Wadi Ghuzze – Palestine, July 1917


Railway Bridge Wadi Ghuzze

Photo:  The railway bridge over Wadi Ghuzze.

Wadi Ghuzze was a huge dry riverbed that cut across the Gaza-Beersheba plain.  Ages passed, it flowed with an abundance of water, but was now as dead as the surrounding landscape.  Only a mile or so from the Gaza coast, the Light Horse camp overlooked the plain that stretched 30 miles to the town of Beersheba.

The brakes squealed as the train neared the Wadi.  The blue sky had long given way to a dirty haze that swept over the earth like a yellowy brown dome.

“Dust carried by the sea breeze,” Tom pointed to the sky.  “We are only about a mile from Gaza.”

“Is it often like this?” William asked, his vision scanned the panorama, finally resting on the brown clouds rising across the lifeless plain.

“Most days, in Summer anyway.  Spring was a different matter.  The plains were green and covered in crops, but after the harvest, searing heat destroys every living thing.  With thousands of horses now chopping up the soil, paddocks are reduced to powder.”

William placed a handkerchief over his mouth and nose.  He could taste the dust which covered his face in a gritty film.  Guns boomed in the distant hills where clouds of dust and smoke continued to spill into the sky like the contents of angry volcanoes.

“That’s a Turkish stronghold,” Tom pointed to the hills. “Looks like we’re giving them curry.”

“Or the other way around,” he added.

As the train slowly rumbled onto the bridge that joined the banks of the wadi, a bi-plane growled across the sky above.   Looking up, William felt relieved recognizing it was as one of their own.  His attention then fell upon the the wadi.  The banks were at least 50 feet high, maybe higher in parts. Carved by the elements into layers of gnarled rocky grottos, they added an eerie presence to the surrounding fields of desolation.

Squealing to a stop, steam shot down the line of wagons, accentuating the midday heat that was already at melting point. William wondered how any living creatures could live in the present conditions. Through the gaps in the steam, he spotted something moving in the sky. The steam dissipated, giving him clear view of two planes that looked like birds skylarking above the plain.  It was a deadly game of cat and mouse, circling, chasing, nose diving to avoid each other.  Then, a flash of bright flames and one began to spiral towards the Earth. William watched with bated breath, hoping by means of miracle the burning plane might escape.  An  explosion that sent billowing clouds of smoke into the air, confirmed William’s fears.


Monday Musings From The Writer’s Desk



One hundred years have now passed since the end of the First World War.  With few eye witnesses left in the world, if any, it is important that we continue to remember the huge sacrifices that my Great Grandfather and his comrades made.

Great Grandfather’s story has come to light, ever so slowly.  In his lifetime he, like many others, was not forthcoming with the details of the war. Each time I browse through his boxes of belongings, more details come to light.  I’m sure there are thousands of similar stories waiting to be discovered by families around the country.  Old cupboards, sheds and trunks, are often the keepers of our ancestors’ secrets.  Today I would like to share the following video that was posted on facebook for Remembrance Day.  I suggest you go and get a box of tissues as it might bring a tear to your eyes.


Monday Musings From The Writer’s Desk

Vintage letter

William’s story hasn’t progressed much of late.  I have rewritten my last post several times and for some reason felt there was something missing.  I have read and reread his diary entries which are brief.  My mind racing, my imagination running wild, I frantically attempted to flesh out his story, to place myself in his boots.  How would he feel, visiting the front for the first time in eight months?  Would he be nervous?  Would he keep his cool?  Would he be forced to relive old memories he would rather not?  The questions have been endless, along with the many obstacles that life throws in ones way, ending with the death of my laptop.

Armed with a new laptop, my mind is refreshed.  I read William’s diary again and the entry of Thursday 26th July 1917 caught my attention:

Lt. Fargher went out as Conducting Officer to draft for front.  Reinforcements marched in from Isolation Camp.  47 for the 5th.

William made no mention of accompanying the reinforcements to the front.  However, he left two days later, so I made that assumption.  Now, after re-reading the above entry, I wondered whether Lt. Fargher went as well.  That led me to search the National Archives for Lt. Fargher’s records.

When the list of records appeared for the name ‘Fargher’, I wondered where to start.  I browsed down the list, taking special note of the first names, and thought ‘Thomas’ was a good place.   Indeed ‘Thomas Beswick Fargher’ was my man.

