Born in 1892 at Albert Park, Vic – the son of William Henry WHITE and Charlotte Eva MATTHEWS, who married in Vic in 1886
Residents of 13 St Vincent St, Albert Park
Siblings: *William Hyndre b.1888 Sth Melb – marr Juliet Anita – WW1: Pte 2173, 8th Bn, disch MU 5/1/1916;
*Eva Minnie b.1890; *Rose Irene b.1894
Religion: Church of England
Married Elsie May Victoria LANCELOTT in 1915 (probably between enlisting and sailing)
Elsie, born in 1892, the daughter of Francis Alfred and Sarah Ann, was a Tailoress living in Sth Melbourne
Thomas enlisted on the 20/4/1915 with his older brother William, as Private 2174
They sailed with the 6th Reinforcements of the 8th Battalion, embarking on A62 Wandilla on the 17/6/1915 for Egypt. William was invalided home on the 15/8/1915 with Rheumatism, and discharged medically unfit on the 5/1/1916.
Joining the 8th Battalion at Anzac on the 6/8/1915, Thomas was wounded the following day 7/8/1915 at Lone Pine, receiving shell wounds to the right ankle and the face. He was taken on board the HS Delta for return to Egypt, where he was admitted to the 17th General Hospital at Alexandria on the 12/8/1915. Transferred to the HS Dongala on the 19/8/1915 for England, and admitted to the 3rd London General Hospital at Wandsworth Common on the 29/8/1915.
Transferred to St Dunstan’s Hostel for Blinded Soldiers on the 24/11/1915, receiving training in Braille, typing, mat and basket making
Discharged to the 1st Australian Auxiliary Hospital at Harefield on the 26/8/1916
Returned to Australia on the New Zealand Hospital Ship Marama, embarking 31/8/1916, and arriving Melbourne 17/10/1916
Discharged from the A.I.F. on the 21/11/1916 – totally blind
Living with his wife at 10 Danks-street, Albert Park in November 1916
In 1917 they were living in a new home built for them by volunteers, in Warrigal Rd, Oakleigh, which they had named “St Dunstan’s.” Thomas was earning a living making mats, baskets and bags, and later breeding pigeons as well. Living next door was another blind Anzac, Bertie Prentice. [who hadn’t attended St Dunstan’s]
Elected secretary-treasurer of the Victorian Blinded Soldiers’ Association in March 1918, and honorary treasurer of the association 1919
Awarded an M.B.E. in 1939
In June 1948 together with his wife, he accompanied 19 blind ex-WW2 soldiers who were going to the UK to attend St Dunstan’s – giving instruction in Braille and Typing during their voyage on the Strathaird. Whilst in the UK he was fitted with two new plastic eyes which defied detection, and the couple arrived home on the Orion in February 1949.
Residents of 6 Warrigal Road, Oakleigh 1954
Died on the 8th of July 1954 at the Repatriation General Hospital, Heidelberg
Cremated at Springvale Crematorium
Elsie died in Heidelberg in 1972, aged 77
Graphic of Australia (Melb, Vic), Fri 23 Jun 1916 (p.4):
SEATS NEAR ROYALTY – For Blinded Australians
“A BIT RICH FOR US” – Melbourne Man’s Experiences
Of the strange things of war there is no end, and Mr W.H. White, of Melbourne, has forwarded the details of one of them to “The Graphic.”
Mr White’s son, T.A. White [sic], enlisted for service, and was sent to Gallipoli. Another private, E. Matherson [sic], of New South Wales, became his firm friend on the boat going over. These two men had never seen each other before, but afterwards they were wounded, on the same date, both losing their sight. They were both invalided to London, on the same date, put into Wandsworth Hospital, on the same day, transferred to St Dunstan’s – of which pictures have appeared in “The Graphic” – on the same date, and finally, on the occasion of the Anzac celebrations in London, they were “snapped” together, while being led to Westminster Abbey by nurses, and their photos published in an English illustrated paper. At the Abbey these men occupied a position of honour near their Majesties.
Lots of Fun
In a letter written on behalf of Private White to his father, some interesting glimpses of the life which these men now lead is given. One man seldom goes out without his blind “pal,” “and,” it is added, “we have lots of fun walking into people and the things we can’t see. The winter here has been terrible. It must have been ‘put up’ specially for the Australians, just to see how they could stand it. Snowballing is great, but when you get one in the back of the neck it makes you wake up a bit.”
