Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Wishful Wednesday - Out with the Old and in with the New

2014 is almost done! New Year celebrations are looming, time for reflection on the year that has past and the excitement of the year to come. 

Today is a day is a first for me. Writing a blog on my IPad, so it will be short and sweet, as I learn the nuances of my blogger app. 

I would like to thank all those who have taken the time to read and comment on my jottings over the past twelve months.  2014 has not been one of my most productive years for blogging, however I have connected with a number of new family members who have helped me link with many new family stories, photographs and memories. I hope that 2015 will prove to be a year when I can spend more time relating these stories.

Happy New Year to All, may 2015 bring good health, happiness and lots more stories!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Sharing Memories - Boxing Day Reflection

Christmas Morning 

As we munch on left over Christmas ham sandwiches I reflect on  Christmas 2014.  My husband and I are visiting his brother and wife in Northern Queensland and enjoying their hospitality in their pole house which is build on a 5 acre block in the rain-forest in the hinterland above Port Douglas. As I sit out on their deck, the wallabies quietly sneaking out from the rain forest to feed on the lawn and there is a brilliant flash of blue as a couple of beautiful Emperor butterflies flutter by, I reflect on past Christmas's.

Over the past 30 odd years we have travelled up to the Cairns district with our two sons to visit their Nanna for Christmas and this is our first trip back since Nanna passed away almost two years ago.

We spent these holidays visiting the reef, eating mango's, lychees and other tropical delights, fishing, swimming in mountain streams, checking out the crocodiles in the local wildlife park, chasing cane toads at night and visiting the local waterfalls and volcanic lakes.  It is a little different this year as our son's were spending Christmas with their respective partner's families.

This year,our Christmas holiday was full of fun and laughter and had a strong international flavour. Our nephew brought with him a group of backpacker friends who didn't have family to spend Christmas with.  Two boys from Ireland, two from Wales, one from New Zealand and a girl from France and their laughter and broad accents filled the house over the festive season. 

Mount Molloy Pub - Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve dinner was enjoyed at the local pub at Mount Molloy, then back home where final parcels were wrapped and put under the tree, some watched Christmas Carols on TV, others played cards, sitting out on the veranda in the cool, and sipping the odd cold can of beer.

In the kitchen, finishing touches were made to the trifle, prawns were marinated, Christmas cake cut and rum balls were rolled in coconut and stowed into the fridge for Christmas day (minus a few that had to be sampled to check the flavour). 

In the typical North Queensland style, a large table for the 16 guests was set up outdoors in the shade of the carport, table decorated in red and green. Christmas dinner consisted of cold ham, chicken and turkey accompanied by a huge bowl of freshly cooked king prawns, potato and green salads, washed down by drink of choice (beer, wine or the odd glass of bubbly). 

Santa putting final touches to the Trifle
Plates piled high, crackers were pulled, jokes read, we all tucked in. It was such a delight to hear the Irish and Welsh banter, with comments "check out the size of the prawns!" , "ahh! the potatoes!!! I love potatoes" and so on.  Crackers were popped, bad jokes read, and paper hats donned, wine and beer opened, and everyone tucked in.

When it came time for dessert, every one's dessert pocket was full, so the trifle, pavlova and Christmas pudding was put on hold for the evening meal.  It was time for a short dip in the pool before the traditional game of Christmas Day Cricket was set up on the back lawn. 

Teams picked, the international rivalry came to the fore, with the odd drinks break, in the shade of the trees. to discuss the different interpretations of the rules.  As the afternoon passed the enthusiasm for cricket gave way to some "pale ale" by the pool side and a little rest, before it was time to dig into another round of eating in the evening. 

After that dinner and some of the delicious trifle, we all sat around enjoying the balmy evening, watching the little gecko lizards running up the walls, and large moths that were attracted to the outside lights.  Our international visitors shared some of their family Christmas stories from the other side of the world, stories of snow, sitting by the fire, hot roast dinners and their Mums cooking for a couple of days preparing their Christmas fare.  It was pleasant to have been able to share what was quite a different Christmas celebration for them.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Military Monday - Treasures from Aunty Glad's Suitcase - Gibraltar to arrival at Lark Hill Salisbury Plains

The 30th and 34th Battalion's stay at Gibraltar was short lived, and their ship soon made its way to England.  The rest of their trip was quite uneventful until finally after nearly eight weeks at sea the troops arrived in Plymouth Harbour.  England at last!

