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Friday 17 September 2010

Letter Home - 17 September 1915 and Bertie's Diary - 16 September, 1915


16 September, 1915

It was a very busy morning, rushing round after kit, which took a bit of collecting, as one is never quite certain what you want.


211 Piccadilly, London, W.

September 17, 1915

Dear Mother,
Before starting this I will just mention we are in uniform for the second time, and my hand is a bit shaky as Bee and I have come down Piccadilly all out trying to dodge salutes. I should imagine saluting is all right in Camp but in town it is a beastly nuisance, especially when you feel as brand new as we do.

We got our first letters from home last Monday, and I'm sure your fowl boy would look more like a tima tic than ever in my old suits. A lot has been done since I last wrote, in fact I doubt I will remember all that has happened.

On Saturday we took Colonel Appleton out to lunch, (when I say we, I mean Mr Gilliard and the five others of us). He is in the Colonial Offices in Victoria Street, and Mr Gilliard thinks he might be of some use to us. In the afternoon we were marched round to the War Office, where we were medically examined. Then Major Dawson had an interview with us.

He seemed a very nice man, much better than the first person we met there. He told us to go and order uniforms and said that we would have commissions in a very short time. Of course, he talked very nicely about Australians and said he would like to get a lot more of them and that they were doing splendidly. From the War Office, we rushed straight round to get our uniforms at a place called Moss, where they fit you out in a very short time.

On Sunday, we journeyed to Hyde Park in the morning to meet Bobbie Laurence, whom we took to lunch with us. Mim took Bee and self down to her hospital at Mitcham about 9 miles out. It is a beautiful spot for a hospital, especially the hall, which has enormous grounds, and a river to punt on. The men all seemed full of life, but it was very sad to see some of those who had lost their sight or who had been paralysed by shellfire. We met two or three Australian Tommies there. They seemed very good chaps, and I think they were pleased to see someone who'd just come over. We taxied Freyda back with us to Piccadilly where she left us to dine with a friend. She looks very thin and tired looking, I 1don't think she can be well. Dan came to dine with us that night, and after dinner we all went round to Lancaster Gate, where we met a regular nest of Australians, among whom were – Dunstulls, McArthurs and Russells from Carngham

On Monday, we lunched with a lot of people at the Ladies Empire Club. Philip and Bob were there, and we gained a lot of information from the former, who was back on five days leave from the front. Tuesday was spent at Greystones with the Russells -  at least we lunched there and took the train back about 4 p.m.They have a nice little house there - it is quite close to Brooklands and is very well sheltered by timber. Bo Fairbairn was there. Hhe looks fairly wel,l but does not look as if he had much go in him.

Mr and Mrs Russell look very well, but Joan is a bit off-colour. They say Alec is coming back on leave on Sunday, but doubt whether we shall see him or not. That same night we had the Carngham Russells out to dinner at Princes Rest, and then went on to Quinneys, which was a one-man show, but beautifully acted.

Wednesday, we had our uniforms tried on. In fact, we put them on and had a group taken at a shop nearby, with our right-hand man Mr Gilliard in the centre. The proof looks very good, and I will send you out one of each as soon as we get them. At 12 that day we caught a train from Holborn Viaduct – Mim, Uncle, Bee, Mr Gilliard and self, for Chatham. We had lunch there and, in the afternoon, had a look over portion of the naval dockyard. It was all very interesting, and we saw the latest in submarines and other odds and ends, amongst which was the Orvieto. There was also a new monitor - a peculiar looking ship, which has a 15 inch gun at the bow and stern. I believe they are building them for the Danube. We dined down there and returned in the evening.

Thursday, all our names were in the paper as being gazetted, so we all put on our uniforms, just to get ourselves used to them before going to the training camp. We have not heard where or when that will be, but have no doubt that we shall get notice at any moment.

Mim's leave expired yesterday, and she had to go back to work in the afternoon, which was bad luck. She was a bit off-colour but have heard this morning that she is quite well. She really looks very well - I think she is a wee bit stouter than when she left Australia, which is not saying much. She seemed keen to get back to work, just as we are keen to get going at ours.

