Beckett, George Godfrey (Private, b.1890 - d.1917)

Accession Number PR04396
Collection type Private Record
Record type Collection
Measurement Extent: 1 cm; Wallet/s:
Object type Letter, Document, Postcard
Maker Beckett, George Godfrey
Place made Australia, Australia: Victoria, Melbourne, Belgium, United Kingdom: England, Wiltshire, Larkhill
Date made 1916-1921
Access Open
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918
Copying Provisions Copying permitted subject to physical condition

Collection relating to the service of 707 Private George Godfrey Beckett, 33rd Battalion, 2nd Battalion, 1915-1917.

Beckett was a 25-year-old butcher in Lightning Ridge, New South Wales when he enlisted in November 1915 for service in the Australian Imperial Force. He completed his initial training in Armidale, before embarking from Sydney with the 33rd Battalion in May 1916. The collection includes five letters Beckett sent to his family between July 1916 and September 1917. The first letter, to his mother, describes the 10-week voyage from Sydney to Devonport in England, sailing via Western Australia and South Africa. He also writes to his brother, Bert, of his time training at Larkhill in England and of his leave in London, remarking on his perceptions of the empire’s capital.
The remaining letters were sent after Beckett had embarked for France, joining the 2nd Battalion on the Western Front in September 1916. A letter from his sister, Vic, in October discusses family and friends at home, mentions the 1916 conscription plebiscite and remarks that, the day before the vote, she "went down town to see five thousand soldiers march" through Melbourne. In return, Beckett discusses the scenery and weather, enquires after friends and the family’s crops and livestock, and remarks on the results of his brother’s horses in the Lightning Ridge races. He also writes that he had "a very quiet Xmas in the line" in 1916, though "Fritz broke the monotony a little by sending over a few shells".

Beckett died of shrapnel wounds at Glencorse Wood on 22 September 1917 and was buried at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery in Belgium. The collection includes the letter sent to Beckett’s mother confirming his death, a newspaper clipping of his obituary, and correspondence from the Red Cross Wounded and Missing Enquiry Bureau forwarding details on his death and burial. Also included in the collection is the Australian war graves card with a photograph of Beckett’s grave and the details on its location, as well as a letter sent to Beckett’s mother by Erica Oxenham and her father, the poet John Oxenham (also known as William Dunkerley). The Oxenhams visited Belgium in 1920 and subsequently wrote to families of Australian war dead. The letter describes the location of Beckett’s grave, and included a photograph of the site for Beckett’s mother.