Interested in learning more about the stories and themes explored in The Suspense is Awful: Tasmania and the Great War? Please see below for links to some great resources, including diary excerpts, postcards and other online resources.
Despite being denied many rights, Aboriginal men from all over Tasmania joined up to fight for the Empire in the Great War.
This multimedia resource, developed by Roar Film, reveals the story of 28 men from Cape Barren and Flinders Islands in eastern Bass Strait who enlisted – one of the highest recruitment rates in Australia. Like other young men they embraced the relatively high pay and the opportunity to see the world as well as the chance to prove themselves equal to white Australians.
The Pitman Diaries
Lucy Pitman’s family was running Hobart’s Wellington Hotel at the Springs on Mt Wellington when she enlisted in the AANS in 1917. Lucy had already worked at military hospitals in Hobart and Launceston. Her training at the Hobart General Hospital left Lucy unprepared for the horrific conditions she found at Salonika in northern Greece where she was up to her ankles in snow and mud inside her tent. Letters and parcels from home were her lifeline.
In spite of the hardships, Lucy was up for adventure and rarely let the war and conditions trouble her for long. She was an enthusiastic sightseer, diarist, photographer and souvenir collector who described the places she visited and people she met in vivid detail. She also collected cultural and military souvenirs to post home or bring back with her to Tasmania after the war.
Angus Bethune was seven years old when his father, Frank, sailed off to war. He didn’t see him again for three years. How did Frank recount his experiences to his young son? He wrote jolly postcards, assuring Angus that shrapnel was pretty, fighting was fun and that being wounded was better than having a tooth-ache.
The reality was different. Frank won fame for his fighting abilities. He was known as the Fighting Padre and was awarded the Military Cross. He survived and returned home, a hero, in 1919. Seriously wounded and suffering the effects of gas, he remained frail until his death in 1942.
Angus did his bit, joining his mother to sell fund-raising buttons on Hobart street corners. He served in the RAAF during the Second World War and was Premier of Tasmania from 1969 to 1972.
The Crowther War Diaries
Barely two months after she married him in March 1915, Joyce ‘Joey’ Mitchell waved Dr William Crowther farewell when he left Australia as a commissioned officer in the 7th Field Ambulance of the AAMC. Joey spent the war in Melbourne with her family and worked as a nurse.
The couple missed each other deeply and William kept a detailed diary. It was a love letter to his new wife, a memorial for her should he not survive the war. His service took him from the cliffs of Gallipoli to the medical stations barely behind the front line in France and Flanders.
William was mentioned in despatches and awarded the Distinguished Service Order for bravery. On his return to Tasmania he worked as a quarantine officer fighting the post-war outbreak of Spanish flu. Deeply affected by his war service William changed his specialty from orthopaedics to obstetrics. After witnessing the carnage of Gallipoli and Flanders he chose to bring life into the world.
The Baily Flag
Harry Baily was a young motor mechanic from Huonville when he enlisted in March 1915. Like many young men raised to revere the British Empire, war service gave Harry the opportunity to travel to places he couldn’t possibly have imagined.
By mid-September Harry was a stretcher bearer with the 7th Field Ambulance at Gallipoli. Stationed near Hill 971 he was wounded with shrapnel; then, ill with dysentery and rheumatic pains, he helped evacuate the dressing station in November. His mate, Bill Mawbey, wrapped the Red Cross flag that flew overhead around him to keep him warm during the evacuation. Harry kept the flag and asked fellow passengers on the troopship Ceramic sign it during their voyage back to Australia in 1919.
James and Gertrude Morris
James Morris, a farmer from Ridgley in north-west Tasmania, enlisted in the AIF, aged 25, in January 1915. He was wounded three times while serving with the 12th Battalion at Gallipoli and on the Western Front. James was promoted to sergeant in 1915 and lieutenant in 1918. His diaries provide an evocative and at times harrowing account of active service in France and Belgium from late summer 1916 through the severe winter of 1916-17.
James met the young Londoner, Gertrude Harrington, in early 1916 and married her after the war in November 1918. They returned to Tasmania’s north-west coast in 1919 where James died in 1963 and Gertrude in 1987. Gertrude’s letters, sent home to England while en route to Tasmania with her new husband, reveal a lightness of spirit, doubtless reflecting her relief at the absence of worry and fear.
Captured in Colour
See rare photographs from WWI in an online exhibition from the Australian War Memorial. Learn about how WWI photographers were keen to use the “modern” technique of colour photography, another technical marvel in an era dominated by scientific progress.