Pages from Hunter Region in the Great War


Fortuitously, the City of Newcastle Sub-branch of the RSL approached me in the midst of the task to

discuss a short history of its own organisation, with a deadline to match the sub-branch’s centenary dinner in

March 2017. The idea of combining the two projects was raised, and accepted.

Some time during the year the opportunity arose to buy a near-complete run of Great War-era Sydney

Mails, in bound volume form. The content of these volumes includes a large amount of material relevant

to Hunter readers – particularly the melancholy and tragically numerous portraits of the fallen. These have

proven to be a valuable resource for our book, providing many of the illustrations it contains.

Many people have helped us in a number of ways.

David Dial patiently adapted his now-famous roll of Hunter Region Great War enlistees to fit the book’s

format, and generously provided his index of Digger letters in Hunter newspapers, greatly simplifying the

job of seeking primary source material. David also permitted the use of excerpts from his books.

Newcastle Region Public Library obtained scarce publications and charged reduced fees for the use of

some valuable images, as did the Australian War Memorial. Newcastle Regional Museum kindly allowed

the use of photographs and documents from its important World War I collections, as did the unfailingly

generous Archives of the University of Newcastle.

The family of Hunter VC winner Joe Maxwell helped us negotiate a reduced fee for the use of quotations

from their illustrious forebear’s fine book, Hell’s Bells and Mademoiselles.

The publishers of many other books – including several excellent titles produced by various Hunter local

history and family history organisations – have been exceedingly kind in allowing us free use of material

they gathered between the covers of their own works. For this we are immensely grateful, and details of

those books can be found in the bibliography at the end of this volume.

As always, I thank my wife, Sylvia, for the extraordinary efforts she has applied to this publication,

particularly in the extremely time-consuming task of placing the lists of names and the large number of

portraits that accompany them.

The Great War is such a vast and varied topic that this book inevitably leaves out much that could – and

perhaps should – have been included. Choosing what to leave in, what to take out; what to pursue and what

to leave alone: these are decisions that will always be open to question.

Pre-emptively I apologise for the shortcomings of this publication, and for its errors which are mine

alone. Those things aside, however, I hope the book will bring readers some new insights.

I hope it will help people who have never had to endure the dreadful experiences the book describes to

consider some of the privations and suffering that war inevitably brings.

These things are unpleasant, but vitally important to contemplate.

Lest we forget.

Greg Ray

Ships from many countries, including Germany, in Newcastle Harbour before the war.


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