Thomas Fargher came from Lakes Creek, Rockhamption.  Like William, he was a career soldier, serving in the military for 10 years prior to enlisting in 1914.  They both left Australia on the SS Persic.  They both served at Gallipoli and were evacuated to Malta, due to illness, within days of each other.  Whilst William was forwarded to Weymouth in England to recuperate, Thomas Fargher was sent home.

Not only did Lt Fargher suffer from physical illness, his records state that he was deemed to be insane.  He was reported to be:

  • restless
  • excitable
  • suspicious of people, whom he sees passing his windows, and accuses them of entering into the wards – which were locked – by use of false keys.
  • mildly manical

He was sent back to Australia on 22nd November 1915.  What sort of treatment he received on his return, if any, was not recorded.  Obviously he suffered PTSD and one wonders how he recovered.  However, he must have been deemed fit for service when he left Australia again on 8th July 1916 for Egypt.  He was stationed at Moascar from October that year, and is mentioned frequently in William’s diary.

That brings me back to the current time in William’s story.  How do I determine whether the two men travelled to the front together on 28th July 1917?  Scanning through Thomas Fargher’s records, I cannot precisely pinpoint him on that date.  That is, until I found a note written by Major Chatham on 7th February 1919.  He rejected the former’s application for the position of Commander of ‘A’ Squadron because he had no field experience with the regiment.  By chance, however, someone had scribbled a post note on the page that read ‘With regiment in the field 27/7/17 to 21/10/17’.

That was the information I was chasing.  It places Lt Fargher in roughly the same time frame as William.  I think I can safely assume that they travelled together with the 47 reinforcements.  This means rewriting my story to include Lt Fargher, which I think will make a more interesting story.  When you are writing a factual narrative, it is difficult to include other characters, besides the protagonist, when you don’t have any at hand.  The only option sometimes is to invent people and in this case I’m pleased to say I don’t need to.  Thomas Fargher’s military records are a sobering read.  Primarily that is because you know he was a real person. His inclusion can only enhance William’s story as they lived parallel lives for the year of 1917.

I feel happy now, having made my conclusions from the information at hand.  Researching can be so rewarding.  It takes some detective work at times and like real detective stories, the solutions are not always plain to see.  I also believe Great Grandfather might have given me a helping hand.  Was it he who kept holding me back?  Was it he who planted the seeds of doubt?  Was it he who kept placing the little black diary in my hand?  If you are guilty of all the above charges, Great Grandfather, I am grateful.  I really do want to write a story that is as accurate as possible with the information you have provided me with.  I want you to rest in peace, behind those old cupboard doors, knowing I have served you well.



Monday Musings From Behind the Writer’s Desk

Vintage letter

When I began this project I had no intentions of getting bogged down by the details of the First World War.  When I read the words ‘Anzac Cove’ on Great Grandfather’s war records, I believed that was the extent of his ‘serious’ war experiences.  All Australians know the Gallipoli story.  It is splashed across the TV for a week each April.  It was horrific and affected almost every family in every town across Australia.  Wasn’t that a big enough story in itself?

Even when I discovered a copy of “History of the Fifth Lighthorse Regiment”, by Colonel Wilson, I only read as far as the evacuation from Gallipoli in December 1915.  I engrossed myself in every gross detail:  snipers, makeshift bombs, the appalling living conditions, food shortages and disease.  For some unknown reason, I didn’t read on.

The story was to be a narrative, beginning with my earliest memories of visiting Grandma’s house and perhaps ending with Great Grandfather’s death.  However, once I began to learn the art of creative writing, I discovered that my structure was a recipe for a boring story.  How many times have we bought an historical non-fiction book and put it down after a couple of chapters?  Somehow I had to find ways to bring the man to life, put meat on his bones, so to speak.  Thus, his war experience became the focus of the story.  And, the more I researched, the more details of his experience came to light.

The story is currently in the year 1917.  He was promoted to Captain and became Commander of ‘C Squadron’ of the 2nd Light Horse Training Regiment.  According to my research, it was a cushy position that entailed administrative duties as well as delivering Instruction to new recruits.  I have read and reread his diary entries for that year and if taken at face value one could be forgiven for missing the significance of his words.  That was the case when he mentioned the visit to the regiment in August that year.

