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John and Mary Firth

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Mary Firth


Arthur Thomas 13.6.1882
Beatrice Elizabeth 26.4.1892 (Mother) (m William FARLEY 7.1.1917)
Cyril George  6.8.1893
Leonard Llewellyn   .1.1895
Harold Beversham 20.6.1897

Migrated from England to Perth in 1912 on S S ORSOVA

In WW1 Cyril George and Leonard were killed in action and Uncle Harry suffered for the rest of his life with War Gas and Shrapnel wounds.

7th January 1917 my Parents were married in Perth.  Uncle Arthur (an invalid) stayed with them.  To help the war effort they made 100’s of pairs of khaki woollen socks on a special sock knitting machine they had acquired.  When Uncle Harry returned, and after much hospital treatment the two invalid bachelors settle on an orchard at Roleystone.

I am the youngest of five born (19.7.1927). During the horrible depression years we existed how we could – plenty of bartering and swapping and hand-me-downs. If we could acquire a pair of shoes at least we had socks to go with them – even if they had to be stuffed with paper to make them fit.

My dad died in December 1933. (No widow’s pension or child endowment those days). We survived and existed on my Mother taking in Laundry and the barter system. One of the reciprocal deals was with Gable-Williams School of Dancing and Acrobating who taught us girls and we became two of the Eight Rascals – performing for Charities.

During WW2 we entertained the Troops of Australia and USA (on R and R leave) without routines – mainly at Government House Ballroom. The Embassy Ballroom and the Luxor Theatre. Sometimes we were taken to Army Camps – we were extremely popular with the troops. One night I recall one of the makeshift partitions gave way and I received a nasty gash by my ankle bone. The soldiers were wonderful to me and after treatment and much attention I was taken home in an Army Vehicle – excitement for me – caused quite a stir in Basinghall St, East Victoria Park.

Besides out entertaining the troops which was weekly, we had fund-raising events – 1 being Popular Girl Competition based on who raised the most money (many concerts held which brought in considerable funds) which was won by my sister.

I was 12 at the time WW2 started and learnt to knit by making Khaki scarves for the Troops. My first attempt was a shocker, but I soon mastered the art and made many scarves and mittens. My Uncle again made socks on the machine - I was able to work the plain rounds with him doing the tricky heels.

When I went to Perth Central Girls School, James St, we learnt to cook Fruit Cakes for the Troops. These were cooked in biscuit tins – sometimes in special tins supplied with lids. I don’t remember just how many of these we made. They were sealed, wrapped in calico and sent away.

We were Family to many Naval Personal, both Australian and English. An Officer was based on HMS MAIDSTONE, a Submarine Mother-ship, who helped immensely by supplying butter, tea and sugar. We raised chooks so had plenty of eggs and swapped coupons with neighbours for flour etc. My Uncles supplied us with home dried sultanas, currants and peel etc. for the fruit cakes. I read with interest my Father-in-Laws Diary 1917 where he had received a Fruit Cake and how they had enjoyed it while fighting in France – so 60 years later is was lovely to hear how much the parcels meant to the young lads so far from home.

One Brother joined the Merchant Navy, my sister went to work in the Munitions Factory in Welshpool, the eldest sister’s Husband was a RAAF Gunner – took part in the Battle of Britain. We helped look after the 2 children, staying with them. Perth was considered too dangerous so students were sent to various suburbs – mine Victoria Park.  We had staggered hours – I attended in the morning before 8am finishing around 1pm (then the afternoon group started and finished 5pm). The School was quite close to where my Married sister lived, and to the Hall where we had our dancing practice.

My eldest brother had Polio as a young boy and spend much of his youth in hospital or in plaster, but he, Mum, my Married sister kept the Laundry business going with help from the rest of us whenever possible.

We had to make all our own costumes for the concerts so had to swap lots of fruit and vegetables for clothing coupons. The Soldiers really enjoyed the Eight Rascals acrobatic routines the best, the Chorus with all the high-kicks and Tap dancing. My Toe dancing solos were very popular.

