Readers’ World War 1 stories – Richard Walter Harding

Mrs Cecily Harding of Toowoomba recently wrote to the State Library to share the World War 1 story of her late father-in-law, Richard Walter Harding. Mrs Harding’s letter is paraphrased below, and we thought we would illustrate her account with some suitable images from the collection. 

Richard Walter Harding was born in Melbourne on 3rd November, 1890, and on leaving school became a Fitter and Turner in one of the local Melbourne workshops. News of the declaration of World War 1 arrived while Richard was visiting his brother Jack, who had purchased an isolated, undeveloped property on the Central Darling Downs, around 36 miles from Meandarra. The brothers decided to draw straws to determine who would enlist. Richard drew the short straw, and when he returned to Melbourne he enlisted in the Air Force.

 He was posted to Egypt and was engaged in repairing planes when they returned to Base. While traveling to Cairo on leave, Richard’s train was involved in an accident. The man sitting next to him was killed, and Richard was seriously injured. In an Egyptian Hospital he underwent life-saving surgery but unfortunately lost a lung.

Despite the seriousness of his injury and the lack of hygiene at the hospital, Richard survived and after several months was shipped back to Melbourne. His doctors were amazed by his recovery and the skill of the Egyptian surgeon, but did suggest that Richard move to a warm, dry climate away from the Melbourne workshops.

Richard revisited his brother Jack in Queensland. Conditions on the property were still sparse – a tent, no facilities and a long trip to the nearest town. Jack eventually tired of the hardship and returned to Melbourne, but Richard stayed on, settled in Queensland, and in 1925 married Florence Baumgarten, who came from a large family on the neighbouring property Moolan Downs. Richard and Florence had two children – Roy and Bernice, and in time Roy married Cecily, and produced twin sons – Ian and Neil. Ian now works in the hospitality industry, and Neil continues to work the family property ‘The Highlands’ outside Meandarra.

Mrs Harding finished her letter with the following thoughts: ‘We remember with great pride the efforts of our forebears, my late father-in-law Richard who, despite War injuries took on the challenge of the Prickly Pear, the isolation, and the heat, on the land that he pioneered. May he rest in peace’.

If you have a collection of World War 1 material to donate, or a Queensland story to share, State Library would like to hear from you.

Robyn Hamilton - QANZAC100 Content Curator, State Library of Queensland

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