TASMANIANS IN ENGLAND. 1
(By Mrs. F. A. Cranstoun.), LONDON, Sept. 15.
As I was to spend a holiday with my sister in Cornwall, it was a good opportunity to visit some of the camps en route. Profiting by previous experience, I wrote in good time to the O.C.'s in various centres, and received kind letters in reply that I should see as many of our boys as possible. I left London on Monday morning, August 27, arriving at Tidworth at 11.30. The first camp to be visited was No. I Command, Perham Downs, about 4.30. The weather was awful - rain and mud and a gale of wind. I drove to the camp, went to headquarters, thanked those in authority for the trouble they had taken, received a kindly welcome, and was conducted to the room where our Tasmanians were assembled.
Unfortunately, the time was too short, as they had their tea at 5 o'clock. It was a room for concerts, and quite a large "audience"'' were seated. At first I could not quite realise they were all "our boys." Some I had seen before in the hospitals. While I was talking to them and giving out the little books and papers with my name and address, two sergeants took down all the names and the part of Tasmania they came from. I shook hands with all, wishing them a safe return home, and the few words I had time to say included a plea for a regular letter or postcard to be sent to the patient, loving mothers so far away. The return journey was in an Irish jaunting car, and we called at another camp, "the Overseas,'' and was told that I could see the Tasmanians there on the following day at 12 o'clock. As dinner was at 12.30, this would allow half an hour. I arrived in good time, but no doubt it was difficult to collect them, and it was nearly 12.20 when I saw them, so the time was very short, to my great disappointment, especially as quite a number of hands went up when I asked for all I had seen before. The same little routine already mentioned was observed at this and all the parades throughout the tour. I walked back to Tidworth, and after lunch went to the barracks and saw General Foote and Colonel Knox, told them of my visits to Perham Downs, and enquired about Parkhouse. They kindly rang up the camp, heard from the O.C. (Major Lewis) that he would try to get the Tasmanians together, so I was sent in a motor. Unfortunately, the notice was too short, and only three could be found. Afterwards I visited the hospital at the barracks, and saw Privates A. J. John, F. W Taylor, and Corporal F. Propsting. I also saw Sapper O. Koglein, who is still on the staff. He took me to see his wife and month-old son. Returning to "The Cafe," where I stayed, I hoped to find several Tasmanians who had promised to come to tea. Something must have prevented them, but I was pleased to see Privates Eric Speers and Laurie Gatty, two of my old Sunday-school boys. It was like a bit of home to all three of us. The next "port of call" was Lark Hill camp, and Amesbury the station. I arrived there at 11.46 on Wednesday Col. E. H. Smith, C.B. (Tasmanian), had sent his staff captain to meet me, and had kindly arranged for me to stay the night in the village. a difficult matter, for it is only a small place, and nearly always full. I was driven to No. 1 Command, the part of the camp over which Col. Smith is O.C., and found that he had taken great trouble not only for me to see those under his command, but also a number at another part. The first parade was at 2 p.m., in a large room with seats, and permission to smoke being readily granted, we had a pleasant in formal meeting, and I nearly exceeded the liberal time that was allowed. Here, too, some "old friends" were found, and Sergt Whittle, V.C., was among them. We then drove in the motor to the next part. Here I found a large parade drawn up in a shed. It was to have been in the open air, had the weather been fine. They were nearly all new arrivals. I was more than pleased to see them. I found some I knew, and among them Gordon Lowe, well known in Tas mania for his singing. This fact I announced, and his name was promptly taken down for future concerts. I saw Gordon Viney, recovered from his long illness, and going to the front in a few days. Here, too, the time given was liberal, and I was able to introduce one or two I knew. There were a number of "contacts" at both camps who were in isolation, and so I wrote a little note to them and sent a few books and papers for distribution. I told our boys how kind Colonel Smith and those in command at