A hundred years ago in Belgium

There was a special commemoration in Belgium yesterday.

ALMOST 1000 people have made an emotional journey to Polygon Wood in Belgium to honour the 5700 young Australian soldiers killed in battle there 100 years ago.

Descendants and friends of the fallen gathered among the headstones at the Buttes New British Cemetery outside the township of Zonnebeke for a dawn service, honouring the sacrifice of the young soldiers killed a century ago on September 26, 1917.

b1a7b4a86fba8126e776ce7b99af0129

I thought of two of my family, an uncle I knew and an uncle I never knew.

This man was for sure my favourite Whitfield uncle – well, the only one I ever met in fact. [There was Uncle George of course, but he was “by marriage”.] But he was a really good man, as I recall, with snowy white hair and a crack shot with a rifle – he had competed in that sport. See my April 2014 post Shellharbour.

UHP-IND574

Kenneth Ross WHITFIELD (b.1897  d. 1967) m 1920 Esma H. EAST (b. 1895 d. 24 Mar. 1971)

The other uncle — great-uncle actually — was David Belford Christison.

davec

His life was short. He married Flora Fletcher in 1907 and had three children, all daughters as far as I have been able to find out. According to one source Flora died as recently as 1971. I never met her. David died four years after returning from World War 1.

His military record is available. He was a sapper.

Engineers, also known as sappers, were essential to the running of the war. Without them, other branches of the Allied Forces would have found it difficult to cross the muddy and shell-ravaged ground of the Western Front. Their responsibilities included constructing the lines of defence, temporary bridges, tunnels and trenches, observation posts, roads, railways, communication lines, buildings of all kinds, showers and bathing facilities, and other material and mechanical solutions to the problems associated with fighting in all theatres.

In civilian life he had been a postman.  He managed to get himself blown up by an exploding shell in 1918 leaving a permanent knee injury.

davidchristison3a

David Christison was in 14th Field Company Engineers, attached to the 5th Division AIF which did indeed take part in Polygon Wood in 1917. His injury came in April 1918.

Initially, the division was stationed on the Suez Canal. In June 1916 it moved to France, taking over part of the “nursery” sector near Armentieres. There it became involved in the disastrous attack at Fromelles in July. In October it joined the First, Second and Fourth Divisions on the Somme around Flers.

In March 1917 a flying column of the Fifth Division pursued of the Germans to the Hindenburg Line, capturing Bapaume. In May the Division relieved the First Division in the Second Battle of Bullecourt, holding the breach thus gained against furious counterattacks. In September it managed to turn an allied defeat into a major victory at the Battle of Polygon Wood.

In March 1918 the Fifth Division was rushed to the Somme region to help stem the German Offensive. There it guarded the vital Somme River bridges. In April it counterattacked at Villers Bretonneux, recovering the town.  

The Fifth Division fought in the Battles of Hamel in July and Amiens in August. In September it forced the Somme River at Peronne and fought on to the Hindenburg Line.

Ken Whitfield arrived in England in December 1917. He has part of a reinforcement for the 3rd Battalion AIF. However, his service with the 3rd Battalion was cut short somewhat by illness. He returned to Australia invalided quite late in 1919.

ken7

Advertisements

Neil’s Family Specials — a reminder

I spent most of May setting up a sequence of posts about the Whitfields and Christisons, my paternal and maternal lineages. If you go to Neil’s Family Specials you will be taken back to 1815 and Ireland and Scotland. Keep scrolling and the posts will take the story from convict days here in NSW through the 19th century, World War 1 and finishing in the late 1920s on the south coast of NSW where my mother and father eventually met.

Do look. I have enjoyed creating the resource, primarily for family connections but family history so often is a good way into history more generally.

Here is a letter from my great-grandmother, Sophia Jane Christison, on the occasion of the death of my grandfather, Thomas Daniel Sweeney Whitfield in 1948. You can read more about both as well as about other ancestors in that family history sequence.

19481948a

Feedback can be nice

Had an email concerning Family stories 4 — A Guringai Family Story — Warren Whitfield:

I have just come across your web story concerning the Guringai Family and in particular the part of your story about Joseph Ashby born in 1810 Colchester Essex UK.

As you see above my name is also Ashby, I am 81 and I live in Colchester. Joseph Ashby 1810 was my Gt Gt Uncle. Until I read your story I had no idea of his life after his release, so as you can imagine my interest was instant.

Joseph was one of eleven children born to Joseph Ashby born 1776 in Ellingham Norfolk UK and his wife Lydia Hardy of whom only five survived their teenage years. Three girls and two boys. Joseph 1810 and William 1814. They were both convicted of larceny and transported to Australia.

