Skip to main content
Anita Ryall
Archive number: 2388
Date interviewed: 10 June, 2000

Served with:

Civilian WW1
Anita Ryall 2388

Warning

Any access that you make of this website is undertaken at your own risk
This interview was filmed for the television series Australians at War in 1999-2000.
Read more

You are listening to the interview audio

Transcript

Tape 340
NB. This transcript is of an interview filmed for the television series, Australians at War in 1999-2000. It was incorporated into the Archive in 2008.

340:00:50:00

So Anita can you tell me your name and where you were born and when?
Well I've got a pretty long name, the whole name is Coral Heraltina Anita Ferguson and I was born in Goulburn on the 25th June 1898 so I'm just looking forward to my 102nd birthday.
That's pretty good so can you remember back to your dad going to the Boer War?

340:01:30:00

Oh no, I was only 18 months old.
OK but what did he tell you, did he ever talk about that?
Well when my father went to the Boer War in January 1900 and my mother took my two brothers and my sister and me up to Bulga, out of Singleton. That was where her parents lived and we lived there while Dad was away at the war.

340:02:00:00

I just don't know how long he was away but we didn't go back to Goulburn to live after he came back from the war, we settled in North Sydney and that's where I grew up and had my education.
So did your dad ever tell stories about the Boer War?
Oh well no, not a lot of stories,

340:02:30:00

he told me about climbing up Cable Mountain. He sent home a beautiful silver leaf of some sort of palm that was there and I don't suppose he would have said a lot about it. He was in; all I know he was in the four big engagements because of the four bars that are on the medal.

340:03:00:00

And so did your brothers, how did your brothers feel about your dad being in the war, was it kind of a family tradition or were they …? So when your brothers grew up, with your dad being in the war, was there always an expectation that they would be in military service?
Well both my father and my brothers

340:03:30:00

were in cadets at school so of course they were used to kind of military training and when the First World War broke out my younger brother he enlisted immediately. He was nineteen and a half and had to have my mothers consent and he was in the first lot that went to New Guinea. The Australian Navy had taken over the

340:04:00:00

German New Guinea and all the German islands that they might have possessed in and around there. And then of course Gallipoli happened with a lot of deaths and they needed these young boys that were up at New Guinea for reinforcements and that's when my father joined. My father,

340:04:30:00

it was 1915 and of course he was in his forties and they made a group of men about that age group to go to New Guinea to release these young boys that were badly needed.
So how did it affect the family having your father and your two brothers going off to war? What

340:05:00:00

did that mean?
Oh well, I suppose my mother just took it in her stride; she just looked after us children. My sister and my cousin was living with us then, and of course Dad's lot went up to New... course I suppose German New Guinea would have been the headquarters and

340:05:30:00

Manus Island where he was sent was north of there. You might remember the Americans had it as a big base during the war, the Second War, and Dad was the officer in charge on Manus Island with soldiers under him and they were kind of acting as overseers on all the plantations, that was what,

340:06:00:00

I suppose coconut plantations?
Okay, that sounds good. Now I just want to go back a bit earlier. When you were growing up in Australia before the war, what was it like for a young girl, what did you expect things would be like?
Oh I mean, well we had a very pleasant life, very pleasant indeed.

340:06:30:00

My brothers were good to us, they were the, my brother Rex was the oldest, then my brother, Leon, then my sister, she was about two years older than me and my cousin that came to live with us when she was twelve was the same age as me. I was six weeks older than her and we just grew up in a very, very nice family.
And when you went to school, how did you think of

340:07:00:00

England and the Empire in those days? Was England and the Empire a bigger thing in those days, did you learn much about it?
Oh yes, oh yes we knew we were part of the British colony.
Did they ever teach anything about Empire at school?
Oh yes oh yes, Empire Day, 24th May,

340:07:30:00

oh yes it was a wonderful day. Always a big, you know, demonstration and we were taught a lot about the Empire there and we were taught to look at the atlas of all the British colonies were marked red on the atlas.
And what sort of things did you do on Empire Day as girls; did you have to do any...?
Oh well we'd sing Rule Britannia

340:08:00:00

and all those kind of national sort of songs and of course the headmaster of the school would give us a lecture on the Empire - that's going back a long, long way to remember everything.
So did England seem

340:08:30:00

like home to Australia then, did England seem like home to you or did you feel like you were separate?
Oh well we always thought a lot of England. Very, very loyal to England. England was the mother country and you know we were her children.
And so

340:09:00:00

before the war started was there, did you ever expect there to be a war?
Oh no, oh no, no, no, no the Boer War was finished and that was it.
So where were you, do you remember when the war broke out?
Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes, oh yes.
Can you tell me, can you remember a little story about that you can tell me, about where you were and what was happening, and did what people were thinking?
Oh,

340:09:30:00

I don't know, I suppose we were at home and we wouldn't have any television in those days, we wouldn't even of had radio and I suppose we would get it in the paper, we'd get the news about the war in the paper.

