Cosgriff's Diary: Friday 7th February 1941

Fallen soldiers.  Letters from Aileen, Elsa, home (2), Dr Pascal. Tom missed out on mail – sent cable.  Pay day 13 pounds short.  Alex this arvo with Len.  Bath in Errington’s bath-room.  Met Sam Johnston at Windsor Hotel.  Found whereabouts of Owen Steele.  Coffee with Campbell and Honils.  Home at 12:30. 


Bryant's Diary: Saturday 8th February 1941

Appointed a Bren instructor for a fortnight to 2/15th Bn.  The squad members are keen and should do all right.


Troops of 2/23 Battalion in action with a Bren gun at a front line section post in Libya, August 1941.  This one is 400 yards from the enemy.  Photograph by George Silk. 


Cosgriff's Diary: Saturday 8th February 1941

Alarm hopeless.  Mass at 7:30.  Steele here and with him all adj at 2/9th.  Churchill,... O’Connor and Surn back from Derna.  Our future uncertain but not operating here.  Arranged Masses here and staging – hope I get some.  No more office.  Plenty to do – but no conveyance.  Wrote to Aileen and expect never to hear from her again. 


Bryant's Diary: Sunday 9th February 1941

Went up to the A.G.H. today and saw Wal Legge, the first Mudgee casualty in this war. Wal is in the 2/4th Bn and received shell shock at Tobruk but only his ears were affected.  He is O.K. now and expects to be out of hospital in a day or so.  Also saw Ted Taylor.  Nothing else happened.


Bryant's Diary: Monday 10th February 1941

Kept instructing Bren all day at the 2/15th Bn.  It was as cold as hell.


Cosgriff's Diary: Monday 10th February 1941

Mass at S. Catharina.  Breakfast – steak and eggs.  New watch protection.  Lunch at Union Club with Len.  Bath in matron’s room.  Ackland and Horan had breakfast on train to Alex – jam sands and cake.  Mary held Tom’s hand in sympathy of no letters.  Benediction at S. Catherina.  People reciting prayers and singing Pangi in latin.  Handsome youth at book-shop – nun speaking French – two bots of altar wine. – Rudd loaned us his car – home 11:30 slept most of way – letter from J. McGlynn.  Horan saw... French navy. – Saw Adam Johnston again.  Best day so far – Mass at St. Saluna altar.


Bryant's Diary: Tuesday 11th February 1941

Tom Dinnen sent to hospital yesterday.  Nothing else happened.


Cosgriff's Diary: Tuesday 11th February 1941

Missa in Tempore Belli [Mass in Time of War]. Jack Chambers has mumbs. Rothstadt  –  probably malaria.  John Devine to go with C.C.S.  Doctors visiting hospitals in Alex.


Bryant's Diary: Wednesday 12th February 1941

Nothing happened today.


Cosgriff's Diary: Wednesday 12th February 1941

Pino Defunctis [For the dead]. All thrill alarms failing no function now and we always sleep in.  Nurse went to see Kantara today.  Put up tent for batmen.  Shifted into new mess.  John Devine – pretty homesick left at 10 pm.  Rudd under orders to go too.  Marsh’s lid’s pinched by Gyppos making box.


Bryant's Diary: Thursday 13th February 1941

Jack Wilson returned from 28 days in Jerusalem jail. He had a pretty rough time.  Reg Tait went to hospital again.  That makes 3 out of the section in hospital now.


Cosgriff's Diary: Thursday 13th February 1941

Pro pace [For Peace].  No mail for days.  Tim McCarthy in Alex.  To Alex after paying Men. Wally Condar and Rouelands of H.M.S “Perth”.  Meet Tim and Steele.  Driver’s name – Gerrard from Canberra.  Home early with Horan.  Boys stayed late and visited Mary’s home at 3:45 am.  Wrote to Dave, Elsa, Tooze and Doyle kids.

The aft turret support bulkhead was fitted to the fuselage late last week, and is the first major peice of the turret support structure to be completed and installed.  The installation of this bulkhead will give the structural integrity to allow the removal of damaged and modified floor structure, and the continuing installation of support structure further forward in the fuselage.

