Rediscovering ANZACS

Guest Blogger – Judy Gilloway, SLQ Volunteer

When reading and transcribing soldiers letters in the SLQ collection, it is remarkable how often chance and synchronicity occurred. For example, a soldier happens to look out of a hospital window in Cairo at just the moment a friend that he knew in civilian life in Australia is passing by. This old friend is now a nurse and will later visit him in hospital and bring him books, chocolate and cigarettes. [Moncrieff and Jenkyn Family Papers]

Sometimes the same kinds of chance encounters happen as a means of items being donated and finding their way into the SLQ collection. Last October at a Sunday afternoon performance of the critically acclaimed Black Diggers in Brisbane, such an event occurred.

A few friendly words were exchanged between complete strangers who happened to be seated beside each other. The Question of “What brings you here?” started a conversation about a box of war medals and other items that had been found under a house in Chelmer in 1972, which had been bought in an Estate sale. The new owners carefully kept these items despite being flooded in the 1974 Brisbane floods and subsequently moving to a new home.

Captain Edward Newton's collectionItems from Captain Edward Newton’s collection

The fellow playgoers happened to work and volunteer at SLQ for the Q ANZAC 100 project. Contact details were exchanged and a cheerful dialogue commenced, as the custodians wished to donate the items to the State Library for all Queenslanders to have access to.

“I would prefer that these items be preserved as part of memorabilia and not to be traded through eBay etc for personal gain. Some of the items are over 100 hundred years old and have an unknown history but have been carried or worn and survived to this day.”

NAA Service Record Edward NewtonWW1 Service Record, NAA

A search of this soldier’s records revealed that he had served in both World War One and World War Two.

Firstly as a Sapper with the Australian Electrical & Mechanical Mining & Boring Company 1916-1919, then as Captain 1st Australian Mobile Laundry & Decontamination Unit, 1940-1944.

I am moved by the information you have gathered. To think that for forty plus years we have had in our possession the personal belongings of a man who survived two wars and lost a brother at Gallipoli and the loss of his wife.”

DonorsBrian and Barbara King

A visit was arranged to the donor’s current home to receive the badges, medals, buttons and Bible belonging to the late Captain Edward Newton.

Marg Powell | Content Technician | QANZAC 100 Memories for a New Generation