William stole a silver watch and was sentenced to seven years on 11 Oct 1834 arriving in NSW on 3 Nov1835 on the ” Westmorland” He gained his certificate of freedom 4/4366 in 1841.

Later he wed Caroline Lee in Melbourne in 1841 and that is all that I know of him.
If this little bit is of interest I would appreciate any info on William if you have any.

Sincerely
Tony Ashby

Time: February 28, 2017 at 12:25 am

I can’t add anything though. Nice bit of history in Tony’s letter. If you check the post Tony refers to you will see a correction that came from another email a short while ago.

NOTE  16 Feb 2017: “The photo of Charlotte Webb is in fact Hannah Ashby.” Thanks to Carolyn Cartan by email. Last week Warren told me on the phone that he had erred in attributing that photo.

More emails, this concerning my mother’s family. See Neil’s personal decades: 23 –- 1915 — Christisons and More tales from my mother 2 — Felled Timber Creek.

Just after the outbreak of World War 1 Dad [my grandfather] was sent to a place with the lovely name of “Felled Timber Creek” which was six miles — walking — from Dalton and about twelve miles from Gunning, the nearest rail head.

I remember as a very small girl being taken from the train at some ungodly hour and then a long drive on a Cobb & Co Coach over rough roads until in the early dawn we were set down as close as the coach could take us to our new home. We trudged wearily about a mile down a bush track, and again, as at Spencer, the school was a slab built building, beside which was a mud floored slab hut which was the kitchen of the residence. The Department had out of the goodness of its heart erected a four room building of timber containing three bedrooms and a dining room, with the ever present verandah across the front where the lucky schoolie and his family were to live. The kitchen-cum-laundry — it had been used as a shearer’s hut originally — was some distance from the main house. I know it was mighty cold going from the kitchen to bed in winter when the south-west wind blew, and in the summer in that area of red clay country the heat came down as only the heat can in the real “Outback”.

cobb-co-augathella-coach-1902-1904
The emails from Bob:

  1. I have just purchased Felled Timber on Offely’s Lane. I have been told the part of the house is the original Felled Timber School. It is only about 500m from the school grounds. Do you have any pics that you would share with me of the School buildings..
  2. I took pics at the old school grounds the other day and have some of the house as it is today. I’m in the middle of moving but I will get a collection together and send them to you it may take a few weeks to get sorted.
    If you don’t hear from me a reminder would be good.
    Regards
    Bob

What was I up to in February 2012?

Hard to believe yesterday’s post replayed items from TEN years ago! Today I offer a selection from Monthly Archives: February 2012.

If I hadn’t seen the video I wouldn’t have believed they could be so stupid…

Mining executives, that is.  Or should that be so contemptuous of us and the truth?

This week mining billionaire Gina Rinehart became the largest shareholder in Fairfax, having already bought a stake in Channel Ten. But this new video reveals this move is bigger than one woman’s ambition — it’s part of a coordinated and very deliberate strategy, with climate skeptic ‘Lord’ Monkton seen here advising a room full of mining executives on how the industry must gain control of Australia’s media. – GetUp.

Monckton!

Skull Murphy: a Monckton fan

See also my post How to pick a climate site that’s not worth reading.

1. It thinks global warming is all about Al Gore.

2. It thinks every scientific organisation in the world from the Royal Society down is in a massive conspiracy to destroy capitalism.

3. It takes Lord Monckton seriously.

4. It touts some pipsqueak or other simply because they cherry-pick “proofs” climate change is not happening.

5. It thinks all the measurements from NASA or elsewhere are somehow rigged.

6. It sees climate science as a racket whose sole aim is garnering research grants.

7. Checking the site’s fine print shows it is a front for powerful energy interests or right-wing US think tanks.

8. It believes the “Oregon Petition” is genuine.

9. It displays the most egregious ignorance of the well-established physics behind climate theory.

10. It has no idea about the concept of “certainty” and the scientific method.

Monckton? OMG! See also Monckton: this has to be a joke…

No, the ones who would be stupid would be us punters – if we were to believe one self-interested word this mining mob comes up with. Now we have seen how desperate they are. Scientific objectivity? Concern about the environment? Concern about the well-being of the country and the planet? Pigs arse!

Compare So What’s A Teacher to Do?

Imagine you’re a middle-school science teacher, and you get to the section of the course where you’re to talk about climate change. You mention the “C” words, and two students walk out of the class.

Or you mention global warming and a hand shoots up.

