Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Tony Robinson's Tour of Duty

Last night I watched the first episode of Tony Robinson's Tour of Duty, the new ten part series produced for the Centenary of Anzac Day and shown on the History Channel. The first one hour episode was filmed at Towoomba and surrounding area. Obviously there is a focus on monuments and stories relating to the First World War but stories relating to service in other wars were also provided.

The stories last night included:
A visit to the 11th Light Horse Darling Downs Troop which is a re-enactment unit established in 2002 commemorating the work of the 11th Light Horse Darling Downs Regiment established in February 1915.

Bill the Bastard, a waler, who carried five soldiers to safety during the Battle of Romani during World War I

The Mothers Memorial which was built from money raised by the women of the town and situated in the centre of the city. In the mid 1980s the memorial was relocated to East Creek Park where it is the focus for remembrance services.

A State War Memorial to Animals has also been proposed for Eastern Creek Park.

Toowoomba and District Aeromodellers who have produced models of World War II planes including the Black Magic, a kitty hawk flown by Len Waters, an aboriginal pilot. There was also an interview with the daughter of Len Waters.

Members of the 25th Infantry Battalion, formed from militia units from Toowoomba and the Darling Downs area, who were sent to defend Milne Bay in Papua New Guinea in 1942. This segment included an interview with a survivor from this campaign.

A soldier from Afghanistan recovering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with the aid of a  dog named Zeus, part of a program set up to assist the treatment of soldiers with PTSD. After the first and second world wars soldiers many soldiers suffered from what was then called shell shock but is now referred to as PTSD.

Each episode also has a road show segment where people are encouraged to show items relating to the war experience of family members.

All in all this was an interesting episode covering wide ranging topics relating to the experience of war in the community. Future episodes will visit other towns in Australia and New Zealand and should be worth watching.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Glencoe Massacre

This year is the 300th anniversary of the 1715 Jacobite Rising. Jacobites were supporters of of the deposed James VII of Scotland and his son, James, the 'Old Pretender'. James VII of Scotland was also James II of England and ruled from 6 February 1685 to 1688 when he was deposed for being pro-Catholic and possibly pro-French. By this time England and Scotland were largely protestant countries. When James fled to France at the end of 1688, his daughter Mary and her husband, William of Orange, were invited to rule England, Scotland and Ireland. The group of people who wanted James and his son to be restored to the throne of England, Scotland and Ireland were known as Jacobites. The greatest support for the return of the Stuart kings was in Scotland.

In 1690 Scotland officially became a Presbyterian country though other protestant religions were allowed to be followed. Scotland accepted that their rulers were Mary and William. An order was issued that by 1 January 1692 all the chiefs of Scottish clans were to sign an oath of allegiance to William and Mary. Many of the chiefs had already signed an oath to James VII and were not released from this obligation until 28 December, three days before the deadline.
On 31 December the head of the Glencoe branch of the MacDonald clan left for Fort William to sign the oath only to be advised that he had to travel 60 miles to Inveraray to sign the oath before a sheriff. The late signing of the oath was not accepted by the authorities, who were looking for an excuse to punish the highlanders, and an order was given that the MacDonalds of Glencoe were to be killed. Captain Robert Campbell of Glenlyon carried out the order after he and his men had accepted the hospitality of the MacIain, the chieftain of this branch of the Macdonalds, for several days until on 13 February they carried out the order to kill the MacDonalds - men, women and children. Some escaped the slaughter but 37, including women and children, were killed that day.

This action only increased the divide between the highlanders and the lowlanders in Scotland as well as between the highlanders and their king. The Massacre of Glencoe was part of the lead up to the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715.

On the Massacre of Glencoe - time lapse photography - poem by Sir Walter Scott

BBC Scotland - Massacre of Glen Coe

Scotsman - Massacre of Glencoe

Order for the Massacre of Glencoe

The Game of Crowns - the 1715 Jacobite Uprising

History of Glencoe

Wars of the Roses

This week I began a six week online course - England in the time of Richard III - prepared by the University of Leicester and put on line by FutureLearn. During the first week we looked at the Wars of the Roses, a series of battles that took place between 1455 and 1487. The first battles occurred between 1455 and 1464, the second series between 1469 and 1471 while the two final battles occurred in 1485 and 1487.

There are many websites that help to portray the story of this civil war in England between the Lancastrian and Yorkist kings of England and their supporters.

A good starting point is The Wars of the Roses - a website that includes maps and timelines showing the battles and the relevant events in the history of this period. Clicking the links provides summary information about each battle.

