John Grylls was amongst the first to enlist for service in World War One. At 28 years of age, he signed up on the 19th of August 1914 and was allocated to the 4th Light Horse Regiment. As John had served three years already with the Mitiamo Light Horse, he was given the rank of Sergeant.
His father, John senior, had passed away in 1904 and left six children and his wife Elizabeth behind. They left Dingee and moved to Marks Street, Bendigo.
After training he was sent to Gallipoli. His regiment was stationed near Ryrie’s Post. John was admitted sick to the hospital with mumps on the 3rd of December 1915, just a week before the 4th Light Horse evacuated Gallipoli. He reported sick to the hospital again on the 7th of January 1916 with a rodent ulcer (basal cell carcinoma).
John rejoined his unit in late January 1916 before being transferred to the Anzac Cyclists Corps on the 20th of March. He was promoted to Company Sergeant Major on the 13th of May 1916. Later, on the 7th of April 1917, he was again promoted, this time to the rank of Warrant Officer Class 1 and Regimental Sergeant Major. He continued to serve with the 1st and later 2nd Anzac Cyclists Battalions until his unit was prepared for return to Australia on the 24th of September 1918. John had the poor fortune to get sick again- this time with pneumonia. His journey home was slowed down as he was transferred off the ship ‘Devon’ at Colombo. He would not re-embark for Australia until the 10th of January 1919.
John returned to Australia on the 24th of September 1918. When he returned home, he found that the family farm had been somewhat run down in his absence. He returned to Tang Tang and was allocated land as part of the solider settlement program. The parcel of land he was granted had belonged to his family for over 40 years since they had selected it.
John married Myrtle Tonkin Johnston in 1920. They had children together; two boys and two girls (John, Margery, David and Gwenneth). They lived at Tang Tang for some time before moving to Golden Square in the mid-1950s. John died on the 10th of August 1968 and is buried in Kangaroo Flat.
John’s youngest sister Florence was a nurse during World War One and went on to introduce Australia to the Save the Children Fund. His sisters Marion and Mary married local men and stayed in Dingee.
Trailblazer and passionate advocate for children’s health.
Daughter to John and Elizabeth (nee Wearne), Florence was born in Raywood in 1888. She later worked at the Bendigo Hospital. After enlisting in 1917, she served in Bombay, India for two years.
After her discharge in 1920, Florence worked at the Pioneer Health Centre at Peckham, London in 1926. This health centre was part of a leading study into preventative health care. Florence was particularly interested in improving the health of babies and children.
Florence travelled from the north to the south of Africa by herself in 1927. She gave lectures in Australia on the history of the British Empire and her observations from her travels.
Florence later worked as the sister in charge at the RSL Children’s Health Bureau at ANZAC house for 12 years upon her return. Following her passion for helping others, Florence worked in infectious disease hospitals.
She eventually founded the Victorian Branch of the Save the Children Fund, which is now firmly established throughout Australia. Florence worked tirelessly to raise awareness, funds and relief for children and families. She was a passionate advocate for preventative health and wrote many letters to newspapers sharing her views. At the time of her death, Florence was the national president of the Save the Children Fund. She was 74 years of age. The organisation now has a scholarship in her memory for research in the field of maternal and child health.
Florence never married. Her two sisters- Mary Ann and Marion Patience Grylls- had married local men John Thomas and Ernie Old in a double wedding ceremony at the Dingee Methodist Church in 1905. Her brother John was a Regimental Sergeant Major in the Anzac Cyclist Battalion and returned to Australia in 1919.
Effie Garden was a capable nurse who was entrusted with jobs that women often were not permitted to undertake. She was from Serpentine. At age 25 she enlisted in June 1915 after having passed her nursing examinations in May 1914. She nursed in Bendigo until she was sent overseas.
Effie said she enlisted because,
“I just felt it was my duty to go”
(The Age, 21st of April 1984, p. 20).
Removing shrapnel by herself
Stationed in Egypt first, Effie was impressed by the way all the nurses got on so well. They were moved around often and could be sent anywhere at any time, taking care of both themselves and wounded troops. Never concerned for her own safety, Effie worked at the British No. 12 Casualty Clearing Station in Proven, France as part of a surgical team. She was often required to use a scalpel to take out pieces of shell. This was unusual for the time; nurses were not normally taught how to do these procedures.
Effie also helped to open a new hospital for infectious diseases. There the nurses had to scrub their instruments and boil them to stop the spread of infection.
Royal Red Cross Medal
Effie received the Royal Red Cross medal (2nd class) in September 1919. It was awarded for her ‘valuable service with the Armies in France and Flanders’.
Upon her return home in 1919, Effie witnessed first-hand the dramatic effects the war had on nurses, with some unable to ‘return to nursing’.
Effie later married John Garfield Fussell in 1920.