Jack Bishop: A champion bike racer

Sepia Saturday 521 23 May 2020This past weekend’s Sepia Saturday theme brought to mind a story I’ve been intending to write up about a prize winning racer in my Kunkel family.

Family discoveries can come from all sorts of cryptic clues. They may even reveal hidden stories – if we’re lucky. One such came to light over great grandson of George and Mary Kunkel. A cousin recounted how, while still a little girl, she attended the funeral of a young Paterson cousin who had died racing motorcycles overseas. Various searches on this family’s deaths was unproductive – until the three-month gap between Mary Bishop’s son’s dates of death and burial were finally noticed. The internet provided the final loop of the puzzle revealing that Jack Bishop was a renowned pioneer of dirt track racing in both Australia and England in the 1920s and early 30s.[1]

BISHOP Jack grave (2)

Died 20 March 1933, England. Ashes interred Drayton and Toowoomba cemetery 17 June 1933.

 After leaving school, Jack started work in the motor trade. It’s likely that’s where he gained his enthusiasm for dirt bike racing which was a new sport in those post-WWI days. In 1928 Jack Bishop was recruited by AJ Hunting to race in England and along with other Australian racers signed a contract which paid him £5 per week and a return first class voyage. Jack Bishop and the team sailed on the Oronsay from Brisbane, arriving in London on 9 May 1928.[2] Jack was 19 years old and he and all his team-mates listed their occupation as “professional motor cyclist” with their address c/- International Speedway Limited London. Although the Australians made a prominent opening in May 1928 on the dirt tracks at White City and Crystal Palace, the heavy rain made the muddy tracks hazardous and Jack was thrown and received concussion. In July 1928 he was injured in two races which affected his early career in the United Kingdom.

BISHOP Hull Daily Mail 22 August 1928 p3

Who wouldn’t want a box of smoked herring? Hull Daily Mail 22 August 1928, p3

The thrill of dirt track racing appealed to many spectators and the sport became very popular. On 19 August 1929 he was part of an Exeter team who faced the Stamford Bridge team from London in front of a 25,000 strong crowd of spectators. The “red and white” team from Exeter won the race 13-8 with Bishop leading the final lap and team-member, Jackson, covering him.[3] Jack was then the “undisputed champion of the track at Exeter”.[4] There are many reports in the English press about the achievements of the team from Down Under including Jack Bishop. They even received gifts from their fans and I was amused by the one included here.

Jack Bishop became sufficiently famous to have his own cigarette card in Ogden’s “Famous Dirt Track Riders” series. He is described as “a successful Australian rider who came over to England in 1928, Jack Bishop is one of the most daring riders, and his dashing displays are very popular with all the Speedway fans. He has been especially successful when competing in the Handicap events and sometimes when starting from scratch has run through the field and won by a big margin. He has also a number of lap records to his credit both in England and Australia.”[5] 

BISHOP Jack dirt track card

The copy of the Jack Bishop card kindly provided by Gary Milne of Cartophily cards UK.

 There were plenty of thrills and quite a few spills – some that were physically very damaging. In the early days Jack was apparently riding a basic bike which quite likely contributed to the falls. In 1930, on a return visit to Brisbane, he acquired a much more sophisticated bike which was better suited to racing. It was during this visit that he brought his young English bride, Lilian (nee Grist), with him. They’d married in London in late 1929 and although the newspaper report above mentions he already had a son there’s no indication of a child on the passenger manifests for the Jervis Bay[6].

BISHOP The Sphere 2 June 1928 p14

The Sphere, 2 June 1928, p14

Over the next few years Jack pursued a successful racing career in Australia, New Zealand and England. It seems his wife Lilian remained in Australia while Jack travelled and competed. This must have been a lonely life for her with no family to support her, especially when her husband was injured or sick overseas.

Jack later worked under contract to the New Zealand Speedways[7] and was regarded as one of the finest riders in the Dominion. In 1931 he was badly injured there in an off-track accident but by 1932 he had returned to England to race. During this trip Jack became so seriously ill that specialist medical attention could not save his life. He died in England on 20 March 1933, only 24 years old. Jack’s death was reported extensively in both British and Australian newspapers. Only general references are made to his widow and two children.

BISHOP Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping gazette 21 Mar 1933 p12

Supporters and friends made it possible for “his earthly remains to be interred in his home town” by rallying to raise funds. Jack’s ashes were interred in the Drayton and Toowoomba cemetery on 17 June 1933 with impressive solidarity and respect from his fellow riders. A sidecar carried the urn with the ashes, contained in an oak casket which was draped with the colours of the Downs Club.[8]

BISHOP Jack funeral Bris Courier 19 June 1933p13

The Brisbane Courier, 19 June 1933 p13

The motorcycle was driven by Jack’s old friend and fellow racer, Cyril Anderson. A car with the relatives followed in the cortege and then behind it, two by two, came motor cyclists, their headlights draped in black. The Club remembers the funeral as probably the first motor-cycle funeral in the world.[9]

Jack’s widow, Mrs Lillian L Bishop, 24, returned to England on the Largs Bay on 25 September 1933. With Lillian was her young son, Daniel J Bishop, aged 3 and possibly named for Jack’s uncle, Daniel Paterson. Lillian and Daniel Bishop’s intended address was 19 Glyn Mansions, Kensington, London.[10] There is only one child on the British immigration records and that reveals another tragedy: just nine days after Jack’s interment, their daughter Patricia’s death was registered. There is no indication that she was buried in the Toowoomba and Drayton cemetery with her father and I’m left wondering if Lilian took her daughter’s ashes back to England with her.

