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The Sydney suburb of Mosman was grievously affected by World War One. From a population of 15,980 in 1914, it is estimated that 1500 men and women, residents of Mosman or with Mosman affiliations, enlisted, almost all in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF). The females who volunteered were nursing sisters. At least 335 of these persons were killed in action or died of wounds or disease.
The author, George Franki, lived in Mosman from 1962 until 1994 and is a Life Member of the Balmoral Beach Club. He served in the R.A.N. and A.R.A and is a member of the Mosman RSL Sub-Branch.
Founded in 1908, the MCC has a proud record of honouring the military service of its members and local residents. 52 members served during the First World War. Their names are recorded on an honour board in the club’s pavilion, while a special plaque commemorates the eight men who died at war. As part of the Club’s local contribution to the Centenary, the MCC has produced Far from Mosman Oval a publication commemorating the MCC players who have served their nation in in times of War.
In the fervour of the early days of WW1, over 700 Mosman and Neutral Bay men joined the Mosman-Neutral Bay Rifle Club, and from those members who received their initial military training with the Club, more than 240 enlisted in the armed forces with 16 of those losing their lives in the conflict.
By 1918 the hospital at Georges Heights was the third largest military hospital in Australia. Men returning from the trenches of the Western Front were treated here. Some were awaiting discharge, others were convalescents returned from overseas, and some were able to perform light duties.
A large staff of over 100 military personnel as well as nursing sisters and masseuses kept the long-term rehabilitation hospital running smoothly. Lieutenant Colonel W. H. Read, an experienced wartime medical veteran, ran a disciplined hospital of 450 beds.
By 1921 the hospital was closed but its wards were converted to barracks and offices and continued to be used by the military. Today many of these original hutted buildings still remain and have been carefully conserved by the Harbour Trust. They are the only WWI military hospital buildings to survive in NSW and are a rare example of a WWI hospital complex.
Vast tracts of our state were settled by returned servicemen and women in the aftermath of the Great War: the rural communities they established lie at the heartland of regional Australia. But the story of soldier settlement has yet to be told. We know little of the experience of soldier settlers and their families as they battled to ‘make a go of it’ on the land.
‘A Land Fit for Heroes?’ will examine the history of soldier settlement in NSW reclaiming a virtually untouched field in the state’s environmental, social, political and cultural history. It will record the forgotten stories of a generation of men and women who survived the Great War and restore history to the communities that made it.