Four of the major battles were:
Blore Heath in 1459
Towton in 1461
Tewkesbury in 1471
Bosworth 1485

The battle at Towton resulted in the most deaths in any of the battles. A three minute video, providing a brief summary of the battle, located on the front page of the Towton Battlefield website is recommended viewing.
BBC - Bradford Uni unravels Roses battle puzzle

Re-enactment societies commemorate some of these battles including the Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre. Living history groups:
The Wars of the Roses Federation
Towton Battlefield Society
Les Routiers de Rouen
Buckingham's Retinue

Other websites include:
Richard III Society
British Archaeology - The big dig: Discovering Bosworth
Time Team Special (2011) - Wars of the Roses: Relocating the field of the Battle of Bosworth (video)

The Guardian (20 February 2010) - Silver badge and lead shot pinpoint the Battle of Bosworth
York Boar badge as worn by the supporters of Richard III- (video)

The Official Website of the British Monarchy - provides short biographies of British royalty

The letters of the Paston Family of Norwich are a rich resource when studying 15th century history. The letters are available online via the Project Gutenberg website. The book, Blood and Roses, by Helen Castor uses the letters to describe life in 15th century England. See also BBC History: Paston family letters.

Other resources:
National Archives
British History Online - catalogue
National Heritage List for England lists many surviving medieval buildings

The other topics in this online course include Peasants and farmers. Books, literacy and printing, Death and commemoration, Food and The road from Bosworth, including Richard III's reinterment.

This is only one of many online courses on a wide variety of topics, not just history, available on the FutureLearn website - worth having a look at if you have some free time.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Remount Units - World War I

Recently I was checking the record on Discovering Anzacs for David Mullett, an Aborigine from Healesville who enlisted in the First Remount Unit No. 2 Squad on 6 November 1915.

The First World War Embarkation Rolls show that Private David Mullet (service number 500) left Melbourne aboard the HMAT Orsova A67 on 12 November 1915. The digitised record shows that David was 44, was a labourer before enlisting and that his wife was Emily Maude Mullett. The address was c/- of the Healesville Post Office. His religion was listed as C of E.
Remounts in Egypt 1915
The First Remount Service had been formed in Melbourne on 21 September 1915. Members were also from Western Australia. South Australia and Tasmania. Members of the Remount Service were usually older men like David, some having served in the Boer War. Maximum age for the unit was 50. The unit was based in Egypt but in 1917 remounts were taken to Palestine for the Palestine campaign. Members of the Remount Service looked after, and trained, the horses acquired to be used by the army before they were sent overseas and also while the horses were overseas.

The Yea Chronicle published an article about the Victorian Remount Unit on 21 October 1915. The unit was stationed at Maribyrnong and the article describes the make-up of the unit and the initial training before the unit travelled to Egypt where further training would be undertaken.

The Australian War Memorial website has a video of the Army Remount Depot at Maribyrnong which shows the men handling the horses. There is also a collection of 108 photographs relating to Remount Units in Australia and overseas, including some during World War I.

The area were the Remount Depot was stationed was known as Remount Hill. A statement of significance of the area has been prepared by the National Trust. The Australian Heritage Database also contains a statement of significance for the area. The Australian Heritage Places Inventory prepared a report of the area.

The Australian Light Horse Association has a forum which includes posts about the Remount Unit. Another useful resource is the Australian Light Horse Studies Centre which contains several articles about the Remount Section. These include an article about the Training of a Remount, an article by Andrew Banjo Patterson who was a Lieutenant in the Second Remount Service plus an article about the whalers (horses).

There has always been concern about what happened to the horses at the end of the First World War.  The Australian War Memorial has published an article in Wartime No. 44 - They shot horses - didn't they? - which describes what really did happen to most of the horses. Only one of the horses, Sandy, actually made it back to Australia. He returned to live the remainder of his life at Remount Hill at Maribyrnong.

David Mullet remained overseas until he left Port Said for Australia aboard the City of Poona on 9 April 1919. The ship arrived in Melbourne on 14 May 1919 and David was discharged from the AIF on 7 July 1919, classed as medically unfit. By this time he would have been 48.

A letter dated 20 March 1938 shows that David Mullett and his family had moved to Bega in New South Wales. He died later that year aged 64.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Researching Aboriginal Australians in World War I

A number of websites provide information specifically for researching Aboriginal Australians during the First World War.

Australia wide sites
AIATSIS Military links

Indigenous Australians at war Interesting links (AIATSIS)

Aboriginal Anzacs (Australian War Memorial) - post in AWM blog
     The website by Garth O'Connell referred to in this blogpost is now hosted by AIATSIS
     Indigenous Australians at War -

Aboriginals in World War I (Anzac day websites)

Resources for researching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Participation in War (State Library of Queensland)
Nominal Roll
Kurbingui Star - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Soldiers of the First World War

Aboriginal Victorians’ Involvement in World War I (Anzac Centenary)

Aboriginal World War I servicemen – a deliberate silence (NAA)

Indigenous Anzacs (Behind the News – school resource)

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Alice Margaret Betheras - Locating a World War I nurse (part 2)

The website Australian Nurses in World War I provides brief details about Staff Nurse Alice Margaret Betheras in the Australian Army Nursing Service. Alice had trained at the Alfred Hospital for three years. On 5 November 1915 she enlisted as an army nurse and left Australia on 12 November 1915. Alice was a nurse in Egypt and France and returned to Australia on 30 December 1917. Alice was discharged as Medically Unfit on 27 June 1918.

