Tag Archives: WWI

Librarian Superheroes

Librarians are superheroes. All year they inspire a love of reading and research by making their libraries dynamic and exciting places to visit. Then in Children’s Bookweek they shift into Overdrive. My visit to Bunbury Catholic College today took things a step further …

with Colleen Edwards

The students have been studying Lighthouse Girl as well as partner titles, Light Horse Boy and In the Lamplight. So library staff, Colleen Edwards, Sharon Castelli and Sue Connelly made a lighthouse, as you do ūüôā As well as three book-themed story nooks, one for each ‘light’ title. Visiting the BCC library¬† was like stepping into a professionally curated WWI museum with my books as the focus. It was fabulous. I felt so honoured.

Colleen, Sharon, Sue and other BCC teachers have helped students weave English and History studies, creating beautiful displays as well as carefully researched journals and poster. I loved the way they used books as a springboard to deeper research on topics such as the Purple Poppy and wartime sport.

There was an In the Lamplight nook, a Lighthouse Girl nook and a Light Horse Boy nook.

The students were inspired by the ‘above and beyond’ staff creativity. They had great questions, were curious about all kinds of issues associated with WWI and had a deep understanding of wartime Australia and beyond. When I thought things could not possible get better the sessions ended with two students presenting me with a lighthouse, the prototype of the larger one. There are chocolates hidden inside and it even flashes!

Thank you Bunbury Catholic College for an epic day. xx

with Pippa and Natalia

Purple Poppies for the Animals

Have you noticed people wearing purple poppies beside their red ones on Anzac Day?

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prelim. sketch for ‘Light Horse Boy’ by Brian Simmonds

Purple poppies commemorate the bravery and sacrifice of animals during wartime, and funds raised by sales of the pins helps The Australian War Animal memorial Organisation (AWAMO) establish memorials, train PTSD support dogs and care for retired animals that have served their country.

Thousands of horses, dogs and pigeons have accompanied Australian servicemen and women into battle while animal mascots including wallabies, cockatoos, cats and dogs have brought comfort to troops far from home.

Books honouring some of these animals include Anthony Hill’s comprehensive Animal Heroes and Maria Gill ‘s ANZAC Animals,¬† exploring the backstory of Australian and New Zealand war animals.¬†Mark Wilson has created three picture books about war animals, including pigeon story,¬†Flapper, VC.¬† Meanwhile, Torty and the Soldier by Jennifer Beck and Fifi Colston¬†celebrates a tortoise that went to war. A¬† few other titles for teens and¬†adults includes Horrie the War Dog , Bill the Bastard and Prince of Afghanistan. These are just a few titles, there are many more.

Lest we Forget these brave animals.

‘In the Lamplight’ ED! serialisation

I love¬†creative interpretations of my stories, from those first collaborative peeks at an illustrator’s artwork, all the way through to stage and street theatre adaptations.

My ‘Light’ series has inspired all kinds of reworking. Lighthouse Girl and Light Horse Boy were inspiration for a¬†Black Swan Theatre stage adaptation in Perth/Albany which then toured regional WA. Lighthouse Girl also inspired the Little Girl Giant’s story in the PIAF street theatre, The Giants (type Giants into my blog search for¬†photos),¬†the song, Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter¬†by Caddy Cooper, another song, Message of Hope performed at the WA Massed Choir Festival, and many less formal school productions.

One of my favourite collaborative adaptations began today with the first instalment of an abridged version of In the Lamplight in the West Australian’s ED! supplement.

The ED! supplement is a fabulous supporter of WA authors and illustrators. Both Lighthouse Girl and Light Horse Boy have been serialised and I loved seeing students poring over class newspaper sets, reading about Fay, Charlie, Jim and other characters.

Once again the ED! designers have created a beautiful two-page spread and today I was excited to read that next week will feature details of the suffragette movement as a tie-in. I hope readers across WA will enjoy the serialisation as much as me.

 

International Nurses Day

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Matron Gray with a patient, Photo AWM

12th May, the anniversary of the birthday of Florence Nightingale, is now widely known as International Nurses Day Рa time to honour and appreciate nurses. And a perfect time for me to post about the amazing Australian women who travelled across the world to nurse wounded soldiers in Harefield.

On this same day in 1915, four Australian Sisters joined Matron Ethel Gray to begin scrubbing the Harefield manor home donated by the Billyard-Leake family in readiness to receive wounded. Three days later they’d polished floors, acquired linen, organised supplies¬†and dragged mattresses into place. By Sunday 16th May, 80 beds were ready. Two weeks later eight patients arrived. A month later there were 170 patients. Numbers continued to rise and during the war years, around 50,000 soldiers were treated at Harefield House.

As well as nursing, the women¬†tried to boost the men’s spirits by organising concerts, wheelchair races and cricket matches.¬†One of the nurses, Sister Ruby Dickinson¬†died during her service. She was buried with full military honours at Harefield’s Anzac cemetery. ¬†In the Lamplight¬†is the final title in my ‘Light’ series and in this book I’ve focused on the changing roles of women during WWI. The story follows Rose, whose life is changed forever when WWI arrives in her peaceful village. While the suffragettes have put aside their goals for the duration of the war, Rose finds inspiration in the courage and dedication of the cheerful Australian girls, so far from home. She summons her own courage, firstly to read to the patients, and then to begin the challenging¬†journey of becoming a nurse.

