The Passing Out Parade was supported by the Australian Government’s Anzac Centenary Arts and Culture Fund and was coordinated by South West Arts in partnership with South West Music Regional Conservatorium and Outback Theatre for Young People.
By John Russell
I, Ada Boxall, was born in England in 1893, the youngest of five children and the only girl. Growing up in a happy family till the age of nine when my parents split up and my oldest brother and his wife took over to household and my sister in-law ruled the household with an iron fist.
At fifteen, I left the house – good riddance - and went into service. Not fitting in I tried many jobs until I joined the Women’s Army corps and after some training as a nurse I left England for France.
In the hospital in Boulogne I nursed wounded soldiers from many countries, but the ones from Australia with their larrikin ways intrigued me. There was one tall, good looking AIF soldier that came in see his mates and, though it was frowned on, he’d smuggle in a couple of bottles of Aussie beer for his wounded mates. Alf Jinks at the time was at a rest camp. I started to look forward to his visits and he asked if he could write to me when he returned to the trenches; it set my heart a flutter.
On returning to the trenches we wrote on a regular basis, “just chummy letters”, and met whenever he was in a rest camp or passing through on his way to leave in England.
Later I heard that Alf had the misfortune to be gassed by German mustard gas and was sent to 2nd Australian General Hospital; it was next to the hospital where I was working so we were able to see each other daily.
The Great War came to an end with the signing of the Armistice on 11th November 1918. Though I was still nursing wounded soldiers, I continued to write to my Australian soldier, who now was bringing army equipment back from the front lines to England. It was on one of these trips he stopped over and proposed to me and I accepted. I was discharged on compassionate grounds when we married in June 1919.
By July we were on the high seas heading for Australia on the troop ship “Canberra” along with a lot of other returning Australian soldiers and their war brides.
September 1919 the “Canberra” sailed into Port Phillip Bay and to the wharf at Port Melbourne. I could guess as to what the early settlers felt and thought when entering a new land.
Melbourne was a city of beauty, parklands and charm; we stayed there a couple of days before boarding the train for a country town on the border of Victoria and New South Wales.
The trip was long and tedious. The train also carried general goods. Lingering at stations and sidings, with the people talking and chatting, one would believe that everybody was related.
After leaving Echuca the train rattled on with its little group of people, through the dusty plains which never seemed to end. The sheep everywhere looked in very poor condition and I wondered just what they lived on, for there wasn’t a blade of grass to be seen.
On and on we rumbled and the further we went I noticed that people got friendlier.
Living in Deniliquin I came to love this country as much as my Australian soldier.