A family ANZAC: Pte Hugh Moran Part II

After Pte Hugh Moran enlisted in 1940 he was sent first to Darwin then north Africa where he was captured and taken as a Prisoner of War to Italy from 1941 to 1943. You can read about his experience in Part I.

Stalag VIIIB P10003.002

Some of the AIF POWs at Stalag VIIIB/344. http://www.awm.gov.au/collections/P100003.02

As the Italians signed the Armistice of Cassibile in September 1943, the Germans took over the prisoners of war and promptly relocated them north. There is a website, drawn on the NZ Official History of WWII, which reveals the reality of this transfer and what it means to POWs like Hugh[i]:

From those camps that were taken over by German troops in September 1943, all except the few who succeeded in hiding were marched to the nearest railway station. The Germans took what precautions they could to prevent escapes-a strong guard along the route, threats before setting out of the dire consequences that would follow any attempted breaks, even a demonstration with a flame-thrower at Campo PG 57.

Most of the trains went north via Verona, through the Brenner Pass to Innsbruck, though a few took the more easterly Tarvisio Pass to Villach…They were almost entirely made up of cattle-trucks and closed goods-wagons with a very few third-class carriages… Into these trucks the prisoners were packed, as many as fifty in each…The sliding doors were closed and bolted, and prisoners were left for the journey with at most two small openings in the sides of the truck for air and light, no provision for latrines, and only such food and water as they had been able to carry with them….There were occasional halts on the journey north, often not long enough for every truckload to be allowed out. On the longer journeys there were considerable halts at stations and sometimes meals from the German Red Cross.[ii]

POW route Moran

An as-the-crow-flies map of Hugh’s “travels” starting from near Derna where he was captured.

Those from Campo 57 were the first large party from Italy to reach Stalag XVIIIC at Markt Pongau in Austria, a transit camp …roughly 25 miles south of Salzburg, the camp was very dirty and the barracks infested with vermin… For the first time they tasted the typical German stalag fare – vegetable soup and ‘black’ bread, boiled potatoes and mint tea. After a fortnight or so most went north to Stalag VIIIA at Görlitz in Saxony.

Hugh was among those transferred to Stalag VIIIA on 24 September 1943 thence to Stalag VIIIB on 2 November 1943 and in June 1944 to Stalag 344 (my understanding is the latter two were essentially the same).  These prisons were in Lamsdorf in then-Upper Silesia, and now called Łambinowice in Poland.[iii]

This huge camp (VIIIB/Lamsdorf) which had started to show improvement since the appointment of a new German commandant, now became still larger through the sudden influx from Italy and numbered well over 30,000, 10,000 of them in the stalag itself … Those who had come from Italy, more especially those from Campo PG 57, wondered at the comparative lack of discipline in this camp and at the activities that could go on inside it unknown to the enemy… Sooner or later the newcomers, who had all been graded by German doctors according to the type of labour they were medically fit for left for coal mines or other places of work in Silesia.MORAN Hugh pic c1943

It is Hugh’s German Prisoner of War record, included with his AIF personnel file, that reveals more details about his experience. He has plainly completed the basic details, as the rest is written in German. The photograph included shows the impact of the preceding years as he is plainly gaunt and has acquired the typical McSherry baldness (inherited through his mother). It also tells us he blond (really?) and 177cms tall (70 inches), approximately the same height as me – which makes him short for a male with McSherry genes.

MORAN Hugh work record Stalag 344

This extract from Hugh’s German record seems to document his work allocation.

Brit POW Stalag 344 mid_000000

http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205184697. German photograph of British POWs working in a quarry at Lambard. Free of copyright.

However, in his debriefing on return to the United Kingdom in 1944, Hugh describes the Stalag/prison rations, accommodation, bathing and hygiene as “bad” and the recreational facilities as “poor”.  While he had not been required to work while in Italy at Campo 57, Hugh states that in Germany he did hard manual labour, pick and shovel work, for 12-14 hours a day. All of which no doubt contributed to his gaunt frame in the photograph taken in Germany, or exacerbated it.

His troubles were far from over, however. As the war ground towards its conclusion, and the arrival of Russian troops became imminent, the German forces made the decision to move their prisoners west. And so started what was to become known as the Long March[iv], The Black March, The Bread March or the Lamsdorf Death March but most survivors just called it “The March”.  In the depths of winter under freezing conditions, with minimal food, the men walked hundreds of kilometres, between January and March 1945[v] with the Lamsdorf men heading north via Dresden. (You can see a map here of POW movements). It was an exhausting, hazardous and debilitating experience for the men, drawing on reserves of strength both physical and mental.

Lamsdorf death march 2 P10548.009

A photograph taken during the Lamsdorf Death March gives a glimpse of the conditions the men had to march. https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/P10548.009

With the surrender of Germany, on 4 May 1945 RAF Bomber Command implemented Operation Exodus, and the first prisoners of war were repatriated by air in aircraft. Bomber Command flew 2,900 sorties over the next 23 days, carrying 72,500 prisoners of war.[vi]

Moran recovery to UK

Extract from Hugh Moran’s service record. NAA series B883, QX7775

Private Hugh Augustine Moran was one of the prisoners recovered by Bomber Command, and for me it’s interesting to ponder whether a friend of ours, Don Curnow, was part of this relief effort. Hugh’s personnel file records that on 19 May 1945, he was deplaned UK as recovered PW (Prisoner of War) M/I and taken on holding strength at 1AIF Transit Camp. This is presumably where his debriefing took place. In this statement, he records that he had been captured on 7 April 1941, with a portion of HQ and including Lt Col Marlan and Major Barton as well as Private L Milne (2/15Bn).

