Some Military Stuff….

So much for a sedate start to the New Year. It’s all happening here on the south east corner of Queensland : tropical lows, the tail end of a tsunami, and floods. Yep, floods.

A while back I shared a visit to Maryborough, 200kms north of Brisbane and known as the home of P L Travers who wrote Mary Poppins, and the magnificent Gallipoli to Armistice Memorial Walk created in Queens Park by the river. See here :

https://wordpress.com/post/brizzymaysbooksandbruschettasite.wordpress.com/3246

Queens Park went under in the floods which provided one of the most compelling and slightly spooky sights in months.

In the park is a life-sized sculpture which commemorates Lieutenant Duncan Chapman, believed to be the first man ashore at Gallipoli, and a Maryborough lad. The memorial display contains stones and sand from Gallipoli and depicts the soldier gazing towards the high cliffs at the moment the first shots rang out. The floods seemed to recreate the scene of Duncan first stepping ashore back in 1915.

And A Book Review :

Cheerio, Don was written by Susan Alley, the niece of the subject of this book, Donald Mitchell, a young soldier who served in PNG during WW2. Taken from letters to his family and his diaries about life on the Mitchell dairy farm in Coraki, northern NSW, this is an interesting read because of the insights it provides about Australian life during the war years.

As the only son of a dairy farmer Don could have applied for an exemption because of his occupation. When called up for duty his only sister resigned from her nursing position to work on the farm to help Dad, only returning to nursing when Don was demobbed.(Note : upon Don’s return Dad would not pay his daughter a weekly wage).

Other fascinating snippets include the very real fear that the Japanese  would invade the east coast and a “Scorched Earth” policy was indeed under serious consideration.

My fellow Aussies : did you ever hear about that in your High School History classes? Or that the road between Nimbin and Uki was land mined to stop travel between Qld and NSW? Or that many folk relied on brown paper to block out the lights during evening “black outs”? 

It was the trivia in this story I found fascinating – ration books, trenches in school yards to “protect” the children, the price of beef –  which is so often the case in these biographies about family members.

War Records Conundrum

I recently located an interesting children’s book about Sister Marie Craig, one of the “Flying Angels” who cared for some 18,000 injured soldiers on flights from Papua New Guinea to the hospital in Darwin during WW2. After the misleading book  about a cat who survived a sinking ship, Changi and Sandakan as mentioned with much disgust last week, I didn’t want to get caught out again, so checked the records at the Australian War Memorial. Sister Craig’s story is fair dinkum and is an interesting one……

So, whilst looking at records at the AWM, I discovered a new record under my father’s name which is out there on the internet for all the world to see. Their database contains the names of WW1 and WW2 soldiers, service numbers, rank, date of discharge and decorations and other basic information. I’m not sure about other Conflicts – records were still being digitalised at one point. It’s a user friendly database and you simply search using a name.

Service records are available for a fee and the AWM will post a copy of these documents. I ordered my father’s service documents after he died : 42 pages, which to be honest, apart from medical history, promotions, and changes of pay means little to me. 

( I digress, but on my first visit to the AWM in Canberra as a young woman travelling with a young man who found it difficult to locate hotel accomodation because we were not married – Canberra being Australia’s porn capital no less – a research officer at the AWM explained veterans service documents by using the records of a deceased Prime Minister as an example. Though not fond of the deceased Prime Minister in question I was somewhat appalled that his medical records included a dose of VD during his time in a theatre of war which was clearly pointed out by the employee. So much for privacy.)

But back to the old man.

Dad’s plane.

There is now a record that states under Collections that the AWM is in possession of my father’s leather bound diary from 15 April, 1943 to 24th August, 1945 that includes movements, roles, and flying missions etc. It also states ” entries describe leave, dances, the Boomerang Club and meeting girls”. Photographs, poetry, propaganda leaflets are also included as well as details of his marriage to an English sweetheart. ( Not my mother).

My father never discussed the War. It wasn’t until he was in his 70’s that he let things slip, like Dresden and how ” bloody cold” it was high in the skies above Europe. He wasn’t quite the hard old bastard by then.

There was never any mention of a diary nor a first wife.

My curiosity is piqued but it is not my life. It is a diary of a life before I was even a twinkle in the eye. A life 15 years before mine even started. 

That these records of times past are retained for historians is a wonderful thing. I get that. What I don’t get is that there are 566 words included in the description of the diary’s contents available on a search under my father’s name on the Australian War Memorial’s website available for all and sundry to see.

