by clicking the arrows at the side of the page, or by using the toolbar.
by clicking anywhere on the page.
by dragging the page around when zoomed in.
by clicking anywhere on the page when zoomed in.
web sites or send emails by clicking on hyperlinks.
Email this page to a friend
Search this issue
Index - jump to page or section
Archive - view past issues
Memento : Issue 35
MEMENTO ISSUE 35 5 Wives and Children lists, but to no avail, for he'd enlisted in Western Australia as James Edward Smith and embarked for service overseas. Stribling clearly regretted deserting his young wife. He named her as sole beneficiary in his will in April 1915, just a few weeks before the landing at Gallipoli, where he was wounded on the first day. His file contains copies of three poignant letters to her. In the first of these, bearing Christmas greetings in 1915, he told her how he wished 'to be back with you when I am a little better off and you grow a little older.' In the third, from France in July 1916, he told of meeting a mutual acquaintance who had told him that the couple's infant daughter was 'a lovely little child & very like me.' He wrote, 'I would love to see her.' But in surviving Gallipoli, Stribling had used up his share of luck, and he was killed in action about a fortnight after writing this letter. Deserted or discharged Other men who used aliases were trying to deceive military authorities. A number had previously deserted His Majesty's Services or been discharged, found seriously wanting in some respect. Others, like Walter Potts, were seeking to hide perceived failings or minor misdemeanours. Potts, of Stanthorpe, Queensland, was a labourer in his mid-20s and a big man, 183 cm tall and 90 kg, and his record contains nothing to suggest that he was anything less than a model soldier. Nevertheless, he'd twice tried to enlist and been rejected: a note on his file indicates that he may have required dental treatment. For his third attempt he used an alias -- Roy William Smith -- fearing, his father said, 'that having been turned down twice he might get in trouble over it.' Potts was killed in Belgium in 1917. William Lonsdale, aged 33, enlisted with his brother Percy, 22, at Warragul, Victoria, in February 1916. Subsequently, Percy was allocated to a unit training at Broadmeadows, and William to one at Castlemaine. It was from there that William deserted in July 1916, with his sister Mabel later explaining that he'd done so 'because he was parted from his brother and got down-hearted.' William re-enlisted as Joseph Smith in August 1917, and died in France in October 1918. His sister revealed his secret to military authorities because she wanted him to 'bear his own name on his headstone.' English-born Charles Ernest Sladen was another to become a Smith. He enlisted in Tasmania, served both at Gallipoli and in France, and rose to the rank of sergeant before being killed in action in September 1916. In settling his estate, which was inevitably a more complicated affair than in normal circumstances, the reason for his alias was revealed. He'd deserted from the HMAS Una in Sydney in May 1915 and, to avoid detection, enlisted interstate under a false name. Leslie Thomas Meryment of Rozelle in Sydney enlisted in August 1915, but after misbehaving in camp -- refusing to do guard duty, breaking camp, and so on -- was discharged in December as 'unlikely to become an efficient soldier.' Using a false name, he re-enlisted three days later, embarked for overseas service in April 1916, and was killed in action in Belgium in September 1917. And although the military authorities may have doubted his efficiency, Meryment's foresight certainly facilitated their handling of the administrative matters relating to his death. Often, the death of a soldier who'd enlisted under an alias led to added grief and uncertainty for his family, and proved an administrative nightmare for the authorities -- for a start, how could they notify his next of kin? Meryment, however, left in his kit 'A Soldier Confession', detailing his true name, contact details for his mother, and his reasons for using an alias. He claimed he was discharged for 'no fault of my own' and declared, 'I was willing to go away and make a name for myself.' Meryment's choice of an alias was not Smith or Jones, but Bryant, his mother's name. A glance through the more common surnames on the Roll of Honour demonstrates that many other men, for one reason or another, enlisted not under their true names, but rather as Baker, Brown, Cook, Kelly, Thompson, Williams, and so on. Recently retired, Terry King has returned to the area of historical study which formed the subject of his 1988 PhD thesis -- Australian society and the men of the 1st AIF. NAA: B2455, BRYANT L T