Tuesday August 10th
Through every word spoken as we stood on the cliff top yesterday, part of my mind was always on Gerald. I was dimly aware of the sun warm above us and the sparkling blue ocean stretching back across the harbor to the city but my mouth was filled with the metallic taste that comes with fear. I dared not speak of it in case I broke down, not only for my own sake but those of my friends. Despite their bright smiles I know they felt as I did, especially Annie, as it was her son and mine, Colin and Gerald, best pals, who were going off to war. And for Gladys it was her dear brother. I could not stop my heart pounding, no matter how hard I tried to distract myself by throwing questions at them. Can you see it yet? Do you think they will be here before dark?
We had gone well prepared, with plenty of sandwiches and an apple pie . We spread a rug on the ground, but none of us sat for long, standing up on tiptoe to catch a first glimpse of the ship. We knew they boarded this morning and had expected them to appear earlier in the day.
With each hour that passed I felt increasingly anxious, my mind turning back to when the war broke out. I thought of my dear Everard on his way back to Ireland last year after his sister Mary died in Dublin. Poor Mary was the last of her family over there, now only Everard is left. I never asked him how he felt about that, but now I am left alone I wish I could talk to him. Life can be so cruel sometimes.
I was suddenly jolted from my thoughts by a cry from Gladys, Look! Look! A ship. They’re coming! We stared intently across the ocean as slowly but surely the vessel took firm shape through the shimmering air. We dared not take our eyes off it. Gladys was standing quite still, clutching my arm very tightly. I reached out the other side to Annie and rested my hand gently on her back. No words were needed, for none would suffice and may well be have been our undoing. I prayed we would be able to see them as we each thought, though never said the words aloud, that this may be the last glimpse we have of our beloved and precious boys.
The listing ship lumbered its way towards the harbor entrance but it was not until she was almost through the Heads that we saw the red bandanna Colin and Gerald were madly waving from the stern. We waved madly back, laughing and crying as we made great flourishes of farewell with the tablecloth, leaving our picnic scattered across the rocks.
When the ship disappeared into the growing gloom we walked silently down to the Gap Café for a last cup of tea and where it was firmly proposed that dear Gladys would come home with me. I offered a feeble protest, but felt the dread of being alone disappear as I spoke. I was so grateful to them both, such kind and caring souls. To think I had not met them until Gerald came down from Collarenebri to Sydney this last Easter with other stockmen from Dunumbral Station. Annie had been very against Colin joining up, but he was finally able to do so after his father gave his blessing and she relented.
Our ferry ride back to the city was mostly in silence. I felt utterly exhausted. Annie assured me she would be fine getting the train home and that Joseph would be waiting to hear of her day. Her husband is not a well man, so she does not like to be away too long, even though one of her children is usually there with him, either Gladys or Marie, Clifford or young Norman. I cannot imagine having so many children myself, but they are a great comfort and help to her and she is so fortunate to have them around her at this time.
Gladys and I caught the ferry across to Neutral Bay and by the time we walked up the hill in Kurabba Road to my little cottage Jock was waiting at the gate, yapping and wagging his tail furiously in anticipation of dinner, whilst the yellow mongrel lurked near the front door, hoping to be first in and fed. The fool cat was nowhere to be seen.
Shortly afterwards Belle arrived. She especially came as she knew I would be feeling Gerry’s leaving and wanted to be here with me. I was very pleased to be back after such a big day but felt too tired to get the stove lit so it was a great relief to hear young Joe Makinson’s voice at the door. The Makinsons are such wonderful neighbours, and Joe, especially, a great help to me. He had the stove blazing in no time, and as Belle, Gladys and I cooked a simple meal of boiled eggs and toast I could hear him chopping more wood outside for the chip heater, so there would be hot water for a bath.
