Lives in turmoil

An interior view of the dugout occupied by officers of the 105th Howitzer Battery
An interior view of the dugout occupied by officers of the 105th Howitzer Battery - Western Front (Belgium), Menin Road Area, Hill 60 (Ypres), 27 August 1917. Captain Leslie Russell Blake MC Polar Medal (on the left) was killed in action on 3 October 1918). Incredibly, Blake was photographed by his old friend from the AAE, Frank Hurley, now an official war photographer. (Photo: Frank Hurley)
Leslie Blake inspecting the effect of a 9.2-inch British shell on a German reinforced concrete dugout on Hill 60 (Ypres), August 1917Portrait of Captain Edward Frederic Robert Bage

In December 1915 Mawson wrote to Charles Dovers, a member of his Western Party, about a small financial arrangement, in which he told Dovers of the war’s ‘disastrous’ impact on AAE fund-raising. He took the opportunity to catalogue the post-AAE careers of most of their former Antarctic comrades:

Murphy about to leave to take up commission in the Irish Guards; Whetter reported to be serving in Red Cross in Europe; Hannam in France – motor transports; Laseron wounded – now permanent appointment in Commonwealth Office, London; Bickerton Lieut. in Middlesex regiment, rumoured killed [He survived the war.]; Madigan Captain Roy. Engineers – wounded; Hodgeman Captain Leicester Fusiliers, at Salonica; Webb Lieut., Australian Engineers at Suez; Bage Captain R.A.E. Killed; Stillwell sitting for D.Sc. exam Melbourne in March – has been working on Antarctic rocks ever since; Hunter Doctor in Military encampment at Liverpool; Hurley with Shackleton; Correll working on war inventions; McLean attached to Black Watch – Medical Lieut – injured in London; Blake Egypt with Australian artillery; Hamilton on verge of leaving N.Z. for front; Sawyer in military forces as wireless man in charge station at Nauru; Sandell in charge Commonwealth wireless station at Esperance (W.A.); Ainsworth not sure of his whereabouts; Wild with Shackleton; Hoadley preparing to go to front; Watson teaching in Sydney; Kennedy Lieut. in Miners battalion [sic]; Harrisson drowned in ‘Endeavour’; Jones Medical officer at hospital for insane, Ryde – Sydney; Moyes Instructor at naval college Jervis Bay – just returned from a cruise; Capt. Davis in charge transport A36 [Australian military transport]; De la Motte 1st Officer on A36; Gillies Chief Engineer on an Australian transport; Blair (1st officer Aurora latter part of Expedition) is 2nd in command of Submarine D6; Gray is Lieut in a river gunboat in Nigeria.

See the letter Mawson wrote to Dovers on 29 December 1015 [PDF], in which he summarised what each of the members of the AAE were doing. George Dovers Papers, Mitchell Collection, State Library of New South Wales.

Late in 1914 the Southern Ocean had taken Charles Harrisson, drowned when the fisheries research ship Endeavour sank while returning from Macquarie Island. The war had claimed the life of the likeable and dedicated Robert Bage, killed at Gallipoli while marking out a trench line near Lone Pine on 7 May 1915. And just before its end, in October 1918, another of the AAE’s number – Leslie Blake, Macquarie Island’s tireless cartographer – would die in the trenches of France.

John King Davis served out much of the war as a commander of troop transports. His service was interrupted by a voyage to Antarctica to relieve Shackleton’s Ross Sea Party – taking Shackleton as a passenger, but (this was the agreement insisted upon by the Australian and New Zealand governments) with Davis in charge.

This page was last modified on July 3, 2014.