Lieut Francis William Goodwin MC, 8th Bn, Evan Evans and Heather Armstrong 3-23
Medical diagram found in service record of Lieut AO Duprez, 3rd Bn, Graeme Hosken 23
Billeting of 26th Bn in Belgium after the Armistice, Claire Dujardin and Alison McCallum 24-25
Search for Belgian man’s Aussie great-grandfather, Claire Dujardin 25-26
Cpl 746 John Tomlinson, 1st LHR/Provost Corps, Trevor Munro 27-29
Poem: ‘The soldier’s prayer’, found by Heather (Frev) Ford on Trove 29
Gallipoli memoirs: Pte 175 James Lewis, 23rd Bn, found on Trove 30-31
Pte 1746 David Gow, 45th Bn, Val McKenzie 32-37
Colour spread: Photos relating to the AIF in France 1918, Various contributors 38-39
Voices of Birralee: Australia’s Centenary Choir, Julie Christiansen OAM, with Geoff Lewis 40
Gallipoli Memoirs: Pte 771 Garnet Rundle, 12th Bn, found on Trove 41-44
Lieut Horace Gilchrist, 7th LHR, Stephen Brooks 45
Battlefield burial of Thomas, Russell, McGannon and Sims, 23rd Bn, Graeme Hosken 46-55
Lieut William Salvatori, 34th Bn: the man who lost his memory, Bill Durrant 56
Pte 2721 Robert Tibbs, 2nd Bn, remembered at Blayney, contrib. by Tony Nixon 57-58
Letter from 1917: Pte 876 Leslie Carter, 8th/46th Bns, found on Trove 58
The war after the war, Tina Horsfall, John Laffin History Prize recipient, Deakin University 59-62
Volunteers sought to help with Kyoomba RSL Project, Graeme Hosken and Deb Wheeler 62
Battle of Lys Centenary at Merris and Vieux Berquin, April 2018, John Payne 63-65
For Valour: Australian VC recipients 1918 (Part 2: June and July), Geoff Lewis 66-74
Pte 4794 Waldimar Anderson, 32nd Bn, Bill Durrant 74
Regular features
Trench Talk and Contact/Membership details 2
Etched in Stone, Russell Curley and Jim Corkery 75

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Captain Clifford ‘Tiny’ Hatcher MC, 12th MG Coy/4th MG Bn, Greg O’Reilly 3-7
Cpl 2024A Stanley Woolbank, 45th Bn, letters and news items, found on Trove 8-11
Sister Hilda Mary Knox, AANS, Heather (Frev) Ford 12-15
E/R Sgt John Wicks, AIF Canteens, found on Trove, research by Graeme Hosken 15
The O’Connor brothers of Collie: George, Michael, Patrick and Edward, Margo Piggott 16-19
Pte 2029 James Antcliff, 36th Bn Emeritus Prof. John Ramsland 20-25
Dvr 2102 Oliver Courtney, 4th Light Horse Field Ambulance, Greg Swinden 26-28
My three Digger uncles: Jim and Fred Harvey, Mac Smith, Judith Green 29
Memories of Polygon Wood, ‘Barb’, 51st Bn 30-31
Extract from French newspaper found in 4th MG Bn unit diary, contrib. by Greg Knight 31
Pte 2722 Rupert Donaldson, 2nd & 54th Bns, Graeme Hosken and Malcolm Donaldson 32-33
Boy-buglers of the AIF, Graeme Hosken 34-40
Commemorations of the Centenary of 3rd Ypres, Johan Durnez with Geoff Lewis 41
Capt Gordon Coghill MC, 35th Bn, contrib. by Bill Durrant 42
Differing views on the Battle of Passchendaele, ‘Dig’ and ‘Fifth Army’, found on Trove 43-44
Battle on the Menin Road, Cpl 3097 Alfred Gray MSM, 5th Pnrs, found on Trove 44
Letters from Gallipoli: Pte Garnet Rundle, 12th Bn, found on Trove 45-50
Cpl 566 James Smith MM, 4th MG Bn, and the Battle of Hamel, Greg Knight 51-54
The Road to Passchendaele, Emeritus Prof. John Ramsland 55-59
A ration party, Unknown soldier-author, found on Trove, contrib. by Bill Durrant 60-61
Spr 145 Rupert Moremon, 6th BGROC, Graeme Hosken 61
Lieut John Davidson MC, 1st LHR, ICC, 15th LHR, contrib. by Rob Davidson 62-63
Cpl 165 A Stranger, 32nd Bn, & his father, Sgt 872 T Stranger, 5th BGROC, Stephen Brooks 63
For Valour: Australian VC recipients 1918 (Part 1: March to May), Geoff Lewis 64-70
2018 Battle of the Lys Centenary at Merris and Vieux Berquin, John Payne 70
Keeping their Memory Alive (seven soldiers from Chinchilla), Graeme Hosken 71-72
The fight for Passchendaele, L/Cpl 2865 William Murray, 39th Bn, found on Trove 73-74
‘Fun at the Front’: account of a DAC mule race, 23rd Battalion unit diary 74
Regular features
Trench Talk and Contact/Membership details 2
Etched in Stone, Russell Curley and Jim Corkery 75

