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Wednesday, 20 July 2016

From A Hospital Bed: a Tribute to Justin Breguet and his brother Leslie.

Our Sepia Saturday photo prompt this week dates from the 1930s and shows a twin-bedded room in the Hotel Imperial, Ostend Belgium. I don't have anything similar in my collection. Instead I have two published letters, one of which was written from a hospital bed.

 My post relates to the 100th anniversary of the battle of Fromelles, which has been commemorated this week both in Australia and in France. 2000 Australians died on the first day of battle, namely 19 July 1916. Thanks to the wonderful Trove web site, I found two letters that were been written home by Signaller Leslie William Breguet to his parents Councillor Justin Augustas Breguet and his wife Rose Hannah, and published in the Geelong Advertiser. Leslie was a first cousin of my husband's grandfather Joseph Henry Featherston and his brother Albert Leslie, their mothers Rose and Margaret Neilson being sisters. The first letter was written in November 1915, not from hospital but  "in the midst of a heavy bombardment of artillery fire". This would appear to have been at Gallipoli, where Leslie had returned after recovering from what he described as non serious battle scars.  It's difficult to imagine how he was able to write under such conditions at all. He is fervently patriotic and says he is glad his brother Justin is coming and wishes him the best of luck, because "the more men we have, the less risk to each". 

Geelong Advertiser 22 January 1916
Son of Cr. J. A. Breguet, writes to his parents at Anderson-street, Geelong West. under date November 21st, 1915: " I am in the midst of a heavy bombardment of artillery fire, and the place is just like hell on earth. Have been having a very strenuous time, but still am in good spirits, and full of hope.We have just come back from ---Island, where we have been have resting for a few weeks. I have received most of your letters and papers, and I thank you so much for them, especially the "News of the Week" : it is one of our few pleasures to receive letters and papers from home and dear old Geelong. I have written several letters and cards. and hope you received them. I have been in fairly good health, and though I received several battle scars they are not serious. I got my right arm and hand in the way of an exploding bomb, and it put me out of action for a while, but am now back doing my duty. Fred England was wounded on the third day with shrapnel. I had a letter from him, and he is in the hospital at —, and will be at it again shortly. I have lost some of my best mates, shot down at my side, I am glad Justin is coming, and wish him every luck. They are all wanted: we must win, and to do so we must put forth all our strength. Many brave lads have fallen: the more men we have the less risk to each. Remember me to all my friends. I suppose my mates are all gone by this to the front Wishing you all a merry Christmas, and that the New Year will bring us success.-- Your loving soldier boy. Leslie.

The second letter from Leslie to his parents was dated 2 August 1916, and this one was written from his hospital bed in Bramshott Hospital, Hampshire. This would have been Bramshott (12th Canadian General) Hospital, developed at Bramshott Camp. The ward and beds would have looked nothing like our prompt photo, but Leslie clearly was very grateful to be there, "between the white sheets". From Gallipoli he had gone on to Fromelles, where he had been been wounded by shrapnel in a midnight charge on that fateful day of 19 July. He had not seen his brother Justin but hoped he was safe and through the 19 July battle.

Geelong Advertiser 23 September 1916 

Copy of a letter received from Signaller L. W. Breguet by his parents in Anderson street Geelong West, from Bramshott Hospital, Hampshire, England, dated August 2nd, 1916:
"My Dear Parents, By the time you receive this letter you will have heard of my being out of action; I write this somewhat under difficulties, sitting up in bed. It is an unspeakable joy to be between the white sheets after over 12 months' fighting. The doctors and nurses are so kind and attentive; they cannot do enough for our Australian lads. We have had a very strenuous time:- there are only a few left in my battalion that came from Gallipoli, but all the new lads from Australia have proved themselves just the same as those before them. I am suffering from shell shock and wounds. I was wounded in the side by shrapnel on July 19th in a midnight charge. I was almost completely buried on two occasions, but managed to come out. Several of my mates went down. It. was a fearful battle. The Australians will stop at nothing; my one desire is, to get well, and to go back to help my mates, for they need all the help possible. We had the honor of being the first Australians to take part in the great battle of the Somme. I have not met Justin yet. I, am so longing to see him. I hope he is safe and through the 19th July battle. I have seen Gordon Moore, and several of my Geelong com-rades. Fred England was with me just before the orders came to advance; he was very fit. Tell his parents from me that he is a game fighter, always ready to do his bit. I have not heard of him. since, but hope he came safely through. I have never seen one coward amongst the Australians on the field; they conduct themselves well. There is a kind of wild blood in our bodies that makes us such fine fighters: it is a boast I am proud of. I sometimes long for home. I would like to see yon all. but the call to duty is uppermost in my mind. How I hope to have another go At the Huns, and if I have the good luck to get through this great war, I will have experiences such as you never would dream of to relate. You see sights in travel: beautiful countries, sunny France, and then the battle field, it's wonderful what one can stand. I must when I get well enough have my photo, taken, and send it to you: you would hardly know me. Remember me to all my friends. This war cannot last if the Allies can keep the supply to the required amount, as we have them moving. I will write again in a day or so. do not worry about me'. The people in England are out to do anything and everything for us wounded, and sick boys: They are so kind."

