Personal Canberra stories

Australians could hardly have imagined the scale of what they were about to embark upon when war was declared in 1914. Their involvement would affect almost every person in the country and leave 60,000 dead from a population of just 4.5 million.

When a second, more formidable conflict loomed, Australians were again not found wanting as once more they volunteered to fight in the nation’s navy, army and air force. Their personal experiences were both triumphant and tragic, and they left lasting effects of pride, loss and grief for them and their families.

Here is a selection of stories from members of the Canberra community.

The Eddison brothers

Tom Eddison

Tom, Jack and Keith Eddison grew up in the 1920s and 1930s on their family farm “Yamba” in Canberra’s Woden Valley.
Read more about the Eddison family...

Rear Admiral John Crace

Rear Admiral John Crace

In 1942 Rear Admiral John Crace was the first Australian to command a joint Australian–American task force during the Second World War.
Read more about Rear Admiral John Crace...

Private John Saunders

Private John Saunders

On 27 January 1953, Joan Saunders received a letter at her home in Strzelecki Crescent, Narrabundah, from her husband, John.
Read more about Private John Saunders...

Southwell family

Captain Shirley Southwell

One of the earliest pioneers in the Canberra district, English-born Thomas Southwell arrived at Ginninderra Creek in 1840 and established the property “Parkwood” in 1854.
Read more about the Southwell family...

Flying Officer Jean Starling

Flying officer Jean Starling

Jean Starling arrived in Canberra from Melbourne as a teenager in 1928 and lived with her family in Forrest.
Read more about Flying Officer Jean Starling...

Ernest Murray

Ernest Murray

Thought to be the first Canberran to land on Gallipoli, Ernest Murray had settled in the newly named national capital just a few years earlier, when he took up a position as a mechanic’s assistant at Duntroon.
Read more about Ernest Murray...