Alexandra Club Christmas billy, possibly at Gallipoli. The
Alexandra Club had a program to provide billies to
interested citizens to fill with gifts for soldiers at Gallipoli.
According to an article in The Argus newspaper on 22 September 1915, 20
000 billies had been distributed up to that date.Australian War Memorial Collection
The Essendon Gazette published letters of thanks soldiers sent to local people:
"Mrs. Tankard, 44 The Parade, Ascot Vale, received the following:-- A
note to thank you for the billy can and the many useful things which it
contained. I am afraid your billy can should have gone to someone else,
because on your postcard you, wrote "Dear Hero." I don't think I am
quite a hero yet. It is not three months since I left Australia, and I
have never been to Gallipoli, or fought for my country elsewhere. I am
simply a common private who is waiting his turn. However, I think there
was no short age of billy cans. So as the real hero did not go without,
perhaps I have not done much harm. I was surprised to find that so many
useful things could be put into one small billy. I tried to put them
all in again after I had emptied them out. I found I hadn't enough billy
cans. One thing that I found in my can will be a source of pleasure to
me these evenings. That is the insect powder. I did not forget to give
my tame fleas a merry Xmas, I can assure you. PRIVATE H. O GREGORY."
CHRISTMAS BILLIES. (1916, March 16). The Essendon Gazette and Keilor, Bulla and Broadmeadows Reporter (Moonee
Ponds, Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 4
UPDATE: Pte Leslie Morgan of Essendon listed the items in his Christmas billy in a letter to his parents:
"There I got a billy, packed and
sent by Mrs. Weir, of Deniliquin, N.S.W. It contained - Cake of
nut milk chocolate, butter scotch, lead pencil, pad and
envelopes, mouth organ, safety pins, pair socks, wash towel,
bootlaces, tin sardines, cherrywood pipe, tin tobacco,
handkerchief, tube of soup tablets. Not bad, was it?"
This Ottoman War medal was awarded for bravery or merit in action from 1915. Ern Warry brought this home from Egypt. They were often taken from Turkish prisoners or dead bodies for souvenirs. It is not known how Ern came by this souvenir. Courtesy of Jenny Coates.
Stretcher bearers placing a patient on a stretcher near Ypres, 1918. AWM Collection
"Mr. J. Markham, Bacchus Marsh, has just been informed that his brother,
Andrew, who was previously reported missing, and later on a Prisoner of
War, was killed in Action on 11th April last. The detail supplied by
the Red Cross Bureau show that the lost soldier was wounded, and rescued
by his own brother (Corporal. Steven A. Markham, who was a stretcher
bearer) and placed in safety in a dug-out, which was afterwards retaken
by the Germans, and it is here that the confusion arose about him being a
Prisoner of War. Corporal S. A. Markham (the stretcher bearer
previously referred to) won the Military Medal at Gallipoli, and the
Distinguished Conduct Medal at Bullecourt, for his exceptional bravery
in recovering wounded men; but his brilliant career was brought to an
end at the battle of Messines. Letters recently received from his
superior officers speak in the very highest terms of praise of his
conduct and general regret at his death. Two other brothers of this
family are still in the ranks".
THE EMPIRE'S CALL. (1917, December 1). The Bacchus Marsh Express (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 3. Retrieved January 10, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article74227187
Details of the three Markham brothers who served in the AIF can be found here.
THE LIGHTER SIDE. How the "Anzacs" Saw It. BY A WOUNDED "RETURNED."
Late, in August a fresh draft of troops left camp at Heliopolis en route for the front.
As they passed the Luna Park hospital they greeted their wounded
comrades with rounds of cheers. One man swathed in bandages leaned from a
window and called out, "Are you mugs off at last?" The reply went
back, "Yes, we are going to dish the Turks who gave yon blokes a
hiding." "Are you downhearted?" yelled the man from the window. The
warriors to be were taken in completely. "No," they cried in chorus. The
bandaged man grinned with triumph.At the top of his voice he shouted, "Well, you soon will be." Anzac humour is ironic and poignant, but purely Australian.
It was men from that same brigade who had good reason to be downhearted
a few days later. They were aboard the torpedoed transport Southland.
