Friday, January 27, 2012

Christmas billies UPDATE

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

 A group of soldiers at Lemnos with their Christmas billies.  They are wearing the lids on their heads.
From the Australian War Memorial Collection.

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?"

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