340:10:00:00

And so your brothers joined up, was there any send off do you remember...
Oh yes, as I say my younger brother enlisted straight away, would it be June 1914, and my older brother was up, he was in the bank, and he was up the north coast at the time. And he was right up near the Queensland border and if he'd have joined

340:10:30:00

straightaway he would have had to go to Brisbane to enlist. But of course he wanted to come home and he applied to be returned to Sydney if possible and so when he got back to Sydney he thought well he better stay on deck in the bank just for a while, and then he enlisted. And my brother

340:11:00:00

Leon, he went to New Guinea and then Dad had enlisted and gone up to New Guinea, and then Leon was brought back home and he was on his way to Gallipoli as, in the 19th Battalion as reinforcements. He wasn't at the landing, thank goodness, and then my brother enlisted and he was on the way to Egypt

340:11:30:00

when Leon wrote home and said, “Don't let Rex enlist.” Because you know he was experiencing the nasty things that happen in the war. But anyway Rex went to Egypt and was training for the artillery. He was a signaller in the artillery, very good at decoding messages. Then Leon was wounded in Gallipoli.

340:12:00:00

The bullet went right through his arm and into his leg and of course he was sent to England and from there he went to France. He was a sergeant at Gallipoli but when he went to France he was a lieutenant. Now what else...
It was interesting you said that he wrote home and said not to send the other brother, isn't it, so...
Yes, you see I suppose

340:12:30:00

they don't know what they're going to face, do they, when they are going to a war. But he didn't, I don't think he really meant that, that he was, meaning that it's pretty terrible.
Because when they signed up I suppose they thought it was going to be, why did your brothers go, do you know why they all enlisted?
Oh well, of course we were living in North Sydney at the time and Leon was in the junior,

340:13:00:00

in the cadets and my brother Rex, he was in the St George's Rifles, that was a bigger regiment, and they were, even as younger boys at school they were in the school cadets. Of course I suppose Dad trained them for that sort of thing.
So they, when the war broke out they were kinda keen to go I suppose.
Oh, oh, oh yes, oh definitely yes,

340:13:30:00

Yes, my older brother he would have enlisted straight away only he was way up near Byron Bay.
And so once the war had got started, how did you hear about what was happening?
Oh well we used to get letters back, oh well from the papers all the news would be in the paper and then the boys would write home. They wouldn't tell you much, anything about

340:14:00:00

their experience, of course the letters were censored but they wrote home and we knew where they were. My brother Rex he, as I say, he climbed the pyramids while he was in Egypt and wrote home about the Sphinx and things like that and things that I never knew about before and it was really very nice. He sent us lovely postcards with lovely Egyptian sunsets

340:14:30:00

and you know every time I saw a nice sunset, ‘Oh, that's just like those Egyptian sunsets!’ Because I was a schoolgirl and very impressionable.
And what did you do during the war then as a schoolgirl, what were the things that you...
Oh well 1914 I would be sixteen then, well I had passed my Intermediate [Certificate] at the

340:15:00:00

old North Sydney Intermediate High School and a brand new high school was opened, up, what was called Lane Cove Road in those days but it's the Pacific Highway now and …
Did you have to do anything for the war; maybe you can tell me a bit about the things that you kind of had to do there?
Yes well I was just

340:15:30:00

knitting, plain knitting at that time and one of the teachers at school, her brother was away at the war and she knew that my father and my two brothers were away. And she said that if I got a set of Number 10 knitting needles and bought some khaki wool she'd show me how to make socks and things like that for the soldiers. Well she was most marvellous, taught me right from the very start

340:16:00:00

and as I'd get the little cuff part done then she'd show me how to do the plain knitting, then she'd show me how to turn the heel and then do the foot and then how to caste off the toes. And oh I suppose from then on I knitted socks for my brothers and I knitted balaclavas and for the war effort too. Other soldiers, balaclava caps, knee caps and little

340:16:30:00

glove mittens, like a glove but it's opened there so they could put their fingers in and out to do things and scarfs, oh we... and then we did a lot of face washers for the Red Cross and anything in the way of comforts.