The only entry during that visit that extended to more than a line was written on August 3rd, 1917.   He wrote:

Brigade went out on a stunt – 5th to scupper Bedouin outpost within 5 miles of Beersheba.  Mafeesh bedouins.  Fired on by Turkish outpost.  

Then on 4th August, he continued:

Returned to camp without casualties.

Over time, I have learnt to read between the lines – with the help of Ion Idriess and, in this instant, the official 5th Light Horse War Diaries.  The following account was recorded about that exercise:

On the 3rd August, 1917, the Brigade (Ryrie) undertook an operation to Sufi, a place at which there was a well about two miles in front of the Turkish position at Beersheba. It had been reported by natives that there was a Bedouin battalion some 300 strong encamped at this place. It was intended that the Brigade should proceed to Sufi, capture or destroy this battalion, and get back out of range of the Turkish guns at Beersheba before dawn.

This last was imperative, as the Turks had a large number of guns mounted within 3,000 yards of Sufi. The Brigade accordingly left the east side of the Wadi Ghuzze at 7.30 p.m. on the 3rd August, ‘C’ Squadron forming the advance-guard. The Brigade arrived at Taweil-el-Haberi at midnight, where it halted. This Regiment then moved on eastward until we arrived at a small wadi on the main Beersheba Road, half a mile west of the road running north and south from Sufi to Yahia. The last part of the Brigade march and the rest of the Regimental march was done by compass. The maps showed various roads and tracks, but these were the ones which were in existence prior to the war, and owing to the numerous military operations in this neighbourhood, fresh sets of tracks and roads had been made across the country.

On approaching Sufi, ‘C’ Squadron and two troops of machine guns moved northward up the wadi on Sufi, while ‘A’ Squadron and one troop of machine guns moved half a mile on the right flank of ‘C’ Squadron to protect it from any attack which might come from Beersheba defences. The remainder of the Regiment moved 400 yards in rear of and in support of ‘C’ Squadron. ‘C’S Squadron arrived at Sufi Well at I a.m., but found no trace of the enemy although it was noticed that a large number of stock had watered there the previous day. When the Regiment left Brigade Headquarters, we dropped a telephone line, so that we were in touch with the Brigade. On reporting that we received instructions to send out patrols towards the railway and reconnoitre the enemy. Lieutenant Boyd and two troops of ‘C’ Squadron accordingly moved north-east towards the railway. After proceeding 1 * miles, they were fired on by Turkish outposts without suffering any casualties. The patrol returned to the Regiment. The Regiment rejoined the Brigade at 3.55 a.m. and the whole Brigade moved back to bivouac, where we arrived at 7.40 a.m. (1)

Great Grandfather’s lack of details gives the impression that the exercise was small and quite insignificant.  However, you will agree after reading the official account, the opposite was the case.  This is good example of why my writing has slowed down.  My research keeps uncovering important truths about Great Grandfather’s war, despite him playing down the events.  Perhaps that says a lot about his personality.  It reinforces what I have already learnt:  he was a modest man who was not known to boast his achievements.



(1)   Chapter 27  – The History of the Fifth Light Horse Regiment  (Click Here)


Returning to His Regiment

William struck a match to check his wristwatch. It was twenty minutes past midnight.  Snuffing out the flame, he leaned over the side wall of the wagon, peering down the length of the train.

troop train Suez Canal

Photo – Australian War Memorial

What could be the hold up?”   All men and horses appeared to be aboard.  Only a few remaining soldiers, who were seeing them off, stood back from the train: watching, waiting.

“Any minute now, I’d say,” Tom Fargher reassured William.

Lieutenant Tom Fargher was the Troop Officer for “A Squadron” of the 2nd Light Horse Training Regiment.  He returned from the Isolation Camp two days ago with a new draft of reinforcements for the front.  Forty-seven men were selected for the Fifth Light Horse Regiment, alone.   William’s decision to accompany them was not one he made lightly.

His driving force was an administrative matter regarding a young trooper named Alexander Farquhar.  Currently serving at Wadi Ghuzze, he was being assessed for an ongoing medical condition that had resulted in numerous stays in hospital.  Despite feeling the need to attend the hearing in person, William felt apprehensive at the thought of returning to the front.  During his absence of eight months, he had relaxed his guard. His biggest battles have been crippling headaches.  Although he had been headache free now for several weeks, William knew that his enemy was like any other:  unpredictable and could attack at any time.

