More than just a lifeboat
Recent visitors to the AWM Treloar Conservation Annex at Mitchell, ACT, introduced through Richard Cruise, Acting Visitor Services Manager, reinforced the sometimes incredible connections that descendants of service personnel have with the relics in the collection.
Arthur Cecil Claude James embarked for Australia in 1914 to visit his elder married sister in Melbourne. He decided to enlist in the Australian Army in January 1915, was posted to Gallipoli, and sailed on HMAT Wiltshire in April of that year.
Arthur suffered various health problems while serving on Gallipoli and his ‘death’ was reported in the Melbourne Age, the article saying ‘he died with a smile on his face’. The family still has the original newspaper cutting.
Arthur was actually evacuated to Malta on the then hospital ship HMHS Devanha, (previously HMT Devanha, which took part in the first Gallipoli landing), and spent three weeks in hospital in Valetta before being sent back to Australia and discharged on medical grounds in May 1916. He lived to 92 years old, dying in England in 1987.
Now for the interesting connections.
In response to his surviving the rigours of Gallipoli, he felt Devanha was a lucky ship and his daughter Audrey was given Devanha as a middle name. Subsequently Audrey’s daughter Christine fell heir to the Devanha middle name, as did her three daughters, Sonia Devanha, Melanie Devanha, and Natasha Devanha.
Natasha’s daughter is named Rose Devanha.
Christine’s niece, Nicola Louise, named her three daughters Chloe Devanha, Ellie Devanha, and Lottie Devanha.
But wait, there is more.
Christine Devanha, and her husband John’s company is called Devanha Farming Pty Ltd.
Their daughter, Natasha Devanha, while looking around for a venue for her wedding reception, investigated Emu Bottom Homestead in Sunbury, Victoria. Unbeknown to Natasha the owner of Emu Botttom Homestead, Hedley Elliot, also had a business making and selling Anzac biscuits. Wishing to help preserve our Gallipoli heritage, in 2005 Hedley kindly sponsored the Memorial’s conservation of the then one hundred year old lifeboat number five from HMT Devanha.
Interestingly, Christine noted her grandfather always said the number five was his lucky number and because of this when buying lottery tickets has always included the number five.
(For those curious to know – Devanha is an Urdu word meaning an indescribable admiration or love for someone or something).
This story truly reinforces the human significance of our work here at the Memorial.