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state library of queensland
John Oxley Library

Letter to Elsie, 1916

By Marg Powell | 6 September 2016

"My Dear Elsie, in this letter I intend to try and give you an account of the life on Gallipoli … I’ll do my best to keep to fact & will avoid exaggeration as much as possible."

The letter Elsie received, stayed with her all of her life. Kept as a memento, its' contents which are of immense historical value, have only come to light by happenstance. QANZAC volunteer Peter Hamilton, conducting his own research for a church Honour Board, was approached by a retired solicitor, who had kept this letter, reluctant to throw it away. The letter had been part of a deceased estate which he had been obliged to dispose of.

Harold Guy Walter Keid letter

30529, Harold Guy Walter Keid letter, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Guy Keid’s letter, some 15 pages long, is a first-hand account of the landing at Anzac Cove in April 1915, and of the weeks and months that they endured on the Peninsula before being evacuated to Egypt.

Private Guy Keid, 3rd Australian Field Ambulance, 1914

Private Guy Keid, 3rd Australian Field Ambulance, 1914. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial AWM P03432.006

Harold Guy Walter KEID was one of 6 brothers who served during the First Wold War - four did not return - two died on the same day in the same offensive around Mouquet Farm, in the same Battalion, in different Companies, on 3 September 1916 - one died at Quinn’s Post in June 1915 - one died of wounds November 1917.

Guy was a stretcher bearer, with the 3rd Australian Field Ambulance, and a 19 year old science student when he enlisted in September 1914. It was as a student that he became acquainted with Elsie Winifred Muir.  Elsie was a gifted student, who had received a scholarship to study at the Central Technical College in Brisbane where Guy was also studying.

We were put into life boats & towed by a naval pinnace to within 50 yards of the shore. From here we had to row to shore. We rowed until the water was only chest deep & then jumped over board & waded ashore carrying all our equipment with us.

 The brothers Keid by Cedric Hampson.

The Brothers Keid by Cedric Hampson.  J 929.2 KEI. Brisbane : CopyRight Publishing ; 2005, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

Guy returned home in March 1917 “for family reasons” three of his brothers had already been killed, another just several months later.  He returned to his studies at the relatively new University of Queensland, and was in many of the same classes as his friend Elsie, who had received a scholarship to study to be a teacher.

Elsie never married, she was posted to several state schools in Mt Morgan and Gympie, but returned to live and work in Brisbane residing at the family home in Ellerslie Crescent, Toowong. She went on to gain her Masters Degree in Education in 1939 and was president of the Women’s Graduate Association in Brisbane.

Guy completed his studies, and as an economic geologist enjoyed a successful career, which with his wife and daughter, took him through north Queensland and overseas, before becoming Chief Geologist in Tasmania.

Thank you to Neil Dutney for donating Elsie’s letter and to Guy Keid’s descendants who have kindly given the State Library of Queensland permission to digitise this significant historical memento.

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