Thursday, 11 June 2015

Coburg’s dinner for returned soldiers

Dinner for Returned Soldiers, 6 December 1919. Image courtesy Coburg Historical Society. 

There don't seem to be many smiling faces at this gathering. A number of men are wearing uniforms. Others have badges on their lapels. The occasion was held at the Town Hall in Bell Street. 

Cover of ‘Souvenir of Dinner tendered to Returned Soldiers by the Mayor and Citizens of Coburg. Coburg Town Hall, 6th December 1919’. 

This program has the name J.S. Howell written on the front cover in pencil. 7218 Driver Joseph Sydney Howell served in the Signal Squadron, Anzac Mounted Division. He was later 553 Sapper J.S. Howell. Born on 21 Dec 1889, he died on 10 July 1979. The program (and other material) was donated by his daughters Joyce, Roma and Dorothy.

Coburg Historical Society recently received an email from Syd Howell's daughter Dorothy Venestra. In it she shared a little more of her father's war service experience. She wrote: 
'He had been at Gallipoli in the October 1915 for the evacuation, went back to Egypt, was wounded and sent home to Australia where he was discharged. He re-enlisted with Number 553  and returned on the A70 Ballarat, which was torpedoed in the Atlantic on 25 April 1917.  All on board were rescued, taken to England and my father went on with the No. 2 Section Railway Operating Division to France and Belgium.  Dad was one of the lucky ones - he ended up in Military Hospital in Sutton Veny, England,  with flu, returning home on the Karamala on 2nd February 1919, discharged 3rd Military District, 17th March 1919.'
Dorothy went on to say that she and her sisters Joyce Gunther and Roma Oates 'are all very proud of our Dad, also very happy to see he has a home with the Coburg Historical Society.' 

It is due to the generosity of families like Syd Howell's that historical societies are able to enrich the lives of current and future generations, so if you value your own personal family stories, do consider sharing them with others by donating copies of images and documents to your own local historical society. Or perhaps you have a story of your own to tell? Why not record it for your own family and donate a copy to your historical society as well?

By the way, Syd Howell was a friend of Stan Davis, who also attended the Returned Soldiers' Dinner. 

This postcard of Stan Davis is part of the Coburg Historical Society collection. Image courtesy Coburg Historical Society. I believe Stan was Richard Stanley Davis, son of Richard William Davis and Susan Totten.

You can see from the program that some important local people attended the Dinner, including 'Pompey' Elliott and the Prime Minister, Billy Hughes.

Years after the event, Syd Howell wrote on the autograph page of the program:

N.W. Davis was 187 Private Nassan William James Davis, 7th Infantry Battalion who also served as 484 Private William James Davis, 7th Infantry Battalion. He was Stan Davis's brother.

I would be very interested to hear from anyone who can add to my knowledge of this Dinner. Perhaps you know of a family member who attended? Or have heard about it from older family members?

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