Some of the most poignant and detailed descriptions of war held in the State Library of Queensland collection are contained in the Gallipoli diaries of the Reverend George Green, an Anglican minister from Central Queensland who featured in State Library’s recent Distant Lines exhibition.
The diaries which form part of the 2nd Light Horse Association Records (OM77-14), have been digitised and provide a harrowing and compelling account of the horrors of the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign.
Born in London on the 10th July 1881, Green was ordained in 1910. Equipped with a Bachelor of Arts from Oxford University and an intrepid spirit, he migrated to Australia and established himself in central Queensland, working in Mt Chalmers, Yeppoon and Emu Park, as part of North Rockhampton parish, before appointment as the vicar of St Luke’s in Emerald, then back to St Paul’s Cathedral in Rockhampton.
The 33 year old Green enlisted in September 1914 and was appointment as a Chaplain (4th Class). He embarked for Egypt with the 1st Light Horse Regiment on the 21st October 1914 on board the HMAT Orvieto and served at Gallipoli from May 1915 with the 2nd Light Horse Regiment.
Green kept a detailed diary of his time at Gallipoli, and in eloquent and honest prose vividly described the horrors of the campaign. In the dust and heat and flies he tended his flock, providing what pastoral care he could.
One of his most important and distressing tasks was burying the dead. He wrote,
I remember registering the resolve to be studiously callous about funerals otherwise it was obvious I would not last another week… I was among the burial party to go over into territory between the trenches. There I beheld a sight I never shall forget and struck a smell awful beyond anything I’ve ever experienced….I said committal over about fifteen bodies most of whom were decayed beyond recognition. (OM77-14/3, Gallipoli Diary 1915, p.24)
He was full of admiration for the men and wrote, “The valour, spirit, patience and determination of these Australian soldiers are beyond all praise”. (OM77-14/6, On Gallipoli, Volume 4)
In his dugout, Green was just as susceptible to sickness, lice and shrapnel fire as his comrades in the front trenches and suffered his share of discomfort and illness. In November 1915 he was admitted to the 19th General Hospital in Alexandria, Egypt, with enteritis, and in December he was described as being “dangerously ill”. He was sent home to Australia on the ship Suffolk on the 29th January 1916 for recuperation and rest.
Padre Green returned to duty in Europe in October 1916 and was taken on strength with the 4th Division headquarters, and later served with the 13th Brigade, the 2nd Australian Auxiliary Hospital, and various A.I.F. depots in England and France. He returned to Australia in 1919, and continued his vocation in Melbourne before returning to England where he died in 1956.
On the 22nd July 1938 Green received the honour of reading the dedication at the unveiling of the Australian War Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux in France. The memorial was erected to “perpetuate the memory of the Australian Imperial Forces in France and Flanders and the 11,000 Australians who fell in France and have no known grave”. The ceremony was attended by King George VI who unveiled the monument. (Adelaide Chronicle, 28 July 1938).
The Reverend Green also features in the correspondence of Major General William Glasgow, whose collection is also held by the State Library (Accession 29571). The two men were great friends and Green is often mentioned in the letters which Glasgow wrote to his wife, Belle, who lived in London for the duration of the war. There are also several moving letters which Green wrote to Glasgow’s two young daughters in Australia in which he describes the bravery of their father and the love which his men have for him. The Sir T. William Glasgow and Lady Glasgow Papers are available online at: http://onesearch.slq.qld.gov.au/SLQ:OM:slq_alma21148433590002061
National Archives service record for Reverend George Green – http://discoveringanzacs.naa.gov.au/browse/records/77241
Lynn Meyers, QANZAC100 Content Curator