Monday, September 14, 2020

2nd Aircraft Mechanic Harry Nelson and the widow's fight

Four Australian air mechanics enjoying lunch at Halefield, June 1918   (AWM P10218.009)

Harry Nelson, fruiterer and cyclist of McConnell St, Kensington, enlisted in October 1917, and embarked in May 1918.  In 1917, between his enlistment and embarkation, Harry married. Harry and his bride, Florence, evidently anticipated their vows, as their son was six weeks old when Harry left the country.

Arriving in England in mid-1918, Harry was a sitting duck for the influenza sweeping though military encampments.  Harry died of illness on 22 October 1918, barely three weeks before the Armistice.  

In his new story, Rod Nelson describes the difficulties Florence had getting souvenirs and assets to which she was entitled.  It is not certain if she ever did as Harry's family and lawyer set out to thwart her.  See the full story, so far as we know it, here.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

The Empire Called 10th Anniversary of Blogging

7th Infantry Battalion with Lieutenant Colonel Pompey Elliott in the centre of the front row, 1914, just prior to embarkation.

The date of the 10th Anniversary of the commencement of  The Empire Called and I Answered blog has come and gone earlier in the year, as my new Covid-normal is to forgetting things when every day is Groundhog Day, but it is still worth noting.  The blog was created as a companion to my webpage of the same name, which I launched later in 2010.  I use the blog to to draw attention to new additions to the website, to record new Sources for individuals who participated in the Great War (See the Tags on the right hand column), to note new books of local interest.  

The blog and website record the volunteers from Essendon, Moonee Ponds, Ascot Vale, Flemington, Kensington and Newmarket, with occasion others who had grown up in the local area and had their names recorded on local honour boards.  There are about 4500 names in the database, so worth a look if you had family in the area at the time of the Great War.  

In addition to a page for each individual, such as Private George Abbott, there are stories about the Home Front -  covering individuals, such as Mayor John Goldsworthy who created the Essendon Town Hall Honour Boards;  and organisations such as the Cheer-up Brigade.  There are links to pages where there are collections of photos from private albums, and pages where you can see what volunteers left from what street addresses.  There is a link to Acknowledgements for those people who have contributed photos, postcards, and documents, and in some cases stories.  Two people in particular have made significant contributions - Rod Martin and Marilyn Kenny - who have been great supporters of the project.   I thank them and all of the contributors.  Any further contributions of photos, postcards and documents (scans only of course) are very welcome.

I invite you all to have a good look around The Empire Called and I Answered, while I open a bottle of champage, which of course I will drink by myself while in lockdown.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Jim Raff, machine gunner of Kensington

Machine gunners in training at Seymour, 1916.  AWM P08299.002.
Albert James (Jim) Raff, a cabinetmaker or 79 Market St, Kensington, enlisted in the Australian Army on 18 July 1916.  Jim trained to be a machine gunner, and his crew became familiar with the Vickers medium mounted machine gun.  It was mounted on a tripod and weighed 40 kilos.  It was served by a crew of three. Because of its weight it could not be carried as part of an attacking formation.  These weapons were dug into a 'nest', and became prime targets for the enemy seeking to destroy them.  It was a very dangerous role.

Rod Martin explains the role of Jim's crew, the 10th Machine Gun Company, and later the 22nd MGC, in  battles in  France and Belgium.  You can read Jim's full story here


Tuesday, May 5, 2020

HMAT Boonah in Quarantine on Torrens Island, 1919

Quarantined on Torrens Island, near Adelaide, Sergeant Norman Gillies in the centre.
Following on from Marilyn Kenny's story last month about the Troopship-Boonah-and-the-1919-influenza-epidemic  we now have a cache of photos collected by Sergeant Norman Gillies of the Australian Flying Corps, who was on that voyage of the Boonah.  These photos, courtesy of Maurice Austin, show scenes of the troops on board the vessel in 1918, and later quarantined on Torrens Island in 1919.  Some individual portraits, not all identified, are included. Click here to see the entire set of photos

Thursday, April 30, 2020

The Call to Arms, 1916 digitised in full


I posted about this series of documents, B6525 in the National Archives of Australia back in 2014.  At the time, only some of the forms had been digitised.  Having another look at them today, I find the whole series digitised, as well as another series, B6526, which are the name index cards for Series B6525.   The cards are sorted alphabetically in four sections, according to whatever reason was, or was not given. Not too hard to match up with the folders in B6525.

Use the Advanced Search option and pop either number in the Series box.  In the results form, click on the number of records - ie, in B6525 you will see 29.  Click on that to get the full list.  B6526 shows 4 items.

James Boyne of 34 Eltham St, Flemington did not get away with a two line reason for not enlisting.   The Committee required a more detailed explanation.  His letter follows his form. 

Seeing that enlistment was still voluntary, these men could not be forced to enlist, but it all added to the pressure.

So if you are wondering why some people didn't enlist, the answer could be here.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Troopship Boonah and the Spanish flu

HMAT Boonah, courtesy of  Wikipedia article on the Boonah Crisis.
In 1919 a scandal erupted over the treatment of troops on the HMAT Boonah who had contracted the Spanish flu.  Sick soldiers were evacuated to Woodman Point Quarantine Station, Fremantle, but there was not even food for them, let alone medicine or adequate nursing and medical staff.  The Boonah contained men from several states. After leaving Fremantle a further group of soldiers were off-loaded at Adelaide to be taken to the Torrens Quarantine Station.  At Melbourne the rest of the troops disembarked, and in an eerie resemblance to the Ruby Princess, the troops travelling on to Sydney and Brisbane took the train, and no doubt spread the flu far and wide.    Marilyn Kenny tells the story of this  plague-ship in her article on The Empire Called.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

The Aftermath of Lone Pine - Private Leslie Oakley

Hospital Ship Neuralia 1915    (IWM ART 4405)
After the Battle at Lone Pine, Private Leslie Oakley of Kensington was put on board Hospital Ship Neuralia and taken to Malta.   Rod Martin examines Leslie's records, and relates the story of his war service and subsequent history after discharge. You can see the full story here.