lot of work as a troop ship.

16th – Marching order and parading in boats; did not go ashore.


17th – Some of our fellows rowed over to the Queen Elizabeth, and say she is a wonderful sight; I would like to go over her, but am not one of the chosen. We paraded to-day in life-belts and marching order to boats; it was hard to know where the men were, they had on such a lot of gear; was on guard last night.

18th – Expect to leave very soon for the mainland. This harbor has never had so many boats in it before; I bet; its just full of them. Would like to get some news; have had none since left Cairo. Plenty of false rumors get around, but we are used to them. Had voluntary church parade this morning.

19th – Mess orderly to-day.

20th – Very blowy; can’t leave for landing to-day, or until weather takes up a bit; very cold; hope we give the Turks a doing. It is going to be a ticklish job, somewhere on Gallipoli. Did my washing to-day.

21st – Weather very bad; raining. Just heard that the Brigadier has come on board, so it looks like going.

22nd – Still here; weather improving.

23rd – Hope to leave to-morrow; weather good.

24th – Left at 11 a.m. Don’t know exactly when we land; think early in the morning. A lot of boats left last night. Blanket parade; allowed to take one. We anchored about dusk near an island, and left it at 11 p.m. for the landing place; expect to make landing just before dawn. We are landing to support the first troops, and will be among the first lot.


The Landing on Gallipoli

25th – Landed this morning; first lot about 1 o’clock. The country looks very difficult, and is full of Turks. Our first load got it very hot from the beach; many killed in the boats. I heard the sailors coming back after landing the first lot saying that they made a magnificent charge with only fixed bayonets – did not wait for orders, but jumped into the water before the boats were beached and got rid of their packs after they got the first trenches. There were thousands of Turks, and our first party consisted of only a couple of hundred men. The sailors said they never saw anything like the way our men went at them. I think the main body of Turks must be further inland. We were acting as supports to the advanced line, and landed about 8 o’clock. It took a long time to get all the firing line men ashore. We were under heavy shrapnel fire while landing; they had some guns on a peninsula about two miles away which covered the whole of our landing, and they gave us pie. The first sight that greeted us was some dead comrades, and a host of wounded. We went up a gully to the right, and took our packs off just before getting the steep climb. We had a long climb before getting near the ridge on the top of the gully, and it was then that we began to hear the bullets and shrapnel. One of our chaps had been hit on the leg further back where we took our packs off; that was the only casualty we had had so far.


When we got to the ridge we retired there, and could see wounded men coming down helping each other over the steep ground, which was very nearly perpendicular in places. Some had stretchers, but it was almost impossible to use them. How the poor fellows got back to the dressing station I don’t know; it must have cost some of them hours of agony. After we had been there for about 10 minutes we got word that we were wanted in the firing line, so they sent Mr Levy with No 15 platoon. Shortly after we got word that Captain Lager was badly wounded, and must have more supports, so No. 14, our platoon, got the order to advance to the firing line. We no sooner got over the ridge than we were met by a hail of bullets and shrapnel. We covered the ground in short, sharp rushes, taking cover in all depressions. The enemy had the range of all the cover that was worth taking, and kept a constant fire of shrapnel over it. In one place the shells were bursting right on top of us, and coming almost as quick as one could count them. It was then that our men started to fall out.


I got hit in the shoulder with a piece of shell just before we reached the firing line, and was told to go back with a man who was badly wounded just behind us, so I left my kit and rifle there and got hold of this chap, who, poor fellow, was hit in about eight places, and would have been killed had he stayed there much longer. I had a terrible job to get him down to the station. The first difficulty was to get him away from the fire zone. We had to go slowly, and I expected we would both be riddled, but, by some good fortune, we got over the ridge without mishap. The poor chap was in such pain that he could not bear to keep still. It took me quite four hours to get him to the dressing station, and as soon as I had my shoulder dressed, which by good luck was not seriously hurt, I got to work with a party taking ammunition to the firing line, first unloading it from a barge under a continual fire of shrapnel, then taking it up the hill to the firing line – a terribly heavy task. Needless to say, I was greatly worried about Edgar all this time. I never expected to see him again; it seemed impossible for men to live for long under the fire our chaps were exposed to unless they got well dug in. About mid-night two of us were struggling up the hill with a box of ammunition, nearly fainting with exhaustion, for we had not eaten a bite since 3 o’clock the previous morning, and we were both wondering what had befallen our brothers, for, strange to say, he had a brother in the firing line somewhere, too.


When we reached the firing line the first man to come out was my mate’s brother, and while we were talking someone came out of the trench and asked if Fred Symonds was there, and to my joy, the second-comer was Edgar. It seemed strange that two of us should meet our brothers at the same time and place, when everyone had been mixed up so completely. After we came back we had a rest for an hour before going up to support the line. The beach is an awful sight; our men must be getting terribly butchered. All the fleet boats are waiting near the beach expecting a retreat to the boats, but judging from the spirit of our men there will be very few retiring. The beach is lined from end to end with wounded.


26th – I got up to the firing line before dawn. Had to get in with the 14th Battalion, could not find our crowd; feel terribly exhausted, and don’t know how our men can hold the line, it is so weak and broken, but they are wonderful. Food is out of the question; may have to go a week on 24 hours’ rations and water. Our firing position here is on the top of a steep incline, almost perpendicular, and if one gets hit he has a chance of rolling down to the gully, a distance of about 200 feet or so. We are in a pretty warm quarter; the fighting is very fierce. The trouble is we can’t see much of the enemy on account of the dense scrub. I notice the warships are giving us more help to-day. The Queen Elizabeth is sending some 15 inch shells into the Turks. They make a terrible mess of things. If they land anywhere near us they shake the whole hill. Some more men came up this afternoon; we need more still. The stretcher-bearers are absolutely unable to cope with the casualties; some of the wounded have been lying out for 24 hours, and may be here for another 24 hours by the look of things. If they would only get some more men up here a few of us could help the wounded till dark, which would be a great help. Went on stretcher-bearing this afternoon; a cry came up for spare men to volunteer, as a whole line of men had been enfiladed by an enemy machine gun, and were lying under fire. It was frightful work getting the poor fellows down those hills; it took five men in some cases to get one wounded man out, and a lot of the bearers are being shot; we have lost 10 out of 40 already. Went back to the firing line at dusk in case of danger. There are a great number of Turks, but they seem to be frightened to attack us in a body. They keep sniping, and creep up through the bushes. There are a lot of snipers in behind our lines picking off the men from behind, but its impossible to find them, and they must be dressing in uniforms taken from our dead men. We had a lot of casualties to-day; feel terribly weary; don’t know what keeps us going, excitement, I suppose. Have seen some terrible sights; we must all be savages.


27th – Went on stretcher-bearing again today, as I had not a very good position in the firing line. Came across some of the 5th Battalion fellows; they are gradually picking one another up; will join them as soon as work eases off here. There are a lot of snipers behind our lines. We caught several today, but there must be lots more. Want food badly; half a biscuit and water, if you are lucky, for a meal, and a little salt meat once a day. They are gradually getting reinforcements up, and our firing line is getting stronger, but the men are getting weaker.

28th – Still working with stretcher bearers. We have more reinforcements coming up. I hear we need them, as we are now fighting 5 or 6 to 1. Our casualties must be very heavy, but I think the Turks are losing more. Our boys stand the strain wonderfully. Biscuits and water today; wish they could give us a hot drink. Landed a lot of troops to-night. Saw one man with his face blown off; it’s nothing to see them blown to pieces. Some of the bullets make a terrible wound; they explode inside, and in some cases take the top off a man’s head, and the limbs get terribly shattered. Joined our company to-night, and hear they suffered terribly.


29th – The fleet is making a terrible noise, and I suppose they are making things hum, but we can’t see the damage they do. Our artillery is doing some work now, and should be a great help to us. The Indian mountain batteries are great; I don't know what we would have done without them. The Indian soldiers are very cool under fire. I think at present we have the enemy beaten; am taking a day's rest, and had my first cup of tea – never enjoyed anything so much – and a little bacon, or, I forgot, I did have a drink of tea in the other gully, and, if I remember rightly, a piece of bacon. About [censored] troops arrived to give us a spell, thank God; we all look haggard and overworked; the strain has told terribly. Slept with MacQueen to-night in a good “possy.” We have been digging “possies” in a fresh place to-day, near the right flank; were sorry to leave the other “possy”, as it was so cosy. Fatigue work; carrying in kits from the gullies and drawing rations. Heard of McIllwraith’s death, and Vines seriously wounded; we don’t know who is dead yet. Some more may turn up, but lots missing; about 30 per cent of casualties in our company, I think. I believe the 7th and 10th Battalions were badly hit; hope Inglewood boys are alright.


May 1st – Fatigues again to-day, bringing up stores from our old position. Plenty of shrapnel about; nine of our men were wounded and two killed while digging a communication trench this morning; lucky for me I was not one picked for the job. The fleet is doing some very heavy firing this afternoon; can see all the ships from our “possy;” looks well. They use searchlights all night. I notice the enemy has not been giving us so much shrapnel since the fleet has been pumping it in hard. Message of congratulations from Lord Kitchener. We have done our job so far, and it has been a very hard one. Hope to go for a bathe this afternoon; have not had my clothes off yet, as far as I can remember, since landing; feel frowsy. I suppose it will mean sleeping in our kit for months to come. We deepened our “possy” last night, because the shells are coming from all quarters, it seems. I expect we will be moving soon; we are always in readiness to go at a moment’s notice. I hope tomorrow will be more like Sunday than the last; would like to go to a service. We feel much better for the change, though they don’t give us any rest.


2nd – Just a week since that awful day. I often wonder if we’ll have such another awful day; hope not. To-day has been quiet; only shrapnel, but our dug-outs are good. We were called out to haul big guns up to the firing line and carry shells; the horses could not do it, as the tracks are too steep and rough. Just as we got the first gun up to its position the enemy shelled us, and how we came back I don’t know. The shrapnel seemed to be bursting all over us, but only saw one chap hit; had a lot of cover, luckily. We got back for tea, and they wanted me to go out with a party digging a communication trench, but I got out of it; let some of those go who have been resting all day. I believe in fair division of labor, but lots of others don’t. The warships have been doing very heavy firing all day right along the coast. I notice the Queen Elizabeth is sending some of her big shells on to a hill about 10 miles off; they make a terrible mess of things. The reports of the guns roll through the hills and make them tremble. We can see the flare of the heavy guns in the dusk on the other side of the Peninsula towards the south. Some of our men were killed on the beach from shell fire. Would like to bathe, but they won’t let us out of the lines. Nights are chilly, with heavy dew. We are expecting to go to the firing line to-night, but hope we won’t go; acting as reserves at present. We are fortunate in having a good supply of water from the springs in the hills. A lot of our men are suffering from dysentery. Edgar is on the sick list for a day or two with it.


3rd – Went to firing line as supports this morning; have been doing pick and shovel work all day at the artillery post. They don’t give us much to eat. This evening we were making a communication trench under fire, and things were pretty warm during the night. We had to go out in fighting order, as we expected to be called up to the firing line any minute; plenty of shells about. Worked all night, and got to our dug-outs at about 5.30a.m. feeling tired, cold and hungry; had an hour’s rest, then I drew rations and we breakfasted. While we were digging a track for the artillery this morning the enemy gave us some heavy shrapnel fire; one man was hit, and its remarkable how few they got.

4th – Waiting to be relieved for a spell, I hope. Went out digging a communication trench this afternoon; night fairly quiet; only got called out to reinforce firing line once, but nothing of importance doing. McQueen very bad with dysentery, and think he will be sent away.

5th – Fatigues all morning; things are quieter. Mac reported sick and went to hospital. We go to reinforce the 29th Division to-night at Cape Helles, that is, we of the 2nd Brigade only; a choice bit of work, I believe. Troops are coming from Egypt. Got ready to leave in evening. Firing very heavy in our trenches to-night; must be attacked somewhere along the line. We left on trawlers and destroyers and got to mouth of Dardanelles about 6a.m.; fine day.


Krithia (Cape Helles)

6th – Landed about 6a.m. They have had as rough a time here as we did in the landing. We marched to within a mile of their firing line, and made camp. Had the pleasure of watching them make an attack; could see quite easily, as country is clear and flat in most places. The French 75 guns are firing like mad. They are wonderful guns, and the warships are putting in big shells. The Queen Elizabeth is down for the occasion, and we can see her shells bursting on the side of the hill. They seem to cover the place; are supposed to have a killing distance of half a mile from the burst and 50 yards or more wide. The poor devils in the trenches must get cut to mince-meat. We can see the lines slowly going ahead. Shells are bursting in hundreds; don’t see how the Turks can stand it unless they have marvellous trenches. Signaller White got wounded in shoulder while we were disembarking; not serious. We got some dug-outs well down for camping, as the French battery draws a lot of fire; hope we win the day. Edgar and I are in the same dug-out; hope they leave us here for a few days, as it promises to be interesting. There are Tommies, Ghurkas and New Zealanders near us. The Tommies are very good natured, and are much better fed than we are; they give us a lot of perquisites.


We passed some of the forts coming up from the beach; they have been well smashed; walls 8ft. thick with holes in them the size of a house; some more of the Queen Elizabeth’s work. Two of the guns we saw were enormous things, but the shells had smashed all the gear to pieces. The enemy is firing from the other side of the Dardanelles, and our artillery is doing good work. I heard some wounded say that we were driving the Turks back. There is a constant stream of wounded coming back along the track – poor beggars, some with hands off and shattered limbs and faces. I expect those not seriously hurt are glad to be out of it; it’s a fearsome business facing such a hell. I expect we will have to do it in a day or two. Its bound to be a tough job they give us. Our line is supposed to have advanced a few hundred yards to-day; hope they can hold it. I fear the hill will be a long, tough job. Edgar is boiling the billy now, so we will be having tea soon. The big guns are giving it to them like hell, and the rifle fire is getting more distant. They say a lot of our men have gone down.


7th – We gave the enemy a terrible shell fire this morning; don’t see how anyone can stand it. The fleet is giving us great help; the whole of the hill we are attacking is torn with shell fire. I thought at one time the enemy were exploding mines, the smoke was so dense. The big shells from the boats make awful havoc. We expect to be sent forward any time now; they must be having a bad time in the firing line. We talk of the Turk not being a fighter, but he is very tough.

Had a good dinner, and there are prospects of a good night’s rest. I contemplate trying to have a bathe this afternoon, but something is sure to block it. It’s very unpleasant living and sleeping in the same clothes from week to week. They say the French troops are very poor fighters here; they retreat too easily. But we have a fair number of English, Australians and Ghurkas now. More heavy artillery firing this afternoon. Had a good bunk last night; got some bags to sleep on. Think we go up to firing line to-morrow; something doing, anyway.


8th – Advanced to firing line this afternoon. Started to advance about 4 o’clock, and dug in about a mile or more from the line. Had tea; had barely swallowed it when we got orders to get into fighting order, and a few minutes later were advancing in extended order. After we had gone a short distance the shrapnel commenced to come, at first at irregular intervals, and then more steadily, I kept near Edgar as long as possible, but by the time we had made a couple of rushes we were all mixed up. The rifle fire got very warm after a while. We were advancing in a sort of half circle, and were receiving fire on all sides and rear. We advanced over several lines of trenches which had Ghurkas and Tommies in them.

Our men were going down everywhere, but we kept going. It was nothing to take cover behind dead comrades, although such cover is only from sight of enemy, as a man won’t stop a bullet, but it’s wonderful what you’ll cover behind when advancing. The machine gun fire was very hot. We never fired a shot, even after passing the firing line, which half of us did not know was the firing line. Lots of us were carrying picks and shovels to dig in with. We lost a terrible number of men in the advance, and our artillery had to cease fire for a while at the last, as we had advanced right into their fire zone and were receiving some of their shells. There seem to be dead and wounded Australians everywhere. Just before making the last rush, Lieutenant Hamilton, of one of the other companies, asked me to alter his kit for him, and after we went ahead I lost him. He tried to get back to his own lot again, and, I heard later, got badly wounded - shot in the neck, back and thigh; it will take him all his time to pull through.


The country we were advancing over was mostly flat, and very hard to take cover on except where there were trenches. When I got within about 50 yards of where we dug in I saw a Sergeant Fairley, of A. Coy, 5th Battalion, shot in the groin and hand, and he was lying right in an exposed position. The machine gun fire was pretty hot there, so I picked him up and took him back to the nearest bit of cover, about 20 yards, and dressed his wounds as best I could. He was shot through one rump and out just above the groin – a very nasty wound; the poor chap was in great pain. After that I came across so many wounded that I put most of my time in carrying them back to cover. It was their only chance, and the firing line started digging in, so I thought as they were opening fire it was the best thing to do, as I knew there could be no stretcher bearers up probably till the next night.

It was an awful night; wounded were calling for help all around the line, so I got another chap to give me a hand, and we got quite a number down to a likely place for an A.M. C. depot on the creek. Saw Sergeant Walker, of our platoon, about 10 o’clock; he was shot in the lung. I made him as comfortable as I could, and they started a fire fight just after as we were trying to get a big man with a shattered leg in. We had to be down for half-an-hour till the fire died down; the bullets were whistling all round us, some hitting the ground just near but most going overhead, which was just as well, or we would have been riddled. As soon as the fire eased off we got him on my back and I carried him to cover. One poor chap was hit very badly through the lower part of the chest, and was in terrible pain. After we had been at it a few hours I went down to see if I could shake some stretcher-bearers up, but after walking about a mile down the creek I found that they would not let any of them come up – said it was dangerous, and there were all our patients suffering for want of a little proper attention. So I went back to the supports for the rest of the night, as there was no room in the firing line. We were just about 20 yards to the rear of them. It must have been about 10 o’clock when I got back, and I felt done up.


9th – In the morning I had a look round to see if things were quiet, and decided I could do more by getting back to where we left the wounded and seeing if I could do anything for them. I found that the A.M.C. doctor had come up and got some of them away about sunrise, so my trip down to the base did some good. I gave them a hand to dig out a safe place, and helped the bearers to bring in more of the wounded before going back to the trenches, which are overcrowded at present, but I expect they will get them all in soon enough. The casualties are enormous; hope Edgar is safe; must send a note along the line when I get back. There are a few snipers about; it’s wonderful that I have not been hit. Got to firing line after dinner, and found Edgar; he was not far from me, only about 50 yards. Thank God he is alright. We have a lot to be thankful for. Have made “possy” just at end of line; can’t get in the line, no room. Started a big fire fight about 8.30 p.m.; had a fair sleep after things quietened a bit; felt the cold, as had no coat to wear.


