Saturday, 19 August 2017

Avenue of Honour Planting of Second Section

The 18th August  commemorated the 100th anniversary of the planting of  trees for the second section of the Avenue of Honour to Cardigan. Below are two articles that appeared in the Ballarat Courier in August 1917 which provide details on the preparations which were undertaken and a report on how the day unfolded.

The Ballarat Library will be holding a special Remembrance Day event on November 11th  at 11.30 am when Professor Keir Reeves from Federation University will be joined by Phil Roberts and Michael Taffe to discuss Ballarat's Avenues of Honour. Phil is preparing a book on  The Arch of Victory and the Avenue of Honour  in Ballarat West while Michael has researched the histories of less well known avenues throughout Ballarat. So please join us for what is bound to be a lively and informative discussion.  Bookings essential.

Ballarat Courier 17 August 1917, P.1

Ballarat Courier 20 August 1917,p.5

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Third Battle of Ypres

July 31st will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the commencement of the Third Battle of Ypres. The Third Battle of Ypres was the major British offensive in Flanders in 1917.  The objective of the offensive was to break  through the heavily fortified German defences and advance to the Belgian coast where German submarines were based. There were a number of limited and costly battles which occurred throughout September, October and November 1917 as part of the offensive. Due to the waterlogged conditions a result of persistent heavy rain and destruction to the Flanders drainage system caused by heavy artillery action the offensive proved to be very costly in terms of casualties.  In eight weeks of fighting Australian forces incurred 38,000 casualties. To put this into perspective this is 12,000 more than the eight moinths of fighting in the Gallipoli campaign. The total of British and other dominion forces casualties have been estimated at 310,000. The German casualties were estimated to be slightly lower than this.

While the opportunity for a breakthrough slowly disappeared Field Marshal Douglas Haig, Commander of the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Front still saw value in continuing the offensive hoping to drain German manpower through attrition. While no breakthrough was achieved the offensive merely widened the Ypres Salient by a few kilometres.

As part of the offensive Australian forces saw action at Menin Road, Polygon Wood, Broodseinde, Poeicapelle, and the first battle of Passchendaele. We will blog about each of these battles in coming posts.

Following is an article in the Ballarat Courier describing the Ypres offensive.

Ballarat Courier 25 October 1917

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Battle of Messines

Wednesday 7 June 2017 will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Messines. Launched on the 7th June 1917 the battle was used in preparation for the Flanders offensive the allies were to undertake in the northern summer. For many years tunnellers had dug huge mines beneath the German trenches in the area and had packed the mines with explosives. Before dawn on June 7 1917, 19 mines were detonated causing a massive explosion which they said at the time could be heard across the English Channel. The German trenches were totally destroyed. This event was made famous by the Australian film Beneath Hill 60. The explosions killed 10,000 Germans.

British, New Zealand and Australian troops advanced to take the strategically important Wyschaete-Messines Ridge. The ridge which was situated on high ground south of Ypres was used by the Germans as a salient into British lines and to build their defence along its 10 mile length. Taking the ridge was of vital importance for the summer offensive to be successful. The fighting continued until the 14th June and claimed 6,000 Australian casualties, of these 500- 2000 were a result of a gas attack launched by the Germans. Two Australians Private John Carroll and Captain Robert Grieve were awarded the Victoria Cross during the battle.

The allies success at Messines was often referred to as what could be achieved on the Western Front  when a campaign is carefully planned by competent leaders and the infantry was not asked to advanced any further than the distance their artillery could cover.

Messines was historic for the Australian Imperial Force (AIF). It was the first the 3rd Division under Major General John Monash saw action on the Western Front and it was also the first time since Gallipoli that Australian and New Zealand troops had fought along side each other.

Below is a report in the Ballarat Courier of an interview given by Major General Monash following the Messines attack.

Ballarat Courier 7 July 1917

 Below is a photograph of Australian soldiers at Messines in July 1917, standing in German trenches demolished by the mine blasts.
Photograph Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

After Bullecourt: the Four Sons of Mrs Buckingham

This enquiry came to us in the Australiana Room from a gentleman doing some research on his wife’s family:

In my research for my Family Tree, I have been given photos of the four Buckingham boys – George,  William, Bob and Frank – under the heading “Four Sons of Mrs Buckingham”. I believe the photos come from the Ballarat Courier but they have no date, except for a caption under Frank’s photo “Now in France”. All four were soldiers in the first World War. Two of them were killed in France – George and young Sam both on April 11 1917, and Bob wounded three times. Frank enlisted for two tours of duty.  I am told the photos were in the Ballarat Courier some time in 1917, because Mrs Buckingham and two of the sons came from Ballarat. But two came from WA, so it could be a WA paper.

