Sunday, May 2, 2021

Letters to Lily Vale

When War was declared in August 1914, Ern Latchford was working as an Instructional Officer at the 58B training depot in Ascot Vale.  Instructional Officers had been selected to train boys involved in  the compulsory Universal Training Scheme.  The local area - Essendon, Moonee Ponds, Ascot Vale, Flemington - was designated Area 58. On reaching 18 the boys would transfer to the militia 58 Infantry (Essendon Rifles).

Instructional Officers were too valuable to be allowed to enlist with the AIF - they were needed for training at home, and Ern was dispatched to train Light Horse recruits at Broadmeadows.  It was not until 1916 that he was permitted to enlist for overseas service, and embarked as a Lieutenant with the 38 Infantry Battalion.

Using Ern's own letters, as well as detailed research, Mark Latchford has recreated Ern's world, from his infancy, through work at Coles Book Arcade, his interest in military cadets, selection as an Instructional Officer, embarking with the 38th Battalion, being recuited by General John Monash to join a British force in Persia, taking on the training of the White Russian Army in Russia, his postwar Army career and involvement in the 2nd World War.  

There is also the romance with the love of his life, Linda Dehnert of Lily Vale,  Ballan, to whom he devotedly wrote every week until they finally married.  

Ern's letters recreate his war experience for Linda in an articulate and immediate fashion.  He told what it was like to be there - a most remarkable historical record of his time, which will reward the reader.

"Letters to Lily Vale”: The Life and Letters of Ernest William Latchford MC, MBE 1916 to 1919 France, Persia and Russia, by Mark Latchford, Openbook Howden, 2020: ISBN 9780648845621. 

Available from the History Victoria Bookshop.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Private Frank Archer, husband and father, died in April 1917

The twenty-six year-old blacksmith had a wife and two children to support and care for, and the initial rush to enlist after war broke out in 1914 suggested that there were plenty of eager and single young men to fill the ranks.  By 1916, however, things had changed.  News of the diasters at Gallipoli had led to a significant reduction in the numbers enlisting, and a commitment by the Huges Labor goverment to provide an extra 50,000 troops on top of those who had already enlisted led to a substantial propaganda campaign across the country. It may have finally persuaded Frank that he had to go and do his bit.

Rod Martin takes up the story of this young husband and father, and the anguish caused to his family due to a mistaken identification.  See the story here.  

Saturday, April 17, 2021

The sterling qualities of Staff Nurse Margaret Leonard


Nurse Leonard on her graduation. Table Talk 21 Oct 1909 p 21

Graduating at the end of 1909 from the Homoeopathic Hospital, St Kilda Road, Margaret nursed for six years before enlisting in the AANS in 1916.  After a 4 month training in military nursing, Margaret was appointed Staff Nurse and embarked for overseas.  She nursed in France and Italy in British military hospitals before returning home.  Her devotion to the members of the AIF saw her continuing on at the Caulfield Military Hospital for the rest of her working life.  Newspaper paragraphs about Margaret inevitably commented on her kindness and other sterling qualities.  You can read more about Margaret's training at the Homoeopathic Hospital and her nursing experiences in Europe on the Time Travellers website.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Gunner Nott, organist

Fred Nott, of Ascot Vale, was a well-known musician in Essendon and Melbourne before the war, and had left for England in January 1914 to further his studies in music at the Royal College of Music. When his studies came to a standstill in November 1914, he played in a few concerts and at churches in England, but returned to Australia in 1915. He took up his musical posts and teaching again, but in October 1916 he joined up, and went into camp with the Artillery in Maribyrnong. Fred was given leave while in camp to play the organ at St Peter's on Sundays, as the church hadn't been able to replace him. In the photo above he is in his uniform as a gunner. The army kept him in Australia for 12 months, playing in military bands, until he was finally able to embark. Marilyn Kenny has turned in another excellent piece of work in her research into the life and musical career of Frederick John Nott. If you would like to read more about Fred's part in the war, go to the Empire Called website.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Sapper Douglas Morpeth of Mar Lodge

A general search around the internet for photos of Douglas Morpeth turned up this interesting photo on the Great War Forum. The photo shows a group of men who embarked as reinforcements for a Field Artillery Battalion, recently arrived at Lark Hill for training. Morpeth, far right, didn't stay in Field Artillery, being transferred to the 3rd Division Signals Company. Here he distinguished himself under enemy action, and was awarded a Military Medal. Douglas's father was a noted Stock and Station Agent, and Douglas was moving along the same career path before the war. Douglas was included on an Honour Board featuring men in the stock industry. You can read a bit more about Douglas's Military Medal, and find a link to the Stock Agents' honour board on this webpage. On this page you will see two photographs, courtesy of the late Jim Frost, which had belonged to his father Eric who is also in the photo above with Douglas Morpeth.

Monday, November 30, 2020

Thunderboxes, troops, for the use of

If you ever wondered what sanitary arrangements were made for troops in the trenches at Gallipoli, wonder no more. Rod Martin has investigated this difficult question, and found that Kensington man, Ernest O'Leary, played a role in attempting to protect the troops from disease. Unfortunately, it was rather too little, and way too late. Follow the link to The Empire Called and I Answered, to read Ernest's story.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Mystery Man: Doctor J Hughston


The Essendon Gazette of 10 June 1915,  in its For King and Country column,  carried the photo of a young man in civilian dress with a subheading.  There was no article to explain the reference or nor does his name appear on the Roll Of Honour either then or in the succeeding three years of the War.  Who was this man and why did the Essendon Gazette think that this could be of interest to readers?

Never one to ignore a challenge, Marilyn Kenny set out to solve the mystery of this youthful doctor.  She details her findings in an article Mystery Man: Major Johnston Hughston RAMC.