340:17:00:00

… from England and they had a big meeting in the Sydney Town Hall because I remember I came home from school straight to the Quay [Circular Quay]. We were living at Clovelly then and I met my mother and my mother and I went up to the Town Hall to listen to this talk about conscription and the hall,

340:17:30:00

Town Hall was packed, standing room only when we got there. Of course I couldn't remember all that was said about it but it was the conscription campaign. But I don't think we did have conscription - not for World War I, I think it was all volunteer. I think they had a conscription vote and I don't think they got...

340:18:00:00

I'm not sure.
You are right, it didn't get past. It didn't pass in the end no, no, no-one voted for it but it's interesting you can say, so there were lots of people out at this talk?
Oh, oh yes the Town Hall was full, absolutely full. It was the first time I had ever been to a big meeting like that and it was very, very well patronised the hall.

340:18:30:00

And so what was your mum's feelings about the conscription and your families view?
Oh well I suppose because her boys had gone she, I suppose she thought that everybody should do their duty, what she considered to be their duty. With her husband and her two sons involved.

340:19:00:00

And did you have any thoughts about your brothers being away at the war at that time or how did you feel about it?
Oh well we, we felt very proud that they were, that they were doing their... well doing their duty, their duty to the Empire.
Okay that's great, we'll stop there for a sec.

340:19:30:00

… it’s amazing that you, you know, because so many families they didn't you know...
Yes when I was at school, one of my school mates, her brother was killed at the landing of Gallipoli and you know you feel very sorry for them. But we just sort of we were not afraid that they wouldn't come back. I can remember my mother made a big batch of plum jam and she put it into a big stone jar

340:20:00:00

and sealed it up and she said that it was not to be opened ‘til the boys came home and it wasn't opened until the boys came home and it was beautiful jam, lovely, but that's the faith that she had.
I bet they hoed into that jam pretty well when they got back. But you were talking then about…

340:20:30:00

some of the other, like the girls at school, I'm just wondering how the war impacted on you as young girls, did people talk about, was there any sense of…
Oh no we just sought of felt proud that our brothers were there and we knew that some of the teachers brothers were there and if we got letters we would speak about it. One of my cousins, he was the same age as my

340:21:00:00

older brother, and he was killed at the war. He was, were they Howitzer batteries or something like that, and he was in the artillery and we felt very sorry when he was killed and I think that someone put all their photos in the paper. Dad and the two boys and my cousin Eric and

340:21:30:00

of course one of the girls saw the photo in the paper and brought the paper to school to me and I was showing it to the teachers and very, very proud of it.
So what did you get up to in those days as young girls with the soldiers away and I mean what sort of things did people do during the ...
Oh well we were brought up very strictly and you know we didn't, we didn't muck about at all.

340:22:00:00

Oh I suppose my sister was going to Sydney High School and she left just in 1914 and was going to work. And of course when my brother went to the - elder brother - went to the war he was a teller in the ES&A Bank and that's when the bank opened its door to other the, more

340:22:30:00

for the girls to get into the bank and she joined the ES&A Bank and had a good position there and that was really one good thing out of the war, that it gave the girls much better clerical positions. So that's why when I left school, I had won a teacher's training college scholarship and not wanting to be a

340:23:00:00

teacher I thought I'd do some double entry book-keeping. So I went to a business college and got a certificate and, and I got a very, very good position with a big coal distributing firm and that was down at the foot of Bathurst Street in those days. And then they moved into a beautiful new premises over at Pyrmont Bridge Road and they had their

340:23:30:00

own colliers to bring the coal and stuff to Sydney. But while I was there at the foot of Bathurst Street I saw the start of the city underground railway but that'd be after the war, between the two wars. You'd see the big lorries bringing all the soil that they were digging out from under

340:24:00:00

Hyde Park and do you know where they put it? They were filling in Darling Harbour from Liverpool Street to Bathurst Street and our firm was at the foot of Bathurst Street and it gradually got down and down and down and close to our wharf and we had to go over to Pyrmont, Black Wattle Bay. That was one interesting thing that I know of.
Very good, that's fantastic. Now

340:24:30:00

during the war, some of the German people that lived in Australia were put into ...
They interned them. I can remember there was a young boy named Otto Schmidt who went to Sunday School in the same church that we went to and his family were taken up and sent to a concentration camp. But just for

340:25:00:00

what, I think they were well treated - I don't think that they were badly treated in the camp but they were, they were, what is it I forget what they call it - it's not conscripted, it's conscripted when they take the soldiers isn't it, anyway they were you know interned, interned.
And what did you make of that? What did you think about that, did anyone think much about?

