Memories of my uncles

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During my childhood we didn't seem to hear much about the First War as we were living through the time of the Second World War with a father away in the army at Cape York.

Most of what I know about earlier times was gleaned from my mother, one of nine children, in a family that came from the Isle of Man.

On the Kennaugh side of my family there were three brothers in the First War. They were all in France at the same time. They were Bill, Jim and Fred. On the Reeve side there was Stanley.

Uncle Bill enlisted on 9 September 1914 from Melbourne in the Australian Engineers, 5th  Division A.I.F., Number 114. He served as a sergeant in the 15th Field Coy. Most of his time was overseas until discharge on 22 February 1919, receiving the Military Medal in France. During his time in France he managed to get over to the Isle of Man when he had leave. He had relatives to stay with and I read this in his little red diary, which was compelling reading. In civilian life in Melbourne he owned Oakleigh Dairies and (somehow) made sure his son didn't go to any wars. He was a generous uncle and wanted to buy the Paddington terrace my maiden aunts lived in. They rejected this idea as it was cheap rent. How times have changed.

Uncle Jim had Qwilliam as a second name and he got teased about that at the war. So none of his six children had a second name.

He enlisted from Lismore in the 14th Machine Gun Coy 601 as a Private and was sent to France. He returned to the Alstonville area on discharge and I visited him and the family many time at Rouse Mill, where he had the bakery, local store and was very active in the community.

Uncle Fred was a 20 year old farmer when he enlisted in 1916 and sailed for France with the 3rd Infantry Battalion in the "Euripides" from Sydney. He died in France in April 1917. A year later. I thought he worked with Griffiths Tea in Melbourne.

Stanley Reeve was an uncle I had stayed with at Commissioners Creek on his farm. With his parents and siblings he came out on a ship from London to a Selection at Doon Doon, near Mt Warning. They left the ship in a basket at Lismore.

He joined the 2nd Light Horse Regiment and sailed from Sydney on 9 May 1917. Next year his unit was in the Middle East. On discharge he returned to the farm. As children we always thought his obvious eye injury was from the war but learnt it was from a kick in the face by his horse. But was the horse in the army or on the farm?

Memories and old documents leave much to be desired, but the search is still enlightening. I can still remember seeing the postcards with the embroidered flowers on silk which my mother had been sent from France.

Story shared by Grace Bendall

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