Thursday, April 30, 2015

Australian War Horses Remembered

At the intersection of Macquarie Street and Shakespeare Place opposite the New South Wales State Library, on the south-west external wall of the Royal Botanic Gardens, there is memorial to Horses of the Desert Mounted Corps that served in the Desert Campaign in World War I.

Memorial to the Horses of the Desert Mounted Corps.
 Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney.

Bronze wall plate depicting an Australian Light Horse trooper
with three horses and inscription.

It was erected by members of the Desert Mounted Corps and dedicated to the "Gallant Horses who carried them over the Sinai Desert into Palestine 1915-1918. They suffered  wounds, thirst, hunger and weariness almost beyond endurance. They did not come home. We will never forget them." [Inscription on plaque].
Commemoration stone unveiled on Anzac Day 1950
The memorial was unveiled on Anzac Day, April 25 1950, by Lady Chauvel, wife of General Sir Harry Chauvel who commanded the Desert Mounted Corps.

There are two further plaques, one unveiled on 4 July 2004 by the Governor General, Major General Michael Jeffery, to mark the 90th anniversary of the first AIF and the Australian Light Horse serving in World War I.


Memorial plaque unveiled 4 July 2004
The other, unveiled by NSW Governor Professor Marie Bashir on 31 October 2007 to mark the 90th anniversary of the Charge at Beersheba on 31 October 1917.


Memorial plaque unveiled 31 October 2007
                *******************************************************************************
The story of Australian war horses and indeed that of the Light Horse Brigade of World War I is not etched large in the Australian public's mind.

The  MagoFilms documentary The Waler: Australia's Great War Horse as shown recently on the ABC tells the story of the 130,000 horses who served with their riders in World War I. 

It is about the horses, their riders,veterinarians, farriers,and saddlers; their journey to and agistment in Egypt; the dismounting of several of the Light Horse regiments bound for Gallipoli; the later deployment of the Light Horse Brigade to the desert campaigns on the Sinai Peninsula and in Palestine as the ANZAC Mounted Division under General Harry Chauvel; and the gallant feats of both the horses and their riders. 

The hardest part of the story was at war's end when it was decided that the horses would not return to Australia.

In order to avoid sentimentality in this story, you need to keep a perspective that is is now history. But in so doing you come to the realisation the the horses were heroes too - such is the relationship between man and beast.

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Therei is exhibition at the Art Galley of NSW entitled Mad Through The Darkness  which commemorates the Anzac centenary.

One of the most striking of the exhibits is the painting by Septimus Power, The enemy in sight 1916.

The enemy in sight 1916 .
A work by Septimus Power
Power was commissioned as an official war artist in 1917 attached to 1st Division AIF. He  a great interest in horsemanship which was reflected in his work. He painted Australian soldiers tending their as well as taking them into action.

This particular work, painted before his commission, depicts Light Horsemen.The subject for one of the soldiers was Sergeant- Major B G Watts-Phillips of the 8th Light Horse Regiment, who was convalescing in London at the time.

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Blog prepared by Mary McGuinness

All photos taken April 2015

If you are interested in researching Australian history go to our website at :
http://www.historyservices.com.au/

Monday, April 13, 2015

Alfred Driscoll - A Hero of the Dardenelles

As the centenary of the Gallipoli campaign of 1915 approaches, we are being encouraged to listen to the personal stories of our ANZACS. This is so that we may be able to understand the sacrifices that they made in answering the call to serve their country, and to pay tribute to their fearlessness, mateship and courage that they displayed in battle.

My great-uncle, Alfred Driscoll (Alf), is our family ANZAC hero. Here is his story.

Alfred Driscoll c 1914
taken from a family photo album

Alfred Alphonsus Driscoll was born in 1882 at Copeland, New South Wales. He was the the fifth child and first son of John and Jane Mary Driscoll.

He was a very adventurous young man who would have a go at almost anything. 

