I was born in Victoria in 1925, my father a butcher from a wealthy family died and my mother Betsey Emily Ellam, nee George had the job of bringing us 3 children up – Depression and all. I was farmed out with relatives to ease the burden at home, then was “called up” when 18 years of age.
Six months army training and six months to go till I was 19 and could be sent overseas. Three areas were offered to us 18½ year olds, cane cutting, rice farming or on the wharves. I selected cane cutting and saved £127, which I gave to mother. She was overcome. I sailed for New Guinea then Bougainville. We fought with the 7th Australian Infantry Battalion being an infantry unit across the middle of Bougainville.
I carried ammunition forward and was in time to see a young lad splutter blood and froth as he passed away crying for his mother. This episode has always been with me and my late wife and I met the mother in Melbourne. Dorothy I rang many times and she spoke of the most intimate things to me – till one day I realised she was in fact speaking to her only son. Enough to say I received her wedding ring cut from her finger possibly at death.
In my huge display, I correct myself, our display (Raye, wife spent 9 years on it) shows everything, photos, letters etc to honour their memory.
Myself spent a long time at the Metropolitan Markets even supplying G.J. Coles for years. Mr Harold Veale, an officer in the 7th was an officer machine gunner and my partner in business. The army and fruit and vegetables interest blossomed when I found a book on “Pink Top” the favourite of the 11th Battalion and at the top of the Pyramid of Cheops photo. I released it to the “West” in 1992 and what a furore. At the very time of writing the “Sunday Times” are doing a project on David Simcock (Red Hair) Pink Top. Even a small film of David exists at the Battye.
An artist friend Stuart Cowrie had lost his money to Alan Bond and as he had travelled all over Gallipoli I paid and took him again. I visited David’s grave and placed artificial fruit on it.
Although “our” collection covers some 5 rooms, extensive records and hundreds of photos I am under enormous press to continue. I would point out that Mrs Ellam, a Kiwi lass died of breast cancer 4 years ago.
She did a day at family research and followed up in both areas – army and family.
How nice to receive the tag from trees, roses planted in overseas countries.
I am to continue with the Ellam-Innes Collection as long as I can, now called the Ellam Collection due to problems, which is the surname, which is the Christian name? People confused.