10th – Expecting to attack to-night; hope we don’t get mauled like we did in the advance. Trenches very sloppy; it makes a lot of work trying to keep the water out. Had biscuits and oxo for breakfast. I believe the attack is not to be made to-night. Trenches very boggy; one side fell in, and was, of course, my “possy.” Luckily, I just got out of it, as about five tons of earth came in and made a terrible mess. Had a cold, miserable night; went on outpost duty in the creek just in front of our firing line; was relieved at 1 a.m.; had a drink of tea in early morning, also a few biscuits.

11th – Morning quiet. Reported a few white flags showing, but expect it is only a ruse; they’re full of tricks. Our engineers are out making entanglements just in front of our trenches; hope the Turks don’t open fire. Saw Edgar this morning. Carrying ammunition this afternoon; got relieved in trenches about midnight by Lancashire Fusileers. Slept at our old dug-out, about a mile behind firing line; plenty of rum going around, some of the fellows a bit on. Had a warm time on way down from trenches; enemy kept shelling us, and several were hit near me. It’s wonderful how they know our movements; there must be some spies in the crowd.


12th – Rained this morning. Got down to beach with Edgar and had dinner with some of the Tommies, who are very good natured and much better fed than our fellows. After dinner we joined our crowd and dug in about half a mile from the beach. The enemy are dropping a lot of shells about, but they are not doing much damage. We have a very snug “possy,” with a couple of waterproofs over it for a roof; hope they give us a decent spell. We are quite close to the French batteries, which make a terrible noise.

13th – Deepened our “possy” as the shrapnel is getting a bit hot. We went for a bathe this afternoon, and it was grand to feel clean for a few hours. We have not had our things off for over a fortnight. They seem to be letting the Australians do the tough jobs. Some of the other troops are very poor fighters; of course, the regulars are alright, but the French are making an amusing show here. While they advance they hold their packs up in front of them, and are far more ready to retreat than anyone else. At the rate they are going, there won’t be many of our fellows left soon; we have had a large percent of casualties already, which is far too heavy; in fact, some say it is -- per cent -- over -- in one brigade of -- men in all, including transports and everything. I expect the next job they’ll give us will be to take the hill, which is said to be almost impregnable, and is mined from end to end. It’s a pity they can’t get others to face it.


15th – Fine, but some clouds showing up; hope it does not rain. Edgar sent a letter home to day, but I did not bother writing as we are not allowed to give any news. I wonder when we will be taken back to Gaba Tepe. The enemy have just been giving us a lively time with shrapnel. They had an artillery duel with the French battery, and it was hot while it lasted, but most of the enemy shells landed round our camp; the French battery is too well concealed; only a couple of men hit and a horse killed, as far as I know. Went to French camp in village at the fortress after dinner, on the point known as Saddel Bahn. It gave us a good idea of the damage artillery can do; not one house is complete, and in the fortress shells have torn great holes in walls 8ft thick. They have one of the French hospitals there. Couple of German fliers overhead to-day. Expect we will get a lively time to-morrow.


Return to Anzac

16th – As I expected, they are giving us rats; it’s a good thing we dug well in. Left for Gaba tepe after dinner, and slept on board all night; landed 7 a.m.; pitched camp in one of the gullies, and they are giving us plenty of shrapnel.

18th – Had a fair night’s rest. Very heavy shell fire, and had some close calls. Enemy attacked our trenches last night, in the early morning, and at daylight, but were repulsed with heavy losses. We have to sleep in fighting order.

19th – Went out on fatigues at 4.30 a.m., but could not do much, as the shrapnel was so heavy; one or two got hit. Got back at 10 a.m.; hope to get a rest, as we had no sleep last night. They are giving our men a rough time on the beach; a lot of wounded taken down this morning. Went to support trenches for the night as picket coy, but they did not attack; must have had enough in the three attacks we repulsed this morning.


20th – Got back to camp at daybreak after a cool night behind trenches. We can hear heavy firing from the Cape; must be an attack there. Weather fine; will be glad of a good sleep if we can get it. Nearly all our officers are out of action or killed; we want re-organising badly. I hear that the Turks were heavily reinforced before the attack, and they advanced in thousands, in some places ten deep. The machine guns shot them down in thousands. There must be a tremendous number dead in front of our trenches; don’t know how we will get on if they are not buried soon. Our fellows are very cool; some even sit on the parapet to get good aim, and a great number got outside the trench altogether and laid down in front of the parapet – it made a terribly strong fire. There is more talk that the Turkish officers are mutinying. Saw F. Yorath this morning. Hope Windsor and others are alright. Heard the other day that Fred and Rolun Adams, of Mildura, whom I know well, were killed and missing respectively since the first Sunday, so looks like both dead. Terribly hard for their parents, as they are the only two boys in the family. I feel set up over it, as they were such decent chaps. The enemy is very strong; they far exceed us in numbers. Our men are looking fagged out. I feel quite ill sometimes.


21st – Spent last night in the gully in anticipation of an attack, but we did not do much except dodge shrapnel. It was cool out, and I had no coat; got to our new dug-outs, which we occupied yesterday, about daybreak. I hear that a division of troops has arrived to relieve us; we expect to go away to re-organise. I hope it’s true; we all need a rest badly. Yesterday they had an armistice to bury the dead, which needed burying; we could smell them down in the gullies – it must have been vile in the trenches. Hope we have a quiet day.

22nd – Inlying picket last night; went to support trenches, but nothing doing. Am bad with dysentery; makes me feel fagged and weak; we all have it more or less, and the rations are very rotten; they are feeding us badly. Raining this morning, but weather cleared this afternoon, and there are prospects of a sleep to-night.

23rd – There is talk of us going to Lemnos to spell, but I expect it will blow over like the other. All the Light Horse arrived from Egypt. Hope for a quiet day. Our officers are getting short in number, and they are making a lot of new ones. Had voluntary church parade this morning at the 6th Battalion camp; Captain Dexter held the service, and most of us went. Spent the afternoon out of my clothes to give them an airing. We are not allowed water for washing, only enough for drinking purposes. Went out trench digging all night.


24th – Got back early this morning, and on fatigues, etc, and digging communication trenches. Had an armistice for burying the dead. Heard that W. Rochester was wounded at the Cape while we were there – shot in the chest, stomach and thigh, I believe. Hope he gets through alright. The two Parkers are alright – they were hit the first day; one pretty badly in the shoulder. Hope not called out to-night. Inlying picket.

25th – Called out at 3 a.m., but nothing doing. Rifle inspection at 10 a.m. Raining, and things got a bit wet. I heard a great explosion last night, and it turned out to be the Triumph, which was torpedoed. A couple of enemy submarines about. She was sunk in deep water off our coast, and will be a great loss to us. It seems as though luck is not with us.

26th – On wood fatigue this morning. Things are quiet. Went into trenches this afternoon for three nights and days on Brown’s Hill, which commands the gully behind Quinn’s Post, where the line is broken and where the enemy frequently make night attacks, to their cost. General Walker arrived a few days ago to take over the work of General Bridges, who died recently. Heard this evening that the Majestic has also been sunk by a torpedo at Cape Helles.

27th – Had a cool night, as usual, and they did not tell us to bring our blankets or anything. The more I think of it, the more incompetent I think our leaders are, especially when I think of the casualties. Perhaps General Walker will be able to alter that, but I don’t think Bridges was responsible. Got blankets this afternoon. Have a hunt through our clothes every day. Think the blankets and dug-outs must be alive.


28th – Had a good night; nothing much doing. Some reinforcements arrived to-day. I heard that the Australians had over 10,000 casualties to date; it can’t be less. Got three letters to-day – the first but one since landing. We are having lovely weather, and the Turks are not giving us much trouble at present. We are holding on till the Cape Helles crowd come up, and then advance, I think. There will be enough excitement when that comes. I hope the Turks do a lot of attacking in the meantime, as it will mean all the less to kill then, but I think they are getting tired of making attacks, they are so costly, and the last few have taken quite a lot of starch out of them.

29th – Enemy made an attack last night, blew up part of our trenches and took that portion, but our boys re-took it almost at once. The Turks lost a lot of men. I hear rumors of another attack to-night. I don’t know how we get the news, but think they tap the telephone wires. The attack is to be made en mass. The [censored] was torpedoed to-day. I hear that’s the third battleship recently; looks bad, hope they get the submarines. All the destroyers are working between here and Lemnos at full speed; hope they do some good. It is amusing reading the papers and letters published about how one feels under fire for the first time. My experience was at the start a desire to overcome fear, and after we got moving I felt alright. The half-hour before we start is the worst part of it to me; when I am going I don’t feel anything except a desire to act as quickly as possible. I felt worried about Edgar more than anything; it is a mistake to have a brother with you, I think. But, strange to say, I felt all through as though we were both coming through alright. Its wonderful what a help a man’s religion is in such cases; it brings it home to one as nothing else can. Were relieved at 5.30p.m.; suppose it means more fatigues.


30th – Church parade in morning and fatigue after dinner. They are evidently going to attack our lines, as they are shelling very hard and the rifle fire is brisk. We are used to their attacks now, which generally cost them dear. I noticed one shell landed almost on the battalion headquarters. They are trying hard to find our artillery, and are shelling our trenches with shrapnel. Heard this morning that submarine [censored] got into the Narrows and sunk two enemy transports loaded with ammunition. It will be a great loss to them, and they sank three other transports besides; not known if they had troops on or not. I have to go with some others to B. Coy. to join inlying picket to-night, as they can’t make up the number. Kept busy all the afternoon.

31st – On fatigues all day and inlying picket last night. Was digging trenches this evening till 9 o’clock, then inlying picket again. They don’t give us any rest at all. Quiet day in firing line. I heard that on Sunday night the Turks blew up one of our trenches and captured it and the support trench for a time, but our boys charged them with the bayonet and won it back, the enemy losing heavily. I believe that the enemy lost 2,900 on Sunday during attacks on our lines – that is, killed. The destroyers are busy this afternoon – got wind of a submarine, but did not get it, worse luck.


June 1st – On fatigues and inlying picket; things quiet.

2nd – Went for swim this morning. I suppose we will have fatigues all afternoon. Heard at the beach that there are [censored] troops at Lemnos; hope its true. Easy afternoon; things quiet.

3rd – Quiet day; enemy doing very little firing. Reported our boats got supply ships to enemy submarines; heard that submarines had been taken; too, but I doubt it. Our warships are pounding away again this afternoon; its good to hear them, and must be discomforting to the Turks. Going into trenches again this afternoon. Hear that the boats are shelling villages a couple of miles away, because there are troops there; expect there will be an attack soon, if that’s the case.

4th – Got back about 6a.m. after quiet night. They are doing something at the Cape, as we can hear the tremendous fire like a continuous roll of thunder. Expect they are trying to take the hill; there is some talk of them blowing it up with [censored] tons of guncotton. It must be a very tough job. The Germans say it is impregnable, but I think they will find their mistake before we finish. Its slow work, and we want lots more troops, but when they come we should do it. There has not been a break in the thunder of the big guns all day.

5th – Went on main guard at 9a.m. for 24 hours; fine and quiet.


6th – Attacked at Turkish trench on right on Friday night and took it, I hear, but had to abandon it later. Hear that Turks are having a hard time – 100,000 wounded at Constantinople. The general impression is that this job will be taking a decisive turn soon; I hope so. The people are supposed to be leaving Constantinople in hundreds. One of our submarines did more damage in the Narrows. They say the Turk has a horror of the Australians. Went to church parade after coming off guard; have cold in my head.

7th – Going to supports to-night. A good lot of shrapnel came over this morning. Our crowd seems always in for the duty end of the stick.

8th – Got back from trenches at sunrise. I got out with woodcutting party at 1p.m. Hear that Italy has declared war; hope its true, and that it hastens the end. Finished woodcutting at 6p.m. Edgar is on a digging party, and is working till midnight. They have to carry fighting order and 200 rounds of ammunition; they are working us to death. Some of the men are looking wrecks, and the food is bad.


9th – On woodcutting, and later with engineer in trenches and supports making sleeping places; back at 6p.m.; nothing much doing.

10th – Working all day with engineers behind firing line. We go into firing line to-morrow for a while, probably till we move from here. Saw about 200 Turks near our trenches at Quinn’s Post this morning that had been shot the other night in an attack by one of our machine guns.

11th – Went into firing line this evening; on fatigues all morning. Edgar is on observation work.

12th – Had very quiet night. Very poor breakfast – only two biscuits each. Very heavy shrapnel fire from enemy this morning right over our trenches; did a little damage, but no one in our company hit yet. Saw four killed and one wounded by shrapnel about 20 yards away. They appeared to have just come out of the firing line for some reason; they would belong to the 4th Battalion, I should say. It’s a wonder they don’t get a lot more than they do; we all have some close calls at times. Wish it was all over – war is a terrible business.

13th – Quiet day; went on duty at 6 for 48 hours’ observation. We have to work double shifts now on account of the shortage of men. I am on No. 2 post in firing line. Dysentery bad, so are the flies.


14th – On observation duty.

15th – On observation duty. Our trenches got knocked about by enemy shells this morning, but no one was hit; plenty of dirt flying about. Got relieved by 13th platoon for three days. Just got orders to stand to all night; enemy must be going to attack. Got no sleep.

16th – Had fair night; very bad with dysentery, so is Edgar. I can’t eat the food; feeling weak and ill, and could not do fatigues, and no good reporting to the doctor, as he only gives pills. Very heavy shell fire this afternoon; eight killed and ten wounded in our trenches. Two of them, poor chaps, were taken out in little pieces which took a lot of finding in the dirt they were mixed up with; nearly all of them were buried.

17th – Had fair night, though there was a lot of bomb-throwing on the left. More big shells to-day. One nearly smothered us with dirt. Dysentery a little better, but very weak; I collapsed last night on my way back, and some fellows had to help me to my bunk. Nearly everyone is bad more or less, and barcoo rot is spreading. I have it pretty badly. If they don’t give us a change soon we will all be down.


18th – Going into firing line again to-day. On fatigues, and don’t go into firing line till to-morrow. Corporal Cole shot through head this morning and died almost immediately. Was only 21 years of age.

19th – Went to firing line 10a.m. Am not on first shift.

20th – Still in firing line. Had a lot of “hurry up” to-night. Something doing at the sniper’s trench; had a bit of a fire fight.

21st – On observation duty; nothing much doing.

22nd – Still on observation duty; got relieved for to-night. Want a sleep badly.

23rd – Go on duty again at 7p.m. with Edgar. Things quiet. The Turks are doing a lot of digging and making new trenches close to ours. We may be able to blow up a few of them later on; both sides are busy sapping and mining; can hear them working under parts of our trenches; hope they don’t blow us up first.

24th – Still on observation duty. Very bad with dysentery again.


25th – Got relieved at 10a.m. by 15th Platoon; will be in again in three days. Suppose will be getting plenty of fatigues while in the supports. The Lord Nelson and five destroyers came up this afternoon to Gabe Tepe and bombarded a magazine and store, and succeeded in destroying them.

26th – Went to beach this afternoon. Shrapnel heavy, and saw bunch of men in swimming get hit by two shells, which landed right amongst them; must have caught a lot.

27th – Turks made feeble attack early this morning, but only a few came out. They are afraid of our fire, and I don’t wonder at it, as every time they attack they lose enormously. I expect we will get a taste of it before long again. On fatigues, and went to church this evening behind trenches, and enjoyed service.


28th – Went to firing line again at 10a.m. for six days. Am on observation duty with Edgar. Had a lot of rifle fire this afternoon. Some of their shells hit our parapet, and one buried seven of our men just a few yards from us. Six of them went to hospital, but, strange to say, none were killed – a very lucky escape. Had another fire demonstration to-night, and sang a few choruses to keep the Turks awake. Part of our line on the right flank made an attack, emptied the enemy’s trenches and returned; had about 120 casualties. It is all done to keep them from sending help to the Cape, where the Tommies are making an attack.


29th – Still on duty, but have a spell of 24 hours to-morrow. Enemy made an attack at Quinn’s Post, and lost about 250 dead. Our artillery played the deuce with them. We had a duet and thunderstorm when the enemy made the attack – suppose they thought the dark would hide them. Enemy were reinforced today, and we had a very heavy fusillade. I was on observation duty with Edgar at the time. Our casualties were comparatively light, I believe. We are supposed to have made an advance at Cape Helles.

30th – Relieved at 8a.m. for a 24 hours’ spell. Rumors of a spell for a week at Imbros, but suppose it will end in smoke, like the other. Imbros is about 14 miles away from the shore. Very heavy gun fire at Cape all day and night. The Turks must be having a rough time of it. We had a thunderstorm to-night at 9.30, and very vivid lightning, and the enemy got uneasy and did a lot of firing. Had a fair night after the storm passed over.


July 1st – Go on duty at 2p.m.

2nd – Quiet day. Went to beach for water after being relieved. Only doing 24 hours on at a time now; reinforcements make a difference, and a lot of them are arriving lately. Major Lockhart [sic – Flockart] brought me some cigarettes to-day; he was wounded, and has just returned; cigarettes are very acceptable. Very heavy firing at Cape this afternoon, they must be advancing.

3rd – Hear that Turks attacked in vast numbers at Cape on 30th and 1st, and were repulsed with very heavy losses. Lot of firing at Cape last night.

4th – Relieved for three days in supports, hope fatigues are not heavy. Had little rain last night. Have a cold; missed church; had bit of firing at about 8 o’clock.

5th – Fatigues, and quiet night.

6th – Fatigues.

7th – Went to firing line for 6 days; not on duty yet, but go on to-morrow; bit of a flutter about 10a.m.

8th – On observation duty 10a.m.

9th – On duty at No. 6 post.


10th – Relieved for 24 hours. Some of our big shells landed in Johnson’s Gully this afternoon and did a bit of damage. The Lord Nelson came up with six destroyers and did a bit of firing at something inland. We blew up some of the enemy’s saps yesterday and made a bit of a commotion, and a machine gun picked off the poor devils as they ran out – those who could run.

11th – On duty at 10a.m. for 24 hours, a long shift. Had a fire demonstration to-night; things very warm. Another attack at the Cape.

12th – Another fire fight this morning. Very heavy shell fire on our trenches. Edgar had a very narrow escape. A shell came through the loophole where he was observing and took the plate with it and a bit of the water bottle just behind him, where it exploded in the ground and never hurt him. Several of our fellows went down to the hospital hit or suffering from shock from shells bursting. A lot of shells landed on our trench. There must be a lot of casualties in other parts. Just heard that Major Lockhart got hit very badly and is not expected to recover. He was one of the best. A lot of men are going out of the firing line wounded. Heard later that Major Lockhart died.


13th – Relieved at 10a.m. Heavy shell fire this afternoon, and a lot of casualties. One poor fellow had both legs taken off; don’t think he can recover, although he seems cheerful enough. He had just returned from being wounded. Some were blown to pieces. Saw remains of one man being carried down in a parcel.

14th – More shells this afternoon. Our machine gun section got blown out; one killed and several hurt. Went for swim and wrote home.