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Lieutenant David Gerald Evans MC, MID, 8th Bn, Evan Evans 3-18
Pte 271 Garnet Rundle, 12th Bn: the First Contingent voyage, found on Trove 19-27
Letters from 1915: Sgt FA Elworthy, 1st LHR & Lieut WC Beeken, 3rd Bn, found on Trove 28-29
Pte 1736 Percival Ellis, 14th Bn/POW, David Ellis 30-32
Memories of Polygon Wood, ‘Tun’, found on Trove 32
POWs escape: Pte 4534 Jack Lee MM, 14th Bn & L/Cpl 940 Fred Peachey MM, 15th Bn 33-39
Pte 3150 Victor Jones, 60th Bn, remembered, Geoff Lewis 39
WWI commemorations in the Rural City of Horsham, contrib. by John Wilson OAM 40-41
Making good at ‘Polygon Wood’: Pte 2452 Sherdy Gardiner, 3rd Bn, found on Trove 41
WO1 Alexander Rose Falconer, 5th FAB, Diary Part 4 (final), contrib. by Neil Falconer 42-46
Pte 3151 John (Don) Jameson, 56th Bn, Pam Shadie 47-50
Diaries of L/Cpl William Lycett, 4th Field Ambulance, Part 11, contrib. by Tim Lycett 51-55
Pte 7373A George Vincent Forsythe, 8th Bn, also RAN, RCN, Greg Swinden 56-58
Australian-Serbian WWI Project – seeking help, contrib. by Bojan Pajik 58
Last out – final days at Gallipoli: men of the 6th LHR, contrib. by David S Wilkins 59-61
Belgian Embassy oak tree planting, Sue Tongue 61
For Valour: AIF VC recipients, 1917, Part 3 (Third Ypres), Geoff Lewis 62-73
Letters from the Front, 1916: Cpl 525 George Henry Woods, 33rd Bn, found on Trove 73
Sinking of HMAT ‘Ballarat’, Pte 7235 John Giles, 7th & 23rd Bns, found on Trove. 74
Regular features
Trench Talk and Contact/Membership details 2
Etched in Stone, Russell Curley and Jim Corkery 75
Note: There is no DIGGER Quiz in this issue

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The 20th Battalion and the Evacuation from Gallipoli, Neville Browning 3-7

Pte Frederic John Baird, 17th Bn, Maurice Campbell 8-10

L/Cpl Noho Toki, 1st Maori Contingent, Judith Green 11-12

Lieut Thomas Acherson Armstrong, 33rd Bn, Stephen Brooks 12

Pte Garnet Dart, 9th Australian Field Ambulance, Emeritus Prof. John Ramsland 13-20

Gallipoli diary of Bdr Arthur Henson Smith, 3rd FAB, contrib. by Rowan Smith 21-28

Bob Bage: forgotten comrade of Antarctica and Gallipoli (3rd FCE), Ross McMullin 29-32

How we recovered waste: Pte Leslie St Clair Roberts, ex-10th Bn, contrib. by Bill Durrant 33-34

WO1 Alexander Rose Falconer, 5th FAB, Part 3 of his diary, contrib. by Neil Falconer 35-40