I’m a little conflicted :don’t dead people deserve some privacy? I can hear the old bugger telling me to ” cop it sweet, Pet”, but it just doesn’t sit well.

Any thoughts?

Some Real Duds

The front cover of Red Lead – The Naval Cat With Nine Lives by Roland Perry grabbed my attention with the announcement   ” the legendary Australian ship’s cat who survived the sinking of HMAS Perth, Changi and the Thai-Burma Railway”.

A $1 investment – what could go wrong?

61 pages in and my intuition kicked in necessitating the need to research some military websites, including the Australian War Memorial and the Naval Institute.

Guess what? 

A work of fiction. Very misleading and disappointing. A total non-story.

The reality is Redlead, like many of the cruisers crew, did not survive the sinking of HMAS Perth and there was no Dan Bolt, the ex veterinarian who adopted the cat at sea.

Indeed one reviewer summed it up thus: “Finally in this case you can ‘judge a book by its cover’.  The photo on the front cover of a cat sitting in the gun barrel is not Redlead; it’s the ship’s cat of HMS Cornwall taken in 1933. Also the front cover wording stating the “cat who survived the sinking of HMAS Perth, Changi and the Thai-Burma Railway” is false.”

61 pages. What a time waster!

Next up, The Beach They Called Gallipoli by Jackie French, another $1 investment.

I’ve mentioned Jackie French AM , Australian author, previously. Not only is she a historian, ecologist and wombat carer, she was 2014–15 Australian Children’s Laureate and 2015 Senior Australian of the Year. Love her work, I really do.

Young Harry Kilometres, the grand child, is the product of a military family. Indeed, he was born in a rural and remote area of Australia because of his father’s military involvement. For overseas readers that means crocodiles, poison jellyfish, snakes galore, wild camels, and bison on the golf course. So little Harry is already ensconced in certain traditions. He’s been practising the manoeuvres to parachute out of a plane since he was three months old  and his library of army history is already enviable.

So I just had to pick this book up for Harry’s bedtime reading for his coming visit. Beautifully illustrated by Bruce Whatley with a sprinkling of vintage photos and Jackie French, writer of children’s books.

DEPRESSING

I appreciate that Gallipoli was not an uplifting experience however this book is not the kind of book to hand to a child as a learning tool. Jackie and Bruce were clearly on the red wine when they dreamt up this concept. I’m thinking an Art Gallery or Museum would have been far more suitable.

And you know what? Two lousy books in a row can destroy your day.

Tomato Update and Weekend Plans

Spring in South East Queensland lasted for all of a fortnight and then we pounced straight into Summer, evening storms and all.

The tomato plants have revelled in the heat and humidity and I have no doubt that the bandicoots that frolic in the vege bed at night will also be prone to acidic disorders from over indulging. The freezer is full of pasta sauce, a little heavy on the chilli and garlic apparently, and I’m now moving on to tomato chutney production. Not that I eat chutney but I can’t handle food waste. Blame the Depression parents who wouldn’t let us kids leave the table until the plates were clean.

The good news is that I will pull the remaining plants out on the weekend (before sunrise). The bad news is that means no tomatoes for summer salads and I’ll probably have to sell a kidney to afford them for Christmas Lunch.

Talking of waste, Australia has collectively moved away from single use plastics recently. Well done! So please explain somebody, anybody, why the shops are all full of plastic pumpkins. Crappy, cheap plastic pumpkins from China.
1. Why is Halloween becoming such a big deal in Australia?
2. Why is it that freight from China has been delayed since Covid but plastic pumpkins arrive in time for the end of October?
3. If children under 12 are not allowed to walk to school without parental supervision why are they allowed to go trick or treating? I’m not even going to mention the legalities of nazi teachers checking the contents of lunchboxes. I’m too old to open that Pandora’s Box.
4. If we really must instigate this Halloween business, how about next year we all plant some pumpkin seeds and harness our own food source?

So, you’ve figured that I don’t give a rats. Instead, and weather permitting, I plan on a much more appropriate celebration. Yep, a reenactment of the charge at Beersheba at the Laidley Pioneer Village. Entry is by donation.

Never heard of Beersheba?