both camps had been in get-ing them together. I walked back to Amesbury, and on the way met a few who had not been able to come. The whole of Lark Hill is wonderfully improved since my visit last November. There are good hard roads. The huts are painted green, with red roofs, and raised wooden footpaths in front of them. Mud has practically disappeared. All the work has been done by German prisoners. There are Y.M.C.A. huts, Church Army huts, picture palaces, ships, etc. it is like a town, and a very large one. I left on Thursday morning for Weymouth, and arrived at 4.30. It was a wet evening, so I could not see anyone except L. C. Lyons, who is still on the police staff, and who happened to be on duty at the station. Friday was a beautiful day - the only fine one. I drove to Monte Video camp and saw Col. Spencer Browne. No parade here, but Mr. McVilley took me through part of the camp, and I saw a few Tasmanians, but nearly all boarded to go home, so I did not take their names. I visited the hospital. A few of our boys were there, but were improving, and those who were able to come I invited to tea at Weymouth. After lunch I was sent to Westham, where Col. Spencer Browne had arranged a parade. Here I found quite a number, and after the first formal reception they all sat on the grass. Here, too, I found some old friends. As I could not ask all to tea, a dozen were chosen, these being among them. I returned to Weymouth, and visited the hospitals, but none of our boys was there. Then I went to the meeting place for tea. Unfortunately, a message came from Westham that the camp had been closed soon after I was there for a medical board, and it was a disappointment to all of us. Two or three managed to come, so our party in all only numbered ten, but, though small, was a pleasant one. We went to the same tearoom as in May, when we were 27. This time, also, I explained that I was the "working hostess," as a little of Mrs. L. E. Ransom's Red Cross money still remains. So ended a very happy time. Our boys were all looking well I saw about 360 - a considerable increase to my family of 13001 It is always a great joke when I say. I have also adopted two or three dozen Australians, and am sorry that the number is necessarily limited !. The following are the names of those I saw from the North and North-East, and hope I have not made any mistake in copying the lists given to me, and in not being quite sure what part of Tasmania some of the places were. Some of the uncertain ones I will put into each list:-Ptes. S.J. Owen, D. Lewis, G. J. Long, G. E. Lyons, W. J. Partridge, E. Williams, E. A. Barber, J Keelan, A. S. Purton, P Pitt, J. J. Berry, H. A., Lawler, W. Davis, L. Price. L. A. Hadfield, V S. Goulston, L. C. Flint, J A. Harper, C. H. Ponting, H. H. Lacks, F. Strochnetter, C. E. Clayton, S. C. Littlejohn, P. J. Pinel, W. H. Phillips, W. Dunbabin, T J Little, M. M. Campbell, P. E. Cox, G. Masters, J. Nettlefold. E. Davern, J. H. Williams, J. Durbin. P C. McConnon, C. S. Arnol, R. A. Burns, T. A. Clark, H. E. Bishlop, H. A. Hills, G. Gibbons, A. R. Campbells, H. G. Murfitt, Denne, Stone, W. W. Drake, J. Kelly, W. Smart, J. B. Walkedin, F. R. Cairns, D. Annear, E. W. Marshall, J. Manning, W. J. Frost, R. Salter, R. W. Green, G. Viney. C. J. Pennington, A. J Baker, R. W. Edwards, A. T Collins, J. D. Lindsey, E. T. Stephens, F. Dennis, A. Wright, C. W. Stewart, J. Burkett, E. P. Jentysch, L. E. Viney, L. Keogh, T. E. Byers, W. Byers, J. E. Edwards, C. G Patman, G. W. Crosby, E. C. Paull, J. W. Powell, N. C. Whitchurch, L. M. Cocker, C. L. Cotton, R, C. Radflord, W. G. Scott. H. S. Browne, W. B. French, F. H. Young. W. H. Mansell, J. Pitt, Arnold, Webb, L. A. Stephens, M. E. Jones, C. H. Ulett, W. H. Watkins, Sparling, W. F. Stolles, J. Pitt, Stevenson, H. Darby, Drake, C. C. Dennis, H. J. Glover, Tate, H. J Johnson, A. J. E. Fox, L. V. Pollington, F. W. Brown, A. W. Skjutroff, W. J. Miller, H. R. Blackett, Corpl. L. L Smith, Corpl. Bennett, Lance-Corpl. J. S. Foley, Corpl. F T. Briggs, and Sergt. L. E. Harris. All who are not N.C.O. I have put under private. Before closing I must add a short account of the last four months. I was glad to he present at the decoration of Captain Newlands and Sergt. Whittle, and had a good place close to the railings at Buckingham Palace. I could not see the actual ceremony, but was able to congratulate both afterwards. I was also not at all backward in proclaiming our Tasmanian V C.'s, of whom we