Harold John Arthur ‘Jack’ West

Harold ‘Jack’ West was an orchardist from Canobolas who enlisted in November 1915. He embarked from Sydney in April 1916, a Private with the 7th Light Horse Brigade, Machine Gun Squadron. Stationed in Egypt, Jack was hospitalised several times during the war, most seriously in September 1918 suffering from malaria. In November 1918 he was promoted to Lance Corporal. He returned to Australia in August 1919.

In April 1920 Jack married Ellen ‘Nell’ Farrell, the youngest daughter of James Farrell of Emmaville Orchard at Rosedale. The couple had three sons and four daughters.

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Wilhelmina Jane ‘Minna’ Solling

Wilhelmina Jane ‘Minna’ Solling was born in Orange in 1878. Her mother, Jane, was the eldest daughter of Mr and Mrs William West of Balmoral, Canobolas. The family relocated to the Hunter region in the early 1880s.

‘Minna’, as she became known, trained at Sydney Hospital between 1903 and 1907. Following her training she worked at Berrima District Hospital, Perth Public Hospital and Bowral Public Hospital, later becoming Matron of the Crown Street Women’s Hospital. (more…)

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Reginald Solling

Reginald’s mother, Jane, was the eldest daughter of Mr and Mrs William West of Balmoral, Canobolas. Reginald enlisted in May 1915 and served as a Gunner, later Sergeant, with the 5th Field Artillery Brigade in France, returning to Australia in February 1920.

Reginald’s brother, Eric, and sister Wilhelmena, a nurse, also served during WWI. Eric was killed during the landing at Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915.

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Eric Martin ‘Dick’ Solling

Eric Martin 'Dick' Solling

Officers of the 2nd Battalion with two Egyptian guides in front of the Sphinx during a visit to the Pyramids. 2nd Lieutenant Solling is seated on the donkey on the right. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial.


Eric Martin ‘Dick’ Solling was an optician who lived in West Maitland.  He enlisted in August 1914 and was a Lieutenant who went to Egypt as part of the first expeditionary force.

Eric was the youngest of 11 children.  His mother, Jane, was the eldest daughter of Mr and Mrs William West of Balmoral, Canobolas, and Eric and his wife often travelled to Orange to visit his parents.

Eric enlisted in August 1914 and embarked from Sydney in October the same year. He was killed during the landing at Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915. He was 21.

The Leader reported his death on 6 May 1915, however erroneously claimed the following day that he had merely been wounded. Eric left behind his wife Veronica and a three-week old infant.

Eric’s brother, Reginald, and sister Wilhelmena, a nurse, also served during WWI.

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James William ‘Jim’ Caldwell

When James William ‘Jim’ Caldwell enlisted in August 1915 he left his property – Gowan Lea – in charge of his younger brothers John (‘Jack’) and William.  Prior to embarking in September he and Ethel Amy Cantrill of Borenore announced their engagement.

A Trooper with 12th Light Horse Regiment, 4th Reinforcement, Jim was stationed in Egypt, but was invalided home in July 1916 requiring a hernia operation.

On 20 September 1917 Jim and Ethel married at the Church of England in Borenore. Jim went on to enlist in WWII.

When he enlisted in WWI the Leader described Jim as “a pure Orange boy, and very popular among his intimates”, claiming “the boys will miss Jim, and some of the girls will, too.”

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Enlistment facts and figures

416,809 Australians enlisted for service in the First World War, representing 38.7% of the total male population aged between 18 and 44. At the outbreak of the First World War, the number of people volunteering to enlist for the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) was so high that recruitment officers were forced to turn people away. Approximately 33% of all volunteers were rejected during the first year of the war.

However, as the war went on, casualty rates increased and the number of volunteers declined, so that by 1916 the AIF faced a shortage of men. Despite opposition from his own party, Labor Prime Minister Billy Hughes decided to take the issue to the people in a referendum. The nation was asked to grant the government the power to compel citizens to serve overseas during the current war, ie. conscription. The referendum was held on 28 October 1916, provoking furious debate. It was narrowly defeated. (more…)

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Afflictions suffered by soldiers during WWI

Soldiers suffered from a variety of illnesses and injuries during the course of the war, and many soldiers were hospitalised on more than one occasion. Medical services were relatively primitive, and many of today’s life-saving antibiotics were yet to be discovered. Minor injuries, therefore, could prove lethal.

Vaccination in the early 20th century was not as prevalent as it is today, hence communicable diseases such as mumps, dysentery, typhus, and cholera were very common. The occurrence of such illnesses was exacerbated by poor sanitation in the trenches, and many more soldiers died of illness than of gunshot wounds, gas attacks or shell fire.

Respiratory diseases such as influenza, tuberculosis, pleurisy and pneumonia were rife, as were scabies, pediculosis (lice) and other parasites. Body lice caused trench fever, resulting in headaches, aching muscles, skin sores and a high fever. (more…)

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New recruits were required to record their occupation when completing attestation papers. The occupations recorded by service men from Orange are predominantly rural ones. They include Farmer, Drover, Grazier, Orchardist, Nurseryman, Stockman, Horse trainer, Stationhand, Jackaroo, Shearer and Fencer.

The Railway features prominently as an employer. Many men recorded occupations such as Railway worker, Railway employee, Engine driver, Shunter, Porter, Carter and Locomotive fireman.

Building and other trades are also popular, including Builder, Plasterer, Carpenter, Blind maker, Labourer, Blacksmith’s striker, Miner, Mechanic, Marine engineer, Rubber worker, Bootmaker and Book binder.

Retail trades include Butcher, Baker, Grocer, Shop assistant, Packer, Storeman, Boot buyer, Cordial maker, Bookkeeper, Clerk

Health professions include Medical Practitioner, Dentist, Chemist, Optician, Nurse and Masseuse.

Other professions mentioned are: Police constable, Fireman, Telegraphist, Draughtsman, Hairdresser, Motor driver, Jockey, School teacher, Singing teacher and Musician.

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The role of humour during World War One

The sense of humour played a major part in maintaining the morale of both troops and civilians during WWI.

Humour was a response to fear, boredom, isolation and adversity. Humour fostered solidarity and helped shape a group identity against a common enemy. It nurtured resilience and helped men cope together with fear, hardship, deprivation and loss.

In 1916 some British officers in Ypres discovered an intact printing press in the ruins of a bombed out building.  They decided to use the press to create a satirical newspaper to entertain the soldiers and to raise their spirits. The Wipers Times was named after Tommy slang for Ypres.  The paper consisted of poems, reflections, wry in-jokes and lampoons of the military situation.  In 2013 the BBC broadcast a dramatization of the story of The Wipers Times.

Are you a victim to optimism

‘Are You A Victim Of Optimism?’ appeared in The Wipers Times in July 1916 in response to the Battle of the Somme, where 19,240 British men died in the first day of fighting. It is a typical example of the magazine’s gallows humour.

Further reading:
Gallows humour from the trenches of World War I
Picture Postcards from the great War 1914-1918

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Trench Lingo

The language used in the WWI trenches combined humour and understatement. Many of the words are still in use today, and have become part of the Aussie lingo eg:
Kip:  to sleep
Clobber:  clothing (from Yiddish)
Cold feet:  fear
Cakehole:  mouth
Dead soldier:  empty beer bottle
Kaput:  finished, broken (from German)
Thunderbox:  toilet
Howler:  a big mistake (more…)

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