Thank you to the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries for generous funding support.

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Alfred Kemp, playing cricket with nurses at Harefield,  Photo: Andy Harris

‘In the Lamplight’ – background #4 – Jimmy the wallaby mascot and a Harefield cockatoo

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Imagine being a wallaby in a small English village during WWI.¬† Jimmy (sometimes referred to as Jimony) was one of many Australian animals taken to WWI as mascots to cheer the troops and to remind them of home.¬†Jimmy’s story is both strange and sad … Researching this wallaby was time-consuming. There were differing accounts surrounding Jimmy, making it hard to know which lead to follow. I also found historical inconsistencies when I was researching Lighthouse Girl and Light Horse Boy. It’s an exciting and frustrating part of writing historical fiction. As time goes by, more primary resources are uncovered, shedding new light on what we know and stories can change.

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Before Jimmy became the mascot of the No 1 Australian Auxiliary Hospital at Harefield, he was the mascot of the Australian Third Division. Tanya Britton’s Harefield during the First World War reports that, ‘Jimmy had been presented to one of the volunteer [hospital] workers¬†in October 1916 by the daughter of Sir William Birdwood…’ Meanwhile Mary P. Shepherd’s Heart of Harefield reports that, ‘In October 1916, before setting out for¬†France, men of the Third Division AIF presented a wallaby (a small kangaroo) to one of the volunteer workers, the daughter of General Sir William Birdwood …’ The difference between the two is slight but important; was Nancy Birdwood entrusted with Jimmy’s care¬†or did she present him to someone? It’s an intriguing detail which is still on my list of things to discover.

Nancy’s story is also fascinating. She¬†was the eldest daughter of General Birdwood, the man who commanded the Australian troops for much of the war. She volunteered at Harefield Hospital, fell in love with a Western Australian airman and ended up migrating home with him. But that’s another story …

 

Back to Jimmy. It seems that Harefield’s wallaby mascot regularly strayed from the hospital, roaming/hopping around the village, bringing smiles to the faces of patients, nurses¬†and villagers. However this freedom also led to Jimmy’s untimely passing. Harefield’s beloved wallaby was remembered as, ‘the most peaceable and tame of any animal of that kind …’.

Reports surrounding Jimmy’s death varied greatly. To try and unearth the truth, I travelled to the Australian War Memorial Research Centre in Canberra and trawled through 100 year old copies of Harefield Park Boomerang, the hospital’s¬†magazine. My patience was rewarded with the article extract on p.57. Rose’s diary¬†account on p. 56 is based on this primary resource. This also cleared up any confusion regarding his name.

Jimmy wasn’t the only Australian mascot at Harefield. There was also a cockatoo which had been brought from the trenches of Gallipoli. The bird had the unnerving habit of imitating the sound of a¬†Turkish shell blast. This wasn’t good for the shell-shock patients.

One of the things that fascinated me as I wrote Light Horse Boy was the variety of WWI mascots; there were dogs, cats, rabbits, monkeys, roosters, kangaroos, wallabies and even one poor koala named Teddy.¬†They seemed to bring a smile to the faces of the soldiers. When I visited the Gallipoli Peninsula I was amazed to find similar WWI images in Turkish museums. The old photographs showed Turks playing with their small animal mascots in just the same ways. Soldiers have been taking animals to war since our earliest stories. Sadly for the Australian veterans, the animals were not allowed to return, but then again, there are the stories of warhorse Sandy and canine Horrie …

Thank you to the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries for their generous funding support.

Capel Library Anzac Evening

IMGP9072Last week, Susan Dalgleish and her team at the Shire of Capel Library organised a terrific Anzac event in conjunction with the Capel RSL. It was attended by a wide cross-section of the local population. Planning began last November with the amazing Lesley Jackes at an author event in Albany commemorating the Departure of the 1st AIF (see previous post).

Susan and the Capel Library staff are passionate about history and literacy. They created interesting displays and an inspirational program that began with local group, ‘The Wednesday Girls’ singing songs from the WW1 era to set the mood.¬†Daniel McDonald from the 10th Light Horse arrived in full kit and brought along a life-size horse which was also kitted out with WW1 equipment. It’s always fascinating to see how much gear those strong Walers carried.

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IMGP9125Members of the Capel RSL sub-branch including Vice President Alan Kelly Parker were on hand to answer questions and give introductions. We also heard a fascinating account of April Jenkins’ WW1 archaeological work in Jordan. I was very touched by Light Horse Boy book review readings by Jordi and Fraser Milner and also their mother, Naomi. Thanks guys.

The library boasted an impressive collection of WW1 postcards, books and mementos – many of which I coveted (especially those stirrups) !

Thanks to the library and RSL for a great event, and also for my gifts; a beautiful scarf, book and Anzac biscuits. Thanks to Georgie Carter for her help with book sales (way more than we expected) and to Tracey Doyle for hosting me so well at Capel Primary.¬†Finally a big thank you to students Lily and Bradley for all your help. Meeting you both was a highlight!¬† Keep reading and writing…

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