During the First World War the Australian Comforts Fund co-ordinated the distribution of small gifts to soldiers to make their life a little more pleasant.
It was formed in August 1916 and co-ordinated the efforts made by various existing State based patriotic funds. In the field, its activities were overseen by commissioners who held honorary rank as officers. Local Drummoyne Alderman, Mayor and politician, Thomas Henley was one such commissioner who visited Egypt, France and Britain in his work for the Australian Comforts Fund. His own son, Lieutenant Harold Leslie Henley was killed in action on 15 August 1916 in France.
This postcard was distributed to soldiers by the Australian Comforts Fund at Christmas 1916. It was sent by Private Henry George Jeffery to his family in Five Dock. Harry was killed in action on 4 October 1917 in Belgium.
The postcard artwork is by Laurie Tayler (Lawrence B. Tayler), an Australian artist and cartoonist of the period. The gentle humour of the postcard (‘People have been very kind to me in London’) belies the horror of the First World War experience.
Throughout the City of Canada Bay there are many memorials, large and small, dedicated to the memory of local men and women who served our country in war.
Local Studies is custodian of two memorials to those who served in the First World War, the Drummoyne War Service Record, which records those who served from the Drummoyne area and the Lysaght Bros Roll of Honour, which records the names of workers from the Lysaght factory at Chiswick who served .
The beautiful memorial, above, pays tribute to nine soldiers from the Five Dock Methodist Church (now Five Dock Uniting Church) who did not return from the First World War. Undoubtedly it was crafted with love and compassion.
Images of some of the war memorials in the City of Canada Bay can be seen on flickr.
A small display in the Local Studies area at Concord Library provides a glimpse into the story of two brothers who served in the First World War.
Margaret Jeffery lovingly collected the letters and postcards sent by her sons during the First World War in an album. One hundred years later they provide a very special glimpse into the lives of the soldiers and the conditions they experienced. Private Henry (Harry) Jeffery was killed in action in Belgium on the 4 October 1917, aged 19 years. His brother, Private Robert (Bob) Jeffery was only 15 years 8 months when he enlisted. He served in the Middle East until the Army found out he was underage and sent him back to Australia.
The photograph of soldiers, above, includes Harry Jeffery (second from the left, marked with a cross). The photograph may have been taken during training in Britain. The hut in the background would appear to be an army mess or kitchen, judging by the pots and utensils in the picture.
The Jeffery Album was generously donated to Local Studies by Christine Tracy, a descendant of the brothers, in 2014.
In 1915 Private Robert (Bob) Jeffery sent this simple card from Cairo to his family in Five Dock. It was printed on lightweight paper in Cairo and distributed to soldiers by the Australian Comforts Fund. At home it was lovingly preserved by his mother Margaret Jeffery in an album of postcards and letters sent by her two sons and nephew while serving in the First World War.
Bob was only 15 at the time of his enlistment. On Christmas day 1915 he wrote to his family,’I hope you all enjoyed your Xmas dinner, because I did, I had some roast turkey, boiled cabbage & roast potatoes, also some pudding and the day before yesterday most of us got our Xmas gifts from the Australian Comforts Fund. I got a billy can full of tobacco, cigarettes, cigars and matches, chocolate…writing paper, a plum pudding and a little square box with a dozen postcards… I don’t think I’ll go short of smokes for a while.’
After serving in the Middle East, Bob, like the message on the card, returned to his family in Australia.
Erected in 1921, the Concord War Memorial has been the focal point for Anzac Day services for over ninety years.
Some 600 men and women from the Concord area enlisted to serve in the First World War, a remarkable number considering the population at the time is estimated to have been less than 11, 000.
At present conservation work is being carried out on the marble tablets so the names will be legible once again. Thus the original intention of the memorial ‘to perpetuate the memory of our nurses, sailors and soldiers who enlisted in the Great War 1914-1919’ will be fulfilled.
The work will be completed by Remembrance Day, 11 November 2015.