Belle had to return to the hospital after tea as she was on duty. Joe, Gladys and I sat up far too late, but the truth is that I feared not being able to sleep, that my mind would wander to dark places. Our conversation was all about the boys, reminiscing about our visits to them when they were in training camp at Liverpool, always loaded up with fodder or warm clothes or any little treats we could think of. We threw a grand farewell dinner for them and their friends, The Pride they have named themselves. It was such a lovely night. There were thirty guests, so the Sergeants kindly lent us their mess tent. All of Colin’s family was there, even father Joseph and it was a great time for the boys with some wonderful speech making. Gerald, of course, was in fine form. He is a great showman and loves an audience.
And then, of course, there is my dearest Everard. To think he was in the Suez Canal when this war began with Germany declaring war on Russia. Now he has signed on with the army in England, and is trying to get to the front. I dare not think of it, but pray they will not let him near the firing line at his age. He had not long until his sixtieth birthday when he joined the 7th Bedfordshires so hopefully they will find him a safe desk job. I know he would not be satisfied and no doubt grumble loudly, but when Gerald gets to Egypt both our sons will be at the war. Surely that is enough for one family.
John couldn’t wait to get away last March. The moment he graduated medicine he was gone, two days after turning twenty-two. I remember Gerald came down the day before from jackarooing at Collarenebri to see his brother off. He just walked in and we got such a lovely surprise, then he stayed for nearly a week as he had time off from work at the cattle station. John is doctoring in the trenches now, though I’m not sure where. Everard said that reading between the lines of his last letter he was in Ypres. I felt so miserable after he left. I am hoping he will not forget Belle now he is so far away, but he writes to her often, affectionate letters I know, because she shows them to me. It must mean something that he saw her before he left for the front. He especially went to the hospital to see her before he and Eric Blashki boarded the ship for Melbourne.
Nursing is such a hard job, both bodily and mentally and Belle has her examinations coming up next month, so I will have to do my best to help her. She is working hard as she has her heart set on getting to a military hospital in Egypt or France. I often meet her in town for lunch or dinner in between Red Cross work, and when she has time off she stays the night with me. It is a comfort for me having her near, and I so enjoy her company. I hope John realizes what a fine girl she is.
Just after Easter Gerald came back to Sydney. The next day he went straight to Colin’s place at Ashfield as his pal had written to him in February about joining up, so then it was only a matter of time before they went off to enlist in the 12th Light Horse together. It was April 28th – Belle was here all day. Colin failed with his chest measurement but somehow managed to expand it by five inches to thirty-seven and was accepted a week later. Poor Gerald had a bad time of it before he left for the front, with an awful bout of bronchitis and a high temperature for the first two weeks of June then a bad reaction to his smallpox vaccination.
Gladys, Annie and I took pies, sausage rolls and jam tarts up a few days later, all very welcome, but by then I could feel the strain of it telling on me. Our last visit was two days ago, August 8th. The day before they sailed. We went back, the Bull family and I, to hear the boys’ roll call and last orders. We all said our goodbyes which was a dreadful trial, everyone trying to put on a brave face. That night it was Gladys who went home to Ashfield and Annie who stayed with me. We were both very affected. This is such a dreadful time for mothers everywhere, beautifully expressed in a poem given to me by Mrs Ranken at the Women’s Club. It is called Australian Mother Song. This is a verse from it.
Last night, despite the late hour, when I finally got to bed I tossed and turned as my mind filled with memories. Everard and I have been married for nearly twenty-five years and in all that time not once did I dream our lives would come to this, that we would be parted in this way. Lines of one of the poems he wrote for me, years ago, float into my mind. Pulse of my heart, he called me, my dearest Everard,
Close are we through joy and pain
Nothing can sever us: we twain
Not death can rend us apart.
And now, here we are on opposite sides of this wide world, and who knows for how long? Our beautiful boys are now men and soldiers. When Gerald was born Everard called him Our crown of joy, the fruitage of our love. Surely God will keep them all safe, but fear lurks in my heart. I hope and pray that death will not rend us apart.