MORAN POW sment

Extract from Pte Moran’s service record at naa.gov.au

Officers missing 15th Bn

Hugh’s report aligns with the official war diary for the 15th Battalion February-April 1941, AWM52 8/3/15/12

After capture, Hugh had been held at Campo 57 from 15 May 1941 to 15 September 1943 then Stalag VIIIA from September to November 1943 before transfer to Stalag VIIIB/344 from May to November 1944. There are a number of photos of the camp on the Imperial War Museum site, but many are copyrighted. While in Germany he was given “reasonable” treatment for stomach pains and bronchitis. He states he had not received Red Cross parcels or mail during his time there.  Had his parcels or mail been blocked or did his family not know where he was?

MORAN POW camps

Extracted from Pte Moran’s Repatriation statement.

On 7 June 1945, Hugh once again had a stint AWOL…for a whole three hours. Who could blame him after being confined for four years? Apparently the Army didn’t feel the same as he was docked a total of 12 days pay…I suppose they didn’t want these men to get delusions of independence, or insubordination. It’s ironic that he told the Germans his former occupation was “timekeeper” which is pretty odd for someone who seemed to miss returning to barracks by mere hours on most occasions.

On 19 June Hugh was repatriated to Australia on the ship “J12” and on 24 August, he was taken on strength in Queensland. Apparently while in Sydney he was taken to the Camp Hospital with scabies. I imagine it was quite some time before his health returned to normal, if ever. He was discharged from the Army on 13 September 1945, leaving him to continue life as a civilian. I can’t help wondering if he wished he’d joined the railway, a reserved occupation, and one held by most of the McSherry men over some generations.

Moran retd fm active service

Hugh died on 8 February 1995, when he was 88 years old, which is amazing considering what he’d gone through. He is buried in the Martyn St Cemetery in Cairns.

It was a revelation to me to unearth this story of my first cousin once removed, Hugh Augustine McSherry[vii]. I hope this post serves as a memorial to his contribution to Australia’s military history.

LEST WE FORGET

Thanks to my cousin Bev for sending this photo of Hughie in later life at his cousin’s birthday. Isn’t it lovely to see him looking happy and healthy? If I’m not mistaken, he’s wearing his RSL pin.  Thanks Bev.

PhyllisRoy and HughMoran1988 IMG

Previous Anzac Day posts are:

2016 and 2012: Villers-Brettoneux and James Paterson

2015: A Gallipoli Everyman: Victor Joseph Sanders

2014: Postcards to the Front 1917

2013: Valiant Indigenous Anzacs

2011: Honouring the Australian-born Diggers with German ancestry

Wealth for Toil on the Railway includes the story of my grandfather’s war service.

[i] http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-GreLong-t1-body-d8.html extract from the NZ Official History

[ii] Ibid

[iii] http://www.lamsdorf.com/history.html

[iv] http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-GreLong-t1-body-d9.html

[v] http://www.lamsdorf.com/the-long-march.html. DO READ THIS IF POSSIBLE.

[vi] ibid

[vii] B503, Q2334 Prisoner of War Record and B883 QX7775. http://naa.gov.au

 

A family ANZAC: Pte Hugh Moran (Part I)

Gallipoli magnet 2015It has become a tradition among Australian and New Zealand genealogy bloggers to remember our ANZAC family members and others on Anzac Day each year. This is my contribution for 2017 – a man I knew nothing about until this week.

Hugh Augustine Moran was my mother’s first cousin, born in Ingham, Queensland on 6 April 1906[i] to James Hugh Moran and Bridget McSherry.

MORAN Hugh Augustine small

Pte Hugh Moran, QX7775 Service file naa.gov.au

On 11 June 1940, Hugh enlisted to join the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF) in Cairns, Far North Queensland. His age is given on enlistment as 33 years 11 months, though he had only recently celebrated his 34th birthday[ii], had brown hair, blue eyes and a scar on his forehead. Hugh had been working as a labourer in Kirrima, Cardwell and had served 7 years with the citizen military forces (CMF). He was taken on strength with 2/15th Battalion.

The importance of reading the war diaries becomes apparent when we find that the 15th served garrison duty in Darwin for three months which is not noted on his file…you need to look at the big picture of the unit to discover the overall action plan.

15th Bn DRW 1940 AWM P00092.037

Australian War Memorial Image ID P00092.037. 15th Battalion march past Colonel Marlan prior to leaving Darwin, December 1941. They were stationed at Vestey’s Beach near the current day Sailing Club.

Hugh’s file notes that he was marched out to East Command in December 1940, embarking for overseas on Boxing Day 1940. Meanwhile Hugh had treated himself to a pre-Christmas excursion without leave from Redbank on 22nd-23rd December for 28 hrs. He was duly fined, which probably didn’t bother him much if he had someone he wanted to see, or even if he wanted to have a drink or two, or more, to calm his jitters before heading overseas to battle.

AWM Queen Mary Dec 1940 P00527.003

Troops boarding the Queen Mary on 26 December 1941 en route to the Middle East.

The Australian War Memorial’s (AWM) brief history of the 2/15th tells us they sailed “aboard the Queen Mary with the 20th Brigade to Palestine via India, transhipping to the Rohna at Bombay. (OIC of the 15th, Lt Col R F Marlan was Officer Commanding Troops on the voyage).

The 20th Brigade transferred from the 7th to the 9th Division en route to the Middle East. It arrived at El Kantara in Egypt at the start of February 1941 and moved to Kilo 89 in Palestine for desert training.”[iii]

In March 1941 Hugh was attached briefly to the 2/23rd Battalion, 9th Division, for a month between 2 and 29 March when he returned to the 2/15th.

The 2/15th moved to Gabel El Gira on 27 March and then Barce. German forces had landed at Tripoli and were advancing east. It was involved in the withdrawal of British forces to Tobruk, referred to as the “Benghazi handicap”. The withdrawal cost the battalion heavily: the commanding officer (Lt Col Marlan), second in command (Major Barton), and 154 men were captured at El Gazala.