340:25:30:00

Oh no, we just thought oh well they're Germans and probably we thought they deserved to be taken. But you know they might have been real good citizens. Up in New Guinea they treated, Manus Island where my father was, the overseers had treated the natives very, very badly. Some of them very cruel and it was like Second World War the natives welcomed

340:26:00:00

the Australian soldiers because they were much better treated by the soldiers.
Just thinking about that the Germans, the way that they were depicted in, do you remember any of the posters that they made up, that they printed during the war of the Germans?
Oh no
Just thinking of how the

340:26:30:00

Germans were represented, in the newspapers at the time and what was the fear of Germany that you had, was there a fear from women in particular about the Germans or …?
Oh no, course I was only a schoolgirl and you know you don't think about those sorts of things really.
I just remember seeing some of the posters at the time and they had the Germans as the Hun and it's quite

340:27:00:00

a graphic…
No, I, I don't remember any of that. I was more interested in my schoolwork than being interested in that.
A good student, other things to think about ….
When, when, my, between the Boer War and, we used to go up to Singleton a lot to Mum's people and it was my sisters

340:27:30:00

are there said what about the bushfire. I was only about four at the time and there was a bushfire and of course my grandfather and my aunty and my mother they were the adults. I had a couple of older cousins there and my two brothers and this bushfire happened, my eldest brother and one of the cousins had been out

340:28:00:00

in the fields, saw it coming down and rushed home and told them and my grandma marshalled them all together. And they went out with wet bags and branches and they just fired a fire break around the house... some distance from the house and they burnt it ahead of them. And I was writing up the family history

340:28:30:00

and gave it to my oldest brother - oh this was years afterwards - about the fire and he was amazed that me, a little girl of four, could remember all the details of the fire. Well, the younger brother he was only seven at the time and he was left in the house to mind my cousin and myself and of course Mum had told him what to do and what not to do and he had to stand at the window and watch the fire didn't come down and

340:29:00:00

burn us. So he said to my cousin and me, "You two little girls get down and pray that the fire won't come and burn us." And I said, "You get down too," and he said "Oh no," he said, "I've got to stand at that window and watch that the fire doesn't burn us," Well just not long after that all the fire fighters came back in, they'd burnt the

340:29:30:00

fire break, you know they've got to burn it pretty wide so that the fire doesn't jump the fire break. And then my brother said to me, "There," he said "your prayers have been answered." He said, "The fire breaks been burnt and you won't get burnt." So that's one thing that I remember as a little child.
That's a good story. So life was pretty tough in those days I imagine,

340:30:00:00

in those early days in Australia?
Oh well yes, I would say yes. The men didn't get good wages in those days, they had to bring up families on just, well of course today people would sneer at the amount of money that men got for wages. Well when I was working at Jones Brothers I got three pounds ten a week and some of the married men were only on seven pounds a

340:30:30:00

week well, that's well I suppose then it would be worth a lot more.
The currencies, things have gone up in price a lot since then.
Oh skyrocketed!
So when your brothers were away at the war, when your brother was away in France did you ever

340:31:00:00

hear much from him?
Oh yes, oh yes we got, we got regular letters from them, oh yes, they were very, very good at writing. I suppose they wrote every opportunity they could. Either my mother would get a letter or my sister would get a letter or I'd get a letter. Oh we got stacks of lovely cards. My brother Leon, he'd

340:31:30:00

buy about a half a dozen cards and he'd write his letter over the half dozen cards and then they'd come out in a bundle.
Put them all together and that would be the whole letter?
That'd be the letter yes, he’d number them one, two, three, four, five, six.
Interviewee: ANITA RYALL Archive ID 2388 Tape 341

341:00:32:00

So I was just talking to you about the white feathers [sign of cowardice]
Yes, I didn't know of anybody who sent one or whose sons got them but I know that it was very evident that some of the women whose brothers or sons or husbands went to the war if there was any young men living

341:01:00:00

nearby they would send them white feathers. It was very cruel, very cruel to do that.
Yes it puts a lot of pressure on people. I wonder why they did that, do you know?
Oh I don't know I suppose it was a mean streak in their own nature that would make a person do that because I think, let a person volunteer

341:01:30:00

if they wish, but not try and force them to go. That's why we didn't like conscription. It's much better if a person does a thing willingly than if they are forced to do it.
Do you know how your brothers voted on conscription, did they ever write back about... because they had to vote at the front I think.
Oh I don't know, I don't know if they did, I don't know.
That's okay.