Centenary of Anzac Obelisk, Moore Park, Sydney, Jim Munro 40

For Valour: Anzac VC recipients, 1917, Part 2 (Bullecourt & Messines), Geoff Lewis 41-49

Flanders Memorial Garden (AWM grounds, Canberra), Sue Tongue 50

Lieut Frederick Carl Stolz, 32nd Bn, contrib. by John Haddow 51-57

Major John Higgon, Pembroke Yeomanry/32nd Bn AIF, Graeme Hosken 57-60

Swift father and son killed in the war, Stephen Brooks 60

Diaries of L/Cpl William Lycett, 4th Field Ambulance, Part 10, contrib. by Tim Lycett 61-65

The three brothers McGree, Stephen Brooks 66

L/Cpl Charles Frederick Lee, 14th & 46th Bns, 12th MGC, Greg O’Reilly 67-70

Letters from the Front: Pte Reginald Milton Smith, 33rd Bn, Bill Durrant 71-73

Letters from the Front, 1917 (Messines): Pte Bert Von Einem, 38th Bn, found on Trove 73

Return of the Menin Gate lions to Ieper, Johan Durnez, Anny de Decker & Geoff Lewis 74

Regular features

Trench Talk and Contact/Membership details 2

Etched in Stone, Russell Curley and Jim Corkery 75

Note: There is no DIGGER Quiz in this issue

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1918 Christmas and New Year Greetings

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Major milestone for The Headstone Project

The last of the 316 previously unmarked graves of returned Diggers buried in the Cornelian Bay Cemetery in Hobart will have their headstones dedicated in a graveside service on Saturday 15 December. After 6 years of researching, finding families, planning, fundraising, organising and co-ordinating, The Headstones Project Sub-Committee of FFFAIF, established in 2012, has completed its initial task.

Around 2010, Tasmanian FFFAIF member John Trethewey, while researching a number of World War One veterans, discovered that a number were resting in unmarked graves in Cornelian Bay Cemetery. To rectify this situation, a group of people including John with historian Andrea Gerrard and Peter Pickering came together as the Commemorations Coalition to see if they could change this situation. In September 2012 FFFAIF formally established the Headstone Projects Sub-committee with Terms of Reference and delegated authority to enable the Commemorations Coalition to establish bank accounts, receive funds and be covered by Public Liability insurance.

On 8th March 2012, the unveiling of first 4 headstones and plaques occurred with further dedications in each of the following 6 years. Dignitaries attending have included Her Excellency Professor the Honourable Kate Warner, Governor of Tasmania, Senator, the Honourable Eric Abetz, Brian Mitchell MP, Mr Jim Wilkinson, President of the Legislative Council. Lieutenant Colonel (Retd.) Andrew Wilkie MHR, the Lord Mayor of Hobart, and the Deputy Commissioner for Veterans’ Affairs in Tasmania and then Chief of Army, Lt-General Angus Campbell, DSC, AM, and, FFFAIF Members Lambis Englezos, Dr Ross McMullin, and Dr Brendan Nelson, Director of the Australian War Memorial.

The Headstones Project, Chaired by Andrea Gerrard OAM, has become a model of how the service and sacrifice of soldiers who returned from the Great War can be recognised through passionate people working in partnership with local community leaders, community groups and businesses, government agencies and ex-service organisations. The project has inspired similar projects in other parts of Tasmania, South Australia, Victoria and NSW.

13 headstones with plaques have been unveiled at the Ulverstone General Cemetery on the north west coast of Tasmania where the local RSL worked with The Headstone Project and at Launceston where 141 unmarked graves have so far been found in Carr Villa Memorial Park, the main cemetery in Launceston.

In May 2016, the FFFAIF Committee established a South Australian Headstone Project Sub-committee on the same basis as the Tasmanian Headstone Project with FFFAIF member John Brownlie as Chair, and mentored by Andrea and Ron Gerrard.  Considerable support for the project has been building and their first headstone was unveiled on Remembrance Day 2017.

