xenith: (Signal hut)
How the Good News came to Harefield


From the final issue of the Harefield Park Boomerang, a little newspaper produced for the patients of Harefield House Hospital under the editorship of Mrs Theodora Roscoe. Poems, photos (of home), funny stories and anecdotes, the usual stuff you find in newsletters produced for/by soldiers. Although this, also in the final issue, is a bit different:
Read more... )


Aug. 5th, 2014 07:58 pm
xenith: (Signal hut)
As you've probably seen elsewhere, the fourth of August 1914 was the start of World War I (which was the 5th of August in Australia, which is today) and, as you;ve probably also seen, I've been doing a lot of related work at the museum. All right, that's all I've been doing for months? Years? Something like that.

I started with the photos from the Weekly Courier, a local weekly publication with full page photographic inserts in the middle, and spent some time transcribing a diary and one afternoon looking at photos of dead bodies in trenches*, but mostly recently I've been looking at service records, and reading them. These build a different story of the war to the usual ones. This story is made up from medical records, lists of promotion and transfers, letters from next of kin, medical records, disciplinary matters and requests for replacement medals/discharge papers. It is accounts of men in and out of hospital, dying of wounds soon after returning home, or decades later. GSW & shell shock** & gassing. It is letters from family asking for news when they haven't heard anything in a long time, or wanting the address of the hospital to write to, or enquiring about personal effects for a dead son while dealing with a seriously injured son, or waiving the claim of a bastard son's rights to medals (as next of kin) in favour of the soldier's father (but don't address these letters to the mother, as she doesn't know about the child), or trying to find the location of a grave Of men declared missing during August 1916 but the family having to wait months for the official KIA verdict, along with accounts of witnesses who had last seen them (being blown up by a shell, laying the ground seriously injured). The dead left there to be buried by shells. An NCO buried by his men in the cemetery of a nearby village.

Those who never made it out of (training) camp because they lied about their age. One such young man, whose two brothers had enlisted earlier, came back for a second try when he was old enough and was finally get sent over overseas, only to run up a string of AWLs. Pages of them. Even when he was finally sent home, he jumped ship in the US. Or the forty-four year old whose wife wrote a very long letter saying how hard he was finding it, how he really wanted to enlist and do his bit, but he was finding it very hard and he'd be forty-six in a few months... Or a young man from Warsaw, Russia who was discharged for being an enemy agent. He was actually from Bohemia, but he really hated the Germans and wanted to fight them, his letter said.

Recommendation for awards for gallantry, with accompanying descriptions. A major whose knee was injured when a plane fell into his tent. A captain blown up by a shell and twice covered by dirt, who was suffering from concussion and gassing. A young Duntroon graduate with a bright future killed in the Gallipoli landing. The three brothers, of whom only one came home. The major who shot himself on the transport home.

This is not the story you get through TV and films. It's a story about people doing what they did and how it affected them, and it contrasts so differently with the ra-ra dramatics you get on the screen (and in books and magazines) that I'm not sure I can watch them any more. It's a little depressing, with occasional light moments, but mostly it's fascinating and deep and I wish it would go away and leave me along.

*This is not a good thing to do. Not at all. There are some fascinating WWI photos that are worth looking at. Maybe even spending a whole afternoon looking at, but not exclusively bodies in trenches.

**Which seems to have originally been used to describe the (not visible) injuries caused by a shell including hearing loss, but later developed the broader meaning, although I can't find a source to confirm this
xenith: (Eucalypt)

The War Memorial was constructed as a memorial to the Great War, a repository for records, relics and research materials. The original building was completed in 1941. You can probably guess the next bit.

What it is now, is a very large military museum

Read more... )
xenith: (Eucalypt)
This is a page from the second edition of Aussie: the Australian Soldiers Magazine: printed in the field by the AI.F. Printing Section, from February 1918. I shared some excerpts a few weeks ago, but kept a page for today.


When the Lord Mayor of Bristol gave his address to the men gathered at the Bristol Art Gallery, as guests of the city, to celebrate Gallipoli Day, he told a story concerning the Light Horse which, if authentic, opens up a nice theme for investigation. The story, which the Lord Mayer said had been communicated to him by one in constant touch with Australian soldiers, was briefly this that during the night following the day upon which the Light Horse made their never-to-be-forgotten charge at Lone Pine, their horses, which of course had been kept behind in Egypt, stampeded into the desert, and a big proportion of them lost.

Quite by accident I came across a book in which the incident is referred to in some detailed. The book is entitled The Coo-ee Contingent, by an unknown author, published by Messrs. Cassell & Co. This is how the writer records the weird matter:-

"The sergeant came in white-face. 'Sir,' he stammered, 'those--horses--well it's the horses of the chaps that are at Gallipoli; they're going mad.'

