Launching Hamilton’s WW1

It was time I considered how Western District Families could commemorate the centenary of WW1. A project was selected and work began, however another idea presented itself. A list of names in two editions of the Hamilton Spectator from 1917 and 1918 and some potted histories of Hamilton soldiers I wrote for the I’ve Lived in Hamilton Facebook group saw “Hamilton’s WW1” come to fruition.  The first installment of “Hamilton’s WW1”  is now available, the story of Hamilton’s Anzac Avenue and the men commemorated at a now all but forgotten landmark in Hamilton.

Each of the faces in the photo below have a story to tell. They are some of the early Hamilton enlistments and immediately I recognise twenty-two year-old Hamilton College and Geelong College educated John “Paddy” Fenton (back row, 3rd from right) and George McQueen (centre, 2nd row from front) a thirty-five year-old widower, both killed in France. Others among them were also killed, some wounded and others suffered psychologically but as they gathered at Broadmeadows in 1915, none could imagine the path ahead. What was in store for them or the man beside them. But they were “Hamilton Boys” and they would give it their all and they did.

LEST WE FORGET  

'HAMILTON BOYS' c 30 April 1915.  Photo Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial.  Image no.DAOD1060   https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/DAOD1060/

‘HAMILTON BOYS’ c 30 April 1915. Photo Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial. Image no. DAOD1060 https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/DAOD1060/

3 thoughts on “Launching Hamilton’s WW1

  1. I have found many many of soldiers from Hamilton. I have been gathering up names of soldiers from Horsham and Districts out to Beulah, Nhill to Portland to Ararat to Birchip Jeparit etc in big circle. I work with Horsham RSL. This has been happening for six months and has been a massive task. Many soldiers will be in folders displayed at Horsham RSL EXhibition a week before Anzac Day. A Site will be available on the day to look up soldiers names if we are given a names to research. An amazing journey

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  2. (Lyla Ferguson Stewart, Service Record; Warrnambool Standard,22.9.1916).
    Lyla trained as a nurse for three years at the Warrnambool Hospital, where she acquitted
    herself with distinction. She was subsequently sister in charge there and then at the
    Hamilton Hospital
    In mid 1915 she applied to serve in the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS) overseas.
    She was 29 years old (but gave her age as 26). She was the first in the family to enlist. Her
    younger brother Campbell enlisted the following year.
    War Service
    Lyla Stewart spent almost four years overseas on active service in Egypt (1915-16) and
    France (1916-1919), working in both Australian and British General Hospitals.
    Her service record (naa.gov.au) provides only sketchy details about her activities and
    movements. The information is confused by material which relates to another L Stewart, in
    fact Lily Stewart of Ararat and later of Maryborough, which pertain to Lily’s Royal Red Cross
    decoration and Oak Leaf (for Mentioned in Despatches).

    The bare bones of Lyla’s active service as recorded in her service record and the
    embarkation roll are these.

    Her application for the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS) was dated 16 July 1915.
    She gave her address on enrolment in the AANS as East Melbourne, presumably referring to one of the nurses depots there.
    Lyla sailed from Melbourne a few weeks later on 21 August, on board HMAT ‘Kyarra’ with
    Victorian and South Australian nurses who were reinforcements for No 2 Australian General
    Hospital in Egypt and around 250 Light Horse officers and men.
    She suffered a mild attack of measles in April/May 1917 while serving in Wimereux near
    Boulogne, which hospitalised her in 14 Stationary Hospital and prompted authorities to
    notify her next of kin.
    Lyla was promoted from staff nurse to the rank of sister on 1 October 1918.
    She returned to Australia on HT ‘Wandilla’, disembarking in Melbourne on 18 May 1919, and was discharged from the AANS on 25 July 1919.
    Lyla was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
    L Stewart was awarded two decorations, the Royal Red Cross and oak leaf for Mentioned in Despatches – this was in fact not Lyla but Lily Stewart as the difference in signatures and addresses indicate.
    Lyla applied for assistance from the Repatriation Department in 1948.
    On her death in 1972, Lyla’s husband William George Thompson provided her details to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, presumably to allow the Rising Sun emblem on her commemorative plaque.
    Fortunately some of Lyla’s experiences and thoughts on the war have survived. They
    appeared in the Terang Express and other local papers, in the form of extracts from her
    letters and updates of her whereabouts provided by her mother and sisters.\
    Lyla Ferguson Stewart was the 10th of 12 children born to Scottish-born parents John Stewart (1836-1912) and Elizabeth (nee Crawford) (1848-1922). She was registered at birth as ‘Eliza’.

    Lyla cabled her mother to say she had arrived safely in Cairo in early October, and that she had been posted to 2 AGH. Like its sister 1 AGH, 2 AGH was located in facilities never intended to be a hospital, in its case the Ghezirah Palace Hotel, situated on an island in the Nile. Nonetheless, these hospitals treated thousands of sick and wounde from the Gallipoli campaign. A letter to her mother written in November or December gave her location as the Mena House, the first site of 2 AGH.

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