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?"
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.