Read more... )
xenith: (Eucalypt)
How Wounded Soldiers are Transported in France

An up-to-date Ambulance Train used to convey Troops to Base Hospitals. The complete trains consists of 16 carriages, with a total length of 313 yards. The train is vestibuled throughout and fitted with electric light and fans. The exterior is painted khaki colour.


General view of train.

See more )
xenith: (Coloured scales)
I shall write a short (well) bit about my list of names before I start talking about some of the things found while looking for individuals. This could be interesting because brain is doing weird word substitutions like "out" instead of "about" and missing out works like "brain" so hopefully it will make sense :)

If you're looking for the WW I records for someone, you go the National Archives website, go to the records search page, select "Name search" and the first item under category is "Australian Defence Forces personnel records", then under that "Army personnel" and then World War I.

Then you'll get a list of results that give name, serial number (or rank), place of birth, place of enlistment and next of kin e.g.

Eeles Eustace : SERN 368 : POB Nile TAS : POE Claremont TAS : NOK F Eeles George

Or if you're not looking for a particular surname, you can search on series B2455 First Australian Imperial Force Personnel Dossiers, 1914-1920). Which is what I did, with "tas" in the keyword field so it bought up every entry with tas in the results (including any with that in the name, but they were all born or enlisted in the state anyway). Which gave me a very long list (3 Mb in size) but there are some problems. It doesn't include...

  • Anyone who was born elsewhere, grew up here and enlisted elsewhere. This is a small but not insignificant number.
  • If the attestation pages were lost the POB and POE are given as N/A so they are missed
  • Someone who enlisted as an officer with the different forms so the POB and POE are given as N/A
  • Any others who for some reason didn't have an entry for POB or POE (e.g. nurses don't always have all the details listed on the first page).
  • Those who joined overseas military forces

    It does include a small number who enlisted, commenced training but didn't get to serve. Of the two we looked at, one was medically discharged and one signed up in October 1918. I think this might include all those without a service number or rank, so about 200 of them.

    The bigger problem though... "First Australian Imperial Force" included army personnel, nurses, the flying corps but not the navy. On the pull down menu on the search page there is an entry for "Navy personnel" below the army, but it's not broken up into conflicts. This would because Series A6770 is "Service Cards for Petty Officers and Men, 1911-1970" ALL LUMPED IN TOGETHER. Except I realised later, they're not ALL together. These is also "A6769, Service Cards for Navy Officers, 1911-1970". I did a keyword search on both these series and ended up with 5000 names, and then pulled out all the ones born on or before 1905.

    1905 because that is the absolute earliest someone could be born and be too young to have served in WWI. Do you know the minimum age to enlist in the navy then? I don't, but I've come across a number of 14 year olds so I assume that is it. Although I have found one 13.5 year old but he was enrolling in the naval college and his brothers, father, uncles, grandfather etc were all military officers so there might have been some strings pulled.

    Then there is the problem of finding out if the individuals actually saw service in WW I. Those "Serve cards" are a single card, with mostly personal details on the front and service details on the back, But even if there is an entry for the relevant years, it doesn't always mean war service. It did occur to me that if they were issue medals (which is listed on the cards), then they qualify for inclusion. (And since then I have no seen any mentions of medals even amongst those know to have served.) The young officer create another problem. They enrolled at the naval college as cadet midshipmen, and were listed on the books of Cerberus, for about four years, when they were then rated as Midshipmen. But, it seems they were then sent off to the Royal Navy (UK) for more training and experience, and during that time they might have seen active service but it's not going to appear on their RAN record. Their was a lost interchanging between the Royal Navy & the Royal Australian navy and often the only indication is "RN" scrawled in a corner. One fellow I might mention later joined the army, fought at Gallipoli, ran off to Royal Navy for the rest of the way and afterwards was a lieutenant in the RAN for two years before becoming a light house keeper. People. Interesting.

    Also, as well as making the list as complete as possible, I'm making separate lists for those in the flying corps and nurses.