Sunday, September 20th
A cable from Gerald came a week ago saying he has arrived in Egypt and is well. I immediately telegraphed to Annie Bull and other families as we had agreed. I am sorry in a way the trip is over, as I felt that at least Gerald and Colin were out of the firing line. I have been filling my time since the boys left with war work, writing letters and gardening. We had Violet Day for which I made cakes and took in as many flowers as I could gather from the garden, making them up in little posies. They looked very pretty and we sold all of them.
Joe Makinson’s sister, Mary, stayed with me last week. I was not well and had a bad headache so I stayed home and rested while she was at Randwick Hospital visiting and doing her voluntary work during the day.
I have been trying to keep up with people but it is hard to fit them all in, then I get news of friends like the Pullings and my heart breaks. First Lee’s death at Gallipoli on the very day we had the farewell dinner for the boys at camp. He was just twenty-four and could only have been at the front three months as he left Australia in March. And now I hear Hugh Pulling is ill. I wonder if Gerald sees anything of their other brother Benjy. All the boys he and John went to school with at Sydney Church of England Grammar, so many are over there, and too many are not coming home. Life is one huge suspense just now. A lot of wounded came back this week including three blind soldiers – it is awfully sad. As I write I can hear a troopship down past the garden, with the usual cheering and whistling going on.
I think of Gerald and Everard and John every day, watching and waiting for the mail. It is maddening this waiting. Annie Bull and I are dying for letters. She has become a great friend to me – she has a lot of common sense and quiet determination that I so admire. I am dining with the family next Friday and am looking forward to their company.
A new white kitten has persisted in adopting us here, so I now have the dogs, Jock and Jo and the cats, Peter and the new one to keep me company. I found him in possession one day last week when I came home and he was spitting and swearing at the others, holding his own against the lot of them. I immediately christened him The Great White Hope. I have surreptitiously put him over fences, but when I get back he is always here before me.
Living on my own has not started well for I had a very nasty accident on Sunday last. I was chopping wood and chopped the top of my thumb off, including half the nail. It just hung there by a thread. I managed to press it on and call to my opposite neighbor and then collapsed in a dead faint. Dr Throsby came and fixed it up but says it if shows any sign of not knitting I shall have to have the piece taken off. Fortunately it is my left hand so I can still write to my three men every mail. Word got around quickly as Joe and Mary Makinson came over to help me as soon as they got the news - they are such dears. I couldn’t have managed without them as my thumb was throbbing terribly and very painful and I could not use that hand.
I have written three letters to Egypt so far but am still waiting to hear, though I have had splendid letters from Everard and also from John who is right in the firing line. He is in Belgium now and thinks that most Belgians are spies who openly say they would rather be living under the Germans than the British. He has strong suspicions of the priest where he is and told me not to give them any help. Surely they can’t all be undeserving. Some weeks ago I submitted John’s letter about daily life on the battlefield in France and it was published in the Herald last Tuesday. A lot of my friends with sons there have rung me. John’s work as censor gives him insight into what the men feel below the surface, a reminder, as he wrote, that they are firstly human beings and secondarily soldiers. He described a little of their social life and sports but the medical side of things is not so good. John works in such dreadful conditions. He had to take one poor fellow who had appendicitis over four miles of rough road, on a wagon drawn by two mules. He has to see sick men in a dimly lit barn, in conditions that must test one’s skill and patience to the limit. And all the time the boom of guns sounds in the background.
Everard has returned to England from Ireland after fixing up Mary’s affairs and making “very fine recruiting speeches”. He has been re-examined by the Royal Army Medical Corps doctors and been declared quite fit for military duties provided strenuous and long marches are avoided. My heart sank on reading this as no doubt he is once more going to try to get back into uniform. He is doing his d_____t to get to France where the 7th Bedfords now are. If only we had peace. We did not know when we were well off.
Mrs Lloyd wrote from Melbourne asking for Gerald’s photo and suggested I go there for a holiday. I sent her a copy of my photo, as well as some of John’s letters for after all she is his godmother, but I censored them carefully as his language is sometimes painful and free. John and Belle have been corresponding but to my dismay John mentioned to me that he is teaching two French girls, Valerie and Antoinette, the one-step. I am certain that some day he will get into trouble.
