11 Dec

WW1 Casualties II: For God, King & Country

Jack Couzner, Batman to Lieutenant Pascoe.

God save our splendid men
Bring them safe home again
God save our men.
Make them victorious
They are so dear to us
God save our men.

Jack Couzner had a brief meeting with Frank Murphy on the Western Front in France in 1917. He only had enough time to say ‘How are you ‘Murph’? which was Jack’s nickname for Frank. The meeting occurred shortly before Jack was engaged in one of the terrible battles to be remembered as The Second Battle of Bullecourt.

02 Dec

WW1 Casualties I: Lost in the Gunsmoke

Lost in the Gunsmoke: Charles Chandler & Walter Gammon. Boyhood Pals from Victoria’s Yarra Valley.

‘Privates Gammon and Chandler are now
among the honoured dead. Each of them
followed the path of duty and served
his country to the end. Today in heart
the whole district stands with uncovered
head before the memory of two of
this nation’s men.’i

These sentiments of grief and loss of families and of a community in mourning were expressed in an article in the Healesville Newspaper titled “Killed in Action’. It was printed during the Great War in 1917 when news of the death of two soldiers reached Healesville in Victoria. The soldiers mentioned in the article, Walter Gammon and Charles Chandler were from the same battalion and the same district. Charles was killed on the Somme near Bapaume and was an older brother of James Chandler who had already returned home having been invalided out of the army with shell shock. The report in the Healesville newspaper of 1917 noted that Walter Gammon and Charles Chandler were former residents of Long Gully and that the sad news ‘caused a general feeling of gloom throughout the district’. Long Gully is near Tarrawarra in Victoria’s Yarra Valley.

24 Nov

WW1 postcards sent home from Egypt.

Throughout the course of the research conducted into the book Murphy’s War we gathered many illustrated WW1 vintage postcards sent to family and friends from soldiers abroad. At the time during WW1, the postcards such as the ones seen below had an everyday role as the most common form of communication between the men serving abroad and their family or loved ones back home. Along with letters, postcards were the main means of communicating from abroad as well as one of the cheapest.

12 Nov

Women of the home front during & after World War 1

‘The unprecedented scale of the trauma of loss and sorrow left an enduring legacy on those who remained to absorb the impact of individual and national tragedy’. – Joy Damousi

What follows is a brief portrait of the women who reared, sustained and supported the ten soldiers from our book, before and after the Great War. These women remained on the home front during the war however there were many women who went abroad to act as nurses in world war 1’s major theatres of conflict such as Gallipoli, France & Belgium. In the wake of the monumental changes which swept society during the war, women were able to take up professions such as teaching, from which they’d previously been excluded.

18 Sep

The Fates of War and The Middle Parts of Fortune

 

We begin on the battlefield with Bourne, the sky above darkening, as a small group of soldiers struggle back towards their own lines in the wake of a failed attack. The soldiers, exhausted, “light-headed,” “almost exalted,”i stumble back across the shell-racked earth. The Middle Parts of Fortune begins thus, in the nerve shattered aftermath of a charge into the enemy trenches. The survivors, on returning to their own lines, slowly begin to face the challenge of piecing back together the torn remnants of their sanity. Immediately the reader is made aware that the subject of the book is to be an exploration of the psychology of the human mind and body at war.

02 Sep

WW1 Troop Ships: Journeys Across the Indian Ocean

 

With the entry of Australia and New Zealand into the Great War in 1914, it became necessary for the respective Governments of these nations to requisition ships for the transport of their soldiers across the Indian Ocean to emerging battlefields in Europe and The Middle East. However, instead of using their own fleet of coastal liners they chose instead to secure British liners and cargo ships and altogether, 28 Australian vessels were procured. Each ship was given the class HMAT which stood for His Majesty’s Australian Transport, and also a troopship number starting with the ship ‘Hymettus’ (named for the mountain range above Athens) which became A1. The majority of the ships then had to be fitted out to accommodate large numbers of troops. The others were employed as cargo ships. A number of ships were requisitioned solely as horse transports and often their holds were fitted out with extensive stabling for equine transport.
01 Sep

Conscription in Australia and the Referendum of 1916

 

In October 1916, two young friends, volunteers for the A.I.F, Jack Couzner and Hugh Foott were in Melbourne preparing to depart for France and the war. Their transport ship the “Euripides” left Melbourne on the 11th of September 1916 heading first to London, then on to The Western Front. Prior to their departure for the front, the soldiers had a brief period of leave in Melbourne where they witnessed scenes of great social division as the Nation prepared to vote on whether to enact conscription in Australia during WW1. Ten days after Jack & Hugh sailed for Egypt, the then Prime Minister, W.M “Billy” Hughes arrived in Melbourne to deliver a series of rousing speeches in favour of conscription. Hughes’ speeches saw large crowds turn out in favour of conscription, however in opposition there were strong social forces working to generate support for the ‘No’ vote.