 Just as he was about to check his watch again, a short bleating of the train whistle sounded.  A rippling of cheers rolled down the track.

“At last,” he sighed, feeling his body being pulled back against the wall of the wagon as the train began to move.  Bursts of steam clouded the waiting passengers in a ghostly veil.

Jerking and creaking, the line of open wagons laboured away from the siding.  Crouched on the floor next to Tom, William rested his outstretched arm on the rim of the side wall that helped contain their thirty companions. There were no luxuries on this twelve-hour journey:  just a hard plank floor that served as a seat.

Despite the late hour, the mood in the wagon was merry.  Men were going to the front for the first time.  Excited at the prospect of being useful to the war effort, they were also happy to leave the training camp behind.  William smiled to himself as he listened to the sea of stories that swirled around him.  Voices were animated, faces beamed with excitement.

“Do they seem familiar?”  William asked Tom, lowering his voice to a whisper.

“Yes, unfortunately,” Tom replied, his face void of emotion.  “They’ll be tried and tested soon enough.”

“That they will,” William agreed.

“It’ll be a different story on your return trip,” Tom added.  “Those leaving for Cairo have usually been out at the Wadi for months, without a break.”

William leaned against the back wall of the wagon, remembering similar circumstances, when both he and Tom departed aboard the Lutzow for the Dardanelles.  ‘And look how that turned out.’  Taking control of his thoughts, he closed his eyes.  Chatter and laughter soon blended with the rumble of the train.  Each time his head nodded in surrender to fatigue, a sudden jerk, as the train manoeuvred a sharp turn, forced him awake again.  About an hour into the journey, as he repositioned himself to counter his hard seat, singing broke out.  Notes, high and low, on key and off, bounced around the wagon to the tune of “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary”.  Picking up momentum, the song spread throughout the train.

“C’mon Captain,” a young trooper coaxed William.  “You too, Lieutenant.  Join us for a song.”

Both men laughed.  Caving in to the young man’s persuasion, they belted out a chorus.

“It’s a long way to Tipperary

it’s a long was to go

It’s a long way to Tipperary

to the sweetest gal I know

farewell Piccadilly

so long Leister Square

It’s a long way to Tipperary

but my heart lies there”

At the song’s end, voices lulled to a quiet hum.  Tom fell asleep and William turned his attention to the night sky.  The lights of Cairo had disappeared, leaving a pitch-black canvas.  Even the stars that usually watched over the Egyptian nightscape were blinded by clouds. William repositioned his hat to cushion his head against the wall.  The train growled on like a predator in search of prey.  All he could see down the length of the wagon were shadowy forms.  Matches flashed here and there. Faces appeared, disappeared and reappeared.  Burning cigarettes glowed like eerie eyes peering out of the gloom.

William thought about his last conversation with Colonel Wilson.  The Colonel confirmed stories he had already heard.  Men came in from the front with varying tales of woe.  Even Tom Fargher had shared what he had seen and heard.  By all accounts, the old regiment was really doing it tough. The Colonel offered an alarming insight.  “Will, I don’t like to say it, but I’m afraid that Gaza is turning into another Gallipoli.”

On that thought, he closed his eyes again and nodded off to sleep.


The sun clawed out of hibernation, waking William with a start.  The spiky forms of date palms began to take shape, causing his heart to quicken.

“El Katia,” he said guardedly; his eyes moving furtively from shadow to shadow.

The trooper in front of him groggily asked, “What did you say, Sir?”

“This is the oasis of El Katia,” William replied, not wishing to elaborate.  Gazing out into the thick covering of palm trees, he thought of those who were left buried in hurried graves.  Closing his eyes, he tried to halt the images that streamed into his mind.  His memories of the charge gripped his consciousness like a straight-jacket that crippled and strangled his torso.

William was grateful for the growing signs of life around him as men began to wake.  The hum of voices, along with the rising sun, lightened his mood.  Looking down the line of wagons, he watched the unsuspecting faces of men, and horses whose manes flew freely in the breeze.  Now, out of the cover of darkness, they were an open target for enemy taubes.  Positioning his hat down on his brow to cut the sharpening glare, he straightened his posture in readiness for what awaited them at the end of the line.