It was during this dash to take and hold Tobruk that Hugh was taken prisoner of war, between Derna and Barce in the Cyrenaica region of Libya. He was one of the 154 mentioned above. They had been caught in the aggressive attack by the great German soldier, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel aka the Desert Rat.

Rommel launched his assault on March 24, 1941, sending three mechanized columns rumbling northward and eastward. The fast-moving Germans chased the retreating British along the coast road, rolled into Benghazi, and swept on to Barce and Derna. One panzer column captured inland fuel dumps and burst out onto the coastal plain at Gazala. Another column executed a wide flanking movement to try to capture British units evacuating from Cyrenaica. The Allies were in full retreat, and it seemed as if nothing could halt Rommel’s advance[iv]. However Rommel was to later get his come-uppance at El Alamein at the hands of the British forces.

MORAN Hugh POW Italy

Extract from Hugh Moran’s service and casualty form. http://naa.gov.au Series B883 QX7775

Hugh was reported Missing in Action, presumed Prisoner of War, effective 7 April 1941, and this was confirmed on 30 June 1941. Unfortunately, the WWII personnel files don’t include notifications to next of kin, and in fact we’re fortunate that this document had already been digitised.

It’s initially unclear whether Hugh was held as POW locally or taken directly to Italy. Once again he was unfortunate, because the camp to which he was sent, Campo 57 Gruppignano near Udine in north-east Italy, was under the command of former Italian Carabinieri officer,[v] Colonel Vittorio Calcaterra. He had been described by one prisoner as “a sadist and a beast and an accessory to murder”(no reference provided).

AWM Campo 57 P02793.008

AWM Image P02793.008 Campo 57 Prisoner of War huts behind two layers of barbed wire. If prisoners were found in the white-stone area,  between the trip wire and the inner fence they would be shot. In the background is the Catholic chapel which the POWs helped to build.

Thanks to Calcaterra, conditions in Campo 57 were extremely harsh. Food was poor, and housing was crowded and insanitary. The prisoners had to improvise their own medical treatment, coping with the “57 twins”, pneumonia and kidney disease…The number saved by Red Cross aid, he wrote, “is beyond computation”. Calcaterra died before he could be tried as a war criminal.

There is a wonderful sketch in this story, The Stolen Years, which graphically portrays the life of POWs at Campo 57. This article argues that soldiers may have been (somewhat) resigned to death or injury, but rarely thought about what they’d do if taken Prisoner of War and the psychological impact of that[vi]. It quotes one soldier’s experience but we have no idea whether this tallied with that of Hugh Moran:

When he finally reached his permanent camp of detention at PG 57 Gruppignano, where nearly all Australian and New Zealand other ranks had been concentrated, Ted Faulkes too, had to make a monumental change of attitude to different standards of hygiene, diet, discipline and organisation.  But at least he was among his peers, and within the camp, responsive to the discipline of his own Australian NCOs as he basically he had been in battle. To some extent his individual temperament and personality had already been moulded by the structure and esprit de corps of his AIF unit – the 2/32nd Infantry Battalion.

The initial transport of POW from the battlefield is by military truck from a holding pen to a rear transit camp, where officers are separated from other ranks[vii]….They were moved either by boat or train (or presumably both in the case of those captured in North Africa).

We have no direct evidence of Hugh’s life in Campo 57 but the above stories and images reveal some of the experience.

Read Part II to learn more about phase 2 of Hugh’s war service and what happened to him after Italy.

—————————-

[i] Military file on naa.gov.au and Queensland Birth registration C1750.

[ii] His medical inspection was on 1 June so perhaps that explains it.

[iii] https://www.awm.gov.au/unit/U56058/

[iv] http://warfarehistorynetwork.com/daily/wwii/debacle-in-the-desert-the-siege-of-tobruk/

[v] https://www.awm.gov.au/exhibitions/stolenyears/ww2/italy/story2.asp

[vi] http://www.aifpow.com/part_1__missing_in_action,_believed_pow/chapter_2__being_a_pow

[vii] http://www.aifpow.com/part_1__missing_in_action,_believed_pow/chapter_4__transportation_of_pow

Monday Memories, NFHM and Milne Bay

postcard-1242616_1280Over the years I’ve often written about battles and family members who have fought in them. Today is a little more personal. As a young bride, I went to the then-Territory of Papua New Guinea with my newly-minted husband. Nothing all that strange in that perhaps, as many young women made the same migration for love, curiosity or a sense of adventure. The difference for me was that we were going to Milne Bay, my husband’s “place” in the indigenous sense, or in Pidgin “as (=arse) ples bilong en” where he lived for 10 years….at the time his longest residence anywhere. For him it was home, familiar, and in his emotional blood.

DSC_0419

For me it was confronting, exciting, confusing and isolated. My family and other friends were thousands of kilometres away, not as today at the end of a phone or an email, Facetime or Skype. Our communications were mid-20th century: snail mail letters (and sometimes the snail would be faster!) and radio telephone calls when the weather didn’t interfere, over, over. Everyday conversation was scattered with a proliferation of acronyms, wonderfully clear to those in the know but bewildering to the newcomer (the ADC said to the DC that the ETA on the DC3 was 0900, for example).

Alotau 1960s house1 1968

THEN: The Cass family’s first home in Alotau, taken soon after the move from Samarai 1968.

But all this took place in the most wondrous geographical environment. We lived for a few months in the government home of my parents-in-law who were in Port Moresby for work. The house had a magnificent view over Milne Bay and was near the school where my mother-in-law taught. Mr Cassmob’s father had chosen the site as he sailed up the bay in the Education Department trawler – perhaps the only site with a better view was the District Commissioner (the head honcho for the district administration). If that all sounds rather colonial, I suppose it was, after all that was the world they were living in, as was I briefly, though the tides of change were already coming. We were, after all, a tiny minority population responsible to Australia for its governance of an emerging nation.

