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Expert Q&A :: AWM Military Heraldry and Technology Team

Q. From Gav: My grandfather was at the Battle of the Somme would he be eligible for the Gallipoli medal?
A. AWM: @ Gav – re the Gallipoli medal, I gather from your question that while your grandfather served in the Somme in France in 1916 he didn’t serve at Gallipoli, Turkey? There were 3 medals Australians could be entitled to during the First World War – the 1914-15 Star, The British War Medal and the Victory Medal. There were some plans to create a specific Gallipoli medal during the war and one was designed, called the Gallipoli Star, but it was never issued. Some examples were struck in the 1990s as a commemorative item. An example can be seen on our website at If you grandfather was on active service overseas before 31 December 1915 he could be eligible for the 1914-15 Star, which I think is the medal you are referring to as people on active service overseas up to the end of 1915, including those at Gallipoli, received it. You can find out what medals he was entitled to by checking his digitised AIF service record at National Archives of Australia (, searching using his name and service number. Usually on the last or second last page of the service record are stamped images of the 3 medals. If there is a number handwritten in the stamp it means he got the medal. If the letters ‘NE’ are written in the stamp then it means he was not eligible for the medal. – Dianne

Q. From Johnelle: Just a query, recently I have been reading about an Australian WW1 soldier. John William Grant Service no. 32321. He is from Beeac, Vic. It appears he enlisted NSW and was KIA. However in the only records I could find, he appears to be listed as a New Zealander?? Perhaps the troops had joined at some stage??
A. AWM: @Johnelle – This is an interesting one. A search of the Commemorative Roll lists John William Grant as having served as a rifleman with the 2nd Battalion 3rd New Zealand (Rifle) Brigade, New Zealand Expeditionary Force. The Commemorative Roll records the names of those Australians who died during or as a result of wars in which Australians served, but who were not serving in the Australian Armed Forces and therefore not eligible for inclusion on the Roll of Honour. It includes those Australians who died while members of Allied Forces, the Merchant Navy, philanthropic organisations attached to the forces, or as war correspondents or photographers. I hope that helps clears things up for you. – Kerry
A. Johnelle: Would I be right in assuming after heavy loss of life (Gallipoli) brigades and battalions could have merged, leaving soldiers listed as New Zealand when they were in fact Australian?
A. AWM: @Johnelle – While loss of life and casualty numbers did result in some Australian battalions merging, in this instance, John William Grant had enlisted with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force even though he was Australian. – Kerry

Q. From Merilyn:  Hi how are you going with my pendant?
A. IHM: Just catching up now. Here it is again for the AWM:
“Can you tell me what the symbol on this pendant is and what it represents. It was brought back by a relative who served in Turkey in WW2 ( I think)” – link to photo:
A. AWM: @ Merilyn, the image looks like a peacock to me, but it is a little hard to tell. I gather it is mother of pearl? There was a big trade in carved mother of pearl souvenirs in Palestine during the Second World War so it is possible it came from there. Turkey was neutral during the Second World War and I am not aware of us having troops there. – Dianne
A. Merilyn: Thank you Diane. Yes it is mother of pearl. I’m sure your right that it comes from Palestine – you know how these family stories can change over time.

Q. From Linda: Hello – running late! I have posted a photo to the wall, and the question is: Maffra Historical Society have a number of photographs of Maffra Platoons, who trained at the showgrounds. Mostly they are wearing white hats. I am told it was unusual for local men to train locally in WWI, and it only happened as there were so many from the local area enlisting at once. I suspect they may have been a little more common elsewhere than people think. Can you help? I THINK there were three. Am I on the correct thread?
A. IHM: Here’s the link to your photo Linda :: – the AWM team have kindly agreed to do some extra research on your question – they’ll have an answer for you early next week.
A. Linda: Thanks Inside History and Team – that would be great!
A. AWM: @ Linda. Training sometimes took place over several camps, and there were smaller training camps in various districts across Australia. It certainly isn’t as straightforward as one would like. In regards to Maffra, it appears that several hundred men enlisted from this district which supports the notion that Maffra platoons trained locally for a time. It is possible that a small training camp was established at the showground, and that numbers were bolstered by the recruitment of men from outlying towns. The white hats in the photograph were part of the first lot of clothing enlisted men received (wore only for about a week) before they received their proper uniform. The clothing included a loose fitting jacket, trousers and a floppy hat made of cheap cotton drill material. The man at the very centre wearing an earlier pattern tunic is an officer, and the two men sitting beside him are sergeants from the instructional corps. If the Maffra Historical Society has been able to identify the location of this photo in Maffra, then it is certainly a supported point that men did train locally. -Eleni
A. Linda: Thank you for that – I have now dug a little further, and it seems they were started in January 1916, and Maffra was one of 59. Certainly we have photos at the Maffra showgrounds, a formal group in front of the shire offices etc. Locals say they camped at the showgrounds, and we have photos of first, second and third platoons. The first one seems to have been there for a month, was immediately replaced by second platoon, which was immediately replaced by a third platoon. There does not seem to be a fourth, so they were only there between February and May 1916. They seem to have marched all over the countryside to receptions, and be kept together when they moved on. I don’t think we have photos in anything except white hats, so they may not have been issued with a full kit until they got to the first main camp. We do have one where it seems four of the Maffra Band enlisted, as they are shown in the group in their white hats, with their instruments. It would be interesting to know if they went on to a band elsewhere. (not that I am expecting you to chase that!) The group is filled out with men too old and boys too young to enlist, with instruments. Thank you! – Photo of Platoon, with band members, at Maffra Showgrounds is over on the side.

