Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tom, George and Cedric.

 This is a post heavy on the family history so if that's not your thing you can just skip to the bottom, because it's detailed. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Great Great Uncle Tom
I don't have a photo of Tom Donaldson of Bundamba, but he's my great great uncle. He's Len's older half brother (but we don't say half in out family)from their Mum's 1st marriage.
Tom was a 5 foot 6 brown eyed wagon builder aged 27 when he joined the 5th Light Horse (2nd Reinforcements) of the AIF on the 14th of December in 1914. He arrived in Egypt in late March 1915. He was earning 6 shillings a day which I've learnt was 12 yes 12 times more than what an English soldier earned.
Tom landed in Gallipoli on the 7th of July 1915. 
He had 2 brief stints in hospitals on Lemnos and Heliopolis for influenza and pleurisy and left Gallipoli for good on the 15 October 1915. He was a little bit naughty and had his pay docked a few times for things like insolence and abusive language. By the time he was sent back to Australia he'd served in Egypt, Gallipoli, Sinai and Palestine. On the 23rd of February 1918 at Wadi Hanein he attempted to use a document purporting to be a genuine order to obtain 2 cases of black and white whiskey. 
I know. Naughty.
Tom was court martialed for this on 5 March 1918. He plead not guilty, but was found guilty. He got 90 days in prison. At this stage he'd been in active service witnessing God knows what for 4 years.
Who the hell wouldn't need 2 cases whiskey?
I tried to access his court martial transcript on line but it's not digitised dammit.
Tom was invalided out of the AIF and sent home in March 1919.
His condition was described as "Debility" which I think is probably post traumatic stress disorder.
Here's his mum Caroline and her 2nd husband (and Len's dad) Michael. Michael's the one who telegrammed the AIF after Len was wounded demanding to know if it was serious or otherwise. 
I don't know who the little boy is. But I'm guessing it's the baby of the family, my Uncle Maurie.
If it is, I knew him.
Great Great Uncle George 
Remember my great great Uncle George who served on the Western front for the 4th Pioneers? I found a photo of him in uniform on line. So young.
A reader sent me a link to Horn and Peterson jewellers where he and his brother Herbert worked when war broke out as a jeweller and watchmaker (thank you so much!) . This is the workroom in 1913:
There's a famous Horn and Peterson watch at the War Museum in Canberra which shows the moment a soldier from Townsville jumped out of his boat during the Gallipoli landing 
George was in the 4th Pioneers in France from February 1918 to March 1919 when he got really sick with influenza and was sent to England. He returned to Australia and married my Aunt. He was her 2nd husband and I have some of their wedding china. He never worked as a jeweller again. 
Everyone who knew him said he was kind and lovely.
I wouldn't have been able to piece all of this history together without an album my grandma made for my dad in 1987
And his baby book which she wrote in until he was 6 years old
Great Uncle Cedric
My Grandma had a younger brother named Cedric. I knew he died in 1943 in a plane crash aged 19. He was a leading air craft man on a training exercise when his plane crashed at Elliots Head near Bundaberg.
I found these photos of Cedric in his RAAF records. So young. So beautiful.
On his application form he included all his school marks (A+ for maths) and said he represented his school at athletics and rugby. 
My dad was born the following year and Grandma gave him Cedric's middle name
When my Dad turned 1, his grandfather gave him Cedric's watch.
It had his name engraved on the back.
Television's awash with Anzac docos, news stories and movies, at the moment which suits my mood. There was a really good one tonight with Sam Neil called Why Anzac.
I think about these men, who I never met all the time now. 
Sometimes, I even dream about them.
Take care.

Monday, April 20, 2015


I found a photo of my Great Great Uncle George's brother Herbert who died in the 1st world war in Belgium and have updated my last post to include it. You can see it here

Sunday, April 19, 2015

George and Herbert.