I responded to this enquirer that he should get onto Trove as the National Library has digitised newspapers all over Australia from the Great War period.  By looking in Trove using the title of the article as a search term he should be able to find what he was looking for – it wouldn’t matter which newspaper – he didn’t need to search papers individually.

The next day my colleague Simon was turning the pages of the 100 year old Ballarat Courier, and I noticed the page he had selected for display included about 8 photographs in the “Roll of Honour”.  I remarked what a good page it was to have open, and stepped closer for a better look.  Imagine my surprise to see two of the Buckingham sons included in those images!

The Ballarat Courier, May 12 1917 p. 5


Before I could email my enquirer about this coincidence, there was a phone message from him, to say he had located the article required, in the Kalgoorlie Sun.  You can try the search yourself in Trove if you wish to see it.

The two Buckingham men killed on the same day were with the 16th Battalion at Bullecourt.  They had enlisted together in Perth (Service Record Numbers 6237 and 6238), they both sailed to England on the Suffolk, and then to France together, and died together in the same battle on the same day.  

Poor May Buckingham, William’s wife, could not accept William’s death and in 1930 wrote a tragic letter to the Base Records, questioning whether he really was killed in action – or was he a Prisoner of War? – as she had such strong dreams of him coming home.  She received a brisk letter from the Army records department, advising “all prisoners of war have long since been repatriated” and that his name would be inscribed on the Villers Bretonneux memorial.

Only two of the Buckingham sons are memorialised in the Avenue of Honour in Ballarat, the two sons who enlisted from Ballarat - Tree 787, R.T. Buckingham 5th Battalion:  Tree 1111, Frank Buckingham 16th Battalion (planted 13.7.15 by Mrs Buckingham herself in the “Sunnyside Woollen Mills Employees section”).  The two sons who enlisted from Perth are memorialised at Villers Bretonneux, and in this death notice in the Ballarat Courier on May 12th, 1917, which reflects the numbers of casualties from the Bullecourt battles:


Monday, 15 May 2017

Battle of Bullecourt

The 3rd of May commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Second Battle of Bullecourt. Despite the failure of the first attack on Bullecourt on the 11th April, General Gough decided  to try and break the Hindenburg line again near the village of Bullecourt in France. The second battle was launched on the 3rd of May when the 2nd Australian Division attacked with the British alongside. Bitter fighting continued for over two weeks after which time the Germans gave up the fields around Bullecourt. The fighting led to 7, 482 Australian casualties.  The depleted Australian battalions were withdrawn to recover. Following Bullecourt  British attention was turning to Belgium where in the coming months the Australians would suffer their greatest losses of the war.

War historian Charles Bean writing in the official history described the Australian attack at Bullecourt as : 'The second Bullecourt (battle) was, in some ways, the stoutest achievement of the Australian  soldiers in France'

Following is how the Ballarat Courier reported the Battle.

Ballarat Courier 14 May 1917

Photograph of Bullecourt, France c1917, view of trenches close to village.

Photo courtesy of Australian War Memorial

Monday, 24 April 2017

ANZAC Day in Ballarat 1917

The second ANZAC Day was commemorated in Ballarat with events being confined to the schools. There was no public events held on the day but on the following Saturday, 28th April a drumhead service and display was held at the Civic Oval. Citizens attended this event in large numbers to pay their tribute and respect to fallen soldiers and remember those still fighting the war.  Various church denominations remembered ANZAC Day as part of their normal Sunday church services.

This ANZAC Day was especially poignant as it occurred a week after the disastrous First Battle of Bullecourt on the 11th April when Australian troops carried out a unsuccessful attack on Germany's Hindenburg Line near the village of Bullecourt in France. They suffered 3,000 casualties and had 1,170 men taken Prisoner of War.

