Sunday, July 28, 2019

A Staff Nurse in France

Margaret Ethel Miles, of Napier St, Essendon, commenced her three year training, aged 22, at the Warrnambool Hospital in 1912. She obtained her certificate of nursing in 1915, after the commencement of the war.  The Australian Army Nursing Service was not looking for younger women to serve overseas, but Margaret got herself onto the staff of 5 Australian General Hospital in St Kilda Rd in August 1916.  After a few months there, Margaret enlisted with the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS) and departed on the Orsova for overseas service in December 1916, by then aged 26.

Appointed as a Staff Nurse, Margaret spent only 11 days in England upon arrival, and was quickly moved to France where she began nursing with the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) at their 24 General Hospital in Etaples.   She spent the next 18 months switching between military hospitals run by both the RAMC and the Australian Army Medical Corps (AAMC).  In June 1918 she was switched again to working in Casualty Clearing Stations, a much more dangerous and distressing form of nursing.

Growing up with the Rutherford sisters, all three of them nurses, in the newsagency just around the corner in Fletcher Street, might have influenced Margaret into taking up nursing.

You can read more about Staff Nurse Miles' service at the Empire Called website.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Football champion goes to war

Player poster of Herbert Milne in the 1910 Victorian Football Follower series, Boyles Football Photos
At the age of thirty-one, Herbert Milne had had an interesting life. He had played Australian Rules Football with the Fitzroy and South Melbourne clubs in the Victorian Football League for a number of years. At 181 centimetres tall and weighing seventy-eight kilos, he would have been formidable on the field as a follower (ruckman). He had fair hair and blue eyes, and probably cut a quite dashing figure.

Because of his age at the time the war broke out in 1914, Herbert may well have felt that the predicted short and sharp conflict was the territory of the young and energetic. However, by 19 July 1915, when he joined up, the bad news had come through from Gallipoli, and a substantial recruitment campaign was in full swing. The fact that July 1915 saw the greatest number of recruitments (36 575) of any month during the war may also have had an effect upon Herbert.  Others were doing it, so why shouldn’t he?

Perhaps because of his age, or perhaps because he requested it, Herbert was  assigned to 1 Australian General Hospital, probably as a medical orderly. There is no indication of previous paramedical experience on his attestation form.  He was a clerk by trade. Herbert sailed for Egypt, probably on A71 HMAT Nestor, on 11 October 1915. By the time the ship arrived in Egypt, the evacuation from Gallipoli would have been complete or close to it, so he and his comrades were sent to the recently established Australian base at Tel el Kebir, where they were assigned to 8 and then 14 Field Ambulance (FA) on 18 March 1916.

Rod Martin follows the war service of the former Victorian football champion, Temporary Corporal Herbert Milne.  You can read further on the Empire Called website.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Scotch College Commemorative website

Above two images are from the Scotch College commemorative website

Scotch College moved it's WW1 Roll of Honour while I wasn't looking, but I have lately relocated it, now with articles about those who died, and those who won honours and awards.  The above images come from a page about Australian Flying Corps Cadet George Robinson Johnston.  Johnston initially embarked with the 6th Infantry Battalion, but later transferred to the Australian Flying Corps.

He met  his death while still in training as an observer in a two seater aeroplane.  Johnston's pal from the Flemington Presbyterian Church, Driver Reginald Robert McLean, wrote home that the pilot was thought to have fainted at the controls, and George had no way of controlling the aircraft from his seat behind.

The pictured cross made from an aeroplane propeller, perhaps even the one from the crashed aeroplane, was made by the mechanics in his unit, and placed over his grave at Winchester (West Hill) Old Cemetery. 

Thursday, June 20, 2019

6 Machine Gun Company at rest

This photo turned up lately as an enquiry as to where it might have been taken.  "Belge" was taken to mean Belgium, but the word before it didn't compute.  Still doesn't, so any ideas welcome.

Notwithstanding that, because the photo had a date, and a name, it was possible to roughly work it out.  Archibald St George Tuohy was a local man who lived at "Ladyward", Glass St, Essendon.  (On the corner of Napier St.  This house features in the book Fine Homes of Essendon and Flemington, 1846-1860, published by the Essendon Historical Society.)

Tuohy had embarked on the Ulysses in May 1915 along with the O'Gorman brothers (John James and George Patrick) of Wangaratta and Joseph Lawrence Stapleton of Buangor, Victoria.   They were sent to Gallipoli, but after evacuation to Egypt, the four men were transferred to the 6 Machine Gun Company.  They had previously served as machine gunners with the 21 Infantry Battalion.   From Egypt they were sent to France.