We have been having wet and windy weather so I have made the best of it to clean out the house, turning out cupboards and drawers. I have Everard’s big desk from his office here now so I have put all my soldiers’ photos on top, as well as Colin’s that I had framed. Earlier this week I stenciled a Dutch frieze all round the kitchen. I have been wanting to do it for a long time and it cheered me up immensely. When I have finished here I am going to meet Gladys Bull for tea at Farmers Department Store. I am doing some programs for Gladys and Marie for one of their endless bazaars.
Sunday, October 27th
At long last the waiting is over. More than two months since Gerald left, I have received my first letter from Egypt. His descriptions of Cairo were wonderfully amusing, especially his account of the expensive drinks. It made me long to set sail and join him there. I would love to see those mosques. He and Colin are relieved to finally be on terra firma, even if it is only sand, as their ship did not touch land for the entire voyage. What a dull time for them. I hear the weather in Egypt is getting cool so last week I sent off Gerald’s sheepskin vest and included some special eatables for Xmas and my darling’s birthday. He will be twenty-one, a man in the eyes of the world, and should be celebrating with his family who love him so dearly. I was thinking of this last month when we had a party for Marie Bull for her coming of age at Farmers Department Store. Annie and I were wishing our boys were there – it was all girls. I do hope the parcels get through and do not end up at the bottom of the ocean like the mail from Everard and John that went down with the Arabic. What brutes the Germans are, sinking a passenger ship.
I started writing to a wounded soldier last month, Athol Percy, who is in the Australian hospital at Heliopolis. He is only a kid – eighteen years old. I correspond with his mother, though I have never met her. It is dreadful to be sending boys so young and wet behind the ears off to fight in a war.
My heart is torn in three directions now, we are all so cruelly separated. Everard was expecting to go to Rouen and has said he wants to get Gerald a commission in an English regiment. If he does he will have to get one for Colin too. It would break Annie’s heart if our boys were not together so I will have to write to Everard and tell him so. I am so glad they are not at the Dardanelles – it is such a shambles.
Belle rang to tell me she has passed her exams three months ahead of time, but the Sydney hospital will not let her go until she has put in her full time which is not until February, although they let the doctors go. She is coming after lunch on Sunday and staying to tea and the following Tuesday I am going to the Bull’s to see Colin’s letter so I will take Gerald’s with me. I hope the boys got the money we cabled. There have been so many swindles with bogus cables for money that Annie and I were a bit doubtful, not thinking they would want money so soon, but I suppose it is no wonder if everything is a dear as Gerald writes. I am hoping one of the boys will cable to let us know they have received it. One never knows what is true in these times.
I do so love to work for the Red Cross but I never want to see another plum pudding again. We packed over 2000 of them alone and then there were the billies to be filled. There will, no doubt, be more soldiers to send comforts to after the marches. Gilgandra has organised one for next month, picking up recruits on their way to Sydney. It’s a great idea. Another is to be started from Collarenebri, via Lightning Ridge, Wee-Waa etc, Gerald’s old district. It’s a fine scheme and with all the stump orating in the world. I can imagine the sturdy bushmen marching from the backblocks to the sea.
I went to a gift afternoon last week for the 1st Field Artillery and had my fortune told by a woman who is apparently quite rich and only does it for patriotic fairs. She tells the future by palm reading and I am not sure what to make of it. She said that Gerald would get a flesh wound and although he is inclined to be hot headed he would be surrounded by people who would keep him from danger. She also said to tell him to make friends with an Indian! Gladys and Marie Bull also had theirs told and some strange things transpired.
It is early morning and the sun not yet up, but I cannot sleep. I have had a great shock. Two days ago I received a call from the Bank of New Zealand telling me of Gerald’s cable that he was leaving for the front. God protect them. I immediately came down with a gastric attack and have been confined to bed since.