In NSW at Sandgate Cemetery in Newcastle, more than 850 soldiers of the Great War are thought to have their final resting place and about 400 soldiers are memorialised on their web-site at http://sandgate.northerncemeteries.com.au/index.php/war-heroes. Based on the research undertaken by Gary Mitchell over the past decade, more than 100 wooden crosses made by the Morpeth Men’s Shed have been installed on previously unmarked graves of returned soldiers. A particular example of how this has helped bring families together is the commemorative service for Pte Cressy KIA Fromelles 19 July 1916 on the centenary of his death at the previously unmarked grave of his parents- see http://fffaif.org.au/?p=814 for the story of searching for any relatives in 2008 with the results in 2016 at https://www.theherald.com.au/story/4040009/finding-private-harry-fromelles-remembered-photos-video/?cs=305#slide=21.

Rookwood Necropolis, the largest cemetery in Australia, has over the past 4 years identified 1,756 unofficial war memorials on graves and cleaned and restored many of these. Where the grave-site has previously been unmarked by any monumental work or commemorative plaque, non-permanent markers have been installed to display the name of soldier. This work has been undertaken by Rookwood staff who have expressed an interest in being involved in this project as explained by CEO George Simpson in the video at http://www.rookwoodcemetery.com.au/assets/video/Rookwood%20Remembrance.mp4.

To mark the milestone of the dedication of the headstones on the last of the 316 previously unmarked graves in the Cornelian Bay Cemetery, FFFAIF is hosting a “Headstone Projects Roundtable” on Saturday in Hobart to bring together some of those FFFAIF Members and other people working on similar projects. Their objective is to share experiences and learning, improve consistency of memorialisations, better co-ordinate their activities and provide support to each other, and perhaps obtain some economies of scale.

If you are aware of local efforts to recognise the service of sacrifice of soldiers of The Great War on their graves or to list or photograph local graves of soldiers, and you think that would benefit by FFFAIF support, or you would like to join the Headstone Project efforts, please send details to headstone.projects@fffaif.org.au.

With the cost of each headstone and commemorative plaque costing about $400 each, the bulk of funding has come from community fundraising and business and government grants as well as the significant discounts and contributions in kind by project-partners. In addition, FFFAIF has contributed funds from the sale of Rembrella poppy umbrellas to the Headstone Project.  If you would like to support the Headstone Project by purchasing a Rembrella poppy umbrella, contact rembrella@fffaif.org.au


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Seeking Fromelles DNA matches

19 July 2018 The Catafalque Party enters the Cemetery passing covered Headstones to be rededicated.
All photographs by Carole Laignel, unless otherwise acknowledged
[Click on images to enlarge]

The names of 231 of the 250 soldiers buried by the German Reserve Bavarian Infantry Regiment soldiers following the Battle of Fromelles are known. The graves of 159 of the 250 soldiers whose remains were recovered from the communal pits near Pheasant Wood, Fromelles in French Flanders and were reburied with full military honours in the new Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery in 2010 are now identified with their names.

Photo: DNA procedures
[2009 Oxford Archaeology. CWGC]

The names of a further 71 soldiers are known to be buried in the Cemetery along with 20 whose identity is not known.  Identifying which of these soldiers is in which grave remains the challenge that can only be solved now by matching the soldier’s DNA with that of a descendant. These are some of the 1,102 Australian soldiers killed in the Battle of Fromelles on the night of 19th July, 1916 and continuing into the 20th with no known grave.  (1,333 Australian soldiers were listed as having no known grave less 231 now known to have been buried near Pheasant Wood).

    Identified with named head-stones Identified from Original Working List Identified from
Munich research
Identified but not on Working List
Soldiers identified 231 159 120 4 35
Soldiers recovered 250 64% 75% 3% 22%


The President of the Fromelles Association of Australia, Royce Atkinson, has issued the following call to anyone who has a relative who could have been buried by the Germans following the Battle of Fromelles.


That’s right, there are going to be at least 100 submissions made to the Joint Identifications Board for consideration in March, 2019. But there are a number of people who have been contacted, and are yet to have their DNA kits completed and returned.

