Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The learning journey ends for the 2017 Premier's ANZAC Spirit School Prize

Image above: Discussions about the trip at the 2017 Premier's ANZAC Spirit School Prize reception at RSL SA on 1 December, 2017.

The 2017 Premier's ANZAC Spirit School Prize reception 


All good things come to an end and that is the case with the 2017 Premier's ANZAC Spirit School Prize. On Friday 1 December, the final event for  the 2017 prize was conducted in the Memorial Hall of RSL SA. Our special guests were Mr Rick Persse, Chief Executive of the Department for Education and Child Development (DECD), Bronson Horan (RSL SA President), Cheryl Cates (RSL SA Vice President), Jock Statton (Past RSL SA President) and Deonne Smith (DECD Director). 

 Rick Persse, DECD Chief Executive addresses the reception.

  Bronson Horan, RSL SA President presents an RSL medal to Metala Burgess for her prize entry that he had read.

At the reception the students had the opportunity to address the guests with their observations and stories from the tour and reflect on the impact of the prize on their perceptions and considered futures. The students spoke fantastically and did the parents and staff proud!

 2017 Premier's ANZAC Prize students,  Laura Stephens and Josh Loxton addressing the reception.

 Kendal Brown (RSL SA delegate for the trip) and Brenton Meier (teacher chaperone) share their thoughts on the prize.

After the reception the students, staff and parents had the opportunity to have one last Vietnamese meal together at the Ho Tho City Restaurant in Hindmarsh - an absolute treat to finish our time together.

All smiles at a meal back in Ho Chi Minh City.

All the best to the students and staff involved in this years trip -  thanks for all the memories of a great time together.

Now for planning the 2018 Premier's ANZAC Spirit School Prize that was launched on 11 November 2017. Stay tuned!

The 2018 Premier's ANZAC Spirit School Prize poster

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Every step of the way on the trip I could feel my soldiers with me

Image above: A scene on the track up to the site of the US base called Camp Carroll.

A journal extract from 2017 Premier's ANZAC Spirit School Prize student Abbie Nourse about the hike up to Camp Carroll in the heat and tropical rain.

Thank you Frederick John Schenscher and Errol Wayne Noack for being a major part in my journey

Finding a favourite photograph of my adventures on the 2017 Premier's ANZAC Spirit School Prize Vietnam Study Tour is near impossible to find, especially on my first overseas trip. Every photograph I took on this trip has meaning and a special significance to either the country of Vietnam or my travelling experiences in Vietnam. Every part of Vietnam is different in its own kind of way and every day I learnt and found something new either about myself as a person or the country of Vietnam. I could go on all day long about our travels and adventures in Vietnam but that would be like reading a very long essay and then I reckon it could turn into a novel.
I chose this picture as my significant/ favourite photograph because I believe it captures the culture and meaning of Vietnam and especially holds unforgettable memories. This photograph I took was of a local Vietnamese villager/ farmer whilst walking up to Camp Carroll to the site of the old US base. After 3kms up a steep hill we finally found the memorial to the base! After I was nearly taken out by the massive load of leaves this woman was manually carting down the hill, I quickly snapped the photograph which I consider as a significant memorable photograph.
Walking up the hill of Camp Carroll is something that I will never forget and I believe it made the trip more memorable and meaningful by experiencing all types of weather conditions that the servicemen and women would have endured during the Vietnam War.
As we walked up to Camp Carroll I felt like giving up as this hill seemed never ending with the odds of finding the memorial against us, but then I began to think about both my two South Australian servicemen I had researched for the 2017 Premier's ANZAC Spirit School Prize. I thought about our Australian soldiers walking in these weather conditions in Vietnam, a country so climatically and culturally different to their country and hometown of Australia. They would have felt just as homesick as I did but at least I knew that we were hiking to find a US memorial unlike them who were commanded to hike to some province unknown to them, a place they would have never heard of.