NFHM Blogging challengeThe local people of Milne Bay are among the nicest you could meet in PNG – open and friendly. However, only 74 years ago their world was turned on its head with the invasion of Australian troops sent to defend the then-territory of Papua against the wave of Japanese invasion. Milne Bay was to be the first place on land that the Japanese troops would be defeated, and yet it has long been overshadowed and forgotten in a similar way to the predominance of Gallipoli in our nation’s military historiography.

Plane Milne Bay fighting 026648

n.d. Milne Bay, Papua. 1942-09. Fellow pilots of 76 Squadron RAAF, lend a hand to push Squadron Leader Truscott’s plane back into the dispersal bay, as he steps out of the cockpit. Australian War Memorial image. (The plane is on marsden matting)

You have to have seen the jungles of Milne Bay (or north Queensland) to have an appreciation of how dense it can be. And you have to have lived there in a Wet Season to know how muddy and claggy the red clay could get, or how fiercely the creeks and rivers run. The clouds come down over the ranges that encircle Milne Bay and take up residence over the bay foreshortening the view and making flying hazardous today, let alone in the thick of battle. Pilot skills and aircraft readiness are challenged to the maximum and when we were there, a small aircraft was lost with all souls including people we knew. This brings home earlier realities for those at war.

Milne Bay ships war

Argus (Melbourne, Vic) & Australia. Department of Information 1943, NEW GUINEA. Milne Bay. State Library of Victoria collection.

Between Alotau (the district capital) and the airport, you could see the remains of war – marsden matting on the bridges or elsewhere, and the remains of boats half-buried. The Australians were stationed near the current-day airport (only an airstrip when we were there) and as a teenager Mr Cassmob worked on the adjacent coconut plantation, Gili Gili. One day at work he found an old street sign for Sadds Ridge Road which we’ve had on our houses at various times. It was some years before we found it came from Charters Towers and we still wonder who took it with them as a souvenir or reminder of home.

World War I discovery in Milne Bay, Papua

There is something that cuts to the heart of your understanding when you live near where the Australians fought for their lives, and quite genuinely, for the safety of their own country and that of PNG. And nearby, a Queenslander, Corporal John French from Crows Nest, won his Victoria Cross.

Milne Bay during World War II ca. 1942

Unidentified 1942, Milne Bay during World War II, ca. 1942, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

I’ve written many times about Alotau, Milne Bay and the battle that was fought there, so I’ll just include the links and those who wish to can (re-)visit them. If you’re looking for a better understanding of jungle fighting, you can read The Last Blue Sea which gives you sense of what fighting was like in PNG. Current Australian author, Peter Watt, also writes a fictional series which includes a family who lives in Papua and fights during the war.

Those genealogists taking the Unlock the Past cruise to PNG and Milne Bay in 2017 will get a taste of the place – but beware, like family history, it can be addictive. Thanks Alex from Family Tree Frog for this prompt in National Family History Month.

Return to Milne Bay

Milne Bay: the people and old and new friends

Home again

The Battle of Milne Bay remembered in stained glass

The Anniversary of the Battle of Milne Bay

Lest We Forget: The Battle of Milne Bay

Sepia Saturday 258: Meeting the GI Cousin in Sydney WWII

Sepia Sat 258 This photo gave me an instant connection to some from my 3rd cousin’s photo albums. This particular cousin, Nora, has provided me with so much information over the years: old histories, photos of my Kunkel ancestors and our mutual O’Brien relatives. I owe her an enormous debt in terms of what she’s given to my research, which is why I asked her to launch my Kunkel family history book.

Cousins meeting at Circular Quay, Sydney.

Cousins meeting at Circular Quay, Sydney. The American with glasses is not a relation. The three on the left are 1st cousins, once removed to the American on the right and his first cousin Nellie Garvey.

During World War II, many American soldiers were stationed in Australia, and to be honest they weren’t all that popular with the Aussie men who were left behind for whatever reason: the snapshot phrase was that they were “overpaid, oversexed and over here“…a case of jealousy I fear. The girls were not so reluctant to meet these men, and many married and became War Brides, relocating to the United States after the war, some successfully and some not so much. I think the American GIs had rather more finesse when it came to women than the rather blunt Aussie style.

Two cousins meet: John Garvey (USA) and Reg Gill (Sydney).

Two cousins meet: John Garvey (USA) and Reg Gill (Sydney).

SCAN1298_edited-1However in some cases this wasn’t all about the whole “boy meets girl” story, it was about cousins meeting cousins from across the world. This particular branch of the O’Brien family descended from Honora Garvey nee O’Brien from Bodyke County Clare, one of my Mary (O’Brien) Kunkel’s siblings who remained in Ireland. However Honora’s children were, and are, part of the great Irish diaspora with some moving to the States and some moving to Australia. I wonder why, and how, they came to the conclusion regarding which place to choose.  No doubt the increasing literacy of the Irish population assisted this branch of the family to keep in touch over the miles and the years and across vast distances.

The Sydney siblings, Nora, Kevin and Marie with their aunty Nellie (in the hat).  I like the war bonds notice on the building.

The Sydney siblings, Nora, Kevin and Marie with their aunty Nellie (in the hat). I like the war bonds notice on the building. I was intrigued that Marie was the only woman wearing gloves as I’d have expected the to be de rigeur in this era. Those 1940s shoes were really not glamorous. I can’t quite figure out what Nora is carrying…is it just a purse?

