Sister Margaret Frances Eldridge

Australian Army Nursing Service

Eric and his sister Margaret were both born in Sydney to Thomas Brillet and Emily Eldridge. Their father was a builder and timber merchant in Kogarah and later served as an Alderman on Kogarah Municipal Council before moving to Hill Top in the late 1890s. Margaret and Eric grew up on the family property, Oak Hill. 

Margaret, born in 1882, began nursing as a probationer at Temora Hospital in 1905 and completed her training at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney. At the outbreak of the war she enlisted as a Staff Nurse and left Australia with a contingent of nurses in July 1915. She briefly worked in military hospitals in England, before being detailed for hospital transport duty back to Australia, arriving in Sydney on Christmas Day 1915. After a month at the Garrison Hospital at Victoria Barracks, she sailed again from Sydney and was posted to the 3rd Australian General Hospital at Abbassia in Egypt.  She took a keen interest in the exotic sights and sounds of Egypt, documenting them with her camera and developing her own prints. After six months at various hospitals in Egypt, she sailed for England once more.

In May 1917 she was posted to France where she was to have the most challenging experiences of her war service, working in casualty clearing stations, often through enemy shelling and bombardment. Margaret kept a diary throughout the war recording four years of highs and lows. The warmth of her relationship with her brother Eric, twelve years her junior, shines through the entries. They were able to meet up on a number of occasions in France and on leave in England where they had relatives and were never happier than when they could spend time together.

 

Lieutenant Eric Alfred Eldridge

18th Battalion

Eric, like his sister, enlisted in July 1915. He was jackarooing at Gunbar in the Hay District at the time and left behind his fiancé, Charlotte Gibson. After training in Egypt, he left for France with his battalion in March 1916. He rose through the ranks from Private to Lance Corporal, Sergeant and finally to Lieutenant.

In July 1917 he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for gallantry and devotion to duty.

Under heavy fire he attacked and silenced an enemy machine gun, handling his Lewis gun with great effect. He showed total disregard for his personal safety in crawling for four hours to the enemy’s wire, saving surgical instruments and ammunition for his own guns. He also led several parties through the enemy’s wires in search of wounded.

The machine gun captured by Eric Eldridge was brought back to Australia as a war trophy and in the 1930s was sent to Lord Howe Island as a centrepiece of the newly-constructed war memorial where it remains to this day.

Eric was badly wounded in action in August 1918. Much to the relief of his sister Margaret he was evacuated to England and then to Australia. The telegram she sent to her parents was short but sweet -  “Eric safely wounded, Cheerio”.

Eric married his fiancée of four years in Mittagong, soon after his homecoming. He and Charlotte moved back to Gunbar and the family sheep station where Eric died in 1979 aged 86.

Eric Eldridge’s Dress Tunic and medals: Distinguished Conduct Medal, 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal

Eric’s identity disc, shoulder title and  ‘Returned from Overseas Service’ badge

Margaret’s medals: British War Medal and Victory Medal

Small 1917 calendar sent to Eric by his fancée  Charlotte ‘Daisy’ Gibson

Small 1917 calendar sent to Eric by his fancée  Charlotte ‘Daisy’ Gibson

Small 1917 calendar sent to Eric by his fancée  Charlotte ‘Daisy’ Gibson

Small 1917 calendar sent to Eric by his fancée  Charlotte ‘Daisy’ Gibson

Photo of Eric in gasmask sent to Daisy Gibson  with his amusing message on the back

Photo of Eric in gasmask sent to Daisy Gibson  with his amusing message on the back

Margaret Eldridge’s pay book

Margaret Eldridge’s pay book

Gold medallion presented to Eric Eldridge by ‘Hill Top friends’ on his return from overseas service

Gold medallion presented to Eric Eldridge by ‘Hill Top friends’ on his return from overseas service

War diary kept by Eric Eldridge

War diary kept by Eric Eldridge

An interesting memento: Eric’s ‘AUSTRALIA’ shoulder title was made into a serviette ring after it was damaged  by gunfre

An interesting memento: Eric’s ‘AUSTRALIA’ shoulder title was made into a serviette ring after it was damaged  by gunfre

Necklet presented to Margaret by the people of Hill Top  has Eric’s battalion colours in the centre

Necklet presented to Margaret by the people of Hill Top  has Eric’s battalion colours in the centre

Eric Eldridge’s  whistle and lanyard

Eric Eldridge’s  whistle and lanyard

Eric Eldridge’s water canteen

Eric Eldridge’s water canteen

All items on loan from the Lugsdin Family