This is the message we have received from those in charge of making submissions to the Joint Identification Board:

“Despite the great efforts going to identify donors we still have a significant number of donors who have done nothing about their kits when they received them from LGC, or return them very late.
The ID board will be sitting early March so we need the kits back by first week of February 2019 to ensure the samples can be processed in time.
It is zero cost to the donor. If the donors filled out the paper work and returned their kits within a week of receiving them then we would have the possibility of more identifications.
This has been a problem from the beginning.”

If you have a DNA kit or you know a relative who has received a DNA kit, now is the time to get the kits finished and returned to the laboratory. For your family, and for all those lost at Fromelles.

19 July 2018 Wreath-laying by Martial Delebarre, Jean Marie Bailleul & Pierre Sellier & Geoffrey Benn

Please contact: Royce Atkinson at royceatkinson@hotmail.com

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Vale – Major General Gordon Lindsay Maitland AO, OBE, RFD, ED

Gordon Maitland MAJGENGordon Maitland Centenary of AnzacGordon Maitland funeral

On behalf of the Committee and Members of Families and Friends of the First AIF, I extend condolences to the family and friends of FFFAIF Foundation Member Gordon Maitland on his passing on 17 October 2018, aged 92 years.

Major General Gordon Lindsay Maitland AO OBE RFD ED (1926 – 2018) was born in Rockdale on 25 August 1926. He was aged 17 when he enlisted in the 2nd AIF during the Second World War. He learnt Japanese and on the cessation of hostilities was sent overseas and took some of the surrenders. He also did some of the war crimes investigations and interpreted at some of the war trials.

His military career included service in Vietnam and later command of the 2nd Division. At the time of his retirement from the Army, Gordon was Chief of Reserves at Army Headquarters and a member of the Chief of Army’s Advisory Council. Post military, Gordon served as CEO of The Royal Agricultural Society, on various NSW Government Committees and as Chief Manager of the Commonwealth Bank.

 For the past 3 decades, Gordon has devoted his life to commemorative and community activities, particularly assisting veterans and their organisations, a number of which he has led. He has also had a lifelong dedication to military history.

2009 07 23 Pozieres Service Gordon Maitland P1040083Gordon at the Commemorative Service for the Battle of Pozieres at Saint Columba Church, Woollahra on Sunday 26 July 2009.
Photo: Major General Craig D. Williams AM, Commander 2nd Division takes the salute accompanied by Rev. Dr. Alan Russell, Major-General Sandy Pearson AO, DSO, OBE, MC (Retd) and Major-General Gordon Maitland AO OBE RFD ED (Retd) [Jim Munro]

 Gordon Maitland at Pozieres Service 2008

Gordon at Pozieres Commemoration Service at Saint Columba Uniting Church, Woollahra, Sunday 27 July 2008.
Photo: Theodore Arfaras, President, Association Des Anciens Combatants Francais, George Brouet, President, Foundation France Libre, Major General Gordon Maitland AO OBE RFD ED Rtd, Russell Curley, President Families and Friends of the First AIF. [Alan Kitchen]

Gordon was a Foundation Member of FFFAIF (Member 20) and our most senior retired military officer. Gordon has been an authoritative historian and author with the assistance of his late wife Dorothy has had 6 books published. Click here to read an interview Gordon did with NSW RSL Reveille on his interest in military history.

Gordon Maitland passed away on the evening of 17 October 2018 and his military funeral was held at St James, King St., Sydney on Monday, 29 October 2018 at 10:30. This was followed by a by Military Procession along Phillip St with a Tribute Ceremony at the Cenotaph, Martin Place, concluding with a reception at The Westin Hotel, Sydney.

Those participating in the service included:

The Rev Andrew Sempell, Rector of St James
The Rev Robert Sutherland, CSC, Chaplain, Australian Army
he Rev the Honourable Fred Nile, ED, MLC

The eulogy was delivered by Major General The Honourable Paul Brereton, AM RFD, Judge of the NSW Court of Appeal, honorary Colonel Commandant of the Royal NSW Regiment and the University of NSW Regiment, and Assistant Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force.

Pipers of Sydney’s Thistle Highland Pipe Band played a Scottish Tribute

Reflections were given by Gordon’s daughters, Barbara Hodges and Elizabeth Charman and the grandchildren.