For the Introduction and Glossary for this blog go to:



Owen Thomas Cosgriff

Owen Thomas Cosgriff was born 21 December 1907 in Korumburra, Victoria.  In his adult years he moved to Brunswick, Victoria, where he lived until his enlistment with the 2/4th Australian General Hospital (A.G.H), AIF, (Australian General Hospital) in Caulfield.  In December 1940, Cosgriff left Melbourne aboard the Maurentania bound for North Africa.  After a brief visit to Perth, the ship moved into the Indian Ocean and after a week of travelling, Cosgriff disembarked in Colombo where he remained until 15 January 1941.  By 24 January Cosgriff’s ship had entered the mouth of the dangerous Red Sea and after spending some time at Sugo arrived at Anastasia on 31 January.  It is here that Cosgriff’s diary entries begin:

Arthur Francis Bryant

Arthur Francis Bryant was born on 27 August 1916 in Mudgee, NSW.  Bryant enlisted in 2/17th Battalion, A.I.F on 29 May 1940 in Paddington NSW.  He completed his basic training at Ingleburn, then moved to Bathurst army camp for subunit field training.  In October 1940, Bryant left Sydney Harbour bound for the Middle East.  He disembarked at Bombay and entrained for Deolali Rest Camp on 7 November.  He sailed on to Kantara on 12 November, arriving almost two weeks later.  He entrained for Ryrie Lines Camp, Kilo 89, at Gaza Ridge, Palestine, then, on 17 December Bryant left for Port Said on Garrison duty.  For the first fortnight his section guarded an ammunition dump in Raswa Area and on 10 January 1941 he returned to the same lines in Kilo 89 for further training and re-equipping.  It is here that Bryant’s diary begins:

 Lieutenant Colonel J.W. Crawford, Commanding Officer of Bryant's battalion, the 2/17th Battalion, along with company commanders in Tobruk, Libya, 1941-09-11

Edmund Crawford Lecky

Edmund Crawford Lecky was born on 1 October 1920 in Coolah, New South Wales.  After spending his teenage years as a signalman in the pre-war Militia and working as a Public Servant, Lecky enlisted in 8th Division Signals A.I.F in 1940 in Paddington, NSW.  On 3 November, he was transferred to 9th Division Signals, where he was commissioned as a lieutenant. Lecky embarked upon HMT Queen Mary on 26 December 1940 for the Middle East where he was to attend No 2 course 1 Australian Corps Signals School.  It is here that Lecky’s letters begin:

 Group portrait of officers of signals units of the 9th Division awaiting ferry transport to the troop transport Queen Mary for embarkation prior to leaving for the Middle East.  Lieutenant E.C. Lecky is kneeling on the left in the front row.

Every effort has been made to transcribe the following diaries and letters as accurately as possible in order to preserve the original language of Chaplain Owen Thomas Cosgriff, Warrant Officer Arthur Francis Bryant and Captain Edmund Crawford Lecky.  Please note however, the task of accurate transcription is a difficult one involving a number of challenges including the age of the sources, illegible handwriting or incorrect spelling and grammar.  Dr Charles Bean, war correspondent and historian, communicated these challenges in the introduction to his First World War Official History: [/cms_images/AWM38/3DRL606/AWM38-3DRL606-90-1.pdf].    Please keep these difficulties in mind as you read the text below.

The diaries shown in this blog are held in the Memorial's collection as: Cosgriff: AWM 3DRL/3367; Bryant: AWM PR03012 and Lecky: AWM 3DRL/7816.  You can also find the records for these men at the National Archives of Australia website:

Please note that the meanings of all underlined words within the text can be found in the glossary (which will be available later in February).

Bryant’s Diary:   Friday – 31st January, 1941

We were to foster the 2/3rd Field Workshops tonight and early in the morning, but their arrival has been postponed indefinitely owing to casualties incurred in an air raid at Kantara.  It is bad luck for them to cop it this way, but c’est la guerre.


Cosgriff’s Diary:  Friday Jan 31st 1941

Anastasia hotter.  Boys ashore last night and disgusted... Nobody wanted to take sisters and masseuses ashore raids last night....Heavy uniform today but afternoon warm enough.  Two masseuses from 2 A.G.H. here for lunch.