have every reason to be proud. Indeed, Tasmania has done well in the winning of honours. The hospital visiting goes on day by day, but owing to the loss of mails, papers have been very scarce. I wrote the names and wards of the Tasmanians I saw on the two or three papers I had, with the request to "pass them round," their final destiny being the reading room - what was left of them. I hope when I return at the end of this month to find a good supply to take. Lately I have seen a great many of our boys, and have written to their people. All, without exception, are cheerful and patient. When we talk of Tasmania there is sometimes a wistful "it would he good to be there now." It would be impossible to speak of all, and yet I might give a few typical cases. Pte. R Fox, who, I think, I mentioned in the last article, who has lost a leg, an arm, and the sight of an eye, is still at Southall, looking well, and as cheery as possible, hopping about on his one leg or in a wheel chair, working one wheel with the foot and the other with the hand. He is well known. If I speak of him the answer is generally "I know Fox; is he Tasmanian ?", "Yes," I proudly answer Gunner McElwee, seen first at Dartford, both legs gone, is so cheery that I wrote to his mother she might well be proud of him. Now he is at Southall to be fitted for his legs. The degree of perfection that these artificial limbs are brought to is simply wonderful. An Australian was sitting on his bed with his two legs beside him; he was going to "get into them," and "have them altered," he said, as they did not quite fit Pte. D. C. Marquis, who has lost one leg, is another case of being almost brought back to life. Like A. Archer, mentioned in a former article, he was not expected to live many hours; he is now on the road to recovery. He is at the 1st L.G.H. Sir John McCall had been to see him and the other Tasmanians there. I often tell him of those I find, and he visits them. Corpl. F. W. Green, who was there, but is now at a convalescent hospital, has finished the alphabetical catalogue for me; he and Gunner E. Newman, both from Messrs. Martin and Hobkirk's office, came with me for a trip up the river to Richmond. Newman was suffering from shock. It did him much good, the colour coming to his face. We had tea in some lovely, gardens, and returned on the top of the bus. I noticed a very good description of the hospital at Dartford, in one of Miss Pennefather's articles in the "Courier," so I need not say anything more. The last time, after the usual tour of the wards, Pte. W Aulich and Pte. Fisher. came with me to the village, nearly two miles away, and we had tea at a very nice Y.M.C.A., situated in a small square with a garden. I was glad to know of this, for the village is anythinig but attractive. I missed Miss Miles Walker, always so kind to me; she has been promoted as matron to a British hospital in France. One visit I found R. Sergt. Major J. Cooper, 12th Battalion, another of my old S.S. boys. Later we had a day in London, when he had his furlough He has won the M.M., Servian medal, and two South African medals, so I was doubly proud of him. On the rare occasions when a day for sightseeing can be spared Victoria Station is the meeting place, then to our Agent-General's office (our Tasmanian London home), then the Abbey, St. Paul's, a drive on the top or the bus through the most interesting parts of the city, Hyde Park, St. James' Park, Buckingham Palace, and Madame Tussaud's Waxworks, always so full of interest, with all the notable personages (present and past) so wonderfully life like that it is difficult to realise that they are only wax. It is quite an education as well as an interest. In conclusion, I must once more congratulate the mothers of Tasmania on their, sons, and truly the sons on their mothers. I often speak to them of this. The hundreds of letters that I receive fill me more and more with wonder. I ask myself, were I placed in the same position could I act in such a way, so truly loyal, so patient, so full of faith ?. If prayers for the life of their sons are not answered, let not anyone think it is death, but a larger and fuller life, and that there is no separation between those who truly love. And let no one hesitate to write to me. I look on it as a privilege to do all that I can, and pray that strength and health may be given to me.
Mrs. Cranstoun's address is c/o Bank of Australasia, Threadneedle-street, London.
TASMANIANS IN ENGLAND. 1