The war provided a chance for the cousins to meet. On reflection it seems possible these photos were probably taken by the street photographers that have been the topic of blog posts lately…it just hadn’t occurred to me…we do tend to assume that cameras were as readily available then as they are today. On the other side of the Pacific, two other Aussie cousins were being welcomed by the American branches as they commenced their WWII Air Force service. These connections, many years after their grandmother, Honora Garvey, had died, reinforced the kinship links.

No one remembers what this guy's name was...will anyone recognise him I wonder?

No one remembers what this guy’s name was…will anyone recognise him I wonder?

So today we have a bunch of cousins and a ring-in GI mate, whose name is no longer recorded…I wonder if anyone will recognise him? Why not march over to see what other Sepians have made of this week’s prompt? And because I’ve found an image among Nora’s collection that suits last week’s image very well I’m going to post it here as well – I’d forgotten all about it.

The reverse says "Michael Keane and friend" circa 1900s. He would also have been 1st cousin to John Garvey.

The reverse says “Michael Keane and friend” circa 1900s. He would also have been 1st cousin to John Garvey in the photos above. Their chaps look as woolly as the dog in the featured image.

Sepia Saturday 257

Sepia Saturday: Military Mateship

Sepia Saturday 254This week’s Sepia Saturday evoked memories of war, rather than romance and frivolity – perhaps I just can’t imagine needing or wanting to be carried across a stream. I feel like telling her “just take off your boots and hitch up your skirts, for heaven’s sake, you wuss!”.

In a week in which we remember the effects of war, this image made me think of the care, commitment and courage soldiers give to each other. It is inter-personal rather than inter-national. So here is my photo-journalism response to the topic, derived from images found on Trove.

French soldier carrying a wounded man through the trenches, Gallipoli http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/165156560

French soldier carrying a wounded man through the trenches, Gallipoli http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/165156560

30 July 1943, Corporal Leslie (Bull) Allen MM, aged 26 of Ballarat, Victoria, carrying out an injured American soldier, one of 12 he retrieved. He was awarded the US Silver Star and had already received his Military Medal (MM) on 7 February 1943, at Crystal Creek, Wau. Negative by G Short, copyright expired. Mt Tambo, New Guinea. AWM image 015515

30 July 1943, Corporal Leslie (Bull) Allen MM, aged 26 of Ballarat, Victoria, carrying out an injured American soldier, one of 12 he retrieved. He was awarded the US Silver Star and had already received his Military Medal (MM) on 7 February 1943, at Crystal Creek, Wau. Negative by G Short, copyright expired. Mt Tambo, New Guinea. AWM image 015515

Australian troops moved in behind Matilda tanks for a dawn attack on the Japanese held village of Sattelberg. A wounded soldier is carried back to a dressing station on the shoulders of a soldier. http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/165056323

Australian troops moved in behind Matilda tanks for a dawn attack on the Japanese held village of Sattelberg. A wounded soldier is carried back to a dressing station on the shoulders of a soldier. http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/165056323

Bearers (called Fuzzy Wuzzy angels) carrying a wounded soldier up a steep, muddy slope, Papua.

Bearers  carrying a wounded soldier up a steep, muddy slope, Papua. http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/165191251. The local bearers earned the recognition of being called Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels because of their work evacuating wounded men through the most horrendous, mountainous terrain of Papua New Guinea.

wo members of the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR), carry a wounded soldier from the Republic of Korea (ROK) Army along a snow-covered track towards a medical aid post. http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/165106038

Two members of the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR), carry a wounded soldier from the Republic of Korea (ROK) Army along a snow-covered track towards a medical aid post. http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/165106038

Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 1971. Australian cameraman Neil Davis carrying a wounded Cambodian soldier out of action. http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/165129872 Copyright unknown.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 1971. Australian cameraman Neil Davis carrying a wounded Cambodian soldier out of action. http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/165129872 Copyright unknown.

The courage and humanity of these men for their mates is sobering and deserves respect. Greater love has no man….

Here are some recent photos which commemorate similar acts of selflessness.

The Cobbers Memorial at Fromelles 2014.

The Cobbers Memorial at Fromelles 2014.

Part of the Tarihe Saygi (Respect for History) monument at Esceabat, (Gallipoli Peninsula) Turkey.

Part of the Tarihe Saygi (Respect for History) monument at Esceabat, (Gallipoli Peninsula) Turkey.

Skylarking in the army

Sepia Saturday 245This week’s Sepia Saturday 245 is all about men larking about, perhaps with a wee drop of whisky in the background.

army group1My images today date from a serious aspect of our nation’s history, World War II, but it’s also obvious the men weren’t on the front line and were having a fine time larking around. This series of photos is from my aunt’s photo album which I inherited. Her husband, Pat Farraher, was a cook with the Army during the War and I wrote about the serious side of his story back on Sepia Saturday 180.Pat Farraher 4

In the photos Pat and his mates are having a play stoush, doing the seemingly-inevitable rabbit ears behind a mate and generally having a light moment or two with or without the wee dram. I don’t know whether the photos were taken at Enoggera barracks in Brisbane or somewhere in Papua New Guinea, but my guess would be the former except in the final photo. Seriously, would you trust these men with the nation’s security?Army mate

I wonder how other Sepians have responded to this challenge? Do their photos reveal lurking, posing, drinking or sharing?army friends

 

This photograph has the following names on the reverse: Ned Eteell, Slim Hope, and Percy Holt. My guess is this photo is in  PNG.

This photograph has the following names on the reverse: Ned Eteell, Slim Hope, and Percy Holt. My guess is this photo is in PNG.

 

World War I and the Wellington Quarries

It’s so long since I wrote my monthly post for the Worldwide Genealogy blog that I’m a day late…oops. This blog is a great international collaboration initiated by Julie Goucher from Anglers Rest and participated in by family historians from around the world. If you haven’t ever visited it, why not do so, as it’s got such interesting and varied stories. And while you’re there, sign up for future posts or add it to your RSS feeds.