My perspective on life has changed since this trip; I now look at everything in life with a new and different perspective. I am so lucky to have experienced such a life changing adventure with incredible passionate students and mentors. I never knew a group of Aussie tourists and passionate historians would be so popular to the Vietnamese locals!

Vietnam has so much culture and history, each city we went to was always different from the last. Vietnam is full of depth, pain, happiness, laughing yoga, exercise craziness, French heritage and architecture and hidden Chinese treasures. We also met gorgeous, grateful and happy little orphanage and school children who light up your day with sunshine despite the threatening storm clouds and the incredible but peaceful huge limestone rocks at Ha Long Bay and Marble Mountain. I cannot imagine what this country would have looked like during the Vietnam War.
I feel so privileged and honoured to have researched two incredibly fascinating servicemen. Every step of the way on the trip I could feel my soldiers with me and not on one day did I forget about them. Thank you Frederick John Schenscher and Errol Wayne Noack for being a major part in my journey this year. This has been a life changing experience and I am so thankful for being selected as an awardee.

Moments I will never ever forget.

Image above: The smells, sights and atmosphere of the streets of Hoi An at night.

A journal extract from 2017 Premier's ANZAC Spirit School Prize student Alyssa Siebert about her favourite moments on the trip.

My favourite moments and memories

The 2017 ANZAC Spirit trip has gone by too quick. What was two weeks only feels like two days. The whole trip was amazing but if I had to narrow it down to some of my favourite moments and memories, it would be the those spent in Hoi An, Long Tan, our morning yoga sessions and the Song Cau Primary School. From the night of shopping with friends, to the bright and bubbly atmosphere of the locals and tourists and lantern lit streets it was no doubt my favourite place. Our morning walk was one or many but instead of in the sunshine like most others it was mainly in the pouring rain, though the smells were disgusting and I hope to never see live frogs and fish in baskets again.  Being able to see the rubber plantation of Long Tan today and imaging where the stories of many soldiers took place and being fortunate enough  to be able to lay a rose at the memorial and be part of a ceremony for all the soldiers was definitely a moment I will never forget. Our way of watching the city wake up was getting up at six o’clock every morning and walking through the streets of many Vietnamese cities and towns and taking part in yoga and dancing sessions with the locals, watching the them do Tai Chi. I will never forget about happy yoga which was quite different, but made you feel good about yourself. My favourite part of the trip was visiting the Song Cau Primary School. I may not have been able to speak the same language but watching their faces light when given their presents and the way we were able to teach and get along with them was a moment I will never ever forget.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

As we were standing silently under the stars

Image above: A tranquil picture of Ha Long Bay at sunrise.

A journal extract from 2017 Premier's ANZAC Spirit School Prize student Lucy Fielke about her impressions of Vietnam history and culture.

This was an eye-opening experience

Behind the picturesque scenery was a country rich with history. I went to Vietnam expecting to learn about the culture and the war. But what I found was a country that was rich in experiences. I saw people on the early morning streets exercising, and going about their day with not a care in the world. People who had very little, but were content with what they had. They didn’t mind. They cared more about each other and connecting than about possessions.

I ate food that I would not normally try back in Australia. Vietnamese food in Vietnam is very different to Vietnamese food in Australia. It has so much more flavour. Our Australian version is just Western food with a bit of spice – compared to the real thing. It was more of an experience than a meal. It was course after course, a banquet – tasting and experiencing and sharing. You don’t just have a course that you choose, you share it all. It promotes community and conversation.  You feel like you belong more as you are connecting with people in a different way. It is more than just a meal.

In terms of history, I learnt so much. I was surprised by the French influence. I didn’t realise there was such a background from the French colonisation. They corrupted the Emperors and made the Vietnamese people think they had control, but really the French were pulling the strings. I was also amazed by the fact that some people became Emperors by the time they were 13. I can’t imagine being in that position at my age. Also, if the Emperors didn’t abide by the French rule they were exiled to the remote islands off the coast of Africa – pretty cut throat really.