Readings were led by:
is Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley, AC, DSC, (Rtd), Governor of New South Wales
Lieutenant General Ken Gillespie, AC, DSC, CSM

The poem “Kokoda Pilgrimage” written by Gordon was read by 97 years-old Dick Payten OAM, President of the 7th Division Association and a Kokoda veteran. 

The 4th Battalion Royal New South Wales Regiment Colours were marched into the service.

The Choir of St James, Director of Music, Organist and Altar Servers assisted in the service.

Piper Graham Wood played the recessional piece as the Maitland family and dignitaries left the church.

The following photos show the military procession and Tribute Ceremony.

IMG_8943 web

Military Procession in Phillip Street, Sydney

IMG_8952 webIMG_8954 web

Gordon’s casket arrives at the Cenotaph Ceremony of Remembrance  Graeme Wood of the Sydney’s Thistle Highland Pipe Band, for first time in public, played the Fromelles lament, commissioned by Gordon.  

 FFFAIF member Darren Mitchell significantly supported the Maitland family in the organisation and conduct of the funeral service and Cenotaph Ceremony of Remembrance.

Other FFFAIF members present were Jim Munro, President, Russell Curley past President, Margaret Snodgrass, Jim Braid.

IMG_8957 webIMG_8955 web

 FFFAIF Members Margaret Snodgrass OAM and Past President Russell Curley with Member Jim Braid in the background. Senior military officers, Dame Marie Bashir AD, CVO, His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Ret’d), Governor of New South Wales, and Gordon’s daughters Barbara Hodges and Elizabeth Charman and members of the Maitland family.

Read Gordon Maitland Obituary SMH Will Davies in the Sydney Morning Herald of 10 November 2018 by Will Davies

Jim Munro


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The Story of Rembrella Poppy Umbrellas in Australia

The images of poppies on the old Flanders battlefields and umbrellas lining the route of The Armistice Day Poppy Parade to the Menin Gate Memorial in Ieper (Ypres) inspired Lt. Colonel (Rtd) Graham Parker OBE, instigator of the Parade and a respected historian and Vice President of the Western Front Association, to develop the Poppy Umbrella.

Photo: Lt. Colonel (Rtd) Graham Parker OBE
Remembrance Day Ieper 2009

The Poppy Umbrella, resembling a Flanders poppy when open, is manufactured for Rembrella by Fultons, the largest supplier of quality umbrellas in the UK, and the holder of a Royal Warrant to Her Majesty The Queen. The Rembrella products are premium gifts available in three different styles: Telescopic, Standard and Golf Umbrellas. They are only available for sale through registered charities of ex-Service and welfare organizations, or military and heritage museums, or educational associations and not-for-profit organizations.

The Rembrella Poppy Umbrellas design is registered in Australia and in 2009 Rembrella appointed Families and Friends of the First AIF (FFAIF) as its Australian importer.

Rembrella products are sold through organisations that commemorate the service and sacrifice of Australians in The Great War including the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, the National ANZAC Centre in Albany, the Anzac Memorial Sydney, the Queensland ANZAC Day Commemorative Committee and The Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne. More than 4,000 Rembrella products have been sold in Australia with sales benefiting these organisations and also enabling FFFAIF to contribute funding to Commemorations in Sydney for Fromelles Day and the Battles of 3rd Ypres as well towards the costs of headstones on unmarked graves of returned Diggers.

Lt Col Graham Parker & Joanna at Pte Andrew Gibson's grave Baverstock

Photo: Lt. Colonel (Rtd) Graham Parker OBE
and his daughter Joanna Legg
at the grave of Private Andrew Gibson AIF of Mackay Queensland, at St Edith’s Baverstock, Wiltshire UK [Rembrella]

Andrew Gibson was a 39-year-old farmer from Mackay, Queensland when he enlisted in the AIF on 6th March 1916. He was the son of Andrew and Margaret Gibson and had been born in Stranraer, Wigtonshire in Scotland.

Private Gibson embarked with the 31st Infantry Battalion on 19th September aboard the HMAT Seang Choon from Brisbane. After a sea voyage of nearly three months Pte Gibson disembarked at Plymouth England on 9th December 1916 and was posted to the 8th Training Battalion located at Hurdcott Camp, on the Salisbury Plain. Three weeks later he was admitted to Fovant Military Hospital on 31st December 1916 where he died of broncho pneumonia on 7th January 1917.

