World War I in Wacol
The theme for the National Trust Heritage Festival for 2015 is “Conflict and Compassion.” The tiny settlement of Wolston (now Wacol) on the fringe of Brisbane provides one example of the response of a small community to the Great War of 1914-1918.
Three sons of William Holland (snr) of Wolston enlisted. Cryptic excerpts from their Army service records reveal a little about their experience:
Cecil Walter Holland enlisted 22/12/1914; (fireman, aged 22); 15th Batt; wounded (GSW) Gallipoli 8/8/15; Returned to Australia, discharged on pension 31/5/1916
Frederick William Holland, enlisted 11/6/1915 (engine driver aged 24); 2nd Pioneer Batt – to 25th Batt; Gunner, WIA 6/8/16; RTA 14/4/1919
William Charles Holland – enlisted 27/3/1918; (labourer, aged 19); 9th Batt; served in France and “in Brussels field;” RTA 10/9/1919
Tom Moore Smith of Dingo Hill worked at the Asylum at Wolston, and two of his sons joined the 2nd Light Horse Field Ambulance, which was formed in Brisbane in September 1914. Percy enlisted in November and Monty in December. Both were then “rail porters,” and both gave their age as 21 – though both were in their early 30s. Percy served in Gallipoli, and returned to Australia in December 1917 (having nursing duties on board the ship). Monty served in the Sinai and Palestine: he was discharged as an invalid in December 1918. Both returned to work for the Railways.
Owen Smith, son of a second Smith family in Wolston, qualified as a nurse at the Asylum in 1914. In early 1916 he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force at Sydney Town Hall. Owen served in France and Belgium with the 9th Field Ambulance. His military record shows that he returned to Australia in 1919 “on Escort Duty with Mental Cases.” He returned to live and work in Wolston.
The Field Ambulance
“A Field Ambulance was a unit, not a vehicle. It was a mobile front line medical unit… composed of 10 officers and 224 men – and neither officers nor men carried weapons or ammunition.
As with all other units, the Field Ambulances relied heavily on horses for transport, and had an establishment of 14 riding and 52 draught and pack horses. They worked the 23 wagons, 3 water carts, 3 forage carts, 6 GS wagons, 10 ambulance wagons, and the cooks wagon. The Ambulance also had a single bicycle. Each unit also included 7 motor ambulances.
“…the Bearers convey the wounded to the dressing station (or Field Hospital, as the case may be). Those in the Tent Division dress the cases and perform nursing duties, while the Transport Division undertakes their conveyance to Base Hospital.”