This particular photo really moved me, because during the war, every part of the country was affected and under the influence of the war, but Ha Long Bay will still beautiful and untouched by the war. It really was a safe haven and cut off from the horror and devastation happening everywhere else in Vietnam. On the last night, here in Ha Long Bay we had a service/ceremony to commemorate our Vietnam and World War 1 soldiers that we had researched. As we were standing silently under the stars with the shadows of the islands around us, I could really imagine my soldier and nurse and feel how different their experiences were from my experiences in this place. It really made me appreciate the way I have grown up and the opportunities I have had. I couldn’t imagine the horrors and tragedy that they faced, not very many years older than I am now.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

We were greeted with great inclusiveness

Image above: Ho Chi Minh City from the top floor of Muong Tanh Saigon Centre Hotel on 6 October 2017.

A journal extract from 2017 Premier's ANZAC Spirit School Prize student Jasmin Grist about life beyond just seeing the buildings of large cities.

Hidden beneath the soaring skyscrapers and within the bustling streets, lay many treasures

Since we arrived back in Australia, I have found that the more I think about it, the harder it has become for me to determine just one place or event as the most memorable to me throughout the Vietnam trip. After sifting through thousands of photos (literally), I finally narrowed it down. The photograph pictured above, shows Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) from the top floor balcony of Muong Tanh Saigon Center Hotel. At first glance, Ho Chi Minh City may appear to be like any other metropolis – stretching vastly in every direction, no end in sight. However, hidden beneath the soaring skyscrapers and within the bustling streets, lay many treasures; the noise and energy of the Ben Thanh Market, the beautiful French architecture, dinner on a boat cruising the Saigon River.
We were fortunate enough to explore many of Vietnam’s hidden secrets – and not just in Ho Chi Minh. Every city we visited, from Vũng Tàu to Hanoi, and the stunning countryside and villages in-between, had their own hidden gems. Walking through the city streets, both early in the morning and late at night, we experienced the dynamic life of Vietnam. The lantern-filled streets of Hoi An and the Night Markets in Hanoi were definitely stand out moments for me, being so different to what I’ve always known here in Australia. And the friendliness and curiosity of the Vietnamese people towards foreigners such as us, remains prominent in my memory. Everywhere we went – dancing with the yoga ladies in the park or chatting with people along the streets, we were greeted with great inclusiveness.
The Vietnam tour was an utterly amazing time, certainly setting the standard high as my first time travelling overseas. Being presented with the opportunity to experience the ‘full’ culture of Vietnam, rather than just snippets of it, allowed me to learn so much more than I expected to about the spectacular country’s culture and history. It seems I’ve caught the travellers bug (not the type that gives you diarrhoea). I truly believe that travelling and seeing the world, learning and comprehending a culture outside of our own homeland’s, can enrich a person’s life.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

The story behind the face on the poster

  • The 2018 Premier's ANZAC Spirit School Prize was launched on 11 November 2017. Information and entry forms are available at www.decd.sa.gov.au/anzacschoolprize/ 
  • Above is the poster for the 2018 Premier's ANZAC Spirit School Prize and this blog posting tells the story of the nurse on the 2018 poster.

Olivia's story

In recognition of the role of nurses in the Great War, the 2018 Premier’s Anzac Spirit School Prize poster displays the picture of just one of the hundreds of women who enlisted and served between 1915-1919 in Australia, Europe, Gallipoli, England, the Middle East and on the hospital and troop ships travelling between England and Australia. During World War 1 2,268 nurses served with the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS) in 192 locations overseas and on 39 ships. Of these, 25 nurses died from injuries or disease when on active service. This is the story of one of the South Australian nurses who served in the AANS.

