• Message in a Bottle

"The Great Australian Bight’s 'Bottle Post' may be slower than the air mail but it is mighty interesting." [Western Mail, 2/6/1938] Mighty interesting indeed! What an amazing tale; washed upon the shore of life over two decades after it began. 30th of October 1915, two young lads embarking on the big adventure, pen a final word to their sweethearts, seal the messages in a bottle, and toss it into the waters of the Great Australian Bight. March the 11th 1938, Mr E.G. Eastwood just happens to find that same bottle on the beach at Cape Riche, 60 miles east of Albany, WA. After the devastation of the Great War, and the intervening years, what are the chances that the authors have survived to return to their loved ones, and that they can be found if so? The two lads in question were Horace Lewis (Spr 1237) and Harry Blunt (Spr 1236), both born and raised in South Australia. They had enlisted within a day of each other; Horace on the 14th of June 1915 and Harry on the 15th. On board the A38 Ulysses, they had left their home State 3 days before and were on their way to Egypt with the 6th Reinforcements for the 2nd Division Signal Company (2nd DSC). Harry was the elder of the pair at 23, and had been working as a Clerk with the railways before enlistment. He was writing to Gladys Severin, the young lady he had proposed to a week before sailing. Horace at 19 had qualified as a Draughtsman and was studying Mechanical Engineering – his young lady was Miss Mary Gay. Both messages followed similar lines – “Going really well” – “Just had a bonza dinner” – “Concert on board tonight.” Horace added “Love to sunny South Australia;” Harry was getting in practice for France with “Au-revoir, Australia. We’ll bring the Kaiser back with us.” In Egypt they continued their training, and served in the defence of the Canal, before finally heading to France in March 1916, where both suffered a slight dose of influenza in the April. Their work involved maintenance of communications around Fleurbaix in April, Pozieres in July & Mouquet Farm in the August. Horace was promoted to 2nd Corporal in May and then Corporal in July, but his rise came to a halt at the beginning of September when he was taken ill with Bacillary Dysentery. It was at this point in time that their stories took divergent paths. While Horace lay ill in hospital, first in France and then England, Harry began his own rise through the ranks, culminating as Sergeant in June 1917 while his unit were out resting after Bullecourt. He was then sent to a Signal Cadet Course in England the following month. By the time Harry reached England however, Horace was only days away from stepping once again on to Australian shores; and while Harry buried his head in his studies to gain his commission, Horace received his discharge from the AIF; his war over. Harry was appointed 2nd Lieutenant on the 5th December 1917, but didn’t re-join the 2nd DSC in Belgium until the 24th February 1918; where in just 2 weeks he was promoted to Lieutenant. During this same month, back in South Australia, Horace returned to his previously unfinished Engineering Course, and then in the January of 1919, he was appointed to the engineering staff of the Commonwealth Arsenal in Melbourne. Before Harry’s war was over, he was made O.C. of the 5th Brigade Signal Section, and in March 1919 he was mentioned in the Despatches of Sir Douglas Haig Finally boarding the HT Mahia on the 4th June 1919, Harry arrived in Melbourne on the 17th of July, before catching the train back to South Australia, where he was discharged in the September. So, the questions still remain – did our two boys return to their sweethearts to live happily ever after, and were they enlightened as to the eventual re-appearance of their “Bottle Post?” Well, the answer to the second question is yes, both Horace and Harry were traced, and Harry was particularly excited about the find – as was his wife. Yes, the engaged couple, Harry and Gladys, had corresponded regularly throughout the war, and had wasted little time in taking the final step on his return. Their wedding took place in the Eudunda Methodist Church on the 2nd October 1919, and on the receipt of the 1915 message, they were thinking of having it framed to preserve it. Horace, as we already know, returned to his Engineering studies, but alas, he and Mary went their separate ways. He didn’t settle down and tie the knot until the end of 1922, when he actually married one of Mary’s close friends Miss Minerva Smith. They had settled in Victoria, where he had been employed by the SEC (State Electricity Commission), until ill health caused an early retirement to the tranquil countryside of Woodend, north of Melbourne. Harry had resumed his job with the South Australian Railways, but he and his wife were heading to Melbourne on holiday in the June of 1938 – and were hoping to renew an old friendship while there. Endnotes: 1. (Spr 1237, 2nd DSC) Horace Laffer LEWIS was born 12/3/1896 Modbury, SA – son of Clarence LEWIS and Elizabeth LAFFER. He married Minerva Mary Fowler SMITH 9/12/1922 Unley, SA. They had two children – John & Jean. Horace was the inventor of a new type of Respirator which assisted in the recovery of Infantile Paralysis patients. He died 19/11/1955 Ballarat, Vic & his ashes rest in the Tristania Garden (Tree 10) at Springvale Botanical Cemetery. 2. Horace’s older brother, Clarence George LEWIS also served in WW1: L/Sgt 2448 (MSM) – 27th Bn / 2nd DSC / AA Pay Corps. 3. (Spr 1236 – Lieut, 2nd DSC; 5th Bde HQ) Harry Stephen BLUNT was born 25/9/1891 Saddleworth, SA – son of Edward Stephen BLUNT and Ellen SLOUGH. Married Gladys M. SEVERIN 2/10/1919 Eudunda, SA. They had one son, Brian (served WW2). Harry died 21/10/1984 Adelaide, SA. 4. Harry’s younger brother, Edward Keith BLUNT also served WW1: Spr 883, Enl 31/8/1914 10th Bn / 50th Bn / 2nd DSC. (Also WW2) Heather ‘Frev’ Ford, 2013