                        Justin Brequet, pictured right, before embarkation for World War 1.
                         Photograph from the Australian War Memorial Collection, DA13759

Contrary to his brother's hopes, Private Justin Hercules Breguet did not survive the Battle of Fromelles. He was one of those 2000 men killed there on 19 July and hastily interred in a mass grave. His name appears on the memorial wall at Fromelles, but only very recently his remains have been identified by means of DNA testing and matching with a relative on his father's side of the family, which you can read about here in the Geelong Advertiser. A new headstone bearing his details was dedicated to him at a ceremony at Fromelles yesterday, 100 years later on 19 July 2016. 

Geelong Advertiser, 20 July 1917

Justin and Leslie's cousin Albert Leslie Featherston was killed in the Somme just a few days after Leslie's second letter was written, on 8 August 1916, and I have written about him in an earlier post here.. L
eslie William Breguet survived the war. He married but had no children and died in 1983 aged 89. There are headstones for the whole Breguet family at the Geelong Eastern Cemetery, where hopefully they can now rest in peace. They had known earlier tragedy when their daughter Florence Elizabeth died as a baby, as shown in this very sad little death notice. 

Geelong Advertiser, 27 May 1896

I don't know if the boys' mothers Rose Hannah and Margaret were in contact with one another but I hope they were able to comfort one another in their sorrow. Their brother William Alexander Neilson had died in 1913, and Margaret's husband Joseph Featherston in 1914, so it must have been a very sad period in their lives.

To read more blogs that may or may not be related to this week's theme photograph, go to 
Sepia Saturday #340

Since writing this, I've made contact with Sharyn, the lady who arranged for DNA identification to be made, and she said it was a pity we were not in touch earlier because apparently maternal DNA from our family would have made the identification process simpler. Never mind, the main thing is that 100 years later Justin Hercules Breguet has been found and laid to rest with honour.

Memorial created by Pierre Seillier, Battlefield Guide, Fromelles 

Friday, 15 July 2016

Grand Openings, Sad Closings and a Survivor

Our Sepia Saturday prompt photograph for this week shows the facade of an old picture palace in Dudley Hill, between Bradford and Leeds, according to our leader Alan Burnett, whose photograph it is.

Before the advent of television, going to the pictures was much more of an occasion than it is now. People dressed up smartly for their afternoon or evening out, as quite apart from your theatre-going companions, you never knew who you might run into at the cafe during the interval between the screening of two full length movies, or perhaps movie-tone news and a short film, followed by the main feature. Back in Australia the National Anthem of God Save the Queen was played at the beginning of each session, with the audience expected to stand up and show their loyalty. 

There were lots of picture theatres to choose from, many of which have since closed down completely, with the buildings that housed them either demolished or converted to some other use. A much smaller number remain in operation, competing valiantly against the multiplex cinemas that have sprung up in recent decades in major shopping centres. The web site purports to be a comprehensive catalogue of cinemas world-wide, past and present.

I've been looking into a few examples of old picture theatres from the areas I'm familiar with in both Melbourne and Sydney.

One old theatre that does not appear in, but about which I've been able to find out quite a lot via the invaluable Trove web site was The New Malvern Theatre, located on the corner of Glenferrie and Dandenong Rds, Malvern. It opened with much pomp and ceremony, as can be seen from these extracts from publications of the day. The first article describes a walkabout given to a reporter shortly before the opening night.

Table Talk 9 June 1921, snipped from the Trove web site

The second and third articles report extensively on the grand opening, with emphasis on different aspects.

Table Talk 9 June 1921, snipped from Trove

Prahran Telegraph, 4 June 1921, snipped from Trove
The fourth item is a feature article on the New Malvern, accompanied by a  sketch of the exterior and photographs of the interior.

Table Talk 9 June 1921, snipped from Trove

In later years the New Malvern  became a Hoyts establishment, and the last movie to be shown there was apparently Crocodile Dundee. The theatre was permanently closed in 1987, and the building was demolished soon afterwards.