    The answer to all the above problems is to use other sources. The start of list of navy personnel comes from a book about the Sydney/Emden battle that listed all the Australian born crew, with where they were living when they signed up (which is really good because it gets around the born elsewhere/enlisted elsewhere problem). Any mention of an officer in a book or a photo in the Weekly Courier gets checked, and added. Ancestry gave up lists of men who enlisted in the Canadian & US armies (birthplace "Great Britain, Tasmania"), and some UK servicemen. We've searched the Commonwealth War Graves site, and the London Gazette archives. A memorial plaque at St Helens (see a photo of it here (click on the little camera icons)) gives a list of Tasmanian nurses, with about 20 names that weren't already on my list. They're what I'm checking at the moment, Some are errors/shouldn't be on the list. I've added a handful though. Then I'll go and look through the British nursing records, as I know there were Australian nurses who signed up there. There's also a list of people in the 1911 English census who were born in Tasmania but in the Royal Navy.

    The problem I have though, it takes time to check each source and we keep finding new ones. So my To Do List is getting longer and longer (and really not helped by losing a week to LOST FILES, THANK YOU COUNCIL IT PEOPLE). I'll have to call it Project Hydra, although I really want to call it Cerberus.
  • xenith: (Eucalypt)
    Next year the QV Museum is having a big World War I exhibit, and I was asked if I wanted to be part of the group involved in setting it up. I agreed, although not with much enthusiasm. I mean, if you made a list of topics that have been overdone, if not done to death, Word War I is definitely on that list. Maybe not at the top but definitely on the list.

    The problem though, if you get it in bits and pieces, a book mentions this bit, and a TV show mentions this bit, and a documentary covers this small bit in detail, but it's all patchwork. No big picture. No understanding of context to put the bits into. I hadn't realised the Gallipoli campaign was the first conflict Australian troops had been involved in until my sister asked me during the ANZAC Day ceremony this year.


    I'm not sure what triggered the question, as at the time I was busy trying to work out the best way to take photos of the trees along the outlet.

    (Not the first conflict that Australia had been involved in. That was the sinking of the German Cruiser Emden by HMAS Sydney, part of the shiny new Australian navy fleet (their centenary is this year) in November 1914.)

    My first task was to look through the Weekly Courier photos, for images that would fit the theme of the exhibition (focusing on the home front). The Weekly Courier was published by the Examiner peoples, and each issue has a pictorial insert of a handful of pages. Mostly photos of people and scenery, but also images relating to current events. Also some rather interesting photos that aren't necessarily war related.

    Cut for images )
    xenith: (Eucalypt)

    I have a copy of the second issue of Aussie: the Australian Soldiers Magazine but it's a badly (hurriedly) done copy so if I want to share anything, I'd have to type it up and the interesting bits are long. However I did type up a couple of smaller things including the editorial (below) and I've also thrown in some other bits that are (hopefully) readable. Enjoy :)


    Read more... )

    Two photos

    May. 28th, 2013 11:32 am
    xenith: (Eucalypt)
    I'm been trolling through the Weekly Courier for photos from World War I, looking for those that "tell a story". I've gone through two years now (1915 & 1919) and so far, this is one of the best.



    Arrival of the first Tasmanian wounded from the battle front in Gallipoli, and of invalided soldiers from Egypt, at Launceston, on July 20. A section of the crowd awaiting the arrival of the steamer Loongana, Launceston Wharf

    I started in 1919 intending to work back, but there amongst the pages and pages of peace celebrations and fund raising, the Courier reprinted some photos from earlier years, so I went back to find the originals of those.

    1915 has photos showing lines of young men in uniforms, from the training camps, head shots (provided by families), photos of Egypt and other exotic places, and people raising money for the Belgian Fund. Around the middle of the month there are photos of returning soldiers, and soldiers in hospital (all happily smiling for the camera, of course, reinforcements are needed) and pages of head shots & family portraits of those who won't return.

    One more, cut for size )
    xenith: (Eucalypt)
    Last one. From The War Illustrated, 4 September 1915

    Intimate Scenes in the Gibraltar of the Levant

    New Zealands's new colony. This snapshot show a town of dug-outs on the Gallipoli. Hidden under the cliff, Turkish shells
    are only able to reach this mark by accident. Here part of the New Zealand Contingent is domiciled in the cause of the Empire.

    Read more... )
    xenith: (Eucalypt)
    From The War Illustrated, 4 September 1915.

    Our Camera Correspondent at the Dardanelles:

    Cut for photo size )
    xenith: (Eucalypt)
    From The War Illustrated, 4 September 1915:


    These fantastic figures, somewhat reminiscent of Dore's "Inferno" demons, are French soldiers wearing
    anti-poison gas masks and respirators while expecting an attack under cover of a gas cloud.

    Read more... )
    xenith: (Eucalypt)
    Have some pictures from "The War Illustrated" to post this week, because you are not getting enough war stuff I know. It's a magazine of pictures that was published regularly during both world wars and Wikipedia describes it quite well.

