Thursday, September 29, 2016

Bert McDonald and a sprig of Wattle

A delightful cache of photos has come my way, courtesy of the kindness of the McDonald Family.  Pictured above is Bert McDonald, who enlisted in December 1917, but was discharged for medical reasons prior to embarkation.  Bert was a member of the Moonee Ponds Methodist Church, and photos of the groups associated with the Moonee Ponds Methodists, such as the Wattle Club and the Cricket Club, feature other young men who joined up.   Bert's particular friends were Alec Hosking, Arthur Hutchison and Bill Heathershaw    who appear in several of the photos.

If a relative is mentioned on the Honour Roll of the Church, he may be pictured in the McDonald photos.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Scotch College - The School at War

The State Library of Victoria now has a digitised copy of the Scotch College memorial booklet The School at War.  A feature of the booklet are the photos of the former Scotch pupils who died in the war.  Quite a few of the Essendon-Flemington boys went to Scotch, and the photos have been very useful on the Empire Called website.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Can a recruit change his eye colour?

22 Battalion, newly arrived from Egypt, going into line at the southern part of Lone Pine, 6 September 1915  AWM A00847
When Davey joined the 22 Inf Bn in 1915 his eyes were blue, but when he re-enlisted in 1917 after being sent home wounded, his eyes were brown.   One of life's little mysteries.    Rod Martin tells this and other stories about the life and death of Private Davey of Moonee Ponds.  Once wasn't enough for Alman Davey - he enlisted twice, but wasn't so lucky the second time.   Read his story here.

Friday, September 2, 2016

The Fair Dinkums, by Glenn McFarlane

In this recently published book, The Fair Dinkums, Glenn McFarlane examines a cohort of men from the 8th Reinforcements of the 7th Battalion, who embarked on the Anchises in August 1915.  They were called the Fair Dinkums because they knew about the disaster at Gallipoli, and enlisted anyway,  knowing the risks.  Among this group was McFarlane's great-uncle Alf Layfield.

Also among the group was a name well-known to the folk of Moonee Valley - the renowned William Scurry whose invention of the drip-system of firing a rifle to aid in the evacuation of Gallipoli won him the Distinguished Conduct Medal and promotion to Commissioned rank.

McFarlane draws heavily on the letters Scurry wrote home to his mother at 70 Middle St, Ascot Vale, and mentions other local men, both with the 8th Reinforcements and other units.  

The one big hole in McFarlane's work is the lack of an index, so I have indexed references to our local men, and have put the page numbers on their web-pages in The Empire Called website.

McFarlane follows the service and fate of the above men, and others from the 8th Reinforcements of the 7th Battalion, including those who were transferred to other Battalions. Endnotes provide sources, though there is no bibliography.  McFarlane has provided a number of previously unpublished photos and portraits of the men.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Private Langham and the South Australian Red Cross

Private Langham taken at Broadmeadows in 1915, from the Australian War Memorial Collection.

Having another look at the South Australian Red Cross Information Bureau files, I decided to do a search based on military units, so tried the 7th Infantry Battalion as a unit closely associated with the local area. Doing this I came upon a file mentioning Joseph Oswill Langham, a horse-trainer who gave his Next of Kin as his sister in Grafton New South Wales, and no particular address for himself.  However, his presence on the Essendon Town Hall Roll of Honour and various other local references made it clear that he was resident in the local area prior to the war.

Some small items of correspondence in the files for a Sergeant Pyke Evans of Adelaide gave some shape to Langham's pre-war activities.   He and Evans, a jockey,  had enlisted in the 7th Infantry Battalion together, having previously known each other at Scobie's Stables in Ascot Vale Rd, Flemington. They went into camp together at Seymour.  Evans had originally come from Adelaide, and Langham was attempting to discover Evans' mother's address as he wanted to write to her.  This caused a file to be raised in the South Australian branch of the Australian Red Cross.

We also learn from the letters that Langham was a 'cot case' on returning to Australia, that in June 1917 he was in the Caulfield Hospital, and that his mail address was care of G Jobson, Charles St, Ascot Vale.  George Jobson of Doncaster St, Ascot Vale was a horsetrainer.  No Jobson had a street address of Charles St in the Electoral Rolls during the war, but to throw another address into the confusion, a George Jobson was listed in the 1917 Sands & Mcdougall Directories in Morphett St, Ascot Vale and another at Charles St, Footscray.

