#1 D.O.B Sept 1943

That’s the year I was born. Ida May, you were born in 2013 when I was seventy and Douglas you were born in 2021 when I was seventy eight. Now if I don’t stay around long enough to tell you all the stories I want to tell then you might need to rely on what I write down. My father, your great-grandfather, was also called Douglas but he had an extra “s” on the end just to be different – and he was different. And my mother, your great grandmother, was called Ida.

This is your great grandmother Ida when she about seventeen.

Ida Johnston was born in 1915 and she was the youngest of six children. This is a photo of the whole family with my mother in her mother’s arms and the whole family rather solemnly together as William, in his uniform, is about to set of to fight in the war in France.

Mum never knew really got to know her father, William, because he never came back. She was only 13 months old when her daddy died. The little boy on the right is Walter and he looks particularly sad about his father going away.

That is William on the right with an unknown friend.

The sad fact of what happened to Ida’s father is summed up in the newspaper notice.

After the phrase “dearly loved husband of May Johnston” comes the word ‘officer. That can be confusing because it should have had a capital ‘O’ to start because it refers to the little country town 30 miles from Melbourne. It is now part of the vast metropolis of Melbourne.

And so May Johnston was left to bring up a family of six on her own. I don’t know exactly what happened to all of my aunts and uncles; I do know that Elsie became a nurse and William (Willie) became a lawyer and at one stage was the Deputy Crown Solicitor for the Commonwealth of Australia.

But back to the photograph and the little boy Walter who looks especially concerned. He is standing with his father and all the other children are over with their mother. I have always wondered about that because Walter grew up with them all but twenty five years later, in 1941, Walter went overseas to fight in the Second war. And he never returned. I will tell that story later but first I must tell you about the man who Ida married – my father. So stay tuned.

Coming up

#2 about my father and the marriage.

#3 My Grandfather et al

#4 Uncle Walter and the battle of Bardia

#5 Going Bush.

23 thoughts on “#1 D.O.B Sept 1943

  1. I love the way you tell the story for your grandchild and let us, your followers and friends, have a look too.
    Photos always fascinated me, and I can see the sadness in the eyes of the boy and the father. Imagine the fight abroad in France and the war at home for your grandmother to get food on the table and manage everything independently.

  2. If WW1 is of interest then you might enjoy “The Donkeys”, a book by Alan Clark that reveals just how much the generals in WW1 wasted the lives they had under their command

    • I checked; it is an ebook which is something I haven’t as yet ventured to and furthermore I am told it is no longer available. At my school when I was in year 8 I was in Elliott House named for Major General ‘Pompey’ Elliott who got into a lot of trouble with his superior officers for questioning tactics that would result in him losing so much of his brigade.

  3. This will be a very interesting project and wonderful legacy for the children. Recently I did some family history for a friend, and then said, I’d better document that for you … 150 pages later ……. How wonderful to be having it directly from those who know, so to speak.

      • Maybe. But I didn’t know this one. I just took a quick look at William Johnston’s Service Record. I suppose you’ve seen it. Always heartbreaking. Six weeks in the field and a family orphaned forever. Wife sent a package containing a handkerchief and a military book.
        I know you want to keep the language age appropriate, but maybe when they grow up they will be interested to know more. So perhaps you could add something like, “Because so many soldiers had the same name, the army gave you a number. William Johnston, your great, great grandfather’s number was SERN 4740” (Typed that off the cuff, grammar needs fixing).

  4. Dear John, What a sad, sad story. And both wars (eventually not so much the second) were so far away. Thank you for copying me in. Regards Gareth

    iPhone – Dr Gareth Hughes

    >

  5. Those are wonderful family photos, and help in the visualization of your family! How nice that you are telling the story of your family from a child’s perspective, too, so they will understand it very early!

  6. Pingback: The First of the stories – Paol Soren

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