14 January 2012

Allan Wickham's war mates Part 1

Mum transcribed the whole of Allan Wickham's war diary recently and we've just finished going through the transcript, checking it. I've now got some more of Allan's mates to try and identify. I shall write about this in a few posts.

He wrote of one mate “Lawrance” (though the spelling might be wrong because Allan wasn't the best of spellers, neither did he care much for using conventional sentences...) who I'd particularly like to identify.

March 28th 1916 was when he first mentioned him: “Went to Serpeum (sic – actually Serapeum) to see Lawrance. Has not arrived there yet, still at Mosasque (sic – Moascar).”

Next, June 2nd: “Arrived at Alex[andria] at 9 o'clock trip an eye opener as regards irragation (sic) loading our guns and gear. Met Lawrance sailing on the same ship the Kingstonia.”

The third and final mention was on June 10th: “Reached breakwater [of Marseilles] and tied up at dock. P[illegible] up town with Lawrance some fine buildings struck by number of women workers the number of women in mourning Japanese in French uniforms and the variety of uniforms.”

I tend to think Lawrance was a friend of Allan's from back home in Australia. Certainly he doesn't seem to be a mate from the Royal Australian Naval Bridging Train (RANBT), the original unit Allan served with. There was a training camp at Moascar, so possibly it was Lawrance's first destination since leaving Australia, before being sent on to France with whichever unit he was with.

I searched on the Australian War Memorial site for people named Lawrance, assuming that Lawrance was his first name. A cursory glance of the service records in the National Archives of Australia of any individual with a first name of Lawrance did not reveal any likely candidates – none of them lived near Allan's home, nor had jobs which would likely bring them in contact with Allan, in fact only one came from Sydney. Using Lawrance as a surname also brought no luck.

I have sent a query to the Australian War Memorial to see if they can tell me which units might have trained at Moascar and then moved on to Marseilles, transported on the troop ship Kingstonia. They may not be able to tell me, but perhaps they might! I suspect that I might have to widen my search to other spellings of Lawrance too, but I'll wait for a reply from the AWM first.

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