All Annie and I want is for our boys to stay together and we hoped they would remain in Egypt as the truth about the Dardenelles being such a muddle is coming out. Evidently the back door was the way to get in, not the front. I read in the papers that there is a shortage of water in Gallipoli – I do hope this has been remedied. What an appalling thing it must be for the soldiers to want water, yet some of the troops at the Dardanelles actually died of thirst. We also read in the papers of diseases caused by drinking water. John says he tests all water for typhoid germs.
The day before the cable came I had tea in town with Mr Bull and we read each other’s letters from Gerald and Colin. Col spent a week in hospital with gastritis but wrote that they cured him with a diet of porridge, eggs and rice pudding. We never dreamed that the next day would come such fearful news. Mr Bull is not at all well so this does not help, coming on top of Col’s brother Clifford enlisting. He is going in to camp this week. It really worries the old gentleman and Annie has her hands full with all of it.
Recruiting is very slow. The bush lads have bravely responded but in the city things are very slow. Somehow the politicians are failing horribly. At Martin Place no-one listens to them any more, so it is given over to soldier speakers only, who get more recruits.
I have heard from my old friend Agnes Bennett. We have known each other a long time, since we were pupils together at Abbotsleigh School in North Sydney, along with my brother, Jack. I have a school photo taken in 1886 when I was sixteen. It was just a new school then and never could we have imagined this war and our lives because of it.
Agnes is doctoring at a place called Chubbra in an Infectious Diseases Hospital twelve miles from Cairo. When she volunteered to doctor the troops she was told to go home and knit! She is a determined woman, so found another way round it. She went over herself, prepared to work anywhere someone would take her. The only women Australia will send away are nurses, and even then the numbers are limited. I pray Agnes stays safe and comes back to her family who are such wonderful neighbours and friends to us.
Everard had been feeling poorly but I am happy to read that massage is apparently doing him the world of good, but poor old John has had two narrow escapes which makes my heart beat dreadfully. A shell burst only twenty-five yards from him, knocking off his cap and nearly blinding him. To my distress he says he is going to sign on again once his twelve months are up in March. I was hoping he would come back, but surely there will be peace by then. The whole thing seems like a horrible nightmare. Sometimes I wonder how I can bear it. The boys’ old school has issued a roll of honour. What an enormous number have responded to the call but alas the names of the killed are far too many. God pity mothers everywhere.
We have been having a busy time lately getting all the Xmas parcels packed for the 12th Light Horse and the other regiments. I do so hope the boys’ parcels do not go astray. Really this is a heartbreaking time, but I am doing my best to please them and keep as cheerful as can be expected.
I have decided to take up Mrs Lloyd’s offer and go to Melbourne for a short holiday as I badly need a rest after working for the Red Cross since the beginning of the war. I have been getting the place tidied up before I set sail, so Joe came and did a day’s work gardening and repairs. He loves the garden but it has not been watered for a week and has greatly suffered from the drought. That wretched Water and Sewerage Board have again forbidden garden watering and this is only November. It’s the same old cry every year, promises to reform and nothing comes of it. I shall water the garden tonight at midnight, come what may. Joe says he is going in to camp soon but he wants hear the results of his accountancy exam first. He has had his first taste of drill. He has never done anything of the kind before and wants to know something about it before he goes to Liverpool so he is paying three guineas a month to learn. He is in such good spirits since he decided to enlist. His friend Eric Long is returning with a wounded arm which will be of no further use to him.
I must go now and get something to eat. How I wish my soldiers were having it with me. I’d like to give them all a good feed, such as a sirloin steak, grilled, with a poached or fried egg and some chip potatoes, or fried fish and chips.
Another of Gerry’s letters came two days ago. I expect the next will be written in the trenches. I am troubled that he and Colin might not get their Xmas parcels now they are on Gallipoli. I am sending another with chocolate, cigarettes and some raisins, just in case. Joe cleverly packed them to look like cakes. I also sent some covers for jam tins as I read that the flies are very bad there, even in cold weather. Things are looking very serious for England I think, the papers full of the differences of those in command. This makes me feel very unsettled. I miss my boys and husband more and more each day and am striving not to give way to melancholy, as I know none of them would like that.
