United by conflict
Legacy has played a large part in the life of Horsham resident Joan Kroker, 97, of Horsham whose husband Alan serviced and repaired damaged aircraft during the Second World War in Darwin and later overseas. She knows firsthand the care and benefits to war widows and their dependants from the nationwide voluntary organisation formed after the First World War. Mrs Kroker, now in Sunnyside Lutheran Retirement Village and almost blind, urges people to donate during Legacy’s Badge Week, from September 1-7, so the work can continue. FAYE SMITH reports –
Joan Kroker, a Legacy war widow because of her husband Alan’s war service, has links to one of Australia’s great coincidental war stories.
Her father Robert Hutchinson features in an Australian War Memorial First World War photographic poster used nationally and internationally thousands of times.
The magnificent black and white photo shows five Wimmera soldiers in a captured Turkish trench at Gallipoli. It was a miracle the photo survived. The camera and its leather case were retrieved from battlefield mud after the war and eventually sent to the Stawell address attached.
The rusted camera was put aside in a tin shed until the 1950s when the mother of the soldier who took the photo discovered it contained an undeveloped film and decided to investigate.
The result created First World War photographic treasure and soon drew the attention of the Australian War Memorial.
The photo took pride of place on its
First World War poster. Ted Freeman of Stawell, George Clements of Dimboola, Jim Bryant of Stawell, Sam Wilson and Private Hutchinson of Wail feature in the picture.
Private Robert Hutchinson had enlisted in the 8th Battalion in 1914 and after training at Broadmeadows and in Egypt was among Australian soldiers involved in the disastrous Gallipoli landing on April 25, 1915.
But that morning A Company captured a Turkish trench and another Wimmera soldier photographed Private Hutchinson and his mates in it.
Private Hutchinson was later wounded in the Second Battle of Krithia and spent time in hospitals in Malta and the United Kingdom before being discharged as medically unfit in 1916.
When home he formed Horsham RSL and was its inaugural president.
He also formed the town’s first Scout group and was its first Scout master.
But by 1918 heavy loss of life in France and Belgium meant a further call for men and Robert Hutchinson re-enlisted.
This time it was in the 15th Australian Light Horse where he served as a sergeant in Egypt training Sikh soldiers until the end of the war.
He returned again to civilian life and was with the Shell Company in Horsham for 25 years.
During the Second World War he was a part-time instructor at Horsham’s army barracks.
Robert Hutchinson, the man at the front of the famous trench photo, died in 1964.
Mrs Kroker is one of three surviving children. Their brother Robert Jnr has died. • Joan Kroker, now almost blind, met husband Alan at a charity concert. At the time she worked as a secretary. They were married 58 years. She has three children, seven grandchildren and four great grandchildren. • 38 Legatees voluntarily care for 170 widows across the Wimmera and Southern Mallee. • Legacy Badge Week is a major fund raiser with all money raised spent on benefits for war widows. • Help might include payment of small bills, organising medical help or equipment and ensuring widows know of their entitlements. • There are no government grants. • It is a non-profit organisation set up in 1923 by ex-servicemen. • There are 4000 Legatees nationwide who care for 58,000 widows and dependants of Australian service men and women • Legacy’s motto includes care and compassion; reducing social isolation, social support and advocacy, and pension support.
CAPTURED IN TIME: This famous photograph of Australian soldiers in a captured Turkish trench on the day Allied soldiers landed at Gallipoli has become famous worldwide. From back the soldiers are, Ted Freeman of Stawell, George Clements, Dimboola, Jim Bryant, Stawell, Sam Wilson and Robert Hutchinson of Wail. All returned home except Ted Freeman who was killed in action.