Nothing further is known of Lillian and Daniel after their migration “home”. Research so far has been unsuccessful. I would love to hear more of them or make contact with descendants.

The extensive obituary from Jack’s home town. MOTOR CYCLING. (1933, March 24). Toowoomba Chronicle and Darling Downs Gazette (Qld. : 1922 – 1933), p. 10. Retrieved May 25, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article254304278

Why not race over to the Sepia Saturday page and see what prize-winning stories have been told?

———————————–

[1] Such moments are the lifeblood of dedicated family historians because they make the long frustrating hours of searching worthwhile.

[2] Originally from Australian Speedway Motorcycles webpage: http://www.ausm.info/aus_history/speedway_pioneers/aust_speedway_pioneers_2.htm Site no longer online.

[3] http://www.exeter-falcons.demon.co.uk/prewar.htm The history of Exeter-Falcons dirt racing makes many references to Jack Bishop. Also no longer online but this may have replaced it: https://cybermotorcycle.com/archives/exeter-speedway/spencer.htm

[4] Toowoomba Chronicle, 24 June 1933, page 5 contains a detailed report of Jack Bishop’s life and funeral.

[5] http://www.gdfcartophily.co.uk/carditem.php/itemid/1528

[6] Passenger lists leaving UK 1890-1960 at http://www.findmypast.com.

[7] There is an excellent photograph of Jack Bishop in his racing leathers on the National Library of New Zealand, Timeframes webpage.

[8] Toowoomba Chronicle, 24 June 1933, page 5.

[9] Email from Downs Motorcycle Sporting Club researcher, Garry Luchich in 2007.

[10] UK Incoming passenger lists 1878-1960, BT26, piece 1029, item 1 on http://www.ancestry.co.uk.

Spanish Flu and Ithaca, Brisbane

sepia Sat 1 MayThis post was inspired by this week’s Sepia Saturday theme of “I am asking you to feature your tributes to all of those who are keeping us safe at the moment by featuring your old photographs of carers of all types and all times”. Admittedly it’s now more Sepia Monday but I wanted to include my discovery of workers who supported the Spanish Flu in a suburb near where I grew up, and near where my grandparents lived at the time. I have no doctors or nurses in my own history from this time so I turned to my good friend Trove.

May 1919 seems to have been the hot-spot of infections although at this time, the deaths seems small compared to what was experienced globally.

 

Influenza deaths Courier 1919

INFLUENZA EPIDEMIC. FIVE DEATHS YESTERDAY. (1919, May 24). The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), p. 5. Retrieved May 4, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article20365428

Soon after this, the suburbs or town Councils started to take action to support the community as people fell ill.

Ithaca May 1919 p2 Daily Mail

WOMENS REALM. (1919, May 28). The Daily Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1903 – 1926), p. 2. Retrieved May 4, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article215133293

Ithaca gets busy pt 1 Telegraph 30 May 1919

Ithaca gets busy pt2

ITHACA GETS BUSY. (1919, May 30). The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947), p. 2 (SECOND EDITION). Retrieved May 4, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article176087610

Meanwhile activity in neighbouring Enoggera gives a sense of what was happening at the grassroots level.

Enoggera Emergency Corps Flu Courier 3 June 1919

THE WOMEN’S PART. (1919, June 3). The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), p. 8. Retrieved May 4, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article20366895

Ithaca emergency work

Metropolitan Area. (1919, June 20). The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947), p. 2. Retrieved May 4, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article176088512

Ithaca kitchen spanish glu

Ithaca influenza epidemic workers, July 1919. https://trove.nla.gov.au/work/238947774

The summary on this photo explains: A large crowd of people who were working as volunteers during the influenza epidemic. The group includes, doctors, nurses, ladies and schoolchildren, pictured outside the Ithaca Women’s Emergency Corps kitchen.

Ithaca workers during the influenza epidemic Red Hill 1919

Ithaca workers during the influenza epidemic, Red Hill, 1919 https://trove.nla.gov.au/version/167840188

The State Library of Queensland provides this summary and explains the signs held up by the boys on the window sill: Volunteer workers outside the Ithaca Town Council Chambers during the influenza epidemic of 1919. The Brisbane area experienced an outbreak of influenza in May 1919 and it spread through hospitals in the area. Isolation huts were erected at the Brisbane Exhibition Grounds to cope with the epidemic. Cards were issued by local authorities which could be put in house windows if people needed help. SOS for doctors and FOOD if needed. (Information taken from: Town of Ithaca Mayor’s Report, 1919, p. 6.)

Map Ithaca and family

Rather foolishly I hadn’t considered what the Spanish Flu Influenza meant to my ancestors who survived and who apparently remained well. They resided in the spread between the Ithaca Council Chambers (marked Ithaca Hall) and the Brisbane Exhibition Ground (blue marker), which was the influenza evacuation point. My grandfather hadn’t returned to his residence in Bally St from World War I until August 1919. His wife-to-be and her elderly mother and siblings were all living at Guildford St (red marker), fairly close to Ithaca Town Council Chambers. I wonder if we’ll ever know how the Influenza Epidemic may have affected them or their livelihoods. It’s made me realise that I need to research the impact of the epidemic on Townsville where my other grandparents lived. I already know from Trove that my great-grandparents’ house in Hughenden became an isolation hospital.