Dreadful news has come that Nipper Guthrie has lost his life. He was in the 1st Ambulance. I walked up to see Mrs Guthrie and Janet and my heart ached for them. Janet was so fond of her brother. Another Grammar boy, he died while on furlough in England, just after an appendix operation. He was having a holiday with his mother’s people so it was a dreadful shock to them. Poor Janet was down with the measles when the cable came. They sent it to Mrs Stokes to go and break the news. What an awful job for her. Nipper and Lee Pulling both lost their lives working in the Field Ambulance, so it must be a dangerous thing. The other Guthrie boy, Alec, had appendicitis but is back in the trenches.
Clifford Bull is in the Engineers, despite being promised the Medical Corps which he had his heart set on, but they said it was full. Poor Annie gets very depressed at times. I went out to their place last week and it was a scorcher. Not a drop of rain have we had in weeks. The place is as bare as the palm of your hand. Vegetables and fruit are an awful price and also tomatoes, and bushfires are rampant all over the country.
We had a stall called Blue Bells for Allies Day to raise funds for France, Russia, Serbia and Poland, cakes, sweets and tiddley-winks. Also eggs. We made £60. Everything sold out. All the boxes were covered in fancy paper and some of them I stenciled with Australian designs using stencils. They looked very well and the Day was a great success. Mr Bull saved my life. I was starving by 7pm and to my great joy he took me off to the grill room. I wanted it so badly. Oh wasn’t I tired the next day. I had been up since 5.30 am. and was standing all day. Still, there is no stopping until this war is over. We are working harder than ever in the Red Cross rooms to get the mail in order. Twelve sorters from the GPO supervised it. About time as it was a great shambles.
The newspapers have been full of accounts of a soldier riot at Liverpool over leave passes being stopped. A large mob of soldiers broke out and went rioting in the city. They broke the windows of the German Club and raided the Frankfurt Sausage Company. Today I saw a new window being put in. I have heard that the soldiers looked very funny getting off with armfuls of sausages. There must have been some good suppers that night.
I have been having a spring clean, getting carpets beaten, paint washed and everything polished and clean. I got the boys’ rooms fixed up as they like them, with photos properly grouped and Gerald’s saddle put away. Jock and the yellow mongrel and the fool cat keep me company as I work, but home still feels very empty without my dear soldiers. I wish I could go over there and cook and make things comfortable for them.
I have just read back through my diary jottings and it is no surprise that I feel so tired. Still, there is much work to be done and we must all pull our weight. My doings for November since my last entry are as follows:
Tuesday 9th – Red Cross all day until 6pm
Wednesday 10th – Red Cross General Committee meeting
Friday 12th – Red Cross & shopping with Belle
Saturday 13th – Home. Did odd jobs with Joe. To Bull’s for evening.
Monday 15th – Worked at ALH Comforts Fund – making bandages
Tuesday 16th – Red Cross all day, Shakespeare Society meeting
Wednesday 17th – Home. Made fancy boxes all day
Thursday 18th – Election of Red Cross executive. No thanks.
Friday 19th – Allies Day all day. Worked on stall
Saturday 20th – Home cleaning
Monday 22nd – Home letter writing
Tuesday 23rd – Red Cross all day
Wednesday 24th – Home gardening all day
Thursday 25th – Red Cross a.m. Met Belle in town for tea.
Saturday 27th – Home. Janet and Belle to tea. Letter writing
Sunday 28th – Gardening & burning off. Knitting mittens for 12th LH
I leave for Melbourne tomorrow evening on the Katoomba and have been packing this morning, though part of me just wants to stay home. Today is the anniversary of our wedding day. Twenty-five years ago Everard and I were married at St Augustine’s church here in Neutral Bay. Our silver wedding - what a sad day for us all. Joe and Belle both came and gave me nice presents. I put a notice in the Sydney Morning Herald.
