Dis­cov­er­ing our war he­roes

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - BOOKS - REG WAT­SON

THE BAY BOYS By Fran Read ( self- pub­lished, fread@ south­com. com. au)

THE Bay Boys deals with the World War I Tas­ma­nian East Coat vol­un­teers, from Tri­abunna, Or­ford, Wielangta, Buck­land and Run­nymede.

It is about the spirit and ideals that drove ru­ral Tas­ma­nian com­mu­ni­ties dur­ing World War I.

It shows how they left their families, jobs and home com­forts to travel to the other side of the world to serve their king and coun­try.

Au­thor Fran Read, a pri­mary school teacher, gave her stu­dents an as­sign­ment to in­ves­ti­gate the army records of those fallen as in­scribed on the Tri­abunna War Me­mo­rial.

The work de­vel­oped from there fin­ish­ing with a sub­stan­tial book.

In her fore­word she writes: “I be­gan with 14 names”, but even­tu­ally ended up with more than 80. On each she has a dossier, bring­ing the in­di­vid­ual alive, pro­vid­ing in­for­ma­tion on their early life, their war ser­vice and, if re­turned, their post- war life.

It is in­cred­i­ble to re­alise how many men and one nurse served from such a small coun­try area. Many of those who served were re­lated to each other, the names keep crop­ping up time and time again, such as the Cas­tles, Robin­sons, Black­lows, Bres­ne­hans and oth­ers.

The youngest who went away was only 16, while the el­dest was 44. There are some in­ter­est­ing com­mon threads with them.

Ev­ery­one was em­ployed be­fore their en­list­ment, show­ing the abun­dance of work, mainly of a ru­ral na­ture. Just about all who en­listed were wounded at least once while at the front, many of them gassed. It is mov­ing to read how, af­ter re­cov­er­ing from their wounds, they were sent back to the front, on more than one oc­ca­sion.

What is re­veal­ing was the num­ber who suf­fered from ill­nesses, such as measles, pneu­mo­nia and vene­real dis­ease.

Their in­di­vid­ual war con­duct records are used as a source and th­ese can be re­veal­ing, if not en­ter­tain­ing. Usu­ally they were farewelled by a com­mu­nity event and wel­comed back by such.

Most re­turned to Tas­ma­nia and a few lived to an old age.

The lo­cal lads that went away were in­deed con­sid­ered he­roes by the com­mu­nity.

Trag­i­cally, with those who re­turned, it was mov­ing to read how many died soon af­ter do­ing so, be­cause of their pre­vi­ous wounds and sick­nesses.

The au­thor quotes from many per­sonal letters writ­ten by and re­ceived by the sol­diers at the front. As can be imag­ined they are quite per­sonal, es­pe­cially from wives and moth­ers.

What struck me was how well writ­ten the letters were from the sol­diers, giv­ing a good in­di­ca­tion that the early ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem placed a lot of em­pha­sis on the three “r” s.

The book in­cludes plenty of pho­to­graphs, some of them of weddings, fam­ily shots, in­di­vid­ual pic­tures of the sol­dier, copies of post­cards, memo­ri­als, tomb­stones and of the bat­tle­front.

At the end of each sec­tion, Read gives a syn­op­sis of their ser­vice, which is good for quick ref­er­ence. Read has done her re­search well and one can de­ter­mine the chal­lenge has been over a long time.

It is an easy read, while be­ing in­for­ma­tive and en­ter­tain­ing. It does deal with a par­tic­u­lar area of Tas­ma­nia, but none­the­less, it will add to any­one’s Tas­ma­nian mil­i­tary and so­cial li­brary.

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