Bryant’s Diary:  Saturday 1st February, 1941

Rained heavily last night and mud was everywhere today.  We did extra work at Squires Lines in preparation for the fostering of 2/3rd Field Workshops, who are due in at 12:30 tonight.  I have the job of messing N.C.O for the main workshops.  Rumours are current that we may be moving from Palestine very soon.  Ted and Jim Taylor were admitted to hospital for something or other.  That makes 4 out of the section in hospital or under treatment.


Cosgriff’s Diary:  Saturday Feb 1st 1941

Forgets ashore with Tyrer.  Port Tewfik quite clean but Sugo filthy.  Inspected Hospital – Good Shepherd – depressing place – terrible job for nuns – French – with filthy Arabs.  Tried to find priest for confession but failed.  Pilot on board to take us up canal but no word of departure.  Gen party with Shannon and masseuses.


  Radiologist, Major T.L. Tyrer (centre) in the x-ray room at the 2/4th Australian General Hospital, Tobruk, August 1941.

Bryant’s Diary:   Sunday 2nd February 1941

The story about the 2/3rd Field workshops being bombed is all bunk.  The coy fixed them up and I was in bed by 3 o’clock. During that night we had 2 air raid alarms, but no air-raid.  There was another alarm this morning, but no planes were seen.  The 1st Corps Guards Bn marched out today, probably to guard Dago prisoners.


Cosgriff’s Diary:  Sunday Feb 2nd 1941

Two masses.  Masses cancelled after I had finished packing to go up by train.  Another drink with Shannon then early lunch.  Disembarked at 1:30.  Scare about missing luggage then departure by train at 3:30.  Cairo at 7pm.  Woman feeding kid on station.  Black-out, searchlights veiled women, crammed streets.  Dinner at Continental 16/~.  Drinks exorbitant.  C.O. lit fly on masseuses who were out with Rudd and Marsh.  Walk through city with Chambers and Horan.  Entrained at 11:59 for Abu-el-Kadir.


Bryant’s Diary:  Monday 3rd February 1941

Air raid warning was sounded a number of times last night and once so far this afternoon, but no planes seen.  Had a thorough kit inspection this morning and I think new equipment and a move are on the way.  The Bn had a rehearsal this afternoon in preparation for Mr Menzies’ visit tomorrow.  Copped the guard for tonight.


Cosgriff’s Diary:  Monday 3rd February 1941

Slept well in train.  Daylight at Alexandria.  Nurses left there.  Arrived at Abu-el-Kandir desert, Gyppos, filth sand, cold, shacks and no transport...Set to with tents – Horan Ackland, Horan Devine and me.  No water, no shave and no Mass.  Day’s work making place habitable.  To bed on air mattress tired and dirty – I think Tom was here in last show.  Letters from Elsa and Tooze – none for newly-weds.


Bryant’s Diary:  Tuesday 4th February 1941

Had an easy time of guard and missed big review at Pier...for Mr Menzies.  The 2/15thBn marched in from Australia last night.  Pte Dalziel was knocked over and injured by a car while on guard duty.


Bryant’s Diary:  Wednesday 5th February 1941

Marched about 18 miles today and did a stunt.  Longest so far.  N.C.O.’s Officers of Bn were addressed by Brigadier Murray on leadership.  Nothing important.  One air raid alarm during the day.


Cosgriff’s Diary:  Wednesday 5th February 1941

Slept in today.  Wanted to get to Alex to see Tim but could not get ride.  Rang Alex but Tim away.  Wrote home Elsa and Tooze.  Said full service for nurses out today... Air raid alarm tonight but no bombs.  Censoring mail this day.  Trunks not here yet.  Sergeant Burston to Cairo today to see whether here or Derna – hope it is Derna.


Bryant’s Diary:   Thursday 6th February 1941

Nothing of importance, with the exception of pay, occurred today.


Cosgriff’s Diary:  Thursday 6th February 1941

Alarm bung – no Mass.  Desert storm today and we do not want another.  Zac unbearable today – ennui.  No mail yet.  John’s alert scene became a dust-storm.  Alex leave roster worked out.  No pay as Corps cleared out to Tobruk.  Marsh and Alec missed out on Masses today.  Issued with head-camp against dust.