341:02:00:00

Do you remember as the war progressed it was harder to get things, can you tell me a little bit about that?
Oh yes, I don't think we actually went without anything essential but we just

341:02:30:00

made do.
There was a big strike during the war too, do you remember that?
Was that a tram strike?
Trams and rail I think, do you remember anything about that?
Yes if I remember rightly. Yes, we had moved to Clovelly from North Sydney during

341:03:00:00

the war just so that we had a nice place for the boys to come back to and I think on one occasion there was a tram strike and I couldn't go to school. Because I had to go to the quay and then get a ferry and then another tram up to the school so I think I had to stay home just while the strike was on.

341:03:30:00

So you were at school all through the war, when did you leave?
About 1916, oh yes, oh yes I left school while the war was on but I was at school the earlier years of it.
So you left and you went to work, were you working during the war then.

341:04:00:00

Yes, yes.
Were you doing your…
Oh well I might have been at business college.
Business college, that's right yes.
Yes but as soon as I finished at business college and got my certificate for book-keeping I got this very good position and I held it for about ten or eleven years before I got married. Same - I was senior ledger keeper - it was a retail and a wholesale coal

341:04:30:00

distributing firm and I was the senior ledger keeper in the retail branch of it and cashier. It was a good position, very, very good position.
Just going back a bit then, do you remember when the war ended, the Amistice?
Oh yes I remember that. My mother took us girls into the city; we got out of the tram at Martin Place

341:05:00:00

and to go down Martin Place, oh I never saw such a crowd in all my life and I must have been, you know, throwing my arms about and a man walking past me said to me he said, "I'd advise you to keep your hands right beside your sides otherwise you might get your arm broken." So of course I obeyed him. We were very obedient children I will say, if we were advised to do anything we did it.
And so

341:05:30:00

what else happened on that day?
Oh well, I wouldn't know apart from all this demonstration in Martin Place. Mum said, “Oh well we had to go into Martin Place to celebrate.”And I'd say it was more shouting and singing and feeling happy ‘cause we knew the boys would be coming home then when …

341:06:00:00

And then they did and so do you remember what it was like seeing them, what happened on the day they came back, you went down to see them I think?
What happened?
When the boys did come back?
Oh yeah well my older brother came first. He was he went right through the war without anything happening to him until just a few days and the Germans sent poisoned

341:06:30:00

gas over their battery and of course the [UNCLEAR] battery was put out of action and my brother came home. Oh, they wore blue armbands round their coat if they were still under medical treatment and he came home. And the boat went into quarantine for a fortnight because a lot of sickness on board and the first thing my mother did when we knew that the

341:07:00:00

boat had arrived in Sydney was to take us girls to Manly so that we could sail past his ship. That was the closest we could get to him until he was released from quarantine and his boat came into Woolloomooloo and we hired, of course I don't know whether Dad, Dad was back in Sydney at that time. We hired a car from

341:07:30:00

Coogee with a driver, oh he was such a good driver. He took us right down to Woolloomooloo Bay and then the soldiers started coming off and of course my brother was walking around and he spotted us in the car and of course we were all very, very excited. And he took us home through Centennial Park and he pulled up outside the rose garden in Centennial Park so

341:08:00:00

that my brother could get out of the car and stand with the roses behind him and my sister could take a photograph of him. And we had the house decorated with the British flag and the Australian flag and a big welcome home sign on the house and my sister had made a nice flag of his shoulder colours, they were red and blue. And

341:08:30:00

that was quite an exciting event. But when my other brother came back the boat was disembarked at Melbourne and as I said that my father had been put in charge of the return mail and return invalids office at Victoria Barracks. And he had to go down to Melbourne and that was his duty then to check all the blue armbands of all the soldiers coming back in the train

341:09:00:00

because he had a roll of them then they were distributed to the different hospitals. And when he came back, he was a, oh he was a captain and he won the Military Cross, when he came back we'd have the same as we had for Rex but instead of having Rex's flag from his arms, it was my brothers blue, pale blue and dark blue

341:09:30:00

in a circle and I, that was quite, I think there's a photo of the house with these decorations.
So how did your mum feel about having your family back together?
Oh well of course she was that proud and... she was proud of her two sons and she was very delighted to have them home. But I don't think she ever gave up hope even though, even though the other cousin had been killed in the war - she

341:10:00:00

always had faith I think and that's a great thing, to have faith in things.
You'd need a lot of faith in the war because so much tragedy happened.
Oh yes I know.
I was thinking about people finding out about, you talked a bit about some of your schoolfriends that you knew heard about brothers or friends that had been killed.