I decided to make this month’s topic the story of the Wellington Quarries in Arras, northern France. The Kiwi tunnellers were heavily involved with this, so I’m hoping this will be of Trans-Tasman interest.

 

100 years ago: Declaration of War

BRITAIN AT WAR. INVASION OF BELGIUM. (1914, August 6). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 7. Retrieved August 5, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article1552795

BRITAIN AT WAR. INVASION OF BELGIUM. (1914, August 6). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), p. 7. Retrieved August 5, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article1552795

One hundred years ago Australians woke to the news that the Britain had declared war on Germany. In 2014 it’s difficult to appreciate how enmeshed Australia’s politics and life was with Britain’s, but the summary on the front page of The Sydney Morning Herald gives us a retrospective glimpse:

“An unparalleled scene in the history of the State Parliament took place in the Assembly yesterday…..Members sprang to their feet and sang the National Anthem (which was then God Save the King) and “Rule Britannia” and gave cheers for the King”. [i]

In the “home country”, the navy was already mobilised and the army was to be mobilised by midnight on 4 August, just an hour of the declaration of war (then the next morning Australian time).

Last night (UK time) many in Britain commemorated the start of this long tragic war by turning their lights out and lighting a candle in remembrance (see twitter #lightsout). In 1914 the declaration of war must truly have seemed a terrifying prospect despite assertions it would all be over before Christmas, but it was not to be in 1914, or 1915, rather more than four long years later.

Already on this first day, in Australia, motor cycle clubs were volunteering members as despatch riders, immigrants of German and Austrian descent rushed to take up Australian citizenship, the St John Ambulance had been placed at the disposal of the Defence Department and men were offering to enlist. The 8th Infantry Brigade had also been mobilised for coastal defence, along with the citizen naval forces. [ii]

Nothing would remain the same in society for decades to come, not least the impact of the loss of the talents, skills and love of the men killed in this battle for freedom. The loss of life, the impact on families, communities, and not least the men who returned was to be incalculable at a local, national and international level. Women would remain single for lack of men to marry, married women would not recognise their husbands as they returned with ferocious injuries to the bodies, and even more inexplicably to those at home, their minds. It astonishes me that more men on the Western Front didn’t lose their minds listening to the repeated noise of guns, artillery and bombs combined with the fear of imminent death or terrible injury. Mercifully the Australian Expeditionary Force, comprised of volunteers, prohibited the execution of a soldier for shell-shock, more often called cowardice.

The World War I memorial in the Darling Downs town of Crows Nest, Qld.

The World War I memorial in the Darling Downs town of Crows Nest, Qld.

Those who had lost loved sons, brothers or husbands erected memorials throughout the country to have a tangible reminder of those who had died in foreign lands, often with no known grave. Forlorn and tragically pleading letters from families can be read in the military files of the men, begging for any small item of their loved one’s belongings with no understanding that often they’d been blown to pieces, just like the person who’d owned them. These heart-wrenching letters begged for some small memento to give a child left behind, perhaps one whose father had never even seen them, when men rushed to marry before they left for war.

The names on this wall of the Menin Gate are only a fraction of the total listed.

The names on this wall of the Menin Gate are only a fraction of the total listed.

The walls of the Menin Gate evocatively lists 54,000 men from the British and Commonwealth forces[iii] whose lives were lost on the Ypres/Ieper salient during WWI and who have no known grave. It is sobering to think this is only a part of the losses to the British Empire during this horrendous period.

The ideals of war are the fight for freedom, justice, humanity and home soil and yet “the war to end all wars” with such a fierce loss of life was only to be a precursor to another greater social cataclysm a bare 20 years later with even greater losses of life, both civilian and military, and the massacre of whole communities.

Lest We Forget

Menin gatee

[i] SUMMARY. The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW 1842-1954) 5 August 1914 page 1. http://nla.gov.au/news-article 15527541.

[ii] ibid and also http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article1552795 page 7, Sydney Morning Herald, 6 August 1914.

[iii] http://www.cwgc.org/find-a-cemetery/cemetery/91800/YPRES%20(MENIN%20GATE)%20MEMORIAL

Two brothers go to war: Les and Fred Fisher

Les and Fred Fisher and Ted Murray were also known as the Paddington Boys.

Les and Fred (aka Snow) Fisher and Ted Murray were also known as the Paddington Boys. You can pick Les out of future photos by the dimpled chin. There is no date on this photo but it is presumably prior to their departure overseas.

In the early months of 1915, two young brothers enlisted to serve their country in the First World War. It’s unlikely they felt they were going to fight to defend “home” and the “motherland” as their grandparents and uncles were German-born, not unlike my own Kunkel relatives. Perhaps they felt they needed to defend their allegiance to Australia and prove their loyalty as did other young men of German ancestry.

Frederick Charles Fisher was 22 years and 3 months when he enlisted with the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF) on 24 February 1915. He was allocated to the 19th Battalion, 5th Brigade. A motor mechanic in normal life he had also served with the Colonial Forces. His young brother Leslie Gladstone Fisher, 21, enlisted soon after on 2 March 1915, also with the 19th Battalion. Leslie had served in the school cadets and also with the 12th Battery of the Australian Field Infantry.

Les's daughter believes this relates to his militia service.

Les’s daughter believes this relates to his militia service.

Les and Fred were the sons of Martin and Louisa Fis(c)her of 42 Rennie St, Paddington in Sydney. Martin was born in Australia in 1863 to Gottfried and Victoria Fischer who had arrived in Australia with their German-born children on the barque Caesar[i] in March 1855 under the Vinedresser Bounty Scheme[ii]. The Kopittke indexes, based on the Hamburg shipping lists, reveal that the family came from Harheim in Hessen/Nassau.

