The Royal New South Wales Lancers

 
 
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AN UNHAPPY LIGHT HORSEMAN ON RETURN FROM THE WAR


The cover of Tpr Barracluff's diary

As we start to emerge from the COVID-19 lockdown, parallels are being drawn with the Spanish Flu pandemic that hit the world at the end of WW1. The photo shows the front page of the diary of Tpr WB Barracluff of the 1st Light Horse. Tpr Barracluff departed Australia with the first AIF convoy on 1st November 1914, fought at Gallipoli and was evacuated sick to England and served with the AIF in Europe until the end of the War on 11 November 1918 - a total of four long years. The diary, a simple, well worn pocket notebook, is of Trooper Barracluff's repatriation voyage aboard the SS Port Hacking from December 1918 to January 1919. Its pages reveal a long, uneventful voyage, with rising expectation and joy at the prospect of arriving back home, after such a long and harrowing time away. Unfortunately, towards the end of the war the Spanish Flu pandemic had emerged and was starting to decimate populations around the world. It had probably emerged from the appalling conditions front line troops had been experiencing for many years, so returning soldiers were treated with great circumspection and some fear. The last page of Barracluff's diary shows clearly the disillusionment and downright anger felt by Barracluff and his fellow soldiers, when they found that they were to be placed into quarantine in Port Phillip Bay on 23rd January 1919. "Trouble brewing among the boys..." - hardly the return expected of heroes. It perhaps puts into some perspective the inconveniences we have all been experiencing with the COVID-19 lockdown over the last few months. The NSW Lancers Memorial Museum holds two of Tpr Barracluff's diaries. The first covers his voyage to Egypt, time spent fighting at Gallipoli and his evacuation sick, back to England. This repatriation diary is the second, interestingly book ending one Australian's wartime experiences.


Tpr Barracluff's diary - penultimate pages


Tpr Barracluff's diary, last page - "Trouble brewing among the boys"

Ian Hawthorn, 2020


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