McSherry hospital Hughenden

Hughenden Notes. (1919, June 18). The Northern Miner (Charters Towers, Qld. : 1874 – 1954), p. 4. Retrieved April 9, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article80430142

 

How much more sedate do things look a mere year later at the Ithaca Town Council chambers.

StateLibQld_2_184327_Ithaca_Town_Council_Chambers_in_Red_Hill,_Brisbane,_1919

Ithaca Town Council Chambers 1920, 99 Enoggera Tce, Brisbane from Wikipedia.

This image is from a Sydney suburb in New South Wales but it is visually evocative of the current situation.

Kensignton nursesE00025

Image shows the influenza team at the Kensington School of Arts during the influenza epidemic of 1919. With the team is a blackboard listing the nurse, cooks and others on the team. Randwick City Library https://randwick.ent.sirsidynix.net.au/client/en_GB/search/asset/15848/0

Red Cross cards and Vatican Archives WWII

Red_Cross_Parcel

Image from IWM and Wikimedia. Copyright expired.

In exciting news received via Facebook genimates, I learned yesterday that the University of Melbourne holds the Australian Red Cross cards for World War II until 1973. They’ve now been digitised and indexed and can be seen on the University of Melbourne’s Archives site. They also maintain a blog which has two posts about these records here and here (it’s a blog worth following).

“In 2016 Red Cross Australia donated its historical collection to the University of Melbourne Archives (UMA) as a ‘Gift to the Nation’. Part of this collection included the Missing, Wounded and Prisoner of War Enquiry Cards dating from World War Two to 1973. Since the transfer, UMA has been working to make all of the cards relating to World War Two available online. There are now over 58,000 cards available through UMA’s online catalogue. To find a card, just type the surname into the search box”[i]

The best link to search is in the digitised items at: http://gallery.its.unimelb.edu.au/imu/imu.php?request=search

You can search by (surname) only, (surname, initials) or (service number). All of these options have worked for me.

When the list (or single item) comes up, just click on the name (underlined) and it will give you another image, with an Acrobat icon on the left. Click on that to see the digitised card(s). I’ve found cards for Hugh Moran, about whom I’ve been writing recently as well as my dad’s cousin, Robert Kunkel, who was MIA in Korea, later presumed dead.

The file on Hugh Moran[ii] gave me additional information to what I had already found so that was useful. For example, it confirmed that he was at Campo Isarco at Capua[iii] prior to Campo 57 at Grupignano.  It also confirms that Hugh did not receive parcels sent to him – possibly because he wasn’t actually in Stalag VIIIB most of the time, but far away in the work camps (Arbeitskommando).

NOTE: You need to be aware that the copyright to the Red Cross documents is owned by the University of Melbourne and can only be published with permission.

Another discovery I’ve made is that the Vatican Secret Archives has indeed maintained records for its interactions with World War II Prisoners of War, their families, and the camps. They hold an astonishing 3 million cards in 2500 archive boxes[iv]. Sadly, and frustratingly, they are only accessible to postgraduate students or academics with a referring letter from their university[v]. Just imagine the wealth of data in there, the tragedies, the heartache and the joys.

 

[i] http://archives.unimelb.edu.au/news-and-events/red-cross-ww2-cards-now-online

[ii] Surname: MORAN. Given Name(s) or Initials: H A. Military Service Number or Last Known Location: QX7775. Missing, Wounded and Prisoner of War Enquiry Card Index Number: 3607

[iii] Cairns Post, 29 July 1941., p4. List includes HA Moran.

[iv] POPE PIUS XII AND WORLD WAR II: THE DOCUMENTED TRUTH by Gary Krupp. page 296

[v] Access and Consultation: Research in the Archivio Segreto Vaticano is free of charge and open to qualified scholars conducting scientific studies. All researchers must have a university degree (five-year course) or an equivalent university diploma. http://www.archiviosegretovaticano.va/content/archiviosegretovaticano/en/consultazione/accesso-e-consultazione.html

 

Pte Hugh Moran, POW: his own words

We rarely have the opportunity to hear about the wartime experiences of a family member in their own words. You can imagine my surprise, and pleasure, to discover that Trove’s digitised newspapers included interviews with Pte Hugh Moran (my mother’s cousin), about whom I wrote on Anzac Day this year.

Settle in, grab the drink of your choice, and follow his story.

What worked in my favour was the fact that (1) Hugh had been a Prisoner of War (POW) and (2) had been among the early troops repatriated to Australia. He was obviously not bashful about being interviewed and provides quite a lot of detail on his POW experiences. This story is from Brisbane’s Courier Mail newspaper (26 July 1945, page 3):

MORAN Hugh Courier Mail 26 July 1945ITALIANS USED P.O.W’s TO BOLSTER MORALE

THREE hundred Australians, the first captured by the Italians at Derna, in 1941, were used as ‘propaganda prisoners’ ‘ and marched through every large town in Italy. Their photographs were taken thousands of times, superimposed on top of each other, to make their numbers appear the strength of several divisions.