On 31 October 1917, during World War 1, Australia’s Desert Mounted Corps led the famous charge of Beersheba by the 4th Light Horse Brigade, probably one of the most stunning victories in any battle or war in Australian history. This charge saw 800 Australian horsemen gallop their horses across three miles of open desert, through the Turkish defences, to win the precious wells of Beersheba.
 
The victory by the Australian horsemen, under the command of Lieutenant General Harry Chauvel against the Turks, was the beginning of a successful Australian campaign that led to the collapse of the Turkish Ottoman empire and turned the tide of war in the Middle East.

And I wont be watching anything starring Jamie Lee Curtis either. It’s the 1980’s Australian flick, The Lighthorsemen, or nothing. Forget the insipid romance between a young Sigrid Thornton and Peter Phelps before he got paunchy, it is a beaut little story and a reminder of old fashioned Aussie larrikins.

It would be totally hypocritical of me to wish you all Happy Halloween though I do hope you all play safely and that there are no chipped teeth from all those boiled lollies. I’ll be at Laidley – yee haa.

ADD TO 2022 TO DO LIST :
Instigate a community pumpkin growing plan and eradicate all plastic pumpkins.

War Memorials on my travels

Did you know that there is a Queensland War Memorial Register, currently with over 1300 sites listed?

War memorials resulted from a ground swell of community sentiment going back to the Boer War when memorials were usually situated within cemeteries. With the mass casualties of the First World War affecting almost every family communal memorials in prominent public places were established as a tangible symbol of national mourning. 

These memorials are ever so present in country towns where the names of the fallen indicate just how many local families lost their husbands, fathers and sons. Some are big, some are small. Each are poignant.

Roma, Qld
Longreach, Qld
Ilfracombe, Qld
Chinchilla, Qld
Exhibition in Winton, Qld, in a Troop Train transporting soldiers to the Big Smoke. ( Located in the Waltzing Matilda Museum)

These are just a selection from my recent travels. I’ve always been a sucker for these memorials and how they correspond to a township’s history. When I was in my teens and working for Veterans Affairs ( then Repat) my dream was to travel Australia and photograph all those in small, country towns. Copped the ” responsibility lecture” instead. In those days I listened to what I was told. How things change.

For more information go http://www.qldwarmemorials.com.au

Exploring Brisbane During WW2 : A Walking Tour

The 2 hour tour begins at the Museum of Brisbane on the the third floor of City Hall, King George Square.

King George Monument in King George Square with City Hall in background.

City Hall was built in 1930 and at that time was the tallest building in Brisbane. It was an important building during WW2 as it housed a recruitment area, was a distribution point where the Red Cross handed parcels to troops heading overseas, and has a ballroom suitable for 1500 guests. It was standing room only for 3000 when Eleanor Roosevelt arrived in Brisbane.

City Hall

During the early 2000’s City Hall underwent a massive restoration. What do you think they found? In the men’s bathroom in the basement Australian soldiers had signed their names on the wall along with their service numbers, as did many American servicemen who included their regimental details. This has been preserved and a reproduction is located within the museum.

Signature Wall Reproduction

Diagonally across the road from City Hall sits a church, a familiar landmark within the CBD, which was the site of 16,000 marriages between American men and Australian women during WW2.

Proceeding to ANZAC Square and The Shrine of Remembrance we then visited the Memorial Galleries underneath this structure. Most locals are unaware of the Galleries : for twenty years I too was totally ignorant and walked past on my way to the railway station. It is well worth a visit with its interactive displays and the staff are an invaluable source of information.

Self indulgence

Moving on we heard all about the Battle of Brisbane, the “ riot between United States military personnel on one side and Australian servicemen and civilians on the other on 26 and 27 November 1942.”

This was the American PX during WW2 and site of the riots

This concluded our walking tour though not the insights gained about Brisbane and her involvement during WW2. Brisbane had the name of Jazz Capital of Australia thanks to the influence of American soldiers. Who knew? We learnt about the HMAS Centaur, a submarine base in nearby New Farm and the SS Growler, and I was so excited to see my very first Air Raid Shelter, one of only three remaining in the vicinity. I repeat : who knew?

This walking tour is suitable for all fitness levels and we totally enjoyed seeing the city in a totally different light.

For further information go here : https://www.museumofbrisbane.com.au/whats-on/walking-in-wartime/

We paid an additional $10 each to also visit the MacArthur Museum.

Absolutely fascinating and I learnt more in a 1 hour talk by a passionate volunteer named John, standing in front of a map of the Pacific, than I did during six years of high school. Toss out the text books. This was easily digestible, understandable, and logical and the personal tidbits made it interesting to boot.