We have been to lots of theatre since we came over but can't remember one from another. I don't think the reviews are a patch on what we saw last year, such as the Passing Show. They seem to be a kind of mixed grill the whole way through. The message has just come that we are all to proceed to the War Office this morning. I wonder what our fate will be. Well, mum, I think that everything has gone down - anyway there seems to be no more news,

Hoping you are all well,

your affectionate son,

PS no time to read this through.

(The diaries proper do not begin until November - there will be no more posts until the next letter we have, which was written on 2 October 1915)

Thursday 16 September 2010

Some Pictures and Bertie's First Diary Entry


Bell A, S McCaughey, Walgord, Sanger and self left Australia 26th July by the P and O Majura (?). Came overland from Marseille, landed in London at the beginning of September. Mildred met us at Victoria. Next morning were introduced to RS Gilliard, who did all the dirty work connected with getting our commissions. We were all gazetted in the RFA on 23 September and posted to the baby camp at Ipswich. Our quarters at the latter place were at the horse Artillery barracks. There we did six weeks of training.

At 1 PM on 15th September we were ordered to proceed to Southhampton by the 2 PM train from Waterloo the following day. There were 10 of us from this camp who received marching orders. We applied for leave straight away. Bell was left out of this. This is quite a new thing the officers to go to the front without first going on a course. We had only been in training for six weeks. Most of us packed up right away and went to London that evening. It was a tremendous rush but it did not take us long to get on the move.


With the caveat that I am the world's worst photographer and these pictures are only photographs of old black and white snaps in an album at home, here are some pictures taken of and by my grandfather while in Britain during training and later in France during the war. Sadly, they are in a haphazard order, dictated by my inability to control Blogger technology well:

This is my grandfather. He has written this caption beneath it: "Yours truly, trying to keep out the cold before an advance on Bapaume." 

The caption on this one says "A trench at Beaumont Hamel named Taupin, inhabited by gunners, as shown by the wires, and much strafed.

Nisssan Huts at Aveluy, with 2 Master Sergeant and his horse in distance

A sea of mud where the steeds water at Aveluy

FS Siggers, a smart gunner and a stout friend

Ipswich reconnaissance ride
My Ginger after a blizzard, Goense Peroud (?)
Cruikshank (South Africa), Siggers, Hoyland
Cruikshank, Siggers, Hoyland, Evans
Bee writing up after reconnaissance at Ipswich

Fixing a camera for aerial photography

The horse lines and wagons after a blizzard

On the march. Poles up after water and feed
Loupart Wood, a glimpse of it near a corner most British battery used as a zero line. Taken after the Bosche retired
Nether Avon, where Foster was when we first landed
Nether Avon, with Sam, Mim, Daw, Bell and Uncle
Crossroads near Bapaume - the Hun left them mined, they were all like this
Front row: Siggers, Suttie, Self; back row: Evans, Cruikshank
Grant Suttie
Our position behind Bailleul sugar refinery
Our position near Courcelette, X, to right, equals Mess entrance, O, to left, equals telephone pit, connected by mine shafts
There is no caption on this one but my mother thinks they were ready for a turnout parade for which they were given the wrong directions, so their efforts were in vain

Wednesday 15 September 2010

Friends and Relations

In my grandfather's letters and diaries, he mentions lots of people. I will try to list them here, updating when necessary and providing any information I have about them. If anyone else in the family can shed light on any of the people that we can't identify, please get in touch.

Bee - my grandfather's older brother, Bertie, with whom he went to Britain to join up

Mim - my grandfather's sister, Mildred

Freyda Shaw (who marries Pyman) - Thank you to Liz Landy for providing this information: "Lawrence Lee Pyman was born on the 13th March 1917 to Ronald and Catherine Freyda Pyman (nee Shaw). She came from a family of Australian sheep farmers who owned a large station in Victoria, Australia and was brought up in the correct manner, dressing for dinner each night. Catherine was sent to Germany before the Great War 'to grow up' and have an education, under the watchful eye of a devoted governess who was very keen on German opera! On the outbreak of WW1 she returned to Australia, where she met an Englishman, Ronald Pyman (known as George by his family), who worked for Asiatic Petroleum (Shell) in Melbourne, and after a short whirlwind romance, they married in 1916.
Ronald volunteered to serve 'the old country' and enlisted in the army with the Middlesex Regiment. Catherine meanwhile joined the Voluntary Aid Detachment as a nurse and was sent to France. Lawrence would never see his father, who was tragically killed in action on the 3rd May 1917, whilst serving as a Lieutenant on the Western Front with the 15th Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment. On this day, the British attacked the Germans on a 12 mile front just east of Arras. Lieutenant Pyman is buried in Bay 7 of the Commonwealth War Graves plot in Arras Cemetery, France. " etc.   This is taken from the web page

