Sunday, January 19, 2020

2 Air Mechanic James Charles Outhred, AFC

What do the Red Baron and an empty grave in Moe and Air Mechanic Outhred have in common with 3 Australian Flying Squadron?  Rod Martin tells you in his story of 2 Air Mechanic James Charles Outhred.   You can see his story here.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Neil Neilson answers the Call to Arms

State Library South Australia. 
On 15 December 1915 the Prime Minister of Australia, William Hughes, put out a Call to Arms to the young men of Australia to play their part in "this greatest war of all times".

Neil Neilson of 39 Mt Alexander Rd, Flemington, driver, answered that call.  He was a fairly slight figure, one of eleven children, but he responded to Hughes' appeal and enlisted on 4 January 1916, just a few weeks after the appeal was made.

Rod Martin tells the story of a fairly troublesome  young man who managed to overcome his difficulties with the army and became a reliable member of 15 Battery, 5 Field Artillery Brigade as Gunner Neil Robert Neilson.   Neilson died after a gas attack, on 8 June 1918.

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.