Here’s ol’ Doug’s office :

I worked in the Brisbane CBD for twenty years and knew little of this history. Once again I put it down to COVID making us more familiar with our own backyards. Now that’s a positive from a negative, wouldn’t you say?

Two Stories

Read The Codebreakers by Australian author, Alli Sinclair.

“1943, Brisbane: The war continues to devastate and the battle for the Pacific threatens Australian shores. For Ellie O’Sullivan, helping the war effort means utilising her engineering skills for Qantas as they evacuate civilians and deliver supplies to armed forces overseas. Her exceptional logic and integrity attract the attention of Central Bureau – an intelligence organisation working with England’s Bletchley Park codebreakers. But joining Central Bureau means signing a lifetime secrecy contract. Breaking it is treason”.

This book became far too “girlie” for me with an overdose of romantic interludes. What did interest me was the property in Ascot, inner Brisbane, from which the Central Bureau actually did work during the war.

In July 1942, General MacArthur moved his Headquarters to Brisbane. Central Bureau immediately relocated to Brisbane, establishing its headquarters in “Nyrambla” at Henry Street, Ascot. The residence was built in 1885–86. In September 1942, the US 837th Signal Service Detachment relocated to Brisbane. The Detachment’s officers and enlisted men moved into “Nyrambla”. The machines to decode intercepted Japanese ciphers that concealed message were placed in the rear garage of “Nyrambla” and this is where the women Codebreakers worked.

Nyrambla

Over the years Nyrambla has been lovingly restored and recently went on the market.

Women working in the garage……..*still shacking my head.

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Terrigal, on the Central Coast of New South Wales, is a seaside township popular with both locals and tourists. Back in the 1940’s it was a sleepy fishing village with a population of less than 500. 

During World War 2 the Surf Lifesaving Association of Australia (SLSA) was stretched to provide rescue services along the beaches on the East Coast. Of the 76 original male members of the Surf Club at Terrigal only four were available to patrol beaches whilst the others went off to war.

This led the female members of the club – mostly wives, sweethearts and sisters – to ask permission to become lifesavers. Their application to the controlling body failed though this did not deter them.

After training by the chief instructor they were assessed by Central Coast Life Saving’s inaugural president Dr E.A. Martin.  In two exams, some 30 women qualified for the equivalent of the bronze medallion, receiving certificates on Terrigal beach and going on to patrol the area over the summer.

These young women undertook their duties with enthusiasm and passion even making their own swimming costumes and uniforms out of sheets, curtains and the odd parachute­, despite not having been awarded their bronze medallions.

At wars end 70 men returned and resumed lifesaving duties with the women then relegated to previous duties.

It wasn’t until 75 years later in 2017 that the women who patrolled the beaches of Terrigal during World War 2 were finally recognised. They were awarded their Bronze Medallions, most posthumously to their families, as well as a special Terrigal Parliamentary Award to acknowledge their contribution to the community.

75 years. *still shaking head.

Darmongah Lookout Park At Mount Mee, Qld.

Mount Mee is approximately 90 minutes drive north west of Brisbane and is part of the beautiful D’Aguilar Range with spectacular views of the Glasshouse Mountains. 

View from Woodford

From the top of Mount Mee, expansive and picturesque views of seaside Caloundra and beautiful Moreton Bay can be enjoyed – except on rainy, misty days like when we visited. 

As well as the scenery there are numerous road stalls selling fresh eggs, pumpkins, and local honey. You know I just have to stop at these, don’t you?

The biggest win on this road trip was discovering the Darmongah Lookout Park on Mount Mee Road. After all the rain the rolling hills were green and littered with fat, fluffy lambs. No photos : it was too pea soupy.

Attached to the Lookout is the Mount Mee War Memorial which is just delightful.

The war memorial is in three parts; a memorial dedication, a growing pine tree and the Mount Mee Roll Of Honour. 

The pine tree was planted on Anzac Day in 2008 by local war veteran, Mount Mee resident Sapper Len Pedwell. The tree is a direct descendant of the last standing pine tree on the Gallipoli Peninsula that was destroyed by gunfire in the battle that later became known as the Battle of Lone Pine. 

Behind the tree a large iron bark log (Eucalyptus crebra), in honour of the township’s timber felling history, under an open gable-roofed shelter, which bears the Mt Mee Roll of Honour, for the First World War, Second World War, Korea, Malaya, Vietnam and East Timor.

