Saturday, 23 April 2011

George Howard Busby: My ANZAC who returned



George, my great grandfather, is one of my favourite ancestors for a few reasons: first finding out about him for my mother, who had never known him, was the beginning of my family history addiction and because he was such an interesting person who keeps surprising me.

Born in Brisbane in 1884 to William and Anne, George grew up around Toowong where his father was a monumental mason. He married Nora Courtenay and had three children.

George enlisted 29 September, eight weeks after war was declared, into the 15th Battalion 4th Infantry Brigade at the Exhibition Grounds Brisbane. The personal details in his enlistment papers (available online  at the National Archives) were fantastic: 5 foot 7, fair complexion and grey eyes. Under distinctive marks: on left arm tattoo fireman’s helmet and two crossed axes (which clue led to more research) and a bullet wound (scar) over left knee (not what I was expecting).

The other really interesting information given in his enlistment papers was his previous military service:
2 years 1st Qld Regt (Moreton) (confirmed by Queensland Govt gazette)
1 year 3 months Cape Mounted Rifles (unable to confirm at this stage)
3 Years New Guinea Police (unable to confirm at this stage)
3 months 8th Infantry (Oxley) (Confirmed  by National Archives and also have a badge)
There is still more to be found out about his previous military service.

He was not currently serving but had previously been rejected as being unfit for His Majesty’s service because of his teeth. They were not bad enough to reject him during war time and he embarked for Melbourne. The 15th Battalion underwent further training and subsequently embarked aboard the Ceramic, arriving in Egypt in early February 1915.  When the 15th Battalion (part of the 4th Brigade) arrived in Egypt, it became part of the New Zealand and Australian Division. George and his battalion left Egypt bound for Gallipoli as part of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force on 12 April 1915.  On 25 April 1915, the 15th Battalion landed at ANZAC Cove late in the afternoon.  Precise details are a bit sketchy from this point to the 8 May when he was wounded at Quinn’s Ridge with gunshot wounds to his upper extremities . He was lucky as many of his companions were killed in the fighting on the 8-9 May. His family were notified by cable on the 12 May of his injury. He was taken by hospital ship “Dongola” and admitted to Edgbaston Hospital, Birmingham 20 May 1915.

George’s parents, William and Anne along with many Australians were fundraising for the War effort and in June on Rose Day had provided 20 dozen roses from their garden for the Toowong stand where they had their photograph taken and sent to George in hospital.  George spent five months there until returning home aboard the “Runic” leaving England  on the 7 November and coming into Sydney before he and 48 other wounded soldiers came up to Brisbane aboard a special train which arrived at platform 5 at 7.40pm Boxing Day 1915. They were welcomed by the Premier, the Minister for Railways, The Mayor of Brisbane, relatives of the wounded, military personnel and members of the public. After the speeches and a short time of reunion with their relatives  the wounded were taken slowly by motor cavalcade  down the crowded Edward and Queen Streets to the military hospital at Kangaroo Point. George was discharged as being medically unfit in March 1916. For the rest of the war he acted as a recruiting sergeant around southern Queensland.

Post the war, George was active in Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia (what we know of today as the RSL). He spoke at many schools about Anzac Day and organised many Anzac Day services around the Stones Corner area.  He is commemorated on the Honour board at the Toowong and Buranda State Schools. He was also listed on the Fire Service Honour board which used to hang at the Valley Fire Station but whose current whereabouts is unknown.

George Howard Busby, my ANZAC who shall be remembered.