At 17 years of age he went to sea on a sailing ship. His parents were not in favour of this because of the danger, but subsequently allowed him to go when the captain of the ship, a family friend, promised that his wife who was accompanying him would keep an eye on Alf. He joined the ship as a cabin boy. According to my grandmother, Ethel Burns (nee Driscoll), the ship's master said Alf was fearless and very brave. Evidence of Alf's sea journeys around the world survives in the form of several postcards from various places in America, that Alf posted to his sister, Ethel. The postcards were postmarked in both San Francisco and Washington State, over the period July 1905 to October 1906. Prior to this Alf had been in Mexico.

Alf also joined the Irish Rifles of NSW, for a period of 12 months service. The Irish rifles was a military volunteer movement active in New South Wales between 1895 and 1912.
        
Alf married Mary Madden in Sydney in 1910. Mary was a Tasmanian and was a little older than her husband. During their short married life, they did not have any children. They resided at 438 William Street, West Melbourne. 

Enlistment

With the outbreak of war, Alf lost no time in enlisting. He signed up on 27 October 1914, at the age of 32 years. He was allotted army number 614 and the rank of trooper in the 8th Light Horse Regiment from Victoria. He was a labourer in the Victorian Railways at the time of his enlistment.

Here below are copies of his enlistment papers which show Alf's personal details including his very definitive copperplate signature.

It is interesting to note that the form does not ask for a specific birthdate.

Alf Driscoll's Enlistment form -page 1.
 Source National Archives of Australia
Alf Driscoll's Enlistment form - page 2
Source National Archives of Australia

Alf Driscoll's Enlistment form - page 3
. Source National Archives of Australia
The 8th Light Horse Regiment was formed as part of the 3rd Australian Light Horse Brigade, 3rd contingent and was attached to the Australian Division. It was made up of from  the 3rd Military District (Victoria), and was established at Broadmeadows Training  Camp to the north of Melbourne.

Alf embarked at Melbourne and sailed for the Midle East with the 2nd Reinforcements, 8th Light Horse Regiment, per H.M.A.T. "Armadale" on the 12th February 1915. 


The regiment sailed to Egypt via the ports of Fremantle, Colombo, Aden and Suez and disembarked in March 1915. According to Alf's service record, he went ashore at Colombo without permission (on 19 March) and was given seven days detention.

As the use of horses was not practical in the Gallipoli terrain, the Light Horse Brigade  was dismounted in Egypt and the troops were sent to Gallipoli to operate as infantry. The 8th Light Horse Regiment landed at Gallipoli on 20 May 1915. It was deployed primarily on defensive activities at Russell's Top and Rhododendron Spur.
[8th Light Horse Regiment AIF Outline]*.
  
               ***************************************************************
Gallipoli

Alf Driscoll was killed in action at Gallipoli in the early hours of Saturday 7 August 1915, in the battle of The Nek. 

Alf Driscoll's Service Record..Source National Archives of Australia

This battle was part of the Allied August offensive at Gallipoli which had as its aim the capturing of the high ground of the Sari Bair range and the linking the ANZAC front with a new landing to the north at Suvla Bay.

The Nek was a narrow ridge on the Gallipolli peninsula connecting the ANZAC trenches on Russell's Top to the knoll known as "Baby 700". Turkish defences had been entrenched across the Nek since April 1915.

The plan was for the 3rd Light Horse Brigade, made up of the 8th and 10th Light Horse  Regiments to attack the Nek in the early hours of 7 August, in four charges each of 150 men (as there was no room for more at one time) following each other at several minutes' interval. 

But the logistics of the battle went terribly wrong. Due to an error in timing and bad communication, a tragedy ensued at the Nek.


The official war historian, C.E.W. Bean, in his book entitled "Anzac To Amiens" **, described the battle of the Nek as seeing some of the most concentrated fire that the Australian infantry had to face in the War.

