Today all over the world, Australians and New Zealanders commemorate the anniversary of the landing at Anzac on 25 April 1915. When I attended the Dawn service this morning I reflected upon the sacrifices made by the men and women that have served our countries in all wars and conflicts. However I could not help thinking about the men and women that served with the No 1 Australian Stationary Hospital. Whilst the hospital did not initially land at Anzac (it did later in November 1915), it did significantly contribute to the war service in the early stages of the campaign by tending to the wounded and ill on the island of Lemnos. The hospital was officially equipped and manned to cater for 250 casualties but looked after over 1000 casualties in the middle months of the campaign. These men that worked long hours in terrible conditions must have been resilient and mentally tough to do what they did. Morale would have been a challenge for the leadership team of the hospital.
However there must have been times during the campaign that morale was given a little boost by a specific event or a visit by a ‘celebrity’. One such visit occurred in August 1915. As a new offensive on the peninsula was under way, some of the men of the No 1 Australian Stationary Hospital were extremely fortunate to spend some time with Australia’s first VC winner from Gallipoli – Albert Jacka. He had been admitted to another hospital suffering Gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining) on the 25th August 1915 and when well enough was able to visit a few of the men of the No 1 Australian Stationary Hospital. This ‘once-in-a-life-time’ visit was captured on film; a photo that was treasured by all who were in it (relatives from two of the members had a copy of this photo). It was a small event that would have lifted morale and the spirits of the men at a time that was normally surrounded with death, disease and illness.
Photo of four men from the No 1 Australian Stationary Hospital with Albert Jacka VC.
Front (L-R): CPL Vern Sellars and PTE Clarence ‘Choc’ Fry
Rear (L-R): PTE George Hayward (†03.12.1915 Gallipoli), CPL Albert Jacka VC and PTE Percival Reed
I must admit I am very proud to be an Australian but an Australian that has had family members that have represented our country in the Australian Defence Force. I am fortunate enough to have had two relatives serve at Gallipoli and lucky that both survived. My Great Grandfather on my mother’s side, PTE Frederick BISHOP, was with the 13th Bn, AIF and was wounded during the early stages of the fighting in May 1915. He would recover and serve again with the 45th Bn, AIF on the Western Front before returning to Australia after the war. My other relative, my first cousin three times removed, was LTCOL Henry William BRYANT- the first Commanding Officer of the No 1 Australian Stationary Hospital. This is the drive and passion behind the book. I wanted to recognise the work that my relative, as well as the other men and women, that served with this hospital did to support the war effort during WWI. Henry was an old man when he went off to war. I assume it would not happen today but at the age of 65 he became a Commanding Officer of a hospital being sent to the front. From all reports he did a marvellous job and was mentioned in dispatches twice for his service at Lemnos. However he battled dysentery for a number of months which cannot be good of someone at that age, on an island with little or no water and not having a balanced diet. This was all compounded when news arrived at the Front that his wife has passed away whilst he was overseas. It would have been a very difficult time for Henry and more difficult to recover. He was invalided home in late 1915 where he went back to his medical practice. However he never fully recovered and passed away only 6 years later in an Anzac Hostel. I am proud of Henry’s service and the service of the men and women of the No 1 Australian Stationary Hospital. This Anzac Day I will think about them and what they endured during WWI.
I received this week an email from the son of PTE Garnet Dewar. He shared some wonderful photos of his father that were taken in Jan 1916 in Egypt; a dashing young man. He enlisted in 1914 and was part of the original manning of the 1st Australian Stationary Hospital. Garnet’s son told me a wonderful and interesting story of how his father remembers mixing mustard on the beach in Gallipoli when a turkish shell landed nearby on a tent unfortunately killing all nine occupants. For the remainder of his life he would always recall this story and tell it to family and friends whenever he used mustard on his food.
PTE Dewar was a radiographer and had signifcant experience using x-rays. This would have come in very handy at the 1st Australian Stationary Hospital both on Lemnos and on Gallipoli. Thanks goes to PTE Dewar’s son for sharing some of his father’s experiences with me.
1195 PTE Garnet Dewar of 1ASH