Here is the report of Anzac Day as it appeared in the Ballarat Courier:

Ballarat Courier 26 April 1917

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Writing the War : the State Library of Victoria's travelling exhibition to commemorate WW1

The State Library of Victoria has an extraordinary archive of diaries, letters, artefacts and visual material relating to World War One, revealing the experience of Victorians during The Great War 1914 – 1918. Seven personal stories from this rich collection have been selected for the touring exhibition to Victoria's public libraries as part of the Statewide Public Library Development Projects.

The great news is that the Writing the War exhibition arrived in Ballarat Library today.  After a morning of hecticness while we set it up, we are thrilled to invite all to come and view it.

As well as the panels, stories and audio visual material provided by the State Library, we have also on display some precious items from our own collection, which are not often shown due to age and fragility.  These items include letters, diaries, and photographs from World War 1.

The Writing the War exhibition will be at Ballarat Library until January 8th.  Keep an eye out for the great program of events we have devised around the exhibition. 

The SLV's featured stories are :

Alice Kitchen
 Alice Kitchen was a nursing sister, born in Ballarat, Victoria. She was 40 years old when she enlisted in the Australian Army Nursing Services in August 1914, sailing to Egypt with the first detachment of the Australian Imperial Force. Kitchen served in Egypt, France and England. She was working at the No. 1 Australian General Hospital in Cairo when the first group of casualties from Gallipoli arrived, and later on a hospital ship in Anzac Cove. Alice served for the duration of the war and was repatriated to Australian in August 1919.

Percival Langford
 Percival Langford was born in Victoria.  He was teaching at University High School when he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in August 1914, aged 30 years.  A lance corporal, he served in the 4th Light Horse Regiment in Egypt and Gallipoli. On 24 May, Langford witnessed the armistice between the Australian and Turkish forces on the Gallipoli Peninsula. After serving at Gallipoli, he was discharged as medically unfit in September 1916, and for the remainder of the war was based at the Melbourne Recruiting Centre with the rank of Lieutenant.

Keith Murdoch
1885 – 1952
Sir Keith Murdoch, a journalist from Camberwell, Victoria, was 33 years old when Prime Minister Andrew Fisher sent him to Gallipoli in 1915. Murdoch spent four days on the peninsula. While there, Murdoch met with war correspondents Charles Bean and Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett. After failing to smuggle a letter written by Ashmead-Bartlett past the censors, Murdoch wrote and sent his own 8000-word letter on the Gallipoli campaign to Fisher. This letter is said to have influenced the eventual withdrawal of troops from Gallipoli.

Eric Chinner
 Eric Chinner was a 20-year-old bank clerk from Peterborough, South Australia, when he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in August 1915. A first lieutenant, he served in the 32nd Battalion in Egypt and France, and first saw action at the Battle of Fromelles on 19 July 1916. During this battle, Chinner was mortally wounded while leading a party of grenadiers. That night, 5533 soldiers were lost. In 2010 Eric Chinner was one of 96 soldiers to have his remains identified and re-buried at a new cemetery in Fromelles. 

Vida Goldstein
1869 – 1949
Vida Goldstein was born in Portland, Victoria. A veteran of the women’s suffrage movement and a staunch pacifist, Goldstein was 45 years old when war broke out in 1914. She used her newspaper, The Woman Voter, to protest the war and Australia’s involvement in it. In 1915 she became the chair of the newly established Women’s Peace Army and worked hard promoting peace and anti-war propaganda. Goldstein actively campaigned against conscription in both the October 1916 and December 1917 plebiscites.

George Auchterlonie
 George Auchterlonie was born in Gippsland in 1887. He enlisted in August 1915 and served in the 8th Light Horse Regiment in Egypt. Auchterlonie was a keen photographer and took with him a small box brownie camera. His photographs and diary entries provide a thorough glimpse of his military life through Egypt, Sinai and Palestine. The 8th Light Horse was made up solely of Victorians and commandeered by Colonel Lionel Maygar.  Auchterlonie fought in the battles of Gaza in March, 1917 and the Battle of Beersheba in October 1917. Auchterlonie finished service in 1919 and returned to Australia in 1920

 Jessie Traill
1881 - 1967
Australian artist Jessie Traill was born in Brighton, Victoria. In late 1914, Traill sailed to England and joined the British Voluntary Aid Detachment. Following her training, Traill worked at the No. 8 British General Hospital near Rouen, France, from July 1915 until February 1919, providing basic first aid, nursing and care to the sick and wounded men fighting on the frontline. She returned to Australia in the early 1920s, dedicating the rest of her life to her art.