My grandfather Malcolm Michael Shepherd and his fellow troops were quickly loaded onto a trains and taken to their camp at Lark Hill near the village of Salisbury.  Aunty Glad's suitcase holds a number of post cards depicting the countryside near Lark Hill.  I will let Corporal Crossingham, complete the story of their arrival and settling into camp with the last part of his letter.

The final section of Corporal Crossingham's letter continues: 

"We stayed at Gibraltar about two and a half hours, then we weighed anchor and off again around the Bay of Biscay.  For some reason or other we did not go straight through. From now until the 21st of June nothing happened of interest.
Postcard of Gilbraltar from Aunty Glad's Suitcase

June 21
Passed Eddystone Lighthouse and were very interested watching drifters (fishing boats) at work, and scanning the distant shores of England.  At 11.a.m. the sound of the anchor dropping brought all hands on deck at the double to find themselves in Plymouth Harbour.  One can imagine the excitement that reigned when we were ordered to get ready to land at once.  We were anchored out in midstream, and were disembarked on the Sir Walter Raleigh, from which we were transferred to land. It was great to get to shore after being couped up on board for nearly eight weeks.

We were all lined up with our kit bags on our shoulders and marched to the train.  There was nothing to growl at as regards the travelling accommodation.  We were put into third class carriages, which to my mind are equal if not better than Australian second-class and were allowed a fair amount of room, only eight men being put into each compartment.  Leaving the station we passed some very pretty scenery.  The country was looking at its best.  One has only to get into his mind’s eye an old fashioned farmhouse, with a thatched roof and white washed walls, surrounded by trees and shrubs, with nice green fields, dotted with poppies and buttercups, and each little farm was surrounded with dark green hedges. There are no fences, with a well-kept road or drive running up to the door.  This will give some idea of what we saw.
Postcard of Church in Salisbury

At nearly every village we passed the people were gathered in groups, waving and cheering as if they were welcoming us back from some victorious battle, while in reality we were only coming in to be trained.

The friendly manner in which the home people treated us went a long way towards making us forget what we had left behind, and made us feel at home, and I can safely say that all our boys appreciated their kind thoughts and actions.  They think a lot of the Australians. 

Our first stop was Exeter, about 50 miles from Plymouth, where another welcome surprise waited us.  As soon as the train stopped every man jack made a bold bid for the refreshment room, but were stopped by our officers, who told us to get what we wanted from the stalls that were distributed along the platform.  Then there was a rush back to our carriages to get our water bottles, which were then filled with nice hot tea.  Each man was then handed a paper-bag with buns and cakes in it.  Also a card from the Mayoress of Exeter and committee, wishing us all good luck.

That was about the most pleasant surprise up till now that we had have had.  Leaving Exeter we continued our journey arriving at Amesbury at 10 minutes past twilight.  On detraining we were formed up and marched to No. 1 Camp, Lark Hill, Salisbury Plain, arriving there at 12.15 p.m.   After being told off to our respective huts we were issued with bully beef and biscuits.  It was a rough and ready feed, but we all enjoyed it, after which we settled down for a few hours rest.  We were up about 7.a.m. next morning, and out taking bearings of our new surroundings, which we soon picked up.
Postcard - Lark Hill Training Camp
The first place we found was the Y.M.C.A. refreshment hut, and we quite surprised the attendants with the orders that we give for breakfast.  They were quite amused to watch us having an ordinary meal, which they thought was quite enough for four of five Tommies. Coming back from the Y.M.C.A. we turned to and made our sleeping quarters as comfortable as possible.  Next day being Sunday most of the boys went for a tour of inspection round the villages, where we found many item to interest us.  We hope to have another look round later on, but for the present we have to go to hard graft, and get ourselves fit for the job that we came over to do.  We recognise since speaking to thousands that have come back from the frond what a task it is, but complete victory we want and complete victory we are sure to get, cost what it may.”*

Card sent back from Malcolm Shepherd  to his family from Salisbury, the village near Lark Hill where he was stationed.

*1916 'BOYS OF THE 34th.', The Maitland Weekly Mercury(NSW : 1894 - 1931), 30 December, p. 10, viewed 16 November, 2014,http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article128039051