Reunions

It is nearly a month since the A to Z finished but time moves on and there has been a new development.

Denise told me she was organising a family gathering centred around her mother and her mother’s sister.  Her mother (Edith) is my half sister but doesn’t know how close our relationship is.  The other sister lives in Tasmania and they hadn’t seen each other for a few years.  In that time the sister in Tasmania had developed Alzheimers and sometimes couldn’t recognise her own family members.

As well as the sisters there would be their children who are my nieces and nephews even though they are mostly around my age.  My daughter said to me I should go as otherwise I might never have the chance of seeing either of my half sisters again.  My husband gallantly offered to accompany me so we set off with Jetstar for Melbourne and an Air B&B I had booked in the same suburb as the family reunion.

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Flying to Melbourne

Denise, her sister and Hugh’s son were in the car that picked us up from the airport.  The most exciting news for me was that Hugh, my half brother, would be there.  Unlike my two half sisters he knew who I was and it was with some trepidation I looked forward to our meeting.  Apparently he had come to terms with the fact we shared the same father and he had some interesting news for me.  Six months after I was born he returned from a two year trip to England and Europe.  He was working in a business related to his father’s and shared an office with my mother and father.  He remembers them both and also recalls bouncing a baby on his knee.  That was me but of course he didn’t know then that we were actually brother and sister.

The most heartwarming moment for me was when he put his arms around me and said, “Welcome to the family”.

I was delighted to meet my other half sister who despite her memory loss was still feisty and chirpy.  She looked at me for a while and asked how I was related to the family.  She was sure she had seen me before but I assured her she hadn’t.  She was once a talented teacher and artist and until recently was able to care for herself but now lives in a nursing home.  My other sister remembered me from our meeting last year with a few gentle reminders but sadly will never know our true relationship.

The nieces and nephews were all very welcoming.  Some of their children and grandchildren called in as well so by the end of the second afternoon my head was spinning.

On the final day I had arranged a meeting with Alice, my first cousin twice removed.  She had been one of my early contacts after the DNA results came out. She is Ted Turner’s sister’s great grandchild.  We arranged to have coffee and by chance her parents had flown down from Mildura that weekend.  It was good to catch up with them and amazing to think that a simple DNA test could turn up so many relatives, however distant.

I’m now home again and reflecting on the weekend.  As I only live two hours drive from my half brother Hugh I am hoping to see more of him.  Because he lived in the same small coastal town as some people  I knew I asked if he was aquainted with them.  They turned out to be very good friends of his.  When I told him who they were he was astonished.

My mother was widowed at the age of 43.  In her early 60s she met and married a Dutchman, Frank, who had emigrated to Australia in 1951. Prior to marrying my mother he had four adult children.  One of them was Anne,  who now lives in the same village as Hugh.  So my half brother and his wife are friends with my step-sister and her husband.  I have lost contact with Frank’s children since his death but it is still a remarkable co-incidence.

Reading through this I realise what a tangled tale it is.  If you have followed through the A to Z you might make some sense of it.  None of us will ever know what really happened back in 1950 but there is no doubt that I have suddenly found myself part of a large, extensive and very welcoming family.

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Reflection

 

A-to-Z Reflection [2018]

As the week is rolling by I am starting to panic.  I haven’t done my post because I wanted to thank all those people who commented on my blog, read all their blogs and get down their details to share with others.  All the jobs I have put off for a month are crying out to be attended to and suddenly I have no time.

The original plan was to use the A to Z as a motivation to write.  The purpose of the writing was to make a record for my family of my DNA discovery with as much detail as possible.  I didn’t dream that so many people would follow my posts and comment on them.  It encouraged me enormously so thank you one and all.  I tried to comment in return and read all your blogs but ran out of time.  My posts were semi prepared at the beginning of April but still required a lot of last minute changes and additions.  In the middle of April we went on a road trip with our caravan for ten days which didn’t help.

My task now is to put the 26 posts into a book.  I am using Photobookclub for this.  I have had a number of photo albums made through them and thought that I could get five copies made for family and new relatives.  All the names have to be changed back to the real ones and now I am putting in photos of the people who had to remain anonymous.