I have a collection of Purrumbete photos I have been working through and I had noted Freyda Pyman and her baby son Lawrence  in one of them. The photos are mostly of  John Manifold (son of W.T. Manifold), Barbara his wife  and their  young son John Streeter Manifold in 1916 - 1917. John was 5 years older than Uncle Wal.  He enlisted in the Royal Horse Artillery in 1916. Some of the photos are  named but sadly many are not.

Russells from Carngham - a family whose property, Carngham, was in the Western District of Victoria (there are other Russells from other properties in the district, who may pop up later in the narrative).

211 Piccadilly - Carlyle Club (Thank you, Bim Affleck)

McArthurs - also from the Western District, from a property called Meningoort


Dan - possibly Dan McKinnon?

Rutledges - graziers from near Bungendore. Their son Foster eventually married Mildred

Bo Fairbairn - lived in Queensland


Mr Gilliard

Siggers. Cruikshanks, Grant Suttie and Evans - fellow officers with whom my grandfather became close friends (Cruikshanks was from South Africa)

Tuesday 14 September 2010


My grandfather, Edward Walford Manifold, (known to his family as Wal), and his brother, Bertie, grew up in the Western District of Victoria. At the outbreak of World War I they, along with many others in the district, were keen to support the war effort and, to that end, they travelled to Britain to join the British Army.

To modern eyes, their decision might seem unpatriotic but, like many Australians at the time, they regarded the interests of Australia and the “Home Country” as indivisible. Also, as country people, they had skill and experience with horses, and so it probably seemed to them that they would be of more use in the Royal Field Artillery than in the AIF. On top of this, my grandfather had earlier attended Cambridge University, and this meant he had direct experience of the old country and many bonds of friendship with English people. Although they are part of a somewhat forgotten group - there is no acknowledgment either in the Australian War Memorial or the Imperial War Museum of Australians who have chosen to fight within British forces in any conflicts - the two brothers were far from being alone in the choice they made.

My grandfather left letters and a detailed set of diaries covering the years he spent at war  from 1915 to 1917. In this blog, I plan to publish both the letters he wrote and the diary entries he made, with each post appearing on the date corresponding to the date my grandfather wrote it. The resulting document will, I hope, provide one more perspective on the experience of World War I.

This entry from The Corian , the magazine of Geelong Grammar School, following my grandfather's death in 1959, provides a little background about him, for those who would like to know a little more:

"Edward Walford Manifold
Walford Manifold, who died at Mondilibi, Mortlake, on October 23, was the last surviving son of the late Mr W. T. Manifold of Purrumbete, Weerite: his brothers were John and W. H. (Bertie). E. W. entered the school in 1903 and played in the XI and XVIII from 1908-1910, when he left to enter Jesus College, Cambridge.

He rowed in the second Jesus boat 1912-13, in the Lents, and enlisted early in the 1914-18 War in the Royal Field Artillery. He proceeded to France in 1915 with 48 Bty., 36 Brigade, RFA, after training in England; promoted 1st lieutenant in 1917 and Captain, July, 1918. Late in 1916 he was awarded the Military Cross for the following act of gallantry: "He laid a telephone line and maintained it for 24 hours under very heavy fire. Twice he visited the advanced posts, recrossing ground which was unheld by our troops, and succeeded in obtaining much valuable information. He displayed great courage and determination throughout."  This was in a F.O.O. at Thiepval.

In September, 1918, he was granted leave to Australia, where later he was discharged to R. of O. After gaining land experience in Western Queensland, he purchased Mondilibi in 1922, and in the same year married Miss Margaret Lorn Alston, who predeceased him.

He always retained his great interest in the School, and for some years served on the O. G. G. Committee. A memorial window in the school chapel is in memory of his young son, Derek.

He was a keen grazier, a willing helper in all local activities, as well as maintaining a long and active association in the affairs of the Ballarat Diocese.

To his three daughters we extend our sincere sympathy."