15th – Went for swim. Quiet day, with few shells after dinner.

16th – Went to firing line this morning. Don’t go on duty again till to-morrow. Fair number of shells this evening – one on quarter-master’s store; hope it does not run us short of provisions.

17th – On duty No. 3 post; quiet day. Heavy firing at Cape. Holy Communion service at Brigadier’s headquarters at 6.30a.m.; missed it, being asleep.

18th – Quiet day. Went to beach for water. After being relieved at 10a.m. saw eight men put out by two shells while I was there. Saw one being carried along beach with face blown off. Went to church in evening; few shells about.


19th – On duty this morning; quiet day. Very heavy firing at Cape. They seem to be having a tough job to take the hill.

20th – Relieved 10a.m.; went to beach for water.

21st – On duty at 10a.m.

22nd – Went into supports for three days at 10a.m.

23rd – Went for swim and water; got wood; fatigues; stand to at midnight.

24th – Had three “stand-to’s” last night; evidently expected an attack somewhere.

25th – Firing line again. Will go to church if possible.


26th – Few shells and bombs, but don’t think much happened.

27th – Relieved for 24 hours; went for water and had a swim. Turks dropping lot of shells to-day. Got some eggs at 2s 6d a dozen.

28th – An attack this morning, enemy losing 200; we had practically no casualties; was not a very big attack. A good many saps have been blown up lately; one went this morning; are mostly enemy saps.

29th – Went for water. Been fortunate enough to buy eggs and flour from sailors, which they bring from Lemnos. They have been the saving of us as far as dysentery goes.

30th – Heard of great victory for our troops near Persian Gulf, and hope its true; gave enemy three cheers from trenches to celebrate occasion, and they fired like mad.

31st – Went to supports for three days. A German “fly” dropped a few bombs on our line this morning; bit of rifle fire last night.


August 1st – Quiet day; went to church and had good service; a big Salvation Army chap gave it, and delivered a good sermon. He’s often been in Inglewood; I’ve seen him there. He’s a big, stout chap; has Church of England hymns.

2nd – Water fatigues; the big gun fire at Cape not so noticeable to-day.

3rd – Firing line again. On No. 1 post, with Edgar acting as corporal. A Taube dropped some bombs about.


Wounded & evacuated

4th – Got hit with incendiary bomb on head at midnight just after coming off shift, and burnt my scalp and clothes, but luckily my cap comforter saved me from being very badly burned. I was taken down to the hospital after being dressed, and will be going away in fleet sweeper in the morning. My face is black and charred. Luckily I was not asleep, or I’d have got it in the face and been blinded.

5th – Left on fleet sweeper [Ionian] at midday. Was sorry to leave Edgar (who came down with some of my belongings in the morning) especially as there is to be a big attack in a few days. Three divisions of Tommies are landing before the end of week; [censored] landed last night. We reached Lemnos at 5.30p.m., and harbor is full of all kinds of craft, from warships down to cockle shells.

6th – Left Lemnos at 5.30p.m. [HMS Clacton] for Alexandria; won’t be away long.

7th – Grand to have a bed to sleep in, and no kit to wear all night. My head is doing well. Had beard shaved off to-day. Meals are fairly good.

8th – Had quiet day. Will reach Alexandria to-night. Fancy, I finished this diary on the day I started it, this day last year. Will post it home to-morrow, and start another. It is my birthday, too. Anxious that I should start this diary also on my birthday and finish it for post on my next birthday.




Fred Symonds was the 3rd of 6 children born to Samuel & Jane (nee Hartrick), in Port Albert, Victoria (not Inglewood as he stated on Attestation). His brother Edgar was 10 years his junior. Their father, an employee of the Bank of Vic, eventually became the Manager of the Inglewood Branch, where the boys grew up, and both Fred and Edgar initially followed him into the banking field. By the time he enlisted however, Fred was carrying on the business of an Insurance Agent.


Fred’s diary was published in the “Inglewood Advertiser” during the period of Sept / Oct 1915, when interest in Gallipoli was at its peak; but if he did keep subsequent diaries of his war years, they never made it to publication (perhaps as their content wouldn’t have been such a thrilling read).


After his return to Egypt and recovery from his injuries, Fred was employed in clerical work at the Base Medical Stores in Zeitoun. When the 5th battalion sailed for France on the 25th March 1916, they sailed without him; but his stay in Egypt finally came to an end a week before his 34th Birthday, when he instead, sailed to England on the 2nd August.

The following 14 months were spent in the Training camps and the Service Corps, until eventually in the October of 1917 Fred crossed to France to join the 4th Div Supply Column. In March 1918 he was taken on strength with the 2nd Motor Transport Coy, and then in the May he was transferred back to his original unit, the 5th Battalion. During his time in France he was affected by gas, and suffered a bout of bronchitis. As one of the ‘1914 men’, he began his trip home in the month before Armistice, arriving back in Melbourne in early December 1918.


Called to respond, during his ‘welcome home’ reception, Fred had the following to say:

One lesson the war had taught every soldier, if he was an honest-minded man, and that was what love of country meant. A man never did appreciate his own country until he was forced to live out of it under trying conditions, but he could tell them that they appreciated Victoria, and always maintained that there was no place as good.


In 1919 Fred married and started a family; he also purchased 47 acres of land at Quantong through the Closer Settlement Board, and worked that land as an Orchardist, until 1930 when the holding was cancelled.

The following year he was a ‘Reader’ at the C of E Vicarage at Panmure, and later that same year became a Minister of Religion in Bungaree. From Bungaree he moved on to Murtoa in 1936 and then Koroit in 1938, before dividing his time between Creswick and Ballarat, until his death in Ballarat on the 30th of September 1962, at the age of 80. His wife, Hilda died in NSW the following year, and of their six children, only three made it to adult hood, one of whom served in WW2.


Fred’s brother Edgar Bell Symonds (L/Cpl 625) also returned home, married, and served in WW2 before his death in NSW in 1964.



Inglewood & District Soldiers mentioned in the diary: 1. Windsor / W. Rochester – Sgt 877 Alfred Windsor Rochester, 7th Bn – KIA 8/5/1915 Cape Helles. 2. F. Yorath – L/Cpl 303 Francis Leonard Yorath, 5th Bn – see Digger 36 (p.25-7). 3. The two Parkers (brothers) – L/Cpl 950 George Frederick Parker, 7th Bn, (KIA 25/7/1916) & L/Cpl 951 Thomas Picton Parker, 7th Bn, (RTA 7/11/1915)

Others: Fred & Rolun Adams (Mildura brothers) – Pte 868 Frederick James Adams, 8th Bn – KIA 25/4/1915 [AWM Photo H05906] & Pte 1127 Edgar Robert Adams, 8th Bn, died whilst POW 25/4/1915 [AWM Photo H14064]; Captain Dexter – Chaplain Walter Ernest Dexter

5th Bn Men: Mr Levy – Lieut (later Capt) Leopold Levy; MacQueen – Pte 551 Frederick John McQueen; McIlwraith – Pte 553 David Keith McIlwraith – KIA 25/4/1915; Vines – Cpl 524 Ashley Robert Vines; Lieut Hamilton – 2nd Lieut Charles Builth Hamilton – DOW 18/5/1915; Sgt Fairley – L/Cpl 993 Ernest Robert Fairlie – KIA 8/5/1915; Sgt Walker – Sgt 518 (later Lieut) Victor Langford Walker; Corporal Cole – Cpl 602 Eldon Torel Trevor Cole – KIA 18/6/1915; Major Lockhart – Maj Robert Pearce Flockart, DOW 15/7/1915


Heather (Frev) Ford


.....from the Western Front in 1914 to the Balkans in 1915 to the High Seas 1916 to 1919 – Edith Amy Trebilcock – AVH, BRC, QAIMNSR, AANS


Although born in England in 1875, Edith migrated to Australia with her family late 1880, early 1881, and this was to be the first of her many sea voyages. After receiving her early education in Ballarat, she trained as a nurse at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne for 3 years between 1899 and 1902. Her training over, she left the Alfred and went into Private Nursing, before taking up the position of Matron of the Sir Samuel Hospital in WA, followed by the Laverton Hospital, WA in October 1911.


Returning to Victoria, no doubt to visit family, Edith then embarked from Melbourne on the 9th November 1912 aboard the Wakool for England, arriving in London on the 8th January 1913. The Governor General had sent a letter to the UK Prime Minister stating that “my Prime Minister would be glad if facilities could be afforded to Nursing Sister E.A. Trebilcock, Army Nursing Service (5th MD) to obtain training at Netley or other Military Hospitals, during her visit to England, on the understanding that no expenditure to the Commonwealth will be incurred thereby.”

On her arrival in England she had been directed to present herself to the Matron-in-Chief at the War Office, however it was noted that as of October 1913 she had not done so. Edith instead appears to have been receiving private tuition in midwifery at the Paddington Workhouse Infirmary, and on the 9th of June, along with 429 other candidates, she passed the Examination of the Central Midwives Board.

Soon after sitting her exam, she boarded the Baltic for America, arriving at Ellis Island on the 5th of July. During her time in the US Edith was employed as Head Nurse of a Sanatorium in Highlands, North Carolina, before eventually returning to the UK, where she was residing in August 1914.


Within days of the declaration of war, many ‘well-healed’ ex-patriot Australians in England, banded together and made an offer to the War Office of an Australian Voluntary Hospital (AVH), staffed and funded by them, to be sent to the front. Upon acceptance of their offer they advertised for staff, and Edith was one of the first 17 (mostly) Australian nurses to volunteer. With the chief organiser Lady Rachel Dudley as Superintendent, Ida Greaves from Newcastle, NSW as Matron, and Colonel Eames, a doctor also from Newcastle as the Commanding Officer, Edith sailed for France on the 28th August 1914 on board Lord Dunraven’s Hospital Yacht, Greta. She takes up the tale in the following letter:

“We left Southampton on August 28 for Havre, then the naval base, but the Germans were encroaching so much in that direction that we hurried from the hotel at which we were staying on to the Greta, the yacht Lord Dunraven had chartered for our expedition. Here we spent several uncomfortable days and nights, and were again landed in Havre, which was so crowded that a bed was an unknown quantity. And very thankful we were to get on board the Asturias, which brought us down here (St Nazaire), to what has since been the base. Lady Dudley took the best private hospital here, and opened it for officers only, and in a few days we had more patients than we could accommodate. Then we took over a large school adjoining as an annexe. Here we nurse the Tommies, accommodating ninety at a time, and here it is we have done our best work.

“In a month we handled 750 cases, and when I tell you that we are but seventeen nurses and our orderlies for the most part are untrained you can imagine something of our work. Many times we have been strained almost to the breaking point, but have managed to endure and do good work.

[Their patients were the sick & wounded soldiers from the Mons front]


“It is different from ordinary hospital work. We hear when the trains with the wounded are expected in, and we are ready to receive them. The serious cases are immediately got to bed. Then we feed them all; after which they all have to be washed and their wounds dressed. We have received as many as 170 patients in a day, so you will see our task has not been an easy one. Their wounds are often filthy and sloughing, having in many cases been undressed for two and three days. We hear that many of the hospitals have a great deal of gangrene, but so far we have had none, though we have had tetanus (lockjaw), which is even worse. We have had seven deaths from it…. It is so awful and so hopeless. Here we see in a very small way some of the horrors of war.

“Besides the hospital and annexe we have a camp, a postcard of which I will send you…One evening last week we attended a concert given by our people at the camp. It was a weird affair. A beautiful moonlight night, a waning camp fire, the inner circle composed of sisters and officers, beyond this hundreds of our British soldiers, and on the outskirts crowds of French people. Lady Dudley was sport enough to contribute to the programme, and we wound up the evening by having supper with the officers and afterwards motored home.

“Our home is in the corner of the main street, and we see all the soldiers march past – in one direction to the rest camp, after disembarking; in the other, to the front! They win one’s respect, with their cheerfulness and grit. They are always singing as they march, their favorite songs being ‘It’s a long way to Tipperary’ and ‘Oh, you beautiful doll.’ We see thousands and thousands of them pass. ….. Then when they return to us wounded and suffering, their cheerfulness one marvels at! Only here and there one meets with one who whines.

“We have packed up here and have to quit St Nazaire. Lady Dudley has taken the Hotel Carlton in Paris, but latest news tells us we are not going there. We certainly hope to get nearer the front, but so far know nothing. When our orders come we shall get out speedily.”


It was early in October when they first received the order to pack up and prepare to move again, and eventually they entrained for Boulogne, where they arrived at the end of the month. The new hospital was speedily set up in the Hotel du Golf in the nearby town of Wimereux, and they were soon receiving wounded from the first battle of Ypres.

A visitor to the hospital made the following interesting observation:

“What the Australians lacked they made or invented. An operating theatre was, of course, needed. The most suitable room having been decided on, it was a question of workmen to transform it. There were none. The men were busy lifting and carrying, so three sisters rolled up their sleeves and ‘turned to’ themselves. They scraped every inch of paper off the walls at a rate which would have caused a paper hanger to faint. Then the tallest sister of the three mounted on an improvised scaffold and manipulated the whitewash brush.”

During the first week of the makeshift theatre’s existence, 79 serious operations were performed. The staff laboured on with very little rest, not only treating the thousands of wounded that passed through their midst, but also building up a highly efficient and well-equipped hospital as they went.


Perched on a cliff overlooking the sea, they had to contend with bitterly cold winds, and as winter arrived, gales and even blizzards; one such sudden gale managed to take out a window in one of the hospital wards. Luckily for Edith and the other nurses, they were accommodated in a nearby building, and the Medical Officers eventually took over the Golf Clubhouse, but the majority of the male personnel had to contend with life under canvas, which a blizzard in mid-November soon made ‘short work of’.

As the fighting continued around Ypres, they were continually on alert, ready to pack up and move again at a moment’s notice. However, as it turned out, the AVH remained in Wimereux until July 1916 when it was taken over by the War Office and renamed the 32nd Stationery Hospital. Edith though, had moved on long before this, having returned to the UK in December 1914.


Responding to the urgent appeal from the Serbian Red Cross for assistance in the Balkan States, Edith had volunteered her services despite the difficulties & danger she knew lay ahead. Disease was raging in the battle areas, and the hospital arrangements and equipment were hopelessly inadequate. Together with 2 British doctors and 3 other nurses, Edith was to help establish a British Red Cross hospital in Montenegro. The party reached Salonika on 3rd March 1915 & the following is an account of some of their trek through the Balkan Mountains:

“In Nish on the following day [the 4th] the party was met by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, who had provided carriages to convey them to clean, comfortable apartments – a thoughtful provision, as they found the town indescribably filthy, with an absolute lack of all sanitary arrangements. Typhus fever was raging there, and the party met the R.A.M.C. Sanitary Commission, consisting of 25 doctors, all striving earnestly to relieve the terrible sufferings of the people. In Scopje the visitors were met by Lady Paget, who was there to welcome the members of her own party of nurses, a typhus hospital having been established a couple of days previously. A special car was provided by M. Petchar, one of the Serbian Ministers, who accompanied the party for several days, and was solicitous for their comfort throughout. M. Petcher is a graduate of the Vienna University, and a splendid linguist, speaking seven languages fluently.


The up-hill journey was begun in earnest in Kruchivats, where they found the railway station full of soldiers, many of them sick and wounded, on their way to Nish. The country was beautiful, with many fertile valleys, but the work of ploughing was being performed by women and boys. The Serbian is a soldier before everything, and at the first call all who were capable of bearing arms flocked to the colours. There were many pathetic scenes by the wayside – ruined villages and cottages, with clusters of graves – rude tombstones and crosses decorated with torn flags – evidences of the great struggles which had taken place between the contending forces. In Ugitze the little party was met by the Minister for Foreign Affairs in Montenegro, and the chief of the Serbian army in that part of the country. At midday the visitors were entertained at an excellent lunch, a very good orchestra playing several English selections, which sounded strange in such surroundings. In the evening they dined at the officers’ mess – the first occasion on which women had been admitted. The dinner was served splendidly, and some of the toasts proposed were very complimentary to the British nation. It was touching to see the love and devotion which they entertained towards Britain – a country practically unknown to Serbians until recently. They are a fine people, their soldiers – both officers and men – being brave, intelligent, and of splendid physique. Miss Trebilcock says that she will never forget the kindness and consideration with which they were received everywhere – they were waited upon hand and foot.


After the party left Ugitze the road ascended rapidly. Rain and driving sleet were succeeded by snowstorms, great pine trees bent under their icy burdens, and the effect was grandly desolate. The country through which they were traveling is termed the Switzerland of Serbia, and the panoramas of majestic mountain scenery could hardly be surpassed in any part of the world. Messengers were sent ahead to ensure that meals and accommodation should be in readiness, and nothing could exceed the thoughtfulness of those in charge of the party. The scenery continued indescribably grand and beautiful, and in places where the snow had melted primroses and other flowers were beginning to peep out. The town of Vadesta, originally an Austrian possession, was found to be in the possession of the Serbs, and the nurses were taken to the military barracks, where the officers gave up their quarters to provide them with accommodation. There were no female attendants, but soldiers, big kindly fellows, were told off to render any assistance desired. It was a novel experience to have a jugful of water poured on the hands while washing, and to have a towel handed over by a giant in uniform, with sword at side. The situation was embarrassing at times, the nurses having to push their soldier servants out of the room in order to obtain a little time for themselves. The officers entertained the party splendidly, and after dinner a number of complimentary speeches were made on both sides. The officers sang, by request, the National Anthem of Serbia, and in return they were given “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary” and other songs of the trenches.


From there onward the mountainous journey became more difficult. In the absence of an engine recourse was had to an open truck pushed by soldiers, and in another place the journey was made on horseback. At the Montenegrin frontier they were met by an escort of officers, to whose protection they were assigned. Lunch was prepared by an Austrian woman, who had been captured by the Montenegrins, but was being treated kindly. The scenery was still very beautiful, but the accommodation was primitive, and there was nothing in the way of sanitation. A two-roomed shanty would be entered sometimes. One room would be devoted to an entire family, the other being occupied by horses, cows, and sheep. Later the journey was continued on sleighs, which had been sent out to meet them. A comfortable, clean house had been set apart for them, and they were accorded a great reception as they passed through the streets. It was at this stage that M. Petchar, who had acted as guide, philosopher, friend, and interpreter throughout the eventful journey, bade the party adieu, having to take up his duties again at the Serbian seat of government. In order to secure the prompt transmission of her letter, Miss Trebilcock brought her story to a conclusion, promising to supplement it with a further communication at the first opportunity.” [unfortunately no further correspondence could be found]


On reaching their destination, Edith was in charge of the Infectious Hospital at Plevlie (Pljevlja) until the 6th of July 1915. Typhus continued to spread after Austrian troops drove thousands of refugees over the frontier from Bosnia & Herzegovina in the April, and Austrian Aviators wantonly bombed undefended towns, while plans for invasion continued to build. Luckily for Edith, she moved on before these plans came to fruition.


