SIR IAN’S XMAS MESSAGE TO ANZAC
Australian women in England are sending Christmas souvenirs to all invalided Australians in England and Egypt and at Malta. The souvenirs will convey greetings from Major-General Birdwood and Senator Pearce and also from General Sir Ian Hamilton, the late British commander in Gallipoli. General Hamilton’s message reads:—
“Happen what may, the Australians who fought at Gallipoli will bequeath their heritage and honour to their children’s children.”
On behalf of the Brisbane “Courier,” Sir Thomas Robinson (Agent-General for Queensland) is sending consignments of Christmas fruit to the Australian hospitals in England.
Lady Robinson and Lady Birdwood are providing Christmas gifts and an entertainment for 400 Australian and New Zealand convalescent soldiers at the King George Hospital. Madame Ada Crossley and Miss Florence Schmidt are lending assistance.
So reads an article in the Geelong Advertiser of Saturday 4 December 1915. State Library holds a copy of the souvenir sent to the hospitalized diggers for Christmas 1915. General Birdwood’s message reads “Good cheer, boys, from all old comrades in the firing line. Return soon and we’ll see this through together.”
General Sir William Riddell Birdwood, later 1st Baron Birdwood of Anzac and Totnes, was already an experienced army officer in 1914, having served on Lord Kitchener’s staff in South Africa and India. In November 1914 Birdwood was given command of the Australian and New Zealand forces then undergoing training in Egypt. After initially being given command of the Gallipoli operation, Birdwood was placed under General Sir Ian Hamilton when Kitchener decided a larger force was required.
A popular commander, Birdwood was frequently seen in the front trenches talking to the men and took a daily swim in the cove regardless of enemy fire. Birdwood went on to command the A.I.F. until May 1918 when he handed over command to Sir John Monash.
Birdwood had married Jeannette Hope Gonville, daughter of the fourth Baron Bromhead of Lincoln in 1894, and it appears Lady Birdwood was one of the people behind the production of this little souvenir.
The Birdwoods maintained a strong connection with Australia. The General toured Australia and New Zealand in 1920 and their oldest daughter married a West Australian grazier. Birdwood’s ambition to become Governor General of Australia was thwarted when Prime Minister Scullin insisted an Australian be appointed.
Reference: Australian Dictionary of Biography : Birdwood, William Riddell (Baron Birdwood) (1865–1951)
Simon Miller – Library Technician, State Library of Queensland