The photograph is of Olivia May Deane. Olivia (Olive to her friends) was 29 years of age at the time of enlistment and her attestation papers described her as 5 foot, 3 inches in height, weighing 9 stone, 2lbs with a bright complexion, brown eyes, black hair and a 39 inch chest measurement.  Olivia was born on the 4 January 1886 in Balaklava, South Australia.  She trained as a nurse at Port Augusta Hospital for 4 years before moving to Mount Gambier in May 1915 as a volunteer member of the Australian Trained Nurses Association.  It was while working as a nurse at the Mount Gambier Hospital she met and became engaged with the young pharmacist, John (Jack) Morris McInerney at the hospital.  

Olivia and Jack: A love story in time of war

Olivia May Deane (1886-1976)

John Morris McInerney (1888-1918)

After Jack’s enlistment in August 1915, Olivia joined the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS) in Adelaide on the 20 November 1915.  It wasn’t until the 25 November 1916 that Olivia finally departed Australia on the SS Beltana for service with the AANS in Europe. Jack had already left for Europe (although Egypt was to be the destination) on 2 December 1915. Olivia had enlisted in the hope that she and Jack would be able to ‘catch-up’ in Europe and continue their relationship in the turmoil of war. Instead of being appointed to a hospital in England, a field hospital in Flanders or a hospital in the Middle East, Olivia became a member of the No.5 Sea Transport Staff. In this role Olivia travelled between England and Australia eight times on the hospital and troop ships during the duration of the war.  Whilst in England she was attached to various hospitals, including one in St. Albans and the 2nd Australian Auxiliary Hospital in Southall, Middlesex. The normal voyage took about 8 weeks and was a stressful experience, with the fear of U Boats always being present whilst the nurses performed the heartbreaking job of caring for young men whose lives had been changed forever by the experiences of war. Olivia was to serve in such a capacity between November 1916 and January 1919, with short stays in London waiting for the turn-around of the hospital ships carrying the wounded back to Australia. During these periods Olivia was always hopeful of seeing Jack either on leave in England or recuperating from injuries in some hospital in England.

On the 15 March 1917 Jack was sent to England for the treatment of his trench feet symptoms at the Norfolk War Hospital in Norwich. Unbeknown to Jack and Olivia their paths almost crossed at this time with the arrival of Jack in England for hospitalisation on 15 March, as Olivia was in the process of embarking for Australia on the morning of the 17 March.

This was the second time Jack had been sent to England for recovery. After being injured at Pozieres on 25 July 1916, Jack spent time recuperating from a serious injury to his right buttock at the Lord Darby Hospital in England between July 1916 and January 1917.  Unfortunately Olivia was in transit on the way to England for the first time as Jack’s time of recuperation was ending before he returned to France in January 1917. In a letter to his mother, Jack wrote:

Somewhere in France:  5 February 1917

“My spell of ease has ended and I am again on the warpath with my fellow Austral warriors. Just had word that little Deanie is on her way from Australia, so my luck is out just now.” 

Unbeknown to his family and Olivia, during this time of recuperation in England, Jack as a qualified pharmacist was offered a ‘safe’ job in that role in a military hospital in England. However, he chose to turn down the offer and return to support his fellow “Austral warriors” in France. The story of Jack and Olivia would have been very different over the coming two years and into the future if he had decided to stay and use his skills and knowledge in London as a pharmacist instead of returning to the trenches as a soldier.

In his letters home to his brother Alfred, Jack frequently talked of his hopes of seeing Olivia when injured or on leave in England. These few excerpts give an insight into his hopes and concerns relating to Olivia.

2 August 1917

“Olive left in June again and I hope I will be a little luckier this time than I was on her previous visit.  I think she is a very lucky little lady to be able to travel all over the world like this.  It’s a great war for some people right enough”. 

12 August 1917

“From what I can gather Olive must be on her way across to England again and perhaps is already there.  I will not be surprised to have word any day that she had reached there.  My word she has had some luck surely in getting a couple of trips across and she should have some excitement too in getting past the U boats.  Many a fright for her, poor kid, though I read that the Germans have agreed to leave hospital ships alone and that makes it easier.”

