Saturday, September 2, 2017

Life in Egypt, and other places, with the AIF

Unknown Album. Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria Collection.

The photo above was contained on page 42 of  a photograph album by a mystery photographer who took his camera with him when he enlisted. The photographs are not necessarily in chronological order.  They depict life in Egypt, Lemnos, and Gallipoli and Broadmeadows. The SLV catalogue entry describes the album thus:

Album, containing annotated photographs depicting scenes in Egypt, Gallipoli, Lemnos and Malta. No indication of the compiler's or photographer's name is given. Photographs include men in the 6th, 7th, 8th and 14th Battalions; the 7th and 8th Battalions leaving Mena for Ismailia (1915); the crossing of the Panama Canal on the transport Jaika (Dec. 1918); troops on the Minnewaska en route for Gallipoli and on the Osmanick at Gallipoli; the terrain, and men in the trenches.

There is no provenance given with the album, and the best guess from me is that the soldier served originally with 14 Battalion in A Company and later moved to 8 Battalion, and probably as a cook.  Not all photos are captioned, but some of the groups that are mention that they are cooks.  

I checked all the names mentioned in the album against my database of men from Essendon and Flemington, and the only one I found was Herbert Troy Swindells, whom I thought was probably the Bert Swindles mentioned in the caption above.  He had been a trained baker when he enlisted.   His service record doesn't indicate whether he served as a cook in 8 Battalion, but it is possible he did.  The only other man I could identify in the photo is "Bert Glangell", whom I think was
William Henry Herbert Gangell who also served in 8 Battalion and who was also a baker when he enlisted.  

It is not entirely clear when the photo was taken - it appears on a page where other photos were taken at Broadmeadows, Zeitoun and Mena, but given the sand underfoot, probably it was taken in Egypt.  8 Battalion had two periods in Egypt, in 1915 before the landing at Gallipoli, and in 1916 after the evacuation, so it is not entirely clear when it was taken.

It is an interesting album to browse through, showing ordinary aspects of camp life, such as in the image below:

"Fight.  Mena."

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Petition to the Australian War Memorial

 Hello,
I just signed the petition, “Australian War Memorial - Please delay impending closure of, and access to the old Site.” I think this is important. Will you sign it too?
Here’s the link:
https://www.change.org/p/australian-war-memorial-please-delay-impending-closure-of-and-access-to-the-old-site?utm_medium=email&utm_source=petition_signer_receipt&utm_campaign=triggered&share_context=signature_receipt&recruiter=30189254
Thanks,
Lenore

Farrier-Sergeant John Quill

The Maribyrnong Remount Depot, AWM H18770
Among the many branches of the army whose task it was to provide services to support the fighting men was the Remount Units who looked after the horses - the feeding, exercising, breaking, shoeing and a myriad other tasks.   Farrier Sergeant John Edward Quill of Ascot Vale spent his entire overseas service in Egypt with the 1st Australian Remount Unit.

A better known personality in a remount unit was Andrew Barton "Banjo" Paterson who actually embarked on the same ship, the Orsova, boarding in Sydney a few days earlier than Quill who embarked from Melbourne.  Paterson wrote about some of his experiences in a Remount Unit in France in his book Happy Despatches, which is now available free online through the Gutenberg Project.  Look for "Hellfire Jack" for an entertaining read.

Rod Martin looks in detail at the work of a Remount Unit through the service of Farrier Sergeant John Quill.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Lieutenant Meara, MC, of Ascot Vale

Cover of the 57 Infantry Battalion Unit War Diary for August 1918. Artwork by Presley Benjamin Edward Huthnance.
One of many who were appalled by the casualties at Gallipoli, Michael Meara of Ascot Vale enlisted in July 1915.  Within a short time he was selected for officer training, and went on to serve as a Lieutenant in the 57 Infantry Battalion.    He joined his unit in France in time to endure the bitter winter of 1916-17.  In one of the last campaigns of the war, Lieutenant Meara won a Military  Cross. This unassuming commercial traveller returned the family home in Ascot Vale, returned to work and passed his time playing golf with the Northern Golf Club  You can read his story on the Empire Called website.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Private John Dale, 58th Bn

A member of 2 Battalion writing a letter in the mud at Flesselles, November 1916  (AWM E00030)
John Dale, a butcher of Maribyrnong, passed through Flesselles in November 1916 as a very bitter winter descended on the Western Front.  Rod Martin again looks at the overall progress of the war through the experiences of one soldier, Private John Walter Dale.


Thursday, August 3, 2017

Private Stephen Fanner and the Domain Guard

Stephen Fanner was rejected for service with the AIF owing to defective eyesight, but he enlisted for Home Service with the Domain Guard, where he served for 834 days between 14 August 1916 and 22 November 1918 when he was discharged at his own request.  Stephen was also an officer of the Salvation Army, and as a Salvation Army bandsman, probably played with the Domain Military Band while he was a Guard at the Domain Camp.   Stephen and his three brothers, including recently mentioned George Fanner, appeared on the Kensington Salvation Army Roll of Honour.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

George Fanner and the 37 Inf Battalion


This painting by Septimus Powers depicts the 3rd and 4th Australian Divisions in the Somme battlefield.  Infantry, supported by horse drawn artillery and two British Mark IV male tanks, moves towards front line, part of the allied offensive of 8 August 1918, the day that became known to the Germans as 'der schwartze Tag' (the black day).

George William Fanner was part of the 3rd Division and took part in this battle, and others.  Rod Martin outlines George's part in the defeat of Germany in 1918, and the cost.  Go to the Empire Called website to read about George Fanner and the 37 Battalion.