Anzac Day – April 25 2015
This year is the 100th Anniversary of the landing on Gallipoli, a time for reflection on the heroes and the horrors of war.
In 1914-18 our region was very sparsely populated and so we have very few local stories of the “Great War.” However, as people later came to live in our district, we heard their stories – stories of the sacrifice and suffering of both the soldiers and the civilians.
We have taken excerpts from stories about two local men we wrote for the National Trust “Book of Memories:”
William (Bill) Gillespie
Born 1896, Gympie Died 6 December 1970, Richlands
When the First World War began, Bill joined the Army: in 1916 he was nineteen and working as a labourer. He went to France with the 15th Battalion as a lance corporal in Transport, bringing supplies up to the front by mule, through deep mud and under fire. He won a Military Medal for this work. But he was captured, and spent two years as a Prisoner of War in Germany. He escaped, but was recaptured – and he feigned madness to avoid execution.
King George V presented his medal, but when he arrived home Bill went “from hero to hobo”. Unemployment and a housing shortage met the ex-servicemen, and Bill was one of many who burned their uniforms in frustration – and he threw his medal on too….
William Walter (Bill) Eason
Born: 11 November 1886, Highgate Hill Died: June 1988, Darra
Bill trained as a fitter and turner – he did his time at the British India Steamship Company at Kangaroo Point.
Bill was working at Ipswich Railway Workshops during World War I, and when they called for experienced metalworkers to go to England, he volunteered. He was away about two years, working at Woolwich Arsenal. But he was hospitalised when the breech block of a big gun fell on his leg and smashed it, and he always limped from that time. In Brisbane, Charlotte had to move the family to Redcliffe for cheap rent, and pluck fowls till her fingers were red to feed the children – there was no social security then.
Even when Bill returned, things were hard for the family …
The Royal Gun Factory, Woolwich – formerly the Royal Brass Foundry for the manufacture of brass ordnance – was established in 1716. At the time of the First World War, the Arsenal covered 1285 acres (5.3km square) and employed close to 80,000 people.