Saturday, October 26, 2013

AHS Wanganella

Private Allan Scott - VX76002
D Company - 2/24th Battalion
Australian Infantry

Not long now.  Excitement.  Nervousness.  Trepidation. Relief.  Joy.  The air was electric with anticipation. Beaming smiles abounded, even on the most hardened faces.

After so long abroad, we were nearly home.  Land was in sight.  How I had dreamt of this moment.  My heart ached and raced to see my dearest Eva.  I hope she could bring the nips to see me.

But then there was a moment of doubt.  Had I changed too much?  In getting the job done, I had seen things and done things that she should never know about.

I looked around at the smiling men, lining the deck and my fears disappeared.  The sun was shining.  I had made it home.  Very soon my arms would be around my sweetheart.  Life is Good.


This is how I imagine that my grandfather felt as the Australian Hospital Ship, Wanganella, approached Melbourne in March 1943.


This photo was in my grandmothers photo album and was labelled;
"The hospital ship that Allan came home from the Middle East on 1st April 1943"
A search of Australian hospital ships on the internet soon revealed that this ship was the Wanganella as it is easily identified by the number 45 on the bow and stern.

The Advertiser (Adelaide)
29 May 1941
Source: www.trove.nla.gov.au
Wanganella - December 1945
Source: State Library of Victoria
My grandfather, Allan Scott, contracted Rheumatic fever whilst on active service in the Middle East. He was evacuated on the 6th February 1943.  He wrote a letter to my grandmother while onboard the Wanganella.

" 19th March 1943
Dear Eva, 
Well just a line to let you know I am still in the land of the living, in fact I am feeling very well again now and will be seeing you in about a fortnights time.  I lost a lot of weight while in hospital but am putting it on again now & I should be too as I have an enormous appetite at present.  I think  it must be the change back to Aussie rations.  I am having a bit of a struggle to write this as the boat is pitching about considerably & I am just sitting on the side of the bed with the pad on my knee.  We are on a hospital ship that carries between five and six hundred when fully loaded but there is only 180 on this trip as we are the last of our lot to return.  One thing we have plenty of room & the staff have a pretty good time as well & they look after us extra well too.  Most of us are feeling pretty right & there isn't many bed patients.
You will be notified a couple of days before we arrive & I believe they give you a free rail pass to come & meet us & don't go thinking I am bad just because I am on this boat because I am quite well.  I will get this posted airmail from Perth & hope you get it before you come to the city.  You had better wire Wally (his brother) & get him to meet you at Spencer St or you may have some trouble finding your way about.  His address is 2 Coburg Street, Coburg in case you don't know it.
I think we get away very soon after leaving the boat & I believe we get 14 days leave for a start & probably some more after but am not certain of that.  The 14 days is convalescent leave.  If your pass is good for a few days you might like to have a look around the city while you are there.  I think I will send a wire from Perth too in case you don't get this before you leave to meet me.  We expect to get to Perth about next Thursday or Friday & to Melbourne about six days later.  We have run into quite a few rain storms in the last few days.  It is very hot too.  We crossed the equator about 4 o'clock yesterday morning so it will get gradually cooler from now on.
I wish you could bring the nips to meet me too but I don't spose you would be able to as Don will be going to school & besides you would have to bring too much baggage.  I will have a fair bit of stuff to carry too.  Tho I will be wearing quite a bit more than at present as I am only wearing a pair of shorts & just put a pair of canvas shoes on to get up on deck.  I play a fair bit of deck quoits during the day and five hundred at night & spend the rest of the time sun bathing, reading or sleeping.  Well dear I think I will stop now & write to a few of the others between here and Perth & will most likely write a bit more to this in the mean time so for the present I say cheerio & will be seeing you soon.

