State Library of Queensland has been collecting wartime diaries, letters, photographs, and historically significant items since opening its doors in 1934. Through uncovering our past, we invite future generations to understand, share, and learn about the Queensland experiences of war, and ensure those who made the ultimate sacrifice are never forgotten.

We've searched through State Library's extensive military collection to bring you a selection of stories that best illustrate the courage, resilience, sacrifice, and duty of Queenslanders who served on the home front and the warfront, and immortalise the Anzac Spirit.

World War I

Annie Wheeler OBE

Annie Margaret Wheeler, who had some prior training in nursing, came to be known as the 'Mother of Queenslanders' following her contribution to the war effort as a soldier’s welfare worker in WWI.  

After the death of her husband in 1903, Annie and her daughter moved to Rockhampton, and then to England in 1913. When war broke out a year later, Annie endeavoured to keep a record of all soldiers from Central Queensland, whether wounded, imprisoned, or in the trenches. She corresponded with men on the battlefields and their loved ones, forwarded mail, provided for their needs, and visited and sought to provide comfort to them in hospital. By 1918, Annie had over 2,300 men on her books.  

Annie returned to Australia in 1919 to a hero's welcome. Over 5,000 people met her train. She was appointed O.B.E. in 1920. 

Sepia seated portrait of Mrs Annie Wheeler, ca.1920.

Image: Mrs Annie Wheeler c. 1920, Image Courtesy of Capricornia Coast Historical Society. 

Victor Owen Williams 

In 1917, 18-year-old Victor Owen Williams enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force with permission provided by his parents. He was posted to the 47th Battalion and, in January 1918, embarked for France.  

On 5 April 1918, Victor was wounded in action during the second battle of Dernancourt. He was evacuated to hospital, suffering gunshot wounds to both hands, then contracted influenza during his recuperation. By the time Victor recovered, the 47th Battalion had been disbanded, having suffered extremely heavy losses and a lack of reinforcements from Australia. Victor then joined the 45th Battalion in France … only to fall ill again a month later. He was admitted to hospital with dysentery, brought on by the unsanitary living conditions in the trenches. He saw no further action during the war.  

At war’s end, Victor was one of 92,000 Australian soldiers in France waiting to be demobilised back to Australia. He finally returned to Australia, travelling on board the troopship HMAT Ajana (A31), on 9 October 1919.  

Sepia studio portrait of Victor Owen Williams in uniform, taken in Paris, 1919

Image: Studio Portrait of Victor Owen Williams in uniform, taken in Paris, 1919, image no. 28939/1, John Oxley Library of Queensland. 

James Lingwoodock and John Geary  

James Lingwoodock and John Geary were two of more than 20 Aboriginal men comprising part of the 20th Reinforcements for the 11th Light Horse Regiment, later known as the 'Queensland Black Watch'. They married their sweethearts in a joint service at St Luke’s Church of England, in Charlotte Street, Brisbane, on 21 July 1917, before their departure to Egypt aboard the HMAT ‘Ulysses’ on 19 December 1917.  

On 7 May 1918, while encamped in the Jordan Valley, the 11th Light Horse Regiment was bombed by enemy airplanes, resulting in several casualties. John Geary was severely wounded with a head injury and, after two surgeries and suffering paralysis to his left side, was medically discharged from service. James Lingwoodock was present at such battles as the Es Salt Raid, the battle in the Jordan Valley, and the Battle of Samakh.  

John Geary left Egypt in July 1918 and returned to his family at Tantitha Station. His son John Robert was born a year later. Sadly during 1921, his mother Rosie, son John Robert and wife Alice passed away. In 1925, he married Warri Adelaide Drumley and they lived in the Beaudesert area. John died in 1953 aged 60. James Lingwoodock eventually made it back to Australia in 1919 and went on to have many children with Daisy. He passed away on 7 May 1960 at the age of 65. 

James Lingwoodock, Daisy Roberts, unidentified, John Geary, Reverend Miles, Alice Bond

Image: Servicemen’s Wedding at Charlotte Street, Brisbane, 1917, negative no.  60511, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. (James Lingwoodock on the left, and John Geary on the right). 

World War II 

Charles Fry 

In May 1939, Flight Lieutenant Charles ‘Digger’ Fry was posted to Egypt. While overseas, he corresponded with his sweetheart Beryl Smith, who he’d left behind to pursue his flying career. After three years apart, Charles wrote to Beryl asking her to marry him, enclosing a cheque to purchase an engagement ring. She said “yes”.  

In May 1941, Charles was flying on operations over Crete when his Hurricane fighter aircraft was shot down. He parachuted to safety but was eventually captured by German Forces and spent the remainder of the war imprisoned in POW camps in Germany and later Poland.  

Charles was eventually freed and repatriated to England in May 1945. He immediately telegrammed Beryl that he was safe and waiting to come home. Beryl and Charles were married two weeks after his return to Australia, purchased a farm in Dalby, Queensland, and remained there for the rest of their lives. 

Charles Fry, Flt Lt, 112 Fighter Squadron RAF, Egypt 1939

Image: Charles Fry, Flt Lt, 112 Fighter Squadron RAF, Egypt 1939 (2018): 31299 Charles Fry Correspondence. Web.

Charles Fry, Flt Lt, 112 Fighter Squadron RAF, Egypt 1939, 31299 Charles Fry Correspondence, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

Post 1945 

Captain Andrew Craig OAM, RAN (Rtd)

Andrew Craig, a former naval officer and helicopter pilot, served with the Royal Australian Navy from 1958-1988, retiring with the rank of Captain. His service included time at sea on HMAS Vendetta during the Indonesian Confrontation, deployment to Vietnam with 9 Squadron, RAAF, RAN Helicopter Flight Vietnam, and command of 817 Naval Air Squadron.  

Of Vietnam, Craig recounted: “the flying was hard and challenging and, for all its risks and quirks, unquestionably the best of my career”. 

In more recent times, Captain Andrew Craig has served as Chair on the Queensland Advisory Committee for the Commemoration of the Anzac Centenary (QACCAC) of World War I, 2014-2018 and is the current President of Legacy Brisbane.

Image of Captain Andrew Craig on Duty

Image: Captain Andrew Craig on Duty, 31869 Captain Andrew Craig RAN papers, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.