Sepia Saturday: Wartime in Brisbane

Unidentified (1940). View along Adelaide Street, Brisbane, ca. 1940. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Brisbane in the late 1930s was a sleepy town more reminiscent of a country town than the capital of the state of Queensland in the land Down Under. That would change in 1939 when Australia entered World War II and men and munitions were despatched forth for embarkation to the European front.

AERIAL STARBOARD SIDE VIEW OF THE AMERICAN TANSPORT HOLBROOK WHICH BROUGHT US TROOPS TO AUSTRALIA AS PART OF THE PENSACOLA CONVOY IN 1941-12

Japan entered the war by bombing  Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 and then made swift and steady progress south through Asia. After this attack by Japan, America entered the war with specific concerns about the Japanese focus on the Philippines where the USA had significant military and naval interests. The Pensacola Convoy of ships was heading to their Philippines base prior to Pearl Harbor but were re-routed to sleepy Brisbane. As with a US naval visit in 1941, the troops were welcomed with great excitement especially by the women of the town. Already the seeds of disenchantment, frustration and anger were being sown.

2005. Women with visiting American sailors, Brisbane, Queensland, 1941. State Library of Queensland.

Australia’s new Prime Minister, John Curtin, was forced into a conflict of wills with Britain’s Winston Churchill to bring our troops back from the European front, north Africa and the Middle East. The Fall of Singapore in February 1942 and capture of Australian (and other) troops and evacuation of civilians and nurses certainly caused great anxiety in Australia. Britain had refused to believe Singapore could be defeated, assuming any attack would come from the sea not through the back door overland. With the determined and steady approach of the Japanese military, there was a fear that Australia was in the line of attack. No doubt the bombing of Darwin on 19 February 1942, of Broome on 3 March 1942, and Townsville on 25 July 1942 could only have exacerbated that fear.

Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT. 1972-09-15. A copy of  a colour lithographic print of a painting by a Japanese artist, showing the signing of around a long table of the surrender documents at Singapore, by Lieutenant General A E Percival on 1942–02-15. The table is now in the collection of the Australian War Memorial. Image out of copyright.

There is a strong belief, at least in Queensland, that, during the war years, our national policy was to defend the country below the Brisbane line. The rest of the state, to Brisbane’s north, was to be considered expendable. This strategy has been widely disputed over the decades but only detailed historical research would confirm or deny it.

I have often wondered whether it was a coincidence that my grandfather relocated his family from Townsville to Brisbane in mid-1941. He was a supervisor in the carpentry workshop with the railways, an essential service during the war. I can only imagine how relieved he must have been to be miles away when Townsville was bombed, but perhaps less thrilled to have three teenaged daughters in Brisbane with the presence of so many Australian or US troops.

Brisbane City Council (1942). Air Raid Shelters and Salt Water Pipes in Elizabeth Street behind the General Post Office.

Just imagine Brisbane at the time: a country-town sized capital of some 330,000 people firmly entrenched in the idea of Britain as home and with very British attitudes. The architecture was peculiar to this sub-tropical town with many wooden houses built on stilts and hotels with wide verandahs – it probably all looked a bit “wild west” to the incoming troops. Sadly, today much of that diverse architecture no longer stands having been wilfully demolished to make way for grander, taller, more modern buildings.

Unidentified (1942). Australian Hotel in Brisbane during World War II. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. This hotel was not far from the US PX.

During the years 1941-1945, around 90,000 US military (including the much-debated General MacArthur) would pour into the town. If we put a rubbery 1:3 ratio on the men in the local population, they were matched 1 to 1 by the new arrivals although many Australian soldiers (Diggers) were already posted elsewhere. There was also resentment between the two forces about their relative fighting “performances” in the highly challenging Papua New Guinea confrontations with the Japanese, even though the first land battle defeat of the Japanese had occurred in Milne Bay in August 1942.