Pte. H. A. Moran, of Charters Towers, one of the 16 repatriated prisoners of war, who returned to Brisbane yesterday, told of his experiences as a propaganda prisoner with the first captured Australians. ‘When our group arrived in Italy we became a great novelty. We were photographed incessantly the day we landed, and issued with brand new Italian P.O.W. uniforms,’ said Pte. Moran. ‘For propaganda reasons, the Italians treated us very well in the first six months. ‘We were fed well, kept tidy and healthy, because the tougher and fitter we seemed the harder it made the task of capturing us. The Italians moved us from one camp to another, and marched us through all the large towns. These marches were always accompanied by a blare of publicity, in which the Italians announced that they had captured thousands of Australians and would march a section of them through the town’.

‘Later we saw the photographs in the papers, and realised they had superimposed group snaps of us in all different positions so that our numbers appeared multiplied many hundred times. After six months of this roadshow life our publicity value began to wear off. We were herded into a camp at Bolzana (sic) [Bolzano], near the Brenner Pass, and treated like ordinary prisoners. This was a concentration camp guarded by the Carabinieres [Carabinieri] — the Italian equivalent of the German Gestapo. The guards were frightened of Australians, and punished them severely for petty offences.’ Pte. Moran was taken to Germany on Italy’s capitulation and liberated by the Americans early this year [my emphasis]. With 1000 Dominion ex-prisoners of war he was entertained by the Royal family at an afternoon party at Buckingham Palace during his recuperation in England.

That last little snippet was a “Wow!” moment but I notice that there was no mention of the Death March/Long March west from Stalag VIIIB.

However, let’s press the pause button on that for a while. Knowing that men were often feted in their home communities when they enlisted I went looking for any such news. The Townsville Daily Bulletin of 12 June 1940 revealed that:

MORAN Hugh Nthn Miner 21 Dec 1940 p2

Hugh also received gifts in Charters Towers. Northern Miner 21 Dec 1940, p2

A meeting was convened last Thursday for the purpose of forming a committee to farewell the men resident in this district who had enlisted. Owing to lack of time it was found necessary to hold the send -off on Sunday night as volunteers were leaving on Monday. During the evening eulogistic speeches were made by Messrs. K. Hort, W. Watkins. T. Jamieson, K. Johnstone and M. Graham, and the volunteers: Messrs. J. Doyle, H. Moran, D. Turpin and H. Axelsen jnr., were each presented with a fountain pen as a small token of esteem.

I wonder if Hugh found that pen to be handy over the coming years? Perhaps not, as ink would have been hard to come by. Did it too survive the war?

POWs Capua Italy 29 July 1941 p

Cairns Post, 29 July 1941., p4. List includes HA Moran.

Twelve months after this eulogistic evening, the papers were displaying long lists of POWs including the name of Pte HA Moran from Cardwell. In my research I learned the significant role played by the Vatican in coordinating this news and in assisting men, and their families, to communicate with each other. Vatican representatives visited the camps and documented the men’s names which were then broadcast. Ironically the news could be received more promptly this way than through official channels.

Bolzano Udine

From Bolzano to Campo 57 near Udine.

A lengthy Christmas radio broadcast from the Vatican reveals the Pope’s care and concern for the POWs, which is endorsed in reports from prisoners, many of whom were not Catholics. We can only imagine these words would have provided consolation to Catholic families in Australia, like that of Bridget Moran nee McSherry whose son had been taken prisoner only a month after her husband’s death that same year. I’ve included much of the report as it reveals a variety of things about the prisoners and the Pope’s concern for them.

Christmas Message Concerning Australasian Prisoners of War in Italy Broadcast by the Vatican Radio Station[i].

In the name of the Holy Father Pope Pius XII. the Papal Nuncio to Italy has once more visited the Prisoner of War Camps, visiting thus those who are near arid dear to you. His commission is the outcome of the Holy Father s paternal Interest in the prisoners and of his unceasing solicitude for their welfare. It is his task to bring the men the Holy Father’s greetings and as his representative to help alleviate in every way possible their necessarily irksome lot. In the past fortnight he has seen your dear ones, commissioned this time in particular to convey to them the Holy Father’s Christmas Greetings and to present them with Christmas cards and gifts from him. To every prisoner he has brought a card on which is a reproduction of Raphael’s Adoration of the Magi, and this greeting in English— a greeting sprung indeed from the heart, of the common Father: ‘Christmas, 1941’.[ii] With ever greater paternal solicitude we turn our thoughts to each one of you who in your separation from distant. homes at this Christmas Season feel very keenly the absence of your loved ones. They are prayerful and affectionate good wishes. May they sweeten the bitterness of that separation and be to you all a source of Divine comfort and Christian hope. Pope Plus XII.’

Vatican diary and card 1942

1943 ‘Vatican Radio on Prisoners of War in Italy’, Southern Cross (Adelaide, SA : 1889 – 1954), 9 July, p. 1. , http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article167778333

With the paternal wishes go the presents which the Holy Father’s generosity has provided — cigarettes, books, games of all sorts, and as prizes for Christmas raffles, handsome leather bound clocks (sic) [query books?]. This have (sic) the Holy Father’s representative and those who accompany him to tell of the men and their conditions. Your dear ones cannot but feel the dreariness that go with their lot as prisoners of war, but they are not unhappy and they are keeping their spirits high.