The boulder carries three plaques: one commemorating the dedication of the memorial; one describing the Battle of Lone Pine; and the centrepiece, stating:- “We remember with gratitude those who served without counting the cost, in times when people’s freedoms, beliefs and ways of life were under threat. Lest We Forget”.

And then there is this :

Sir – would it help if I shed a tear

I swear it’s the first time since this time last year

My spine is a tingle – my throat is all dry

As I stand to attention for all those who died

I watch the flag dancing half way down the pole

That damn bugle player sends chills to my soul

I feel the pride and the sorrow – there’s nothing the same

As standing to attention on ANZAC Day

So Sir – on behalf of the young and the free

Will you take a message when you finally do leave

To your mates that are lying from Tobruk to the Somme

The legend of your bravery will always live on

I’ve welcomed Olympians back to our shore

I’ve cheered baggy green caps and watched Wallabies score

But when I watch you marching (Sir) in that parade

I know these are the memories that never will fade

So Sir – on behalf of the young and the free

Will you take a message when you finally do leave

It’s the least we can do (Sir) to repay the debt

We’ll always remember you – Lest We Forget


Damian (Dib) Morgan 1998

It really is coming across the unexpected that makes these little road trips so extraordinary.

Book Of The Week

We’ve all heard “over-paid, oversexed and over here” said of the American servicemen in Australia during WW2.

I had not heard their retort, a popular toast which went : “To Australia – the land where the flowers have no fragrance, the birds no melody and the women no virtue.”

The Battle of Brisbane by Peter A Thompson and Robert Macklin is a well researched account of two days in November in 1942 during which an American military policeman shot dead an Australian soldier and wounded six others and a civilian. There were also many hand-to-hand fights where many on both sides were seriously injured.

To be honest it is not pretty reading.

This is a Brisbane I do not know, and times I’m not familiar with though I have friends who remember their school days with a bomb shelter in the playground. It is also interesting that all the landmarks mentioned are still spoken of by older folk and I am aware of where they would have been situated.

MacArthur’s stay in Brisbane is also covered – and is also not pretty. Many years ago I remember having a swish meal overlooking the Story Bridge and being told the room was old Doug’s HQs. Do you think I can remember where it is?

Similar View

Fascinating read but tragic. Just like the riots involving negro soldiers in Townsville, the bombing of Darwin, and the mini submarines in Sydney Harbour, so much of this information was hushed up at the time and when finally revealed lacked details. The identity of both the dead Australian and the American involved only came to light with the publication of this book in 2000.

Just wish that they’de hush up Ms Markle and Harry Windsor.








Bribie Island in WW2 and Yabbie Pumps.

Bribie Island has more seniors per head of population than any other Australian local government area and is affectionately known as “God’s Waiting Room”. There is also a higher chance of getting killed by a pensioner whizzing past on a mobility scooter than anywhere else in the country. And why not? It’s only and hour and a half north of Brisbane, Queensland’s capital city, and just a drive across the bridge to the Island. There is something really comforting about being able to just walk across the road to throw in a fishing line.

Lousy weather but who cares? Can you see the bridge?

Bribie Island is a haven for water lovers and the anglers and boaties just love the side of the island facing the mainland. Pumicstone Passage is also wonderful swimming for all ages and home to dugongs and dolphins. In fact, it was a Bribie gentleman that invented the yabbie pump.

The other side of the island, Woorim, is a surf beach looking out towards New Zealand and has a strong connection to WW2. An exhibit at the Seaside Museum at Bongaree (Free entry) highlighted this fascinating history of wartime Bribie.

Worth doing and there is a Scavenger Hunt to keep the Little People occupied
Not quite NZ. Moreton Island.

During the war locals were evacuated and both Australian and American soldiers were stationed on Bribie to practice both jungle warfare and sea landing skills. “Two mine control huts were used by Royal Australian Navy during 1942 and 1943, known as RAN 2. These monitored and controlled the guard indicator loops and mine loops set in the North West Channel.” – wikipedia

Well, you know I’m just a sticky beak at heart and this is what I discovered having left the patrolled surf area and having travelled as far as you can without a four wheel drive vehicle. This part of Woorim is well worth visiting as Rotary have added picnic facilities though it didn’t seem that many bothered.

More trivia about beautiful Bribie Island next time.