Sunday, 19 July 2015

Book review: Goodbye cobber, God bless you

It is the centenary of the ANZAC landing at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. This is a review of Goodbye cobber, Gd bless you, by John Hamilton (2004 Macmillan, Sydney).

This was a painful book to read because it was about the senseless and unnecessary sacrifice of brave young Australians in the futile charge of the light horse brigades at The Nek in Gallipoli on 7 August 1915.

But it is a great work of scholarship and storytelling by John Hamilton, an award-winning Australian journalist from WA. The dust cover calls it a work of “meticulous research” which it certainly seems to be. I liked a lot of things about Goodbye cobber. I liked the telling of the Anzac journey - from enlistment, to training (at Broadmeadow in Victoria), to the sea voyage to Egypt, to training and life in Egypt, to Lemnos and Gallipoli, to life and combat in the trenches, then to the awful climax – the charge at The Nek where so many good young men died. That has become a kind of hero’s journey or legend now.

Hamilton researched the background and the experiences of the officers and men at a very detailed level, so that it is a very personal account of their experiences. He uses the official war records as well as the diaries of many of the men. I felt that he painted a vivid picture of their lives – in the ships going over, in the tents in the Egyptian desert, in the trenches and the hospitals. The sand, the flies, the creeping lice, ear-splitting gun and artillery fire and the gut-churning smell of rotting corpses.

I loved the details given of their army uniforms, the weapons, the dugouts, the food, how the Light Horse was organised.

Hamilton describes the growing tensions between the officers commanding the 8th, 9th and 10th LH regiments and the commander of the 3rd LH brigade, Hughes, and his “martinet” 2IC, Jack Antill. The slaughter of the dismounted light horse troopers and their officers seems to be something that should have been avoided. Hamilton blames Hughes, who was absent (sick), but mostly Antill who stepped in to command. Antill refused to listen to reports that the attack was hopeless. But lack of communications between the regimental commanders and the heroic but fatal decision of the CO of the first line of attack, Maj. White to lead his men to certain death, also contributed.

With hindsight, it was suggested that if White had not sacrificed himself, he and the other COs might have banded together to have the attack halted. After the murderous fiasco, Antill covered his arse, shifting the blame for what had happened to others. In today’s terms, we’d say there had been a catastrophic failure of management. The army did not punish Hughes or Antill, but swept the carnage under the carpet, and the propaganda machine downplayed it, it focusing on the victory at Lone Pine. They still needed as many new recruits as they could get and The Nek was not the kind of story they wanted the Australian public to hear.
(July 2015)

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Family portraits capture a moment in time

Is it really 18 months since the last blog post? Have finally put pen to paper again or, more accurately, digits to the keyboard. In November 2014, Nick Fiennes of Fine Photography took some lovely photographs of the family.

The inspiration for doing that was a portrait of my great grandfather and great grandmother, TP and Harriett Carr, and their children. Here's one of Nick's portraits (from the top: Edwina, Kathryn, Ed, Julie and Elizabeth):

I will always remember the afternoon when when this photograph was taken. A very proud moment in time.

Here is the portrait of my ancestors. It is a little more than 100 years old (from the top: Leo, TP (Thomas Peter), Ernie, Harriett, Beatrice and Edwin ('Slip')).

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Slip Carr's WW2 army record

The National Archives of Australia (NAA) emailed me today (1 October 2013) to say that they had put a digital copy of my grandfather Edwin William Carr’s WW2 army record on their website.

His record of service in the First World War has been available on the NAA website for many years but not the WW2 record.
Slip re-enlisted in the Australian Army in March 1940, at the age of 41. He served, with the rank of Lieutenant, then Captain, as an instructor with the Army's School of Physical & Recreational Training at Frankston, Victoria in 1940.
Find grandpa’s WW2 record on the NAA website. His Service Number was N60390.
A fellow instructor at the school was the legendary Don Bradman. Here’s a photo of grandpa and the Don in 1940.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Visiting Hay in the sunshine

We went on an eight day road trip in early July 2013. It was nearly 3,000kms all up - to Broken Hill, via the Murrumbidgee River and Lake Mungo, then home along the Barrier Highway via Wilcannia, Cobar and Nyngan.

Julie, near Silverton
There’s so much to see out west, from colonial history to even older Indigenous culture and history, from kangaroos, eagles and herds of cattle and sheep to the quirkiness of Broken Hill and White Cliffs. It’s also nice to experience the peaceful, vast emptiness of the outback – out of mobile phone range.

This was my first visit to Hay, where my grandmother, May Queenie Tyson, was born in 1901. Hay is in the western Riverina region of south-west NSW, described in Wikipedia as “the centre of a prosperous and productive agricultural district”.
We drove 170km to Hay from Narrandera on a crisp, sunny winter morning, through very flat country along the Murrumbidgee river. Hay is smaller than I imagined but is busy and lively.

With the kind help of Pat Howard at the public library in Lachlan Street, we found and visited a number of sites in town with Tyson associations. Some descendants still live in the Hay district, including Beverley McGuffick. Beverley is featured in a book Pat showed us - The river people (Cowan and Beard, Reed, 1983).

At the Hay Shire Council building we were kindly shown a painting of “Riverton”, in South Hay,  the home of my great grandfather James Tyson (1841-1901) and great grandmother, Jane Georgina (nee Sturkey). My grandmother, Queenie, and her brother and sisters lived at Riverton as children.

James Tyson was a nephew of the other James Tyson (1819- 1898), the famous pastoralist. The nephew was a wealthy man, having been involved in his uncle’s business, then inheriting some of his estate. The nephew James’ deceased estate file makes interesting reading (the file in the NSW State Records Office detailing his assets for the assessment of NSW estate duty).