Monday’s Musings From The Writer’s Desk

Vintage letter

Writer’s Block is a curse that I have had to wrestle with of late.  It hasn’t helped that life has been hectic and busyness, in my mind, is not conducive to writing.  Now that the dust has settled, I can return to the task.

In case you were wondering, no peace treaty has been signed as yet.  The war in the middle east is still raging and William is about to see that for himself.  His diary entry on Saturday 28th August, 1917 reads:

Left Moascar 1356 en route to 2nd L.H. Bde at Wadi Ghuzze.’

William’s regiment, the Fifth Light Horse, was part of the 2nd L.H. Brigade.  Their camp was at Wadi Ghuzze, near Gaza. Without any further research, there appears to be nothing much to add.  However, upon reading Ion Idriess’ account in “The Desert Column”, I gained a better understanding of that journey.  He described the train trip from Wadi Ghuzze to Cairo:

We entrained at 6 p.m. yesterday, crowding into a long open truck, filled mostly with Tommies, en route to Cairo on a few days precious leave or special duty.  

I then found photos online which provided me with the physical details of those wagons.

Ion Idriess also gave me a good understanding of the psyche of those troopers who had been fighting at the front.

And yet no one would have taken us for men overjoyed.  This war has knocked much of the light-heartedness out of us. In the days gone by, that truckload of men would have sung right through the night.  Not now!  As darkness settled down and we sped back into the desert the men just crouched down on the hard boards.  I do not believe there were thirty words spoken throughout the trip.

William mentioned on 26th August 1917 that 47 reinforcements, drafted for the front, marched in from the Isolation Camp.  I think it is fair to assume that William actually accompanied them to the regiment’s camp at Wadi Ghuzze.  They were new recruits who had not been worn down by war.  They would have been full of excitement, singing songs to break the monotony of the long 12 hours journey.

Apart from the mental state of the new recruits, I wondered what went through William’s mind as he neared the front.  He had been away from action since the preceding November.  By all accounts, his job of Instructor was quite cushy allowing him to work in relative safety.  Surely, by placing himself in harm’s way again, he would have experienced some measure of anxiety.

The time factor in this story is another point I have questioned.  According to Ion Idriess, the journey from Wadi Ghuzze took 12 hours.  William left Moascar at 13.56 hours and arrived at the camp at 1300 hours the following day.  He did say ‘en route’ so I am assuming he entrained to Cairo and then left at 0100 hours.  Either way, it probably doesn’t matter, being such a minute detail in events that happened more than a century ago.

The scene I have created is much more than I intended.  That, however, is what happens when new details keep coming to light.  Without being able to interview the protagonist personally, I am left with only a few pieces of the puzzle.  In order to piece together the true picture, I have to dig below the surface.  In this case, I discovered a few specks of gold.

So, to all my family, friends and followers, watch this space for Captain Lyons’ upcoming visit to his Regiment.


Monday Musings From The Writer’s Desk

Vintage letter

This morning I would like pay a tribute to a lady who was partly instrumental in igniting my interest in family history.  The news of her recent passing caused me to reflect.  Marion Tung Yep was my English teacher in grades 9 and 10.  She also earned the esteemed position of being my favourite teacher.

Mrs Tung Yep was more than just a teacher.  She held a masters’ degree in English and she made it her mission to hone our literary skills.  If my memory serves me correctly, for most of our schooling, we were thrown in at the deep end and told to swim – figuratively speaking of course.  We were told to learn, but did anyone teach us how to study, or retain information? No, they didn’t.  Mrs Tung Yep, however, was the exception to the norm.

Many of her classes were spent learning how to answer examination questions.  I enjoyed her English classes and received better grades than I did in subsequent years under the command of  lesser teachers.  By the time I reached Grade 12, I was disillusioned with English due to a teacher who loved to embarrass the dunce of the class.  That was often me.  I wanted to write better essays, but don’t recall receiving any guidance.

Mrs Tung Yep was also a wonderful story teller.  Whether she was explaining the lines of a poem or analyzing a novel, she always veered off on a tangent, opening the door to her childhood, or a window to the war years. Those tales of the past struck a chord with me.  She sparked the need to keep our stories alive for future generations.

