Guest blogger: Mr Bob Bryan AM
Walter Heywood Bryan was an Ipswich boy who had the two ambitions when he grew up – to teach, and to be a geologist. As a founding student at the University of Queensland, he was well on his way to meeting these goals when the First World War broke out on 4 August 1914.
After completing his first year of university studies, and becoming engaged to be married, my father enlisted in the AIF and joined the Gallipoli force just prior to the evacuation in January 1916. By this time my Pop was a gunner in the 3rd Field Artillery Brigade, and after a brief spell in Egypt, he was then posted to the Western Front. He was based in Northern France near Armentieres, for the balance of the War.
A year later, Pop was appointed Lieutenant, running a trench mortar unit. Amazingly he came through Gallipoli and almost two years on the Western Front unscathed.
At the height of the Germans’ last major push in 1918, Pop was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry under extreme fire. The citation noted that on two occasions on 4th and 5th May 1918, he had led his mortar crew – all of them carrying two 54 pound bombs – through the lines to help maintain the defensive barrage; and in Pop’s case to then move up to an observation post to control the firing. Eventually the German attack was repulsed.
The award of the Military Cross to Pop was triggered by a “round robin letter” from the six man mortar crew to the Officer Commanding No. 2 MTM Battery stating that “Lieutenant Bryan is worthy of recognition for the above work.” Major General Thomas “Bill” Glasgow authorised the Award.
This Gunners Letter as I will call it, from the mortar crew, survived the War as did all but one of the six man crew. That Letter ended up with my family, and after the death of my Mum in 1975 it passed into my hands.
Through dedicated and very professional restoration work by the Queensland State Library staff, the Gunners Letter has been restored, and has now been presented to the Oxley Library (30522 Walter Heywood Bryan World War One correspondence 1918). And with this gift go the best wishes of the extended Bryan Family.
To complete Pop’s story, my Mum, Myee Margaret Harrison, travelled to England at the end of the War, and after what was a six year engagement, married Pop in 1919. They returned to Brisbane and Pop then took up his career he had always dreamed of – teaching geology at the University of Queensland; and appropriately he ended his career as the Professor of Geology.
Mum and Pop had four children, Bill, Harrison, Margaret and myself. Bill and Harrison served and survived the Second World War but sadly are no longer with us.
To complete the geological theme that ran though Pop’s life, I followed in his footsteps, studying geology under Pop as the precursor to a career in mining; and in more recent times, my son Scott has followed in his grandfather’s footsteps in academia, teaching geology of course.
Queensland Library Foundation thanks the Bryan family for their on-going support.