Thursday, May 31, 2012

A get-together with the boys

The Morgan brothers, from left Cecil, Leslie, Weldon and Ernest.
This family portrait shows Mr and Mrs W J Morgan of 11 Robb Street, Essendon, with their four sons who enlisted in the AIF.  The AWM catalogue dates the photo at circa June 1915, but there is a problem with that date.  Two of the brothers enlisted and departed in 1914, another in 1915, and the fourth in 1916.  In June 1915 at least one of the brothers was not yet in uniform.  It can't have been taken after the war, because one of the brothers, Weldon, did not return.  So when did the opportunity arise for this gathering?

Reports in Melbourne newspapers reveal that the Morgan parents had made a trip to England, returning in December 1917.

"Mr. W. J. Morgan, of Cadbury Bros. Limited, who is shortly leaving for London, was the guest of the Victorian Confectionary Importers' Association at a special meeting yesterday. On behalf of the members, Mr. A. D. Price presented Mr. Morgan with a letter, signed by all the members, expressing their appreciation of his services and their goodwill, also a smoker's outfit. Mr. Morgan has four sons fighting at the front, and he and Mrs. Morgan are leaving for London to be near them".  
The Argus 31 March 1917

"Mr. and Mrs. W J. Morgan, of 11 Robb street, Essendon, have recently returned from England, where they met their four sons, who are on active service. Since arriving in Australia they received advice that their youngest son, Ernest of the 7th Battalion, had been wounded on October 4th. He is improving. They have just learned that Private Leslie Morgan, of the 8th Battalion, is being returned, and will probably arrive by the end of the year. The other two brothers are with the forces in France".
The Essendon Gazette, 20 Dec 1917

Looking at the brothers' service records, there seems to have been a very brief window of opportunity for this reunion to have taken place, when all of the brothers were in England - between 30 June 1917 and 4 July 1917.  All of them were in the vicinity of London.  On 5 July  Weldon Morgan proceeded overseas to France, and was killed in action on 4 October 1917.  It was not until the end of December that the authorities advised his next of kin of his death, so that when the news item appeared, his parents had not yet been told that Weldon was killed on the same date as his brother Ernest was wounded.

While it seems incredible that civilians were making their way to the UK to pay visits to relatives in the face of hostile events at sea, it appears that they did.  They departed on passenger vessels whose departure dates were listed in the daily metropolitan newspapers.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Corporal George Nelson of Kensington

George Nelson, courtesy of Gayle Murray.
One of three brothers who enlisted, George was the only one to return to his home in Kensington. In this portrait he is seen wearing his Military Medal, Corporal's stripe and Mortar Battery badge.  Read Rod Martin's account of George Nelson and the 6th Light Trench Mortar Battery in action, and George's Military Medal won at Bullecourt in 1917.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Bandsman Vosti's Diaries, 1917-1920

John Vosti is the father of a large family living in Ascot Vale during the Great War.   In 1917 he is working at the Cordite Factory, Maribyrnong, and playing with the Essendon City Council Band.  His eldest son, Les, is in France with the AIF as a bandsman/stretcher-bearer.

John Vosti’s diaries, covering 1917 to 1920, give a detailed account of  the daily life of a working family caught up in the struggle of a nation at war. Anxiously awaiting news from their soldier son, they participate in pro-Conscription rallies and patriotic events.  At the war’s end the struggle continues with industrial disputes affecting their jobs, while the Spanish flu epidemic rages through the district.

These unique diaries offer a special insight into the life of an ordinary working family in a difficult period in Australia’s history.

You can get a copy here  or here.