Merry Christmas

With Christmas drawing near, I would like to take the time to thank all my followers for diligently reading my account of William Lyons’ military life.  Keeping up my posts has been difficult of late, hence the irregularity of posting.  I am currently a member of a new writing circle which takes up much of my time.  The good news is that with the invaluable assistance and advice I have received from that group, my Great Grandfather’s story is bound to become much more enjoyable for you readers.  Writing is an ever-evolving process and the journey has been a huge learning curve.

As William’s year draws to a close, I will be taking a break as he did during the latter months of 1916.  This will give me time to continue my research and to organize my thoughts  before recommencing the story in 1917.  However, before I go, I wish to take you back to Christmas 1916.

On 22nd December that year, William received his Christmas Billy in Egypt, filled with Christmas goodies.  The items he unpacked from that tin billy would have lit up his eyes with delight, although to us, they were everyday items that we all take for granted. To a soldier, the gift of tobacco, matches, razor blades, knitted socks, a pencil, writing paper, cake, sauce, pickles, tinned fruit, cocoa, coffee and Anzac biscuits, was the equivalent to finding gold. Any deviation from their staple diet of tinned bully beef and hard army biscuits was rapturously received.

Xmas billy

The Christmas Billies were organized by the Australian Comforts Fund which was officially formed in August 1916.  They regularly sent parcels of little ‘luxuries’ to the troops, the biggest item being hand knitted socks which were urgently needed by men in the trenches of France.  Due to the cold and mud, soldiers could not wash and dry their socks.  In the winter of 1916, the Australian Comforts Fund provided 80000 hand knitted socks.

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Women distribute Christmas billies to men in Cairo, Egypt, December 1915.

xmas-box

Items included in Comfort Fund packages.

I do not know whether my Great Grandmother, Harriet Lyons was in the Comforts Fund during the Great War.  She was not afforded the luxury of spare time as she had a farm to run, although she might have whiled away her evening hours, once her chores were done and her children were in bed, knitting socks.  I do know that she was an active member of the Australian Comforts Fund during the second world war after she and William had moved to Townsville.  Her grandchildren, Norma White, Beryl Renwick and my father (Keith Lyons) all remember attending the Townsville Comfort Fund Group with their grandmother.

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Miss Coll, from Melbourne, knits socks directly from fleece and the Australian Comforts Fund packs them into bales (on the left) to ship them overseas. c.1916

I’ll leave you with an amusing little anecdote that Norma White told me about her Grandparents.

I attended the Comfort Fund Knitting Group with Grandma one day and when we arrived home, Granddad was kneeling over a flower bed.

When he saw us coming through the gate, he announced, all pleased with himself, 

” Cis, I have weeded your garden”

Grandma, lost for words, just rolled her eyes.  Grandad had pulled out all her new flower seedlings as well as the weeds.

The family always said, he was NOT a farmer!  On that note, I wish you all a fantastic Christmas hope you will all join me again behind the cupboard doors in 2018.

 

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