    This issue is 4 Septeber 1915. The front cover has a full page image captioned "'Bravo, Lloyd George !' British Soldiers cheering the splendid work of the new shells. The back is a full page ad, I mean editorial, showing "back numbers of 'The War Illustrated' converted into handsome volumes" and an opening paragraph that goes....

    I have just had a striking example of what maybe be called the personal interest of "The War Illustrated". I received a letter, in which the writer, a lady, says: "You will be interested to know that the other day my children were looking over a bounded volume of 'The War Illustrated', lent to them by a friend, when suddenly one of them said 'There's father !' I looked also, and sure enough, in a photograph of a small column of troops marching somewhere in France, was husband was to be seen as plain as could be. I am now taking in 'The War Illustrated' every week. Perhaps we may see my husband again in its pages, and anyway, it will be a splendid storehouse of war pictures for him when he returns to fight his battles over again in the peace of his own home."

    "German 'Flammenwerfer' (flame-projector) in action. The diabolical invention that
    caused a temporary British set-back at Hooge by spraying liquid fire over our trenches."

    xenith: (Eucalypt)

    German tank:

    1. The points most vulnerable to Rifle and Machine Gun bullets are:
    Flaps in the conning tower
    Gun shield
    Machine gun apertures
    Undercarriage, when exposed during the crossing of an obstacle

    2. A direct hit by artillery will put the tank out of action

    3. A trench 8 feet wide or a large shell hole will arrest the tank's progress

    (Printed in France by Army Printing and Stationery Services)



    The German tank "Elfriede," the first to be captured, can be described as an armoured "caterpillar," carrying a 6-pdr. fun and 6 machine guns. It can travel across ordinary country (cornfields, roots, etc.) as fast as a trotting horse, but can neither cross an 8-foot-trench nor climb a 4-foot bank.

    Description of Elfriede )

    These two documents were in a notebook of lecture notes from World War. There's a copy of the second document at here that has an extra part on the bottom

    1st June, 1918

    It has also has extra "vulnerable points listed".

    xenith: (Eucalypt)
    Considering the World War I theme...


    See more )
    xenith: (Eucalypt)
    The Soldier's Own Diary was a pocket diary, with two pages for every week. The front pages contained useful information for soldiers. (There's an example of 1918 edition here) The diary part had a useful tips and interest trivia at the bottom of pair of pages. I've pinched some of these from a 1917 diary, and included them below:

    When there is no scout handy to attend to his horse a solider makes use of clever, though a simple device. The reins are brought over the horse's head and pushed under the saddle girth, and then drawn out again. The "ribbons" are then taken back and passed through in the form shown in sketch. The result of this knot is that when the horse tried to move his head forward the reins hold him in, as though someone was holding him and he stands still.

    Read more... )
    xenith: (Default)
    An ANZAC Day gift:

    Australia in France, Part One from the Australian War Memorial's collection.

    One of the Australian War Memorial’s most important films – the most accurate filmed record of the Battle of Pozières in 1916.

    I think the original link that took me here said it was the first Australian war documentary. The web site provides three extracts (about 10 minutes out of a total of 51 minutes). Interesting stuff, and worth taking the ten minutes to look at, especially the last one, but I'd recommend reading the curator's notes.

    And a related article on the ASO site AWM Western Front about the significance of First World War films.

    All of the men you see here are now dead. Some of them would have died within days of being photographed in the field. In a few cases, the camera shows us men so badly wounded that they are dying before our eyes. Australia has hundreds of memorials to the Anzacs, in parks and Avenues of Remembrance across the country, but these films are also a kind of memorial, and a brutally honest one. They show us glimpses of what the soldiers went through, before the battlefield clean-up and before the mythologising of "sacrifice" that inevitably followed.

    and the background/problems involved in creating them, with an emphasis on Charles Bean, "the official war correspondent and later the official Australian historian of this war", and producer of the film above.

    Bean was with the Australian forces when they landed at Gallipoli in 1915, and still on duty when they celebrated the signing of an Armistice on 9 November 1918. He was too shy and patrician to feel comfortable in their society, but he idolised the "true" Australian character he saw in them-–the unruly spirit of resilience, self-reliance and confidence that made them hard to discipline, but easy to inspire. He was sure there were no better soldiers than the Australians when properly led. Like many of his countrymen, he believed they were generally far superior to English conscripted units, because they had chosen to be there.
    xenith: (Default)

    Boutique au coin des Halles avant et pendant la guerre.
    Shop at the corner of the Halles, before and during the war.

    Photos here )


    xenith: (Default)

    Most Popular Tags


    RSS Atom

    Expand Cut Tags

    No cut tags