We drove to Boon Street, South Hay, at the end of which was the site of Riverton. The original house had been replaced by a new one, with the same name. There is also a B&B on a subdivision of the old block. Even though the house is long gone, I have a precious few minutes of B&W film taken in 1935 (I think) of a family gathering at Riverton, to celebrate my father’s seventh birthday.  

Murrumbidgee River, Hay, 1935. My father, Edwin (foreground).

Riverton, Hay, 1935. Back row from left: Queenie, with Edwin jnr; Rose Tyson; unidentified girl. Front: "Wooz" (Ethel Carr); Alice Tyson with Tom Carr.



Thursday, 20 June 2013

The wish list

That’s the list of the projects I’m trying to finish. There are three of them. The problem is, I keep getting diverted around corners and down interesting rabbit holes.

(1) The sporty Carrs

I started by researching my father’s family – his mother and father, May Queenie Carr (nee Tyson) and Edwin William ("Slip”) Carr - and my great grandfather and great grandmother – Thomas Peter “TP” Carr and Harriett Carr (nee Augood).

I have a lot of information about many members of this group, especially Slip Carr and his father and brothers, who were outstanding sportsmen. Slip represented Australia at Rugby Union and competed at the 1924 Paris Olympic Games. I decided to research and write his and their stories.

(2) The early Carrs

Then I discovered my great great grandfather and gx2 grandmother – Henry William Carr and Maria Carr (nee Lillyman). Henry had come out to Australia from Ireland when very young, most likely in the late 1850s, and settled in Wee Waa, New South Wales (pronounced “we wore”). There he met and married Maria Lillyman, an immigrant from England.

I decided to research these “first arrivers” from Europe and the founders of the Australian family. I would write their story up to the end of the 19thC and then move seamlessly back to project (1). Good plan.

(3) The Irish Carrs

But no. While doing that, I discovered that William Henry Carr had several brothers and sisters who had also come out to Australia in the 19thC. There were clues to them in a mysterious letter written by an Irishwoman, Mrs Magill, to a distant Australian relative, Fred Carr, in the early 1920s. The letter turned up in my grandfather’s trunk in 1994 (see “How the journey started”).

Who were these Irish immigrants? I had to find out. I delved some more, the list grew and I learnt there were still more siblings in Ireland. Also, a gx3 grandfather and grandmother, Frederick and Elizabeth Carr. They may have had 16 children or more.

I thought I had gone as far as I could with the Irish Carrs. But then, earlier this year, I made contact with other descendants of that big Irish family and found out more (see "Advertising works”).

So I have some partly written manuscripts, a growing pile of research and a whole lot of new questions.

One day maybe, I will find out more about my mother’s family tree - the Camerons and Davidsons - and about the Tysons – the family of my grandmother, May Queenie Tyson.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Letter from home 1918

My grandfather, Edwin William "Slip" Carr, enlisted in the AIF in October 1917 and sailed from Sydney to Egypt in the Troopship Darwin in April 1918. He was a Trooper (No 4481) in the 2nd Australian Machine Gun Squadron, part of the famous Australian Light Horse Brigade. He spent nearly a year in the Middle East, returning to Sydney in April 1919.

His family wrote him many letters and he wrote back. We have the letters he received because he kept them in a calico bag and brought them home. I have only one page of a letter which he wrote home, which is a shame.

He was 18 when he went away and his family and friends must have worried terribly. The news was very bad from a war that dragged on interminably. So many young men (mostly) were killed or maimed, at Gallipoli and on the Western Front.

His older brother Ernie wrote more letters than anyone, giving him the news from home. Here is the first page of a letter Ernie wrote in August 1918.

Ernie said:

My Dear Brother,

            We received your welcome and interesting letter dated 30.8.1918. It was very good of you to write under such difficulties. My word you seem to be in the thick of the fighting. Hope you come through safely old man. We are all very worried about you. It is all a matter of luck & fate as you say. All the old towns must be very interesting. You will have some tales to tell us on your return. Take great care of yourself. In my last letter I enclosed a 10/- note. Hope it reaches you safely. Will do that now and again. Leo sent you a £1.0.0 note.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Advertising works

As a member of the Society of Australian Genealogists, you get to place one free "Enquiry" in the quarterly journal, Descent, each year. I did that for the first time, last March (2013). Here's the ad:

My copy of Descent arrived and I had just opened the plastic wrapping on my copy and checked that my enquiry was in it when the first reply came in - an email popped into the inbox on my screen!

In a matter of weeks, I had been contacted by the following people who were descendants of those listed in the ad:
  • BM (Sydney, NSW) of the Blake family into which John de Burgh Carr married
  • HC (Coffs Harbour, NSW). Her daughter-in-law is a descendant of Ernest Henry Carr
  • RJ (Petwood, South Australia), researching John Stanley Carr.
A gentleman from Newbury, Vermont (Mr P-H) had seen the ad and wrote. He is a descendant of a Parker Carr whose family came from Ireland.

Around the same time as hearing from these people, I made contact with Gillian Johnson - a fourth cousin in Wales, UK I never knew I had. She is a descendant of Charles Andrews Carr and Margaret Carr (nee McDermott) and a keen genealogist who is researching the Carrs in Ireland and her own branch of the family that settled in Liverpool, England. She, in turn, put me in contact with LG, a granddaughter of Augustus Edward Stanley Carr, on the NSW South Coast.

So I have finally contacted the living descendants of some of the siblings of my great great grandfather. I always knew they must exist. They, like me are researching their family history. This has provided a wonderful burst of new discoveries which I am still trying to digest.