Saturday, 25 April 2015

V for Veteran:Clues from Lorna Bessie Laws's diary for a soldier in World War 1

April 25 in Australia is ANZAC Day. We remember all our fallen soldiers not just the ones from the battle at Gallipoli where the word ANZAC originated.  So today I thought it fitting to write about a veteran who survived World War One.
After Lionel Edward Laws and Lorna Bessie Holmes married on October 22 1919 they set off on a 5 week honeymoon. Bessie kept a diary and it has survived. It was one of the pocket type with 4 lines to a day so you don't get much information for each day.

 However I was looking through it a few weeks ago and found this.


I hadn't noticed before that the last entry for Tuesday was "Meet N McKerihan from early "letters". I had no idea who this person was as we did not have this name in the family tree. As I had just seen one of the army issue postcards from Richard William Laws I thought that maybe N McKerihan had been in World War 1 too and that he had sent one of those army postcards like this one.

He was in the army. He enlisted in Toowomba on October 13 1915 and embarked on the HMAT Wandilla  at Brisbane on 31 January 1916 and I now had found he was Norman McKerihan.(1)
When I visited my mother I asked if she knew how he was connected to her father. She directed me to the photo of the Boomerang Rugby Team photo, 1913 and there he was in the team with L E Laws and R W Laws and others.
OK I now knew he was in the Rugby Team in Warwick and I knew what he looked like.
From his Army record I discovered he was wounded and returned to Australia.(2)
From the Australian Electoral Rolls (3) I found him living in Sydney and from Public Service records(4) I found him living and working in Sydney.
Now that wasn't enough for me. I knew I had a postcard of the pyramid dated March 28 1916 sent to my grandfather Lionel Edward Laws from Egypt.

I had never been able to put a name to the sender so I read it again. It was signed "your sincere cobber Mac". Now I think I've found the sender-Norman McKerihan.
Out came my trusty Magnabrite to read the tiny writing. Yes he had travelled on the Wandilla. he describes going visiting the Mohammed Ali mosque and the Citadel in Cairo from where they were stationed at Heliopolis. Here he was sightseeing and sending a tourist postcard-amazing. I wonder how that got past the Army censors.

On this day we also remember Richard William Laws (1895-1918), Lionel's brother who died in France on 23 August 1918 and is buried in France.