Unidentified (1942). American soldiers in Charlotte Street, Brisbane, ca. 1942. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

The local mantra during the war was that the US men were “overpaid, oversexed and over here”. Their uniforms were smarter, their pay was higher, and they had access to goods not available in the city’s shops through their Post Exchange or PX, and they were “exotic”. Perhaps unsurprisingly they were a big hit with the young Brisbane women.  The sad thing is how the behaviour of the women is reported – as if they were floozies, “no better than they ought to be”, tarts or amateur prostitutes. It seems that, as so often happens, the women got the blame for social behaviour. Add to that their Australian men weren’t socialised to just hang out with women and generally spent their spare time with their mates. Even today Aussie barbeques are famous for the division of the sexes. It can be argued that there was little difference between the Diggers in England during the war(s) when they were the exotic overpaid troops. The reality is that wherever men were stationed, they fell in love (or lust) with local women, and some married and the new-minted wives moved back to the man’s home country, as war brides.

Brisbane City Council (1950). Corner of Queen Street and Creek Street Brisbane.

It’s pretty easy to see in retrospect that there might be trouble brewing in sleepy Brisbane, but it seemed to have escaped the attention of the powers that be. On top of the social tensions, it was quite likely that tempers might well have been short simply because the heat and humidity of the approaching Brisbane summer.

Tensions would erupt with a vengeance on Thanksgiving Day in 1942. Come back tomorrow and learn what happened in sleepy downtown Brisbane. (pronounced, btw, as Bris-bin not Bris-BANE).

Meanwhile, venture over to see where other Sepians travelled this week.

Sepia Saturday 528 Header

As I write, US marines are currently stationed in Darwin in Australia’s north, and have been since 2011/12.  This is in addition to the Pine Gap base in Australia’s Red Centre.

You can read a few stories about the strategic decision to send the marines to Australia here and here. You can read some of my earlier stories about the Pitch Black multi-national ops in Darwin here on my other blog.

Queensland Newspapers Pty Ltd (2007). American serviceman meeting a wallaby in Brisbane, Queensland. State Library of Queensland.

 

Volunteer Air Observer Corps

V2020Today is Anzac Day Down Under and many genealogy bloggers from Australia and New Zealand will be writing about their families’ military history. This year I was inspired to write about my mother’s (Joan McSherry) civilian service during the war, after listening to an excellent talk from Caloundra Family History member, Ian Edwardson via Zoom. Sometimes we focus so much on members of the military forces that we forget that civilian life continued on the home front and many people contributed to support the military in some way. As my direct line family members were railway workers, they were regarded as essential services and so did not join the forces. It makes me feel like a bit of a fraud when it comes to Anzac Day services. When they called for experienced railway workers to service the trainlines at the Western Front in World War I, my paternal grandfather, Denis Kunkel, enlisted in late 1917. You can read his story here.

Volunteer Air Observer Corps

My mother’s service was civilian but with military overtones. She joined the Volunteer Air Observer Corps (VAOC) when she was about 16, or close to 17. She served with them for two years until the end of the war. I’ve read that there were interviews and tests before people were admitted but Mum doesn’t recall this and says she joined after seeing an advertisement – perhaps the one included here? The purpose of the VAOC was to monitor the skies for enemy aircraft and alert the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) if they were seen. Recruitment for the VAOC was undertaken through the Women’s Air Training Corps (WATC) and it was through this organisation that observers were trained to identify different types of Japanese aircraft based on profile, engines etc. The training was done at Archerfield aerodrome in Brisbane’s south-west. The WATC was also regarded as a training ground for women who later might wish to join the WAAAF, the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Airforce. Goodness, all these acronyms – it might even be the military!

WATC VOAC Telegraph 17 Nov 1942 p4

Aircraft Recognition Classes (1942, November 17). The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947), p. 4 (CITY FINAL LAST MINUTE NEWS).  http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article172597476

Perhaps unsurprisingly (because it’s about the women after all and they were civilians), it’s hard to find detailed information. There is a book about the VAOC that looks pertinent but it’s in the Queensland State Library, and so currently in lockdown. So, turning to Trove (again) is the solution. In addition to which I’ve tried to pick Mum’s memory and that of a friend who was also in the VAOC.