The first line of the 8th Light Horse Regiment went over the parapets at 4.30am. to be met iinstantly by a hail of Turkish machine gun and rifle fire. According to Bean, "The Australian line, now charging, was seen suddenly to grow limp, and then, sink to the earth as though (said an eye-witness) 'The men's limbs had become string'. " [Anzac to Amiens, Chapter X, p155].       


The second line of the 8th charged at 4.33am to be met with the same fate. Out of  the  total 300 men of the 8th Light Horse regiment, there were 234 casualities in a matter of minutes- 154 dead including 12 officers and 142 men; and 4 officers and 76 wounded.

The battle was eventually halted but not before the 10th Light Horse Regiment began their charge at 4.45am resulting in 138 causalities  - 80 dead including 7 officers and 73 men; and 2 officers and 56 men wounded.

Again to quote Bean:
"The flower of the youth of Victoria and Western Australia fell in that attempt." [Anzac to Amiens, Chapter X, p156]       
The story of the Battle of the Nek is also the subject of Peter Weir's 1982 film Gallipoli. 

               ***************************************************************
Tributes

In the aftermath of Alf's death came the poignant personal tributes and everyday matters that had to be attended to.

On 28 August 1915, Alf's father, John Driscoll had written to the Officer in Charge, Base Records, Victoria Barracks, Melbourne, seeking information about his son.


Letter of John Driscoll dated 28 August 1915,
Source National Archives of Australia
Letter of reply to John Driscoll, dated  5 September 1915
Source National Archives of Australia






























He received an official reply to his letter on 5th September 1915 confirming Alf's death.

In the meantime, both Alf's widow, Mary, who was now living in Tasmania, and John Driscoll had received telegrams on Monday 30 August informing them that Alf had been killed in action at Gallipoli on 7 August.

The following articles appeared in the Sydney and Tasmanian newspapers during the  next week. 

In the Sydney Morning Herald of Wednesday, 1 September 1915 under the heading "Heros of the Dardenelles" Alf's photo was published. [SMH Wednesday 1 September 1915 p7]


Photo of Alf Driscoll (fourth row, fourth form left).
The following notice appeared on page 12 under the heading "Men of the Dardenelles".

Trooper A.A. Driscoll
 "Mr. John Driscoll, of 116 Liverpool-street, Paddington, received a cable on Monday last, intimating that his eldest son, Alfred A Driscoll, was killed in action in the Dardenelles on August 7. Trooper   Driscoll was a native of Copeland, in the North Coast District, and 31 years of age. At the time of enlisting he was employed in the Victorian Railway service. He joined the 8th Victorian Light Horse, and left Melbourne with the Third Brigade in February last. His parents last heard from him in July last, when he stated he was in Heliopolis, and in perfect health. He leaves a widow, but no family."

And in the Tasmanian press:

Killed in Action
"News was received by cable yesterday by Mrs. Driscoll (sister of Miss K Madden of Wynyard), that  her husband, Private Alfred Driscoll, had been killed in  action  at  the  Dardenelles. The message conveyed to Mrs.Driscoll the deepest regret and sympathy of Their Majesties the King and Queen and the Commonwealth Government, as well as the State Commandant, on the loss  sustained  by them and the army. Private Driscoll enlisted in Melbourne (Vic), and left for the front in February last. He had previously been in the Irish rifles, and was a native of Sydney, N.S.W. where his parents reside."
[North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Tuesday 31 August 1915, p3]

Family Notices
Death
"DRISCOLL - Killed in action at Gallipoli, on August 7, Alfred Alphonsus Driscoll, the  beloved husband of Mary Driscoll (nee Madden, of Wynyard), and eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. John Driscoll, of Paddington, Sydney, aged 35 years
                                           Greater love than this no Man hath.
                                                 May his soul rest in peace.

A SOLEMN REQUIEM MASS will be celebrated in the Catholic Church, Wynyard, on Friday, 
     at  9 o'clock, for the repose of the soul of
       PRIVATE ALFRED DRISCOLL
Who gave his life for his country at Gallipoli on August 7."