It continues with the following description of life in an Italian POW camp, which doesn’t quite coincide with Hugh’s recollections, but then in December 1941 perhaps things had not yet deteriorated. (see below for more details)[iii]

See, now, the picture of what is actually happening. In the person of his representative the Holy Father is among your dear ones, to wish them a Happy Christmas and brighten the celebration for them as far as ever he may. Their thoughts are directed to other Christmases celebrated in the intimacy of their homes. They think of you and so seize on the chance of the Nuncio’s visit to beg him to send you a Christmas message, and that message, still warm from their hearts, this marvellous gift, of God — the radio — enables us to give you now before it has time to cool.

They greet you all — parents, wives, children, relatives and friends, assuring you of their thought for you and for you they pray, through the Saviour’s coming, every blessing, spiritual and temporal, in the New Year. And may we join our wish to theirs, praying that the Prince of Peace may shorten the scourge of war, hasten the coming of a just and universal peace, and reunite you and your dear ones.

After Hugh’s transfer to Germany in 1943, he was shuttled through Stalag VIIIA near Gorlitz (now Zgorzelec, Poland) before being sent on to Stalag VIIIB.

Gorlitz to Poland LambinowiceSince my last post I’ve done further reading and found out a little more about his conditions and where he worked as an Arbeits Kommando. He was allocated initially to Paris Grube, at Sosnowitz (now Sosnowiec) near Dombrowa (Dabrowa) with Kommando group E543 of which nothing seems to be known. The fact that it was called Paris Grube suggests to me it was a mine called, ironically, Paris. Hugh was there for seven months from 2 November 1943 until 5 June 1944.

Camps Poland MORAN

This is the distance between Stalag 344 (8B) at Lamsdorf (Lambinowice) and Sosnowiec.

It is sickening to realise that Hugh was essentially slave labour at Sosnowitz soon after the massed deportation of its Jewish community to Auchwitz (Oswiecim).  Had he been transported from Łambinowice to Sosnowitz on these same trains which would have carried the despair like a miasma. It’s highly likely he was unfortunate enough to witness at least some of these horrifying trains en route to concentration camps from which few would return.

There had been considerable underground activity among the Jews in Sosnowiec. The uprising, which began on 3 August 1943…The last Holocaust transport to Auschwitz-Birkenau with Jews forced to bury the dead, left Sosnowiec on 15 January 1944.[iv]

Hugh was apparently kept at Stalag VIIIB for five months until 7 November 1944 (perhaps this is when he was sick?). This time he was with Arbeits Kommando E42, working at a paper mill at Rothsfest (Rudawa). Hugh’s isolation in the work camps may explain why he did not receive either personal mail or Red Cross parcels.

MORAN Work camps

The location of the two work camps to which Hugh Moran was allocated..nearly 200kms from Stalag VIIIB (8B)

There is no indication of when Hugh returned to Lamsdorf but it seems likely that it predated the evacuation of the prisoners from VIIIB with the oncoming march of the Russian army. It is at this point that Hugh Moran and his fellow prisoners commenced the Death March that would take the lives of so many. It’s pertinent to notice that at no point does he make mention of it in his interviews – a typical soldier’s response to largely play down the true horrors of war.

AWM POWs ART25519

Australian P.O.W.s on the march through Germany. AWM Art 25519 in the public domain.

Just imagine the excitement among his family when the news came through that he had been repatriated and was safe!

MORAN Duke aka Hugh Ntn Miner 24 May 1945

Northern Miner, 24 May 1945, page 4.

Pte Hugh Moran (Charters Towers): English politicians have been battling against fraternisation, but they have reckoned without the human element. You can’t stop it. A soldier is a soldier no matter where he is. When I left England letters from English soldiers in Germany were appearing, in the Press urging relaxations. The Nazis had severe punishments for any German civilians who fraternised with us but some still talked to us. The older Germans have had their lesson, but we still have to watch the young Hitlerites.[v]…… Pte Moran was among 1,000 Empire troops who were invited to Buckingham Palace to an afternoon party. The King and Queen [and the Princess Elizabeth and Margaret] moved among them in the palace grounds. “I was very impressed by the informal way that our Royal hosts greeted us and spent so much lime talking to the men” he said.

His family, and Hugh himself, would have been buzzing with excitement at a garden party at Buckingham Palace.

download(1)

EMPIRE GARDEN PARTY AT BUCKINGHAM PALACE FOR EX-P.O.W.s OF THE EMPIRE. http://trove.nla.gov.au/version/182628782 Hugh Moran would have been somewhere on one of the trucks arriving at Buckingham Palace for the garden party.

MORAN Buckingham Palace AWW

The Australian Women’s Weekly had something to say about the shindig. 16 June 1945, p22. Right: Princess Elizabeth and HRH King George VI chat with returned POWs.

download(2)

There must surely have been times when he was overwhelmed by the change from being a POW, German slave labour and the long Death March. Perhaps the men were grateful for the sea voyage home, giving them a buffer between these extreme experiences and before meeting up with family. The excitement continued with Hugh’s repatriation to Australia when the car he was travelling in was mobbed by enthusiastic friends and perhaps relatives.

MORAN Hugh Telegraph 25 July 45 p3

Telegraph (Brisbane) 25 July 1945, p3.