Chatted With King
The letter adds that the King and Queen chatted to them, also Lord Kitchener and Sir George Reid. They say the people of London were very kind, and gave them many useful presents, both at Wandsworth and at St Dunstan’s. “But,” continues the letter, “the seats we occupied at the Abbey, near their Majesties, was a bit rich for us. We could not sing out ‘Hello there, mate.’ But, on the whole, we enjoyed ourselves. We are now expecting to be coming home to Australia, where the sun shines.”
[The meeting of White and Matheson would not have occurred until after they were both wounded the same day at Gallipoli and returned to Egypt on the same hospital ship. Matheson had been on the Peninsula for nearly 3 months before receiving his wound, whereas White had only arrived the day before.]
Graphic of Australia (Melb, Vic), Fri 23 Mar 1917 (p.14):
THE TALK OF THE TOWN
Helping Blind Soldiers
The working bee at Oakleigh has proved a great success, and should supply an object-lesson to the whole community. Two houses have been built for Private B. Prentice and Private T. White, married men, who were blinded at Gallipoli. The State Government supplied the land, the War Council the materials, and the patriotic public the labour. To every one of our readers we say, “Go thou and do likewise.”
The Age (Melb, Vic), Wed 23 May 1917 (p.7):
THE ANZAC BUFFET
BLIND SOLDIER’S APPRECIATION
Warm tribute to the Anzac Buffet is paid in a letter which was read at the Tivoli Theatre last night by Miss Ada Reeve in connection with her appeal for that institution. The writer, a soldier blinded by a shell in the firing line in France, also sent Miss Reeve a silver-mounted hand-woven silk purse, which, with other articles, will later be sold at auction in aid of the fund. The letter read: –
10 Danks-street, Albert Park
21st May, 1917
Dear Miss Reeve, – Would you please accept this little bag, which I made, towards the Anzac Buffet Fund? While I was in London I spent many a pleasant hour there, and would not like to hear of the old place being closed down. It is the best bit of Australia the boys can get in London. – Yours faithfully, THOMAS H. WHITE.
Weekly Times (Melb, Vic), Sat 11 Aug 1917 (p.11):
A LOVELY BAG
If you want to buy a really beautiful bag, you should order one from a blind soldier. This poor fellow (Private Tom White) lost his sight on Gallipoli, and the world was indeed a dark place for him when at St Dunstan’s Hospital, England, he first tried to learn how he might make a start to live his life without his sight.
He learned to net and now makes beautiful silk hand-bags of different colors.
If you are interested in any particular Battalion, or desire to make a present to anyone interested in a particular battalion, you can order a bag worked in those colors; it will cost 12/6, and you can order it from Miss Martyn, State Recruiting Committee, Universal Chambers, Collins street.
It requires little imagination to see the pathos of the figure of a strong soldier, who went away so gallantly three years ago, now sitting forever in the dark, glad to fashion dainty articles in the colors of the brave battalions he can never again see in battle array.
Weekly Times (Melb, Vic), Sat 18 Aug 1917 (p.10):
FRESH START IN LIFE
BLIND SOLDIERS’ VENTURE
To make a fresh start in life, handicapped by blindness requires patience and fortitude to a remarkable degree, but the Australian men who have made a name for themselves in this war appear to bear their ills and afflictions with the same show of courage that they manifest in action.
Private Albert Prentice and Private White, two Gallipoli heroes who have sacrificed their eyes for the Empire are men of this calibre.
Undaunted by their affliction they are facing the future with cheery confidence, feeling that in a very little while they will once again belong to the community of wage earners.
Men Who Stayed at Home
They have both made a good start. Some men who stayed at home have seen to that. More than 100 volunteers came forward to help build the comfortable homes which the soldiers’ wives are now setting in order. All the work was done by voluntary labor – the helpers giving up their Saturday afternoons and holidays to complete the task.
Each soldier has 1½ acres of ground and an attractive, well-built five-roomed villa, furnished with taste and refinement. These homes are situated in Warrigal road, Oakleigh, in a pleasing environment and health-giving atmosphere.
Prentice has a loyal little helpmate in his wife, to whom he was married six months ago. The young couple intend to take up poultry farming. The necessary outbuildings have been erected for him by the volunteer builders, and he is now busily engaged in securing stock for the pens.
When a surprise visit was made to White’s home last week, he was enjoying his mid-day rest after a busy morning at his mat-weaving frame. The visitor expressed a desire to inspect his workshop, and the blind soldier was on his feet in an instant and led the way to the back of the house without any guidance. His movements were so free and easy that one was apt to forget the misfortune war had brought upon him.