[North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Wednesday 1 September 1915 p2   

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Grave

Alf Driscoll has no known grave. It is likely that his remains are buried in The Nek Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery located near Suvla Bay on the Gallipoli Peninsula. This cemetery was constructed in 1919 on the site of the battle of the Nek, when the ground was still covered with the remains of the 8th and 10th Light Horse troopers. 

The Nek Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery at Gallipoli
            ****************************************************************

Commemoration 
Alf's name is commemorated on the Lone Pine Memorial at Gallipoli. Also his name is located at Panel 6 in the Commemorative Area of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra ACT; and in the daily Book of Remembrance at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne, Victoria.

Lone Pine Memorial Gallipoli Peninsula.
Photo taken by Brendan Smith, September 2014

Alf' Driscoll's name on the Lone Pine Memorial. 
Photo taken by Brendan Smith, September 2014

Alf Driscoll's name on the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, ACT


Alf Driscoll's name in the Book of Remembrance at the
Shrine of  Remembrance, Melbourne, Victoria.
 Photo taken September 1992
                ************************************************************************
Medals

Medals issued for Alf's war service are shown in the photo below. They are:

1914-15 Star - a campaign medal of the British Empire awarded to officers and men of the British and Imperial forces who served in any theatre of war against the Central European Powers during 1914 and 1915.

1914-1915 Star


1914-15 Star inscribed
614
Pte. A Driscoll
8L./.H.Regt. A.I.F.


British War Medal a campaign medal of the British Empire awarded to officers and men of the British and Imperial forces for service in World War I.

         



    Victory Medal - a World War I campaign medal of Britain and her then dominions (eg Canada, Australia, New Zealand)






    The medals were awarded as a threesome and not singly.

    Service medals in the First World War were inscribed with the recipient's name. This practice did not continue in the Second World War.

    Alf's 1914-1915 Star is inscribed on the back of the medal as shown in the above photo. His British War Medal and the Victory Medal have his name inscribed around the rim
                          ****************************************************************



    Memorial Plaque

    One further momento is an impressive Memorial Plaque presented to next-of-kin of all servicemen killed in action the First World War. 


     Vale Alf Driscoll

         At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember you. 
    Lest We Forget

                               
                     ******************************************************************************* 
    Sources:
    * Australian Light Studies Centre, 8th Light Horse Regiment AIF Outline, 11 October 2009

    **C E W Bean, Anzac to Amiens (1983 reprint). Chapter X. The Climax of Anzac 
    pp145-167.

    All documents are sourced from Service Records World War I  webpage of the National Archives of Australia


    All newspapers articles are source from Trove's  newspaper  collection  which  includes digitised historic and modern newspapers which are accessible on line, as well as newspapers in microform and paper formats. Go to the website:

                    *************************************************************
    Blog prepared and written by Kevin (grand nephew of Alf) and Mary McGuinness, 
    April 2015.

    If you are interested in researching Australian history go to our website at :
    http://www.historyservices.com.au/

    Wednesday, March 4, 2015

    Parriwi Head Lighthouse

    Parriwi Head Lighthouse, Parriwi Road , Mosman, NSW. 
    The Parriwi Head Lighthouse, also known as Rosherville Lighthouse, is located in what is today a suburban setting in Parriwi Road at Mosman in Sydney. It is just up from The Spit on the southern side of Middle Harbour.

    The Lighthouse  was built in 1911 to serve as the rear range light for the Grotto Point Lighthouse. This is located on Grotto Point, near Clontarf and is the subject of a previous blog*. The two lights act as navigational beacons for ships entering Sydney Harbour. Vessels moving between North and South Heads line up the shorter lighthouse on Grotto Point with the taller rearward light at Parriwi.


    Location of Parriwi Head Light in relation to
    Grotto Point Light which can be seen on
     the headland in the middle left of the photo

    The Parriwi Head Light is located exactly one mile (1.6kms) across Middle Harbour from the Grotto Point Light, as shown in the photo above.