So far, little is known of what happened to Hugh on his return to Australia, other than that he visited family in Charters Towers and Bundaberg on demobilisation. Further research is needed, and no doubt we’ll never know what his true thoughts were about his experiences as a POW.

We are very fortunate that Australian service records include both the German POW records and the soldier’s repatriation statements. The British (UK) service records have to be applied for under Freedom of Information (FOI) conditions.

For further reference you may be interested in reading some or all of the following: Hitler’s British Slaves by Sean Longden (available as an e-book), is excellent in revealing the horrors and degradation the men faced.

Stalag VIIIB/Lamsdorf Facebook Group

Campo 57 Facebook group

Previous posts on Pte Hugh Moran are here and here

[i] Catholic Freeman’s Journal, 2 January 1942, page 7. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article146374770 Similar in The Catholic Press, 2 January 1942, page 7 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article106361197.

[ii] See an image on this page http://www.grupignano.com/camp-life.html

[iv] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sosnowiec_Ghetto

[v] 1945 ‘”FRATERNISE, “SAY AIF REPATRIATES’, The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947), 25 July, p. 3. (SECOND EDITION), viewed 09 May 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article187496961

[iii] Continued: The food supplied them is good and sufficient, corresponding to what is given to the same rank in the Italian Army, and since the men run their own canteens and do their own cooking they can add to it something of the relish that comes from this serving in the ways they have known at home. They are well clothed and recently received an adequate supply of winter clothing. They are in fine health, and the visits have shown little or no sickness in the camps. For their recreation they have theatres where they stage concerts practically every week. For the past, month preparations for Christmas shows have been under way. Small libraries are gradually being built up in each camp. There are language classes for those who wish them and many have become proficient in Italian already [perhaps helped by the fact that Mass was said in Latin at the time]. Every facility is given for religious services for the men, and an Australian Anglican Minister, a prisoner, is allowed entire freedom in providing religious assistance for the men of his camp. Catholics, if they have not Sunday Mass, in the Camp itself, are given the opportunity of hearing Mass outside.

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.

You can read other posts about Pte Hugh Moran here and here.

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.

And to learn about Hugh’s war in his own words, read here.

 

—————————-

[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: Old-time Courtesies

small courtesies

The Australian Women’s Weekly, 27 May 1939 p34

It’s traditional for the older generation to bemoan “things aren’t how they used to be”. Well of course not…life is one long process of change. For no particular reason I’ve been reflecting on some of the little courtesies that were prevalent in my youth, some of which have faded from sight, and some still remain, perhaps in a changed form.courtesy quote

  • Men walking on the road side of the footpath (pavement). As I recall the intention was they would deflect the dangers of a runaway car, or earlier, a horse and cart.
  • Children standing up for adults on public transport. This one definitely seems to have gone the way of the horse and cart. Small children might have been bundled on to their parent’s lap, but older children were always, always expected to stand if an adult needed a seat. Similarly, men would stand for women, and anyone would stand for a pregnant woman, older man or woman, or someone who had a disability.
  • Men opening the car door for women. I still see this happening – but not in our family. As my husband quite rightly points out, he’d have Buckley’s chance of getting there before I’m out <smile>. However, there are some of our friends for whom this remains de rigeur.
  • Men raising their hats and people standing silent when a funeral passes. This too has passed except in country areas where I think it does continue.Good manners
  • Men doffed their hats when meeting a woman. Now men rarely wear hats.
  • Women not shaking hands. Men were definitely not to offer their hands for a handshake to a woman without first being offered theirs. This has changed with the presence of women in the workforce, though for many years men were left with the confusing question – to shake or not to shake. For men of course the handshake is compulsory – and for some the stronger the better. Personally I don’t like a wishy-washy handshake, but I don’t like it being a test of power or strength either.
  • Women wearing gloves and hats. Not really a courtesy but a lady would never be seen out in the public domain without her gloves and a hat – and wearing stockings.
  • Women were never to be congratulated on getting engaged as it implied they were lucky to have finally achieved this transition to marital status.
  • Never discuss religion or politics. Perhaps we’d have been wiser to maintain this courtesy these days…fewer “debates”.
aww 25 Nov 1970 p29 dancing

The Austalian Women’s Weekly 25 Nov 1970, p29

  • Men never swore in front of ladies, and ladies, of course, never swore. In my family that was certainly true. As for myself these days…”no comment”.
  • Children were everyone’s responsibility – a badly behaved child would be reprimanded by whichever adult was close by. Of course children were often expected to be seen and not heard too.
  • Writing letters to friends and family to thank them for gifts.
  • All adult friends of the family were called “aunty” or “uncle” irrespective of kinship. Otherwise they were Mr or Mrs or Miss. Does your family still do this?
  • Men opening doors for women. I notice this still happens often. My personal habit is to always thank them for the courtesy, rather than just sail through. One of my pet bugbears is opening, or holding open, a door for people who just walk through without a sideways glance as if you’re a paid doorman.
  • Women were allowed on the bus/tram first. And look where that got the men on the Titanic!
  • Thanking the bus driver when you got off. I’m pleased to say that this still happens most of the time on public transport in Brisbane.

I’m sure my genimates will come up with some other old-time courtesies that I’ve forgotten…I’d love to hear from you.

