December 1916

One hundred years ago, on the 30th November 1916, Annie Wheeler wrote to Miss M.S. Trotman (Mary Stewart) from her boarding house in Lancaster Gate, London.  Annie and Mary had both worked for Doctor Voss in Rockhampton; Annie, a nurse and Mary, Doctor Voss’s secretary.  “Mothering” her boys required money and Rockhampton based Mary was Annie’s financial lynchpin, setting up and managing bank accounts and money transfers, raising funds and co-ordinating fund raising efforts.  Mary was also the primary contact person for Annie and Portia and the boys’ families.  Rather than write to every family about their sons, bothers and husbands,  Annie wrote detailed letters to Mary who ensured the letters were published in the local newspapers, “The Capricornian” and “Morning Bulletin”.

Annie’s letter of the 30th November (a digitised copy is available on Trove) began by expressing her gratitude, “I really do not know how to express my gratitude to all the kind friends who helped Miss Nellie Coar to send me that splendid donation of £86 to spend on my boys.” According to the Reserve Bank of Australia Inflation Calculator, this would be equivalent to about $8,376 today.  Nellie Coar raised this money by publishing a book “Just the Link Between”.  The book (a copy is in the SLQ collection) is really a calendar with quotes for each day of 1917 submitted by people who wanted to thank Annie.  Advertisers paid for the cost of the book and all proceeds from sales were sent to Annie.

Annie acknowledged many other donations totalling £143, almost $14,000 today.  With winter upon them Annie used the money to make up parcels to send to the boys. Since her last letter to Mary Trotman Annie had sent off “fifty-three parcels to one of our battalions, each containing a warm under vest (with long sleeves), a muffler and a pair of knitted socks”.  There was also “playing cards, cribbage boards and race games”.

Another Queenslander, Belle Glasgow, wife of then Brigadier-General William Glasgow was living at the same boarding house at Lancaster Gate as Annie and Portia at the end of November 1916.  Belle had left her two daughters in Gympie and was living in London to be closer to her husband.  The Glasgow letters are part of the SLQ collection.

 

 

One hundred years ago today

Christmas 1916, London was home to millions of people who were weary of war. The war had ripped apart the young men of England and her dominions for more than two years and was not yet satiated.  The young men who survived were back in London and visible.  War was visceral, the injuries often catastrophic.

Living in the heart of London was a woman from Rockhampton, a small hot humid town with a population of not quite twenty thousand in central Queensland, Australia. Her name was Annie Wheeler and during the war she found her calling.

Annie Wheeler’s original letters are part of the State Library of Queensland’s collection and I am using my 2016 QANZAC 100 Fellowship to research Annie’s life, and work, in London, during the first world war for a book I am writing.  My book is set towards the end of 1916 and during 1917 and as I research and write I am often struck by the fact that the letters and diaries were written exactly one hundred years ago.

One hundred years ago Annie and her daughter Portia were in the middle of London, in the middle of the first world war.

One hundred years ago today

This is the excerpt for your very first post.

“11pm, Tuesday 4th August 1914: with the declaration of war London becomes one of the greatest killing machines in human history.”

London, home to almost eight million people swells with soldiers and people wanting to contribute to the war effort. While countless books, articles, films and television programs have told the stories of the soldiers and the battles, very few tell the stories of the people living and working in London during the war.

In the heart of London was a woman from Rockhampton, a small hot humid town with a population of not quite twenty thousand in central Queensland, Australia. Her name was Annie Wheeler and during the war she found her calling.

Continue reading “One hundred years ago today”