My biggest problem is my mind is continually planning A to Zs.  One minute I am thinking “Travels in our Caravan” with A for Abrolhos Islands, B for Bourke, C for Carnarvon Gorge.  Then, inspired by “Retirement Reflections” I am thinking A for Aqua Jogging, B for Book Club, C for Cycling.

I want to thank the organisers of the A to Z this year.  I can’t imagine what it was like for them to manage this huge, ungainly beast.  It was a lot of fun and next year I resolve as others have done to:

1) Have all posts written before April.

2) Reply to all comments on my blog.

3) Comment on as many other people’s blogs as possible.

4) Mention all the blogs I enjoyed in “Reflection 2019”.

 

 

Z in the Middle of Rendezvous

My parents used to tell me the story of the time they organised to meet for lunch.  My father had written a note saying “Meet me at the Rendezvous Cafe”.  My mother must have been asking directions because she pronounced it REN-DEZ-VOOS and was very embarrassed when her ignorance was a cause for mirth.

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I looked it up and it is still there in Langtree Avenue, Mildura.  The website Mildura City Heart says of it.

Since 1934, in its early days as a coffee lounge, the Rendezvous had eventually evolved into a restaurant when the Harding family took ownership in 1950 that started the journey of the Rendezvous being established as one of regional Victoria’s oldest fine dining restaurants.

I have been trying to imagine Mildura of 1950 with the pictures and postcards in my possession.  I’ve also been looking at the “Old Mildura” site on Facebook where I found a wonderful Tourist Guide from 1948. 

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The Ozone Theatre was also in Langtree Avenue so my parents would have gone there often as they were great fans of the “pictures” as they were called then.  My mother may have had her permanent wave done at Gibb’s Beauty Salon  “for that satisfied look”.  The ice for the ice chest would have come from Vergona’s Ice Works but I doubt they would have gone to The Old Mill for the non stop dancing on Saturday night as my father had two left feet.  They would have flown with Australian National Airways maybe booking through the Real Estate Agent RH Chaffey and Co.

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Langtree Avenue in the Pictorial Souvenir of Mildura 1949

My mother told me I flew to Sydney on the plane in a special basket.  I always imagined it was hung over the wing until I was old enough to realise that was impossible. 

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When I was born my grandmother flew in from Sydney to help my mother.  She was shocked at the primitive conditions my mother was enduring including lighting the copper each day to boil the nappies, so she bought her an electric copper.  Unfortunately my grandmother developed gall stones after only staying a week and flew home in great pain to have her operation in Sydney.  I think my father was relieved as he didn’t seem to get on with his mother-in-law.

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1950s electric copper

I used to love to hear the story of the grapes.  This happened when my mother was pregnant with me.  She had a craving for grapes and if you’ve ever been to Mildura you would know that there are thousand of acres of vines.  Somehow she persuaded my father to pull over in the truck,  crawl under a barbed wire fence and pick her a large, juicy bunch.

Another story often told was of the trip to Swan Hill.  Apparently I was partly bottle fed so when the bag of supplies fell off the back of the truck no-one knew until it was my feed time and then  I screamed so loudly a fellow traveller disappeared to the other end of the town.  My parents found a milk bar and were given some warmed milk which they spooned into me. Fortunately we all survived.

The heat in Mildura would have been almost unbearable in those days before air conditioning.  My mother told me how they would run the sprinkler at night and lie on the veranda under wet sheets in order to keep cool.  However she said it was a dry heat and during her pregnancy she had never felt better.

Growing up with these stories I imagined Mildura to be a garden paradise in the middle of a desert and a place where my parents were very happy.  While my mother was in hospital after giving birth my father came in to visit, full of new plans and new directions.  So worried was my mother that she developed “milk fever” (mastitis).  Of course the stress may not have been related to her illness but she thought it was.  It looked like the peaceful times were over.

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Y at the End of Recovery

It took Ted quite a while to recover from his wounds.  He was taken by hospital ship to to the island of Lemnos where the hospital was in a terrible state.  Flies from the latrines swarmed over the food and the men as they lay on lousy blankets.  Ted would walk down to the Greek Church and lie in the shade of the verandah when he was well enough.  He wrote of  the magnificent sunsets behind the rugged, bare mountains and the old fashioned scene of women drawing water from the well.