This is how they showed it. When the rescuing ships arrived they found
men facing death to the strains of "Tipperary" and ''Australia will be
There." One boat party at least was thinking of home. The cries from
old Broadmeadows were not forgotten. They were shouting "Cab, cab,
right into Brunswick, right into Brunswick," and " 'ot pie or a pastie."
Having transhipped to a light, fast vessel the men of one unit left
Mudros a few evenings later for the front. A submarine guard was posted
around the vessel to the extreme disgust of the unfortunate few. One
man took mild vengeance. Waiting until a certain nervous subaltern was
behind him he raised his rifle and took meticulous aim apparently at
some object in the water. The officer became excited, and anxiously
asked the man what he was aiming at. The reproachful look he gave the
man when he learned that it was only a piece of seaweed spoke volumes.
The battalion landed that night, and the next day saw a fatigue party
going to the beach for stores. An observer on Gaba Tepe saw them, and
Beachy Bill opened out with shrapnel. This was their first taste of
shell fire. The strategic retreat back to the shelter of a communication
trench was one of the quickest movements seen on the peninsula. One
man who was noted for his "good oil" about racehorses shook his head
sorrowfully at the sky where the shells were bursting! "This is no place
for a parson's son," he declared solemnly. "They'll miss me in the
old home," he ruminated a little later. They'll see me name on the roll
of honour, and be sorry they ever cut me off."
It was a hot, broiling day when the battalion wound its way wearily up
Bridges road, to the head of the gully, each man was in full marching
order - 200 rounds of ammunition, four days' rations, and firewood. How
each man longed for the time when he could strip himself of impeding
habiliments and stand half naked in the sun like the grinning veterans
from the landing standing by. A well-preserved new arrival raised the
first laugh. "How far to the next pub?" he asked plaintively as the
perspiration rolled down his face. A brown, bearded boy answered him,
"Yer'll get a ration of rum before yer go out on a charge, cobber."
It was General McCay who said that the keenest soldier possible was the
Australia during his first week at Anzac. He will watch like a hawk,
and snipe continuously. All fatigue work is done by eager volunteers.
Then he becomes at home in the trenches, and is a little wily. Men need
to be detailed. One night a new arrival was observing from his post
when he heard a rattling among the empty bully beef tins just in front
of the sandbags. Crack, bang, crack went his rifle as he emptied his
magazine into the spot, and the tins strewn in front rattled like
castanets. Then there was silence. "Yell out Allah, yer cow," he cried
as he let loose another fusillade.Patrolling
officers rushed to the spot, and being unable to see anything warned
the man against hallucinations. A careful scrutiny next morning,
however, revealed the body of the midnight marauder. There was a
mutilated rat 6ft. in front of the parapet.
The schemes to lighten work were many. Carrying ammunition up to the
firing line was a job which would make, a coal lumper grunt. There were
thousands of rounds of captured Turkish ammunition, and several
Turkish rifles about the trenches. These were quickly commandeered, and
made to serve a double purpose. They saved the olders the need of
going down the gully for cartridges, and enabled them to keep their own
rifles clean. Owing to the broken hours of duty sleep was naturally
not hard to woo. During the bombardments men hiding in dug-outs and
saps waited anxiously to see the destructive effect of the shells on
the trenches. It was they who had to do the rebuilding. While a heavy
bombardment was on one day a shell was heard to burst with a roar in the
trenches. Sitting at the mouth of a sap one man was heard to say
sorrowfully to himself, "There goes my bit of shut-eye."
THE LIGHTER SIDE. (1916, January 19). The Argus(Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 7.
I have created a number of local history projects for which you will find links on this blog. I am a community historian (ie, not paid) living in Essendon. The content of my Empire Called database (see the link to the PBWorks website) is the result of nearly 25 years' research. I began collecting material for the database of local WW1 volunteers in the early 1990s, beginning with hand transcriptions of Honour Boards in local schools, churches, clubs and so on. It was after this that the National Archives of Australia began making digitised service records available online, followed by the Australian War Memorial uploading Embarkation Rolls of the Australian Imperial Force. The Empire Called blog is a companion for the PBWorks website of the same name.
Time Travellers in Essendon and Flemington is set up in the same way, with a website and a blog to report additions to the website. The website is a vehicle to publish longer pieces of research that are too long for newsletters. It also includes various indexes I have worked on for many years, plus photos from various sources which I date and describe in greater detail. You may find something of use for your research.