One hundred years ago, on the 25th of May 1917, 95 people were killed and 192 injured when bombs exploded in the busy streets of Folkestone on the Kent coast in England. In the late afternoon, as people went about their business, German Gotha planes dropped several bombs without any warning. More than half of those killed were women and children. Authorities had decided not to install warnings in the seaside town because they didn’t want to scare off visitors. Reports in the Dover Express at the time describe “the ghastly scenes in the main street of the town where the dead and wounded were lying about in the streets, mixed up with dead horses and smashed vehicles and wreckage from the shops”. A large number of people were killed outside the greengrocer’s shop.
The German press was thrilled with the success of the raid which proved the Gothas were capable of dropping bombs from a great height in daylight. Even though the news was heavily censored in England people feared it was only a matter of time before the bombs reached London.
Annie and Portia Wheeler, like most people in the capital, had grown accustomed to air raids. As soon as a warning sounded Annie headed to the basement with her writing pad and work book. Many of the long letters to Mary Trotman, in Rockhampton, were written during air raids. The air raids gave them a chance to catch up on their increasing workload. The number of soldiers on Annie’s books doubled in 1917. Annie’s Christmas present, “Just the Link Between”, written by the central Queensland community left no doubt about the value of her work. Compiled by Nellie Coar, the book was a 1917 calendar containing 365 expressions of gratitude and appreciation; one for each day of the year. Dorothy Boyle’s entry on the 26th May sums up the community’s feeling. A copy of the book is in the SLQ Collection.
May also contained a military march composed by Helena Miller. It was called “The Wheeler”. One hundred years after it was composed Brian Cleary recorded the music. Click on this link to listen to it. The Wheeler
Annie had become the link between the mothers and their sons which the drawing on the cover represents. Inside links of chain are a soldier, Annie in the middle and his mother and father reading her letters in the paper.