“Mrs. Brown! My dad says global warming is a hoax!”

Or you come to school one morning and the principal wants to see you because a parent of one of your students has accused you of political bias because you taught what scientists agree about: that the Earth is getting warmer, and human actions have had an important role in this warming.

Or you pick up the newspaper and see that your state legislature is considering a bill that declares that accepted sciences like global warming (and evolution, of course) are “controversial issues” that require “alternatives” to be taught.

Incidents like these have happened in one or more states, and they are likely to continue to happen. Teachers are encountering pushback from many directions as they try to teach global warming and other climate science topics.

The importance of climate change education is, to the RealClimate community, a no-brainer. Numerous professional science organizations, from the American Chemical Society to the American Geophysical Union to the Geological Society of America have stressed the imperative of climate science being an integral part of science education.

So What’s a Teacher to Do?

Long a defender of the teaching of evolution, the National Center for Science Education has recently launched an initiative to support and defend the teaching of climate change science…

Quite a month for anniversaries

Coming up is the anniversary of the fall of Singapore in 1942. I don’t recall that but it certainly affected some people I have known very directly and all of my generation in one way or another. Of course less well known is the fact that I was conceived in 1942.

Then there is 1952 and the current Diamond Jubilee of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II to the throne. That one I remember very clearly for reasons I gave last month. By a very indirect route that brings me to my grandfather, Roy Christison.

That’s him seated on the right of that photo with my brother Ian leaning against him.

You see of the many things Grandpa Christison talked about with me during the 1950s – and oh how significant I now know those conversations to have been in my life and thought! – one topic was the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria, which he, to my astonishment, remembered – along with much else of pre-Federation New South Wales. And another thing that peppered conversations with Grandpa Christison was Charles Dickens. Grandpa Christison’s world-view owed more to Charles Dickens than it did to the Bible – about which he had somewhat agnostic views. He used to say that if you saw someone praying you needed to watch out for the knife behind his back, for example. But Dickens – no friend either of evangelicals and God-botherers – was a pure source of ethics as well as delight. My mother recalled family readings of Dickens, as no doubt many people of my grandfather’s time and tribe would.

And of course it is now the Dickens Bicentennial.

430982_10150753583129989_76529224988_12130690_1874974268_n

There are quite a few connections between Australia and Dickens, which explains his having an entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.  As an article in the Sydney Morning Herald explains:

FOR someone who never visited the place, Charles Dickens wrote, obsessed, lobbied and published an awful lot about Australia.

Though plans to make a lecture tour and write a book, The Uncommercial Traveller Upside Down, fell through, Dickens encouraged two of his sons, Alfred and Edward, to go to Australia. And, of course, many of his most memorable baddies, including Abel Magwitch (Great Expectations), John Edmunds (Pickwick Papers) and Wackford Squeers (Nicholas Nickleby) were transported down under…

At first, Dickens saw Australia only as a place of transportation, says a Queensland scholar, Marion Diamond,on her website Historians are Past Caring.

”But by the 1840s, free emigration to the Australian colonies was becoming important. This sparked his interest.” Encouraged further by the discovery of gold, he supported a number of emigration schemes, in life and in fiction. Indeed, at the end of David Copperfield he ”sends an absolute torrent of redundant characters to NSW: the Micawbers, Mr Peggotty and Little Em’ly, and Mrs Gummidge. Just to round things off nicely, he then has Mr Peggotty return, 10 years later, to tell David just how successful they have all been. Mr Micawber has become a magistrate!  Mrs Gummidge received an offer of marriage. Martha has married a farm labourer, and they now live happily on their own land, 400 miles from the nearest settlement.”

Like Magwitch and Micawber, the Dickens boys prospered in the new land of opportunity. At least, at first.

Alfred bought a station near Forbes, NSW, and later moved to Victoria, where he and his brother set up a stock and station agency, called EBL Dickens and Partners. He died on a visit to the US.

Edward managed a property in Wilcannia, and for five years represented the town in state Parliament. He later worked as a rabbit inspector and lands department officer for the NSW government. He died in poverty in Moree.

In Australia as in England, the public devoured Dickens’s prolific outpourings in books, stage plays and magazines, such as Household Words and All the Year Round.

As the author’s entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography notes, so widely published was his material that it ”helped impose Dickens’s own view of Australia on Australian life and society”.

Marie Bashir, the NSW Governor, is one of many prominent admirers of the author, who died in 1870. She recently recalled how as a ”little book worm” growing up in Narrandera in southern NSW, she visited his statue in the park, and later munched her way avidly through his complete works.