25th March 1943
Well we are just about to Freemantle now, expect to pull in sometime this morning so another week & I will be seeing you I hope.  I don't know if we are going to get ashore for a while or not so may not send the wire I mentioned earlier.  I can get one of the chaps that are going off here to post this.  We are still having a good trip.  It will take us

about five to six days from when we leave Freemantle to get to Melbourne.  Well now old dear I must stop as its nearly breaker time so cheerio with all my love to you all now and forever.   Allan"
Evidently the trip was not as totally uneventful as my grandfather's letter as he later told his family that the hospital ship needed to turn quickly and change course to avoid a Japanese torpedo boat that was in their path.

The Argus (Melbourne)
5th April 1943
Source:  www.trove.nla.gov.au



Received by Allan Scott the day he returned to Australia in 1943.  It was discovered among my grandmothers papers after she died in 2006.
My grandmother, Eva Scott, wrote more than 50 years after my grandfather returned from WWII;
"Allan’s regiment were sent as reinforcements to El Alamein where the fighting was pretty fierce, but all over before they got there – thank goodness.  So they were sent home on leave, but he did not come.  I wrote to the headquarters Melbourne – asking why.  Got a registered letter, which I didn't keep (wish now I had).   It said he developed hepatitis and asthma and was on his way to Heidelberg Military hospital and they would let me know when he arrived by hospital ship – which they did –and asked me to keep it under my hat.  As soon as I got word I went down.  Wally was stationed at Bourke St so I made for there thinking he would be there, but red tape kept them at Barracks which Mavis knew so she took me there.  Barry was only 6 weeks old, so I carried him for Mavis and one cheeky devil of a soldier said quite loud – "Where did you get that baby"?  From then on he spent quite a bit of time at Heidelberg – they made him TPI".
My grandmother was mistaken in her writings as the army records indicate that my grandfather contracted Rheumatic Fever not Hepatitis as she states.

The Argus (Melbourne)
10 March 1941
Source:  www.trove.nla.gov.au

My grandfather was still in the hospital at Heidelberg in July 1943 as I also have a letter written to my grandmother, dated 8th July 1943 from "Ward 18, 115th AGH Heidelberg".  The Defense records indicate that he was made TPI and discharged on 30th November 1943.

My grandfather, Allan Scott, died 6th April 1965 at age 56, as a result of  an "acute cardiac arrest" as a result of long term "chronic rheumatic valvular disease of heart", which would have been a result of the rheumatic fever that he contracted whilst serving in the Middle East.  

Click for more Sepia Saturday posts

Originally posted 8th June 2013 but re-posted to celebrate 200 Sepia Saturday posts

68 comments:

  1. Such a historic presentation. You are lucky to have the letters and I liked the intro you wrote, to set the tone for this.

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    1. Thank you Patricia. I procrastinated on the introduction as I normally try to stay factual rather than speculate. So very glad to get a positive comment.

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  2. Fascinating! Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Thank you for visiting. It is amazing how much information that one photo prompted. Thank you Sepia Saturday for getting me to research something that I would not have otherwise.

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  3. Fascinating....there is nothing like reading the real thing, including the mundane chat, to understand how individual families were touched by war. Thank you.

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    1. Thanks Nigel. I have lots of letter that my grandfather wrote while away on active duty. Unfortunately, the majority of them are very boring. However it was good to be able to put the letter with the photo.

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  4. An entralling story indeed - thanks for sharing the photos and the ephemera. I feel that such connected documents and scarps of paper always add to the value of photographs.

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    1. Thank you Brett. While researching this, I came across a war time newsletter. When I opened it up, I was amazed to see a list of autographs with the service numbers of those who signed written beside each signature.

      I now have a new project!

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  5. This was very interesting. I like the way you had both letters and news articles and the photographs. Makes a very complete picture. It's sad that your grandfather died so early from complications.

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    1. Thank you Kristin. Yes it is sad he died so young. I once asked my grandmother (who lived to age 96) why she didn't remarry. She said something to the effect of "I married the best and he can never be replaced".

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  6. As soon as I saw the picture, I said, "I know him!" I recognized your grandfather from the face quiz.

