“I’d rather be at home having a cuddle with Gwen!”

These are words that Trooper Clarence ‘Clarrie’ Atkinson wrote in his diary while on active military service overseas with the 4th Light Horse Regiment.

Dr David Holloway, presented his talk, ‘A unique regiment: The 4th Light Horse in WWI’ at the 12th Annual Family History Feast at State Library Victoria on 10 August 2015. Dr David Holloway gave an excellent overview of the 4th Light Horse and the WWI campaigns its members fought in, but he explained that “it was the blokes that interested him the most”.

Clarrie Atkinson was just one of the 4th Light Horse Diggers who kept personal diaries during the War that Dr Holloway used as research for his book and as personal case studies in his talk. Dr Holloway’s stories about these ‘blokes’ were highlighted given that he actually knew the men and had spent time with many of them after the War. Through his friendship with the men, Dr Holloway’s stories about Diggers such as Trooper Clarrie Atkinson, Rupert ‘Mickey’ Moon (VC), Les Magyar (VC), Les Langtip (Distinguished Conduct Medal) and Archie and Arthur Sullivan were presented with a personal style as if speaking to friends or acquaintances and giving the audience an insight into the characters of the blokes that he knew personally. Photographs of the men, pictured young and old, were supported by the stories relayed through these personal friendships that gave the talk an added dimension.

One story of note related to two men, Arthur and Archie Sullivan (un-related) who, according to regimental folklore, were ‘wounded by the same shell at Kemmel in 1918’. Archie, was sent to a British hospital but before too long discharged himself, ‘deeming himself fit to return to the front, although his doctors did not agree’. He was apprehended by Military Police while crossing the English Channel trying to get back to his mates. The Military Police were unsure of what to charge him with so made up the charge ‘accosting the King’s enemies without the King’s permission.’ Arthur Sullivan had lost a leg as a result of his wounds. Dr Holloway explained that both Sullivan boys were known to historian and screen writer Ian Jones and were used as inspiration for the popular and long-running TV series, The Sullivans. Dr Holloway also spoke about his friend Les Langtip who “punched an officer for his mistreatment of Turkish prisoners”.

Through the stories of these blokes, the audience was given an insight into their characters and the Australian spirit. The listener could easily imagine being part of a group of the Diggers while they told their stories about their own experiences and those of their mates.

The full video of Dr Holloway’s talk is available for viewing on the State Library Victoria’s website.

Dr David Holloway is a military historian, volunteer guide at the Shrine of Remembrance and author of the book, ‘Endure and Fight: A detailed history of the 4th Light Horse Regiment, AIF, 1914-1919, Gallipoli, Sinai and Palestine, France and Belgium’ which is available at State Library Victoria on the open access shelves in the Domed Reading Room at location number LT 940.41294 H72E.

[4th Light Horse Regiment] [picture], Frazer & Vallance. (1915). 98.105/3697

Grant Hamston
Family History Team
State Library Victoria

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