A trea­sured me­mento

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Contents -

Dur­ing the First World War con­do­lence let­ters from the front were pre­cious sources of in­for­ma­tion about a sol­dier’s last mo­ments for fam­i­lies in Aus­tralia. Th­ese let­ters were of­ten writ­ten by close friends, wit­nesses to the death of a good mate. Sergeant Philip Ed­ward Ut­ting and Sergeant Ge­orge Linsley were two such mates. They en­listed to­gether and had con­sec­u­tive ser­vice num­bers. Both be­came sig­nallers in the 20th Bat­tal­ion, AIF, and em­barked to­gether from Syd­ney in 1915 aboard HMAT Ber­rima. The pair fought along­side each other on Gal­lipoli, and later in France and Bel­gium, per­form­ing feats of brav­ery in re­pair­ing sig­nalling ca­bles un­der heavy shell-fire. Dur­ing the bat­tle of Brood­seinde Ridge in 1917, Ut­ting was killed dur­ing a fierce Ger­man bom­bard­ment, sec­onds af­ter a con­ver­sa­tion with Linsley out­side their dug-out. A month later, Linsley wrote to a mu­tual friend, Miss Eliza Gale, with news of Philip’s death. “We had been staunch chums right from Aus­tralia and I was work­ing with him right up to the last,” he wrote. “He died as a sol­dier do­ing his duty.” In­cluded with the let­ter was a me­mento – a pho­to­graph of Eliza, torn by the shrap­nel that had taken Ut­ting’s life. Ut­ting had it in his pocket dur­ing bat­tle, and Linsley re­cov­ered it af­ter his death. She trea­sured both items, and her fam­ily do­nated them to the Aus­tralian War Me­mo­rial af­ter her death. Melissa Cad­den As­sis­tant Cu­ra­tor, Pri­vate Records

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