    As others have said, this blog post is exceptional for the combination of personal letters and objective news reports. If there was a "Like" button, I'd click it twice.

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    1. Thank you very much Wendy. I appreciate it. I enjoyed researching this post and was surprised that I did have so much information relating the trip home.

      I had forgotten that I used this same photo of my grandfather in the matching game. It is my favourite photo of him.

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  7. I enjoyed reading the letter. It's nice it has been preserved.

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    1. I am very appreciative that my grandmother kept them. My grandfather would not have been able to keep the letter from my grandmother but I feel that they would have made more interesting reading as her letters to me were always very full of information.

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  8. A perfect post for this weekend's theme and a touching story too. The time spent to move troops by ship in the earlier wars required major logistic planning. Moving the casualties back home was even more challenging.

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    1. I hadn't even thought of that aspect but you are very right. No computers in those days either!

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  9. My grandfather also contracted rheumatic fever in WWII and spent time in Heidelberg repat hospital. I wonder if they crossed paths.
    He also died of a related illness but only a couple of years after the war, when my dad was quite young. My gran also never remarried and had a similar response to why she never remarried "I could never love anyone else like I loved Keith". A bit sad for her little boys though.
    Thank you for sharing - and for the memories.

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    1. So many similarities Jackie. They probably did meet. Do you know what date you grandfather was there?

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    2. I'll have to dig out his records - they are under the huge pile of "I must sort that out" genealogy things. He was in and out of a couple of hospitals in Vic throughout the war. he was definitely in Melbourne area in 1942-3 though as he fathered my uncle then. Nice to think he had someone going through the same thing to keep him company isn't it?

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    3. Lol. I have a huge "to do" pile too. My grandfather was in several hospitals in Vic too.

      Yes I agree. It is nice to think that they were not going through it alone.

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  10. Amazing that you have so much detail here Sharon. I enjoyed reading Allan's letters and your grandmother's recollection. Spot on with the theme this wek.

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    1. Thankyou Marilyn. I am very thankful to Sepia Saturday for prompting the research and collation of this information. If it wasn't for this weeks Sepia Saturday prompt, I wouldn't have taken the time to research the hospital boat and locate/collate the other information for my family to read.

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  11. I loved the way you began your post, to draw the reader into the story. A fascinating account and you are so lucky to have all the archive material to illustrate it. Great family history writing!

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    1. Thank you Sue. I appreciate your feedback.

      Yes I am very lucky to have so much material.

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  12. Wonderful job showing this part of your family's history. What a sacrifice he made for his country, and your grandmother, too, letting him go. Lovely that you have the letters and clippings and such to help you piece the story together. Well done.
    Thanks for visiting Life is Good. It cracked me up when I found that line in your post...
    Tina @ Life is Good

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    1. Thank you for visiting Tina.

      We are very fortunate that he made it home.....as otherwise my mother would not have been born :)

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  13. Ah, if only it had been treated better.
    But he did get to finally come home to his sweetheart!!
    Great story!!
    Glad these documents were preserved.
    :)~
    HUGZ

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    1. Very true.

      I am so fortunate that my grandmother retained all these documents.

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  14. Very, very interesting. The letters and documents made this a riveting story. What a pity that he did so early.

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    1. Thanks Bob.

      Yes it is a shame that he died so early. Unfortunately, I didn't get to meet him as he died before I was born.

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  15. Great sequenced story of photos and documents!

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  16. So Often a Telegram brought bad news.......Nice to see a Good News Telegram for a change!
    Great Post.

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    1. Thank you Tony.

      Yes my grandmother would have been very happy to receive this telegram, which I assume is why she kept it.

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  17. Gosh - imagine getting so close to home and then having to navigate your way around a torpedo boat!!!

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    1. Yes. It would have been a heart in the throat moment.

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  18. I love the way you reflect in your opening paragraph Alan's sense of anticipation on returning home. Your writing has an immediacy and power. and it introduces us to his wider story, backed up by fascinating images and archives. A beautiful tribute. . .