341:10:30:00

Do you know how they heard about it or how affected they...
Oh when a person was killed at the war, the notice went to the church because they had their religion. I know when my cousin that was killed in France, the notice went to the Cathedral in Goulburn and the Archdeacon of the Cathedral

341:11:00:00

went to his mother's place. Well she was down in a holiday in Sydney so he went on to my grandmother, and my grandmother, the Archdeacon told my grandmother that Eric had been killed at the war. Well my father was having a holiday with my grandma at that time and he then sent a wire home to my mother to tell her that Eric had been killed and if

341:11:30:00

Aunty Lily came out to our place would she tell her about it. Well Mum thought that was a dreadful thing for her to have to do. Fortunately my auntie’s brother lived in another part of Clovelly and she went up to see Mr Pearce and asked him would he come down to our place because she expected my aunty that

341:12:00:00

Saturday. Well he arrived that night, about teatime he arrived and as soon as she heard her brother's voice at the front door she thought something was wrong so anyway he came in and he broke the news to her. Well my mother sat up all night with my aunty and then when she

341:12:30:00

had to go back to Goulburn to live, my mother sent me to accompany her in the train to make sure that she was alright. But that was the worst experience we had. But the minister at North Sydney he used to come to give us scripture, he knew about my brothers being at the war and he said to me, he said, ‘Tell your mother

341:13:00:00

I won't come to visit her at all unless he told me before.” Because he said, most of the women got very upset if they saw a minister coming to them. It always came through the church as far as I know, that was my experience.

341:13:30:00

Do you ever recall that the church was used to encourage enlistment in any way, like the church was encouraging soldiers to go at any time; do you ever recall any of that?
Oh well no I don't think they were... no I don't think so. No, well I didn't have any experience of

341:14:00:00

it so I couldn't really answer that but as far as I know my brothers and my father were not encouraged by anybody, it was their own, it was their own free will that took them.
I'm just interested to know why they went to war, was it for adventure, do you have any idea why they were such soldiers?
Well right from, right from

341:14:30:00

young boys as I say they were in the cadets, and I suppose my father's influence on them. I can remember when they first joined the cadets at school course they wore putties that came right up their leg and my father was very particular and oh, most very neat at doing anything and he showed the boys how to roll their putties so that

341:15:00:00

they were just perfect and of course I suppose his training and ...
It's just different today I suppose; it's different the way we think about going to war.
Oh yes.
Now the war would finish now do you have any recollections of Anzac Day, did anybody go to Anzac Day after the war or not or was it something that came later? Do you remember?

341:15:30:00

Oh, my brother Leon he always, oh we went in to see the marches, oh yes and my brother Leon, I've got a photo there of him leading the 45th Battalion. He was captain of the 45th Battalion and it's a lovely photo of him and I've got

341:16:00:00

others at home of him because he always went to all the marches.
I'm just wondering, the boys had come back from war and do you think the war had affected them at all?
Oh well, oh well, I would say they really grew up. Because as I say Leon was only nineteen and a half when he started and well he was just a young

341:16:30:00

teenager but they, they were real men. I think it broadened their outlook, seeing all the other different countries and that real.. seeing Egypt and France and their experiences in England. Naturally their, you know, four years away from home you'd see a big difference in them

341:17:00:00

but they were very good brothers.
And did they ever talk about the war afterwards?
Well I only remember my brother Rex, he was a signaller and they had to keep the lines of communication open and I suppose the lines only went on the ground and they had pincers and they'd go out and if a line had been broken they'd have to mend that.

341:17:30:00

And he said they'd go out and it would snow out and all your things would be covered with snow and it would be so different going back that he said if you lost your line he said you could end up in no-man's land or in the German trenches. And he said that that's the only time that he ever spoke about the war, he said he saw some dreadful sights. So I suppose that he was referring to

341:18:00:00

soldiers that had been perhaps killed and hadn't been retrieved but no, they were rather reticent. Even my brother that won the Military Cross, he led his men. He was a lieutenant when won the cross, in a bayonet charge on a line of German trenches, well they captured the trench and whatever number soldiers were in it and

341:18:30:00

that's when he got his Military Cross but he never spoke much about it. No I think they were more reticent about the experiences.
Did it affect them in any other way do you think, I mean carrying all that around with them?
Oh no, no, no I don't know.
And the one that got the gas attack did that...
Oh yes, oh he yes