    View of Parriwi Lighthouse looking up towards Parriwi Road.
    The Parriwi Lighthouse stands today in its urban setting as an elegant white tower with dome.


    Both the Grotto Point and Parriwi Lighthouses were designed by the architect, Maurice Festu, in a "Disney Castle" style. Being purpose-built structures to house lighthouses, they are both architecturally and historically significant. 

    View of Parriwi Lighthouse looking up from Middle Harbour.


    In 1911, the light at Parriwi was red being powered by a carbide lamp with acetylene gas generated on site. This was later replaced by compressed gas cylinders brought in by boat. Today the light, which shines through the horizontal slit just below the dome, is green and runs on electricity supplied through the suburban grid.

    The Lighthouse is operated by Port Authority of NSW. The site is managed by Mosman Council. 

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    * See History Services Blog - 14 October 2012

    If you are interested in researching Australian history go to our website at :
    http://www.historyservices.com.au/

    All photos taken March 2015

    Blog prepared by Mary McGuinness


    HMAS Assault - Memorials

    HMAS Assault banner as presented to the Inner Light Cottage Museum by the
    HMAS Assault Association in 2002
    In recognition of the importance of the HMAS Assault story in Nelson Bay, New South Wales, in the Second World War, several memorials have been established in the Fly Point area: 

    1. Plaque on the Memorial Amphitheatre Music Shell in Neil Carroll Park 

    The plaque was erected by the HMAS Assault Association and dedicated in 1994.

    Memorial Amphitheatre Music Shell, Neil Carroll Park, Fly Point
    Memorial Plaque
    2. Stone obelisk in Neil Carroll Park 
    Obelisk in Neil Carroll Park

    Memorial Plaque
    3. Pyramid (tank traps) Sculpture, Fly Point 

    This sculpture at Fly Point on the rise of land overlooking Little Beach is inspired by the shape of the tank traps which were used extensively in the wartime along the shores of Birubi Beach.

    The sculpture was erected by the Port Stephens Historical Society in 1995 as part of the "Australia Remembers" campaign 1945-1995.

    HMAS Assault Memorial Sculpture, Fly Point

    Memorial plaque

    HMAS Assault Memorial Sculpture, Fly Point

    Memorial plaque



    HMAS Assault Memorial Sculpture, Fly Point
    Memorial plaque

    4.  An extensive collection of HMAS Assault memorabilia, photographs and maps is held by the Inner Light Cottage Museum on Nelson Head. It is displayed in the HMAS Assault  Room.


    Wests Diggers Leagues Club at Nelson Bay also has a display of HMAS Assault memorabilia on its HMAS Assault wall.

    5. The Australian War Memorial in Canberra, ACT holds a HMAS Assault Association collection  of papers for the period 1944-1994, available at above link.

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    If you are interested in researching Australian history, go to our website at: http://www.historyservices.com.au/

    All photos taken In August 2014

    Blog prepared by Mary McGuinness

    Wednesday, August 20, 2014

    HMAS Assault - A Legacy

    With the anniversary of VP (Victory in the Pacific) Day being celebrated on 15 August, memories of war time in Australia come to mind.

    There is a very significant piece of the Second World War history at Nelson Bay, New South Wales.

    It is the site of HMAS Assault at Fly Point, which lies today in and around the Port Stephens Native Flora Gardens, off Victoria Parade


    During the Second World War HMAS Assault  was commissioned as a Royal Australian Navy (RAN) amphibious training centre. It comprised buildings, machinery, water and  electricity supply, a slip, a jetty, stores and fuel,and including the armed merchant cruiser HMAS  Westralia, and the tender, HMAS Ping Wo.*

    From August 1942 to October1943, it became the base for the Joint Overseas Operational Training School (JOOTS) established by General Douglas MacArthur. During this period there were some 22,000 United States and Australian defence personnel stationed at Port Stephens.

    HMAS Assault was used in the training of landing crews, beach parties and signal teams of the allied forces who were preparing the to fight the Japanese advance in the Pacific.