 A group of the nursing staff and physiotherapists (masseuses) of 2/4th AGH (Australian General Hospital) aboard the ship, the Maurentania before its departure from Melbourne bound for Tobruk.  Victoria, 20 December, 1940.


Three generations of the Howse family at the Hall of Valour

Accompanied by her own children and grandchildren, Canberra identity Mrs Valerie Howse OAM  came to the Australian War Memorial recently to tour the newly opened Hall of Valour and to pay tribute to her late father-in-law, Major General Neville Reginald Howse VC KCB KCMG, honoured as the first Australian to be awarded the Victoria Cross  in 1900 during the Boer War.

Born 26 October 1863 in Somerset  England,  Neville Howse studied medicine at  London Hospital before migrating to New South Wales.  He established his first practice in Newcastle later moving to Taree.  He  briefly returned to England  to undertake postgraduate work before finally returning to  Australia in 1897 and settling down in Orange.

In January 1900 he received his commission as lieutenant in the New South Wales Medical Corps and sailed for South Africa and the Boer War.  On 24 July 1900, while serving with a mounted infantry brigade at Vredefort, Captain Howse rescued a wounded man under heavy fire for which he became the first Australian to be awarded the Victoria Cross. 


Mrs Valerie Howse OAM and the portrait of Major General Neville Reginald Howse VC KCB KCMG, the first Australian to be awarded the Victoria Cross in 1900

Howse returned to Australia, but went back to South Africa as an honorary major in the Australian Medical Corps in February 1902, just as the war was ending.  Howse was twice elected mayor of Orange and married Evelyn Pilcher in Bathurst in 1905. Howse later served in the First World War and in September 1915 he was given command of ANZAC medical services and in November became director of the AIF's medical services.

In 1917 Howse was knighted and in 1920 he made a brief return to private practice before resuming work with the army. He resigned in 1922 and won the federal seat of Calare for the National Party. In 1930 he went to England for medical treatment but died of cancer on 19 September of the same year. He was survived by his wife and five children.

The story of  Howse VC is just one of 97  amazing accounts featured in the Hall of Valour - each one carries its own mark of   individual courage, the essence of mateship and rising above the call of duty.  The Australians represented here come from all over our nation and represent a range of backgrounds and fortunes, ordinary blokes who achieved the extraordinary on the battlefield.

Official Records is pleased to announce that arrangement and description of the records of the Royal Australian Corps of Signals are now complete. The records have been assigned the series number AWM277, and are catalogued to the National Archives of Australia database, RecordSearch.


The basis of this series is the documentation created by units of the Corps to acquire, deploy and evaluate electronic warfare equipment from 1939 to 1997.


The Royal Australian Corps of Signals accumulated records detailing performance characteristics not only of its equipment, but the control and command structure and the many inputs used to determine its capability. The oldest item in the collection is a 1939 edition War Book of the Australian Military Forces. More recent material, such as item 296, describes Christmas Day 1974, when Cyclone Tracy struck Darwin and the Corps helped mount the aid and recovery effort.

As a technical collection of records, material usually associated with the conduct of military operations abroad - such as monthy war diaries, routine reports and orders - is not a feature of this series.

Reorganisations within the Department of Defence led to the disbandment of a number of these units. The records they yielded were arranged by security classification and dispatched to the Directorate of Communications (DCOMMS, later DSIGS – Defence Signals). Further adjustments and closures within the Defence organisation saw the records consigned to long-term storage. In 1999, the Australian War Memorial took custody of the records, later accessioned as AWM277.

  • Much of the material in this series is presented along the following themes:
  • Cryptographic equipment
  • Corps correspondence registers
  • Corps mess books
  • Corps publications and publicity
  • Counter terrorist exercises
  • Establishments and strengths
  • Function of signals equipment, installations and buildings
  • Military exercises
  • Records of the RA Sigs Corps Committee
  • Radio and television equipment
  • Satellite communications

Additionally, AWM277 incorporates conference papers and other intelligence sharing documents relating to Australia’s membership of certain defence alliances, tactical documents (e.g. Signal War Plans, call sign books) and a limited number of biographical profiles of Corps personnel. 