Returning to England, she applied to join Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service Reserve (QAIMNSR) on the 16th of August, but her time with this Unit was to be short. Having joined for duty at the Military Hospital in Ripon on the 21st of September; a month later she was tendering her resignation. When asked for a reason Edith stated: “I resign because with my experience and ability I feel myself worthy of a better position than that of ‘staff nurse’ which I now occupy.”

Obviously finding it difficult to further her career in England, Edith eventually made the decision to return to Australia, and on the 24th of March 1916 she boarded the Osterley for home. This wasn’t to be the end of her war nursing however, as in December that same year she enlisted for overseas service with the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS). Allocated to the No. 1 Sea Transport Section (STS) she embarked on the Orontes on the 23rd of that month, albeit as a Staff Nurse!


The Sea Transport Sections, of which there were 10, saw service on the transport ships, catering to the medical needs of the reinforcements going abroad, and the invalids returning home. They were established in 1916 as a partial replacement to the random selection of medical staff for each voyage. The idea was to allow the STS staff to meld together and build on their ship-board experiences to create an efficient team, which would remain together through many voyages. The teams generally consisted of a medical officer, 7 nurses, a dispenser, a masseur, 3 NCOs and 16 other ranks to work as orderlies.


Work on the transport ships was of course extremely hazardous, as unlike the hospital ships which flew the red-cross, they were legitimate prey to the enemy. With nerves often on edge, carrying out their nursing duties was made even more difficult by a continually rolling ship, which at times escalated in stormy seas. The cramped, stuffy conditions below decks were worse at night, when lights were masked in brown paper funnels and much of the work had to be done by touch alone. It was one of the services avoided by many, not only because of these difficulties, but also because of the sheer monotony of the voyage. Edith however, seemed well suited to the roll, and over the course of the following 2 years, together with her team, saw duty on the transports Themistocles, Suevic and Marathon. Whilst in England between each trip, as Edith awaited the return journey, she was granted furlo, and then attached temporarily for duty to either the 2nd Australian Auxiliary Hospital (AAH) in Southall or the 1st AAH at Harefield. Her last trip home on the Marathon began only days before the armistice, depositing her back in WA on Christmas Eve, her appointment then being terminated in early February of 1919.


Yet again Edith signed on for more. Her reappointment with the AANS was for Special Service for the one voyage only, and this time she was given the rank of Sister. Together with AANS Staff Nurse Catherine MacLean & Miss Gilmore of the NZ Nursing Service, she embarked in Sydney on the SS Kursk on the 29th of May 1919. The Kursk was carrying German Prisoners of War who had been interned in Australia and were now being repatriated. Following their arrival in London on the 23rd July, Edith’s appointment with the AANS was again terminated – it had been whispered that she would be taking up new duties in England ‘which may eventually bring her into a new sphere of nursing.’

What these new duties were, or whether Edith entered a new sphere of nursing, is unknown, but what is known is she didn’t remain in England indefinitely. The following year she travelled to Canada, and eventually crossed again to America, where in California on the 18th February 1921 she was accepted for US citizenship.


Endnotes: Edith was born 17/1/1875 Luton, Bedfordshire, England (though she usually gave her DOB as 1878) – the daughter of John TREBILCOCK & Charlotte CROXFORD. Her father, a grazier, died in 1909 and her mother died in July 1914 while Edith was overseas. Her brother, Harold b.12/8/1878, who served in both the Boer War & WW1 – lost a leg & RTA in 1918 as a 2nd Lieut with the 3rd Tunnelling Coy, AIF. He died at the Heidelberg Military Hospital 21/6/1949.


Heather (Frev) Ford, 2012

Trebilcock, EA.jpg


A ship's life - The Kanowna Story

blog-0834501001402557042.jpgShe was ‘said to mark a new era in the Australian coastal trade’, a magnificent steamer with ‘superb accommodation for 270 passengers, and having a cargo-carrying capacity equal to 7,000 tons weight and measurement’. The SS Kanowna, built in 1902, was a sister ship to the SS Kyarra (1903); both having been built by Messrs W. Denny & Co of Dumbarton, for the A.U.S.N. Co, and both became popular, plying their trade along Australia’s coast in the decade to follow. Visiting Melbourne on the 15th May 1903 on her maiden voyage from Sydney to Fremantle, the Kanowna began a fascinating career that would span 26 years of ups and downs.


Some of her ‘downs’ included the loss of one of her young seaman in the March of 1913, when he drowned after falling from the top spar onto a wharf and rolled into the water. This was followed less than a week later by the loss of hatch coverings and damaged railings in stormy seas. In May 1914 she was involved in a collision with the Mt Kembla in the Brisbane River, and the following month was delayed in her voyage by a sudden strike of firemen, after one of their members was involved in an altercation with the Second Engineer. Then, only a couple of months later the Kanowna was ‘almost’ steaming to war.


Having been hastily requisitioned by the Kennedy Regiment, who’d embarked at Townsville on the 8th of August 1914, she had deposited them on Thursday Island to patrol the wireless station and guard the Torres Strait.

Volunteers were then called for to join the Australian Naval & Military Expeditionary Force (AN&MEF), and 500 of the regiment who answered the call were soon back on board and heading to Port Moresby, to rendezvous with the rest of the AN&MEF in readiness for the capture of German New Guinea.

However, when on the 4th September, Colonel Holmes inspected both the Kanowna and the men she carried, he found everything lacking. The ship and the men were ill-equipped, the officers inexperienced and the troops mostly trainees. And to make matters worse the crew, who had not volunteered for active service, were showing signs of discontent. Yet it was decided that they would continue on – the troops to be employed in garrison duties only.


The convoy, which included the Sydney as part of her escort, set out on the 7th September, and had not gone far when it was realized that the Kanowna was lagging. It was soon reported by her captain, John Lewis Ward that the firemen had mutinied. Captain Glossop, on the Sydney, ordered that the offenders be restrained and the Kanowna return to Australia. The disappointed troops then stoked the ship back to Townsville, where many of them joined the AIF. One of note being Captain Hugh Quinn, later promoted to Major, before being killed in action at Quinn’s Post on the 29th May 1915 (and in a quirk of fate, his kit bag was later returned home to Australia on of all ships, the Kanowna).


The firemen protested their innocence and demanded an inquiry into the alleged mutiny, meanwhile the Kanowna returned to her trade along the Australian coast. The finding (which eventually came through in the same month that Major Quinn was killed) was that no mutiny had occurred, and that Captain Ward had ‘acted hastily and without judgment in dealing with the situation.’

Her next trip for the war effort, carrying various reinforcement troops, saw the Kanowna travel to Egypt having left Australian waters at the beginning of July 1915, now under the command of Captain William Smith. Not all on board made it that far however, as Private Paul Jones (1735) was lost overboard on the 12th July whilst suffering a fit of delirium during a bout of measles, and Trooper Alfred Cox (1081) of the 10th Light Horse succumbed to heat apoplexy in the Red Sea on the 25th of July. Both are commemorated on the Chatby Memorial in Egypt.


From Egypt the Kanowna then sailed to England, where along with the Karoola (No.1 HS), she was converted into a hospital ship. The transformation had some faults, but the work had been carried out in almost half the usual time, and many problems could be rectified during and in between future voyages. For now, she had received an exterior paint job of red crosses on a white hull encompassed with a green band, and was fitted with numerous hospital wards to accommodate approximately 450 patients; an operating theatre, X-ray department and dental surgery. Plentiful fresh water taps and steam sterilizers were fitted throughout the ship, and her hold was filled with bulk hospital stores. No. 2 Hospital Ship Kanowna, then took on her new hospital staff, who had arrived in England at the end of August on the A67 Orsova.


Heading up this team was Lt Col Archibald Brockway, a 52 year old, South African born Doctor from Brisbane, while the Matron in charge of nursing staff was Ethel Strickland; both of whom were to stay with the ship until mid 1918. An insight into Matron Strickland’s dedication was shown whilst awaiting the fit-out of the Kanowna – rather than accept a free pass to travel anywhere in the UK, she chose to stay in London and visit all the hospitals and convalescent homes, ‘and was most impressed with what she saw’. The staff of Medical Officers, Nurses and Orderlies had been finalized when the Orsova had docked at Suez, following changes made due to some member’s propensity to seasickness. Over the course of the Kanowna’s time as a hospital ship, staff would come and go, but some remained with her through all 10 voyages. Amongst these were Melbourne surgeon, Capt John Sandison Yule, and medical orderly Pte Ernest Philip (295) from Willaura in country Victoria. As per all military units, the Kanowna staff were issued with a distinguishing colour patch, theirs consisting of a vertical red rectangle centred on a brown diamond.


1st Voyage as No.2 HS:

The new hospital ship eventually left England on the 26th of September and travelling via Malta, where passengers were landed and patients embarked, they arrived at Alexandria on the 8th October. While in dock a few problems were sorted out as more refitting took place, before traveling via Suez where the majority of their 450 patients were boarded. Some of these men were severely wounded, which resulted in a few serious operations during the voyage, but only four never made it home. The first death occurred only a day out from Suez, while the other 3 men held on till they were almost home – all being buried at sea by Captain Chaplain James Hanrahan.

It was Pte Gordon Maxwell (730) suffering from cerebral thrombosis who succumbed first on the 21st October 1915 in the Red Sea. It must have seemed he would be the only casualty, when mere days before reaching the west coast of Australia Pte Edgar Robards (2228) died on the 11th of November from a Cerebral abscess, the result of an earlier GSW to the head. Then having disembarked the WA patients and en-route to Adelaide, Pte James Kerr (218) of the 8th Light Horse died on the 19th of Diphtheria, having been originally evacuated from Gallipoli with influenza. And finally, the Canadian born Pte Victor Reston (2343) died on the 24th of November of Pulmonary TB the day before reaching Sydney.

The Kanowna was also carrying amongst her sick and wounded, 4 men who had lost their sight. Two of these having also lost a limb, Sgt Hugh Ball (966)of the 9th Light Horse and Lieut Edwin Maurice Little – Lieut Little was traveling with his new wife; the English missionary who had nursed him back to health in Egypt.


Lavished with Red Cross comforts and well cared for by the hospital staff; despite the deaths, this first voyage to Australia in her new role as a hospital ship was considered a great success. However, after spending three weeks at Garden Island undergoing more alterations and repairs, before leaving Sydney on the 22nd December for her next trip to Egypt, the Kanowna became part of an experiment that sadly ended in controversy. 14 women had joined the staff as ‘Ward Assistants’, freeing up their male counterparts (Orderlies) to take on fighting roles. Unfortunately, as these ladies were given nurses uniforms and often referred to as probationary nurses, a misunderstanding with the Trained Nurses Association (ATNA) ensued. They argued that it was unfair to allow this when there were so many trained nurses waiting to fulfill rolls in overseas service, as well as the fact that using untrained women was a danger to sick and wounded men.


2nd Voyage as No.2 HS:

During the voyage from Australia to Egypt and back again, these women quite capably carried out duties that had little to do with nursing. Although a few did have some nursing training, most had come from previous occupations as ‘Domestics’ and their skills were utilized in similar ‘housework’ on board ship. Unfortunately, the pressure from the A.T.N.A prevailed, and on disembarkation in Sydney in the March of 1916, all 14 women were discharged. These ladies who had put their lives on the line were left high and dry, even though they had been highly praised by all the medical staff, including the O.C. and Matron Strickland, who went so far as to supply each of them with a letter of appreciation for their work. Perhaps Lt Col Brockway could be forgiven for not standing up to the pressure, when it’s considered that one of those 14 was his daughter Amy, and he may have faced an accusation of nepotism. It’s interesting to note that there appears to have been no deaths during this voyage, although this probably had more to do with the fact that they carried a higher degree of convalescent patients compared to the previous trip.


3rd Voyage as No.2 HS:

The Kanowna sailed again in early April staffed with male orderlies once more, and carrying reinforcements for the AAMC (Medical Corps) to Egypt. Her 3rd journey home to Australia as a hospital ship, which arrived mid June 1916, was also highly spoken of by the patients who greatly appreciated the concerts and various entertainments, along with other little kindnesses bestowed on them by the ship’s crew. Inevitably though, death could not be escaped a second time and three occurred. Two of these men were buried at sea, Pte John Peace (2404) & Cpl George McKnockiter (455, MM). George’s parents were notified of his Military Medal a year after his death, and it gave his father some form of comfort: “This is gratifying news & I am especially pleased & proud to know that the lad did his duty so well & that his services have been recognized.” The third casualty, Pte Jack de Boer (1133) died, and was buried ashore while the ship was docked in Colombo. Jack, who had been born in Holland, had been wounded during the Gallipoli landing on the 25th April 1915 – a gunshot wound to the spine causing paraplegia.


4 Voyage as No.2 HS:

Destined this time for England (via Egypt), the Kanowna re-sailed from Sydney on the 4th of July 1916 with some interesting passengers. These included 5 of the German Emden prisoners who had been interned in Australia, but due to severe incapacity were being repatriated. She also carried a group of 20 Red Cross nurses who had volunteered to work in France, and were known as the ‘Bluebirds’ because of their distinct blue uniform. Among their number was ex-Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS) nurse, Elsie Cook, who was married to the son of ex-Prime Minister Joseph Cook. In the ship’s hold were 50 tons of Red Cross goods, and another 200 tons were loaded when she docked in Melbourne.


Embarking 400 invalids at Alexandria, they continued on, collecting a few more patients from Malta and Gibraltar along the way. Arriving at Netley (Southampton) on the 26th of August, they unloaded all their patients, along with Sister Alice Bull who’d been on staff since September 1915. Sister Bull was admitted to Vincent Square Hospital with enteric fever, and then served in England and France before her return to the Kanowna in July 1917.

New patients were taken on board on the 8th and 9th of September and they set sail for Egypt once more, where many of the patients they embarked at Suez were suffering either Nile fever or Bilharzia (a tropical, parasitic disease). They left Suez on the 23rd of September, and the return to Australia was almost a de ja vu of her previous return from Egypt. Once more 3 men died with two being buried at sea and one at Colombo. Boer War veteran Lt-Col Harold Bean, a doctor with the 3rd Light Horse Field Ambulance succumbed first on the 25th of September, being followed 2 days later by the Irish born Pte Patrick Donovan (2093) of the 3rd Battalion. Pte Walter Johnson (3139) from NSW, died whilst they were in harbour at Colombo on the 6th of October, from a wound he’d received at Pozieres on the 22nd of July. He was taken ashore and buried at the Kanatte General Cemetery with Jack de Boer.


Lt Col Brockway reported that “The trip was as smooth as a river from Southampton to Colombo, but the heat in the Red Sea was unspeakable. The devotion of the nurses under these trying circumstances was wonderful, for the slightest effort was sufficient to make one feel as if one were in a Turkish bath, but the nurses never flinched from duty throughout. They are women to be proud of. Stormy weather was experienced from Colombo to Cocos Islands, but the Kanowna is a fine sea boat, and little discomfort was felt, even among the patients. From Cocos Islands to the Heads the weather was fine and the sea smooth. On the order of the High Commissioner in London a professional musician accompanied us during the voyage, and arranged three concerts each week, either in the wards or on deck. These entertainments were hugely appreciated by all on board, and I might add that the gratitude of us all is due to the stewards, who in every instance materially assisted in the concerts.”

One of these stewards unintentionally left the ship not long before she once more sailed out of Circular Quay on the 8th November. John Campbell had been working on the top deck, when he fell between the ship and the wharf into the water. He was admitted to the Sydney Hospital suffering from shock, immersion, and a severely lacerated leg.


5th Voyage as No.2 HS:

Captain Smith didn’t sail this time either, and the command of the Kanowna was taken over by Captain Sam Gilling. Travelling via Bombay, where a boiler was repaired and 150 Imperial patients were embarked, they continued on to Egypt, losing a mental patient overboard en-route. More Imperial patients were brought on board at both Port Said and Alexandria and they sailed for England on Christmas Eve, reaching Southampton on the 5th January 1917.

Her new batch of invalids on board, she departed for Australia once more on the 14th of January. Among the many patients were two members of the AANS, Sister Ursula Carter and Staff Nurse Nellie Allworth, both were being returned home ‘for a change’ to help alleviate their illnesses. Although 3 patients were ‘lost’ during shore leave at Durban (possibly having deserted), it appears there were no actual deaths this trip. However, it was noted that as the Kanowna docked at No. 1 wharf Woolloomoolo, Sydney on the 11th March, that both she and the many faces that lined her rails appeared rather weather-worn after the long journey.


6th Voyage as No.2 HS:

When the Kanowna departed again from Fremantle at the end of March 1917, she was carrying a small group of AANS nurses to Egypt. Travelling again via Bombay, they picked up 260 Imperial patients, one of whom, Lieut Rogers, died from head wounds en-route. Upon their arrival in Egypt at the beginning of May, the ship’s female nursing staff was reluctantly sent ashore with the other AANS nurses. They had orders to travel on the faster ship Saxon to England via Marseilles, while the hospital ship, regarded as too slow at this time for the dangerous waters of the Mediterranean, sailed the long way around the Cape of Good Hope. Reaching their destination by mid-May, the Kanowna nurses were then temporarily attached to hospital duty until time to rejoin their Unit. Matron Strickland was attached to the 2nd Australian Auxillary Hospital (2nd AAH) at Southall, while the other nurses were dispersed between both the 2nd AAH and the 3rd AAH at Dartford. During this stay in England, Ethel Strickland received the Royal Red Cross (2nd Class) at an investiture in Hyde Park on the 2nd of June.


Following the Kanowna’s safe arrival in England towards the end of June, she lost her chief steward Frederick James Folkes, who had been with the ship since at least 1914 and the A.U.S.N. Co. for over 30 years. From Dulwich Hill, NSW, he died of pneumonia on the 2nd July 1917 at Newport, aged 49.

Finally, with a new batch of patients, and all staff back on board, including the long absent Sister Alice Bull, the Kanowna departed England once more in mid July. Unfortunately Sister Bull had just left a ward in the early hours of the morning of the 31st of July, leaving a slightly disturbed patient in the care of a night orderly. Lieut Maxwell Stewart, who’d been badly wounded by a shell at Messines the previous month, took this opportunity to rush past the orderly and leap overboard. Lieut Maxwell’s only brother George had been killed in action in 1915 whilst fighting with the Imperial Army and his sister Elsie, a Staff Nurse with the AANS had been returned to Australia in 1916 medically unfit. The 2nd death occurred 10 days later when Gunner Charles Kettle (29741) succumbed to a malignant growth that had originally appeared on his tongue in the April of that year. Then only a day out from Fremantle, nineteen year old Pte Reginald Wilkins (4271) gave in to TB on the 30th of August. On reaching Fremantle they were greeted with industrial strife, and a guard was supplied to the Kanowna to prevent any damage from ‘strikers’ while voluntary labour re-coaled the ship. She finally docked in Sydney on the 14th September and as per previous voyages all staff was granted leave.