These are Mum’s words which she’d written down a while ago:

Volunteer Air Observers had to have a thorough knowledge of all types of Japanese planes. You went to a beautiful old home on the hill in the Clayfield (a suburb of Brisbane), overlooking Eagle Farm Aerodrome, then the only one in Brisbane. Archerfield was the Air Force base. This beautiful home had a particular area, separate to the house, which was laid out with required facilities for observing. This included a pair of binoculars to watch the airport and a telephone. If a Japanese plane landed at the airport (or presumably was sighted), you immediately notified Head Quarters via the phone set up in the room.

In conversation Joan told me that she’d catch the tram from Buranda to Clayfield every Sunday after Mass, then walk up the hill to the house, and would be on duty for two hours. It must have been tiring peering out through binoculars or looking at the sky consistently for two hours. Fortunately, they were spared the anxiety of an enemy aircraft, though as the North was bombed in 1942, it must have seemed entirely possible. Mum would be dressed in civvies when “spotting”, not her uniform, which would only be worn for meetings or special events. When she was promoted to sergeant, she was required to wear her khaki uniform for these events.

WAAAF Staff room

In a W.A.A.A.F. Staff Room (1942, February 19). The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947), p. 5 (Second Edition). http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article172698162

The WATC held a stall on Saturday morning selling a variety of things including small hand-made toys. This raised money for the free lunches they served to the WAAAFs at a canteen at Old Courier House (corner of Queen and Edward, which is now a bank, I think). A special relaxation area had been fitted out and made available for the WAAAF women when off duty – a place to just relax. Mum’s friend, Donna, who was a bit younger and hadn’t been trained to do the plane spotting was very involved in this side of the activities of the WATC.

Apart from learning about identifying planes, mum also went out to Archerfield to see some of the WATC work there and learn a little about motor car engines. We didn’t own a car until the late 1960s so it’s a shame she never got to put that to use.

It wasn’t all work and no play. Occasionally the WATC and VAOC would have balls or dances to raise funds. They also had some picnics and we’re lucky enough to have a couple of photos taken at one of these. The WATC celebrated their 5th Birthday week from 9th-15th July 1944 and Mum has a souvenir booklet from the day on which there are many signatures including that of the Queensland Commandant, Yvonne Jones, and Australian flying ace, Nancy Bird Walton, who was the Australian Commandant . I wonder if any of my readers will recognise the names of any of the women who also signed. Two of mum’s long term friends are included in the list, Joyce and Donna.

On 15 August 1945, Victory in the Pacific Day, when the war ended for Australia, there was great excitement in Brisbane and mum and her friend were allowed to leave work to go and celebrate. Dad was less fortunate, as the shift workers were required on duty and missed out on the day’s exuberance.

family scan091 (2)

Found in mum’s autograph book. I wonder if she entered it on VP Day. 3 dots and a dash mean the letter V  in morse code.

 

jol-files-2015-08-vpday

Brisbane people will see the humour of this: the City Hall celebrating joyfully.

After the war finished, life returned to normal, but Mum missed the verve of those years. They were given a celebration at Victoria Barracks after the war, but apparently it wasn’t written up in the paper. How rarely does Trove let me down?

KUNKEL Joan WATC reunion

Joan receiving her “Australia Remembers” certificate: L to R: Y McComb King, Senator Parer, Nancy Bird Walton, Joan Kunkel wearing badges of both the WATC and VAOC.