Langham's informant of Evans' death was Mrs Power of 4 Newtown Pde, Moonee Ponds.  In the 1915 Electoral Roll Jeanie Power lived at 4 Newtown Parade.   The another resident at the address was Charles Power, jockey.

The Red Cross files from South Australia together with the Electoral Rolls, Victorian marriage index and the Sands & McDougall directories have enabled me to give a broader picture of Langham's life before and after the war, though there is no doubt plenty more to learn.

Another couple of men associate with the racing industry in Flemington also mentioned James Scobie in their records.  These can be found by clicking on the tags in Langham's pbworks file.

Friday, August 26, 2016

South Australian Red Cross Information Bureau, 1916-1919

 While browsing through the B2455 file of Harry Nightingale Kersey of Moonee Ponds, I noticed a note written at Broadmeadows to the effect that Kersey had married the day before, and another Attestation had been made up showing his new next of kin.  I noticed that the day of the marriage, 16 July 1915, was the day before Harry embarked on the Orsova with the AAMC Hospital Transport service on 17 July 1915.  

I idly wondered whether the last minute marriage had lasted the distance, and went to Ancestry for a quick result.  Of course there is never a quick result.  All of the available trees listed a different, presumably second wife, not the Eva Evelyn mentioned in the B2455.  I went to the online index of BDM for Victoria and found that Harry Nightingale Kersey had married Eva Evelyn Swindells in 1915.  By the same means I discovered Eva had died in 1931.   Turning to Trove with the intention of seeing whether there had been children of the marriage, I found that the death notices and 'In Memoriam's' indicated there had been no children.  But I did find that Harry had been a devoted husband.

KERSEY. — In loving memory of my dear wife,
Eva Evelyn, who passed away on 30th No
vember, 1931. Sadly missed.
— Inserted by her loving husband, H. N.

KERSEY.— In loving memory of my dear
auntle, who passed away on the 30th No
vember, 1931. Peacefully sleeping.
—Inserted by her loving niece, Florrie.

KERSEY. — Our loved and devoted friend,
Eva E., dear Auntie Birdie to Jean and
Gwenda, who passed away after long suf
fering on 30th November, 1931.
Sadly missed.
With love to-day and through the long to
We will remember you.
— Inserted by Mrs. Williams and family, 22
Orlando-street, Hampton.

Family Notices (1932, November 30). The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954), p. 1. Retrieved August 26, 2016, from

Harry put an In Memoriam in the paper in the next two years.  In 1936, five years after Eva's death,  he remarried.

Thinking I would like a photo of him, I did a general Google on his name, and to my surprise up popped the website at the top of this post, the South Australian Red Cross Information Bureau, 1916-1919.

This came up because Harry had made a witness statement about a South Australian comrade in the 5th Field Ambulance unit who had been killed by shellfire.   The witness statement was contained in the usual Australian Red Cross Wounded and Missing Enquiries Bureau Correspondence available through the Australian War Memorial website. The South Australian Information Bureau has a different set of documentation held at the State Library of South Australia, and the volunteers who prepared and digitised the records also indexed the other names, particularly witness statements.  Otherwise I would never have found Harry's witness statement.

So while the records pertain particularly to South Australian soldiers, there is the chance that a soldier from another state was a witness for an enquiry made on behalf of South Australians, and would be worth a look.   Witness statements are a useful eye-witness account of the conditions at the time, and may be the only contemporary information you will find.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Mont Park Military Hospital photo collection

Patients playing cards, 16th Australian General Hospital, Mont Park ca 1918 (Alice E. Broadhurst Collection, Yarra Plenty Regional Library)

The Yarra Plenty Regional Library has announced the acquisition of a unique set of photographs taken by Red Cross Nurse Alice Elizabeth Broadhurst from 1918 to 1920, probably while working with the Voluntary Aid Detachment at Mont Park Hospital, McLeod.

The photos have been digitised and can be accessed at Yarra Plenty Local History Flickr and via Trove Pictures.

The Yarra Plenty Local History Flickr also includes other albums with WW1 photos and postcards, and well worth a visit.