This blog is a companion to the Database of Volunteers of Essendon and Flemington

Thursday, June 20, 2019

6 Machine Gun Company at rest

This photo turned up lately as an enquiry as to where it might have been taken.  "Belge" was taken to mean Belgium, but the word before it didn't compute.  Still doesn't, so any ideas welcome.

Notwithstanding that, because the photo had a date, and a name, it was possible to roughly work it out.  Archibald St George Tuohy was a local man who lived at "Ladyward", Glass St, Essendon.  (On the corner of Napier St.  This house features in the book Fine Homes of Essendon and Flemington, 1846-1860, published by the Essendon Historical Society.)

Tuohy had embarked on the Ulysses in May 1915 along with the O'Gorman brothers (John James and George Patrick) of Wangaratta and Joseph Lawrence Stapleton of Buangor, Victoria.   They were sent to Gallipoli, but after evacuation to Egypt, the four men were transferred to the 6 Machine Gun Company.  They had previously served as machine gunners with the 21 Infantry Battalion.   From Egypt they were sent to France.

Stapleton showed early promise and by the date of the photo was indeed a Sergeant.  Also not long before the date of the photo Archibald had won a Military Medal.  He is wearing the ribbon in this photo.

Having mistakenly thought that some of the men were still with the 21 Infantry Bn, not having examined the B2455 records closely, I looked at the 21 Infantry Bn Unit War Diary, which described the Bn as having detrained at Provan in Belgium not long before, and marched to St Lawrence Camp via Poperinghe.  It also commented that the day of 18 September was wet (the 6 MGC diary didn't mention the weather), which more or less rules out that day as the day the photo was taken, their boots being clean and shiny.

Looking also at the 6 MGC Unit War Diary it was apparent that the 6 MGC was travelling almost in tandem with the 21 Inf Bn, and they also detrained at Provan and headed for Erie Camp.   I  determined from Google Maps that it was an 18 minute walk from Provan to Poperinghe.

Not knowing anything much about army camps I did a google search on "St Lawrence Camp" and "Poperinghe", and came up with a very interesting WW1 map of Poperinghe surrounded by military camps - some very probably established by Canadian troops, as they boasted names like St Lawrence, Erie, Toronto, and Ottawa.

The troops at the Erie Camp were engaged in training and maintenance of their guns.  A few days after arrival half of the 6 MGC were sent into the lines, while the other half remained at training and gun maintenance.  The photograph was probably taken in this period.  A few days later they took their rotation into the line when the other half of the company returned to camp.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Isolation Camp, Ascot Vale

Guard, Isolation Camp, Ascot Vale, 29 September 1916.  Quite prepared to shoot any measles outbreak.  Courtesy of drakegoodman on Flickr.

Owing to outbreaks of serious disease in the various military camps, there was a clear need for isolation camps, or quarantine stations, where any troops who had been in contact with a sick man would be removed for observation.  There was an isolation camp operating at the Broadmeadows Camp as early as February 1915, possibly earlier, and as the numbers of men requiring isolation grew, another Isolation Camp at Ascot Racecourse in Ascot Vale was established in about August 1915.

Men would spend three weeks in the camp having daily throat swabs to look for any signs of disease.  Being isolated here might mean the men would miss the embarkation of their battalion and the men with whom they had trained for months.

Although unable to leave the camp, and outsiders unable to enter the camp, the men were provided with a weekly high tea by the ladies of the Cheer-up Brigades, delivered to the guard office at the front gate.  In the early days they may have been catered for by the Maribyrnong Cheer-up Brigade, but a new Ascot Vale Cheer-up Brigade was formed in September 1917 to cater for the men at the Isolation Camp and the camp in the Showgrounds nearby.

Local residents were none to pleased to have a camp with numbers of men whom they assumed to be sick dropped on their doorsteps, and the military was obliged to stiffen their upper lips and bend to the demands of the Essendon Council for the Health Officer to be allowed to inspect the camp.  The Health Officer, however, determined that the camp was in every way satisfactory and not a danger to the health of locals.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Godsons and Godmothers

From the Thuillier collection of glass plate negatives.  AWM P10550.128


What he terms "one of the few really beautiful, things to which this
war has given birth" is the subject of a descriptive article by M. Arno
Dosch-Fleurot, in the "New York Herald." In the course of it he.
says: —

It was discovered a year or so ago that many of the soldiers who had
been given permission to go home were in the unfortunate position of
having no homes. Many were from the invaded provinces, and leave of
absence simply added to their tortured thoughts. Others were from
the colonies. So, out of beginnings which, are rather obscure, has grown
up this national idea of godsons and godmothers. To go to a railroad
station to meet a strange hero from the front,- of whom one knows no-
thing except that he writes a nice letter - it is an adventure. It means,
also, that men and women meet on a basis of friendship which would
not ordinarily occur.

I know a woman who has ten godsons. It keeps her busy sending
them things to the front and entertaining them when they are on leave.
She is a very good-looking woman, too, with a husband to whom she is
devoted. I asked her if she were not afraid of some of these godsons
falling in love with her.

"I should be hurt," she replied, "if they did not all love me."
"But that is not what I mean," I said. "It is not always what they mean
either", she replied, "but I manage them."

Of course, the idea ha's been abused. The term has become elastic,
and the complete propriety of the arrangement has proved useful to co-
ver arrangements not always so proper. But such is the lack of prudery
in the French people, that it has made no difference to the real god-
mothers, who go about cheering up the lonely without any fear their ac-
tions will be misconstrued. As the idea has spread there has
arisen a problem of how to bring together would-be godmothers and
godsons. Mostly it is taken care of through improvised clubs organised
to give stray soldiers a feeling of home. Women desirous of being
godmothers contribute usually a dollar a month for each godson, and
write them letters and entertain them when on leave. Many who would
not be likely to go to such institutions receive godmothers through
friends or comrades in arms.