7th Voyage as No.2 HS:

The strife continued to dog them, when on the 25th September with all hospital staff re-embarked and prepared to leave Australia’s shores once more, they were refused a crew by the Firemen & Seaman’s Union. However, a volunteer crew was quickly advertised for, and by 4pm the next day they were on their way. Only four days out from the WA coast and tragedy struck when Sgt Albert Anderson (14156) died suddenly from a ruptured aneurysm. He had been with the Kanowna since April 1916 and his was the first death amongst the hospital staff.

Embarking British patients at Cape Town, they deposited them at Avonmouth on the 29th November. They then collected their return patients on the 16th December and sailed 2 days later. During the evening of the following day Sgt William Alexander (104) died of Phthisis (TB). Cpl Thomas Toogood (4011) joined him 2 days later, succumbing to a head wound he’d received on the 2nd October at Ypres – a veteran of the Boer War he left behind a widow and four children.


Christmas day 1917 saw them safely through the danger zone for submarines, and after a special dinner, staff members went from ward to ward singing carols. All good cheer came to an end on the 30th December when they lost the first of their ‘mental patients’, after Pte Alfred Anderson (856) slipped out of the section of the mental ward known as the ‘Bird-cage’, walked to the railing of the ship, said “Well here goes. Goodbye and God bless you,” and threw himself over before anyone could stop him. Two hours later after a fruitless search, the Kanowna continued on her way, and a couple of weeks later, whilst in port at Durban, another mental patient escaped ashore; not to be found before the ship sailed.

A fair bit of rough weather was encountered between Durban and Fremantle, at one stage overturning an entire block of double tier cots in one of the wards. Two more patients died during this time, Pte Cyril Castleden (532), and Pte Edgar Burchell (6848); the last casualty for the voyage being Pte Ernest King (109) from NSW, who succumbed to his wounds on the 9th February 1918, between Fremantle and Melbourne.


8th Voyage as No.2 HS:

More problems with the Fireman’s Union saw another delay in sailing, while the volunteer crew from the previous voyage was replaced with men more acceptable to the Unionists. The Kanowna sailed again on the 27th of February, heading straight to Bombay to pick up Imperial patients. She also took on board an Australian nurse, Narrelle Hobbs, who had fallen ill whilst serving with the Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service Reserve (QAIMNSR) in Mesopotamia, and been invalided to Bombay. Travelling with Narrelle was her sister Elsie, who had gone to India to bring her home.

The Imperial patients were disembarked at Suez and replaced with Australian patients, most of who were being invalided home from hospitals in England, and had travelled thus far on the Wandilla. Three days after leaving Suez, Pte Alfred Chapman (1630) of the 1st Australian General Hospital (AGH) died from a spinal cord disorder, followed another three days later on the 21st of April by Cpl Ormond Hoyes (942). Cpl Hoyes had enlisted in the first month of the war in 1914. On the evening of the 9th of May, Pte Harry Reid (6090) succumbed to his wounds and was buried at sea at 9am the following morning. An hour after his funeral, Sister Narrelle Hobbs also died, and the ship was slowed for a second burial that afternoon. They were only four days out from Fremantle.

Arriving at Fremantle on the 14th of May, they lost their last patient for the voyage. Driver Robert Cutts (834) from NSW died whilst they were docked, and was taken ashore and buried in the Fremantle Cemetery. Continuing on, they reached Sydney on the 25th and the following day the Kanowna’s sister ship, the Kyarra, was torpedoed and sunk in the English Channel.


9th Voyage as No.2 HS:

Her second last voyage as a hospital ship saw a major change in the staff, with the replacement of both Lt Col Brockway and Matron Ethel Strickland. Both were transferred to AMC Details, and Lt Col Brockway returned to civil life soon after. Ethel terminated her appointment with the AANS on the 22nd of September in order to marry the following day. The groom, Major Ronald V.S. McPherson (8th FAB) had been a patient on the Kanowna on her 7th voyage home.

Taking over from Brockway was Lt Col Arthur MacKenzie, a 35 year old doctor from NSW. Ethel’s successor was Matron Violet Mills, who had served on transport duty in the first 2 years of war. They departed Sydney on the 5th June 1918, and experienced some fairly rough weather for the entire round trip. Even before reaching Albany, they had lost parts of the ship to the winds, and the operating theatre was wrecked. Once again most of the invalids they took on board at Suez were from the hospital ship Wandilla, and they departed with them on the 22nd of July. Despite the bouts of unbearable heat and seasickness, all came home safely, as the majority of patients were convalescent, although many operations were still performed throughout the trip. On reaching Sydney on the 4th of September, the Kanowna entered dry dock for repairs, alterations and restocking.


10th Voyage as No.2 HS:

She was ready to sail again from Sydney on the 17th September, but Matron Mills wasn’t. Suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, she had been struck off strength the day before, and was replaced by Matron Janey Lempriere. Janey had originally sailed with 24 other AANS nurses in the 1st Convoy to leave Australia in 1914, and had previously served in the Boer War. At least one staff member would have departed Sydney this day with a very heavy heart; Pte Henry Nobbs (19785) who’d been with the ship since February, had attended the funeral of his baby daughter Kanowna Pauline earlier that morning.

Now under the command of Captain P.H. Day (who had played a part in the capture of Count von Luckner of the German raider Seeadlar in an incredible bluff in 1917), the Kanowna eventually left Fremantle on the 27th September. She docked at Colombo on the 9th of October, where they embarked Imperial patients before heading on to Suez, arriving on the 23rd. A change in orders moved them on to Port Said, where they were informed they were to be sent to collect repatriated British prisoners of war from Turkey. Shunted from Port to Port, their final destination was Phokea (Foca) in the Gulf of Smyrna. Here they embarked approximately 700 (including 20 civilians) on the 1st of November and sailed for Egypt later that day. One of those they took on board was Able Seaman John Harrison Wheat, who’d been captured from the AE2 in 1915. Another was John Still (Imperial Army), the gifted poet who penned ‘The Ballad of Suvla Bay’ whilst in captivity in 1916; he stated they were given a royal welcome by all on board. Freedom was to be short-lived for a few however, as 2 men died before reaching Alexandria, and another while they were in the process of disembarking on the 6th of November.


On the 9th of November they left Alexandria for Malta, receiving wireless news of the Armistice whilst en-route. Along with the joy of the end of the war, came the beginnings of something even more deadly – the influenza virus. By the time they embarked their patients on the 14th, they had 6 staff members sick. Stopping at Gibraltar on their way to England, they left behind Staff Nurse Amy Simpson, whose illness was complicated by pneumonia. Amy, on staff since March 1917, survived and was soon returned home, but unfortunately died within a few years of her return. Along with the invalids they disembarked in England on the 24th & 25th November, were 4 more seriously ill staff members. Of these, Warrant Officer Leo Thomas Tyrrell (240) didn’t make it, passing away on the 3rd of December 1918. Tyrrell had been with the Kanowna since her first voyage as a hospital ship, but sadly would not be a part of her final trip home. He was buried with full military honours in the Hollybrooke Cemetery, Southampton.


The Kanowna went into dry dock for more repairs and the staff was granted leave. It was the 5th of January 1919 before she was ready to return to Australia with her wards once again full of patients. Four men died on this final journey home, the first being Pte Albert McGarry (3414) only 2 days after boarding. Pte William Barwick (6547, MM) died as they docked at Port Said, and was taken ashore the following day and buried in the Port Said Military Cemetery [though this is under investigation by the CWGC]. On the 28th of January it was necessary to amputate the lower part of (6580) Pte Bertram Scott’s right leg, damaged by a shell in April 1918. Unfortunately Pte Scott collapsed and died a few days later. Finally, in the early hours of the 19th of February, before the Kanowna reached Fremantle later that day, Pte George Beck (1081) died as a result of a head wound he’d also received in April 1918 – George was an only child and his parents were heartbroken.


Travelling around the Australian coast disembarking her patients into quarantine along the way, the Kanowna reached Sydney on the 8th of March, and was herself held in quarantine until the 14th. Following her release, the NSW invalids were disembarked and the crew immediately refused to continue on to Brisbane. Their six-month contracts had already expired, and they feared being held up in quarantine yet again. As the Kanowna was due to be demobilized as a hospital ship when she returned to Sydney from Brisbane, it was arranged to disembark the Queensland invalids and train them home, and by the 18th of March 1919, the crew, all stores and the hospital staff had gone ashore for the last time.


A month later, SS Kanowna departed Sydney with passengers for India, and on her arrival collected troops for England. Although she was no longer officially classed as a hospital ship, she still had one more batch of patients to return home from England to Australia. With Matron Adelaide Kellett, yet another AANS nurse who’d sailed with the original convoy in 1914, in charge of the nursing staff, these soldiers were embarked on the 28th of August 1919. Among them was flying ace Lieut Leonard T.E. Taplin, D.F.C., who had been shot down and taken prisoner of war in September 1918. Taplin was one of the many who had married whilst in England, and his new bride would sail a couple of months after him.

In the early hours of the 4th of September as the ship was nearing St Vincent, off the west coast of Africa, Provost Sgt Albert Burt (2159) wandered from his bed and was lost overboard. He had been suffering mental and physical slowness after a bout of influenza, and a Court of enquiry found that as he had shown no signs of suicidal tendencies, he could quite easily have stumbled and fallen overboard, as jumped.


Arriving back in Sydney on the 26th of October 1919, the Kanowna ended her war service and was stripped of all troop fittings and temporarily used as a cargo carrier, until she could be reconditioned and returned to her owners and her old life in the Australian coastal trade. Travelling around the coast in July 1923 she carried a very important passenger to Sydney; none other than ‘the girl with the flags’, Miss Ethel Campbell, who was visiting Australia on the invitation of the Returned Services League.



Sadly, after surviving all those dangerous years of war, the Kanowna was to meet her end in February 1929, after she ran aground on Cleft Island (aka Skull Rock) near Wilson’s Promontory in bad weather. Captain Robert Sharland had taken command of her in 1921, and he had just handed over that command to Captain Newberry, whilst he took a holiday. A court of enquiry found that “prior to the casualty the ship was not navigated with proper and seamanlike care.” Fortunately however, no loss of life occurred, as a daring rescue in choppy seas on the night of the 17th saw all passengers transferred to the freighter, Mackarra, and the following day the crew were also picked up before the Kanowna finally sank.


In 1931, Mrs Ina Powels, who had served on the hospital ship as a masseuse, presented the newly formed branch of the Returned Soldier’s League at Austinmer, NSW, with the original Red Cross flag flown by the ship. The first reunion of the hospital ship staff was held in September 1935 at Scott’s Hotel in Melbourne. Among the 37 in attendance was the previously mentioned Sister Alice Bull. It was noted on the night that four of the orderlies who’d served on staff had since qualified as doctors. The gathering was such a success that it was decided to meet annually, and eventually the Kanowna Association was formed. Colonel Brockway was a noted guest of the Association at the 1938 reunion.


The wreck of the Kanowna was discovered in 2005.


Heather (Frev) Ford, 2012


* Links to the Service Records of the mentioned staff of the Kanowna can be found at the following link: http://discoveringanzacs.naa.gov.au/browse/groupstories/3400


blog-0236092001402469309.jpgWhen war erupted across the world in August 1914, many Australian women visiting England, found they could ‘do their bit’ by joining the various aid organizations. Mrs Ada Hogg was one of these, although she was actually en-route to Paris as the news broke. Having been widowed the previous year, Ada had joined a round-the-world tourist party in May 1914, and parted from her tour group in Milan on the 1st of August to attend the International Esperanto Congress in Paris. Arriving to a city in turmoil, she was told that Paris was closing her gates that night and all foreigners must leave immediately. Tired and hungry she joined the mass evacuation to Dieppe, and after a night spent in the pouring rain on the wharf, finally caught one of the boats to England. After a short rest she wasted no time in volunteering her services, taking on the position of Assistant Treasurer with the Soldier’s and Sailors’ Families Association (SSAFA) at Shepherd’s Bush.


Considering it a privilege to be helping in such important work, Ada was not afraid to put in the long hours needed to assist the families of the dead and wounded as the war progressed, especially as she was no stranger to work. The daughter of a teacher, Ada had also gone on to teach, and together with her late husband had established the Adelaide Shorthand & Business Training Academy in South Australia. For some years she had also been the President of the Adelaide Esperanto Group (a language developed in the 1870s for use in international communication)


In 1915 working in London was not free from danger, as Ada attests to in the following letter dated September 9th 1915:

“I retired quite early, weary after my strenuous half-holiday from my self-imposed office duties (which I spend at the Woolwich Arsenal canteen). I had heard our anti-aircraft guns firing at the Zeppelins the previous night, but hoped not to be disturbed again. However, 11 o’clock came, when the roar of machinery, and the noise as of a rushing, mighty wind heralded the near approach of a Zeppelin. Of course, I did the thing we are particularly warned not to do, which was to rush out on to my little balcony, and from there I saw an immense, grey monster, resembling in length a tube train on wings; and flash, flash, boom! boom! explosion. Bombs were dropped in rapid succession. The result was indescribably terrifying. There was the noise of the concussion, of the smashing and falling of glass from hundreds of windows, and the screams upon screams from the poor little crippled children who sleep out in a hospital across the way.


This was all rather too close to be pleasant, so I got back to my room, groped around for dressing gown and slippers (the electric light had been cut off), and, still groping, found my way down five flights of stairs to the basement. All this time (in all about 15 minutes, though it seemed much longer) the deafening noise continued, but it was now our anti-aircraft guns and the added whirrrr-birrrr of pursuing aeroplanes. In the basement I helped to quieten the crying babies and the hysterical maids. The latter had been asleep at the back of the hotel, and had been rudely awakened, poor things, by the explosion and the shattering glass. Then, still aweary, but this time provided with candle and matches, I got back to my room. However, the fires caused by the bombs seemed too near to be pleasant, so I watched for an hour until they were well got under, and then to bed and sleep, for there was work to be done on the morrow.


This morning I visited the square and saw the huge excavation made by a bomb almost in the centre, and the poor, hurt-looking buildings all around (four of which are hospitals), with glass-less windows, all so pitiful. But how much worse it might have been if the bomb had fallen on one of the hospitals, or even on the hotel. As it is, I don’t think one life was lost just here, but as I said before, it was all quite too close to be pleasant. Some experience, eh?”


In December Ada resigned her position with the SSAFA to take up the position of honorary secretary of the Duchess of Westminster’s Hospital in Le Touquet, France. She had been working at this British Red Cross Hospital for nearly 2 years, before returning to England for a rest in the latter half of 1917. However, once again she was harassed from above:

“Two days after my arrival from France for a hard-earned rest, about 207 Gothas bombarded us with disastrous results. Finding this not conducive to a rest cure, I went to the country for a month. I had no sooner got back than we were treated to the moonlight raids. What with the whirr-rr-rr of the double-engined hostile machines overhead, the pop-pop-pop of the machine guns, the thud of falling bombs, and the booming of our anti-aircraft guns (two of the biggest are not a quarter of a mile from here), is it any wonder that we are developing nerves? Then a three-weeks’ interval, and this time an early evening noise and explosions from the barrage of zone of fire put up by our anti-aircraft. I don’t go out to see the sights now; my inquisitiveness was cured by my Zeppelin experiences.”

“I am off to France next week for a little sleep and quietness, for, in spite of the fact that the newspapers tell us that we are perfectly calm, which, of course, we are, it is rather a nerve-racking experience.”


Before the year of 1917 was over, Ada had transferred to the Secretary-ship of the Leith War Hospital in Edinburgh, Scotland. A year later when this hospital was taken over by the U.S. Navy, she returned to London, and as a representative of the Australian Red Cross, began a six month course at the Surgical Requisites’ Association. She was only a week into her course when the armistice was signed:

“At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the firing of the anti-aircraft guns around London signaled – not an air raid this time, but that they were a thing of the past; then the sirens on the river shrilled their shrieks of joy, and London went mad. Bunting appeared magically, shops were closed, and streets filled to suffocation. Every taxi carried its merry load – on the roof, bonnet, anywhere. Motor and horse-driven vehicles overflowed with excited, yelling humanity. Flags were brought at any old price, and wildly waved, bells clanged, bands played, and Bedlam was let loose. Outside Buckingham Palace the immense crowd demanded the King. Believe it was Australians who started the chant, “We want George; we want George,” until he appeared, and then changed the tune to “We want Mary; we want Mary,” until she came also.

Through Piccadilly one had to fight one’s way, but the jostling, happy crowd was exhilarating; the rain dampened our clothes, but not our enthusiasm. Tea was only procurable at a Chinese restaurant, all the rest had sold out. Then down the Mall, lined with captured guns, to Victoria. After two hours’ wait and struggle to buy a ticket, get through the barrier, board a train, and do a 10 minutes’ journey, I arrived home, wet, tired, disheveled, and dirty, but I wouldn’t have missed it for something. The funniest sights I saw were the traffic being held up in Regent street by a long line of arm-linked hilarious officers doing the goose-step; and, in a side street, a very drunk Scottie and a very drunk Aussie, solemnly kissing each other, French fashion, on either cheek. Yesterday I was one of the crowd of enthusiasts who welcomed Marshal Foch and M. Clemenceau. It was an inspiring welcome, too. Spend Friday evenings doing the waitress stunt at the Anzac Buffet, and just love it. Hope to be home before Christmas, 1919”


The Surgical Requisites Association, which was the orthopaedic branch of Queen Mary’s Needlework Guild, had been established by a group of Chelsea artists and sculptors to develop improvements in surgical aids. Their inventions of different types of artificial limbs, as well as splints, beds, ‘soaking baths’ etc, were groundbreaking in dealing with the relief and comfort of the many unique cases of twisted and distorted bodies and limbs that the war had produced. Working with these ingenious women for nine months, Ada then used the orthopaedic knowledge she had gained, in the service of the Surgical Requisites branch of the AIF.


With the war over, the Handley Page Aircraft Coy modified a number of their planes to carry passengers on the London-Paris route, and Ada didn’t allow her previous fear of enemy aircraft to deter her from experiencing life in the air on a more personal level:

“I have the distinction of being the first woman to attempt a flight in a Handley-Page passenger aeroplane de luxe. I say ‘attempt’ advisedly, for though we started off all right, with the six passengers sitting in armchairs – I the only Australian – we had two forced landings. We should have reached London three and a half hours after having left Paris. As it was, we only got as far as Amiens, and had, somewhat ignominiously, to catch a train, and travel in the more orthodox manner. No! I was not in the least sick when in the air. My experience of flying was that there seemed almost a cessation of motion, except when one struck an air pocket, then things were decidedly stirring. But I was upset in more ways than one by the forced landings. After them I am not ashamed to own that I had a nervous breakdown.”


