Harold Robert Colquhoun And George Foulds Gilmore Collection Digitised @SLQ
Readers of our World War I blog will remember a previous story about Sergeant Harold Robert Colquhoun, a young soldier from Mareeba who was killed at Gallipoli. Copies of Harold's letters are held at the Mareeba Heritage Museum. The original letters, photographs and ephemera relating to Harold and the Colquhoun family were recently donated to the John Oxley Library by a descendant and are now available through our catalogue.
Sergeant Harold Robert Colquhoun (service no. 275) was born in Fremantle, Western Australia, in 1896. He was the son of Robert Duncan Colquhoun, a mining engineer, and Marianne Isabel, nee Matthews. Harold was educated at Scotch College in Perth, and later, when the family moved to Queensland, at the Rockhampton Grammar School. He then obtained employment as a teacher at the Leichhardt Ward State School in Rockhampton.
Harold enlisted on the 23 September 1914 and was assigned to the 15th Infantry Battalion, B Company, as a sergeant. His parents and three sisters were living at Mareeba. After training at the Enoggera Military Camp in Brisbane and then at Broadmeadows Camp in Melbourne, Harold embarked on the transport ship A40 Ceramic on the 22nd December 1914 bound for Egypt.
"Ceramic". Source: John Oxley Library, Negative No. 55029.
Harold survived the first landing at Gallipoli on the 25 April 1915, but on the 29 May was shot through the lung during a bayonet charge at Quinn’s Post. Although the wound was serious and he was described as being 'dangerously ill' Harold recovered in a military hospital in Egypt, writing the following letter to his father on 24 July.
Dear Dad, It seems quite a long time since I got a letter from any of you at home. They must all be at the Peninsular for me when I return. My wound has healed alright by now, but my lungs are weakened, and I'm afraid that it will be some time before they will regain their old strength. It will be at the least 3 weeks before I get back to Gallipoli. News is very scarce and unreliable, we are all anxiously watching & waiting for Achi Baba to fall. Well I must close now. Best love to all at home including yourself. Harold. (Accession 30580/30)
He returned to Gallipoli on the 25th August and was killed in action two days later during a failed attempt to take Hill 60 during which the Australians suffered severe casualties. One eyewitness stated that he was shot through the body and, as the position was exposed to enemy fire, he could not be recovered. His body was never found. After almost a year of uncertainty and anxious waiting for the family, his death was confirmed at a court of enquiry held at Serapeum, Egypt, on 6th April 1916. To make matters worse his family received unconfirmed reports that Harold had been seen in England, however upon investigation this was found to be another soldier with the same surname. Harold is commemorated on the Lone Pine Memorial at Gallipoli.
Harold's sisters and parents were very involved in the war effort in Mareeba. In 1915 his father, Robert Duncan Colquhoun, was the president of the D.O.B. (Doing Our Best Society) which was established in Mareeba in July 1915 to raise funds for local men serving in the war and to care for wounded returned soldiers. The small D.O.B. Badge below is part of the collection.
The collection also includes a coloured hand-drawn poster for the comic opera "H.M.S. Pinafore" which was staged in Mareeba on 28 October 1915 to raise money for Christmas gifts for the troops at Gallipoli. The poster was probably created by Harold Colquhoun's sisters, Minna, Flora and Dorothy, who appeared in the production. Their mother, Isabel, was the pianist and organiser of the event, and was frequently involved in musical activities to raise money for the war effort.
Also included in this rich and diverse collection is a small leather wallet containing photographs and ephemera belonging to another soldier: Sapper George Foulds Gilmore of the Field Company Engineers. In 1922 Gilmore married Muriel (Minna) Colquhoun, the sister of Harold Colquhoun.
George Foulds Gilmore (service no. 20664) was born in Toowong, Brisbane, in 1897. At the time of his enlistment, on 19 June 1917, he was a 19 year old fitter living at Wolfram Camp, near Cairns. He was assigned as a Sapper to the Field Company Engineers, January to October, 1917, Reinforcements and embarked from Sydney on the S.S. Canberra on 16 November 1917. After arriving in England George travelled to the Australian Engineers Training Depot on the east coast of England at Brightlingsea in Essex. This depot housed up to 10,000 Australian and New Zealand troops between 1916 and 1919, and due to the tidal creeks in the area, was perfect for training in bridge-building and trench digging in the soft soils and mud.
On the 2nd July 1918 George proceeded overseas to France to join the 6th Field Company Engineers at the front, where he served until the Armistice in November. In February 1919 he was transferred to the 23rd Battalion and promoted to sergeant, before working as an instructor of motor mechanics, training Australian troops, at the Universitie-du-Trevail in Charleroi, Belgium. He returned to Australia in December 1919.
After the war George returned to Cairns and was employed as a fitter, before establishing his own engineering firm, Gilmore & Cadlolo in 1930. He and Minna had two children, Dorothy and Ian. Muriel died in 1940 and George married Lydia Grace McPherson in 1944. During World War II he served as a warrant officer with the Citizen Military Forces and was in charge of an engineering workshop manufacturing search lights in Brisbane. In 1950 George was elected president of the Far Northern District Returned Sailor's Soldier's Airmen's Imperial League. He died on the 25 July 1970 in Cairns.
The collection may be viewed at the John Oxley Library or online.
Lynn Meyers, QANZAC100 Content Curator