Using the series

Select the "Advanced Search" tab on RecordSearch. Click on the "Series" link and enter the series number. Refine your search by keyword or date. The records of the Royal Australian Corps of Signals are managed as Official Records according to the Archives Act 1983. Though all the records are catalogued to RecordSearch, only those in the "Open" period will be searchable (that is, from 1939 to 1981). "Not Yet Examined" material will need to be access examined prior to release. An "Open With Exception" item contains some material exempt from disclosure under the Act.

 Further information

To view material, you are invited to visit our link or visit the Memorial's Reading Room. An "Application for Access (S.40)" form will need to be completed for items with an access status of "Not Yet Examined."


Among the items collected by Sir John Monash during the First World War are over 200 German shoulder straps worn by men who fought against the AIF in 1918. Single shoulder straps were routinely removed from dead or captured Germans for intelligence purposes so the  identity of German units opposing the Allied forces could be established.

Lieutenant General Sir John Monash by John Longstaff

Monash's collection consists of 26 loose shoulder straps and six wooden boards, each with up to 32 shoulder straps or officer's shoulder boards attached. The six boards are of particular interest as above each strap is written information such as unit, date captured and sometimes the rank of the wearer.

The collection is primarily made up of straps from infantry units but pioneer battalions, flying squadrons, field ambulance, mechanical transport columns, artillery and trench mortar units are also represented.  

Monash refers to this collection in a letter written on 21 August 1918.  He recorded that during the recent advances, the Australians had captured almost 10,000 Germans from 75 different units.

His Intelligence Staff collected a large number of shoulder straps, which he arranged to be labelled. He was going to send them home and suggested they could be exhibited to raise money for war charities. Initially he wanted 75 straps mounted and labelled - one for each unit captured. However, the project seems to have expanded and eventually six boards were made, holding 183 shoulder straps or officer's shoulder boards for Germans captured by Australian units between May and October 1918.

The shoulder boards for lower officers are a mixture of the older silver boards (either worn by men who had served from the early stages of the war, or shoulder boards that were second or third hand) and the later grey fabric boards. The Germans stopped using silver on their shoulder boards in 1915 because they were too shiny but also as a result of the metal shortages they faced due to the British and French blockade of German ports. Instead they were either covered with cloth, painted grey or replaced by the dull grey shoulder boards. These shortages are also reflected in the badges on the shoulder boards, some have earlier gilded brass badges, but most have grey badges made from 'Kriegsmetall' - substitute alloys.

The Saxon Labour Corps shoulder strap below also illustrates the shortages in Germany. It is a thin black strap made from cotton tape 4.2 cm wide (some of the width is hidden in the photo below by the strap next to it, but it is still thinner than most other shoulder straps). It is very basic - the button hole has no reinforcing stitching, the point at the end is created through a mitred corner and the strap does not have any sort of lining. Usually the straps were made by sewing two pieces of wool cloth together (often with coloured piping between the edges).

Monash's German shoulder strap collection makes up about half of the Memorial's collection of German shoulder straps and most importantly, the bulk of the collection records the dates when they straps were captured. It really is a very interesting collection.

Books of interest:

Imperial German Field Uniforms and Equipment 1907-1918 Volume II by Johan Somers

German Army Handbook April 1918

Uniforms & Equipment of the Imperial German Army 1900-1918: A Study in Period Photographsby Charles Woolley

Brassey's History of Uniforms: World War One German Army by Stephen Bull

When we think of Christmas we think of presents, decorations and most importantly Christmas dinner. What was Christmas dinner like for those at war?

Private Charles Bennett (PR04245) writes in his letters home about the Christmas dinner he had in an English camp in 1916. He had: Turkey, Ham, Roast Potato, Peas, Parsnips, Xmas pudding, Café au Lait, apples, orange, bananas, saffron cakes, mince pies

Lieutenant Donald Armstrong (1DRL/0057) in Abassieh in a letter to his mother writes about the Christmas dinner he had in 1915: Roast Beef, Roast Mutton, Pickles, Sauce, Asparagus, Bread, Rolls and fish or meat paste, seven plum puddings, tinned pineapple and apricots, chocolates lollies, almonds, peanuts, brazil nuts, oranges and a bucket of cocoa. After which he has commented “I don’t want any more to eat for a week or so”

Even on a ship the Christmas meal was quite an event. Colonel Reginald Millard (1DRL/0499) writes in his diary while sailing through the Aegean Sea that dinner consisted of turbot, turkey, Grouse, Asparagus, Flaming plum pudding, mince pie and champagne complements of the captain.

