Fairfield City Open Libraries: Heritage Blog

Remembrance Day – 11 November 2014

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Remembrance Day (11 November) marks the anniversary of the armistice which ended the First World War (1914–18). Each year Australians observe one minute silence at 11 am on 11 November, in memory of those who died or suffered in all wars and armed conflicts. This year marks the 96th anniversary of the armistice on 11 November which ended the First World War.

In 2014 the world will commemorate 100 years since the start of the First World War. For Australians this is a momentous occasion. The First World War touched the lives of nearly every Australian family and the impacts are still felt today. For this reason it is essential to commemorate, remember, and learn from those who sacrificed their lives during those four years, 1914 – 1918.

For more information, visit the Australian War Memorial website : http://www.awm.gov.au/commemoration/remembrance

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Publication by the Fairfield City Library and the Fairfield City Museum

At the Front & Home: Fairfield Remembers was the result of an exhibition of memories at Fairfield City Museum in 2005. It commemorates the involvement of local people in World War I and World War II and the 90th anniversary of the end of World War II. The stories collected for this exhibition frame the wars according to personal experiences. Some of these experiences were unique to the local area, but many were experiences shared by people around Australia and overseas. The memories include those of Fairfielder’s who left home to serve at the Front, those who stayed at home and helped with the war effort and even some who settled into Fairfield after the wars. Its relevance and significance have remained the same today as it did in 2005. The following are highlights/accounts from At the Front & Home: Fairfield Remembers , a collaborative effort between the library and the museum.

Eric Stimson WWI

Eric Stimson

Eric Stimson (Fairfield)

“Eric Stimson (grandson of William) enlisted in the Second Battalion A.I.F. on 15 April 1917 at the age of 20 and 6 months. He was discharge on 5 January 1920, having spent 2 years and 168 days overseas. He was a fruit grower and worked on his father’s farm in Fairfield West. 

Among other terrible experiences, he was gassed while he was in France which resulted in his continuous struggles with lung problems for many winters. When he was wounded, he transferred to England  and while there he was able to meet up with cousins in the Cambridge and Thorney areas.  

He stayed on in France after the Armistice to work with the War Graves detail, which worked in removing the dead from the battlefields and reburying them in the Commonwealth War Cemeteries. He spoke very little about his war experience but I do remember him talking about the iron wheels of the drays slipping on the icy roads. I imagine he was chosen for this work because he was used to working horses. I have also often wondered whether he was happy to stay over there for another year hoping he would be fitter by then to come home to his future wife.

After all his experiences he was obviously a very different young man who returned from the carefree young man who sailed away. Who can be surprised at that?”

[Excerpt from Florence Callicott (daughter of Eric)’s account]

Ben Morris portrait

Ben Morris

Bernard (Ben) Morris (Canley Vale)

“My father, Ben Morris was born in Scone,  NSW. His family moved to the small town of Gidley, near Tamworth, where he and his 3 sisters and 5 brothers worked on their father’s farm. 

Dad became a professional runner and was in Bega when news of the war came through. He signed on the dotted line straight away, as this was a chance to serve his country and see the world. He joined up with the 3rd Battalion, 1st Division of the AIF, as a truck driver and did his training in Sydney. He boarded the liner Euphrates to sail to Albany in WA, then sailing to England for further training. They soon received word of a change of plans. They were now going to Cairo to train for an attack on Gallipoli, Turkey. He was given the job of stretcher bearer. They wore armbands displaying the letters ” S.B”, which entitled them to preferential treatment. Theirs was a very dangerous job and they were to become known as the bravest of the brave by their peers. 

After training in the Egyptian desert, the 1st Division boarded the captured German ship Derfinger and sailed to the Greek isle of Lemnos where they practiced for the landing. Those who dozed were woken at midnight and the first wave of men readied, then vanished into the dark.  It was Ben’s turn with the second wave – over the side into the row boats, then towed closer to the shore by a British Destroyer. All hell had broken loose by now as the first wave had stirred up the Turks and they were throwing everything at them. Two diggers were killed in Dad’s boat before it hit the shore. He jumped out with the two rifles and his stretcher and dashed for cover. 

Dad soon settled into the endless task of carrying the wounded to the first aid station in  Shrapnel Gully, then bringing the water back to the trenches. This was a hell of a job as they were under  constant sniper fire. If you failed to adhere to the signs then the snipers got you.  If that failed, the almost constant shower of shrapnel would see you off. 

He told me of the two times when he came under direct fire from Turkish machine gunners. Once when he and his number two dived behind a fallen tree while the Turks chipped away at the wood to get at them. Another time, he dived into a shell crater only to find a Sally there boiling a billy – ” you look like you could do with a cuppa” he said. Dad reckoned it was the best cuppa he ever had.

Dad joined a group of bathers in Anzac Cove one day, trying to rid himself of lice, when a German plane flew over and dropped a bomb near them. He made the mistake of diving under the water, resulting in his partial deafening for the rest of his life. 

During his Battalion’s attack on Lone Pine, he was struck down by a piece of shrapnel, which stayed in his chest until he died year later. He took off his S.B. armband and placed it on another digger so that man would be treated first – that was their mateship at work. In 1919 he returned to Australia.  At the outbreak of WWII, he was first in line to enlist, but was told he was too old. He joined the Volunteer Defence Corp (VDC) as stretcher bearer and air raid warden for the Sydney area. In 1953 he move to Fairfield and the shrapnel eventually moved in his chest and he died in 1958. 

[Excerpt from Andy Morris (son of Ben)’s account]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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