Apparently the National Archives website has been inundated by people like me who have known practically nothing up until now about their Anzac History.
I was researching my Great Great Uncle George's WW1 experience today. I accidentally clicked on the wrong records and discovered that he'd had an older brother, Herbert who'd also fought in WW1. 
I have no photos of Herbert (found one- it's at the end of the post)but I do have some of George in the mid 40s and 50s. He's the tall one. 
He was an all round good bloke.
George married my grandma's mother's sister and they raised my Grandma after her mother died.
Herbert and George were both born in Charters Towers but they were in Townsville when they signed up. Herbert had brown eyes and dark brown hair. Their Dad had died when they were about 7 and 8 and their Mum had died in 1915, so by the time they signed up they were orphans. Their next of kin was their big sister Isabel. 
Herbert was a watch maker and George was a jeweller and they both had been apprenticed at Horn and Peterson Jewellers in Townsville. There's a watch that bears the name Horn and Peterson that a fellow Anzac took with him to Gallipoli. It's the famous Anzac landing pocket watch and you can read about the watch here
Herbert joined the the 31st battalion and shipped out to France before George.
Herbert wrote 2 wills in France, the 1st on 11 April 1917, and the 2nd on 8 June 1917. He left everything to his older sister Isabel back in Townsville.
The war records don't tell you much.
He was wounded on the 9th of October in 1917 "on the field". I think it was in the Battle of Poelcappelle during the 3rd Battle of Ypres. The roll of honour has him as dying in a battle on 12 October 1917 but the records I have say he was definitely wounded on 9 October 1917 3 days earlier.
Here's the Battle Plan:
A war diary I read said that troops were famished and untended on the field. This is what it looked like-
And it was so cold on the morning of 9 October 1917- 15 degrees celsius.
My heart sank when I read that had a gunshot wound to the back that went through his abdomen.
I cannot imagine the horror of what he endured. The 3rd Australian Field Ambulance took him to the 3rd Canadian Casualty Clearing Station in Remy where he was 1 of 249 admissions.
I found the clearing station diary for the time he was there. 
It lists the number of men who died each day.
Herbert died on 12 October 1917, a million miles from home.
He was 20. 
He's buried at Lijseenthoek Military Cemetery in plot 21 row A. I found a photo of his headstone online and a map of where it is in the cemetary.
Isabel in Townsville was sent his possessions.
A disc, 3 coins, a mirror, 2 pocket books, a bible, a metal cigarette case, a silver wrist watch (damaged), letters, cards, photos. 
I know. 
Heartbreaking, I mean seriously, utterly heartbreaking.
The Townsville City Council named a street after Herbert's surname on 19 October 1919 according to the origin of street names for Townsville.
Here's his little brother, my Great Great Uncle George in the 1950s with my Dad and his brothers. 
Everyone loved him. They called him Unky.
Here's some rosemary for remembrance and olive leaves for peace. In a poppy vase.
Edited to add: I finally found photos of Herbert and George online, in uniform here
This is Herbert-

Friday, April 17, 2015

Uncle Len.

The 1st part of this post is going no no interest to anyone who isn't in my immediate family or my 1st cousin so if that's not you just skip to the bottom for my scarf, flower and current affairs round up.
Remember my great great Uncle Len who was an Anzac who fought on the western front during WW1?
This is him with my Dad in 1946
Well the National Archives sent me his war records. I don't know who decided to make these documents available but I am so grateful, because I've discovered so much. Thank you to the person who made this possible.
Len had beautiful writing. Look at his signature when he signed up in Toowoomba in 1916:
I already knew that he was wounded in the field on 4 October 1917
The records don't say where he was when he was wounded, but he was in the 42nd Battalion that trained at Enoggera. They fought in the Battle of Broomseinde in Flanders on the 4th of October 1917. This is what is looked like the next day looking across no man's land to the German trenches:
Can you believe it? It's a miracle that anyone survived.
The 3rd Australia field ambulance picked him up and took him to a casualty clearing station. Those stretcher bearers were so brave.
It was freezing cold on the morning of the 4th - 15 degrees celsius. I looked it up:
I found the attack planning map. I'm going to Broomseinde one day. It's near Ypres. My cousin C's coming with me, because Len was her Dad's godfather.
This is what the place looked like on the 5th of October 1917:
He was taken on the 6th of October to a British military base hospital in Camiers. It took me ages to figure out the writing. Look:
This is it:
And this is the spot where the hospital was in Camiers in 2007:
I read a nurse's diary about the Camiers hospital and it was pretty dire. They didn't have antibiotics and there was so much death. 
I blew this photo up of Len and His wife E in about 1946 about 30 years after his Anzac experience. You can't really see his face in the original photo either because it's over exposed and a really tiny photo, like passport size.  I'm guessing that he met his wife in England when he was convalescing. She was English and after the war moved to Australia and married him. I remember going to see her in a nursing home at New Farm in the early 80s with my Grandparents. 
His leg was amputated on 24th October 1917 in a hospital in Davenport in England. Seeing the telegram to his dad makes me so sad.  The war records don't contain medical records, but I think he probably had gangrene. Poor thing.
He had a wooden leg. My Dad says he kept a flask of whiskey in it but I have no way of knowing whether this was true or not. He could also still feel his toes on his amputated leg and sometimes they felt itchy, but he could of course never scratch them which drove him crazy. So. Sad.
I knew his younger brother, my Great Great Uncle Maurie who was a lovely, kind person and an all round Good Bloke. My Dad says Len (who everyone called Nin) was exactly the same. 
I wonder what he'd make of all my interest in this now? My next project is going to be to figure out where Len's brother in law, my great great Uncle George fought. Apparently he was a good bloke too. This is George with my dad and his brothers in the early 50s. I love those November lilies and annuals in the background. Clearly my Grandma's handiwork. 
It is astounding what these people lived through.
Anyway, here are some cushions:
And a cheesecake I baked for my Mum
Here's a scarf. It's a flots du cheval pattern. So relieved to have my collapsing neck hidden.
Here's a rabbit that my nephew sent my son:
And in super sad news, it's been all over the media today that William Tyrrel who disappeared in Kendall in NSW last year in September may have been abducted by a pedophile ring.
Sickening in the extreme.
Someone, somewhere knows where this little boy is.
Poor Little Angel.

Edited to add- because Uncle Len was clearly a deadset legend and all round good bloke, I've added him to my side bar, right up the top where he belongs. He is the blog's Official ANZAC.

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