Ada’s hope to be home before Christmas 1919 was never realized, but she was however on her way; spending Christmas on board the family ship Konigin Luise which had sailed from England on the 19th of December. In early February 1920 Ada finally stepped back onto Australia’s shores after almost 6 years absence. The following are some of Ada’s observations from the war:

“When the Australians felt the pinch of the war most, was having their dear ones so far away – they had to bear a terrible spiritual strain ,if not the actual physical strain.”

“I loved the French people. They seemed to me to be the very spirit of the war. Nothing ever crushed their indomitable determination.”

“One thing I learned thoroughly well when working among the wounded was the value of cheer. Still another was man’s love and kindness for his fellow-man. It did not matter what personal sorrow weighed on one’s heart, the boys had to be cheered up. We learnt to store – and repeat – every funny story we could get hold of. I was a great success with these! But I had a serious rival in a Catholic padre. When the boys on my side of the ward were laughing harder than the boys on his, Padre used to say: - ‘We must meet afterwards, Sister, and swap yarns,’ and we always did.”


It seems that Ada’s time away from Australia had given her the ‘bug’, and she spent the rest of her life traveling extensively and living in many different countries, possibly doing Red Cross work. She was made a life member of the Italian Red Cross, and apparently she received honours from the French and Italian Governments.

In 1937 however, Ada was home in Australia and living in Sydney, when following a brief illness, double pneumonia took her life on the 16th of June at the age of 66. She was privately cremated and her ashes were then transferred to Adelaide, where they are interred with those of her husband William in the Crematorium Section of the West Terrace Cemetery.


Endnotes: One of 12 children, Ada Maria HALLIFAX was born 16/4/1871 in Lexton, Victoria – the daughter of Augustus New HALLIFAX & Mercy ALLEN. Her mother died when Ada was seven, and her father remarried the following year. Her father had come to Australia as a convict in 1846, but went on to be a teacher & a J.P. Ada married William HOGG 13/12/1897 in Nth Adelaide, he died 13/6/1913, age 48. The couple had no children. In 1909 Ada was saved from drowning, and in a twist of fate, one of her rescuers drowned the following week! As well as the Victory & British War Medals, Ada was entitled to the 1914/15 Star (just!). In later life she sometimes seems to have been known as Mrs HALLIE HOGG – possibly a name that she wrote under. The AWM photo shows Ada (Assistant Quartermaster HOGG) in her Red Cross uniform c1919.


Heather (Frev) Ford, 2011


Our Darling Boy - Frank Yorath

blog-0883180001402371472.jpgAlthough born and breed in the small Victorian country town of Rheola, Frank was living in the Melbourne suburb of Prahran when war broke out. Employed as a carrier and coach painter, in his leisure time he honed his skills with the Prahran Rifle Club and served as a Sergeant in the 78th Infantry.

Eager to be a part of it all, Frank was amongst the first to front up at the Prahran Drill Hall on the 17th August to sign up with the 5th Infantry Battalion. Two days later the men from Prahran set out for Victoria Barracks, where they joined the rest of the battalion before following the band to the newly established Broadmeadows Camp.


Their initial training over, they marched out of camp on the 21st October 1914 and embarked at Port Melbourne on the A3 Orvieto. Having rendezvoused with the growing fleet at Albany, the Orvieto as flagship of the First Convoy, then lead the troopships out of King George’s Sound (following their escort) on the 1st of November, en-route to war.


The Convoy arrived safely at Colombo, thanks to the Sydney (one of their escort) disabling the German raider Emden, and here the Sydney transhipped the Emden survivors to the Orvieto and the Omrah, which they then offloaded at Suez. Travelling on to Alexandria, the 5th battalion disembarked on the 4th of December and proceeded to Mena Camp where they carried on their training under the shadow of the pyramids.


Frank spent the first half of March 1915 in the Isolation camp at Abbassia with German measles, but 3 weeks later was fit enough to board the Novian with his battalion and sail to Lemnos. During the weeks spent in Mudros Harbour ‘landing’ practice took place, until at last Frank and his mates were able to put their new skills into practice on the morning of Sunday the 25th of April 1915. After all the build-up, Frank’s involvement in the initial fighting was to be short-lived, but perhaps thanks to the ‘accident’ described in the following letter, he did however survive that first day.


[Letter begun on Sunday 2/5/1915]:

“Well, dear parents, much has taken place since I last wrote. I am safe and sound, as you can see. I was put out of action last Sunday by a bayonet wound in the arm, but am getting alright again. I presume you have read the full account of our landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula. It was a great experience, and we were successful. It was a very uneven go - rifle fire against artillery, machine guns, and rifle fire. Three hours after our troops had landed, the enemy were driven back 3 miles. We were ordered to reinforce the firing line at about 10 a.m. I was put out of action somewhere near 12 o'clock. A chap who had his bayonet fixed stumbled over some scrub, and the bayonet caught me in the elbow. I stayed in the thick of it for two hours afterwards, but as I could not use my rifle I had to retire. I have often wondered how I escaped alive, much less getting back without a scratch. Shrapnel was falling right along to the beach, and bullets were whizzing past me like a long, continuous swarm of bees. The worst is over now, and we are not likely to strike such a hot fire again. I can tell you that I will never forget my baptism of fire if I live to be 100 years old.


You would laugh if you saw me sitting on this hatch with a blanket for a writing table. I have had a headache ever since last Sunday, and do not feel in much of a humor for writing, so you will excuse me if this letter is muddled. It was awful to see some of the poor chaps. Some described it as a "hell on earth." I may state that it was not an easy task the Australians were given. I never told you where we mysteriously disappeared to after leaving Cairo. Well, we embarked on the [censored (Novian)], and concentrated in a little harbour on the Island of Lemnos. It is a Grecian island. It was bonza and green, with the larks singing, wild flowers and fields of corn, and reminded me of home. We landed several times, and had a couple of interesting marches. It was the nearest we had been to Australia since we left.


We left the Island of Lemnos on the 24th of April, and when we woke up next morning at 2.30 a.m. we found ourselves in the midst of the battleships. We had breakfast at 2.45 a.m., and then had to await orders. We watched our navy bombarding the coast where howitzers were supposed to be. Just about dawn our first party landed. Where we landed there was scrub between two and four feet high and wild thyme, which has a very sweet smell. Bullets and shrapnel were flying around very thickly, but we were "cracking" jokes all the time. We soon knew shrapnel was no joke, though, and I was calmer than if I was firing for the "King's." We were taken off in four rowing boats, pulled by a pinnace, which could not go right in, and only had to row about 50 yards. We landed in water up to our waists, and had only gone about 100 yards along the beach when a shrapnel whizzed over our heads and burst where we had a couple of minutes ago landed. That was at 9.30 a.m. We then climbed up the first ridge, where we got orders to reinforce the firing line. When we got to the top of the next ridge the bullets were flying thick and fast, and a machine gun was also "barking." As soon as we mounted the ridge we laid down and got to work, going forward in short, sharp rushes. It was in one of these that I received my wound.


I was taken aboard the [censored], which is being used as a hospital boat. We left the Gulf of Saros on Tuesday, 27th April, and arrived at Alexandria on the Thursday following. The worst cases were taken off there, and the remainder taken to Malta, which is about a four days' trip from Alexandria. My arm was stiff for a few days, but is as right as it can be now. I would like to [be] back for the fall of Constantinople, and do not think much resistance could be offered with our navy knocking at the door from the Dardanelles. I saw all the battleships in action. The Queen Elizabeth is a beauty. Her 15in guns are capable of throwing shells 27 miles, which, I am told, cost about £1000 each. Fancy her "barking" at Constantinople. This will be old news to you, I suppose, but we must thank God we are able to tell these things. Perhaps I may never see such fire again all through the campaign. The Australians have made a name for themselves which will live long in history. The old South African men declare that they never saw anything like Sunday's fire in any part of the Boer War.


I will now give you a few particulars of what I saw while in Malta, which, in my opinion, is a grand little place. The Maltese and English people here are very kind, and give our men who are wounded plenty of cigarettes, cakes and etc, and are made a real fuss of. One is often stopped and asked to give an account of the fighting he has seen, and after a few minutes' conversation is surrounded by a great crowd of people, who are not at all easy to get away from. I went to a picture theatre (free for wounded soldiers), and it was real good. The streets are lovely and clean, and so different to Cairo. It is very funny to see them selling milk here. They drive a herd of goats from door to door, and milk a pint, or whatever quantity you want, while you wait. Malta is well fortified, and I do not think much harm could be done to it. We left Malta on Thursday and arrived at the Island of Lemnos on Saturday night - a two and a half days' trip."


While out of action, Frank had been spared the decimation of his battalion at Helles, and rejoined the remnants of the Fifth as they returned to Anzac on the 16th/17th of May. A month later he had a short stay in hospital with influenza and diarrhoea, which was quickly followed by a bout of gastro, then, in July he was promoted to Lance Corporal. Having survived Lone Pine and the monotony of trench life Frank and his mates left Anzac once more on the 9th of September, for a well-earned rest at Lemnos. Within days he found himself in hospital with a fever and was still laid up when his battalion returned to Anzac on the 24th of October. Frank was finally discharged from hospital on the 26th of November and was still in camp on Lemnos when his battalion returned a few weeks later – the evacuation from Gallipoli having begun.


Returning to Alexandria on the 10/1/1916, the Fifth endured another 2½ months of training in the desert sands before embarking for France on the 25th of March. However, for some reason not noted in his records, Frank did not sail with them. He instead remained at the Overseas Base at Tel-el-Kebir and didn’t embark to join the B.E.F. until the 9/5/1916. On arrival in France he joined the 1st Div Base Depot at Etaples and was made EDP Corporal the following day. He remained at the Depot until finally re-joining his battalion on the 30th July at Bonneville, where they’d been sent to rest after the first Battle of Pozieres.


After a couple of weeks the Fifth returned to the Pozieres trenches, and only 2 days in, Frank was amongst the many casualties as the line was persistently cut-up by shellfire. With a shell wound to his thigh received on the 17th of August, he was admitted to the 13th General Hospital in Boulogne on the 19th and then transferred to England and the 3rd Northern General Hospital in Sheffield on the 21st. A week after he was discharged from hospital, he was granted furlo, from the 11/10/16 to the 30/10/16. Frank was then marched into No. 1 Command Depot at Perham Downs, where he remained until 28/4/1917, at which time he was transferred to the 67th Bn at Windmill Hill Camp.

The 13th of May saw him on command at the Lewis Gun Course at Tidworth, followed by a Musketry Course at Hayling Island from the 4th of June, before being returned to Perham Downs on the 31/8/1917, for a tour of duty on the Instructional Staff of the Overseas Training Brigade. Over the following months he was transferred around the camps, until finally on the 1st of February 1918 he boarded the Balmoral Castle for return to Australia. Frank had developed a cough in the October of 1916, which had eventually been diagnosed as TB, and he was going home for a ‘change’.


Arriving back in Victoria on the 23rd of March, he was sent to the Military Sanatorium at Macleod. In early May while visiting his family in Rheola, he was given a huge welcome home party and presented with an inscribed gold medal to commemorate his service. Frank was engaged to a local girl, and at some stage after he’d been invalided to England, she apparently also made the trip, probably to be with him, but perhaps also to volunteer her services; and in July, Frank applied for her free passage back to Australia. By September it was noted that his condition, which was considered curable, was improving, but even so he wouldn’t be fit enough for further military service, and towards the end of October he was finally discharged from the AIF.


The war over, and Frank’s health continued to improve. As a keen marksman, he attended a rifle competition in Melbourne in April 1919, only to return home with the dreaded influenza virus. He was admitted to the Inglewood Hospital but unfortunately wasn’t strong enough to withstand the attack, and died of pneumonia on Sunday the 20th of April, aged 26. Frank was given a military style funeral at the Rheola Cemetery, with many of his ‘returned’ mates in attendance as coffin bearers and the firing party.


His broken-hearted parents inserted the following verse in the local paper:

A gallant Anzac. Our darling boy.

Sleep on, dear one, and take thy rest,

Thy earthly task is o’er,

For you have left a troubled world,

To reach a peaceful shore.

Followed by a tribute from his fiancé Jean:

God be with you till we meet again.

His warfare over, his battles fought,

His victory won, though dearly bought,

His fresh young life could not be saved,

He’s resting now in a hero’s grave.


Endnotes: 1. Born Francis Leonard YORATH on the 24/2/1893 at Rheola, Frank was the youngest son of Howell William YORATH & Annie JONES.

2. His fiancé Jean Mildred INNES married Albert Victor EADES in 1924 – Albert had originally enlisted in the 5th Bn with Frank at Prahran on the 17/8/1914. 3. Frank is listed on the Inglewood & District War Memorial & on the Rheola Honour Board which hangs in the Rheola Community Hall.


Heather (Frev) Ford, 2011

Yorath, Frank - Rheola Cem - Copy.JPG


blog-0585107001402210457.jpgOne of only eight Australian nurses to be awarded the Military Medal in the First World War, Sister Eileen King stood alone in the fact that she wasn’t serving with the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS). In early 1915, a request had come through from the Imperial Government for nurses to be sent to England to join Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service Reserve (QAIMNSR). Eileen was one of those selected by the Australian Department of Defence, and together with 28 other volunteers, she boarded the RMS Orontes at Port Melbourne on the 14th of April 1915. Travelling with her in this little group were 3 other nurses, who like Eileen, had received their nursing training at the Homoeopathic Hospital in St Kilda Rd, Melbourne: Katie Heriot, Constance O’Shea & Estelle Doyle.


Eileen had followed in the footsteps of her older sister Amy who had also trained at the Homoeopathic Hospital; but Amy was already in Egypt, having sailed with the large contingent of AANS nurses on the Kyarra in November 1914. The King sisters had been born in Queensland almost 7 years apart; daughters of Thomas Mulhall King, I.S.O., retired Auditor-General, and Commissioner of Railways of Qld, and his first wife, Jane MacDonnell.


The Orontes deposited her contingent of nurses at Tilbury Docks on the 23rd of May and they were taken under the wing of the War Office. Eileen then embarked for France on the 9th of June, where she served in what she considered “a very pretty little spot” at the 7th General Hospital in St Omer (together with some of her other Orontes mates). She remained here for almost a year; until following a month of sickness, she was transferred to the 14th General Hospital at Wimereux in the May of 1916. Her matron at the 14th GH considered Eileen to be an excellent nurse – quiet and good tempered and much liked by her patients. However, it was toward the end of the following year of 1917, while in Belgium not far from Poperinge, that she showed the greatest ‘bravery and devotion to duty’.


Two months after her posting to No. 63 Casualty Clearing Station (CCS) at Haringhe (named Bandaghem by the troops); Eileen escaped death, but not injury, when the CCS was bombed by enemy planes on the 29th November 1917. The ‘London Gazette’ noted that “She was severely wounded in both legs and though suffering from shock and loss of blood, continued to give directions etc., as to the care of wounded. She showed great pluck and presence of mind.”


Sister Mary Loughron, one of Eileen’s Orontes companions, had the following to say about the bombing: “The day sisters had all gone to bed when the warning was received, and the patients were prepared for quick transference. Sister King was amid the din, but took no notice until she was thrown down, and, being unable to move, it was found that she was struck in the thigh and calf of the leg.”


The tented CCS consisted of seven wards, and while still under fire, the patients were moved to the least damaged areas, where they could be cared for until evacuated. Eileen sadly noted that she was only able to save six of her men that had been injured. Her own injuries as Sister Loughron noted, consisted of bomb wounds to the right thigh and the left calf, which resulted in a compound fracture of the left fibula, and destruction of the tendo achillis; as well as burns to her left foot.


When she too was evacuated back to the 14th General Hospital, this time as a patient, Eileen had the good fortune to be re-united with her sister Amy, who had been specifically transferred there to care for her. The sisters where then transferred to England on the 2nd January 1918, where Amy continued to care for Eileen at Southwell Gardens in London. This hospital had been opened in July 1917 to cater specifically for ill Australian nurses. Located in a bright, cheery house with accommodation for 26 patients, and staffed by Australian nurses, it provided not only the necessary medical facilities, but also maximum comfort, for these ladies who were so far away from home and friends.


The Times carried news of Eileen’s award in February 1918: “It was announced on Jan 30th that the King has been pleased to approve of the award of Military Medal to the following lady for bravery and devotion to duty on the occasion of a hostile air raid on a casualty clearing station. …..”


At the beginning of April Amy returned to duty in France, and after having her sick leave extended, Eileen eventually resumed nursing in the July. She was posted to the Sister’s Hospital for the QAIMNS at Vincent Square in London for light duties only. By this time her right thigh had quite healed, but her left leg was still weak, and caused her to limp slightly. Over the following months she had various periods of sick leave as her left leg tended to break down whenever she worked for any length of time.


In the February of 1919 Eileen was invested with her Military Medal by the King at Buckingham Palace, following which she was entertained at Marlborough House by Queen Alexandra and presented with a photograph and a book. That same month also saw another appearance before the Medical Board, where the decision was finally reached that she was unfit for work for a prolonged period, and should therefore be repatriated to Australia. Matron Conyers (AANS) tried to arrange for her sister Amy to return home on the same boat with her, but to no avail; however it was arranged that one of Eileen’s original Orontes companions, Sister Madge Donnellan would travel with her.


Yet, although the King sisters sailed in different ships, they both began their journeys home only days apart: Eileen on the Roda, sailing on the 8th May 1919 and Amy on the Wahehe sailing on the 10th. Arriving back in Brisbane in July, they spent some time with their family before returning to Melbourne, where Eileen received further treatment for her injuries at the 11th General Hospital in Caulfield. Following an operation by Dr Syme, she underwent a period of massage & electricity therapy, but in March 1920 she was still experiencing problems when she wrote a letter to the Matron-in-Chief of the QAIMNS, Miss Beadsmore Smith: “My old leg gives me quite a lot of trouble & the one that was not so badly wounded is not behaving at all well. I suppose it’s because it has most of the work to do. Col Syme operated soon after I got home & broke down adhesions. I was in hospital for over three months with that & when I left was practically as bad as before he started. About a fortnight ago I started to take millinery lessons, but don’t know if I will be able to go on with these as I find it very tiring. I only hope I will as I have to do something & I will never be able to nurse again.”


Aware that Eileen was struggling financially, Miss Beadsmore Smith organized to have a draft of £25 sent to her from the QAIMNS Benevolent Fund in the hope that she would put it towards the cost of her millinery lessons.


