The Fascinating tale of Lt. E.M. Little of the 15th Bn. and his nephew’s quest of a lifetime – Part 3

Here is the final chapter recounting the adventures with David Little retracing his uncle’s footsteps as a young officer in the 15th Battalion AIF. We’ve visited the battlefield, enjoyed an amazing sunset and dinner at the Tusan. Walked up Shrapnel Valley and Braund’s Hill, explored the Quinn’s Post trenches and probably located the spot where E.M Little suffered his horrendous and life-changing injuries……. Hope you’ve enjoyed it so far!

Saturday 16th September….

The day started with the British Helles Sector, the story of the MS River Clyde at ‘V’ Beach, the mysterious ‘Lady in Black’ that visited the grave of Charles Doughty-Wylie, the hidden French guns and ‘W’ Beach with my favourite shipwreck. But David still had Quinn’s Post on his mind. David embraced the idea of laying a wreath at Quinn’s in memory of his uncle and his comrades, so with wreath secured in our car we headed once again for the Anzac Sector.  First stop was a walk up Plugge’s Plateau, for me still the best place to observe Shrapnel Valley, Razor’s Edge and a close up of The Sphinx. I always feel the need to recount Charles Bean’s first day on the battlefield when he offered water to the 12 men mortally wounded at Plugge’s, he was told by the medic to ‘Save your water for the living’…….. those 12 men are still laying where they were on that fateful day. Nobody wakes up in the morning and willingly goes to their death.

David and Erdem our great Turkish guide loved the walk. We once again made our way up to Quinn’s Post. There we performed a heartfelt service which included the hymn Abide With Me and David read some poetry penned by his uncle. We were all very touched by the sentiment. This fitting culmination of a journey in which we all benefited.

Lieutenant E.M. (Maurice) Little – Not the end of his journey, only the beginning……

Maurice was sent back to Alexandria Egypt to recuperate from his injuries. A desperate fight ensured to save one of his eyes, a fight he was to lose. The first voice he heard and grew to know was that of Sister Bessie Crowther. Bessie fed, bathed and treated Maurice. She was also responsible for writing to his parents and tell them of the extent of his injuries. Twice already the authorities had listed him as Killed in Action, you can imagine the anguish of parents around Australia, families not really knowing what the fate was of their sons, brothers and fathers.

Maurice held a positive and inspiring place at the 1th Field Hospital. Instead of wallowing in self-pity he worked to lift the spirits of those around him. /he decided that to carry on in this world he would be forever joined with his beloved Bessie, he proposed marriage to her……….. The union was not quickly accepted, Bessie was nearly 45 years old, twice the age of Maurice, but they insisted that this was a union Made of God. They were married and so Bessie would join him for his journey home, as his wife and for the remainder of his life…………

MAURICE LITTLE…….. His body devastated by war, but never gave up. Here is a list of his achievements.

  • Returned to Australia with his wife Bessie. Maurice was treated as a celebrity. He hit the road in support of Prime Minister Billy Hughes’ fight for conscription.
  • He was presented with a leather lounge chair by the then Governor of Queensland Sir Hamilton Goold-Adams. David still treasures the chair and uses it often when thinking of his uncle. Young returned soldiers, especially those attempting to put their lives back together after suffering the injuries of war. The community took up fundraising, like today’s online fundraising, (something I can personally attest to). Maurice was a popular and respected part of Queensland’s returned heroes, with Bessie at his side.
  • Maurice worked tirelessly for returned soldiers. At the time the government worked to secure more soldiers for the  fronts in Europe and Palestine. The loss and repatriation of the fighting man took second place to recruitment.
  • He entered politics, joining the National Party standing on a platform of repatriation and rehabilitation of returned soldiers. He was a strong voice in the ‘Strength of Empire’ campaign and penned the phrase ‘Golden Bullets for Golden Soldiers’. What a time! Especially as the Australian Government were issuing War Bonds to support the war effort.
  • Maurice became the Founding President of the Sherwood (Brisbane) Sub-Branch of the RSSILA, today’s RSL and remained in the post from 1919 until 1924. Maurice was instrumental in the fundraising and construction of the Sherwood /war /memorial in 1920. It was 1925 when he and Bessie returned to the UK where he took up studies in Economics and Politics at Oxford University. Bessie always at his side in lectures.
  • Winters in the UK were very harsh so Bessie and Maurice spent winters in Egypt, primarily for his health.
  • Returned to Australia in 1931 for three further years before returning to England.
  • Maurice was a prolific poet and author. He penned many poems about the plight of the fighting man having mastered the use of Braille with his left hand.
  • In 1936 they returned once again to Alexandria in Egypt.
  • In 1937 his health was steadily deteriorating. Sadly in 1938 Maurice died of a cerebral hemorrhage. He was buried in a grave at Turnbridge Wells where later he was joined by his endearing wife Bessie.WHAT A LIFE LIVED!

Lieutenant E.M. Little’s final epitaph written by his father who learned of his son’s death……

The news of his death reached his father on  20 August 1938 who wrote in his diary on that day;

“RECEIVED TODAY THE SAD NEWS OF MY BELOVED SON—ONE OF THE BEST SONS THAT EVER BREATHED.  SO FAITHFUL AND TRUE.”

Maurice went on to prove that the human condition does not end simply with the end of an everyday life. Maurice went on to join up, to fight in a war you feel was worth fighting for. To go on and live a full and rewarding life is a lesson we could all learn from.

I can only thank Mr. David Little and Mat McLachlan Battlefield Tours for the life-changing opportunity I have been given. I shake as I write these final words. Surely we need to move on from paying our respects just to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in war, they didn’t join just to die on those fatal shores. Others returned to pick up the pieces of their former existence and to go beyond what could surely be expected of a SURVIVOR.

With heavy heart and hand I leave this account for you to read.

Roachie.

Note:  I definitely need to mention the passionate effort that Mr Jim Gibson, who was simply writing a brief historical note on the lives of the men on the War Memorial Board at the Anzac Indooroopilly Uniting Church, Brisbane, when he came upon Maurice Little and kept going— 300 plus pages later. This story has caught me and I can see how Jim’s research is now turning into a book on the life of Maurice. I’ve read Jim’s unfinished manuscript and found it riveting to say the least   David says “Jim is a retired architect, 82 years of ages and I think is now closer to Maurice and his family than all of us.” …….Somehow, after meeting David, I doubt it. Without people like Jim and David the legacy o those Anzacs a century ago may disappear. Well done and huge respect to you Jim Gibson. I hope to turn Maruice’s story along with other Gallipoli Survivors into my own book in the future.