In December 1995, surviving members of the WATC were invited to a morning tea at the United Services Club in Brisbane to receive an “Australia Remembers” commemorative certificate for serving with the WATC during the war years. The event was hosted by Senator Warwick Parer[i],  Mrs Yvonne McComb King (formerly Jones) and Mrs Nancy Bird Walton were honoured guests and co-hosts. Both Mum and her friend Donna were able to attend, and I was surprised to discover when reading the advertisement for the event, that mum had been a sergeant, which she had never mentioned previously.

You can click on any of the images to make them large enough to read.

family scan023

An example of the VAOC from the Australian War Memorial.

VOAC AWM 4085497

 

 

[i] Liberal Senator for Queensland and Shadow Minister for Tourism, Aviation and Customs.

The Price of Peace

P2020It may be that, on a daily basis, I take our country’s peace for granted rather than give thanks for it. Yes, it has things that could be done better or differently, but overall we are indeed the Lucky Country when it comes to peace. Yes, I am aware that our Indigenous Australians paid a high price when the country was settled and since. However, many people have come to our shores to find peace and safety, escaping persecution or wars. I certainly don’t subscribe to the “if you don’t love it, leave” philosophy. I often wonder whether people with those bumper stickers would immediately leave their spouses/partners the minute they had a disagreement. So, yes, I give thanks that we live on an island continent far from many of the world’s trouble spots.

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The memorial plaque for James Thomas Paterson on Roma’s bottletree planting in honour of its World War I Diggers

Since we became a nation in 1901, and even before, our people have been involved in wars, largely to support the Empire of which we were a part. Many of our people paid a high price: loss of life, incapacity and physical handicaps, loss of family members, post-traumatic stress, domestic violence, loss of human potential. As so many were lost on foreign battlefields with little chance that family members would ever be able to visit their graves (where they even exist), the role of war memorials has played a huge role as a locus of bereavement and recognition of service. Is there a town in the country where one can’t be found? I suspect not.

Maintaining peace can be as strenuous as winning a war. Margaret MacMillan, Canadian Historian.

Ancestors and the Price of Peace

It seems likely that most Australian families have members who volunteered to serve or were enlisted. Perhaps mine is somewhat unusual because with so many railwaymen in protected or essential service, branches of the family tree had little or no representation. It’s for this reason that I’ve been less inclined to engage with Anzac Day ceremonies because I feel like a fraud.

It wasn’t until I lived in Milne Bay in the early 1970s that the full sense of the war in Papua New Guinea became clearer to me despite previously reading books and poetry about it. I wrote about that here. Similarly touring the Western Front in Europe brought the loss to humanity overwhelmingly evident.

DSC_0591

The memorial overlooks Milne Bay: a far more tranquil scene than 77 years ago.

Each year the Australian and New Zealand genealogy bloggers typically post a story about ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day. You can see some of mine by searching in the box in the top right.

The price of peace paid by my families include the deaths of James Paterson[i] (grandson of George and Mary Kunkel) and James Gavin[ii] (grandson of Denis and Ellen Gavin) during World War I. Hugh Moran[iii] was taken Prisoner of War in Italy and Germany during World War II for several years. William Rudolph (Robert) Kunkel was Missing in Action in the Korean War and his family never knew what happened beyond the firefight when he was captured.

It’s hard to imagine what their families went through both during the war and afterwards. Letters found in the service records can be heartbreaking.

Personal thoughts

medal3 cropMy paternal grandfather served in World War I, however I have no memory of him ever attending an Anzac Day service, although he was a member of the Returned Servicemen’s League/

As a child, I remember seeing men with war injuries (missing arms or legs), selling newspapers on the street corner. Or men hitting the bottle or drunk – drowning their memories no doubt.  We came to a better understanding of the Bombing of Darwin once we moved to the Northern Territory to live.  Or realising that my husband would have “won” the national service lottery for Vietnam if his official place of abode during university hadn’t been Papua New Guinea.

I remember Dad telling me that he couldn’t attend the Victory in the Pacific celebrations in Brisbane because he was on shift with the railways at the time. Or hearing a (very) little about his knowledge of the Battle of Brisbane.. the conflict between Australian servicemen and the Americans who were based here and thought to be “overpaid, oversexed and over here”. I’ve also realised I need to ask mum what she did on VP day.