341:19:00:00

oh yes that's right. He was under medical care for some time and I won't say that it injured his health but he was sent out to Bourke as manager of the ES&A Bank and I think the hot climate, the climate out there affected him more than what the gas did but he lived only to about eighty-seven so, don't,

341:19:30:00

they were both in their eighties
And when the Second War came up what happened?
Oh well when the Second War came out my elder, Rex, my brother Rex, his only son joined the air force and he was killed over there. And when the message came through to him

341:20:00:00

I said, "Isn't it a pity Eric joined the air force and not the infantry?" "Oh" he said, "If he'd have joined the infantry,” he said, “ He would have been caught up in that dreadful Burma." You know when the Japs hit, I remember the picture, 'The Bridge Over the River Kwai' and they way those poor soldiers were treated. But now I've got off the track.

341:20:30:00

Did anybody else in the family join?
Oh yes, I had my cousin who lived with us, her brother went from Victoria and her older brother went from New Zealand and then I had another cousin on my mother's

341:21:00:00

side, Harold Martin. He went to World War I, he was badly wounded but he came back safely and in World War II his two sons were involved. Then my brother Rex, as I say his eldest, his only son he was in the air force and he died over there and his daughter was a dental nurse in the air force.

341:21:30:00

My brother Leon, his two sons were involved in World War II and oh, several other cousins. Another, another cousin was killed in the air force, a pilot in World War II. I think I've got them listed in that list that...
So it's a real military family, your family!
Well I would say the whole family,

341:22:00:00

both sides of the family, my mother's side and my father's side there were, they were well represented. They all did their duty.
And you, did you, after the war when you met your husband, had he had anything to do with the war?
Oh no, no he was a brush manufacturer, one of the leading brush manufacturers in Sydney as a matter of fact

341:22:30:00

and he had just started his business going here in Sydney. He came to Sydney from Adelaide in 1911 and he had trained in the brush work and of course he was twelve years older than me and as he was an only son if there'd of been conscription so he wouldn't have been called up. But he'd just started his business going about 1912, 1912

341:23:00:00

or ‘13 he started his business going and he had, he had much manufacturing, what do you call them, you know machines on the way out from Germany when the World War I broke out and fortunately the boat got here safely and he was a very prosperous man.

341:23:30:00

I was just wondering about the difference between those that stayed behind in the war and those that went, did he ever feel that there was any, was there any animosity between people who ...
Oh I well I think there was a lot. See my sister married a chap who didn't go to the war but he was a year younger than her so he would have been only sixteen when war broke out.

341:24:00:00

Oh yes I think there was a little bit of, you know like the people who were mean enough to send the white feathers there was that spirit among some people, but well we just took everything as it came.
And your husband, did he ever talk about enlistment, did it ever bother him that he didn't go to the war?
Ah no I think he was too involved in,

341:24:30:00

oh of course I didn't know him then, I think he was too involved in building up this business and he did build up a very prosperous business I will say.
So do you think that some people did well out of the war in terms of, did some people do well financially out of the war?
Oh well I will say he did over the Second World War because as I say he was a big brush manufacturer and when the American Army came here

341:25:00:00

they went to some of the brush factories to equip some of their soldiers with the different things that they needed like body brushes. And if there was horses, the grooming of horses and all types of brush ware and I know they went to his factory for nail brushes and it was a huge order it was.

341:25:30:00

And they were surprised that he had the material on hand, that he could do all that brushwork that they required. But my, he was a very level headed man when the brush trade in England was low he would be able to get a lot of the material, bristles and that, out from overseas at a much cheaper rate than if he had waited until they

341:26:00:00

were very busy and wanting it themselves. So he always had a good stock on hand and he, he did very well out of the war.
Do you think, what effect did the war have on Australian society do you think, it's a broad question I know, do you think it changed the country in any way?
Oh well yes, I think it grew up.