Now, there was another key player in this story.  My grandmother, who taught me the importance of our family history, was an ‘Anglican Institution’ in my hometown of Giru.  She befriended all the local Anglican priests and their families.  Mrs Tung Yep’s husband was the local Anglican priest and also my Grandfather’s occasional fishing friend.  There was nothing like a web of connections to encourage one to impress. After-all, I didn’t want tales of poor grades getting back to my Grandmother.

Over the 45 years since graduating from her class, I have often voiced my admiration for Mrs Tung Yep to fellow class mates.  Some do not share my fond memories.   She was a no-nonsense lady who didn’t tolerate bad behavior or slouches.  Her expectations were high which was not a problem for me.  Her classes were much more than ‘english’.  I came away with a very valuable life lesson – the need to preserve our family stories before they are forgotten.  For that, Mrs Tung Yep, I am eternally grateful.

Monday’s Musings From The Writer’s Desk


223999 HarveyNorman

Whilst my blog is about my Great Grandfather, William Lyons’ military life, I thought that I might shed some light on my Great Grandmother, Harriet Lyons.  In my story, Cis (as she was known) takes a back seat.  However, despite her small stature,  she was a very strong lady.  After-all, she hailed from a family of steely pioneering characters.

Harriet Jane was born on 13th February 1876 in Townsville, Queensland.  She was the second eldest of nine children born to George and Harriet Deane, who emigrated from County Cavan Ireland.  From my own personal dealings with my Great Grandmother, I could be forgiven for thinking she was genteel type of lady who, when not tending to her garden, sat indoors sewing, knitting and serving tea and scones.  She was eighty-three when I was born and I only knew her for eight years.  She died in 1968 at the age of 92.

Slowly over time, family have helped me paint a more accurate portrait of the person that Grandma really was.  In her younger years, she was a dainty, auburn haired beauty.  According to one source, “she was sharp of wit, wise from birth and the kind of person who grows old with the strength that belongs to women of small stature, who have faced life on the pioneering level”.

To try and understand Grandma, one must first look at her parents.  According to her niece, Doreen Deane, Cis’ mother was ‘a true and gracious pioneer.  Not very large of frame, but brave of spirit.’  Her obituary says  that ‘she was greatly esteemed by all who came in contact with her, a common saying being that no one had ever seen a frown on her face or known a hungry man to leave her door.’  Perhaps I can rightly assume that she possessed a placid nature.  How else would she tolerate her husband, who was known for his forcefulness.  Apparently, he set the fear of God into many.  His greatest moments came to him when he lived in turmoil and the tussle of a good argument.  My grandfather recalled a moment from a visit to his grandparents’ home at Burwood.  “Grandfather sat on the verandah  reading the paper whilst yelling out instructions to Grandmother as she cleaned the house.” 


This is believed to be Cis’ youngest sister Nelly on the left, with their mother Harriet on the right.

Cis was well-schooled in the pioneering life. In the early years, her father took the family throughout Queensland and the southern states buying and selling horses.  He had an eye for a good horse and supplied them to the British Government in India.  The family also traversed the west of Queensland with horse teams, transporting goods between Charters Towers and Winton.   During those years on the road, they lived in tents and Harriet Snr tended to her children’s education.

Cis’ father was a man of boundless energy and delighted in life’s challenges.  His inventive mind was always on the prowl for his next business venture. Nothing was too difficult, he was a man who got things done.  Although he didn’t possess any formal training, it was said that he was an engineering genius. He set up a sawmill and established a construction business.  He was responsible for some major works in Townsville.

He built ‘Queen’s Wharf and won the contract for filling-in and building Sturt Street.  He built his own hotel (The Family Hotel) and when he saw the need for a school in Townsville West, he became the driving force behind the opening of the Townsville West Primary School in March 1887.  His own children, Harriet (Cis), Maria, Charles and William, were among the first students.  Later, he won the contract to supply sleepers for the railway line between Stuart and Ayr.  He was the driving force behind establishing the sugar industry on the banks of the Haughton River and the building of a sugar mill on the banks of the same river.

Growing up in such an environment, Cis was never destined to be a passive little lady.  She was moulded by years on the pioneer trail. Her father’s actions and accomplishments taught her that anything was possible.   Even her mother, who bred horses and cattle, was a living example of what a woman in those times could achieve.

Finishing her secondary schooling at the Townsville Grammar School, Cis became a school teacher.  Then she gave up her career in 1902 to marry a soldier.  Life as a soldier’s wife, especially during the war years, was not easy for Cis.  However, I believe her schooling in life lesson’s would have equipped her for the adversities that were thrown her way.  After-all, she hailed from mighty tough stuff.