Another picture theatre that operated in my local area, just around the corner in fact, was the art deco designed Waverley Theatre. Opened in 1936. It operated as a theatre until 1962, after which it was used as a recording studio. Despite heritage trust recommendations that the interior be preserved, the building was converted to flats in 2006.  I took a photograph of the facade this morning, and when I noticed that a unit inside was for sale I took the opportunity of going in to inspect, just out of interest. En route I was able to view what remained of the interior, which Ihas been tastefully done and on the walls are a number of framed photographs of the original interior plasterwork, two examples I was able to photograph and include below.

Argus, 12 August 1936, snipped from Trove

Waverley Theatre art deco facade, July 2016

I think some of these railings are still used on the stair wells.

The Wintergarden at Rose Bay in Sydney was yet another of the many impressive old picture theatres of the past. We lived nearby for a couple of years from 1980-1982 and may have even seen a movie there, but I can't be sure. We had our first baby at the time so didn't get out much!  The Wintergarden closed in 1987, the same year as the New Malvern, and was similarly demolished. I certainly remember walking around the building, if not attending a show inside. 

Sydney Morning Herald, 20 March 1928, snipped from Trove

The Wintergarden Picture Theatre, as pictured on Photograph uploaded by John Gleeson.

Finally, on a positive note, here's one more theatre I'm personally familiar with, and this one is still defiantly surviving, and with just one screen. The Hornsby Odeon as it is now known is located in Hornsby NSW and our son and daughter-in-law who live within close walking distance are regular patrons. We've been to the movies there ourselves over the years when we lived in Sydney. I remember for example taking a party of children to a noisy screening of Men In Black in the early 1990s. 

Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 23 January 1923, snipped from Trove 
Unfortunately I don't have my own photograph of the Odeon, but you can see some here in this Daily Telegraph article about its history and longevity. The sound system has been modernized but I don't believe the seating has been. On the plus side you are less likely to fall asleep during a movie if you are not relaxing in padded comfort.  Long live the Hornsby Odeon!  I much prefer smaller independent theatres and their choice of movies to those of the large cinema complexes. None survive in my immediate area, but we do patronise a couple of semi-original older picture theatres located not far away in Brighton.

For more reminiscences on how things used to be when we went to the pictures and no doubt many other ideas as well, just click and go  have a look at Sepia Saturday #339

Friday, 8 July 2016

To cap it off

This week's Sepia Saturday prompt shows a gentleman out and about in his flat cap.

Below are a couple of photographs of my husband's great grandmother Mary Ann Olds nee Patt with family members, on the pier at Weston-Super-Mare, enjoying a day out. Mary Ann's husband Albert died in 1939 and Mary Ann in 1943, so the pictures may have been taken in the early 1940s. In the first photograph with Mary Ann are her daughter-in-law Doris Olds and three of Mary Ann's seven sons, two of whom are wearing flat caps. The photograph may have been taken by Frank Olds, husband of Doris.

Here is another photo from the day, and this one is likely to have been taken by Doris, with her place in the lineup being taken by her husband Frank. In my opinion the Olds men look a lot more stylish with their caps on rather than off here, but Frank may not have been a flat cap man. Mother Mary Ann looks stylish too, and she certainly wasn't about to remove her smart hat!

I think the man on the left of both photographs could be Mary Ann's youngest son, Arthur Percy Reginald Olds, 1907-2008. In the street photograph below with his mother Mary Ann, his wife Elsie and daughter Audrey, he is again looking jaunty in his flat cap. He was christened Percy Arthur, but was always known as Little Arthur, having been named after his older brother Arthur William, who died aged 14, 2 years before Arthur was born. Little Arthur outlived both His wife and daughter, and I hope he was still as stylish when he was a centenarian.

To cap it off, here is a little chap in a cap that I just finished knitting. He is about to jetset off to Smithers Canada to meet my brand new great nephew James, taking with him a gift of beanie and booties. At just over a week old, baby James is probably a little young for a flat cap, but you're never too young or too old for a beanie!

Rockabye Sweet Baby James, by James Taylor and Carole King, Live at The Troubadour 

For more blogs inspired by this week's SS prompt photograph, just click here.

Friday, 1 July 2016

After the War

I don't have any family photographs that remotely ressemble a group of performers like the Merrymakers featured in this week's Sepia Saturday prompt image above. All I can offer this week is a group photograph that I believe must have been taken on some Scottish hillside in the vicinity of the town of Turriff in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, in about 1919 or 1920. 

