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 Fiona Hendry
Early in 1940 my brother Jack volunteered to join the army. He went with the 2nd/24th Battalion and trained in Wangaratta. I missed him terribly when he went away, first for training and then to North Africa and the Middle East. We got some postcards from him on his travels although I worried about him, wondering how he was getting on and hoping he would get through the War unscathed. He was not yet 21 when he first went to the battlefields. He was proud of his mates, his Battalion and his service.
We really wanted to help with the war effort too. Essie Green and I heard there were plenty of opportunities for work 45 miles north of Echuca, while the fuel depot in Mathoura was being constructed and the RAAF had set up their flying school close to Deniliquin. We set off on bicycles to find work and at long last made it, dehydrated and badly sunburnt. It took a week to recover from the 45mile ride.
We door knocked a few places and got jobs in catering and cleaning at the Globe Hotel in Deniliquin. In those days hotels had accommodation for short and long-term tenants. After work, on weekends, were some great parties. Despite rationing, pilots were able to access the best of alcohol so those gatherings were fabulous. We certainly had fun with some of the pilots, and enjoyed the dances held around town. Most of the clientele of the Globe were connected to the RAAF, so we got loads of invitations. For years I received lovely Christmas cards after they had been deployed overseas.
There was one border at the Globe who I never saw for months. Curiously the room he stayed in was full of wires. It turns out that man had been a Charcoal burner in the Gulpa forest and kept long hours sleeping and working in the forest. In his free time he indulged himself by listening to major cricket matches over the wireless, hence the elaborate display in his room.
Jack, my brother, came home for a stint before his battalion was stationed in New Guinea. They had training first up in far north Queensland, to acclimatise for the tropics. The Japanese were threatening our borders to the north and it was a very real fear that Australia might be invaded. My brother again went to war. As much as I was proud, I was also terrified each time he went away.
New Guinea ended as the final resting place for Jack. I was devastated to learn his demise from wounds sustained there. He was laid to rest at Finschhafen War Cemetery, barely 23 years old. He’d had no time to love or have a family. He’d faced terror and survived the Middle East, but New Guinea was an awful battle and the losses suffered by the 2/24th Battalion were huge. It was a terrible sadness for our family.
I continued working at the Globe and cleaned and catered. The man with wires all around his room turned up one day, covered in soot and keen for a meal and a clean bed. Frank Langshaw was a charcoal burner, manufacturing charcoal in a kiln deep in Gulpa forest. It was charcoal supplied for the war effort, and being a Charcoal burner was a highly sought after skill at that time. Frank said he had been declared unfit for battle, having suffered polio as a child. Instead he’d been working hard in the forest and he was lean and handsome. He told me about his passion for cricket and we laughed about those wires all over his room. We fell in love and married in December 1943.
Frank’s intense love for cricket extended to umpiring for local cricket matches. Our 3 children shared his passion for the game. The experience I gained at the Globe meant I continued to cater and attained a reputation for my culinary skills – earning a decent living while we raised our family.