At the front the soldiers are always offering cigars "received from
my godmother," or are about to '' write to my godmother," so those
who have none become envious, and the idea has caught on. Many,
failing in other ways to find godmothers, advertise for them. Naturally,
these advertisements are not always serious, but a good many are.

GODSONS AND GODMOTHERS. (1917, March 30). The Romsey Examiner, p1

Monday, June 10, 2019

Cheer-up Brigade, Ascot Vale

Members of the Cheer up Brigade beside the Darge Studio building. The brigade was a patriotic group of women who visited AIF camps at Broadmeadows, Maribyrnong, Domain and Ascot Vale. They served afternoon tea to soldiers on Sundays, and had an autograph book of soldiers signatures.  c September 1917.  Darge Photographic Company. AWM  DAX1828

The notion of a Cheer-up Society began in South Australia in 1915 where it did a variety of work in fund-raising, providing lunches for returning soldiers and manning a booth near the train station in Adelaide. In Melbourne the idea of a Cheer-up Brigade was conceived as a children's movement, where groups of children undertook to entertain soldiers. This quickly became unwieldy and adults had to step in when the demand for teas went beyond what children and parents could supply in an ad hoc setting. Soon women were organising to provide regular high teas for soldiers in camps near them. Formal organisations started up around the camps at Royal Park and Broadmeadows, and soon the Maribyrnong camp also required some attention. The celebration of second year anniversaries in September 1917 shows that this form of patriotic work began operation in September 1915. It was not until September 1917 that a group was formed to provide services to the Showgrounds and Ascot Vale Isolation Camps. The formation of the Ascot Vale Branch was organised by the already active Royal Park and Maribyrnong Cheer-up Brigades, and it seems likely that those two groups had already been involved in providing teas for the soldiers in Ascot Vale. At this time Mrs W T Osborne stepped up to take on the leadership of the new branch.

Mary Isabel Osborne was the wife of William Thomas Osborne, a State School teacher. In 1905 Osborne had been teaching at Yea, but by 1909 the family had moved to the house in Francis St, Ascot Vale which became their home for the duration of the war. The Osborne's second son, H T (Pat) Osborne, enlisted in 1915. 'Mrs W T Osborne' was mentioned from time to time in the papers doing Red Cross work, but it may have been no co-incidence that she took on a heavier workload working with soldiers after the family learnt that Pat had received a shocking injury and had his leg amputated. He had been a keen sportsman before the war, and was a notable golf and tennis player, but Pat took a firmly cheerful view of the matter, and he returned to golf on his prosthetic leg.
"Every Saturday, at 5 p.m., every man in camp, whether sick or on duty, receives the following tea: -For the hospital wards -jelly, 2 slices cream sandwich, 1 rainbow,1 Swiss roll, 1 diamond sponge (special diet). Men in camp-Each 1 hot meat pie. 1 slice Vic. sandwich, 2 pasties, 2 buttered scones, 1 cake, tea, milk and sugar. The average strength of the camp is 150 men. Cost of tea, 6d per man.
Every house surrounding the camp has adopted a soldier for Saturday tea, and is guaranteeing it every week till the war ends. No less than the following permanent donations (150 in number, and sundries, bringing it up to 180 in three weeks) have been received, and anyone wishing to do likewise may leave donations either at the  Isolation Camp, in charge of guard at gate, or Mrs. McCreary, Puckle st.; Mrs. Guest, baker, Railway Crescent, Ascot Vale; or Mrs. W. T. Osborne. "Corneville." 19 Francis street. Ascot Vale.
PATRIOTIC (1917, May 10). The Essendon Gazette and Keilor, Bulla and  Broadmeadows Reporter (Moonee Ponds, Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 3 (Morning).
For further information about the work of the Cheer-up Brigade, and the women who worked with Mrs Osborne, go to The Empire Called website.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Voluntary war workers' record / compiled for the benefit of the Australian Comforts Fund, 1918

This drab little volume holds a wealth of information about the myriad of patriotic organisations in Victoria - what they did, and who their volunteer workers were.  It has been digitised by the National Library  There is no index or contents page.  I can't quite see a way of searching through it, but it is roughly organised into alphabetical order by organisation and then by town. Very roughly.  I think the only way of being sure you have covered everything is a page by page scroll through the volume.  It is only 192 pages, so not an impossibly difficult task.

The pre-eminent position is given to the Lady Mayoresses' Patriotic League, and its list of voluntary workers at the headquarters, and then follows an account of each branch, beginning with Bairnsdale and Ballarat, but followed by the Peter Pan Club and the Scots Church Sub-Branch.  Evidently they could choose their own name, but worked in concert with the main organisation.

Other organisations included are the YMCA Snap-shots from Home League, Red Cross VAD Committee, YMCA Club for Soldiers and Sailors, League of Soldiers' Friends, and individual efforts from various schools collecting to support many other patriotic efforts, for example Parkville High School:


Jenny Coates has helpfully pointed out the presence of a little magnifying glass on the left side of the frame where the document appears, and you can search for names or places there, which produces a little green pointer to indicate where the page is with the result.  Thanks, Jenny!

And further to the matter of searching the document, it can be downloaded as a pdf and searched that way.

"Take Care of Him"

Image courtesy of Thomas Cavanagh, Secretary, Stanthorpe RSL Sub Branch.

 The organisation was under the auspice of the Anglican Church, as the Bishop's mitre implies  The aims of the organisation can be seen here.