From the shores of Gallipoli to the sprawling Western Front, the stories told here reveal the powerful war experiences of ordinary soldiers. Some were decorated for bravery in the field, while others made the ultimate sacrifice.
Arthur McPhail Kilgour enlisted in the First Australian Imperial Force in October 1915, at the age of 19 years and eight months. Being under 21 meant he should have required his parents’ permission. However, he falsified his age on his attestation papers, giving it as 22 years and eight months. Perhaps his parents did not endorse their eldest son going to war but felt the decision was his to make and so did not inform the authorities.
Daniel Alfred Charles Clifford joined the workforce at the Sydney branch of the Royal Mint on 1 March 1915, aged 26. In November 1916, Clifford enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) with a character reference from the Deputy Mint Master stating that ‘during the whole term of his service his conduct has been uniformly excellent’.
When the World War I honour roll was unveiled at the Sydney Branch of the Royal Mint in October 1920, just one of the seven names on the board was followed by the fateful words ‘killed in action’. The surname was one that had been associated with the Sydney Mint since its establishment in 1854.
When Constable James (Jock) Johnstone Walsh joined the Australian army in 1915 at the age of 31 he was already an experienced soldier. His first venture into military service took place in his home town, Edinburgh, in 1899 when he was not yet 16 and still a growing lad. He misstated his age to join the Argyle & Sutherland Highlanders but was discharged after two months when his true age was discovered.
Robert James Macgregor Barnet was a great-nephew of the Thorburn sisters of Meroogal. He was a keen amateur photographer, and the pictures he took in the months leading up to the outbreak of World War I and in the period before he embarked for war service overseas provide a poignant record of a young man at the beginning of his adult life.
In 1914, at the outbreak of war, Ada (Adelaide) Gallagher was living with her husband, John, her daughter, Mary, usually known as Girlie, and her two younger sons, Fred and Frank, at 52 Gloucester Street in The Rocks. All three of Ada and John’s sons enlisted in the First Australian Imperial Force.