Saturday, March 23, 2019

Mud and Blood

I saw this play in Moonee Ponds last year and it is an outstanding piece of work.  See it if you can.  Darren Mort is Pompey to the life.

See the Mud and Blood website for further details.

The title of the play is a reference to the colour patch of the 7th Infantry Battalion - brown over red, or mud over blood.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

"This is my last goodbye to you...."

In December 1915 as 2nd Lieutenant Cecil Beaumont Mills steamed away from Australia and all he held dear, he prepared a letter for his wife Effie (or Fairy as he called her), to be handed to her three  months after his death was reported.  Effie received this loving letter after Cecil fell, and disappeared forever, at Pozieres in August 1916.



Letters written by Cecil to his wife Effie, and other memorabilia, were donated to the Australian War Memorial by their only child, John Mills.  They have lately been digitised and can be seen on the AWM website here. This letter starts at page 16.

Originally from NSW, Cecil was a bank manager with the ES&A Bank in Mt Alexander Rd, Ascot Vale when he enlisted.  He and his wife were living at "Gowrie", Ardmillan Rd, Moonee Ponds with a Mrs Wragge when Cecil enlisted and went to Broadmeadows camp for training.  Their little boy was only a few months old, when Cecil felt compelled to do what he considered 'a man's work' in the great trial of war.

Although the Mills had probably not been in Moonee Ponds for more than a couple of years, Cecil had begun to immerse himself in the local community, and was recorded on several honour boards in the district, as well as his school, the Glenbrook Public School in NSW.  These honour boards are listed on Cecil's webpage at The Empire Called here.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Rod makes a century!


A game of cricket was played on Shell Green in an attempt to distract the Turks from the imminent departure of allied troops, December 1915.  AWM G01289.
In August 2010, when my website The Empire Called and I Answered, was about 12 months old, I was contacted by Rod Martin who wondered if I would be interested in a photo of a gravestone he had taken at Walhalla?  The stone commemorated John Eddy Phillips, beloved husband of Margaret,  who had died in July 1899. The stone also commemorated their son, another John Eddy Phillips, who had been killed at Gallipoli on 8 August 1915, aged 29 years. Rod wondered if I would be interested in a copy of the photo for my website?  Yes, absolutely.  The photo duly arrived and was added to the website.

A few weeks passed, then Rod contacted me again and asked me if I would be interested if he wrote a story for my website about John Eddy Phillips?    Absolutely yes, again. 

Since that time, Rod Martin has written 100 stories for the Empire Called website, a not inconsiderable feat.  Truthfully, the number is 102, (though I will report back if Rod corrects me on this number) because I was distracted before Christmas last year and, not for the first time, dropped the ball.  But as I had planned to acknowledge and celebrate Rod's contribution to the website when he got to his century, I press on to give him my grateful thanks, and merely note his unobtrusive start towards his second century. Rod has reached his first century with an impressive average of  11 stories per year.

Rod likes to explain the context of the the situations in which each of his subjects found themselves. His most recent story is about Herbert Keam, who landed at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915, but remains missing, assumed to have been killed in action on or about 26 April 1915.


If you visit Keam's website, you will see a tag to the right of the page for Rod Martin.  Click on that and you will get the full list of Rod's stories.  Some of my favourites include Major James Frederick Bowtell-Harris, Sergeant Robert Curwen, 2nd Lieutenant Viv Garner, Pte George Joseph O'Neill - though truthfully I enjoy all of them.  Rod also carefully winkles out great images from the AWM collection to illustrate the stories, which greatly enhances our understanding of the hardships of the war. A lot of the stories feature the men of the 7th Infantry Battalion which was closely associated with the Essendon and Flemington district, commanded in the early years by Colonel Pompey Elliott.

So once again I say a grateful thank you to Rod for his marvellous treasury of stories of the Great War, and hope that he will continue for many more to come!


Sunday, March 10, 2019

Pte Herbert Keam - Missing in Action


Private Herbert Millest Keam landed at Gallipoli with the 7th Battalion on 25 April 1915, but by the following day he was missing.  He was never found.  Rod Martin tells the poignant story of the inquiries made to try and establish what had become of this young man, his mother's only child.

He was only 19. Private Laurie James

Troops on board HMAT Hororata at Port Melbourne, 17 April 1915, AWM PB0448.
Laurie James, a bricklayer from Ascot Vale, was 19 years old when he swung out of the front gate of his family's tiny weatherboard home in Walter St, Ascot Vale and headed into Melbourne to enlist in the AIF.  It was January 1915.

The Hororata had left with the first contingent of troops in October the previous October, but had returned in time to embark a fresh lot of troops, including Laurie James, in April 1915.  The first troops had not yet scaled the heights of Gallipoli on the day Laurie left Melbourne on 17 April. By July that year Laurie was landed at Anzac Cove.  From that time forward Laurie was almost continuously engaged in warfare. For years it seemed he led a charmed life, but it all came to an end in an offensive against the Germans in August 1918.  As Rod Martin put it, 
"He had come so close to the end of the war, successfully fighting at Gallipoli, Pozières, Mouquet Farm and Passchendaele, only to fall less than three months before the Great War came to  a close."
Laurie served with the renowned local Battalion, the 7th Battalion, and in his story about Laurie, Rod Martin traces the dogged steps of the 7th Battalion as they ground their way towards an Allied Victory.  You can read Laurie's full story here.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Sister Fleming at Dartford, 1917


A lovely new portrait of Sister Elizabeth Gertrude Fleming has appeared at the Australian War Memorial - it certainly wasn't there the last time I looked for pics of Gertrude.   Just goes to show that it is worth rechecking repositories from time to time.  There was also a portrait of Lt General Chauvel on horseback said to have been taken by Gertrude.  You can further details on Gertrude's Empire Called webpage.


Thursday, November 15, 2018


This memorial plaque for Pte David Fiddes of the 58 Inf Battalion (formerly 60 Inf Bn) was sent to his father, Andrew Fiddes, of 80 Gower St, Kensington.

The plaque was later donated to the Flemington & Kensington Returned and Services League.  The RSL now has a grant to frame some of their memorabilia of the Great War, and this plaque will be among those items.


Remembrance Day at the Flemington & Kensington Memorial, 
Racecourse Rd, 2018.  Photo: LenoreFrost