The John Oxley Library has recently digitised a lovely postcard album which was compiled by Miss Una Stitt of Gympie. The album, which contains over 200 postcards, covers the period 1907 to 1944 and contains many postcards from World War I soldiers, primarily from Gympie.
Una Margaret Stitt was born in Bundaberg, Queensland, in 1892, being the daughter of Robert Stitt and Annie Hay. The family settled in Gympie where Robert Stitt operated a cordial factory. He was the Mayor of Gympie for one year in 1918, and with his wife Annie, raised the highest per capita amount towards the war loan of any town in Queensland. Annie Stitt was vice-president of the local branch of the Red Cross and a member of the Auxiliary Corps during the war. Una, with her three sisters, would also have contributed towards the war effort. Her only brother, Robert, who was born in 1897, died as a young child.
The album contains postcards sent to Una and her family from various correspondents, including a number of soldiers serving during the First World War. Regular correspondents include Lieutenant Alfred William Filby Goddard Crow; Private Clifford John Stitt; Private Ernest Head; Private Frank William Caldwell; and Warrant Officer Samuel John Stewart. The collection includes several embroidered French silk postcards as well as postcards featuring scenes from the war.
The photographic postcard above was sent to Una by Private Francis William Caldwell (Frank), a young soldier from Gympie. The printed caption on the reverse reads: These are the men, who shortly after midnight of Sunday, July 23, 1916, took Pozieres by a splendidly dashing advance through shrapnel, shell and machine-gun fire”.
The French postcard below was sent to Mrs Annie Stitt, mother of Una, from Bob, an Australian soldier from Gympie, serving in France.
Clifford John Stitt (regimental no. 3486), the cousin of Una Stitt, was a regular correspondent.
Clifford was a 23 year old bricklayer from Bowen Bridge, Brisbane, when he enlisted on the 24th July 1915. He served with the 11th Field Artillery Brigade and was promoted to temporary bombardier in December 1916. He was killed in action near Flers, France, on the morning of 14th of January 1917. The unit diary reads:
The 11th Howitzer Battery position was heavily shelled during the morning. A direct hit on a gun pit from which the gun had been withdrawn resulted in a number of casualties:- Bombardier Stitt C.J., Bombardier Johnston A., Gunner Delo J.A., and Gunner Barton C. Killed and Corporal Laidlaw J. Wounded. (Australian War Memorial, Unit Diaries, 11th Field Artillery Brigade, January 1917)
The postcard below was written to Una from Egypt just before Clifford was sent to the front lines in France on the 4th December 1916.
Another correspondent was Warrant Officer Samuel John Stewart (regimental no. 1927) a bank clerk from Red Hill, Gympie. He enlisted in 1915 with the 5th Australian Light Horse, embarking for overseas service in January 1916. He was transferred to the 13th Infantry Battalion and then to the Australian Army Ordnance Corps, 4th Division, rising to the rank of Warrant Officer. He served in France and was killed on the 2nd May 1918 when a shell directly hit the store at Camon at about 2.10 a.m., killing six of the staff who were sleeping there. The funeral was held the next morning at the Camon Communal Cemetery in Picardie.
The Christmas Card below was sent to the Stitt family from S.J. Stewart in 1916.
Another soldier from Gympie who regularly wrote to the family was Private Francis William Caldwell (Frank), a young grocer and bandsman, who served in the 3rd Pioneer Battalion on the Western Front. Frank survived the war and returned to Australia in May 1919.
Frank sent this beautiful silk postcard to Una Stitt on the 17th July 1917 from France. He writes “I have been doing a good deal of band work lately in connection with the Div [Divisional] Pierott Troupe who are giving concerts nightly to the boys out from the line. He have practice early morning and are all beginning to get a good form again. The change is very acceptable to all but I don’t know how long it will last.
The collection is full of little gems, such as those above, and all of them tell their own particular stories about the experience of war. Una Stitt never married. She was a talented pianist and worked as the country organizer of the Junior Red Cross. In her later years she lived in Highgate Hill, Brisbane, and was the Welfare Officer of the Brisbane City Mission. She died on the 10th June 1951 at the age of 59.
The Una Stitt Postcard Album is available in the John Oxley Library and online.
Lynn Meyers, QANZAC100 Content Curator