There were sad times (Mum’s 2 brothers who remained in England were killed in Air-raids) but there were happy times – being taken over the HMS MAIDSTONE, keeping the troops entertained when they were on R and R, memories that will live forever.

In 1945-47 I worked for the Repatriation Department Riverside Drive, Perth (bottom of Supreme Court Gardens). It was an extremely busy time with Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen returning from active duties. Medical Reports to be typed, requests for Tools-of-Trade, Switchboard duties etc. – we worked long hours. Many of the staff suffered injuries in the war, but they managed various jobs with their gripping attachments (claw for a hand) all types of physical damage and emotional stress. There was a job to do to rebuild their shattered lives – by working together as a unit, seeing a workmate suffering a bit more etc. kept us tight together.

Australia has a lot to thank these people for all they did and how they overcame their problems, thus making Australia the Great Country it is today. GIVING THEIR ALL WHEN MOST NEEDED…

Australian Portable Diary from 1917. No. 24 

Above: Australian Portable Diary from 1917,  No. 24

Extracts from the diary of
Gunner John Dean Firth No 28710 2nd D.A.C.  A.I.F. Abroad.

Left Fremantle 6th September 1916 on troopship A 17 Port Lincoln. Anchored at Williamston at 6pm on the 12/9/16. Left Williamston for Port Melbourne 6am on 13/9/16 and disembarked at 9am, then marched through the city to Flinders Street Station and entrained at 11am, detrained at Footscray and marched out to Maribyrnong about three miles with all our kit on and being a very hot day made us tired.

Left Melbourne by troopship A38 Ulysses at 3pm on 28th Oct 16. The first port was Durban on 13th Nov at 2pm.  Wednesday 15th Routemarch in the morning. 16th Routemarch in morning and left Durban at 5.30pm passing several ships on our way to Capetown where we arrived in the port at 7am on Sunday morning but were not allowed to land and had usual church, throw a few letters overboard and left again at 3pm. Sighted land 29th and 1pm came into port at Sierra Leone. Here were four Cruisers and about eight transports. The natives came around our boat selling oranges 20 for 1/-

8th Remainder of Battleships went out.

9th two Troopships came back. Warships went out again.

10th French Warships came in

13th 9 Steamers came in including two warships

14th in the morning two Warships went out and at 4pm our ship with four other troopships and an auxiliary cruiser left port.

15th Dec all 6 ships all about one mile apart and well out to sea

21st Dec ship started taking a zigzag course

25th Dec Christmas Day not bad under conditions. In the afternoon we saw clouds of smoke on the horizon, which eventually turned out to be seven destroyers. They seemed just like so many flying fish cutting through the water at about thirty knots and hour.

27th Dec 16. Still at sea with destroyers all around us

28th Dec passed Lizard Hd lighthouse at 5am, passed Eddystone at 8am and reached Plymouth at 10.30am here we anchored. At 5pm entrained and first stop was Exeter. Next stop was Amesbury at 2am on 29 Dec 16, here we detrained and marched about 4 miles to camp where we arrived at 4.30am at Larkhill.

Jan 1 1912 Monday had a gun drill all day on old 15 pound gun.
       2 On fatigue – inoculations, training, gun drill, walking horses, etc.
 Very cold

Thurs Feb 1. 12 months since I went to Drill Hall and passed for AIF

Fri 2 Put on Gas Helmet for first time

Wed 7 12 months since I went to camp with AIF

Tue 17 April Received by the King on Bulford Plains

Thur 7 June 17 Warned for Draft to France and medically examined

Thur 14 June.  Left Amesbury 12noon arrived Southampton 2pm left 6pm and anchored off Isle of Wight to 9pm arrived at 4pm at Havre. Went over on a paddle boat.

Fri 15 Issued with gas helmets and Hat.

Mon 18 Went through to gas chambers up at the Bull Ring and passed in gunnery

Mon 25 Marched out of Base Camp at 6pm, entrained to Havre

26th Arrived at Rouen 7am and marched to rest hut.  Left 11pm 
Arrived at Albert 9am and marched out to Base Camp and joined 2nd Division.