Private Gibson was a widower and was survived by a son James and daughter Margaret both of Mackay. Andrew’s next of kin was his brother Robert Gibson of Fairleigh Estate, Mackay, Queensland.

Private Gibson was buried on 10th January 1917 and is one of 28 Australian and 3 British soldiers buried at St Edith’s, Baverstock, Wiltshire where an ANZAC Day commemoration service is held annually.



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2018 John Laffin Memorial Lecture

Report by Paul Simadas, FFFAIF Vice President


The 2018 John Laffin Memorial Lecture Day, held at 99 York St in Sydney’s CBD on 15 September was a rewarding day for those who attended. In a full day of talks our four speakers delivered informative lectures that were entertaining and reflective of the effort and sacrifice of Australians during and after the Great War.

Lieutenant Colonel Peter Sweeney, former infantry officer and now battlefield historian and guide, delivered an enthralling talk on the Australian battle of Le Hamel fought on the 4th of July 1918. He presented the battle within its historical context, and explained the superb role of Australian staff work in preparing for the battle and the key elements to tactical success in its actual conduct. The battle set the standard for future Australian operations. The all-arms battle combining tanks, artillery, machine guns and aircraft with the infantry was explained in detail using maps and vignettes from the battle.

JLML 2018 1 Peter Sweeney IMG-0728 cropped

Figure 1 Peter Sweeney outlines the Battle of Hamel

 Our second talk was delivered by one of the four 2017 John Laffin Memorial History Prize recipients, Nathaniel Sgambellone of Monash University. His talk, “Good Bye to All That” was based on his original research of the Repatriation files in the National Archives of Australia. Taking case studies of several individual returned servicemen, he presented a sensitive review of the plight confronting service men and their families in the post-war year. The end of the war brought a long shadow of difficulties to the incapacitated and “down on their luck” former diggers. The difficulties experienced by returned servicemen and their dependents in applying for pensions, seeking welfare and repatriation support, and in receiving suitable hospital care were revealed. The failure of the land grants scheme to make farmers of the men, and the mental anguish endured by many Australian families as a result of the war was described. The Memorial History prize is one of the several endeavours of the FFFAIF to remember “Digger” heritage.

JLML 2018 2 Nathaniel Sgambone IMG-0729 cropped

Figure 2 Nathaniel Sgambellone asking was it really “Good Bye to All That”?
– Repatriation arrangements and its impact on Australians after the war

Following a catered lunch of sandwiches and refreshments for the 35 attendees, the lecture day then looked at the role of the nurses of the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS). Clare Ashton, senior nurse and expert historian in the role of nursing and the medical services in the Great War, presented a survey of the AANS. Around 2,500 nurses served overseas during the war as far afield as Lemnos, France and England. These nurses faced the stress of providing care to seriously wounded soldiers near the front lines and further back. The structure of the casualty clearing stations, and of the Stationary and General hospitals was explained. A case study of the 3rd Australian General Hospital was given that included period photographs of the nurses on duty in the wards and elsewhere. Clare wore one of the uniforms commissioned by the ABC for their drama series ANZAC Girls about Australian nurses in the Great War. She looked the part!

JLML 2018 3 Clare Ashton IMG-0732 cropped

Figure 3 Clare Ashton with Nurses of the AIF in the Great War

To close the day, FFFAIF Committee member Sue Tongue spoke about her Grandmother, Sister Nellie Pike, the mother of our late patron John Laffin and his younger sisters Patricia (Williams) and Daphne (Tongue). Nellie served in the 3rd Australian General Hospital. Sue displayed original documents and photos of Sister Pike’s War service. It was touching and sad to hear, yet Sue’s pride in her Grandmother’s service was evident to all listening.

JLML 2018 4 Sue Tongue IMG-0731 cropped

Figure 4 Sue Tongue sharing the story of Will Rose (KIA at Fromelles) and
Sister Nellie Pike

JLML 2018 5 Attendees IMG-0725 cropped

Figure 5 John Laffin Memorial Lecture 2018 attendees


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