Thursday, 28 May 2015

Colonial Auxiliary Forces Officers' Decoration (V.D.)

In the index of the the second volume of the official history of the Australian Army Medical Service in the war of 1914-18, which I referred to in my recent post on No. 1 Australian General Hospital at Rouen, I noticed that my great grandfather was referred to as DE CRESPIGNY, Col. C. T. Champion (D.S.O., V.D., A.A.M.C.). I knew about the D.S.O. awarded in 1917 for distinguished service in the field and I knew that A.A.M.C. stood for Australian Army Medical Corps but I had not come across an award of V.D. To me the initials had a different meaning.

The Volunteer Officers' Decoration (V.D.) was instituted in 1892 to reward the "long and meritorious services of Officers of proved capacity in Our Volunteer Force" in Great Britain. In 1894 the decoration was extended to include commissioned officers of all Volunteer Forces throughout the British Empire. The qualifying period was 20 year's service. In 1899, the Volunteer Officers' Decoration was superseded in the colonies by the Colonial Auxiliary Forces Officers' Decoration. In 1923, the Royal Warrant was amended to count war-time service in World War I as double, so long as the service, on the active list, was outside of the dominion, colonies, dependencies, and protectorates.

When C. T. C. de Crespigny received the award in February 1927, it was still referred to by its former name, perhaps because of the post-nominal letters of V.D. :
The latest awards of the Volunteer Officers Decoration (V.D.) for long service in commissioned rank include Cols. M. H. Downey, D.S.O., and C. T. C. de Crespigny, and Major H. W. H. Seager, M.C.  (NAVAL AND MILITARY. (1927, February 28). News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 - 1954), p. 4 Edition: HOME EDITION. Retrieved from )
 The award was included in Australian Army Order no. 111 of 26 February 1927.

The green ribbon has faded somewhat.

My brother now has our great grandfather's medals. They are:
  • Distinguished Service Order
  • 1914 - 1915 Star
  • War Medal
  • Peace Medal ( with Mention in Despatches)
  • Two Coronation Medals
  • Colonial Auxiliary Forces Officers' Decoration


Thursday, 21 May 2015

The patients of No. 1 A.G.H. France during World War 1

Rouen, France. 9 July 1917. Her Majesty Queen Mary visiting No. 1 Australian General Hospital (1AGH). HM is accompanied through a guard of honour of nurses of the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS) by the hospital's commanding officer, Colonel Trent Champion de Crespigny DSO. Temporary wards and tents are on both sides of the path and patients in hospital uniform look on. Australian War Memorial photograph id K00019
I have written previously on my great grandfather and No. 1 Australian General Hospital at Rouen in France.  At the library this afternoon I was looking through the second volume of the official history of the Australian Army Medical Service in the war of 1914-18. Chapter xiv deals with the General Hospitals.

The hospitals treated the wounded of all forces.  From the book on page 414:
Of the total admissions to Australian General Hospitals in the war 11.2% were Australians; and of all Australian wounded on the Western Front 6.5% were treated in the Australian General Hospitals. The matter was summed up in 1917 in a memorandum by Colonel C. T. C. de Crespigny, who commanded No. 1 A.G.H. in France:-
"No Australian General Hospital or Casualty Clearing Station in France is exclusively devoted to the treatment of Australians. Such selection and segregation would be difficult and inadvisable. We admit sick and wounded in precisely the same way that our British and American neighbours do, so that in the same ward one may see English, Scots, Irish, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans, Newfoundlanders, British West Indians and members of other overseas units. It is a most striking example of the Empire's 'far flung battle line.' The intimate contact that exists between hospital patients offers an admirable opportunity for men of various dominions and the mother country to know and understand each other."
This item is footnoted:
Colonel de Crespigny adds:
"The patience and stoicism of the wounded is remarkable. The quiet and restfulness of a hospital far from the battle line, with good nursing, cleanliness and considerable comfort appears to them so great a relief counter-balance the pain and discomfort of their wounds.
" As an Australian addressing Australians there is no need for me to speak particularly of our own splendid men. We all know them. But I feel that I must add a word about the British soldier after more than two years' acquaintance with him. Remember that my impression of him is based upon observation of the man as a patient, when the heat of the battle has passed and he has no regimental tradition to live up to and he is harassed with pain or sickness or both. And the longer one knows him the more one is struck by his pluck, endurance and ineradicable vein of quiet humour, which makes light of his own sufferings and helps his comrade in the next bed to bear his own. In hospital one sees him suffering bravely terrible and mutilating wounds and looking forward undaunted to a future which only too often must be a sad one in which both his capacity for earning his livelihood or enjoying his leisure will be permanently lessened or destroyed."


Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Trove Tuesday: Mother's Day 1943

In 1967 the Australian Women's Weekly held a Mother's Day story-writing competition, for 'The Best Mother's Day I've Had'.

The contest prompted many letters to the editor. One, from Harry Thorpe,  a former Army Padre, wrote about a Mother's Day he had spent in a Japanese POW camp.

His letter caught the attention of my grandfather's cousin John de Crespigny (1908-1995).

de Crespigny, who in 1943 had been a Major interned in the same camp, wrote to Thorpe recalling the occasion.

His letter was reproduced in the Women's Weekly a month later.

Prizewinning letters in our "Best Mother's Day" Contest. (1967, May 17). The Australian Women's Weekly (1933 - 1982), p. 55. Retrieved from

AN ECHO FROM MOTHER'S DAY, 1943— IN A POW CAMP. (1967, June 28). The Australian Women's Weekly (1933 - 1982), p. 14. Retrieved from
Related post:

Monday, 4 May 2015

A to Z 2015 reflections

My blog tells some of the stories about my family history. All my posts, including A to Z posts in 2015, have this focus. In 2015 however, a hundred years since World War 1 and seventy years since the end of World War 2, many of the posts recall men of my family who fought in those wars.

