Saturday, 9 November 2013

Sepia Saturday – Remembering the photographer

This week’s Sepia Saturday photo prompt is of a photographer on a beach (with a lady and a weird toy).
I’m taking the lead of the photographer and tying it in with the start of my Remembrance Day blogs.
This coming Monday is Remembrance Day (11 November) and marks the anniversary of the Armistice that ended the First World War. Each year Australians observe one-minute silence at 11 am on 11 November, in memory of those who died or suffered in all wars and armed conflicts.

I’ve written about Uncle Ricky before, here and here.

Uncle Ricky was a keen photographer and there aren’t many photos of him – you know the type – always the one at family gatherings behind the camera.
Some of my other Sepia Saturday photos were taken by Uncle Ricky.

This is one of the few photos we have of the Uncle Ricky I knew – as a much older man (not sepia but over 40 years old). 
It was taken on 22 June 1972 at the celebration for his 50th wedding anniversary, when Uncle Ricky was 78 years old – and still BEHIND the camera!

Recently I visited the Australian War Memorial in Canberra and saw some of Uncle Ricky’s war diaries. I was allowed to take some photos (after checking copyright restrictions) and have started transcribing them.

I’ll continue posting transcribed pages as much as I can this week, so if you are interested, come back and read more during the week.

Apologies for the lengthy blog but you can read as much or as little of the diary entries as you like.

These pages are from 56 years before this photo was taken – in June 1916 when Uncle Ricky was 22 years old:

Inside front cover:
No 28 – Signaller F. E. T. Fitts
Hqrs Signallers
29th Battn
8th Bde

Tuesday June 20th – Choppy seas – Disembarkation orders read – Concert on board – Destroyer (escort) drew in close and sent signals; Troops gave cheers and band played for them -

Wednesday June 21st – Boxing contests on board

Thursday June 22nd – Mess orderly for the day – more disembarkation and entry (?) orders read – Expect to go off ship tomorrow – SA (?) inspection -

Friday June 25th – Land in sight from early morning – Arrived Marseilles – Pulled in to wharf about 9am – Time has jumped ahead 1 hour on account of “daylight saving” – The approach to the wharf is very pretty, the place is surrounded by very high hills – Foggy in distance in morning – Disembarked at 4.45pm and rested on wharf – Left wharf at 830 and marched to railway yard – Entrained at 12.45 – Train started at 1.15am

Saturday June 24th – Train pulled up at a place called ORANGE for breakfast, hot tea served – Reached LYON about 5pm – Pulled up at LYON-VAISE for tea about 6pm – Girls are employed in the railway depots as carriage cleaners etc. – The scenery so far has been beautiful; the train runs through the hills by tunnels and over valleys – There is a very long tunnel outside LYON – Pulled up again at 11pm to 12 m’dn’t, hot tea served –

Sunday June 25th – Pulled up at 11am at MONTARGIS for breakfast – At a big junction station JOVISY we shunted off the Paris line onto a line going in the direction of LILLE – Pulled up at VERSAILLES [arrow pointing to the top of the page where it is written:] Saw the Eiffel tower and Paris in the far distance [new line] for a few minutes and the Red cross nurses served us with a drink which tasted like liquorice – The country is much flatter here and there are not so many orchards and vineyards as in the south, but all cultivated – At EPLUCHES we pulled up for tea; All the civilians were round the train here, after souvenirs

Monday June 26th – Detrained at 10am at STEENBEQUE, a little village about two miles beyond town of HAZEBROUCK – At MORBECQUE we were allotted to billets, sigs being in a barn with batn hqrs – We are about 16 miles from ARMENTIERRES and the firing line and can hear the big guns at night time.

Tuesday June 27th – We are living on Bully Bag (?) – biscuits and jam – We have established visual communications with the companies and bn hqrs – Full marching order inspection in morning by the Col. – on the 12-3 shift on visual –

Wednesday June 28th – On the 9-12 shift – Walked about Morbecque during afternoon – The traffic on the road is very heavy – motors and DRs passing day and night – Battalion out on route march; Sigs exempt – General Birdwood visited us in our billets in evening –

Thursday June 29th – 6 to 9 shift in morning and 6-8 in evening – Watched British aeroplanes manouvering (?), also one being fired at in distance

Friday June 30th – Mail to hand (English) – Ray Temly (?) turned up again – On 3 to 6 shift – More aeroplanes being fired at –

Saturday July 1st – Mess orderly – Gas helmet drill in morning – Nice sunny day – Heavy gunfire heard at night from direction of Armentierres –

Sunday July 2nd – On 9-12 shift – Batn on church pde in morning – Gas and Steel helmets and smoke glasses issued – Parcel arrived from home with …(?)..., sox, soaps and eatables –
Monday July 3rd – On 7-9 shift – Battn went through tests with Gas and Tear gas – Rumours of another shift, around –

Tuesday July 4th – On 4.30 – 7.30 shift – New electric lamps issued to Bn, had practices with them –

Wednesday July 5th – On 1.15 to 4.30 shift – Pay day – Some of the boys returned merry from the town –

Thursday July 6th – 10-11.50 (?) shift – Box respirators issued to sigs –

Friday July 7th As Usual


  1. What treasures, having a keen photographer in the family and a diary to explore as well.

    1. Actually three diaries and with entries from the day he left Australia to the day he came home - over four years' worth!
      Amazing, heart breaking and amusing - what a man he was.
      I'm working on transcribing what I photographed and then hopefully the AWM will remember to send me the rest to transcribe the whole lot.

  2. A great record, and good on you for taking on the transcription of it all. I recently read part of a book of letters written home by a relative in WW1, right up until the day he was killed. After his death one of his sisters to whom he had written had typed them all up and had them bound in book form. A labour of love, and very poignant - I wish I'd had time to read the whole thing, but we were only visiting for a few hours so there wasn't time for more than a cursory read unfortunately.

  3. Once again we think alike with Remembrance Day posts.

    How wonderful to have the diaries. I will be back to read more :)

    1. Can you please add "subscribe by email" so that I can get an email every time that you make a post?

  4. Those of us who have diaries are so incredibly lucky! I have one of my great-uncle Allen's; he was in France, too. His diary even has lots of little photos of people--mostly women, I must say - but they are not identified...we'll never know!

  5. I'm sure he would love to know that his memory lives on with this diary and a photograph of him doing what he loved. I was keen to know what his diary said for June 24th. That is my birthday and although I wasn't born until the inverse of the last two digits of that year (1961), it was interesting to think of your uncle on his tour of duty, and his impressions of the train at Lyon.

    1. Yes, interesting - the beauty of the countryside, the wonder of new countries and sights, contrasted with the horrors of war!

  6. Amazing record of his service and that time and place.

  7. My grandfather had a journal when he was in the Navy around 1901-1905. My sister transcribed it when she saw it and I copied her transcription and put it online.

  8. The everyday-ness of some of the entries is what makes them very interesting. I admire your project of photographing and transcribing them.

    1. I posted some more and these are in battle - it's so odd to read "as usual" as an entry for a day - how could anything be "usual" in those circumstances - the "everyday-ness" you mention!

  9. An absolutely fascinating peek into someone's daily life. Good post!

  10. A photographer and a diarist! What a wonderful gift for future family historians.

  11. So appropriate for today. thanks.

  12. Why shouldn't he have still be behind the camera at 78? - I am, but still have two years to catch up with him.!!. Your Uncle's war diaries are historic documents there must be a place for them to be shared as part of the centenary of WWI next year.