Photo of the week – a portrait with a story

Each week the staff who describe the digitised photographs in our collection select a photo that is added to SLQ’s Flickr Commons Photo of the week 2013 set. This week our photo is a portrait of a young boy from the late 19th century, and the story that has been unearthed about him.

Eric Joseph Trestrail Foote

Eric Joseph Trestrail Foote as a toddler

Eric Joseph Trestrail Foote was the son of Joseph and Violet (Trestrail) Foote. He served in the First World War in France and fought at Moquet Farm where he eventually met his death on 13th September 1916 aged 25 years. Eric was awarded the Military Medal posthumously on 19 April, 1917 for bravery in the field despite being wounded.  Here is the poignant text of  a letter from his mother to the Red Cross Headquarters in London when she was desperately searching for news about her son.

13th February, 1917

Please would you mind trying to help me find my son. He was wounded on the 3rd of last September in France, and the only information I can get from the Australian Military Headquarters is that he was wounded. But to what hospital he was taken they do not know.

When in Egypt my son was very ill from the heat and suffered very much with his head, and I fear that perhaps his head or sight has been affected, or he may be suffering from a lapse of memory as I have not heard from him.

I am told again and again both from Headquarters and those who were with him that he was wounded.

I know how difficult it is for you to find our boys, as there are so many hospitals in private houses. I believe there has been a large one given over for that purpose in the Kensington District, I do not know the name of the house, but I have a feeling that it being almost in London itself that my boy may be there. You may perhaps smile and think me foolish, but please could you humour me and see if he is there, I have been seeking him for all but six months.

His name is Eric J. T. Foote, No.3340. I have been told especially about this hospital, and it is the largest private house given up for that purpose in the Kensington District. Oh! If you will only look for me, and help me. I am willing to pay you for any expense or extra trouble which it may cause you.

I am enclosing a photo – it may possibly help you – he is just 26 years of age – please tell him his mother wants him, and to think of her waiting for him. How shall I thank you for your help and goodness, for I am sure you will do so.

Believe me to be
Yours faithfully Violet Foote

The Eric Joseph Foote War Memorial Sanctuary was opened in Buderim to commemorate his sacrifice. The rainforest sanctuary at Park Lane is the only officially dedicated war memorial wilderness sanctuary in Australia.

You can see the documentation from the Australian Red Cross Society Wounded and Missing Enquiry Bureau Files 1914-18 War regarding Sergeant Eric Joseph Trestrail Foote and see a portrait of him in his World War 1 uniform at the Australian War Memorial website.

Want to see more digitised photos, maps, music scores and manuscripts? There’s more than 60 000 digitised items in our collections. You can find them in One Search, our catalogue.