A walk around the island led to the discovery of a vineyard where he feasted on grapes.  That led to a bout of sickness where his only object was to stay near the dreaded latrines.

Although his arm was still giving him considerable pain, Ted was pleased to be recalled to the ship “Marathon” and wondered where he would go next.  On September 8 he arrived in Cairo via Alexandria, travelling first class by train for the last segment and enjoying chicken, cigarettes and iced water. At the Palace Heliopolis he received a box containing chocolate, cigarettes, toothbrush and paste, scented soap, pencil, writing paper and envelopes and fine coffee biscuits.

It must have seemed like paradise after Gallipoli and Lemnos.  There were two hot baths and clean  pyjamas every day, electric light, a balcony overlooking the garden, good and varied food and lively nurses. Of course it couldn’t last and on September 13 he was transferred to Luna Park Hospital.  He was happy here except for the bed bugs but was promised a new bed. He must have been feeling better as he was able to get through a hole in the fence and go exploring the city of Cairo.

Ted’s arm was slowly getting better but would he be fit for service? He thought maybe he could get into the Signalling School.  On October 25 he paraded for a discharge but didn’t get it.  He was sent back to his unit and put on light duties.  On November 11 he was paraded and declared unfit for Active Service. After a short break in Alexandria he was given an office job with comfortable quarters but must have known this wouldn’t last because he began French lessons once more.  Still he wasn’t going to Europe yet and reported to a depot on the edge of the Suez Canal near where thousands of Australians were camped.

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The Dump at Beersheba, Australian War Memorial Canberra

 The dioramas above and below are from the Australian War Memorial.  They show the use of horses and trucks to transport forage for animals, clothing and equipment, food for personnel, medical supplies etc from the divisional refilling point.  They were the target of enemy bomber pilots and artillery fire.

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Divisional Refilling Point, Australian War Memorial , Canberra

The next depot was three or four miles from the firing line and was in a terrible mess until Ted and nine others sorted it out.  In amongst the bread and biscuits Ted had a dugout and an Arab servant.  The only problem was a lack of water and the sandstorms where goggles were needed to protect the face and a bivvy (tent) could be destroyed in a moment.

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Australian War Memorial, Canberra

Now Ted tried for the School of Instrumentation but was knocked back.  He moved on to O.C. Groceries and commented how the horses were suffering from the heat. After talking to the O.C. of the 17th Depot Unit of Supply he was promised the position of Corporal so applied for a transfer.

Ted could have been describing his future home when he said:

The country is very hilly, all sand but numerous tussocks and salt bush.  It rises in numerous succession of hills and falls away into deep sand gullies.  Far to the south one can see the Red Sea, and the Bitter Lakes lie blue in the distance.

On June 1 Ted said farewell to the “blue skies, the feathery palms and wheeling kites of the Near East”.  On board the “Transylvania” he saw a large escort of destroyers.  As they approached Marseilles the ship a few miles behind them was torpedoed.

After landing in Marseilles Ted and his fellow troops were whisked quickly past the “brilliant cafes and miscellaneous peoples” and put on the train for the North of France.

Ted was in raptures at the beauty of the Rhone Valley.  “Magnificent snow capped mountains, noble rivers and beautiful garden like country; cared for, every inch of it.”

It was certainly a contrast to the dry, dusty countryside of Western Victoria and the heat, sun and sand of Egypt.  In Rouen Ted found his new job in the petrol depot was very tame and the weather was freezing cold.  Food was scarce and he had to buy vegetables to supplement the rations.

Thousands of wounded men were coming down but although he could hear the gunfire Ted was out of it and hoping to be sent up pretty soon.  He felt he may as well be home for all the good he was doing.  The only good thing was his French was improving and he felt he could converse on any subject now.

Then it was onto a troop train bound for Frévent  (21 miles from Arras).  Here Ted bought a violin and a bow (a Strad no less).  He met up with some nurses including one from Hamilton.  Work was hard but Ted became fitter and spent his spare time walking through the local woods and training for a swimming carnival.  On June 21 1917 Ted was transferred to the supply section 26th A.S.C.  He arrived in La Creche amid heavy German shelling, with townspeople killed around him and the church knocked down.  He observed the battles overhead between balloons and  Taubes.  The balloons went down but at least the observers parachuted out. Nights were lit by Fritz’s flares lighting up the target before dropping bombs.