VP Day Brisbane

Victory in the Pacific celebrations Brisbane from awm.gov.au. Out of copyright.

It’s also interesting to observe that the practice of having cadet corps in high schools seems to have largely disappeared over the decades. When I was at high school many schools, and I’d suggest all private schools, had their own army or air force cadets.

Those families with serving men and women across the decades will have quite a different experience from mine. It doesn’t change that I am very grateful indeed to live in a peaceful country,  thanks in part to the high price that has been paid.

You can read some of my past posts for Anzac Day or Remembrance Day by using the search bar on the top right of this blog, or the drop down categories box– something else to do in our covid-isolation?

What is your families’ tradition of military service and what price was paid to gain peace?

For some sources to use when searching for Australian Military History and service.

Australian War Memorial

Commonwealth War Graves Commission for deaths and places of burial or memorials.

National Archives of Australia: Attestation documents digitised for WWI service people and some for later conflicts.

Quote from https://www.brainyquote.com

[i] 05 April 1917 Age 28 VILLERS-BRETONNEUX MEMORIAL http://cwgc.org

[ii] 19 July 1916 Age 30 RUE-PETILLON MILITARY CEMETERY, FLEURBAIX I. K. 39.from http://cwgc.org

[iii] https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/DetailsReports/ItemDetail.aspx?Barcode=4850146&isAv=N

Lest We Forget 2019

For the astounding loss of human life and potential around the world.

For those who served and gave their lives, ally or enemy

For their country’s cause, safety and honour.

For the ANZACs who travelled so far to fight in distant lands.

For the families and communities left behind to wait and mourn,

And the children who suffered a lifetime of loss.

For those who faced cousins and kin across no-man’s-land.

Bomana War Cemetery, Port Moresby, PNG

For the navy and merchant navy whose lives ended at sea.

For the young airmen whose courage and skill saved others.

For the Prisoners of War who suffered privation, fear and torture.

For the families who would never know the fate of their soldier.

For those who returned damaged in body, mind and spirit

Cobbers’ Memorial, Fromelles

And the families who suffered with them and supported them

Whose lives would never be the same again.

For the women who would never have a partner or loved one

Due to the loss of so many men.

For the animals who gave their lives for love and loyalty, not understanding why else they were there.

For all those who stepped up to the mark in their homeland

In restricted occupations: supporting the troops, feeding the population, and working in factories.

For the railwaymen in my family who ensured the troops got to the battlefields

A German cemetery on the Western Front.

Received their munitions, and were brought home afterwards.

We offer our thanks and prayers and we remember them.

LEST WE FORGET

Fromelles War Cemetery. “My boys, my poor boys, they have killed my poor boys”. WEH Cass

Over the years I’ve written posts for Anzac Day and Remembrance Day, as well as some about the Bombing of Darwin on 19 February 1942. For those who are interested you can read them here.

One hundred years 2018

Grandad goes to war

Honouring the Australian born diggers with German ancestry.

William Rudolph (Robert) Kunkel (MIA Korea)

Battle of Fromelles: In Memoriam James Augustus Gavin 

V is for the Valiant of Villers-Brettoneux including James Paterson

A family Anzac: Pte Hugh Moran (POW)

V is for our Valiant Indigenous Anzacs.

Two brothers go to war and Postcards to the Front

Those who came home

A Turkish memorial near Gallipoli

War in Papua New Guinea

Erle Victor Weiss

Lest we forget: the Battle of Milne Bay

Flowers for the fallen

Lest we forget and the Bombing of Darwin

War Memorials

War in PNG – Anzac Day 2019

AtoZ2019WThis series of blog posts is part of the A to Z 2019 Blogging Challenge in which I will write snapshot memories of my early married life in the then Territory of Papua New Guinea. 

