Another World War I collection held in the John Oxley Library and which has recently been digitised is that of Robert Cyril Vickers from Rockhampton, Queensland. The collection comprises over 100 photographs and postcards taken in the Middle East, many of them captioned.
Robert Vickers, who was known as Bob, was born in Rockhampton on the 5th May 1895, being the son of John Vickers and Nora (nee Kennedy). He attended the Rockhampton Boys’ Central School and at the time of his enlistment was employed as a butcher. Robert enlisted in Brisbane on the 12th August 1915 at the age of 20. Because he was under 21 he needed parental permission, however as both his parents were deceased, the form was filled out by his eldest sister, Beatrice Cook, who was residing in the Brisbane suburb of Alderley. She and her husband, Thomas Cook, are listed as Robert’s guardians.
Robert’s rank on enlistment was that of driver with the Light Horse Brigade Training Unit 1, Reinforcement 13. During the First World War a driver, the equivalent in rank to a private, rode team horses which pulled wagons, guns, ambulances and equipment. These wagons usually had a team of six horses and each driver was responsible for his own two horses. It was his job to feed, shoe and provide veterinary care for them. This was an essential job as it involved getting supplies, food, ammunition and other equipment to the troops in the front lines. It was also a dangerous job as the wagons were targeted by machine guns and artillery fire as the enemy attempted to prevent the supplies getting through.
After training at the Enoggera Camp in Brisbane, Bob’s unit embarked from Sydney on the HMAT A35 Berrima on the 17th December 1915.
After further training in Egypt he was taken on strength with the 1st Australian Light Horse Regiment on the 22nd April 1916. The 1st Light Horse played a significant part in turning back the Turkish advance on the Suez Canal at the battle of Romani on the 4th August 1916 and in April 1917 was part of the abortive second battle of Gaza. Gaza was finally taken on the 7th November and the 1st Light Horse played a part in this success. The regiment also participated in the advance to Jaffa and then took part in operations to clear and occupy the west bank of the Jordan river. On the 14th July 1918 the 1st Light Horse participated in the repulse of a major German and Turkish attack.
Bob was admitted to the 14th Australian General Hospital at Port Said, Egypt, in June 1918 suffering from pyrexia (fever) and was then detached to AIF Headquarters in Cairo, where he had 7 days leave from the 20th July. He re-joined the 1st Light Horse in the field on the 4th October 1918. He fell ill again on the 1st November and was treated for malaria at the 47th Stationary Hospital in Gaza and re-joined his unit from hospital on the 29th November 1918, after the Armistice had been signed.
Fortunately Bob Vickers had survived the war and returned to Australia on board the ship Ulimarea on the 13th March 1919. He was discharged from the army on the 21st June of that year. After the war Bob worked as a clerk, residing in the leafy Brisbane suburb of Graceville. He married Margaret Mary (Peggy) Ganly at Our Lady of Victories Church at Bowen Hills, Brisbane, on the 19th April 1924. A son, Donald Patrick Vickers was born in 1927. Bob Vickers died on the 1st July 1961 at the age of 66.
The Robert Cyril Vickers photographs may be viewed at the John Oxley Library (Accession 29385) or online at http://onesearch.slq.qld.gov.au/SLQ:slq_alma21148568360002061.
Lynn Meyers, QANZAC100 Content Curator