Q. From Patrice: I have a letter written by my dad in which he describes an air raid on Darwin. Is the AWW interested in this type of record?
A. AWM: @Patrice Morrow – Donations to the Australian War Memorial can be made via this link. The interesting thing about the human experience of war, is that each man or woman will witness an event from a different perspective. Without a doubt, any letter of this nature could be of great interest.

Q. From Alison: Australian War Memorial Would patrol blues be worn as part of Militia Forces Uniform? (16th Fa Amb)
A. IHM: Hi Alison, the AWM team are going to need a little extra research time for your question. We’ll have an answer for you early next week.
A. AWM: @ Alison – Possibly, but having another look at the second page of his service record when he was in the militia, he was only with the 16th Field Ambulance for a few weeks after he enlisted. He was transferred to the 3rd Cavalry Field Ambulance on 31 Jan 1939 and remained with them over 2 years until June 1941. I have spoken with one of my colleagues about this and she says he certainly would not have been wearing them during the war, so the photograph was probably taken when he was with the 16th Field Ambulance or when he was with the 3rd Cavalry Field Ambulance. Due to the time frame my feeling is the latter but we cannot say for certain. – Dianne
A. Alison: Thank you for looking into this further. Your efforts are very much appreciated.

Q. From Leonie: Is it possible to find out which ship carried my great uncle from Egypt to Gallipoli in July 1915? There is no mention on his service record or in the war diaries.
20:36 A. AWM: @Leonie – Hello Leonie. In many instances (but certainly not all) it is recorded on his service record. Failing that, it is likely that you can find it recorded in the Unit Diary. Would you like to inform me of his name? Having a strong personal interest in Gallipoli, I would love to help you to solve this question. – Gary
A. Leonie: Thanks Gary. He was Trooper John Hugh McRae no 724 1st Light Horse. There is no mention in either his service record or the unit diaries other than he was taken on strength on July 15. He was wounded on August 7 and I am travelling to Malta to visit his grave this year so am trying to piece his story together. Any help would be great!
A. AWM: @Leonie – Thanks for that information Leonie. I will look into this for you and respond through this Facebook page as soon as possible. – Gary
A. Leonie: Thank you Gary. And thanks Inside History for these great Thursday nights.
A. AWM: @ Leonie – Unfortunately, your inquiry has proved more difficult than I originally thought. I was not aware during the time of your initial inquiry, that your great uncle was a ‘reinforcement’ to the unit. i.e. he shipped over to Gallipoli after the first (main) body of the 1st Light Horse Regiment deployed on the Peninsula. I have attempted to search the service records of other reinforcements who shipped over with him at that time, just by doing a random search. Whilst I have not exhausted the possibilities – the records which I have checked do not indicate the name of the transport. With a comprehensive list of all the men who formed part of his reinforcement batch, you may be lucky to find something on their individual service records. I am not sure if you are aware of the unit history:- “In the Footsteps of the First – 1st Australian Light Horse Regiment” by Anne Flood. The book was published only last year and is the history of the 1st Light Horse Regiment during the Gallipoli Campaign, however I have not had an opportunity to peruse the contents. This may have a full list of the reinforcements or a type of Nominal Roll. It may be available at your library as an inter-library loan or could possibly be purchased. This link may assist you in purchasing a copy. I suggest that this should be your first avenue. Failing this, it would be an extremely labour intensive and time consuming exercise to research a list of vessels which were transporting troops to the Gallipoli Peninsula at that time. Also bear in mind that if he was transported on a British ship, then these records would be held in the U.K. Having said this, the time in which you put into this particular strain of research may not result in a positive result. I am sorry to say that there may not be an easy way of ascertaining this information, but would be very interested to see any results which you may have and wish you the best of luck in your endeavour. – Gary
A. Leonie: Thank you so much for your efforts Gary. I will definitely try to obtain the book and go from there. I thought it was a long shot but was worth a try. I wondered whether the hospital ships bringing wounded back to Egypt from Gallipoli then transported men back to the front on their return trips. I found one hospital ship the Grantully Castle which was there around the time Uncle Jack arrived in Gallipoli but That will probably be as far as I get. Anyway thank you again – I will see how I go.