No, I haven’t forgotten my alphabetical order, but today is Anzac Day in Australia so I’ve jumped over V to post W today.

Lest we forget

The meaning of war in the tropics

Comes home when you live there.

DSC_0586

The Battle of Milne Bay Memorial at Alotau.

The pounding rain, the heavy clouds

The dense jungle obscuring villages.

No wonder some men were overtaken by fear

As the leaves closed in on them

(do read this link and the comments especially)

This poem by David Campbell captures it also –

An extract from Men in Green:

Their eyes were bright, their looks were dull

Their skin had turned to clay

Nature had met them in the night

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Stained glass memorial in the Catholic church at Alotau. Photo P Cass 2012

And stalked them in the day.

And I think still of men in green

On the Soputa track

With fifteen spitting tommy-guns

To keep a jungle back.

Soon after my arrival in Milne Bay

Planes were searching through the clouds

For a crashed aircraft missing on a mountain of dense jungle

This sound on Anzac Day evoked a sense of war and danger

Bringing it home to me in a real way, not theoretical.

The Battle of Milne Bay should rank with Kokoka or Gallipoli

The first land defeat of the Japanese during the war

Needs to gain more prominence

A Victoria Cross won not far from our home

By Corporal John French from Crows Nest, Queensland.

World War I discovery in Milne Bay, Papua

Sadds Ridge Rd sign

The allied airfield at Gurney was adjacent to Gili Gili Plantation

Where my husband worked before our marriage

An old street sign found there is a proud heirloom

A reminder of some ANZAC

For whom it was a little bit of home.

 

 

 

French and so many other men who gave their lives

Are buried in Bomana Cemetery in Port Moresby

A site where we took our visitors.

Kokoka Track memorial

Owers’ Corner

Another historic location for us to visit was Owers’ Corner

Near Sogeri, on the Moresby side of the Kokoda Track.

Last week I talked about my husband’s early days in Popondetta

Less than a decade from the war

It had been near the northern end of Kokoda

So many men would have succumbed without their own courage

Or that of the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels who supported them.

My uncle was an Army cook in PNG and I inherited his photographs. They do say an Army marches on its stomach.

 

 

Lest we forget

I have written two posts about Anzac Day as part of previous A to Z challenges:

V is for the Valiant of Villers-Brettoneux

V is for our Valiant Indigenous Anzacs.

 

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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

 

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

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.

 

An army marches on its stomach

Sepia Sat 180It seems that my uncle Pat Farraher is determined to have his moment in the Sepia Saturday sun. Pat appeared back in Sepia Saturday 166 and today’s topic is tailor-made for him.

The World War II nominal roll only gives bare details but it lists Patrick Joseph Farraher enlisting on 15 September 1942 in Enoggera, Brisbane at the age of 34. He was attached to the 4th Field Bakery (AASC) as a private. His next of kin was my Aunty Mary.

Among my aunt’s estate were some old family photos including some of Uncle Pat’s military service, including those mentioned above. Today we start moving into the field and the Australian War Memorial’s photographic collection places Pat’s photos in context. I knew he’d served in Papua New Guinea, and immediately recognised some of Pat’s place photos from his time there, but knew nothing about these service photos of his.

It may be this is field training prior to departing to Papua New Guinea -it looks like Australian scrub in the background.

It may be this is field training prior to departing to Papua New Guinea -it looks like Australian scrub in the background. Photograph from Pat Farraher collection.

The cook "train" -you can see this photo links with the one above.

The cook “train” -you can see this photo links with the one above. Photo from Pat Farraher collection.

I could see this was an Army Dukw (amphibious vehicle) photographed, I suspect, at Enoggera army camp by Uncle Pat but what relevance did it have?

Perhaps they were heading off to the ship to PNG.

Perhaps they were heading off to the ship to PNG. Photograph from Pat Farraher collection.

