Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Soldier vows to change his name

John Mitchell Stuart, a well-known member of the Essendon Harriers, is pictured above in the centre row, second from the right, with the Victorian Amateur Athletics Association team selected to compete in Tasmania in 1909. Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria Collection, H31349.

"The secretary of the Melbourne club, A. M. Gordon, together with H. S. Stiles and J. M. Stuart, of the Essendon club, left for Egypt last week. The latter, before leaving, affirmed his intention of changing his name to Abercrombie or a'Beckett, the reason being that when about to leave with the rest of his company on a previous transport the alphabetical position of his name had, when the steamer proved to be overcrowded at the last moment, been the cause of him waving a farewell to the transport instead of from it. 

A valuable tropical outfit was contained in his luggage, well stowed away in the hold, and though ordinarily a pronounced optimist,   Stuart, when recounting the experience, most emphatically insisted on materially altering that favorite memoriam consolation of 'Not lost but gone before'."

ATHLETICISMS. (1916, January 5). Winner (Melbourne, Vic. : 1914 - 1917), p. 9. Retrieved September 14, 2014, from

The Melbourne sporting newspaper, The Winner, kept a close eye on Stuart and other harriers from suburban clubs throughout the war.  Stuart, from Moonee Ponds, served in the 31 Inf Bn.  Further stories are included on his webpage.

Friday, May 20, 2016

A Sapper at work

Sappers undertook a variety of military engineering duties such as bridge-building, laying or clearing minefields, demolitions, field defences and general construction, including roads.  The sappers provided much of the infrastructure necessary for the infantry to do its job effectively.  On the Western Front, sappers also dug many of the narrow trenches that pointed towards the enemy’s line (‘saps’).  This, of course, was very dangerous work.  In the above photo the sapper on the left was helping to load a howitzer.   Rod Martin tells the story of Sapper Ernie Nickelson of Ascot Vale, who died of wounds in 1917.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

British Red Cross Volunteers

Over 90,000 people volunteered for the British Red Cross in Britain and overseas during the war.   Search for your family’s personnel records, and discover what Red Cross volunteers were doing in your local area 100 years ago.

Red Cross volunteers did a wide range of jobs, from the Voluntary Aid Detachments, pictured above, to nursing,  cooking, cleaning, searchers trying to discover the fate of missing men and so on, so the database includes men as well as women.

I find that if you pop 'Australia' into the location search box, it will bring up volunteers who gave an Australian bank as their address, or sometimes Australia in their address.  You can try other local names.  For instance, I found the following British Red Cross volunteer by putting 'Moonee Ponds' in the location:

Mrs Ivy Wilson Jenkins, nee Graham, is in the database, giving 2 Normanby St, Moonee Ponds, Australia as her address.  Ivy served from 01/09/1916  to  01/06/1918 as a VAD, engaged in Ward work, medical Surgical work, for twenty pounds per annum. She served at the following locations: Exeter War Hospitals Sept 1- 1916 - Aug 30; 1917 1st Southern General Hs Nov.5.1917 - June 7. 1918 Birmingham.

There are no Jenkins' at the Normanby St address in the Empire Called database, but further research may reveal more about Ivy Jenkins at a later date.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

A Sportsmen's Thousand recruit

Artist Will Dyson: 22nd Battalion men awaiting relief, near
Ville sur Ancre, 1918. (AWM ART 19603)
Benjamin Phillip James, a 40 year old labourer, was inspired to enlist in the Sportsman's Thousand in July 1917.    Rod Martin has taken up his pen again to relate the story of Private James from Broadmeadows to France.  Read Private James' story here.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Irish Rising: 'A terrible beauty is born'

The State Library of Victoria has a free exhibition about the uprising which occurred in Dublin during Easter 1916.  See their website for associated events.

You can explore Stories from 1916   which is a Living History Project from Ireland.

Local boy Charlie Wright ended up in Dublin after being wounded in France in 1916, and wrote a postcard to his mother from the hospital.  He wasn't there during the uprising, but there must have been plenty of signs of it a few months afterwards.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Woman Haters' Club go to war

This photo shows members of the Women Haters' Club at their Dromana Camp.  The soldier in the centre is wearing sergeants' stripes on his sleeve.  The history of the club says that no camping was done on this campsite until the end of the war, so this may represent a Welcome Home by members.

The Honour Roll for the club had 32 names on it, reproduced in their history, Woman Haters' Club, Essendon - Dromana.  One Hundred Years, 1902-2002. 

Photos of members can be and the Roll of Honour can be seen on the Empire Called website, and also on the Time Travellers blog

Saturday, March 5, 2016

The Wilsons of Moonee Ponds

Emily, Daisy and John Wilson, Leighton Studios, circa 1917. Courtesy of Nereda Shute.
Private John Wilson and his wife Emily took their little daughter Daisy to the Leighton Photographic Studio in Margaret St, Moonee Ponds, opposite the Moonee Ponds station.  They had this keepsake photo taken prior to John embarking with the 10 Machine Gun Company in June 1917.  After a period of training in England, John was transferred to the 37 Infantry Battalion and embarked for France.