Discovering Anzacs provides the service and medical records for Alice - 19 pages.
A Google search for "Alice Margaret Betheras" provide other websites providing information about Alice's service in the Army as a nurse including:
First World War Embarkation Rolls showing that Alice left Australia on 12 November 1915 aboard the HMAT Orsova. Alice was 27 when she left Australia and she had been living in Camberwell when she enlisted. She was attached to the First Australian General Hospital Special Reinforcements. Her religion is given as Methodist.
The AIF Project provides similar information as well as a list of the names of the men and women aboard the Orsova.
HMAT Orsova 1915 - HMAT ships
Alice returned to Australia aboard the HMAT Berrima on 30 December 1917.
HMAT Berrima - 1917 - HMAT ships
The medical record for Alice Margaret Betheras shows that she had a number of stays in hospital while overseas including on one occasion, mumps, and finally a gastric ulcer. Most of her service was in Egypt but in early 1917 she embarked for France to work at the 5th General Hospital. On 9 August 1917 she returned to England and left England on 31 October to return to Australia.

The Australian War Memorial has a diary containing French language exercises that belonged to Alice. The diary contains entries from 14 November 1916 until 12 January 1917. There is also a card advertising The Modern School of Languages.  Alice was obviously practising French when she was in Egypt to help her when she was transferred to France.

Alice Margaret Betheras was awarded three medals - the 1914-1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

An article in Trove shows that Alice Betheras was working at the Methodist Home for Children at Cheltenham in 1940.
Argus Monday 11 November 1940
The website Find and Connect provides information about these homes. Sister Alice Betheras had been working at the homes for some time when she took over the position of Matron from 1939 until 1943.
In 1968, in the electoral rolls, Alice Margaret Betheras was living at 238 Wattletree Road, Malvern.

Victorian Birth Death and Marriage record -
Sister Alice Margaret Betheras died in Malvern in 1972. She was 85.

A selection of websites with information about Nurses in World War I:

Australians in World War I – Researching Australian Nurses
Researching Australian Military Service: First World War, Nurses
Great War Nurses – AWM
Anzac Day – The Nurses
The nurses’ experience of Gallipoli from their letters – Gallipoli and the Anzacs
Looking for evidence - WWI – Australian Army Nursing Service
Women in action - nurses and serving women

A Google search for 'Australian nurses in World War I' will provide other useful sites. 

Monday, 12 January 2015

Alice Margaret Betheras - Locating a World War I nurse (part 1)

Recently the library where I work was provided with a digital copy of the Roll of Honour for Templestowe Primary School. This publication included information about former students who served during the First World War. Some pages contain detailed information about the soldier while others contain only a name. The name on one of the pages simply reads: Betheras Alice (nurse).
As Alice was the first nurse that we had encountered on the Diggers of Whitehorse and Manningham database I thought we should investigate to locate information about her.

A quick Google search for Alice Betheras brought up some sites with family information which was worth investigating further. Fortunately Betheras is not a common name which made searching easier. The person that I found was Alice Margaret Betheras
Victorian Birth Death and Marriage record -
The next step was to establish if this Alice Betheras had any proven links with the school in Templestowe,  a long way from Castlemaine where she was born. I started searching Trove for the terms "Alice Betheras" and Betheras Templestowe and found a short article mentioning the school and Alice.
Argus Thursday 23 December 1897
Other articles in Trove had shown that Alice's father was a school teacher in different schools in country Victoria. Articles also showed the results of exams he had taken at the University of Melbourne for a Bachelor of Arts degree. The following article in the Bendigo Advertiser provided additional information including that Mr J Betheras was head teacher at the Templestowe School and at the end of 1899 was appointed as an Inspector of State Schools.
Bendigo Advertiser Wednesday 20 December 1899

The Evelyn Observer and South and East Bourke Record Friday 15 October 1897 provides additional information about Mr J H Betheras and his connection with the Methodist Church.
After attending Templestowe State School, Alice was a student at the Methodist Ladies College. A report of a MLC Speech Day held at the Melbourne Town Hall on Monday 15 December 1902 mentions Alice.
Argus Tuesday 16 December 1902
So, from articles in Trove we know that Alice's family lived in Templestowe at the end of the 1890s and that her father was head teacher at the Templestowe State School where Alice was a pupil. We can then conclude that the Alice Margaret Betheras, born in 1887, is the Alice Betheras, nurse, mentioned in the Roll of Honor for Templestowe State School No 1395.