But the AWM website makes it clearer in its caption for this photo: A FIELD BAKERY BEING ESTABLISHED ON THE NORTHERN BANK OF THE BUMI RIVER. THIS PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS MEMBERS OF THE 4TH AUSTRALIAN FIELD BAKERY PLACING SHEER LEGS IN POSITION ON TWO “DUKWs” PREPARATORY TO UNLOADING THE BAKERS OVENS.

Photograph 61074 from the AWM Collection, taken in the Finchhafen area of PNG.

Photograph 61074 from the AWM Collection, taken in the Finchhafen area of PNG. Image in the public domain. Men from the 4th Field Bakery.

Armies need food as well as ammunition so the army bakers were kept busy making bread, rolls, meat pies and who knows what else. I don’t suppose that with people being shot at, any concerns for health regulations went out the window. I was lucky to find so many great photos of the 4th Field Bakery in the AWM collections.

Image 061258 AWM. 4th Field Bakery men preparing bread rolls.

Image 061258 AWM. 4th Field Bakery men preparing bread rolls. Image out of copyright.

In a hot and humid region, working in the bakehouse must have been incredible sweaty work though they were probably well-served by their bush-materials bake house. In the bigger scheme of things I guess the Diggers probably didn’t care too much about a salty addition to their bread rolls.

The AWM states on one picture “with improvised ovens and huts and the help of native boys, the men of the 2/4th Field Bakery baked thousands of bread rolls each day to supply the Division”.

Some bakers from the 4th Field Bakery heading back to quarters after a busy day’s work. The contrast between the featured image today and the men in this image is amusing, I think. No wonder the British officers complained about the casualness of Australian soldiers during WWI.

AWM Image 061613 of the 4th Field Bakery men leaving the bush materials bakehouse at Dumpu in the Ramu Valley, PNG.

AWM Image 061613 of the 4th Field Bakery men leaving the bush materials bakehouse at Dumpu in the Ramu Valley, PNG. Image out of copyright and in the public domain.

Lest We Forget: the Battle of Milne Bay

As you know we’ve just returned from Papua New Guinea, and in particular Milne Bay where we spent most of our time. We had lived there for a couple of years after our marriage but Mr Cassmob had also spent his teenage years in the district, when home from boarding school, and he regards it as his “place”.

It always shocks me how little known Milne Bay is within the history of World War II, while Kokoda gains a much higher profile. Despite contradictory stories, it was in the Battle of Milne Bay that the Japanese suffered their first land defeat, proving they were not invincible. Following the rapid domino effect of their overthrow of the Asian countries such as Singapore, this battle gave hope that their forces could be defeated. While there is now no indication that the Japanese forces intended to invade Australia, there’s little doubt that an enemy force ensconced in Papua or New Guinea would have been cause for grave concern and fears for Australia’s security. This year has been the 70th anniversary of the battle.

The Battle of Milne Bay was a relatively short but difficult campaign exacerbated by challenging terrain, heat and the hazards of malaria. It raged up and down the northern coastline of Milne Bay exactly where we were visiting last week and where we had lived in the 70s. The major air base was on Gili Gili Plantation where my husband worked briefly in the late 60s (see the story of his discovery of a wartime artefact here).

Rather than give you chapter and verse I’m going to show you the images of the War Memorial near Alotau and also the information plaques which tell the story of the battle. You might also be interested in the images on my Tropical Territory blog which show the stained glass windows in the Catholic Church in Alotau, honouring those lost in the battle.

The map shows the range of the battlegrounds. Alotau, the provincial headquarters, where we’ve just been, is slightly to the left of the arrow.

The memorial overlooks Milne Bay: a far more tranquil scene than 70 years ago.

The Australians gained great support from the local people who risked much to help them.

Lest we forget

Image of poppies from Wikipedia.

In Memoriam: Crows Nest Memorial to those who gave their lives in World Wars I and II. The memorial includes the names of Cpl French VC and my grandfather’s cousin, James Gavin.