However Christmas wasn’t always an enjoyable time. Captain Charles Gatliff (1DRL/0309) writes to his parents in 1916 from somewhere in France that there was no real Christmas dinner just the usual rations as the parcels from home didn’t arrive until the afternoon. He did receive some cheer at Christmas though in the form of some Christmas puddings brought by some of the officers returning from leave. He then goes on to mention that the Christmas was still better than the one he had in South Africa on the back of an open truck with only bully beef and biscuits for dinner.

 This menu of bully beef and biscuits was also had by Lieutenant Lancelot Horniman (1DRL/0357) in 1915. He goes on to say in his diary that this is an awful treatment for Christmas time, while we are all rejoicing to be free from Gallipoli at last... its disgraceful treatment, meanwhile the officers live like princes.

 In the Second World War Corporal Joseph Roxburgh (PR04665) had a different experience. For Christmas of 1941 he was at Skudai camp in Malaya and for dinner he got the normal ham, turkey, baked potatoes, plum pudding and a bottle of tiger beer. He became a prisoner of war  in February of 1942 and by 1944 Christmas dinner consisted of 1 ½ desserts spoons of fried whitebait, 1 dessert spoon of fried towgay, 2 pieces of fried tapioca, ½ baked bringle, 2 dessert spoon of Chinese cabbage, 1 vegetable pasty, 1 tempi cup (baked rice cup, sprouted towgay in a cream) ½ pint of browned rice gravy and one small Chester cake.


 For these Prisoners of War used to eating very little every day, this meagre meal made many feel sick by about 10pm that day and this carried on into Boxing Day. It was noted that the trees around the camp were almost all stripped of leaves due to toilet paper shortage.

 Back home in Australia Constance McEwen wrote about her Christmas dinner in a diary to her son who was unreachable in a prisoner of war camp. For Christmas dinner we had Roast fowl, potatoes, pudding, Christmas cake, fruit salad and cream.  

Organisations like the Red Cross and the Australian Comforts Funds helped add to the festivities in the form of care parcels. One of the most popular in the First World War was the Christmas billie. Australian soldiers were issued the billie in December of 1915 together with a plum pudding to be shared between two. The billies were mostly compiled by families back home in Australia. The items received in the billies is featured by many soldiers in their diaries and letters home. It added Christmas cheer to the day. Many of the contents were the same and some of the senders would add letters, messages or return addresses in the billie being sent

 Soldiers after opening their billies with the lids on their heads

 Lieutenant George Allardyce (1DRL/0024) writes in a letter to his father: The can contained sweets, cigarettes, chocolates, tinned pastries, a pipe and tobacco, playing cards and other sundry little things useful and useless

 Lieutenant Donald Armstrong ( 1DRL/0057) wrote in a letter to his mother: The Billie contained 1 plum pudding, 1 tin of salmon, 1 tin of meat paste, two tins of cigarettes, 1 cake chocolate, chewing gum, mints, safety pins, handkerchief, tooth brush and 1 tin of tooth powder.

 The Red Cross and Australian Comforts Fund would send out parcels. Often it was these parcels which added that something special to Christmas dinner which would otherwise have been a meal like any other day. The parcel received by Lance Corporal David Wilson (PR03539) contained the items on the card below.

 For Corporal Joseph Roxburgh (PR03539) , a prisoner of war during the Second World War, and his fellow prisoners it was the saving of items in their comforts parcel which enabled them to have Christmas feast the first year in the camp.

To the Australian soldier it did not really matter what they had to eat for Christmas dinner nor where they had to eat it. While it is true they preferred somewhere warm and dry to spend their Christmas day and to celebrate it together with their family and friends back home, it was the Christmas spirit and the act of celebration which was most important to them.

To assist with the manufacture of missing and damaged components and structure in the Hudson, the AWM purchased a copy of original Lockheed blueprints on Microfilm.  Digitisation of the blueprints for ease of reference has commenced, and they are providing invaluable information for most areas in the airframe.  The blueprints contain the original dimensions and material specifications of each individual item used to build the aircraft. 

