Eric Bernard Freeman photographs

Eric Freeman in his Brisbane Grammar School uniform, taken in Tooowoomba 1915

Eric Freeman in his Brisbane Grammar School uniform, taken in Tooowoomba 1915

State Library was recently donated a photograph album and handful of loose photographs belonging to Eric Bernard Freeman (1898-1966), who served with 41st Battalion during the First World War. Freeman was born in Mount Morgan, raised in Maryborough and attended the Central State School for Boys. He excelled academically, and was awarded the Lilley Memorial Prize in 1911.

Lilley Memorial Medal announcement, The Telegraph, Tuesday 7 February 1911, p.2

Lilley Memorial Medal announcement, The Telegraph, Tuesday 7 February 1911, p.2

Also an all-round sportsman, he spent his high school years at Brisbane Grammar School, where he was a school prefect in 1914-15, and represented the school in rugby, cricket and rowing. As a student he was also an army cadet, and was commissioned during his senior years.

Captains and Vice-Captains of cricket teams, Brisbane Grammar School 1913. Eric Freeman front row, far left.

Captains and Vice-Captains of cricket teams, Brisbane Grammar School 1913. Eric Freeman front row, far left.

On 8 December 1915, aged 18 years and 9 months, Eric enlisted in the 41st Infantry Battalion, and embarked for Europe on A64 Demosthenes in May 1916.

Group of recruits at Bell's Paddock, 1916. Eric Freeman standing top right, hand on hip.

Group of recruits at Bell's Paddock, 1916. Eric Freeman standing top right, hand on hip.

Freeman transferred to the 11th Light Trench Mortar Battery in August, and sailed for France in November 1916. In February 1917 he travelled back to England and on to Balliol College, Oxford, joining the Officers Cadet Battalion for officer training. Eric passed the course and qualified for a commission, and was appointed as a 2nd Lieutenant and returned to France as part of Infantry Reinforcements. He was taken on strength with 41st Battalion, this time as a young officer, on 24 June 1917. 

Australians at New College, Oxford for officer training. Eric Freeman is back row, second from left.

Australians at New College, Oxford for officer training. Eric Freeman is back row, second from left.

Unfortunately, his return to the trenches did not last very long. On 11 July he received a severe gunshot wound to the face and left side, and was evacuated wounded to England. Discharged from the 3rd London General Hospital after a long three-month recovery, Freeman finally rejoined 41st Battalion in France in November 1917, and was promoted to full Lieutenant on 15 January 1918.

For Freeman, the rest of the war was comparatively uneventful, and he remained in Europe for some months after the armistice, returning home on the S.S. Orita in June 1919. His appointment was finally terminated on 24 September 1919.

University of Queensland Varsity Thirteen vs. Sydney 1920. Eric Freeman is standing back row, 3rd from right.

University of Queensland Varsity Thirteen vs. Sydney 1920. Eric Freeman is standing back row, 3rd from right.

 

After the war, Eric resumed his academic and sporting pursuits. He attended the University of Queensland as a boarder at St. Johns College, gained a Bachelor of Engineering and was a valued member of the Varsity Eight (rowing) from 1921-1924, and the Varsity XIII (rugby). In 1922 and 1923 the Varsity Eight won the Australian University Championships.

St. Johns College or Varsity Eight rowing crew, c.1922. Eric Freeman is standing on the left in the back row.

St. Johns College or Varsity Eight rowing crew, c.1922. Eric Freeman is standing on the left in the back row.

The 29980 Eric Bernard Freeman Photographs 1914-1922 contain a large photograph album, loose photographs and a St. Johns College representative banner. The album includes photographs of Brisbane Grammar School prefects and sporting teams 1914-1915, along with images of boarding school life. Other photographs depict Freeman's military service and include Bell’s Paddock training camp, 41st Battalion, officer training school, aerial shots of France, and postcards of England. Later photographs show scenes of university life, including the University of Queensland Varsity Eight rowing team and Varsity XIII rugby team. Loose photographs also depict Brisbane Grammar School sporting teams and university social and rowing activities.

University of Queensland Varsity Eight rowing crew, 1921. Eric Freeman 3rd from end.

University of Queensland Varsity Eight rowing crew, 1921. Eric Freeman 3rd from end.

After university, Freeman  pursued an engineering career. He married Winifred Alice (Freda) Oxnam in 1927, and they raised four children. Both Eric and Freda retained a strong association with the University of Queensland, and the Eric Freeman Boathouse, home of the UQ Boat (Rowing) Club, is named after one of its most excellent competitors.

Robyn Hamilton - QANZAC100 Content Curator, State Library of Queensland

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Eric was born in March 1898 and was thus aged only 17 and 9 months in December 1915. The family story goes that on the last day of school he and a couple of mates broke their rulers over their knees, went down to the recruitment office, lied about their ages - as can be seen from his attestation papers - and signed up.