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Despite increased use of rail and motorised transport to move essential supplies, horse or mule drawn wagons continued to provide the majority of material to the front lines during the war. Australian War Memorial, Canberra

We will leave Ted there in war torn France because we know he will survive.  If you would like to know more of his time in France visit M for Military Medal.  He will come back to Australia, take up a block in Red Cliffs, marry a charming woman, have four healthy children and lead a successful life in both business and community involvement.  He will join the Air Force in World War 2 and somewhat reluctantly recruit young men to do likewise.  He will be medically retired one year before the war ends.

And then, two or three years before his death, he will meet my mother.

X Marks the Spot

As every Australian knows, ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.  We celebrated Anzac Day only two days ago in Australia and around the world. 

In 1915 Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of the expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula in order to open the Dardanelles to the Allied Navies.  They lost the battle and retreated after eight gruelling months but ANZAC Day is now commemorated every April 25 as people remember the sacrifice of countless young men on both sides.

On the 20th May, 1915 Ted arrived at Anzac Cove. With the  photos taken during the two months and eleven days he spent there Ted describes life in the legendary battlefield. 

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Ted said that his first camp was on the lower edge of the picture above.    He and a mate used a damaged boat (shown in the photo) to build a dugout.  While they were knocking it apart a machine gun (marked with an X on the hill) started firing so they sat in the water for a while and then made a dash for the bush.  He said they used to swim at that beach but after sixteen men were shot in one morning it became “condemned”.

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This photo shows men bathing while another man is making a dugout.  A sunken trawler lies in the water while a battleship sits on the horizon. Ted refers to Tucker-time Annie and Beachy Bill, two guns which would open fire, clearing the beach and ripping open the boxes of tinned biscuits (hard as the hobs of Hades).  The photo below, taken opposite the Ordnance Store describes it as a perfect Hell Hole of a place on account of the poor cover and the number of shells which lobbed there.

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In the photo below is the place where all troops, stores, guns and ammunition were landed.   Ted marks with an X the spot on the hill where his dugout was for six weeks.  He also marks the spot on the beach where he was shot.

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Screen Shot 2018-04-27 at 9.45.08 amTo transport  stores and ammunition mules were utilised .  This is the 9th Indian Mule transport in Headquarters Gully.  It was necessary to keep to the right of the gully as snipers hid in the higher slopes.

Ted spent his first night in Headquarters Gully.  The rain turned it into a watercourse.

All night the crack of rifles echoed down the gulf while every now and again the machine guns, bombs and mountain batteries would combine to disturb the velvety blackness of the night.

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This last photo is taken on the W Hills.  The dugouts have oilsheet roofs as the area was reasonably safe from shell fire but not from rifle fire.  Although men are standing about anyone could be shot at any time and any place.  Sandbags offered extra cover.  The cans in the foreground were used for holding and carrying water.  The men had to get water and had to exercise no matter the risk.

Ted always had a funny story to lighten the mood.  When unloading stores at Gallipoli it was common practice to drop a case on its corner, causing it to break open and empty its contents into the sea.  After dark the men would swim out and retrieve the tins to supplement their rations.  One night Ted was detained by a senior officer who appeared eager for a chat.  He quickly shoved the tin under his shirt but the lid worked loose and treacle oozed its way down his chest and legs.  When he finally escaped he was unable to remove the treacle with salt water and was pestered by flies and ants for weeks.

Ted’s diary entry for July 31:

Attack on the right flank… Midnight heavy shelling of beach.  Just dodged a couple but was caught with the third through the muscle of the right upper arm. Felt like a kick from a horse…Went to dressing station and had wound plugged and bandaged.  Taken to hospital ship with crowds of others.

So ended Ted’s time at Gallipoli.

W for Wrapping Up

There are a number of issues I have to talk about and questions to answer.