”I can still hear my mother saying, ‘Come to bed, Marie. It’s past midnight. Put that book down’.”

Next entry I will recall another anniversary of a literary nature, and confess more about my new addiction to eBooks!

Damn Fine Gentlemen and visitors from Beijing

Yesterday at The Five Islands Brewery.

2694710

P2120178

P2120177

P2120184

The ladies were part of a bus tour. They are from Beijing. Seems word is getting out about what a good venue we have down here in The Gong.

Yesterday: the Christening Party at Five Islands Brewery

P2190222

P2190214

P2190215

P2190215a

M’s Wollongong visit

P2240238

M in Mylan studying the menu.

My Scottish great-grandfather

My cousin Ray Christison has posted this on Facebook.

16195618_10156429093251959_8461468300584158403_n

January 25 was Burns Night (the night on which Scots celebrate the birthday of the poet Rabbie Burns). This has hit a chord with me this January as I have been busy editing the draft artwork for my biography of my enigmatic and shapeshifting great-grandfather John Hampton Christison. I know that this book has been eagerly awaited by my relatives and by Australian dance historians, and hopefully it will be published very soon.

His is a fascinating story. See many entries, including Neil’s personal decades: 1 — 1815, following on also from my Australia Day post:

I have decided to start a series going back through my “personal” decades – that is mentioning things from family history – starting with 1815, when most of my family connections were elsewhere. One exception — my former sister-in-law’s family: see Family stories 4 — A Guringai Family Story — Warren Whitfield. My former sister-in-law is a descendant of the family of Bungaree.

Sydney was a tad different c.1815:

C 359 Joseph Lycett's painting of Natives and the North Shore of Sydney Harbour, courtesy of Mitchell Library.lightbox

1815

Jane Brooks writes of how Koorie people live in the Domain ‘in their gunyahs made of bushes.’ She also remembers seeing ‘the very tiny canoes with a gin (Koorie woman) fishing in them, quite alone, sometimes with a streak of smoke from it, and we supposed she was cooking.’ (Karskens, p. 209)

See also Bungaree and the George’s Head Settlement: 31 January 1815

On my mother’s side of my family – the Christisons – I note my great-great-great-grandfather David was a teenager in 1815, having been born in 1799 in Fettercairn, Kincardine. Seems the poor old sod died in the poorhouse July 21, 1860 of chronic bronchitis. His wife had also died July 2, 1859 in Poorhouse, Luthermuir, Marykirk, Kincardine.  That I’d never known before. Note Poorhouses in Scotland “provided medical and nursing care of the elderly and the sick, at a time when there were few hospitals and private medical treatment was beyond the means of the poor.”

David’s son, also David (b May 1828), ended up in Australia when his son, John Hampton Christison, brought him here from Brechin in Scotland. Or did he? Is this Brechin David the same as Fettercairn David? The family pictured below are definitely my ancestors and in the later 19th century for sure they were in Brechin. That is surely J H Christison’s parents and siblings.

brechin1

David Hampton Christison, father of of my grandfather John, in Scotland. Exactly when and where  was he born?

The photo is from Arbroath near Brechin.

Fettercairn David Senior married a Hampton or Hanton; this suggests that they are my maternal family: the Hampton name persists to this day.   The date on David Junior’s gravestone is one year out though. So I am left wondering if we have two families here…  Mind you, Fettercairn and Brechin are not all that far apart. That poorhouse is halfway between. Perhaps the family just moved a bit south…

See also Fascinated still by (family) history (November 2013) and My great-grandfather: “morally dubious to say the least.”(October 2013).

Then see Neil’s personal decades: 14 – 1885 — Christisons and Neil’s personal decades: 19 – Christisons 1895. If you want more see the tag Christison.

The following was taken about 74 years ago at 61 Auburn Street Sutherland.  L-R: John H Christison Jr, Eric, John’s father, Sophia Jane Christison (my great-grandmother), Roy Christison Senior, and finally my brother Ian Whitfield.

340910_10150567330646959_829646958_11426050_934651519_o1

I note that CNN reports that “half of Donald Trump’s DNA is Scottish. His late mother, Mary Anne MacLeod, was born and raised on the remote and beautiful Scottish Isle of Lewis, before leaving as a 17-year-old for the United States to work as a domestic servant in 1930.” That is the nearest I get to having anything in common with Donald J Tweet, who gets worse and worse as the days go on… See for example Days Into Trump’s Presidency, The Doomsday Clock Ticks 30 Seconds Closer to Midnight.