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.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

A Teacher's Bequest

In a letter to his mother in 1917,  a young soldier and former State School teacher, James Stephen Hogan  explained carefully that in the event of his death, his younger sister Doreen could claim his vacant teaching position with the Education Department.  Marilyn Kenny traces the education and training of James Hogan - and what happened next.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Flying Officer William Edward Bruce Neilson

After last month's story about James Charles Outhred, who was a fellow member of No 3 Squadron,  AFC, Rod Martin tells the story of William Edward Bruce Neilson. While both Outhred and Neilson enlisted at much the same time, embarked on the Ulysses together, and were appointed Second Class Air Mechanics, their experience with their squadron was quite different, Outhred being channelled into Wireless training, and Neilson into mechanics, and later aerial gunnery.  By the end of the war he qualified as a pilot.     Rod Martin tells the story of Flying Officer WEB Neilson.