Do you think courtesy still matters and is practiced in the 21st century?

Are good manners the same thing as courtesy? What do you think?

 

Honouring the Fallen of Fromelles

One hundred years ago, Australian soldiers were fighting the desperate battle for their lives near the tiny French hamlet of Fromelles. That 24 hours from the evening of the 19th July 1916 was to be the bloodiest and most disastrous day in Australia’s military history to date (and may it so remain). And yet, when I began my research nearly 30 years ago, this battle was poorly known and rarely mentioned.

Enlistment photo of Photograph of James Gavin in The Queenslander of 2 October 1915, page 24.

Enlistment photo of Photograph of James Gavin in The Queenslander of 2 October 1915, page 24.

In the beginning hours of his first battle, my grandfather’s cousin, James Augustus Gavin, was among the early, and perhaps fortunate, fatalities in this deadly and bloody nursery of war. His would be the first death among my grandfather’s cousins in World War I.

“Not as many lost as first feared…only 5533” wrote Lt Col Walter Edmund Cass. How I fumed as I read those words in the Australian War Memorial back in 1990. How dare this officer be so glib about such horrendous loss!

This number counted the casualties (killed, wounded and missing) but not the mental anguish to the men, who were sacrificed wastefully.

Cass was an experienced officer, a career soldier who’d been on Gallipoli and in the Boer War. He had been in the thick of this battle, in a forward position, so exposed that it was a bulge in the line, surrounded by Germans and exposed to their higher position.

A studio photo of Lt Col Cass perhaps around the time of his posting to France. AWM photograph A01470, copyright expired. The photo is shown as Lt Col ERH Cass CMG so it appears the initials are a mistake.

A studio photo of Lt Col Cass perhaps around the time of his posting to France. AWM photograph A01470, copyright expired.

Despite his experience, or perhaps even because of it, this battle was the last he’d ever fight in war. He was broken by the loss of so many of his men’s lives. “My boys, my boys! They’ve murdered my boys!”.  He was talking about the actions of the more senior “British” officers, not the Germans, and in acts of insubordination that may have seen him shot in the British Army (or perhaps without the medals he already held), he argued fiercely with his superiors.

Fromelles Pheasant Wood

The Pheasant Wood cemetery 2014. The Germans had lookouts in the church tower.

The Germans had offered a short truce so that bodies could be recovered (alive or dead), but knowing the British refusal to accept even this level of accord, McCay had refused. And so the men, who had managed to fall back, could hear their mates calling for help and pleading “don’t forget me, cobber“. How many men might have returned to their families if a different decision was made? How many men might have carried a lesser mental burden had they been permitted to help their mates?

This was how the Germans came to bury some of the Australian fallen in Pheasant Wood, below Fromelles. It would be over 80 years later that the men were found – the farmer’s crops never flourished in that area. The determination of individuals revealed this forgotten burial ground, German records confirmed it, and the modern science of DNA revealed the identities of the men.

Memorial plaque on the Cobbers sculpture.

Memorial plaque on the Cobbers sculpture.

Today, those visiting Fromelles can see the new Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) memorial with its beautifully maintained war graves. The Cobbers Memorial (do read the link) honours the fallen and the mates they fought with.

Peter stands beside the memorial which stands on the German bunker where his great-uncle WEH Cass fought with his battalion.

Mr Cassmob stands beside the memorial which is where his great-uncle WEH Cass fought with the 54th battalion.

 

And yet, for me, the cemetery at Rue Petillon near Fleurbaix tells the tale more starkly. The gravestones stand like teeth, tight side by side. Surrounding the cemetery are farmhouses and the fields for which the men fought, now so tranquil.

The location of James Gavin's grave in Rue Petillon cemetery November 1992.

The location of James Gavin’s grave in Rue Petillon cemetery November 1992.

L/Cpl James Gavin's gravestone in Rue Petillon cemetery: the family's inscription can be read.

L/Cpl James Gavin’s gravestone in Rue Petillon cemetery includes the family’s inscription.

Among them lies the grave of James Augustus Gavin. It was a privilege to visit him in 1992 and it remains a privilege today to remember him. You have not been forgotten cobber.

Lest We Forget.

You might like to read these earlier posts about Fromelles, Gavin and Cass:

The Battle of Fromelles: In Memoriam L/Cpl James Augustus Gavin KIA

Fromelles, Lt Col WEH Cass and family collections

F is for the Fifteen Mile, Fromelles and Fleurbaix

Brigadier General Walter Edmund Hutchinson Cass

And a commemoration of military mate ship here.

There are a number of books available now on the battle of Fromelles:

Don’t forget me cobber by Robin Corfield

The Anzacs by Peter Pedersen

Fromelles and Pozieres by Peter Fitzsimons (includes quite a few quotes on Cass drawn from his letters and diaries, now held by State Library Victoria)

Our darkest day: Fromelles by Patrick Lindsay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sepia Saturday: Strolling in the City

Sepia Sat 338

This week’s Sepia Saturday theme was a “gimme”. I’ve had this photo strip for ages but have never used it because I felt it made my grandfather look a little gormless.

However it’s a perfect match this week, so here is Dinny strolling through Brisbane city probably in the 1920s or 1930s (the car would be a clue for some, but not me). I can’t even pick which street he’s in, but there’s a barber pole in the background, so perhaps it was George St. Perhaps he’d even been to have a haircut himself and was feeling pretty spiffy.