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    1. Thank you Sue. I really enjoyed researching this one.

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  19. Absolutely wonderful! His letter from the ship is so restrained, and yet his excitement is evident in the very fact that he keeps writing.

    How fantastic that you've been able to piece all the details together. I often wonder what these deceased relatives would make of us all, making the effort to keep them "alive".

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    1. Thank you Kat. Yes, I have wondered the same. I feel like I am getting to "know" many of my ancestors and get a sense of who they were, but also wonder if I am correct and what they would think.

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  20. Always a good story when someone comes home safe and sound . . . although it sounds as if your grandfather's bout with Rheumatic fever may very well have had something to do with his early passing. Still, he was lucky and came home to his Eva again and they had 20+ more years together.

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    1. I am certainly glad he came home safely as my mother was the after war baby!

      I once asked my grandmother why she hadn't remarried. She replied that she married "the best" and couldn't settle for anything less!

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  21. I remember this one Sharon, it was the post that really got us emailing! Our grandfathers possibly in the same hospital at the same time and our grandmothers sitting in the same waiting rooms and cafeterias with their little children! Well chosen

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    1. Thank you Jackie.
      Yes, there are many "co-incidences" in our families (and photos). I certainly feel that our ancestors would have met at some stage.

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  22. Such Great Detail & Such An Eventful Time.Well Recorded &A Well Reported Return To The Nips.Thanks For Sharing.

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    1. Thank you Tony. I enjoyed putting it together. And to think that it all started with one little photo and very little information.

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  23. This was and still is an outstanding blog post - the perfect mix of photos and news articles that feeds my family historian soul. It's the kind of post I wish I could write.

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    1. Thank you Wendy for your very generous comment..............but you have written many family history posts that I have envied and aspired to.

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  24. What a wonderful historical post from your family. Very nicely researched. You're lucky to have all those letters from the past.
    Nancy
    Ladies of the Grove

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    1. Yes, I am very glad that my grandmother retained those letters, even though my grandfather did not write too much in them.

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  25. A good story that deserves retelling. The experience of war from the viewpoint of a soldier is never the same as the history books. For most it is just the simple desire to get back home safely.

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    1. My favourite post (not a Sepia Saturday post) is about my Grand Uncle who fought and survived (not without incident) World War 1. Some of the information that I have located about him is amazing and eye opening.

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  26. The family stories that are being repost for SS200 should never be forgotten, This is one to be retold time and time again.

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    1. Unfortunately I did not get to meet my grandfather. I wonder what he would think?

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  27. It's great you have these treasured memories. Great post for Sepia Saturday 200!

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    1. Thank you Doug. It was hard to choose a post to repeat.

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    1. Thank you.

      I am very grateful for SS prompting so many posts that I wouldn't have done otherwise.

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  29. A treasure indeed, and a great one to post for SS 200! Perfect and rich photos to share as well.

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    1. In hindsight, I should have included a photo of my grandfather in uniform with two of the children. He looks so young.

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  30. A lovely tribute, Sharon and well researched.

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    1. Thank you Lorraine. It was really enjoyable to put the bits and pieces together.

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  31. I'm glad this one is going in the book. It's such a perfect post.

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  32. Very well researched and extremely well written.

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  33. I really enjoyed your post. It is amazing to see how closely you could follow his movements as he was suppose to come home but didn't. It is hard to believe the Japanese were still out trying to bomb ships but they were. What a wonderful piece of history. My father made it back alive from the Battle of the Bulge but his ship was small and it made him so ill with the wild waves. Again it is such a great blog.

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  34. Sharon,

    I want to let you know that your blog is listed in today's Fab Finds post at http://janasgenealogyandfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2013/11/follow-friday-fab-finds-for-november-1.html

    Have a wonderful weekend!

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  35. Still nice to read this all over again.
    Doesn't loose any of its charms.
    As he'd say:
    Cheerio!!
    :)~
    HUGZ

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