29th Left camp Bousincourt via Albert to Montiany to join Trench Mortar School

30th Digging gun pits

Sun 8 Loading ammunition on G S Wagon

9th Reveille 4am left Orville
6am stopped at Sartone 12noon – per foot
Reveille 4.30am Left Sartone 7am arrived Foufflin-Ricametz at 2pm

12th Stopped at Foufflin-Ricametz in Chateau where german spies once lived and had wireless instruments – good billet.

13th Reveille 30.30am left at 6am passed through Pernes and stopped at Nedon overnight
Reveille 4am left at 6am passed through Lillers and Aire – billeted at Rocquer
Reveille 4.30am left 6.30am Rocqueur stopped 2 miles south of Eassel
Reveille 3.30am left 5am passed through Eicke and stopped at Codewaersvelde
Reveille 2.30am left Codewaersvelde at 5am and camped just behind firing line at 11am near Peperinghe plenty of shell fire at Dickebusch. Had both in Shell hole.

19th Called out at 5.30am and proceeded to Munition Dump at Clytte. Working 12hr a day. Things very lively at night. We are on the Ypres front.

Fritz’s aeroplanes dropped bombs all around us at 11pm
Still bombarding heavily
Bombs dropping just after dark
Heavy rain ground muddy

9/8 Fritz brough one of our balloons down in flames and we got two of his ten minutes after

10th Left ammunition dump in morning and joined Unit.  In afternoon went to ASC Dump at Reninghelst

11th Out at 4am to railway siding to get supplies

12th Went to Lecture on American and the War at Reningheist YMCA

17th Fritz dropped bombs in Reningheist – many friends killed.

18th Received letter from Lt Col Finlay O C 47th Battalion stating Jack Millar had been killed in action at Messines on 7th June 17  ** Went up hill and could see Lille, Ypres and Aisne

** (Jack Millar married Ethel Dean Firth – their son John 12 months old) **

22nd Dived down and pulled up a man in swimming pool at Remingheist, but he was drowned.

Sep 6 12 months since left home

11th Up at 2am and went to Gun Puts through Ypres. Digging gun pits. Fritz shelled very heavy at night sending over many gas shells.

12th Fired 12 rounds to find target. Fritz blew out two of our guns. When going up to push our gun back in pit Fritz dropped a shell by me and wounded me in three places at 7.30pm. Had wounds dressed and carried over to AMC hut to wait for motor which came at 9pm and took me to Dickebruch to our AMC to get wounds dressed and left for Remy at 12.30am
After about an hour I was operated on. Have been put on Red Cross Train.

14th Arrived at Etaples 2.30am went under X-rays for ankle 10am

22nd Disentrained 1am at Opington and motored to Ontario Hospital.

22/10 Motored from Ontario Military Hosp Orpington to Dartford Hosptial

17/12 Transferred from Wetham Camp to Monte Video Camp Weymouth.

COTTAGE Leonard and Cyril killed in action at Gallipoli.

COTTAGE Harold Benjamen wounded in action in France and suffered gas damage.  Returned to live at Roleystone, Perth.

A Service Letter Card, Salisbury Plain, addressed to Miss Hazel Firth, 106 Brisbane Street, Perth, Western Australia 

Above: A Service Letter Card, Salisbury Plain, addressed to Miss Hazel Firth, 106 Brisbane Street, Perth, Western Australia


Certificate of Character on Discharge of Gunner FIRTH, John Dean, from 4th Divisional Ammunition Column 

Above: Certificate of Character on Discharge of Gunner FIRTH, John Dean, from 4th Divisional Ammunition Column


Certificate of Discharge of Gunner FIRTH, John Dean, for "being medically unfit (not due to Misconduct)"  

Above: Certificate of Discharge of Gunner FIRTH, John Dean, for "being medically unfit (not due to Misconduct)", after one year and 194 days in service abroad.



Acknowledgement of Country

The Government of Western Australia acknowledges the traditional custodians throughout Western Australia and their continuing connection to the land, waters and community. We pay our respects to all members of the Aboriginal communities and their cultures; and to Elders both past and present.