Q. From Julie: Does anyone have any ideas about identifying this photo? Nothing on the back. WW1 or WW2, could be either. Is there anything about the clothing that gives anything away? Link to the photo:
A. AWM: @ Julie – re the photographs. They are all First World War photographs; the interior photograph is possibly from a training camp in the United Kingdom. A few of the men are wearing the Australian style of tunic with the Rising Sun collar badge(which was actually worn in both world wars) and others are wearing fatigue jackets (such as the man at the front with the slouch hat on). It looks like a few men are wearing breeches and perhaps puttees (hard to tell in the photograph), which weren’t worn in the Second World War. The trees in the exterior photographs look like eucalypts, so I would say those photographs were taken in Australia. Other than one of the men being a lance corporal (one chevron on his uniform) there is little to say about them – although it is possible they are wearing cap covers as there seems to be some lumps and indentations where their Rising Sun badges should be on their caps. – Dianne

Q. Q. From Donna: My grandfather came to Australia to join the Australian Army as a Lighthorseman. He gained his citizenship and did just that. He had an immense for horses, thus being a Lighthorseman suited him perfectly. The love of horses has come through to me, but mainly my daughter, who constantly asks questions on the details on why the Lighthorseman killed their horses. Through my research I discovered that the Ligthhorseman was not allowed to bring their horses home, and the soldiers felt it kinder to kill their horse than to let it run with little food. So, my question is on the details surrounding the why, how, where the Lighthorseman killed their beloved horse. I can only imagine it would of been quite an emotional time. I believe one horse came home and would also be interested in why the one horse. Is there any readings or books on the horses of the Lighthorseman? Thank you for all your time, Donna, and daughter Brielle.
A. AWM: @Donna & Brielle – Unfortunately quarantine regulations and a lack of shipping (they were having trouble getting the soldiers home between 1918 and the 1920s) meant the horses could not return to Australia. Few Light Horsemen shot their own horses, the story that most did was perhaps influenced by a poem called ‘The Horses stay behind’ by Major Oliver Hogue, who called himself ‘Trooper Bluegum’. Most horses were handed over for disposal – either sold locally, transferred to the Indian Cavalry or, if old and in poor condition, then shot, mostly by the Veterinary Corps. The same happened with draught horses and mules, who also did amazing work in the war but this is generally forgotten about. There are many books about the Light Horse but a relatively recent one with some interesting detail about these events is ‘Forgotten Men: The Australian Army Veterinary Corps 1909-1946’ by Michael Tyquin, published in 2011. Sandy, General Bridge’s horse, was the one that did return to Australia. In fact, until the Unknown Soldier was interred in Australia in the 1990s, General Bridges was the only soldier whose body was returned from the war for burial, so they both received special treatment. – Dianne
A. Donna: Oh My Goodness! Thank you for such an informative answer! Something we have always been curious about! Your answer means a great deal to us. Thank you, Donna & Brielle
A. Lynda: Re the Light Horse horses – I’ve just finished reading “Bill the Bastard” by Roland Perry which is ..”the story of Australia’s greatest war horse”. It describes the tragic end of the war very well.
A. IHM: Very good but sad book isn’t it Lynda – here’s the link for everyone else ::

Q. From Harold: Just point of interest – did Sandy, General Bridge’s horse, breed at all when back home in Australia, are any present-day descendants known?
A. AWM: @ Harold, No Sandy did not have any offspring post war. He was a gelding so could not sire foals. – Dianne

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