This is an embarkation of troops on the HMAT Ceramic in 1915. AWM image H19500 out of copyright.

This is an embarkation of troops on the HMAT Ceramic in 1915. AWM image H19500 out of copyright.

Les and Fred boarded the former White Star liner, HMAT Ceramic (A40), in Sydney and sailed for war on 25 June 1915, along with myriad other troops via Albany in Western Australia. On arrival in Egypt one of their shipmates, Ellis Silas, painted some lovely views while TH Ivers chose Bombay as his subject. While on board Les wrote to his mate Teddy Murray apparently yet to sail for war. I love the old vernacular like “bosker“. Lt Wilfred Emmott Addison (KIA) of the 19th has left a diary of the voyage which can be read here. Les Fisher’s daughter knows that he kept some form of diary himself but destroyed it years later after his return to Australia.

1510 eddy postcard low

There is no date on this card, but it seems to me it was sent to Teddy Murray, the young man in the photo above, while Les was en route to Egypt. They sailed on HMAT Ceramic from Melbourne on 24 June 1915.

The reverse says: Taken in Heliopolis Egypt August 1915. Fred Fisher 218 19th  Les Fisher 550 19th

The reverse says: Taken in Heliopolis Egypt August 1915.
Fred Fisher 218 19th
Les Fisher 550 19th

Like so many of the men, both fascinated and repelled by the sights, smells and sounds of Egypt, Les and Fred had their photos taken for posterity.

In many ways these men’s stories reflect that of so many other Anzacs. What’s unusual about them is that they left a photographic trail that has been lost to many families.  Also unusually their family preserved the records and Les at least shared his story with his children.

The photographs reveal the progressive story of their war. They included photos of mates they met, fought alongside, or furloughed with.

Below: Fred Fisher, Unknown and Les Fisher. The unknown man in the centre is believe to have been machine gunned. There is no date on this photo.

Fred Fisher, Unknown and Les Fisher. The unknown man in the centre is believe to have been machine gunned.

Fred Fisher, Unknown and Les Fisher. The unknown man in the centre is believe to have been machine gunned.

The Australian War Memorial documents that the 19th Battalion was sent to Gallipoli where the troops landed on 21 August 1915. “The Battalion participated in the last action of the August Offensive – the attack on Hill 60 – before settling into defensive routine in the trenches. From mid-September…the 19th Battalion was responsible for the defence of Pope’s Hill.

Les Fisher, undated.

Les Fisher, undated.

For many of the Aussie Anzacs, the Gallipoli snowfalls would have been their first sighting of snow. I imagine the novelty wore off pretty quickly. AWM image C00751 out of copyright.

For many of the Aussie Anzacs, the Gallipoli snowfalls would have been their first sighting of snow. I imagine the novelty wore off pretty quickly. AWM image C00751 out of copyright.

As the months wore on and the weather changed, influenza became a high risk, along with frostbite as the men were under-supplied with appropriate winter clothing. Les’s daughter remembers that he talked of melting snow to obtain water to drink. You can read more about how the men dealt with life on Gallipoli beyond the fighting here.  The 19th battalion was withdrawn from Gallipoli at night on 19 December 1915.

1521 hospital pic low

Les Fisher’s casualty record shows he was taken sick on 14 December and admitted to Heliopolis Number 1 Auxiliary Hospital on 23 December 1915 with “mild frostbite”. Judging on Les’s annotation on the postcard it’s obvious the men called it Luna Park – a tongue-in-cheek nod to the eponymous amusement park in Sydney.

Les was discharged fit for duty until 19 January 1916, but not before he’d spent Christmas and New Year’s Eve in the Heliopolis hospital. The postcard below is not of good quality but it talks of Les’s stay over Christmas and New Year’s Eve 1915, though like many of us, he muddled his dates in those early days of the year.

Les Fisher (right) taken with a mate.

Les Fisher (right) taken with a mate, unnamed.

1522 hospital Heliopolis back low

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can click on any of the photos to enlarge them. 

After another period of training the men were despatched to France via Marseilles, disembarking there on 25 March 1916.

18th and 19th Battalions, landing at Marseilles from Egypt. AWM Image CO4393 out of copyright.

18th and 19th Battalions, landing at Marseilles from Egypt. AWM Image CO4393 out of copyright.

The AWM’s history again: The 19th took part in its first major offensive around Pozières between late July and the end of August 1916. After a spell in a quieter sector of the front in Belgium, the 2nd Division, which included the 5th Brigade, came south again in October. The 19th Battalion attacked near Flers between 14 and 16 November, in conditions that Charles Bean described as the worst ever encountered by the AIF.1515 Nurses

Les’s fighting service was coming to an end. On 26 July 1916, he was wounded and admitted to 32nd Stationary hospital, Wimereux, France on 27 July with a severe gunshot wound to the right foot. He had copped what the troops knew as a Blighty, an injury which merited evacuation to England. Les was transferred via Boulogne on 30 July 1916 and admitted to Wharncliffe War Hospital in Sheffield where he was to stay for five months.

It is unfortunate that many of the Battalion’s War Diaries from 1916 no longer exist, but digitised copies of those that do can be found here.

This postcard was sent to Les Fisher by his sisters, Dorothy or Dorie (left born 1911), Alma (centre, born 1906) and Vera (born 1902). It says “God be with you until we meet again and Good Luck“. It’s dated 20 September 1920 which I have to think might have been a mistake as Dorie is certainly not 9 in this photo, so perhaps it was sent when the family heard of his injury, given its nursing theme. It was Dorie to whom Les gave his tiny bible which the men were given and which was carried in their breast pocket.