Denis Kunkel walking in town

He’s got one thumb tucked into his waistcoast pocket and his hat angled so he keeps the sun off his face, but then he has to tip his head to see….not so wise Grandad. I don’t think he’s coming from work as he looks dressed for the day out, not in railway attire, though as a guard he would have been more smartly dressed than in some other roles.

Looking at his shadows he’s got it falling straight behind him, so I’m thinking he’s walking on an north-south street, so perhaps it is George St down near Roma Street station. (What do you think of my directional theory?) With this in mind, I went searching our good friend Trove for images of George Street, Brisbane circa 1920 and, by jove, I do believe she’s got it!

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Harvey, J. H. (John Henry) 1921, George Street, Brisbane looking south, June 1921 [picture] Out of copyright.

Can you see the barber’s poles and the verandah on the building opposite? Thanks to the magnificent old sandstone buildings, which remarkably for Brisbane, still stand, I know exactly where this is. The lady in the image is crossing the street to the lane which runs behind where Alan & Stark’s shop was, between Albert and George Streets (patriotic lot, with our CBD streets named for royalty!)

View of Trittons furniture shop on George Street Brisbane ca. 1935

Unidentified 1935, View of Tritton’s furniture shop on George Street, Brisbane, ca. 1935, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Out of copyright.

Grandad would have been walking out of the frame on the bottom right of this image heading towards Roma Street Station. If my memory serves me correctly, the old Trittons furniture store was on the right hand side before the barber’s. And above I’ve found an image from Trove which confirms my theory, and we now know the barber/hairdresser was a T McMahon.

Brisbane map 1878 extract

Unidentified 1878, Street map of the city of Brisbane, Queensland, 1878, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. (extract). The red dot is my estimate of the location of the photo.

He had a kind heart, my granddad, so perhaps he bought the photo just to help the street photographer out, perhaps he was a fellow Digger trying to make ends meet. I know my grandparents had a camera at home, or among the extended family, because I’ve got quite a lot of photos from the 1920s/30s among their collection.

Why not stroll over to see where other Sepians are off to this week? I wonder if they got caught up in the search like I did when I found myself taking several detours into Trove…I left my mental wanderings as a breadcrumb trail.

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On the Importance of Trove

Over the past few days, there have been family historians around the country, possibly around the world, suffering from withdrawal symptoms as our favourite web-site, Trove, undergoes a revamp.

While that sunbeam is now available to brighten our lives, there’s a shadow of gloom hanging over all aspects of the National Library of Australia with announced cuts to government funding.

Support Trove

It would be simple to think that Trove is there just to serve a “bunch of middle-aged genealogists” with nothing else to do. That would be very far from the truth.

Trove is a true national treasure – it reveals nuances of our nation’s history which would otherwise remain obscure or unknown. Much of that may relate to the ordinary people of past eras but they are the ones who built our nation with their hard work and sweat from developing farms, taking risks, travelling vast distances, building railways, fighting wars, working in factories. Yes, the heavy-hitters may have been in charge, but they’d have been nowhere without the ordinary person. Our whole nation’s ethos is built on the belief of the “ordinary man” – sometimes to the detriment of our tall poppies who pay the price for being extraordinary in their fields.

While many official records in archives or libraries can provide us with insights into past lives, Trove reveals the stories that go well beyond the easy research points of specific dates, like births, deaths, marriages or funerals.

Without Trove (and appropriate funding for the National Library) we lose the chance to explore specific topics of broader national interest than our individual families, important as they are to us.

In my own wider research, I use Trove to enlighten me on two One Place Studies:

  1. The lives and fates of immigrants from East County Clare, Ireland. Prior to the digitisation of Trove I’d have found it nigh impossible to learn what happened to many of the people in my 1100 person database, let alone discover more emigrants.
  2. The life of the small Queensland community of Murphy’s Creek at the base of the Toowoomba range – documenting its morphing characteristics over decades from a thriving railway construction tent-site to a thriving community then its decline and later regeneration.

Similarly, my genimate Merron extensively uses Trove to research the history of Victoria’s Western District Pioneers.

International researchers find references to their families or local events that were revealed in Australian newspapers: it’s not just Australia that benefits.

The list could go on and on. It’s not “just” genealogists using Trove for their own families but it has much wider applications. Anyone who uses international digitised newspapers could confirm that Trove is a world leader in terms of access to multiple sources (news, images, theses, books) – no other source that I’ve used comes close to its standards.

The grassroots love of Trove is evidenced by the extent of voluntary editing of text from the OCR images, especially challenging with early newspapers. Truly a huge community contribution of millions of corrections…just imagine the people power behind that.

But of course we’re not just talking about potential cuts to our beloved Trove. If you’ve visited the National Library in person, or searched the catalogue, you will appreciate that Trove is just one part of a suite of its store of our nation’s history. How this can be undervalued and funding cut bewilders my mind. Do our political leaders not care about our nation’s history? If they do, why does everything else take precedence over knowledge and learning?

What do you think about the threat to research into our nation’s history? 

If you have a twitter account you can join the protest using the #fundtrove tag and include @senatorfield in your tweet. It’s time for us to stand up for what we think is so important to our history.

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