Digitised@SLQ: Francis Henry Staunton papers

Francis Henry Staunton at Enoggera training camp, 1916

Francis Henry Staunton at Enoggera training camp, 1916

By the time Private Frank Staunton arrived in Brisbane for recruit training, he was already a long way from home. A 28-year old shearer from Richmond in north-west Queensland, he enlisted on 28th December 1914, and made his way south as a new member of D Company, 25th Battalion.

Francis Henry Staunton, taken while stationed at Enoggera, 1915

Frank sailed for Egypt in June 1915 for further training and then onto the Gallipoli Peninsula. 25th Battalion arrived late in the campaign, and Frank's involvement was limited to mostly defensive operations. He and his comrades remained on the Peninsula for only a couple of months, manning trenches until evacuation in December.

State Library of Queensland has just digitised the OM72-90 Staunton Family Papers 1892-1917; 1978-1980, which contain letters and memorabilia sent by Frank to his family – his sister, mother, and two little brothers George and Tom. In his straightforward, chatty style he reports his activities, inquires about friends and acquaintances from home, and reassures his family that he is safe. He was particularly close to his mother, and sent her a brightly coloured souvenir banner from Egypt.

Souvenir banner, OM72-90/7

Souvenir banner, OM72-90/7

After further training in Egypt, 25th Battalion proceeded to France, landing on 19th March 1916 - the first A.I.F. battalion to arrive there.

In the summer of 1916, trench life in France was clearly not as difficult as it was at Gallipoli, and Frank reported that  "we only do a few days in the Trenches and then out for a few".

On a fortnight’s leave in England in early June 1916, he took full advantage of London’s social attractions, and in his subsequent letters home he expressed how difficult it was to return to the trenches after "doing the grand in London".

Postcard from Frank from France, OM72-90/14

Postcard from Frank from France, OM72-90/14

Late in July 1916, 25th Battalion took part in its first major battle, attacking enemy positions opposite Pozières. The battalion suffered heavy casualties, and in the early hours of the 29th July, Frank fell under sustained machine gun and artillery fire.

1914-15 Star, British War Medal, and the Mothers and Widows Badge OM72-90/3

1914-15 Star, British War Medal, and the Mothers and Widows Badge OM72-90/3

In two eloquent and heartfelt letters to Frank’s grieving mother Mary, his friend and superior officer Captain G. M. Connor reported that Frank was acting as a runner or messenger when he was killed by a shell. The Captain expressed deep sorrow at Frank’s loss, and described him as a "loyal and conscientious soldier", who "proved himself to be just that type which has made the name Anzac so famous".

Private Francis Henry Staunton of Richmond, D Company 25th Battalion, taken on his Captain's horse, OM72-90/8

Private Francis Henry Staunton of Richmond, D Company 25th Battalion, taken on his Captain's horse, OM72-90/8

These letters are transcribed, and you can read the transcriptions alongside their digitised originals in the OM72-90 Staunton Family Papers 1892-1917; 1978-1980. His grieving family also received his commemorative scroll, which has also been digitised (OM73-85 Francis Henry Staunton Commemorative Scroll ca. 1918).

Francis Henry Staunton Commemorative Scroll, OM73-85

Francis Henry Staunton Commemorative Scroll, OM73-85

Private Frank Staunton is included in the Distant Lines: Queensland voices of the First World War exhibition currently on at State Library of Queensland until 15 November 2015. He is one of 25 Queenslanders whose experiences and collections are featured in the exhibition.

Robyn Hamilton - QANZAC100 Content Curator, State Library of Queensland

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