December 13th, Melbourne
I am at last paying my promised visit to Mrs Lloyd. I came away hoping to get rid of this awful feeling of loneliness and depression. Dear Annie and Gladys gave me a little tea at Farmers and a framed photo of Lord Kitchener as a Xmas gift. I was much touched. We had a splendid trip down with a beautifully calm sea, just like crossing the harbor. I enjoyed it immensely though I never ate so much in my life. This swank place makes me feel a bit homesick, everything so formal and grand. The garden, though, is absolutely lovely, as it should be with the sprinklers going all day long. I don’t think Melbourne is a patch on Sydney, though the town is wonderful with its wide streets, but the trams are slow and 3d. a time. Today for lunch we had baked eggs, cold lamb and salad, butter pudding, cream and coffee. I am wondering what dinner will be like. When I leave I shall be a stone heavier at this rate.
I hope and pray that, after Kitchener’s visit to the Dardanelles, things will improve. As British Secretary of State for War one would hope he is able to turn things in the right direction. I saw that one hundred and sixty-eight bags of soldiers’ letters had been lost off there through the sinking of a tug. What heartbreak for all those families who will not hear from their boys at Xmas time. I suppose I can expect only scrappy letters from Gallipoli.
I hope Gerald’s lambskin vest is keeping him warm. I posted one to John last week. He begged me to send it for the love of Allah, as he feels the cold so keenly. I have not given any Xmas presents this year, being away. I do not think it time for Xmas rejoicings, they seem entirely out of place.
December 27th, Melbourne
A week ago, just the day before Gerald’s 21st birthday, there was great excitement and relief here when we read in the papers of the evacuation of the Anzacs. Now I am wondering where my baby is and what are his doings. It’s very hard to bear. Mrs Lloyd has been kindness itself to me. We celebrated his birthday on December 21st with toasts, in several beverages, to the health of all our absent and loved ones. My darling’s photo was placed in the middle of the table under a huge vase of poppies - flowers and fruit are glorious and so cheap in Melbourne. I had been into town earlier in the day and as I passed the Cathedral I went in and said a prayer for Gerald and Colin and all the other mothers’ boys. I have a happy feeling they will both come back safe and sound when this ghastly war is over.
I have been going out each morning for a walk but had to buy myself a woolen coat and skirt to stave off the cold, which was so bad we have been having fires inside. I do my knitting and letter writing in front of one in the sitting room which is very cosy. I spent one morning walking in the Botanic Gardens which are beautiful, and have been to a picture gallery to see Hans Heysen’s paintings and to church with Mrs Lloyd. Yesterday we went to visit friends of hers who have a wonderful collection of old china and furniture. I loved looking at it but I would not care to own so much.
Christmas was a quiet affair here in Melbourne for I do nothing but eat, sleep and knit socks for soldiers, though Christmas Day began with a shock. I was dreaming of Gerald most vividly when the maid brought in tea and said, Here is a telegram for you madam. It gave me such a fright I felt sick, but it was from the Joe and Mary Makinson wishing me a Merry Xmas. Joe has been persuaded by his sister and mother to postpone enlisting until he has passed his final exams in April. Poor old Joe is so keen on going to the war, but it is his duty to pass that exam first, after all his mother has spent on him.
That awful suffragette Adela Pankhurst is here in Melbourne, preaching against recruiting and urging men not to go to war. Soldiers promptly break up the meetings. One Labour Socialist was tarred and feathered and it was reported that it took the hospital an hour and a half to get him clean, and nobody was sorry for him. I am looking forward to my little cottage. It’s far too towny here for anything.
Continue to 1916
History of the 12th...Light Horse
In the ensuing forum months [September to December] at Gallipoli, 600 men of the 12th Regiment endured great privations during a desperate phase of the campaign befoe evacuation in december. the australian trenches were infested with flies, didease and the stench of the dead. winter brought blizzards and a frozen death to a number of soldiers unprepared for the cold. In all, 19 were killed in action or died of wounds at Anzac.
12th/16th Hunter River Lancers, 2002