Anzac Day 1917

Zeitoun Camp

Zeitoun School of Instruction

William relished the challenges offered by the Zeitoun School of Instruction.  From 6.00am on Monday 16th, he embarked on an intense schedule of training.  Each day’s lessons alternated between classroom lectures and practical demonstrations.  He was drilled in everything from the use of stars for navigation to actual skirmishing.  Although he was accomplished in most areas covered by the course, there were extra subjects and new techniques he looked forward to adding to his squadron’s regime.  By the time he completed his first written exam on the morning of Saturday April 21, he was relieved when Sunday, his first day of rest, finally dawned.

On the morning of April 25 the course participants swapped the classroom for the parade ground.  William joined the huge gathering of men who stood to attention for the commencement of the Anzac Day Service.    Many had fought in the Dardanelles.  This was their time to mourn fallen friends and in many cases the loss of their own youth.  Heads high, they stood in silence, refraining from even a whisper or the shuffle of sand with their boots.

The previous year marked the first anniversary of the landing of troops at Gallipoli.  The Queensland government began a movement to celebrate the occasion.  Thus Anzac Day was born.  Cis wrote to William,

“There were parades down the main streets of most towns in the country.  I heard that wounded veterans were wheeled along in wheelchairs.  Some were attended by nurses.  Apparently, there was also a prominent presence of widows wearing black.  Some say the day was used as a recruitment campaign.”(1)

William had read her words with a heavy heart, detecting a trace of cynicism.  He tried to put himself in her shoes of worry.  What could he say to really appease her fears?  Nothing.  He also read in an English newspaper about the grand parade of 2000 Australian and New Zealand veterans who marched through the city of London to Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square.  A service was held at Westminster Abbey where they were dubbed in glorified terms as the “Knights of Gallipoli”.(2) He found the title to be unsettling.   One did what one had to do in the name of survival. Surely the high number of casualties would explain that fact?  Most of us were driven by fear, not heroics. He sensed that those responsible for the ‘crown’ had never set foot in the shell-infested shores.

Listening to the Padre, William only caught words here and there:  Courage.  Sacrifice.  Fallen.  His thoughts kept wandering.  Gallipoli had been a very trying time for everyone.  God knows he was thankful for his own survival, while many good friends were less fortunate.  To his relief, the Padre finished his sermon.  While men were still losing their lives, he couldn’t dwell on the subject of death for too long.  That sort of thinking was of no use when the war was far from over.

With the ceremony finished, the rest of the day was declared a holiday and everyone was encouraged to participate in an afternoon of sports.  William took the opportunity to catch up with Colonel Wilson, the former commander of the 2nd Light Horse Brigade.  They had both fought in South Africa during the Boer War.  The Colonel had lived in Townsville for a few years, practising law, prior to enlisting in 1914.  William liked his superior; he was a quiet, unassuming man who exercised common sense.  When men and horses were dying of thirst in the desert, he introduced portable spear-point pumps. Water could be drawn quickly and stored it in canvas troughs.  The Colonel had seen them in use on cane farms in the Burdekin.  William used them on his own farm.


Colonel Lachlan Wilson

 “Colonel.”  He extended his hand which was firmly accepted by Colonel Wilson.

“Will, it’s good to see you, old boy?  What brings you to Zeitoun?”

“The Officers’ Course,”  William replied. “My final exam is on Friday.”

“This should be old hat for you, Will,”  The Colonel laughed.  “You’ll come through with flying colours.  I believe you’ve been doing well with your training squadron.”

William grinned, then changed the subject.  He felt uncomfortable talking about his own achievements.  Besides, he was more interested in hearing news of his regiment.

“I believe things have been rather heated at the front, Colonel.”

 “Yes, the regiment is doing it tough, Will,” Colonel Wilson replied, slowly shaking his head.

William sat for his final examination on the morning of Friday 27th and was confident he had passed.  During the train journey back to Moascar the following morning, he felt buoyed by his newfound knowledge. Thoughts of how he could implement new training ideas helped him pass the time.  An entire week without a headache allowed him to focus and throw his all into the tasks required.  Although he was thankful for the reprieve, he knew that an attack was always imminent.



