Memories from the Black Diamond District –Rube Hargrave O.A.M. Memoirs
Shared by Bronwen Chamberlain on the Black Diamond Heritage Centre Facebook page 22.11.2013
Edward “George” Chamberlain enlisted at Sydney at Rushcutters Bay in 1916. He was transferred to Melbourne, then to Seymore,where he was injured by kicking horses.
George attended NCOS School in Geelong, then officer school in Duntroon under Captain Northcoate.
George was commissioned to the Royal Navy Bridging Train as a Lieutenant and sailed for Egypt where final training took place. George went to England then France.
The first night in France, George slept in the open with just a blanket. In the morning he found he could snap off his hair, it was so cold. Nobody took ill, the Egyptian training had been so tough.
A snipers bullet hit his helmet and the dint cut his right forehead.
George was in charge of a supply train which drove into a gas contaminated area, which should have been signposted. Everyone felt ill and they stopped for a break. Good supply of rum was on board and the men said “How about it?” OK said Lieutenant Chamberlain-and they all partook before fainting.
Recovering in hospital George asked ” What happened. ” he was told they were all found heaving their hearts out. Before being discharged from hospital the medical director demanded ” What did you do before you fainted? George told him how they all felt so awful he authorised the issue of rum. “Good, Good, Good,” said the director, ” Theoretically you should have all been dead, it must have been the rum that removed enough gas from your bodies to allow you to recover.”
After the armistice George worked for the Cornish Salvage Company recovering sunken vessels as a deep sea diver in Wales. On one dive George was caught between the vessel and the mud. The vessel was slowly pushing him into the mud. In desperation he shut off his air escape valve. This caused the suit to swell with air. When the air became what to him felt red hot and before he fainted, he hit the exhaust relief valve which allowed the suit to collapse rapidly. and he was able to drag himself out of the mud.
George said this was the narrowest squeak he had ever experienced.
George returned home and was given a welcome home party by his family at “Sunkist” Woonona. On the cake was a cannon as a decoration.
Continued – part of Bronwen Chamberlain’s “Tales from the Black Diamond Districts“
To see more old photos or stories of the Black Diamond districts, please visit the Black Diamond Museum and Heritage Centre, Bulli Railway Station east, on Franklin Avenue Bulli, 2516.