First of all Why did I change the names? All the names marked with an asterisk have been changed.  This makes it difficult to acknowledge the contribution made by *Ted’s son *Hugh in editing his father’s war diaries.  Not only did he decipher the handwriting and present it in an easily readable format but he added a Recollections section at the end which retold many stories about his life.  The war diary is now available online from the Australian War Memorial, Canberra but of course you won’t find it under Edward Turner.

I haven’t communicated with Hugh even though he is my half brother and I would love to talk to him about his (our) father.  I discussed the matter of publication of my story on A to Z with Denise and Jane and although they didn’t mind being named they felt it would not be in the best interest of the older members of the family.  

So that is why the surname and the names of those in the family who are still living have been altered.  The clues to my origin are all there however and like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book the events can play out in different ways.  The ending will be the same and as far as I am concerned that is good because I am here.  Something unexplainable happened 67 years ago which brought me into the world.  I had a happy childhood with loving parents.  I now have a husband, children and grand children and life is good.

Why am I sharing this story?  I want my children and grandchildren to know about their ancestry.  The last two A to Z Challenges forced me to dig deeper and further than I would have otherwise so I decided that was the path to take again.   I don’t judge my parents or Ted for what happened.  Rather I am glad it did because otherwise I wouldn’t be here.

What next?  I am in fairly constant communication with Denise and Jane.  There are cousins, nephews and nieces who have invited me to visit when I am next in their area.  Next month there will be a reunion of sorts in Melbourne to which I have been invited. Air tickets and accommodation are booked and I’m ready to meet a new half sister.  I doubt I will ever find out any more about my origins but meeting more of my relatives will add to my stock of stories and maybe answer a few questions.

The A to Z is far from over.  Tomorrow there will be a belated Anzac Day episode (two days late) describing in more detail Ted’s experiences at Gallipoli and beyond. Anzac Day certainly had more meaning for me this year after reading Ted’s diary.

That just about Wraps it up.

* Not their real names

V for Violin

There are many references to Ted and his violin in the Recollections at the end of his War Diary.  He never went anywhere without it.  His idea of a good time was playing and leading the singing.  One of his favourites was this song from World War I sung alternatively with great pathos and verve.

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A soldier playing the violin in WWI

Down at Bullicourt he fell, Parlez vous.

No word came to Mademoiselle, Parlez vous.

In that little old world town

She waits for the digger with eyes of brown.

Hinky, pinky, parlez vous.

Quiet is that old estaminet, Parlez vous.

No more diggers will pass that way, Parlez vous.

May your heart grow lighter with passing years.

Mademoiselle from Armentieres.

Oh landlord have you a daughter fair? Parlez vous.

With laughing eyes and silken hair.

Yes I have and she’s never been done, Parlez vous.

Yes I have and she’s never been done, Parlez vous.

Mais non papa, you are wrong,

Lots and lots of Australians.

Hinky, pinky, parlez vous.

 

Hugh, Ted’s son, travelled to France in 1950 to follow in his father’s footsteps.  In Frévent he found the estaminet behind the station where once Ted played his violin. Denise, the daughter of the proprietor, remembered that he was always happy and an enthusiastic  leader of the singing.

The tradition of singalongs with the violin continued after Ted married and moved onto the block.  Many lively parties were held at the Turner home.  Ted would welcome the guests by playing a welcoming tune on his violin as each guest arrived.  Amy would join the singing with her sweet soprano voice.

That developed into  every Wednesday night becoming a singing night with local musicians.  One would play the grand piano and three, including Ted, would play their violins.  Another would play the clarinet.  When Edith (my half sister) was old enough she accompanied on the piano.

Favourite songs were Drink to Me Only, Oh Dem Golden Slippers, Hear Dem Bells, The Tattooed Lady, Danny Boy, Lily Marlene and on rare occasions We are the Third Light Horse Brigade.

We are the Third Light Horse Brigade

We face the foe with never a man afraid

Although we cop it in the neck we fight on undismayed.

There would be a good supper and liquid refreshments.  It must have been a wonderful time for all and left his family with many fond memories.

Sometimes instead of reading a bedtime story Ted would play his violin.  He had a trick of making his violin sound like bagpipes.  He used the G string for the drone and played the melody on the D string.  A favourite amongst his children was Cock of the North.