My family, like so many others, felt the effects of those wars. Both my grandfathers and my father-in-law fought in World War 2. All four of my great grandfathers and both my husband's grandfathers and my step grandfather fought in World War 1. All ten men survived, though both my husband's grandfathers and one of my great grandfathers were injured.

Our forebears lost brothers and cousins in the wars. Most of these uncles and cousins did not have children and so it is up to us, the descendants of their siblings and cousins, to remember them.

Of course I have never met most of the men I have written about, and I cannot comprehend the appalling experience of fighting in a war. I hope I have done something to keep their memory alive by gathering together the dry facts of their military experience.

During the month I had trouble with my broadband internet connection and I was also away from home travelling for a week. I had trouble completing my daily posts.

M is for muddle

For years I wondered why my great grandfather Constantine Trent Champion de Crespigny had been taken away from his duties as a doctor during World War 1 to be aide-de camp to General Birdwood.

I had been misled by photographs on the Australian War Memorial website:

  • E00083 Photograph December 1916: General Sir William Riddell Birdwood (back left) and Captain Trent Champion De Crespigny ADC, seated in General Birdwood's car, passing an Australian transport column on the Mametz-Montauban road. 
Australian War Memorial image E00083

  • E00094 Photograph December 1916: Pictured in conversation after a church service at Heilly are, left to right: General C B B White; General Sir William Riddell Birdwood and Captain Trent Champion de Crespigny.
  • E02011 Photograph March 1917: General William Birdwood with the Assistant Provost Marshal Lieutenant Colonel W. Smith, and Aide-de-Camp Captain Trent Champion de Crespigny of the 1st Anzac Corps Headquarters, riding through the Chateau gates.
  • E00540 Photograph March 1917: Group portrait of the General Staff of the Australian Corps Headquarters outside the Chateau at Henencourt. Left to right, back row: Captain (Capt) C R E Jennings, Deputy Assistant Adjutant General; Capt N Clowes, SCRA; Capt C Sheldon, Staff Officer to the Chief Engineer; unidentified; Lieutenant M... ... Capt Trent Champion de Crespigny, Aide de Camp (ADC) to General Officer Commanding (GOC). ...
  • E00541 Photograph March 1917: Group portrait of the General Staff of the Australian Corps Headquarters outside the Chateau at Henencourt. Left to right, back row: Captain (Capt) C R E Jennings, Deputy Assistant Adjutant General; Capt N Clowes, SCRA; Capt C Sheldon, Staff Officer to the Chief Engineer; unidentified; Lieutenant M... ... Capt Trent Champion de Crespigny, Aide de Camp (ADC) to General Officer Commanding (GOC). ...
  • E00451 Photograph May 1917: General Sir William Riddell Birdwood decorating an officer for bravery in the first attack on the Hindenburg Line. The ceremony took place at Ribemont. Left to right: Captain (Capt) O'Regan MC, Australian Army Medical Corps (AAMC); General Birdwood; Capt H Thomson MC; unidentified (partially... ... Capt Trent Champion de Crespigny ...
  • E02360 Photograph May 1918: General Sir W R Birdwood presenting medals to members of the 4th Division. Standing in the centre, left to right: unidentified; Major H. Thompson MC, Staff Captain, 4th Brigade; unidentified; General Sir William Birdwood; Captain de Crespigny, Aide-de-Camp (ADC) to General Birdwood; Lieutenant...

My great grandfather was, as far as I know, the only person of his generation who had the forename Trent with the surname Champion de Crespigny.  I could not think who else Birdwood's aide-de-camp could be. It must have been Constantine Trent. I was wrong.

I found the correct answer in Trove, the digitised newspaper collection  of the National Library of Australia..

AUSTRALIAN AND NEW ZEALAND ARMY CORPS. (1916, June 22). The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1931), p. 8. Retrieved from

This was confirmed by a notice in the London Gazette, that Captain Henry Champion de Crespigny of the 56th Punjabi Rifles had been appointed aide-de-camp to the Commands and Staff area of the Regular army with effect from 6 August 1915. (London Gazette of 28 September 1915, supplement 29311, page 9625)

Henry Champion de Crespigny (1882 - 1946) was my great grandfather's fourth cousin once removed. He was the son of Philip Augustus Champion de Crespigny (1850 - 1912) and Rose de Crespigny née Key (1859 - 1935).

Henry de Crespigny became the sixth baronet following the death of his cousin Claude Raul Champion de Crespigny (1878 - 1941). None of the five sons of the fourth baronet  Sir Claude Champion de Crespigny (1847 - 1935) had sons. Henry de Crespigny's father Philip de Crespigny was the fourth baronet's younger brother.

Henry de Crespigny died unmarried and the baronetcy passed on to his brother Frederick Champion de Crespigny (1884 - 1947).

Chelmsford Chronicle 1 November 1946 page 3

Update: I have been in contact with the War Memorial  who advised

Thank you for your email drawing our attention the incorrect identification of Constantine Trent Champion de Crespigny in several of our Official photographs. I apologise for the confusion this has caused you. The cataloguing of these images was carried out decades ago, before access to so many excellent digitised records were available. I have looked at the original captions and noticed that only General Birdwood was named except for one caption where “Captain de Crespigny” was named. I can only surmise the error must have occurred here when someone interpreted this partial identification as being Trent rather than Henry - Henry’s service record would not have been visible to them having served with the Indian Army.

I am working to correct the cataloguing for these photographs now and the updated records should refresh to the website by the end of the week.

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