Amy continued nursing in Melbourne; sharing a house with Eileen in South Yarra, and although Eileen said she would never nurse again, she eventually took on the position of assistant matron at Melbourne Grammar School, where she was considered as very efficient and well-liked by the boarders. It was however noted in November 1926 that her health had broken down again, and she was once more spending time in the Caulfield Military Hospital. In 1936, still in South Yarra, the sisters were living with their stepmother Aniella, with Eileen’s occupation by this time listed as ‘home duties’.


The following year at the end of January 1937, Eileen boarded the Mongolia for England, where she was intending to stay for some considerable time. Her brother Reginald, a former Deputy Premier of Qld, travelled down to Melbourne to see her off, before following up with a trip to England himself some months later.


In April 1939 Eileen was honoured with an invitation to propose the toast of “Fallen Comrades” at the Diggers Abroad reunion dinner in London, which was also attended by the Duke of Kent and Field-Marshal Lord Birdwood. During this time her sister Amy was also in England, and they took the opportunity of visiting Paris together.


Having already survived the blitz, Eileen made out her Will in the December of 1942, perhaps with some premonition, because just over three months later she was lost at sea. Embarking on the merchant vessel, Melbourne Star on the 22nd March 1943, she was returning home via the Panama Canal. Carrying a cargo of munitions and 31 passengers, the ship was crossing the Atlantic Ocean about 480 miles south-east of Bermuda, when she was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-129 on the 2nd of April. Of the handful of survivors that managed to scramble from the water onto intact life-rafts, only four crew members were eventually rescued.


Eileen is commemorated on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website along with other Civilian War Dead.


Endnotes: Eileen’s sister: Amy Evelyn KING (1882-1961) – Sister, AANS (MID, ARRC)


Heather (Frev) Ford, 2011 & 2014


The Macumber Brothers

blog-0130080001402038929.jpg[Photo of Bill Macumber]


Inglewood in central Victoria sprung into existence during the gold rush in 1859 as the surrounding district provided rich pickings for many a determined prospector. The Macumber brothers, Bill and Sam were born in the area long after the gold had petered out, but that didn’t deter them from trying their luck. They also worked as timber-cutters, which probably supplemented their meager earnings from prospecting. Four years separated them in age, Bill being the eldest born in 1890, but at the outbreak of war it was Sam who tried to enlist first.


Far from being a tall bronzed Aussie, the fair skinned Sam only stood 5 foot 4inches tall, and the army didn’t want him unless he was at least 2 inches taller. Not to be beaten, he tried a second time, and on the 28th of November 1914, a week after his 20th birthday, Samuel Phillip Macumber enlisted in the AIF. The decision to accept him was strange in more ways than one; first because the height requirement wasn’t reduced to 5’ 2” until June 1915 and second because Sam actually had two fingers missing from his right hand. Having lost his index & middle finger at the age of 11 months, Sam had still learnt to use a gun, and convinced the army that he’d “lived by the use of the gun, shooting game – ducks, hares etc”. His 3 years serving in the Citizen Forces probably also stood him in good stead.


With 5 months of training under his belt, Sam embarked on the A56 Palermo on the 7th May 1915, as Trooper 949 with the 5th reinforcements of the 4th Light Horse Regiment. Sailing via Egypt he joined his unit (minus horses) on the 5th of August at Ryrie’s Post, Anzac. A month later, suffering with dysentery and rheumatism he boarded the hospital ship Neuralia which deposited him in Malta. Having ‘inadvertently’ added a couple of weeks to his stay on Gallipoli, he wrote the following letter home during his confinement in hospital. Dated the 15/9/1915:


“I had about six weeks in the firing line, and saw some good fighting by the Australians. We got one trench off the Turks at a place called Lone Pine. It was one of the worst places I have ever been in, as when we were not fighting the Turks the stench from their dead was enough to give us fever. We hung to it, and filled up the trench we captured, while the Turks filled it up eight yards further along. When we moved about the ground used to spring up and down with the dead bodies. I have had a few narrow escapes, but we see marvellous escapes every day. One night I got a bayonet through my tunic, and next morning while I was observing got one [a bullet] through the turned-up side of my hat. I think I was very lucky, as the badge in the hat got broken but turned the bullet. This is nothing to the luck some fellows have in escaping with their lives. One night we were having a bomb fight, and a six pounder fell between a chap’s shoulders and burst, but only blew the back out of his coat without injuring him. I will be glad when I am back having another go. We have just finished dinner, and it is great not to have to duck and dodge about from shells when we are eating. I will describe a little thing that happened one night in Gallipoli. We had half a Turks’ trench in our possession, the Turks still holding the other half. The space between us was anything from four to seven yards. About 11pm they got a machine gun in their trench and started cutting out our end – which we had done up with sand bags to prevent them rushing over if they charged us – with bullets. I was relieved at 11, and allowed to have a lie down, but at about 11.30 our sergeant came around and, waking my mate and me, told us to go on observing as the observers and bomb throwers had been shot. We scrambled up to go, but when we came to the turn a corporal told us that the machine gun had cut the end out of our trench and was sweeping it clean. At first we didn’t know whether to go forward or not, but then said we would chance it, as we were told to do so by our head. We laid down on our stomachs and dragged ourselves along to the end that had been destroyed, a lance-corporal coming with us. Meanwhile the bullets were whistling down the trench over our heads at the rate of about 600 a minute, and we also had to contend with the bombs they threw. We got there and built a new end, but when it came daylight I could not understand how we had done it, as the bullets must have been everywhere round us, the trench being only about 2ft wide.”


The above incident, which took place on the night of the 22nd of August in the Lone Pine trenches, was also noted in the 4th LH Unit History. However, the only men referred to are L/Cpl Tom Roberston (481) and Cpl Len Gooding (720), both of whom received mentions in dispatches for their part in volunteering to rebuild the sandbag wall.

Sam never returned to Gallipoli, he was one of the 70 Australian invalids picked up at Valetta on the 5th of October by the Kanowna, on her first voyage home from England in her new role as a hospital ship. Travelling via Egypt where some last minute refits were carried out and more patients embarked, they finally set sail again on the 20th. Landing in Melbourne on the 22/11/1915, Sam was then discharged on the 16/2/1916. He had been invalided home medically unfit, not only because of rheumatism & dysentery, but also because it was considered that due to the ‘crippled state of his right hand he is not fit for active service.’


Three days after Sam had left Australia’s shores in May 1915 his brother Bill had also enlisted. Bill too was a small man, the same height as Sam, but he was dark with black curly hair. Less than a week after Sam landed at Gallipoli, Pte 2414 George William Macumber (Bill) embarked with the 7th reinforcements for the 14th Battalion on the RMS Persia. Bill & Sam would have been in Egypt at the same time for nearly 2 weeks, but whether Bill had the chance to visit his brother on the hospital ship while it lay in port at Alexandria is probably unlikely.


After joining his unit on the 23rd of October on the Isle of Lemnos where they were recuperating, Bill finally landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula at the beginning of November as the 14th Bn returned to their old trenches at Durrant’s Post.

Far from having been at ‘the Landing’, as his (future) eldest son believed when he applied for his father’s Gallipoli medallion in 1967, Bill was soon to be taking part in the Evacuation. Surviving the following 7 weeks as the miserable winter set in, he returned to Lemnos with his battalion on the 18th of December and to Egypt after Christmas.

While waiting to embark on the next leg of his war service, Bill was a casualty of the re-arrangement of the battalions, and found himself transferred into the newly formed 46th Bn (sister battalion to the 14th). He also spent a week in hospital with a fever – a reaction to an inoculation, and another 2 weeks with the mumps. Eventually, on the 3/6/1916 the 46th Bn set sail for France. Meanwhile back in Australia, Sam had managed to re-enlist on the 18th of March, but was again discharged medically unfit 6 months later.


Having survived Pozieres, the 46th Battalion’s next major battle was to be their attack against the Hindenburg Line at Bullecourt on the 11th April 1917. Bill was also very lucky to survive this disaster, and later that year while in England, wrote a little about it to his parents:

“Things over in France are still going strong, and the Australians, as usual, are up to their necks in it. We have been in some battles in France, and I do not like the idea of going back and facing it again. I know well that I can never stand another winter in the trenches. The Bullecourt stunt, when we broke Hindenburg's line, fixed me up. I was lying out in Fritz's barbed wire for twelve hours, and could not move a single muscle. It snowed all the time, and we had about six inches of snow on us. I was only about 20 yards off his trench all the time. That was where we got to when he counter attacked and drove us back. I can tell you I thought it was all over with me, and my thoughts went back to the old homestead and faces I love. Fritz took [censored] of the Australians prisoners that day, and the ground was strewn with the dead. How I escaped from being taken prisoner or shot I do not know. I have seen some awful sights, things that no man could look on, but one thing I can honestly say and that is I always kept my post. I was recommended in the Messines stunt for bravery whilst under shell fire, but so far I have not heard much more about it. But that does not worry me.”


After his ordeal on the wire, when ‘387 of his mates were either killed, wounded or [taken] prisoner’, Bill spent 2 weeks in hospital with influenza. And then came the successful Messines stunt. While the 46th was mainly held in reserve, Bill was one of 50 other ranks detached to the 45th Bn as carrying parties during their advance. He was recommended for the Military Medal for gallantry during the 7-9 June, and the reason he heard no more of it, was because the award was not forthcoming.


Yet he was rewarded in a sense, being sent to England on the 12/7/1917 where he was attached for duty with various Training Brigades and Schools of Instruction. During this period he met Eleanor Mangin (known as Nellie) and they were married in the December of that year. Nellie had an infant son, who as noted earlier, grew up believing his ‘father’ had been in the original Landing at Gallipoli. Taking time out from instructing others, Bill attended a course at the Tidworth School of Musketry between the 17/1 & the 16/2/1918, and qualified 2nd Class with full working knowledge of the Lewis Gun. His inevitable return to France came on the 8th of May and he rejoined his battalion in the line North East of Villers-Bretonneux a few days later.


Sam was definitely keen to share in the action with his brother, as in April he attempted to enlist for overseas service yet again, and was rejected once more. A week later on the last day of April 1918 he finally admitted defeat and enlisted for Home Service with the 3rd District Guard.


The 46th Bn were in and out of the line participating in the practice of peaceful penetration, when 2 months after rejoining them Bill was slightly wounded, but remained at duty. This was followed by the ‘big push’ which began on the 8th of August and after gaining their objectives the 46th were relieved on the 10th, but found themselves back in the line near Lihons on the 15th. The enemy continually harassed them, their artillery perfectly ranged to what had previously been their own trenches, and it was on the 19th of August during a particularly heavy bombardment that Bill coped a ‘blighty’ that possibly saved his life.


Nursing his leg wound, he traveled through the hospital system and was admitted to the 1st Birmingham War Hospital at Rednal on the 24th. Three days later, Sam was discharged from Home Service, but this time at his own request, and this was effectively the end of the war for the Macumber brothers. Bill was discharged to furlo (from hospital) a couple of days after the armistice, and then waited out his time in the camps, until eventually on the 3rd July 1919 together with Nellie and young Jack, he boarded the family ship Zealandic for home. Bill and Nellie had another 3 sons, and along with Jack, all 4 served during the 2nd World War. Sam married Maria Hobbs in 1927, but by 1931 they were living separately and Sam later remarried (to Miriam).


The Macumber brothers continued prospecting around Kingower (in the Inglewood district) for a few years after the war, searching for wolfram (tungsten), feldspar and other rare minerals. Failing to strike it rich, they eventually downed tools and moved to Melbourne, Sam finding employment as a wire worker and then a brewery worker, and Bill doing labouring work until he took on the position as gate-keeper with the railways, on the Brunswick line.


In the early 1950’s Bill and Sam read with great interest that uranium had been discovered in northern Australia, and they were reminded of some unusual granite outcrops they’d come across around Kingower. Following a hunch, they returned to their old diggings with Geiger counters. Finding high radioactivity, they formed a syndicate with a few mates and took up a mineral lease over an area of 8,000 acres. Having sunk various shafts with very high readings in a couple of them, they were convinced they had a rich find. They called in the State Government, and in April 1954 the chief Government geologist began a detailed survey of the area. As the news broke that uranium had been discovered in Victoria; almost a hundred years after it had come into prominence during the gold rush, the area around Inglewood once again hummed with enthusiastic prospectors. Unfortunately, although of high quality, the uranium wasn’t in large enough quantities to make it commercially viable to mine, and the brothers once again returned to life in the city.


The final resting place for the Macumber brothers is the Springvale Botanical Cemetery, but they are also remembered on the Inglewood & District Soldiers Memorial. Bill died in early April 1961 and is buried in the Simmons Lawn, where Nellie joined him in 1967. Sam also died in 1967 and his cremated remains were interred in the Dodonaea Wall.


Endnote: Bill and Sam were the sons of George Ellerton MACUMBER and Elizabeth PRYSE. Their cousin Alexander Leslie Pryse (481) DOW 15/7/1916, after receiving a shell fragment in his back whilst the 57th Bn were preparing for their part in the Battle of Fromelles.


Heather (Frev) Ford, 2011


The Girl with the Flags

blog-0388181001401951456.jpgTo many an Australian soldier she was simply ‘the girl with the flags’, but Miss Ethel Campbell was also known as the ‘Angel of Durban’, and by various other monikers. She was born in Scotland in 1886 but was living with her family in South Africa during the war years. After her fiancé was killed in the war, she devoted herself to caring for the troops who visited her city.


Working with the Y.M.C.A., Ethel, an expert signaler, began signaling to the troopships in 1915 as they arrived in the harbour: “Welcome, brave Australians. Come along to the Y.M.C.A. Hut, near the Town Hall.’ And then sending them a final farewell: ‘Good-bye, Australians. Good luck. Come back soon.’ Standing on the wharf or at the end of the breakwater semaphoring with her flags, she continued this practice through fair weather and foul right throughout the entire war, and was a very welcome sight to the troops after many weeks at sea.


Unlike other ports of call en-route to the war zone, Durban had a strict policy of closing all ‘public houses’ and hotel bars while military transports were in port, and so they offered the very best of wholesome entertainment through the YMCA. The YMCA Hut, known as the “Soldiers’ Rest”, stood in a tree-fringed reserve opposite the Town Hall, and was a large building where the troops could relax, write letters home, have a wash and of course partake of a great meal at a minimal cost. Concerts and other entertainments were also provided by the staff of ladies who quite happily mothered the boys and made them feel at home, none more so than the ‘Angel’ herself, Miss Campbell.

Ethel was not the only member of her family eager to look after the Australians while they were in port; her father Dr Samuel Campbell, an influential citizen of Durban, often entertained soldiers of all ranks in their home at Berra in the Durban hills.


As a result of all this ‘mothering’, a drunken soldier was a rare phenomenon in Durban, yet the Australians were still a target for disparaging remarks from some of the wealthy locals. On hearing of these remarks, Ethel who was a prolific writer of poetry, forwarded the following to a Durban newspaper:



[Dedicated to some of the “elite” of Durban, after hearing their opinions of the Australians. “We are not cotton spinners all, but some love England and her honour yet.”]


We stand on the shore of Durban,

And watch the transports go

To England from Australia

Hurrying to and fro,

Bearing the men of a nation

Who are heroes to the core

To stand in fact by the Motherland

And they’re sending thousands more!

We’ve watched the ships returning,

With the cripple and the maim,

With limbs that trail and falter

Their’s an immortal name.

The deathless name of “Anzac”

That thrills from pole to pole,

The remnants of the heroes

On the long and glorious roll.

And now in their tens of hundreds

Come the men to fill their ranks,

And what can we do to show them

Our love, our pride, our thanks,

We can’t do much (I own it)

But give them a passing cheer

While the real elite, beat a shocked retreat

Why, they saw one drinking beer.

O God! could we show these misers

The path that the “Anzacs” went!

Could they talk with a sneer of Australians

When one or two get drunk!

I’d rather a drunk Australian

Than a wealthy Durban funk!

He’s a better man than you are,

You dear teetotal saint!

You do not drink – you will not fight!

What a wonderful restraint!

We stand on the shore of Durban,

For we’re not all made like you,

And the glorious name of “Anzac”

Thrills us through and through!

But all we can do is to cheer them,

And throw them a trifle from shore,

We’re not millionaires (like some are)

Or perhaps we would try to do more.

They’re coming in tens of thousands,

And here’s to their honour to-day,

Here’s to the sister dominion

Who is showing us the way?


The ‘trifles’ that Ethel threw the soldiers from shore are best described by an Australian nurse. Mrs Isabella Throssell, the sister-in-law of Hugo Throssell (VC), had served with Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service during the war, and was returning home with invalid troops many of them 1914 men, on the Runic in 1918. They arrived in the Fremantle harbour as the armistice was signed, but knew that they could not go ashore due to quarantine regulations. They did however expect some form of recognition from their countrymen, but were totally ignored both that day and the next. Mrs Throssell said that their “reception was a most chilling one – one which will take many years to efface from the memory”; “we lay there as an outcast”, and finally as human nature could stand it no longer, the cry went up across the ship, “Don’t you wish you were back at the last port?”

Their last port of course had been Durban, and Mrs Throssell explained:

“How different was the reception accorded the men there. On approaching port a launch came with Miss Campbell, the now world-famed girl signaler, who with her flags spoke thus: ‘Welcome to [censored] Thank you for what you have done for us. Are there Anzacs on board? A double welcome to them. We are proud of you. Sorry you cannot land, but can we do anything for you – shopping, etc.?’ Receiving an answer, ‘Yes,’ she arranged to have our orders sent down by basket, and went away to execute them, for many had come on board with short notice, I myself having but two hours’ warning. In the meantime a launch came out simply laden with fruit; those great coal baskets filled with bananas, oranges, pawpaws, passion fruit, boxes of cake, sweets, eggs (luxuries you people can never appreciate until you have been strictly rationed), all sorts of medical comforts and toilet accessories, papers, magazines, and games, even extra records for the gramophone. There was fruit enough to serve all round and to give three fruit salads per man. Think what that meant. The Australian residents sent a large issue of cigarettes, pipes, and tobacco to the officers and men, and a big box of sweets and cakes to each sister; and the troopship was one bower of flowers from stem to stern. On leaving we received a similar farewell. People lined the moles and cheered and cheered, and many boys registered a vow to visit this place at the earliest opportunity, regretting the necessity which prevented their landing then. The last thing seen was Miss Campbell waving au revoir and a safe journey home.


In appreciation for the many kindnesses shown them, the troops often took up a collection in order to purchase a gift for Ethel, amongst these were a gold watch; a set of silver toilet tableware, inscribed with her name and ‘From the Australian Soldiers’; and a writing table of Australian maple, specially commissioned for her. After peace was declared the Australian Comforts Fund presented her with a gold-mounted ACF symbol, and she received an MBE in 1919 for her services to the war effort.


