From late 1918, many of Port Macquarie’s young men serving with the Australian Imperial Force returned home from the Great War.
Looking back at letters written by those young men during their time abroad suggests that home was always not far from their thoughts. Many spoke about returning home, and sadly some did not survive the war to make that much anticipated journey.
Oswald Ochs, when writing to his family from France in July 1916, thought about the people impacted most by the war: “People in Australia ought to be very thankful that they are in such a quiet and peaceful country. The poor people here have suffered terribly, you have no idea the sadness this war has brought home to them”. Oswald Ochs returned to Australia in June 1919.
Corporal Rupert Pountney was keen to see his home town again, writing in October 1916: “I sincerely hope it is all over before long, and I am spared to return to you all and dear old Port Macquarie. By jove, it will be a great day when all Australians who are spared return home, though I don’t think there will be many of the ‘old hands’ (ANZACs) amongst them”. Rupert Pountney returned to Australia in September 1918, having been given furlough after serving four years abroad.
Will Fage reflected on home and the war in a letter to his brother in October 1916: “A man gets plenty of time to think of home walking his beat for two hours at a time in the night, when it is as black as the ace of spades, nobody near, and not a sound anywhere to break the stillness of the night. The lads at home are missing the time of their lives. Received five more letters to-day and was delighted to hear from home, but still no copies of the ‘P.M. News’ that you send have come to hand”. Will Fage returned to Australia in May 1919.
It seems that Private Harry Reynolds, writing to his parents from France in 1916, was already homesick: “It is six months since I left Sydney, and I am longing for a look at the old home and a talk to you all, but that will be a long time yet I am afraid. Write as often as you can because I am always dying for news”. Harry Reynolds was killed in action on 4th August 1916, just two months after writing his letter home.
Home connects us to physical spaces, environment, people, objects and other things that are important to us. Where we call home is an exhibition featuring creative artworks and photographs by Omincare Alliance Creative Connection Program clients, Port Macquarie U3A textile and fibre artists and Port Macquarie U3A photography group.
The exhibition opens at Port Macquarie Museum on 11th February as part of this year’s NSW Seniors Festival and is supported by a NSW Seniors Festival Grant. Museum entry is free for seniors during the Festival from 11th to 23rd February 2019.