    When the JOOTS operation ceased on 12 October 1943, the RAN continued training its own boat and beach crews until August 1944. The base then went into care  and  maintenance  mode until April 1945 when it was handed over to the Royal Navy, for use as a Commando Depot for the Royal Marine units attached to the British Pacific Fleet.

    After the War, the facility was taken over by the Commonwealth Employment Service and served a migrant hostel from 1949 to 1953.

    The HMAS Assault sick bay served as a hospital during this time, and again from 1956 to 1981 when it was the local community hospital. The buildings were then handed over to the Port Stephens Society of the Arts and on 10 August  1981, the Port Stephens Community Arts Centre was born.

    **************************************************************************
    Today the Arts Centre is the only remaining building of HMAS Assault. The rest of the facility was dismantled in the late 1950s and turned into parkland. Various  concrete slabs, brick foundations and other infrastructure remnants can still be found.

    With the help of old photographs and a map**, courtesy of the Port Stephens Historical Society, an exploration of the site gives us valuable information into the "then " and "now". 

     HMAS Assault Plan -
    Port Stephens Historical Society
    1) Entrance to HMAS Assault from Dieppe Road, as per above map, from what is now Victoria Parade near the music shell.
     


    Photo from Port Stephens Historical Society

    Probable site of the HMAS Assault gatehouse
    today looking up from Victoria Parade.
      Photo taken March 2014 
    2) Naval Athletics at the Assault Oval, now the site of W J Strong Memorial Oval.

    Photo from Port Stephens Historical Society

    W J Strong Memorial Oval - Photo taken May 2104

    3) Accommodation Huts at Fly Point on the site of today's Neil Carroll Rotary Park.

    Photo from Port Stephens Historical Society

    View from Neil Carroll Rotary Park looking towards
     Nelson Bay - Photo taken March 2014


    4) HMAS Assault Base Cape at Nelson Bay (western end of Little Beach) in 1943 and the site today with the newly renovated Little Beach Boathouse restaurant.

    Photo from Port Stephens Historical Society

    Overlooking Port Stephens today from The Little Beach Boathouse.
    Photo taken January 2014
    5) Brick foundations of a stores building in Tobruk Road as per above map

    View of Stores building foundations looking towards Nelson Bay.
    Photo taken March 2014

    Alternate view of Stores building foundations looking north.
    Photo taken March 2014
    6) Brick foundations for buildings along Bruneval Road, as per above map.

    Photo taken August 2013

    Photo taken August 2013

    Photo taken August 2013

    7) entrance to HMAS Assault mid way along Victoria Parade in what was Algiers Road, as per above map. The remains of a gatepost is  visible in the foreground. 


    Side Entrance to Port Stephens Native Flora Reserve - Victoria Avenue.
    Photo taken March 2014



    Concrete foundation for a gatepost in the foreground.
    Photo taken March 2014

    A closer view of the gatepost foundation.
    Photo taken March 2014

    Nearby to this entrance the remains of the  fuel tanks for the facility were located..  

    Remains of a fuel tank - photo taken March 2014
    8) Brick Foundations of a building, possibly the "ratings drying room" with the Port Stephens Arts Centre in the background.


    Photo taken March 2014

    Map of Port Stephens Community  Arts Centre.
     Photo taken March 2014
    At the rear of the Arts Centre, there are the brick remains of what probably were latrines or ablutions buildings. These may well have been discarded to their present site when work was done on the Arts Centre, as they were once free standing.l


    Photo taken May 2014

    Photo taken May 2014
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    * Armstrong, John: Port Stephens The Ultimate Experience, 2006, page 35.

    **Wartime photographs and map sourced from the HMAS Assault Room at the Inner Light Museum, Nelson Head, courtesy of the Port Stephens Historical Society. Photos of these taken by the writer.

    All current photos taken and dated by the writer August 2013 - May 2014.

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    If you are interested in researching Australian history, go to our website at: http://www.historyservices.com.au/

    Blog prepared by Mary McGuinness