The Returned Soldier’s League (R.S.S.I.L.A) showed their appreciation in 1923 with an invitation to Australia. They arranged Ethel’s itinerary and supplied her with private secretaries and guides to help her throughout the journey. Together with her parents she began her tour in Albany, where the first contingent had originally gathered in the harbour nine years before. On the arrival of her ship Diogenes on the 28th of June, a welcome message was signaled to her from the shore, and she responded in kind. Attending her first reception she was asked for a message to transmit to the returned soldiers of the Eastern states. Her message read: “Coo-ee! Be with you soon. Deeply touched and greatly gratified with Australia’s first welcome.” Travelling throughout the country she attended many functions in her honour, dedicated memorials and visited hospitals, and of course was warmly met by large crowds of diggers and their families everywhere she went.


During her visit, she discovered that it wasn’t the food and other comforts that the diggers had the fondest memories of; but her signals of greeting and the many poems she presented to them. “One man could recite all the poems I had written about the diggers during the war – nineteen of them!”

“……I could go on for hours telling of the wonderful kindness and hospitality of the Aussies; of the flowers, and the beautiful poems of welcome I got, and gifts ranging from the most treasured relics – such as a piece of the altar rail of the cathedral at Ypres, down to live wallabies and young kangaroos. The Federal executive of the league gave me the most beautiful album containing a hundred official photographs of the Australians at the front. The bouquets I got were wonderful – some were in the shape of troopships – and my railway carriage was always a bower of flowers. I was met very often with decorated motor cars, and in a number of towns the diggers pulled the car by ropes through the streets, and in one town I was carried shoulder high. In another, where I arrived at night, there was a torch-light procession. The town bands and pipers and even aeroplanes came out to meet me.”

“I saw a great deal of the working of the Returned Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Imperial League of Australia and it impressed me very much. Largely through their splendid efforts the Australian returned soldier is getting wonderfully good treatment. Then the Limbless and Maimed Association in each State, and the Tuberculosis Association and Blinded Soldiers’ Association are all doing magnificent work….”


Having visited many hospitals Ethel also had the following to say:

“To what extent Australia did her wonderful part in the war is brought back to one by these scenes of suffering. ……. Many of those splendid young lives, frightfully crippled, have been suffering there as cot cases for the last eight or nine years. It is absolutely heart-rending. There is a man at Randwick with terrible injuries to his skin from mustard gas; he has been lying in a bath for eight years. One goes round the wards smiling, though one feels much more like weeping.”


Although most of their Australian visit was an endless whirlwind of war-related functions, the Campbells did manage to spend some time with family. While in Queensland they stayed with Dr Campbell’s sister Lady Cowley and her husband Sir Alfred Cowley, who during the war had been chairman of the Administration Committee of the Queensland Patriotic Fund and president of the Queensland Soldier’s Comforts Fund.


Returning to Durban in December, Ethel continued a regular correspondence with many soldiers and organizations; and in memory of Anzac day, would send messages of commemoration & hand-decorated copies of her verses to various R.S.S.I.L.A.s around Australia.

Dr Campbell died in March 1926 and in 1929 Ethel’s mother sold their home in the Durban hills and the 2 of them traveled the world for a couple of years, before eventually returning to Sth Africa and settling again in Durban.


Although the Great War was to be the war that ended all wars, when it was followed up by World War 2, Ethel once again took on her role of the Angel of Durban, welcoming the diggers of the 2nd AIF. Unfortunately in 1944 she suffered a nervous breakdown, and her mother asked the Australian newspapers to let it be known that she would not be able to reply to the huge mail she regularly received from Australia. As the result of her health, she found it necessary to move from Durban to Hilton, 70 miles away, though still managed the occasional visit to Durban while a troopship was in. However, due to her growing absences from the wharf, many of the boys took it upon themselves to ‘thumb’ their way to her home, and soon it became a part of their ‘duty’ to visit her. She dubbed her new home “Little Australia”, and there she entertained thousands of Australian troops who patted her dog “Digger”, played two-up on her two-up tower, and sang the songs she’d written about them.

As can be imagined, news of her death in April 1954 was received with great sadness throughout Australia, many diggers of both wars feeling a great sense of personal loss. We who follow can only be grateful for the comfort she brought our men in such troubled times, and yet relieved that the Angel’s services were not required for a third time.


Lest we forget the girl with the flags – Miss Ethel Campbell, M.B.E – the Angel of Durban


Endnotes: Two of Ethel’s brothers served with the RFC in WW1, one also went on to become a prominent poet. Ethel published a few books of her poems – most of which were about the Australian soldiers. One newspaper article notes that she was known by the 2nd AIF as Mrs Collins – but another source states she never married.


Heather (Frev) Ford, 2011


The following is a snippet from ‘A DIGGER’S DIARY’ – a column in the Western Mail (Perth) – Conducted by “Non-Com” – which published brief accounts and reminisces from ex-service men:


Thur 1 Nov 1934:

Brevity of Service

Dear “Non-Com” – I left W.A. on October 9, 1917, having just turned 19 years of age the day before. Went over to Broadmeadows, Victoria, was there two weeks, embarked again and went via Panama Canal to England. Trained at Codford until the beginning of April, 1918.

Landed in France and joined the 51st Battalion on April 14. Hopped over at Villiers Brett. at 10.30 pm on April 24 and was wounded at 10.45 pm. The next day was in hospital at Rouen. Ten days later was on my way to England.

In Birmingham Hospital three weeks, Harefield Hospital four weeks, then boarded C2, and put on the Wandilla hospital ship. Travelled on her to Alexandria and transshipped to Kanowna at Suez. Arrived in W.A. August 29, 1918.

Boiled down, I went right around the world, was in the firing line for 15 minutes and was home again inside eleven months. As I was born on October 8, I have had every birthday in Australia.

So now trot ‘em out, and see if anyone can beat that. – “Fifty-Firstite”. Guildford.


The author sharing his experiences and offering up the challenge was John (Jack) Henry WEST.

Jack, as he stated above, was born on the 8th of October in 1898 in Cootamundra, NSW – the son of John and Mary Elizabeth West.

As he was under age when he enlisted in Fremantle, WA, on the 1/5/1917, he originally informed the army that his parents were deceased and that his brother, Clarence William was his next of kin. These details were then changed to show that his father was actually absent in South Africa, and his mother was living in John Street in Fremantle.

After his 2 weeks at Broadmeadows in Victoria, Jack embarked with the 11th reinforcements of the 51st Battalion, on the 30/10/1917 on the Aeneas, as Private 3995. They landed at Devonport 2 days after Christmas and were marched into Codford.


Following another 3 months of training, Jack crossed to France on April Fools Day 1918, and along with 151 other reinforcements was marched into Corbie on the 13th of April, where the 51st Battalion was then billeted. On the evening of the 20th, although safe in the cellars of their allotted houses, the new recruits were welcomed to the war zone by a heavy enemy bombardment. Jack probably also witnessed the famous dogfight and eventual downing of the Red Baron on the following day on Corbie Hill.

On the morning of the 22nd the 51st Bn moved on to Querrieu, and then on the 24th to Blangy-Tronville.


That evening they received orders for the counter-attack on positions near Villers-Bretonneux, and were moved out at 8.20 pm. The War Diary states that “the whole battalion had deployed and were in position at 10.10 pm, ….., and at 10.10 pm the battalion moved forward to attack Immediately the line commenced to advance hostile machine guns fired heavily on our left from the Bois de Aquenne.” Jack may have been a little out with his memory of the timing, but none-the-less he was obviously one of the many casualties that were sustained so early in the attack, when he received a severe wound to his left shoulder (on the 24th).

His Anzac Day was spent traveling through the 25th Field Ambulance to the 5th Casualty Clearing Station, and then on the 26th he was admitted to the 5th General Hospital in Rouen. His luck was in when he received his ‘blighty’ and embarked on the Carisbrook Castle on the 7th of May for the crossing to England. The following day he was admitted to the Kings Heath Section of the 1st Australian General Hospital in Birmingham, before being transferred to the 1st Australian Auxiliary Hospital in Harefield at the end of the month.


Finally Jack was to return home, and as he previously noted, embarked on the Wandilla on the 30th of June and then transshipped to the No. 2 Australian Hospital Ship, the Kanowna, at Suez on the 21st of July. The Kanowna sailed the following day, experiencing extremely hot weather in the Red Sea, followed by some rough seas and monsoons before their arrival at Colombo on the morning of the 6th of August. The patients were then allowed shore leave for the 2 days they were in port, and Jack, being well able to walk, would have no doubt taken the opportunity to see the sights.

Before arriving at Fremantle on the 24th of August, they experienced a few more days of rough seas, during which many patients suffered sea-sickness. Jack stepped back onto West Australian soil that morning, along with 54 other invalids (not on the 29th as he’d noted), having as he so proudly stated, traveled right around the world for his 15 minutes in the firing line.


Jack’s medals had been issued and returned to stores in 1924, the army obviously unable to trace his whereabouts. It wasn’t until April 1933 that he thought to apply for them, and luckily received both the British War Medal & Victory Medal by the end of the following month.

In 1925 Jack married Beryl Margaret Mary MARSHALL, and they had three children, Ray, Beverley and Athol John. The family lived at Guildford, a suburb of Perth in Western Australia. Jack signed up for his 2nd war on the 7/1/1942 as a Signalman – and saw 2 years of service before his discharge.

Still resident in Guildford in 1964, Jack passed away on the 3rd of January at the age of 65, and was buried in the Guildford Cemetery. Beryl joined him there in 1995.


Heather (Frev) Ford, 2011


blog-0779963001401769699.jpgAmong my list of things to see and do on the 2010 FFFAIF Tour of the Western Front, was to make sure I sighted and photographed the name of Alan James MATHER on the Menin Gate. A little sad that we’d be so close, and yet so far, and wouldn’t be able to attend his reburial on the 22nd of July – I whispered ‘welcome in from the cold’ to the eventually to be erased inscription.


Private Mather’s remains had been discovered at St Yvon (St Ives) in August 2008, during one of the ‘Plugstreet Project’ digs by the ‘No Man’s Land’ historical group, who were researching the Australian 3rd Division’s role in the Battle of Messines in June 1917. A year before, Andrew Pittaway & I had been fortunate to visit one of their earlier digs in the area near Ultimo Crater. So, although we hadn’t been there when the ‘unknown’ soldier was found, it was only natural to take an interest in his story.


Fortunately for Mather, DNA testing finally gave him back his identity in June 2010. Unfortunately for us, our plans were already well set in concrete and as suggested earlier, by the 22nd we were to be far away on the Somme.

My disappointment however was greatly alleviated, when on the 17th July, after visiting the Toronto Ave Cemetery for one of Andrew’s special commemorations of a 33rd Bn soldier, the decision was made to stop at the nearby Prowse Point Cemetery for lunch. A worthwhile decision at any time, for among the many beautiful & tranquil cemeteries that dot the Western Front, this is one of the exceptional ones. It is also unique in the sense that it’s the only cemetery on the Salient that is named for a soldier, Brigadier-General Charles Prowse – who as a British Major, made an heroic stand here in October 1914.


Anyway, I now had the chance to visit what would very soon become Mather’s final resting place. I felt there was little more I could do to pay my respects until perhaps my next visit to Belgium.

However, standing there in Prowse Point, Andrew & I began to ponder – why this cemetery? Having been killed during the Battle of Messines with the 33rd Bn, it seemed more appropriate that Mather should have been buried in Toronto Ave Cemetery, were 44 other members of his unit who’d died in the same battle were laid to rest. We decided it was probably the most practical solution though, as Toronto Ave was such a tiny secluded cemetery, it may have been a little difficult to open up a new grave & support the amount of visitors that would be in attendance at the reburial ceremony. It was perhaps also appropriate that he had been found at St Yvon, and this cemetery was on Rue St Yvon. Still, a shame though, not being with his mates, but perhaps he’d be in good company.

It was then that I pursued my usual tendency to become side-tracked, and check on his future neighbours. Resting right beside him would be Benjamin Gordon FRANCIS of the 27th Battalion, killed on the 8/1/1918. And in the row directly behind him, were two more 27th Bn men also killed on the 8/1/1918, as well as another four of the 27th Bn, all of whom died on Christmas Day 1917.

The four men killed on Christmas day were Privates Vivian Neville MAIN, Frank CULLEN, John Joseph McGUIRE & Charles John ‘Bull’ JENNINGS.


After a 10 day stint, the 27th Battalion had been relieved from the lines on Christmas Eve & marched back to the Romarin Camp. The next morning they woke to a white Christmas, for it had snowed during the night. They were allowed to rest during the morning, but later that afternoon a large fatigue party was sent back to the forward area, and these four men had been allocated to one of the wiring parties to lay wire in front of the new support line. The work was almost complete around 9pm when the Germans, possibly noticing movement against the white background, shelled them with high explosives. One shell caught all four men, and three others were wounded in the shelling. They were all carried back behind the lines, where the four dead were buried together the following day.


It’s interesting to note that the cemetery actually came into existence the month after Prowse’s stand, in the November of 1914, and then the following month was witness to the 1914 Christmas Truce between British & German soldiers. Just a little way along Rue St Yvon, towards St Yvon itself, can be found a memorial cross to mark the occasion. This was placed here by the ‘Khaki Chums’ in 1999 on the 85th Anniversary of the Truce – at the end of their own Christmas spent here in the cold & mud & rain of Flanders, to raise money for ex-service charities. Eleven years later, the cross, which the ‘Chums’ had never meant to be permanent, is still in good condition owing to the care it has had from the locals.


Unfortunately there was no truce on the 25th December 1917, and it was to be Pte Main’s first and last Christmas away from home. Neville, as he preferred to be called, had enlisted in the March of 1916, but hadn’t sailed for England until the 24/1/1917, 4 months after the death of his brother 2nd Lieut Eric Main at Mouqet Farm. Perhaps trying to emulate his elder brother, Neville had been training, studying, & working his way up through the ranks, eventually sailing as a provisional Sergeant. However, after more training and a short stint in hospital, he finally joined his unit at the front in the middle of November having reverted to the rank of private. A month later and May & Mark Main lost a second son to the war.


Pte Frank Cullen spent his first Christmas of the war on board the Afric, arriving at Plymouth on the 9th January 1917. A month later he was in hospital with acute bronchitis, and remained there for just over 3 months. In the July both he and Neville Main made their Wills, and when Neville became witness to his, neither man could have known just how entwined their fates would be. Frank proceeded overseas to France on the 25th September, 3 months to the day before that fatal Christmas, and joined the 27th Bn in Belgium on the 5th October. He was half way into his 22nd year on earth, when like Neville he passed on all his worldly goods to his mother.


Similar to Frank Cullen, Pte John McGuire was also at sea for Christmas 1916, but his ship the Berrima had only left Fremantle 2 days before – and he actually spent Christmas Day in the ship’s hospital. Having originally been rejected in October 1915 for not having any natural teeth, John had served his time as a Garrison Guard, until a loosening of requirements allowed him to enlist in the October of 1916. Arriving in England in the middle of February 1917, he managed to strike up a few minor offences before proceeding to France on the 14th June. Before he could join his battalion he experienced a couple of stints in hospital, eventually being taken on strength at the end of August 1917. John then served with the 27th for 4 months before Christmas took him. At the time of his death, his younger brother Patrick was fighting pneumonia in a Boulogne hospital, eventually being sent home 3 months later.


‘Bull’ Jennings was not only the longest serving and the oldest of the four, but he was also the only one married. A thick-set man, hence his nickname, he had enlisted in August 1915, but didn’t sail until the January of 1916. After a short time with his battalion in Egypt, they reached France towards the end of March. In October Bull came down with pleurisy and was sent to a hospital in England. He was released to the Weymouth Depot on the 5th December, and that’s where he spent his first overseas Christmas. His eventual return to France wasn’t until 2 months before the following Christmas, the one that was to be his last. Bull left behind a widow and two young sons.


Alan Mather’s next ‘door’ neighbour, Pte Benjamin Francis had survived that fatal Christmas day, only to meet a similar fate 2 weeks later. He had sailed on the Afric in November 1916 with Frank Cullen, but had proceeded to France in the April. After serving for 4 months he was returned to England in August with Trench Fever. Benjamin was still in England going through the re-training process when his four battalion mates were killed, but returned to France 2 days later. He rejoined the 27th Bn in the Romarin Camp in Belgium on the 1st of January, just as preparations where being made to return to the front line, which they did the following day. During the night of the 8th January, Benjamin together with Pte Victor Allen & Cpl Charles Melville Harry, formed a Liaison patrol, and were just returning from a visit with the battalion stationed to the right of the 27th Bn, when they were hit by a minenwerfer which killed all three men.


Cpl Charles Harry & Pte Victor Allen were not buried beside Benjamin but instead are buried in the row behind, alongside their Christmas Day mates. Pte Victor Allen had also sailed with the 17th Reinforcements on the Afric with Benjamin & Frank, and proceeded to France in April. A month later he was wounded in the leg during heavy enemy shelling on their front-line at Noreuil. Eventually returning through the hospital system to England, Victor was out of action until the start of November, when he once again rejoined the battalion in Belgium. His experience of the 1917 ‘white’ Christmas may not have been his first, as like so many members of the A.I.F., Victor had been born & raised in England.


Cpl Charles Harry was the only one of the soldiers mentioned here who was a 27th Bn original and a Gallipoli veteran. He experienced 3 war-time Christmases – the first on the isle of Lemnos after the Gallipoli evacuation before returning to Egypt. The second in camp in England where he was retraining after a stay in hospital, and the third at the Romarin Camp in Belgium – two weeks before his death. His parents William & Priscilla Harry would have found at least some consolation, when a few weeks after his death, his brother 2nd Lieut William Harry (MM) began his journey home to them, no longer fit to fight, but safe.


Friends are often telling me that everything happens for a reason, and so I’d like to believe that the real reason I was unable to attend Pte Mather’s funeral, was so that I’d be inspired to discover the stories of his new mates. And besides, from reports I’ve read and photos I’ve seen, it appears there were many well-wishers in attendance on the 22nd July, with the FFFAIF being represented and a wreath laid on behalf of members. Luck would also have it that some UK friend’s also visited in the following days, and sent me a photo showing the grave in all its floral glory. Pte Alan Mather will spend his first Christmas at Prowse Point Cemetery this December, surrounded by mates who he may not have known in life, but who shared similar experiences in those final days before death. No longer alone – he is in from the cold at last.


Heather (Frev) Ford, 2010


The Invisible Scars of War

blog-0328766001401684786.jpgYOUNG MAN TAKES HIS LIFE

The quiet, old-fashioned home of Mr Daniel Woodfield, nestling snugly in a picturesque and fertile valley among the hills to the north of Rheola, was the scene of a distressing tragedy on Friday night, when the second-eldest son of the family, Andrew, took his own life without apparent cause or reason.


It was mid 1920 and Andrew Woodfield had just turned 30. A year had passed since his return from the war, and although he had not been his ‘old self’ since returning home, he seemed to be finally settling in. Some months earlier, under