1504 Good luck fm Surry Hills low

A few months later Les was transferred to 2nd Auxiliary Hospital on 18 December so once again he was in hospital for Christmas. A further transfer came in April, to Weymouth hospital.

 

1500 Rust Cadigan Fisher McIlveen 1917 low - Copy

FE Rust 50th Battalion, W Cadigan, Leslie Gladstone Fisher (with cane) 19th, H G McIlveen 13th.

1501 Rust Cadigan Les Fisher and McC 1917 hospital low

Slowly Les’s injuries started to heal and he was given furlough in April 1917. His postcards show that he spent at least some of the time with Ned Kent from Victoria. I wonder where they went? 1509 Ned Kent and Les Fisher 1917 low1508 Ned Kent and Les Fisher low

 

 

 

 

After returning from furlough Les was repatriated to Australia on board the Ayrshire in July 1917, and given an honourable discharge due to injury. His daughter has a copy of his certificate but unfortunately I have not scanned or photographed it, though I saw it some years ago.

1526 Les Fisher low

The inscription on the reverse of this photo says: Monte Video Camp, No 2 Company, Weymouth, Dorset, England. 27-4-17. Note boot cut out for wound on foot, comprie (sic). His daughter said he often used this French expression meaning “understand” even though he’s mis-spelled it here.

On his return to civilian life, Les was no longer able to follow his hope to become a police man like his uncle. The injury to his foot had put paid to that aim, and he went to work at the Sydney Victualling Yards. Les would wear a surgical boot for the rest of his life, and receive regular treatment at the repat hospital.

Fred Fisher and a joyous welcome home.

Fred Fisher and a joyous welcome home.

The family must have been pleased to have one son back at home, but older brother Fred was still serving in France. He would not return until 1919 and the family turned on quite a celebration for him at their home in Lenthall Street, Kensington (Sydney). Fred Fisher is pictured bookmarked by his parents and his brother Les is in the background with girlfriend Norah Keane. Many years later a relative approached the new owner of the property to see if they could look inside the house, and there on the wall was this photo -the new owners had always left it hanging in the hall.

Les and Norah would marry and raise a family. Although Fred also married he had no children. The men would live in adjacent houses in Snape Street, Maroubra for the rest of their lives.  Leslie Gladstone Fisher died in 1956 and Frederick Charles Fisher died in 1937.

This photo was taken in the Sydney Town Hall near the end of the war. Les and Norah are among the crowd.

This photo was taken in the Sydney Town Hall near the end of the war. Les and Norah are among the crowd.

Image of poppies from Wikipedia.

Image of poppies from Wikipedia.

This post is my contribution to the 2014 Trans-Tasman Anzac Day Blog Challenge hosted by Seonaid from Kintalk blog in Auckland.

Lest We Forget.

 

 

 

[i] For those interested in this voyage, which resulted in the deaths of 66 passengers due to cholera, this website includes a letter from the doctor on board. http://ubrihienfamilyhistory.webhive.com.au/ship-caeser/

[ii] Jenny Paterson’s excellent articles in Ances-Tree are invaluable reading about the German vinedressers. http://bdfhg.weebly.com/ances-tree-articles-by-date.html

Remembrance Day 2013: Erle Victor Weiss

Image of poppies from Wikipedia.

Image of poppies from Wikipedia.

For Remembrance Day 2013, I’m going to share with you the brief story of a man who has no family connection to me whatsoever. He made himself known through a photograph found in my cousin’s extensive photo collection.

My 4th cousin in Sydney is one of those people who has myriad photographs stored in suitcases – probably literally hundreds of them. Some have names on them, but sadly not all. She has been a wealth of information about my own family but there are also hidden gems of no direct relevance to me.

Erle Victor Weiss KIAAmong her collection is this photograph postcard from a young Australian soldier who was killed in World War I, Erle Victor Weiss. Erle was another of the young men, descendants of German ancestors, who fought for King and country in World War I. You will see from his note to his friend that he did not affiliate with the Germans he fought, referring to them as “Huns” in the vernacular of the time. Given the social attitudes of the era I often wonder whether those with German names felt they had to be more English than others, and whether it provoked them into joining up as soon as possible.

Erle Victor Weiss to Nora

Click on the image to read the letter.

Erle had joined in August 1915 and was a bombardier with the 1st Field Artillery Brigade. He had been severely gassed in November 1917 and it was during this period of hospitalisation in England that he wrote to my cousin’s mother.

This postcard strikes me as a letter to a young woman with whom he was perhaps in love. Whether she was just a friend or reciprocated his love is unknown, though the fact that the postcard has been preserved all these years suggests she was very fond of him.

Erle was killed on 9 August 1918 nine months after this letter was written and is buried in Heath Cemetery, Harbonnieres. His brother, Frederick Alfred Weiss, died on 19 July 1916, in the Battle of Fromelles. These two young men were the eldest sons of Walter Henry and Amy Selina Weiss who lived at Erina, New South Wales where it seems Walter was a school teacher.

Erle’s friend, Norah, married another former soldier Leslie Gladstone Fisher in 1925 in Surrey Hills. Were the two men friends? Had they ever met?

Leslie Gladstone Fisher, WWI.

Leslie Gladstone Fisher, WWI.

It is impossible to read the files for the young men who were killed during the war: there is such pathos in each and every letter written to the authorities by their next of kin. All they had left to hope for were some items of their son’s to treasure, and in Erle’s case this amounted to 2 photos, 1 card, a belt a damaged wallet, a pocket book and a scarf. The significance of the war memorials, especially in Australia, is knowing that a memorial and small personal items were the only tangible reminders of their son’s sacrifice.

Among the photos are two unknown soldiers, I thought I would include it here in case someone else recognises them.

Two unidentified Aussie soldiers.

Two unidentified Aussie soldiers.