To coincide with NSW History Week, Frank Walker will be speaking at Five Dock Library about his recently published book Commandos.
Frank Walker is a veteran journalist who has previously written books on the Vietnam War and British atomic tests in Australia. His latest book Commandos is a gripping military history written from the perspective of those who lived it. The talk will be at Five Dock Library on Thursday, 3 September 2015, at 6pm for a 6.30pm start. Bookings can be made online.
NSW History Week from the 5-13 September 2015 focusses on the theme ‘War, nationalism, identity’. For more information on activities see History Council NSW.
A new art work by Olev Muska at McIlwaine Park commemorates the service of local soldiers during the First World War.
Olev (left) has drawn on images from the Local Studies photographic collection, Canada Bay Connections and the Australian War Memorial to create a fascinating work. Against the background photograph of the unveiling of the Rhodes Honour Roll in 1919 can be seen images of Walter Brooks, the Seabrook brothers and a Field Post Office card sent by Harry Jeffery to his mother before going into battle.
The art work ensures that those who served in the First World War are remembered as ‘More than just a name’.
The Australian War Memorial’s digital exhibition ‘A camera on Gallipoli’, featuring First World War photographs taken by Sir Charles Ryan, can now be viewed at Concord Library.
In 1914, at the age of 61, Sir Charles Ryan was appointed consulting surgeon to the AIF, embarking from Melbourne in October to the Middle East, then on to Gallipoli.
‘A camera on Gallipoli’ showcases a series of 39 candid photographs. The Director of the Australian War Memorial, Dr Brendan Nelson, says ‘Charles Ryan’s photographs capture the reality behind the 1915 Gallipoli campaign, depicting a unique and often harsh view of our soldiers’ experiences’.
Charles Ryan led a remarkable life. He served as a doctor with the Turkish army in 1877–78, treated Ned Kelly at Glenrowan, was a leading Melbourne surgeon and gave long service as a senior military officer.
The digital exhibition is a centenary initiative supported by the Concord RSL to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. It can be viewed at Concord Library until Sunday, 3 August 2015.
While baseball was first played in Australia in the nineteenth century, it was the visit of the American Fleet in 1908 that particularly boosted interest in the game. In that year baseball first began to be played in NSW schools.
By 1914 St Bede’s (Anglican Church), Drummoyne had a well organised baseball team. Players in the photograph, above, were back row: A. Norman (Pitcher), H. Kay (1st Base), L. Kay (Catcher), Honorary Treasurer E. Gordon (Centre Field); second row: F. Hall (3rd Base), A. E. Kelshaw (Short Stop), Captain A. Mackenzie (2nd Base), Vice Captain and Honorary Secretary E. Stutchbury (Right Field); front row: E. Boon (Left Field), A Parsons (Centre Field).
It appears that at least six of the young men enlisted in the First World War. Brothers Harold Brooks Kay and Leslie Frank Kay, Ernest Gordon, Frederick Poole Hall, Albert Edward Kelshaw and Eric William Stutchbury. Ernest Gordon was killed in action in 1917 but the others all returned to Australia after the war ended. Eric Stutchbury became a Major in the 55 Battalion and was highly decorated, being awarded a Military Cross with Bar.
The photograph of St Bede’s Baseball Club was recently donated to Local Studies by Major Stutchbury’s son, Kevin.
Peter Rees will be speaking at Concord Library about his book Bearing Witness which chronicles the life of Charles Bean, the famous Australian war correspondent and official historian of the First World War.
Charles Bean served alongside AIF troops at Gallipoli and on the Western Front, so he had first hand experience of the events of the First World War. In addition to editing the Official History of Australian the War of 1914-18, Bean was a driving force behind the establishment of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
Peter Rees will be speaking at Concord Library on Monday, 11 May 2015, 6.30pm for 7pm start. Bookings can be made online.
The photograph, above, shows crosses and poppies prepared by local school students which were displayed at the Dawn Service at City of Canada Bay Civic Centre. Look closely, there’s one for Charles Bean (top row, centre).