16 September 1917

“I would not have been very displeased to be scrapping so that I would have chance of catching a Blighty and seeing Olive in England before she leaves there but such is not likely to happen at present so she will return once again without being able to report upon me by personal examination.” 

However their luck did change in October 1917 when at last Jack and Olivia’s paths overlapped after two years of hoping and yearning.  Olivia had returned to England on the 29 August and embarked for Australia on the 17 October.  This meant that Jack and Olivia had the 14 and 15 October together when he was still on leave and before Olivia had to embark again for Australia on a hospital ship.

In great excitement about this happenstance, Jack was to write on 17 October:

“Somehow my luck has been very, very wonderful lately. I can hardly believe that all this is true. I just managed to find little Olive on her 2 last days in England so I am very satisfied with myself. Now she is probably on her way home and soon after this letter reaches you she should be there to tell you that I am still O.K.”

That was to be the last and only time they were to meet during the war, despite Jack writing hopefully on 14 March 1918 that he had:

 “… word last week that Olive has again reached London after rather an exciting trip across.  Most likely I will see her before she leaves for home if I have a reasonable amount of luck.  I should be getting my leave in another 3 weeks and it is hardly likely that she will have returned before that.”

With the Ludendorff Offensive commencing on 21 March 1918, Jack was not to be granted leave as hoped and on 28 June he was killed at Merris as the Australians conducted ‘peaceful penetration’ raids as the allies advanced.

Olivia sailed from Australia on 5 January 1918 and disembarked in England on 4 March and embarked on the return journey to Australia on 15 April. Sadly, if Jack was granted the leave in March that was due they would have met again, but it was not to be. Olivia was to hear of Jack’s death by telegram from his mother upon arrival in Australia on the SS Gaika on 30 July 1918. As it turned out, Olivia did not to return to England until the 13 October 1918.  Being four months after Jack’s death in June, this must have been a very painful and hollow return for her knowing that now there was no possibility of a chance meeting with Jack. Olivia remained in the UK for three months during which time she was admitted to hospital with influenza.  Given that by this time the influenza epidemic was sweeping Europe and killing thousands of people she was lucky to have survived. Olivia was to eventually leave European shores on the SS Suevic for the last time heading for Australia on 6 January 1919.

Ironically, Olivia was de-mobilised on 28 June, 1919, exactly a year after Jack’s death. In coming years Olivia was awarded the British War Medal (18365/4MD) but as was the case with nurses who had not served in a theatre of war, she was not issued with a Victory Medal.

Olivia resumed her nursing career in Adelaide after leaving the Australian Army Nursing Service and in 1925 at the age of 39 she married Keith Sommerville, a clerk from Peterborough.  Olivia never had children and died in Melbourne, 91 years of age in 1976.  Obviously the war years and Jack’s death robbed Olivia of any chance of an early marriage and a normal family life.  She must have often wondered what would have been with her and Jack if the war had not intervened or his luck had held out to November 1918.

This is just one of the many stories about the nurses of World War 1. A group of Australians who bravely served, with their lives changed forever. This is also an example of the type of stories that are uncovered by students entering the Premier’s Anzac Spirit School Prize. The prize invites students to tell the story of a soldier or nurse who served in World War 1. Students are encouraged to use primary sources and if at all possible talk to the families of the person they are researching. This story is just one of so many and happens to be the story of the family of Malcolm McInerney, the DECD Manager of the Premier’s Anzac Spirit School Prize, who like so many in our community have a story to uncover and tell about those who served in the conflicts of the 20th Century.

The 2018 Premier’s Anzac Spirit School Prize was launched on Remembrance Day 2017 and is now open for student to start researching and creating a story to submit by 18 May, 2018. For details of the competition go to http://anzaccentenary.sa.gov.au/competitions/the-premiers-anzac-spirit-school-prize/