My grandfather Oliver Desmond Cruickshank 1893-1985 served as a sapper in the NZ Expeditionary Force from mid 1916 until the end of World War 1. Although considered to have been only slightly wounded, he carried shrapnel in his forehead for the rest of his life. According to my aunt Nella, Oliver didn't go back to New Zealand right after the war but stayed on in the UK for a year. While there he commenced a course of training to become an architect in London and was also able to visit his grandfather's family in Turriff, Aberdeenshire. Grandparents Adam and Charlotte Cruickshank nee Joss had emigrated from there to New Zealand in 1863, together with Adam's brother William and his wife Jane nee Imlah and family, and Adam and William's mother Janet Mackie. Janet died in 1880, Jane in 1905, Charlotte in 1908, William in 1911 and Adam died 1914, but no doubt they had passed on the details of their Scottish families to their children and grandchildren, and had they been still alive they would have been pleased to know that young Oliver had taken the opportunity to go up to Turriff from London and meet some of his Scottish relatives.

Either Nella or Oliver has written names on the back of the photograph, as shown below, but unfortunately they are not very enlightening. In fact I would not have recognised Oliver, sitting cross-legged second from left, if he hadn't been identified. The young boy sitting in front of him is named as Duncan, Janet's brother.  Duncan James Cruickshank, 1915-1978, was a third cousin to Oliver.  Duncan could only have been 5 or 6 at most in this photograph, although he looks older. He followed in his father's footsteps as the town pharmacust, as did his son Alan after him.

 Duncan and Janet's father was George Morrison Cruickshank, Turriff pharmacist and son of Alexander, who was a first cousin to Oliver's grandfather Adam Cruickshank.  George Morrison Cruickshank 1874-1960 was married to Jessie Ann Cruickshank 1885-1954, whose parents were Alexander Cruickshank and Jessie. The surname Cruickshank is a common name in Aberdeenshire and it appears that George and Jessie Ann weren't related, other than by marriage.  I think the lady identified as Jessie, one of the two older women sitting together behind Duncan, must have been his grandmother Jessie, who would have been about 60 in 1920, rather than his mother Jessie Ann who would have been 35. The gentleman standing at the back seems to have been identified as G Uncle Jim. The only possibility I can see for him on the family tree as far as I currently have it is bachelor James Cruickshank, 1873-1951, brother of George and uncle of Duncan.  At present I think that only Duncan and Jim were related to Oliver's Cruickshank line. I have no idea who Frank and Gladys might have been but they were not siblings of George or Jessie Ann, and I also don't know what the letters MG refer to. More research is clearly required!

Oliver found that architecture was  too much for him. and upon his return to New Zealand he went back to his trade of plumbing and then on to working for the government as a Health Inspector.  He married Myrtle May Byles in Wellington NZ on 7 April 1921. He visited our family in Australia a few times but never traveled further field again.   The family connection continues however, because my parents and my aunt Nella became friendly with Duncan's sister Janet and in turn I am in touch with her son Andrew and his family. Andrew (my 4th cousin once removed) and his wife Ann attended our daughter's wedding in England in 2012.

Oliver and Myrtle on their wedding day

Duncan's father George Morrison Cruickshank doesn't feature in the hillside photograph with Oliver and Duncan, but perhaps he was the photographer. In any event, here he is with my parents and myself when we visited Turriff in 1954. 

In memory of Janet, Charlotte and Adam, William and Jane, hardy emigrants who never returned to those Scottish hillsides of their homeland, and of Oliver their great grandson, grandson and great nephew and soldier, who did so on their behalf, here is Andy Stewart singing his classic hit song of the 1960s , Scottish Soldier. I still have the original LP, much loved by my parents.

To read other Sepian blogs that are probably more related to the Merrymakers prompt this week, click here.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

'Hello', little dear!

This week's Sepia Saturday prompt shows a mother calmly reading while her baby sleeps peacefully in its bassinet. The photo comes from an advertising agency, which is not surprising, because that is the only way such a photo is likely to have been taken! How I coped with bringing up four babies is all a bit of a blur these days, but I'm sure that whenever they went to sleep I was busy getting everything else done that I couldn't do when they were awake. I certainly wasn't sitting down relaxing with a book.  I was too busy in the daytime and too exhausted at night to read very much at all for quite a few years!  I have a few photographs of our babies asleep in the pram, probably because taking them out for walks was a good way to get them to fall asleep, but no photos of them asleep in bassinets.

 Below is a card that my mother received from her friend Elaine when I was born. Elaine is the lady who coincidentally appeared in my blog last week holding a koala. Although I don't have a photo of us together, I imagine she also enjoyed holding me as a cuddly baby when she came to visit.