341:26:30:00

I know we seemed to get on better after the war, I just don't know...
Do you think or did you feel as much a part of Britain then or did you feel more Australian?
Oh well I always felt very much attached to Britain, very attached to it. I was

341:27:00:00

very sorry when they took the Queen and the King's photos off our stamps and gave us all different stamps, oh, no, no, I'm very British, very British. My mother's parents, her mother was Scotch and her father was English; my father's parents

341:27:30:00

his father was Scotch and his mother English and I've always felt very attached to England. I'd never like to see it taken away.
What do you think the war achieved, that First War, what did it do?
What do you mean dear?
Well I mean it set out, for a lot of people were, it set out to

341:28:00:00

kind of, it set out to sort of settle an empire kind of brawl in Europe but for Australia I'm just wondering whether the cost of it was worth it, what do you think?
Oh, oh I don't think any war’s was worth fighting. Ah, I think, as long as I say I think the country grew up more and spread out,

341:28:30:00

course I was only a child at the time, if you ... I wasn't much grown up myself.
But you grew up during the war I suppose so you must have grown from a young girl into a woman?
Oh well of course when I went to, started going to work it was a different world altogether to when I was at school and I

341:29:00:00

will say that I myself grew up. I was the shyest little girl on earth when I was going to school but when I got into the business world, well I spread out.
And do you think the war changed the way men and women related in Australia or anything?
Oh well yes because they had a broader outlook, they could get better positions, there was much better

341:29:30:00

office work for girls in, after the war and of course I suppose you naturally, you do spread out as you grow older don't you?
Interviewee: ANITA RYALL Archive ID 2388 Tape 342

342:00:30:00

It seems strange that a bookbinder would go to become a soldier!
When my parents were married, Dad's people lived at Goulburn and of course he grew up there and he had a book binding business but he didn't go back to it when he came back. Although I think that when he came back from the war he was

342:01:00:00

at the government printing office, something to do with the book binding but then later on he just went into business and when he retired he was a business manager for a big departmental store at Port Kembla.
Did he ever talk about his experience, I think I've asked you this question before but I'm just wondering what impressions of the Boer War left on your dad, what it something he

342:01:30:00

cherished or...?
Oh well I suppose so, as I say he would have grown up because you know, just a country man in Goulburn.
I find it interesting why a bookbinder from Goulburn would go to the Boer War that's all.
Oh well as a young boy he and his brother, he was the youngest of eight children and his brother just above him,

342:02:00:00

a couple of years older than him, they were both in the school cadets. I've got a photo of my father and my uncle in the school cadets at Goulburn and that'd be oh way back, 1870 he was born. Oh I suppose it's, oh well I would say it might in the family because my mother's parents, her mother was a

342:02:30:00

daughter of a man in the British Army and her father was a son of a man in the British Army. So it runs in the family that's why they were such a good response from both sides of the family.
So it's a strong tradition it came from?
Yes, it's born in you, you want to do a thing or you don't want to do it.

342:03:00:00

Do you think they go off, I mean I'm just wondering today you think why someone would go off and lay down their life for something I mean it's hard to see, it's hard for us to imagine.
Yes well you don't think of war until it actually comes onto you.
Do you think they had a much sense, a much stronger sense of duty and honour and those kind of things or what?
Oh well

342:03:30:00

they might have, I don't like to judge the young people growing up as some of them are very irresponsible.
I just meant in that generation, in those days whether there was much more sense of, you know duty?
Oh well yes I think, I think they were all very British. You see all the earlier stock came from the

342:04:00:00

British Isles and I think that they always looked up to the King or the Queen, whoever was ruling at the time. I do today; I think we've got a wonderful Queen.
You don't think we should be a republic then?
Oh no, no, no, no, no, oh no never. Oh no, one of my cousins up in Singleton oh he's, he's very,

342:04:30:00

very much against the republic, his father was at the war, he was too.
And so why are you so opposed to it do you think?
Well because I am very British, oh no I'd never vote for a republic, oh

342:05:00:00

no, and I think I'm too British to do that.
Too old to change you reckon?
Well I'll be one hundred and two in about a week’s time.

342:05:30:00

Because you are one hundred and two and you've seen quite a few of these wars go on what difference have they made?
Well, well I suppose we've broadened out in our outlook and as I've got older I seem to have broadened out too in my outlook but I'd never agree to a republic.

342:06:00:00

Thank you very much, thank you very much Anita.
Oh well you've been very good and I thought it was going to be a dreadful ordeal.
No, no it wasn't. Another thing I was going to ask you, about [Prime Minister] Billy Hughes during the war, you remember him?
Oh yes, oh yes I think he was in England

342:06:30:00

part of the time and he came to Australia and had that big rally in the Town Hall that I spoke about and I was very impressed with that but as regards to himself I just don't know.
Just wondered what you thought of him as a wartime leader?
No, I was too young, yes I was too young to - you know when you are just a schoolgirl you are not thinking anything

342:07:00:00

about that.
That's great thank you, thank you very much.
INTERVIEW ENDS

342:07:08:00

Memorabilia follows

342:07:00:00

End of tape

Comments

0 Comments You must to sign in to add a comment Add a comment