The five diaries of stretcher bearer and despatch rider W.J.A. “Allan” Allsop at the Mitchell Library, collected in 1919 and now scanned and transcribed, are a fantastic resource. But they’re somewhat hidden within the State Library of NSW website and the viewing experience is not the best. See, for example, the album view and transcript of Item 4 on the SLNSW website. How can we bring the diary contents to life?
A Local Studies exhibition in 2009 – Mosman Headliners – revealed some of the great scandals and crimes that lie behind Mosman’s apparent tranquility. One of the most significant came to a positive conclusion thanks in part to the WWI poets.
A Mosman boy of 15 who bluffed his way to fight at Gallipoli, was wounded and repatriated home only to re-enlist under his real name for the Western Front in 1917; a pioneering Australian aviator who saw the future of air travel decades before most, went broke several times doing it, and crashed in the Pacific just as formal recognition and a knighthood was to be his.
On arriving at the firing line grim sights confronted us. Dead & wounded lay in heaps behind the parapet and worn-out Australians crouched close under cover. The looks in their faces and on the faces of those lying on the ground greatly impressed me. Chaos and weird noises like thousands of iron foundries, deafening and dreadful, coupled with the roar of high explosives or coal-boxes as they ripped the earth out of the parapet, prevailed as we crept along seeking first of all the serious cases of wounded. Backwards & forwards we travelled between the firing line and the R.A.P. [Regimental Aid Post] with knuckles torn and bleeding due to the narrow passage ways. “Cold sweat”, not perspiration, dripped from our faces and our breath came only in gasps.
W.J.A. Allsop, diary entry on the Battle of Fromelles
One of the Build-a-thon small group discussions was around local honour boards and honour rolls. I have started a Google Spreadsheet with an index of memorials and a sheet for each.