Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Walter Ashcroft and the Limbless Soldiers' Association of Victoria

Walter Ashcroft and his brothers were from Coburg. You can read more about them here

Walter was a remarkable man. Before the war he was a gymnast and weight-lifting champion who originally came to Australia from Liverpool to train for the Olympics. The rest of his family soon followed and took up residence in Coburg.

Two of his brothers died during the war and Walter returned a double amputee. However, he did not let this 'disability' stop him. He started his own bootmaking and repair shop. 

Image courtesy Jean Taylor

His training as an elite athlete stood him in good stead and he had a strong will. It was not long before he could hold his artificial limbs in place just using his muscles. He learned to ride a motorbike and later had a car with hand controls - there was no stopping him.

In 1921, he and a friend, Charlie H. Stevens co-founded the Limbless Soldiers Association and he spent much of his life supporting other men who had lost limbs in combat.

Image P02011.002, Courtesy Australian War Memorial. This group portrait features the first life members of the Limbless Soldiers Association of Victoria. Left to right: Reginald Samuel Amies, Norman Ralph McClure, Walter Benjamin Ashcroft, Charles (Charlie) Henry Stevens, E. Brownhill MBE. (Donors D. Sparkes & G. Stewart)

Members of the Limbless Soldiers' Association of Victoria meeting Dame Nellie Melba in November 1924. Walter Ashcroft is on the far right. Image courtesy Jean Taylor.

After the war Walter married another strong personality, Eva Templeton, whose brothers also served in the war. 

During World War One, Eva's mother Maria Templeton was the President of the local Soldiers' Mothers' Association, a role Eva fulfilled during the Second World War when her own son Edward was serving.

Maria Templeton (nee Unkles) on her 70th birthday with her children William, Eva (Ashcroft), Hugh, Wallace and Keith. Image courtesy Jean Taylor.

Thanks to Walter Ashcroft's daughter Jean for the images and family information.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

HE bombs explained

Thanks to Harvey Shore for this explanation of HE bombs:

H.E. (now just written without full stops, as HE) is the official army term for High Explosive. 

An HE Shell is an artillery (or tank) shell containing high explosive (as opposed to solid shot, schrapnel, air-burst, HEAT or a wide range of other types of shells for special purposes). HE (high explosive) is the commonest type of explosive filling for a shell or a bomb.

These days, an HE Bomb usually means an aerial bomb (dropped from an aircraft) containing high explosive.

However, in the early 20th Century, the word bomb could be used interchangeably to mean a hand grenade, or a mortar bomb, or an aerial bomb.

Anyway, it was a type of explosive that went off with a big bang, usually blowing up whatever it hit, and scaring the pants off whoever was nearby.

Friday, 9 December 2016

Charles Edgar Finchett's war

Charles Finchett on leave in Paris in December 1918. Image courtesy David Finchett.

Charles Finchett was the fourth of five children born to William Finchett and his second wife Elizabeth. His Manchester-born father, a fruiterer by trade, arrived in  Melbourne in the 1880s, married Elizabeth Wearmouth in 1885 and settled in the Little River area where he had a dairy farm. In the late 1890s, the family moved to a farm at Boorolite near Mansfield where the Finchett children attended school. 
In 1909 they moved to Brunswick, and as Charles Finchett is listed on the Moreland State School Honour Board, he must have attended the Moreland school first then moved on to do the higher grades at Coburg before attending Coburg High School (then a Higher Elementary School) in its first intake in 1912.
Charles Finchett and his oldest brother Edward enlisted together and were allocated consecutive numbers. They both served with the 3rd Australian Motor Ammunition Column, sailed together on the Afric and survived the war.
Theirs was a supporting role, carrying supplies to the forward lines, supplying guns and ammunition and evacuating the wounded. Neverthless the cost was high. A letter Charles wrote a few years before his death highlights how difficult those times were:
To live was one thing. To live from day to day under great strain and fear of the unknown was another… I was under mustard and other gas at Messines, where I was blown up by H.E. bombs… In Ypres we worked in a morass of mud… The whole salient was a place of constant barrages and drum fire. The ground really shook with explosions… I came under much enemy bombardment and gas. I was subjected to much nervous stress and came up against many dangerous and frightening situations…

After the war, Charles worked as a clerk in the Victorian Railways, living firstly in the family home in Brunswick then in Caton Avenue, Coburg. He and his wife Alice lived in Prahran then in Malvern East. The effects of his war service were long-reaching: all his adult life he suffered from problems with the nerves in his legs, arms and stomach. He died in 1972 aged 75. His wife died in 1993 aged 84.

I've been trying to discover what an H.E. bomb was, but without success. Does anyone out there know?