Stapleton showed early promise and by the date of the photo was indeed a Sergeant.  Also not long before the date of the photo Archibald had won a Military Medal.  He is wearing the ribbon in this photo.

Having mistakenly thought that some of the men were still with the 21 Infantry Bn, not having examined the B2455 records closely, I looked at the 21 Infantry Bn Unit War Diary, which described the Bn as having detrained at Provan in Belgium not long before, and marched to St Lawrence Camp via Poperinghe.  It also commented that the day of 18 September was wet (the 6 MGC diary didn't mention the weather), which more or less rules out that day as the day the photo was taken, their boots being clean and shiny.

Looking also at the 6 MGC Unit War Diary it was apparent that the 6 MGC was travelling almost in tandem with the 21 Inf Bn, and they also detrained at Provan and headed for Erie Camp.   I  determined from Google Maps that it was an 18 minute walk from Provan to Poperinghe.

Not knowing anything much about army camps I did a google search on "St Lawrence Camp" and "Poperinghe", and came up with a very interesting WW1 map of Poperinghe surrounded by military camps - some very probably established by Canadian troops, as they boasted names like St Lawrence, Erie, Toronto, and Ottawa.

The troops at the Erie Camp were engaged in training and maintenance of their guns.  A few days after arrival half of the 6 MGC were sent into the lines, while the other half remained at training and gun maintenance.  The photograph was probably taken in this period.  A few days later they took their rotation into the line when the other half of the company returned to camp.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Isolation Camp, Ascot Vale

Guard, Isolation Camp, Ascot Vale, 29 September 1916.  Quite prepared to shoot any measles outbreak.  Courtesy of drakegoodman on Flickr.

Owing to outbreaks of serious disease in the various military camps, there was a clear need for isolation camps, or quarantine stations, where any troops who had been in contact with a sick man would be removed for observation.  There was an isolation camp operating at the Broadmeadows Camp as early as February 1915, possibly earlier, and as the numbers of men requiring isolation grew, another Isolation Camp at Ascot Racecourse in Ascot Vale was established in about August 1915.

Men would spend three weeks in the camp having daily throat swabs to look for any signs of disease.  Being isolated here might mean the men would miss the embarkation of their battalion and the men with whom they had trained for months.

Although unable to leave the camp, and outsiders unable to enter the camp, the men were provided with a weekly high tea by the ladies of the Cheer-up Brigades, delivered to the guard office at the front gate.  In the early days they may have been catered for by the Maribyrnong Cheer-up Brigade, but a new Ascot Vale Cheer-up Brigade was formed in September 1917 to cater for the men at the Isolation Camp and the camp in the Showgrounds nearby.

Local residents were none to pleased to have a camp with numbers of men whom they assumed to be sick dropped on their doorsteps, and the military was obliged to stiffen their upper lips and bend to the demands of the Essendon Council for the Health Officer to be allowed to inspect the camp.  The Health Officer, however, determined that the camp was in every way satisfactory and not a danger to the health of locals.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Godsons and Godmothers

From the Thuillier collection of glass plate negatives.  AWM P10550.128


What he terms "one of the few really beautiful, things to which this
war has given birth" is the subject of a descriptive article by M. Arno
Dosch-Fleurot, in the "New York Herald." In the course of it he.
says: —

It was discovered a year or so ago that many of the soldiers who had
been given permission to go home were in the unfortunate position of
having no homes. Many were from the invaded provinces, and leave of
absence simply added to their tortured thoughts. Others were from
the colonies. So, out of beginnings which, are rather obscure, has grown
up this national idea of godsons and godmothers. To go to a railroad
station to meet a strange hero from the front,- of whom one knows no-
thing except that he writes a nice letter - it is an adventure. It means,
also, that men and women meet on a basis of friendship which would
not ordinarily occur.

I know a woman who has ten godsons. It keeps her busy sending
them things to the front and entertaining them when they are on leave.
She is a very good-looking woman, too, with a husband to whom she is
devoted. I asked her if she were not afraid of some of these godsons
falling in love with her.

"I should be hurt," she replied, "if they did not all love me."
"But that is not what I mean," I said. "It is not always what they mean
either", she replied, "but I manage them."