Here is the 'little dear'  referred to above, aged about 6 months, in a bassinet, not asleep but propped up with a pillow and taking notice .

Here I am again, outside enjoying the sunshine. Then in the photograph below I'm in the washing basket!

Below is our first daughter out for a walk in the very basic pram that we used for all four children, also not asleep. 

These days putting babies to sleep on their tummies is frowned upon, and the use of sheepskins, pillows, toys, cot liners and other baby bedding and frills is also strongly discouraged, but somehow our babies survived.

 A blanket and basket lining are used in these two photos of our English granddaughter as a newborn.

Our second daughter and granddaughter are currently living with us, and to conclude, here are a couple of  photos of them, showing Laura managing to read while breastfeeding, although from the mischievous look of baby Lucy in the second photo, that reading was about to come to an end. 


Now for more blogs about mothers and babies, books,bassinets, bedding or soft toys, politically correct or otherwise, tiptoe quietly over to Sepia Saturday #336.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

PLEASE Don't call me a Koala Bear!

This week's prompt photograph shows a koala with its mouth wide open, supposedly yawning. Koalas are marsupials that are native only to Australia, although of course some have been exported to zoos around the world.  They live in eucalyptus trees and only eat certain type of eucalyptus leaves. According to the Australian Koala Foundation, there are less than 80,000 koalas left in the wild, and that figure could well be a lot lower, because numbers Australia-wide are hard to estimate. The site provides a lot of interesting information about koalas and their habits.

Below is a photograph from one of my mother Jean's albums, showing her friend Elaine, cuddling a koala somewhere during a visit to Australia in 1969. Elaine and Jean became life-long friends, from the time they met when Elaine was a student at a deaf school and Jean was a young newly-qualified speech therapist, teaching there in her first job. Jean moved to Australia but Elaine still lives in New Zealand, where there are no native fauna at all, only birds and flora.  The photograph must have been taken in a zoo or wildlife park, because you can't pick these animals up in the wild. They may look cute and cuddly but they are not tame and have to be taught to become used to human contact.

The next photo shows our older daughter and son with a koala at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane Queensland in about 1984.

A few years later in 1987 our two boys were at the same location, with number one son now showing his little brother how to do it.  I can imagine that some koalas might get rather tired of posing with humans all day long and that instead of yawning, the koala in the Sepia Saturday  prompt could be in fact be yelling: 'I've had enough cuddling, please just go away and leave me in peace!"

The following four photographs are ones I've taken of koalas spotted in their natural habitat, on several  Xmas vacations in the small town of Hawks Nest on the mid-north coast of New South Wales, where we are lucky enough to have a holiday unit. The koala colony there is very small, with no more than 12-15 koalas, but they can occasionally be found in the large gum trees lining the local streets, high enough to be safe from dingoes, local dogs and other animals

This next photograph was published on Facebook just recently, and shows a baby koala that had fallen out of a tree during a storm in Hawks Nest, with a gentleman trying to hold it up and coax the mother to come down and get it. Unfortunately that didn't happen, so the baby is now being looked after by a member of the local koala care group at Hawks Nest.

Hopefully you can see more cute pictures and and read all about it here  on the Daily Telegraph's facebook page.

There is one area in Victoria where koalas can be seen in large numbers. This is in the Cape Otway National Park, but sadly overpopulation by koalas has resulted in great damage to the trees on which they rely, with the consequence that many of the koalas have been starving. Despite public outcry their numbers have had to be substantially culled by euthanasia, because they don't adapt well to being re-located. I took these photographs below in Cape Otway in October 2012, and you can see that some of the trees are quite lacking in leaves. There were just too many koalas for them to be able to survive happily and in good condition. You can read more about the current management of koalas in Cape Otway here.


                                          A number of koalas are competing for food in this tree.



Male koalas are territorial and will fight other males for their territory and their right to mate with females. That koala in our prompt could well be attempting to assert his domination and scare others away. I can certainly attest to the fact that they make a lot of noise grunting, screaming, growling and bellowing, particularly at night, which you notice if you are staying anywhere near a koala habitat!

One more koala from my photo collection, this time a solitary fellow who was enjoying the sunshine in the Grampians National Park. 


I'll just finish with a plea for people to not use the word 'bear' when talking about koalas, because they simply are not related to bears at all. I suggest that this is another possibility for the koala in our prompt. He could be yelling that he is not a bear, or perhaps could be singing the song "Please Don't call me a Koala Bear", sung by Don Spencer, which you can listen to here:

For more posts on koalas and other cuddly furry creatures, or perhaps  on yawning or singing or just open mouths, go to Sepia Saturday #335