(1)  http://museum.rba.gov.au/exhibitions/from-bank-to-battlefield/the-year-of-anzac/index.html

(2)  http://museum.rba.gov.au/exhibitions/from-bank-to-battlefield/the-year-of-anzac/index.html



Monday Musings From The Writer’s Desk


Vintage letter

It would be fair to say that the majority of my readers know what the letters of the word ‘Anzac’ stand for.  For those of you who are not Australians or New Zealanders, the word is an acronym for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.   We all know that the term was coined during the first world war.  It was originally used in reference to those who fought at Gallipoli.  The place of the original landing was subsequently called Anzac Cove.  However, who was responsible for a word that has become synonymous with the Australian spirit?  If only Great Grandfather was here to clarify the matter.  I’m sure he’d have an opinion.  When I googled the subject, I discovered that there are varying accounts of its origin.  Below is a copy of an article I found on the Australian War Memorial website.


Origins of the acronym ANZAC

It is difficult to say who originally thought of the acronym. A number of accounts have been written.

General Sir William R. Birdwood’s version

The Anzac book was a collection of drawings, poems, and stories written and created by the men on Gallipoli in 1915. The book appeared early in 1916 and was edited by Charles Bean. General Sir William R. Birdwood wrote the introduction (dated 19 December 1915) in which he stated:

When I took command of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps in Egypt a year ago, I was asked to select a telegraphic code address for my Army Corps, and then adopted the word “Anzac”. Later on, when we had effected our landing here in April last, I was asked by General Headquarters to suggest a name for the beach where we had made good our first precarious footing, and then asked that this might be recorded as “Anzac Cove­”—a name which the bravery of our men has now made historical, while it remains a geographical landmark for all time.

General Sir Ian Hamilton’s version

Ellis Silas’ book Crusading at Anzac anno domini 1915 arrived in Australia from London later that year. Ellis was an artist and signaller who served with the Australian Imperial Force at Anzac Cove. He dedicated his book “to the honour and glory of my comrades with whom I spent those first terrible weeks at Anzac”. In the foreword dated 29 April 1916 General Sir Ian Hamilton credited himself with the use of “Anzac” for convenience. He wrote:

As the man who, first seeking to save himself the trouble, omitted the five full stops and brazenly coined the word “Anzac”, I am glad to write a line or two in preface to sketches which may help to give currency to that token throughout the realms of glory.

C.E.W. Bean’s version

In his book The story of Anzac Australian war historian C.E.W. Bean attributed the acronym to Lieutenant A.T. White, RASC, of the British Army:

One day early in 1915 Major C.M. Wagstaff, then junior member of the “operations” section of Birdwood’s staff, walked into the General Staff office and mentioned to the clerks that a convenient word was wanted as a code name for the Corps. The clerks had noticed the big initials on the cases outside their room—A. & N. Z. A. C.; and a rubber stamp for registering correspondence had also been cut with the same initials. When Wagstaff mentioned the need of a code word, one of the clerks (according to most accounts Lieutenant A.T. White …) suggested: “How about ANZAC?” Major Wagstaff proposed the word to the general, who approved of it, and “Anzac” thereupon became the code name of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. It was, however, some time before the code word came into general use, and at the Landing many men in the divisions had not yet heard of it.

In a footnote, Bean added that “the word had already been used amongst the clerks. Possibly the first occasion was when Sgt G.C. Little asked Sgt H.V. Milligan to throw him the ANZAC stamp.”

Robert Rhodes James’ version

In his book Gallipoli Robert Rhodes James told a similar story to Bean:

Two Australian sergeants, Little and Millington, had cut a rubber stamp, with the initials A. & N. Z. A. C. at Corps headquarters, situated in Shepheard’s Hotel, Cairo … When a code name was required for the Corps, a British officer, a Lt. White, suggested “Anzac”. Little later claimed that he made the original suggestion to White. It was in general use by January 1915.


C.E.W. Bean (editor), The Anzac book, Cassell, Sydney, 1916, p. ix

C.E.W. Bean, The story of Anzac: the official history of Australia in the war of 1914—1918, vol. I, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1936, pp. 124–25

Robert Rhodes James, Gallipoli, Pimlico, London, 1999, p. 40

Ellis Silas, Crusading at Anzac anno domini 1915, British Australian, London, 1916