Of course, the idea ha's been abused. The term has become elastic,
and the complete propriety of the arrangement has proved useful to co-
ver arrangements not always so proper. But such is the lack of prudery
in the French people, that it has made no difference to the real god-
mothers, who go about cheering up the lonely without any fear their ac-
tions will be misconstrued. As the idea has spread there has
arisen a problem of how to bring together would-be godmothers and
godsons. Mostly it is taken care of through improvised clubs organised
to give stray soldiers a feeling of home. Women desirous of being
godmothers contribute usually a dollar a month for each godson, and
write them letters and entertain them when on leave. Many who would
not be likely to go to such institutions receive godmothers through
friends or comrades in arms.

At the front the soldiers are always offering cigars "received from
my godmother," or are about to '' write to my godmother," so those
who have none become envious, and the idea has caught on. Many,
failing in other ways to find godmothers, advertise for them. Naturally,
these advertisements are not always serious, but a good many are.

GODSONS AND GODMOTHERS. (1917, March 30). The Romsey Examiner, p1

Monday, June 10, 2019

Cheer-up Brigade, Ascot Vale

Members of the Cheer up Brigade beside the Darge Studio building. The brigade was a patriotic group of women who visited AIF camps at Broadmeadows, Maribyrnong, Domain and Ascot Vale. They served afternoon tea to soldiers on Sundays, and had an autograph book of soldiers signatures.  c September 1917.  Darge Photographic Company. AWM  DAX1828

The notion of a Cheer-up Society began in South Australian in 1915 where it did a variety of work in fund-raising, providing lunches for returning soldiers and manning a booth near the train station in Adelaide. In Melbourne the idea of a Cheer-up Brigade was conceived as a children's movement, where groups of children undertook to entertain soldiers. This quickly became unwieldy and adults had to step in when the demand for teas went beyond what children and parents could supply in an ad hoc setting. Soon women were organising to provide regular high teas for soldiers in camps near them. Formal organisations started up around the camp at Royal Park and Broadmeadows, and soon the Maribyrnong camp also required some attention. The celebration of second year anniversaries in September 1917 shows that this form of patriotic work began operation in September 1915. It was not until September 1917 that a group was formed to provide services to the Showgrounds and Ascot Vale Isolation Camps. The formation of the Ascot Vale Branch was organised by the already active Royal Park and Maribyrnong Cheer-up Brigades, and it seems likely that those two groups had already been involved in providing teas for the soldiers in Ascot Vale. At this time Mrs W T Osborne stepped up to take on the leadership of the new branch.

Mary Isabel Osborne was the wife of William Thomas Osborne, a State School teacher. In 1905 Osborne had been teaching at Yea, but by 1909 the family had moved to the house in Francis St, Ascot Vale which became their home for the duration of the war. The Osborne's second son, H T (Pat) Osborne, enlisted in 1915. 'Mrs W T Osborne' was mentioned from time to time in the papers doing Red Cross work, but it may have been no co-incidence that she took on a heavier workload working with soldiers after the family learnt that Pat had received a shocking injury and had his leg amputated. He had been a keen sportsman before the war, and was a notable golf and tennis player, but Pat took a firmly cheerful view of the matter, and in returned to golf on his prosthetic leg.
"Every Saturday, at 5 p.m., every man in camp, whether sick or on duty, receives the following tea: -For the hospital wards -jelly, 2 slices cream sandwich, 1 rainbow,1 Swiss roll, 1 diamond sponge (special diet). Men in camp-Each 1 hot meat pie. 1 slice Vic. sandwich, 2 pasties, 2 buttered scones, 1 cake, tea, milk and sugar. The average strength of the camp is 150 men. Cost of tea, 6d per man.
Every house surrounding the camp has adopted a soldier for Saturday tea, and is guaranteeing it every week till the war ends. No less than the following permanent donations (150 in number, and sundries, bringing it up to 180 in three weeks) have been received, and anyone wishing to do likewise may leave donations either at the  Isolation Camp, in charge of guard at gate, or Mrs. McCreary, Puckle st.; Mrs. Guest, baker, Railway Crescent, Ascot Vale; or Mrs. W. T. Osborne. "Corneville." 19 Francis street. Ascot Vale.
PATRIOTIC (1917, May 10). The Essendon Gazette and Keilor, Bulla and  Broadmeadows Reporter (Moonee Ponds, Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 3 (Morning).
For further information about the work of the Cheer-up Brigade, and the women who worked with Mrs Osborne, go to The Empire Called website.