To reach the workshop he had to cross rather a long stretch of sloping ground. Instead of groping his way, he seized a stout staff and ran down the slope, laughing like a schoolboy when he found the bewildered visitor well in the rear.
“At first I thought I should never be able to get about alone,” he explained, “I think this feeling was the biggest obstacle I had to overcome, but now once I have got used to a place I can move about freely.”
“Sometimes he lights the fire and makes an early morning cup of tea,” remarks his bonnie looking young wife, “and if I would let him he would take a hand at making the porridge.”
White is an expert craftsman, and has to thank his training at St Dunstan’s, London, for putting him in the way of earning his own livelihood.
For his convenience the volunteer builders have provided a large airy workshop and equipment. The room is well stocked with plaited rush, sea grass, pith, and coir yarn for the making of baskets and mats, two articles upon which the blind soldier specialises.
He also makes artistic handbags of colored yarn mounted on silver handles the shape of a dumbbell. One of these bags at a recent patriotic matinee brought £26. Its real value was about 22/6.
In each instance one cannot help feeling that it is the cheery companionship and loving solicitude of the devoted wife that has stimulated these brave fellows to set out upon a new path with renewed faith and courage.
Oakleigh and Caulfield Times,……….(Vic), Sat 29 Sept 1917 (p.3):
To the Editor
Sir, – We would be very thankful if you could grant us sufficient space to enable us to publicly thank all those who have aided in bringing to a successful conclusion what must be regarded as a very fine work indeed. We refer to the houses built for us in Warrigal road. It has been a source of comfort to us to know that the service rendered by us at the front has been appreciated by the residents of Oakleigh, who, in the most practical manner, have evinced a desire to set us on the path that leads to success and happiness. Although thanks are due to one and all that participated in this movement, we must beg leave to particularly thank those gentlemen who had charge of affairs, viz: – the late Mayor (Cr E.J. Corr) and Mr W. Berry, architect. To these gentlemen, who have been unsparing in regard to time, energy, etc., we would offer our sincere thanks and appreciation.
The whole of those who assisted have their reward in the knowledge that they have contributed to a work which must for all time stand out as a monument of merit to the Borough of Oakleigh.
The ladies of Oakleigh have also a claim on our thanks, for it goes without saying that, had they not been there to look after the “inner man,” the work would not have been as successful as it has been. We are also grateful to the State War Council, for all material, etc.
On behalf of Mrs White and Mrs Prentice, we desire to acknowledge the receipt of various presents from the under-mentioned, to whom we tender our heartiest thanks: – Mrs Stainton, wood supplies; Mr Harcombe, 3 months’ milk supply; ladies of Oakleigh, wash basin; Soldiers’ Friends, Portman street, groceries, crockery, etc; residents of Tyabb, fruit trees.
Thanking you in anticipation, Yours, etc. Privates T.H. WHITE, B. PRENTICE.
The Sun (Sydney, NSW), Fri 11 Oct 1918 (p.4):
PRAISE FOR BLIND INSTITUTE
In a further paragraph Captain Voss says:
Of another industry, Sir Arthur Pearson writes: “Private White has sent me a letter of yours, in which you tell him of a method of mat-making which enables a man to make mats at home, and precludes the necessity for shaving mats. I shall be greatly obliged if you will let me know at the earliest possible moment some particulars of this method. Nothing is known in this country of it…. I shall regard it as a great favour if you will let me hear particulars of this new method of mat-making.”
Euroa Advertiser (Vic), Fri 2 May 1919 (p.6):
SQUABS AND SOLDIERS – Plying Calling in the Dark
Blind Men Build Businesses
In pleasant, open, undulating country but nine and a half miles from the city, and less than a mile from Oakleigh Station, “St Dunstan’s,” the home of a blind Anzac, nestles beside the Warragul-road. The homestead is a neat villa, comfortably furnished. Behind it is a succession of wire-netted pens in which contented pigeons coo, little dreaming that for many of them their days are numbered. Here also are the workshops, where Ex-Private T.H. White spends the time not devoted to his pigeons in making baskets and mats of various descriptions. His handiwork is not only serviceable, but artistic.
White was a soldier of the Eighth Battalion, who lost his eyesight on Gallipoli the day after the Lone Pine engagement. From Gallipoli he was invalided to England, where he spent some time in hospital, and afterwards entered St Dunstan’s at the request of Sir Arthur Dunstan, [sic Pearson] who is known to every sightless soldier as “The Father of the Blind.” White cannot say too much for the sympathy and kindly understanding shown him by Sir Arthur, who is blind himself. At St Dunstan’s the former private learnt many useful things, among them his basket and mat making. For a market for these wares, Mr White depends on private orders.
