How an overnight storm threw up a relic of our first VC winner
It was 10 March 1919, and readers of the London Daily Mail were asked to help solve a wartime puzzle.
Appearing on page three, the appeal read "A newspaper correspondent, who has sent his address to the Editor of the Daily Mail, seeks a claimant for a Red Cross armlet, which he says he found in November 1915 on beach at ANZAC Bay, and which is marked: R. Howse, Col. : A.D.M.S., Australian Division."
In postwar London, the AIF was operating a depot whose duties included facilitating the training, leave or return to Australia of administrative and medical personnel then in the British Isles. The headquarters of the base was situated in Horseferry Road, depicted below:
An AIF staff officer reading the Daily Mail spotted the article and seized its significance immediately. He wrote: "In your today's issue of the "Daily Mail", page 3, "Far and Near" column, appears a small paragraph with reference to a Red Cross armlet found on Anzac in 1915 by a correspondent. "I am instructed to ask that the finder of this armlet be informed that the claimant for the same is Major General Sir Neville Howse, VC KCB [and] he would be pleased to receive this memento of a famous occasion."
The correspondent wrote a note to Sir Neville, in which he revealed all: "It was November 1915: there had been a heavy storm overnight. I was walking along the beach from Anzac in the direction of Suvla when I came across a heap of wreckage and human remains. Among them was the armlet. It has travelled a bit since then as I carried it with me to Egypt and France, finishing up a month ago in North Belgium. I am now very happy to return it to its original owner."
The note was signed J Blackburn, a former corporal with the 27th company of the Australian Service Corps, 13 March 1919. The note was saved in a registry file, and was acquired by the Memorial as AWM12 in 1943.
Series AWM12 is a collection of registry files from the First World War. This particular registry was set up in London as part of Australian Imperial Force (AIF) Headquarters to handle all incoming inter-departmental and external correspondence that related to individual members attached to medical units. Cataloguing this series continues to the present day. The story you have just read has its origin in the files of men whose surname commenced with the letter "N". Use the link below to learn more about the item and the context in which it was created.
Source: AWM12, 5114/4/2