Once printed, the blue print is used to accurately replicate the component. The two supports shown below were badly  twisted and corroded.  Two replica items were accurately produced using the blue prints, and the original damaged items.

The support structure for the upper turret is beginning to take shape, with repaired and replicated components being pieced together before installation.   This structure is approximately 1/3 of the way through the fabrication stage.  When complete, the structure will be disassembled, painted, and then installed into the airframe.    

Mess tin found at Lone Pine, Gallipoli in 1919

There is a mess tin on display in the Gallipoli gallery that is rusted and full of holes. It was found over 90 years ago scattered with dozens of other pieces of kit around the Lone Pine position at Gallipoli in January 1919 by staff from the Australian War Records Section.

The ground over which the 1st Battalion advanced to attack Lone Pine on 6 August 1915, seen from the newly captured Turkish front line trenches.

Despite sitting out in the elements for almost four years before it was collected, amazingly the name of the soldier who used it is still legible, scratched into the bottom of the tin. 90 years after it was collected, using records available online, I was able to identify the soldier who used it and discover some of the story of his war.

The name scratched in cursive script on the mess tin is ‘E WalKer’. His unit, ‘1 AIF’ ‘ (presumed to mean '1st Battalion AIF’), is also scratched on the tin along with some other letters (possibly 'ER'). When I began to research and catalogue this mess tin I realised it was highly probable that whoever used it was killed during the campaign and that was why the tin had been discarded. So, although I could have initially checked the embarkation or nominal rolls to see who served in the 1st Battalion with that name, I decided to quickly check the Roll of Honour to see if I could find any ‘E Walkers’ who died at Lone Pine.

I found nine E Walkers that died in the First World War. Three died at Gallipoli: 203 Trooper Eric Walker (3rd Light Horse Regiment), who died in August while the Regiment was at Quinn’s Post, 1832 Private Eric De Witte Talmage Walker ( 1st Battalion)  who died at Lone Pine in August and 247 Private Ernest Percy Walker (11th Battalion), who died at the landing on 25 April.

So of those three, Eric De Witte Talmage Walker appeared to be the most likely owner of the mess tin, as he served with 1 Battalion AIF and was killed between 6-9 August at Lone Pine. There was no Red Cross wounded and missing file for Eric, so I checked his personal service file, which has been digitised by the National Archives of Australia.

His identity was reinforced when I discovered that the way 'Walker' was scratched into the bottom of the mess tin was the same as the way Eric signed his attestation papers (at the bottom of page 1 in his service record) when he enlisted - one prominent feature being the enlarged 'K' in the middle of his surname.

From the resources available online (including the digitised unit war diaries for the 1st Battalion), I discovered that Eric was 20 years old and working as a labourer when he enlisted in the AIF on 12 January 1915. As he was under 21 he obtained permission from both his mother and father to enlist. Eric had a small amount of military experience, having served six months with cadets and six months with the Militia. He embarked from Sydney with the 4th reinforcements of the 1st Battalion on 10 April 1915, aboard HMAT Argyllshire, bound for Egypt. They were still at sea when the famous landing took place at ANZAC Cove on 25 April 1915. Eric joined his unit on Gallipoli on 26 May, one of 134 reinforcements for the 1st Battalion to arrive that day. He was allocated to the battalion's 'B' Company.

Men of the 1st Battalion before the attack on Lone Pine August 1915

Eric served on Gallipoli for over two months and took part in the August offensive. He was killed some time between 6 and 9 August 1915, either during the attack on the Turkish trenches at Lone Pine, or the subsequent Turkish counter attack. He was only 21 years old. His body was not recovered in 1915, but when the unburied remains of the men killed at Lone Pine were interred in the newly created Lone Pine Cemetery after the war, his remains were believed to be among them. As his exact grave location was unknown a memorial headstone was placed in Lone Pine cemetery to commemorate him.

Lone Pine Memorial and Cemetery

Eric Walker is commemorated here at the Memorial on panel 31 of the Roll of Honour. He is also commemorated on the War Memorial at Wahroonga in New South Wales and on the Warrawee Public School Roll of Honour.

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