Most interesting are the pens where 250 Carneaux pigeons live – and die, when some busy housewife needs a nice, fat, juicy squab to place before her husband or her guest. Pigeons may be seen in all stages of growth. Some lie in their nests but newly hatched, while others beat the air with their baby wings, seeking to explore the world their elders know. At four weeks old the tender squabs are ready to be killed for market.
A pair of such birds, plucked and dressed, weigh on an average one and three-quarter pounds. A hen bird produces a couple of young each month.
Besides preparing squabs for market, Mr White is a careful breeder of stud birds, and many of those in his lofts are the glass of fashion and the mould of form of the pigeon world.
Next door to “St Dunstan’s” is the home of another blind Anzac, former Private B. Prentice, who also lost his sight on the Peninsula. Prentice is a poultry-breeder and a pig-breeder on a small scale.
While not soaring to the imaginative heights reached by the facetious Anzac, who suggested to an intelligence officer that pigeons might be crossed with cockatoos so that the progeny would be able to deliver verbal reports to headquarters, Prentice’s ambitition………………………………
It is wonderful to watch the manner in which these blinded soldiers go about their work, and it is hard to realise that they have lost their sight for ever. All the work among the poultry and pigeons is done by the men themselves, except the catching of stud birds for the purpose of ringing their legs. Both White and Prentice greet their visitors cheerfully, and to many who have the use of their eyes provide an unconscious example of perseverance and skill, and of that highest of all soldierly virtues – courage in the dark.
Helping the Blind 1919: https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/140223551
The Age (Melb, Vic), Thur 8 Jun 1939 (p.11):
Kings’ Birthday Honors
M.B.E. (Civil Div)
THOMAS HENRY WHITE, of Melbourne
Mr White lost his sight at Gallipoli. He was elected secretary-treasurer of the Victorian Blinded Soldiers’ Association in March, 1918, and has been honorary treasurer of the association since 1919.
Advocate (Burnie, Tas), Wed 16 Jun 1948 (p.5):
19 Blinded Servicemen Going to St Dunstan’s
CANBERRA, Tuesday – The Minister for Repatriation (Mr Barnard) to-day announced the names of 19 blinded ex-members of the services who would leave Australia in June 29 next for St Dunstan’s, England.
Saint Dunstan’s, is a residence which specially caters for blinded service personnel, and has been operating since the conclusion of the First World War.
The men will travel on the Strathaird, and are expected to arrive in England on July 31. They will be accompanied on the trip by a blinded ex-soldier of the 1914-18 war, Mr T.H. White, M.B.E., and his wife, both of whom will give special instruction in typing and Braille during the voyage. Mr White and his wife will act in a purely-honorary capacity.
The Argus (Melb, Vic), Mon 21 Feb 1949 (p.3):
A world authority on television and telecommunication and a Melbourne expert on the training of blinded ex-servicemen were among almost 1,100 passengers who reached here last night in the Orion.
Blind soldier back
Back in Melbourne after “delivering” 19 blinded Australian ex-servicemen for special training courses at London’s famous St Dunstan’s Hospital is Mr T.H. White, of Warrigal rd., Oakleigh, who lost both eyes at Gallipoli.
He will try to persuade the Repatriation Commission to establish a training academy in Australia on the lines of St Dunstan’s.
St Dunstan’s, he said, was still retraining blinded veterans of World War 1 with spectacular success, with the result that elderly incapacitated soldiers were finding themselves useful cogs in the wheels of industry.
Mr White said that a young dentist, T.J. Stewart, of Shortland, Kent, was making amazingly realistic plastic limbs and organs from maimed ex-servicemen.
He himself came back fitted with two new plastic eyes which defied detection.
The Argus (Melb, Vic), Sat 10 Jul 1954 (p.19):
WHITE, Thomas Henry, M.B.E. – On July 8, at R.G.H., Heidelberg, dearly loved husband of Elsie, of 6 Warrigal road, Oakleigh. (Late 8th Batt., 1st A.I.F., and Blinded Soldiers’ Association of Victoria.)
WHITE – The Funeral of the late Mr THOMAS HENRY WHITE, M.B.E. (late 8th Battalion, 1st A.I.F., and Blinded Soldiers’ Association), is appointed to leave the Bathurst memorial chapel, cnr. Glenhuntly and Kooyong roads, Elsternwick, THIS DAY (Saturday), after a service commencing at 9.30 a.m., for the Spring Vale Crematorium.