Our Tumut Boys Returning from the Front
13 June 1902 Adelong and Tumut Express and Tumbarumba Post
The most interesting event of the year in Tumut eventuated on Wednesday, the occasion being the reception of nine of our boys returning from the front.
In the early morn the residents displayed their bunting profusely, and across the street, near Mr. W. D. P. O'Brien's Hall, were in large letters the word "Welcome."
At 1 p.m. a start was made to meet the returning heroes on the "Marked Tree Line.
The band, consisting of Tumut representatives, ably assisted by their old leader, Mr. Sam Smiles, and also Mr. Judd, of Adelong, were driven out to, meet the Tumut contingent and about 100 people in buggies, sulkies and on horseback accompanied them.
A number of the latter, on meeting the soldiers, handed over their horses, and they very much appreciated the change from the coach.
About 2 p.m. the jolly company arrived in town.
A halt was made at host O'Dea's Royal Hotel. Alderman Blakeney (Mayor) welcomed the soldiers, on behalf of the people of Tumut.
Refreshments were then ordered in, and the Mayor proposed the health of "The King," which was duly honoured.
The Mayor next proposed tho health of "The Kings troops"' which was responded to in appropriate words by Lieutenant R. Mecham, who in turn proposed the health of the Tumut people, to which the Mayor, in nice terms, responded.
The Mayor announced that the meeting would then adjourn till 7.30 p.m., when he would be pleased to see a large gathering to conduce to the soldiers' entertainment.
Our boys had a cordial reception round town in the evening interviewing their friends, and at 7.30 tho brilliantly-lighted hall of Mr. O'Brien's was a scene of animation such as has never before been witnessed in Tumut.
The Executive Committee, aided by their energetic secretary (Mr. W. S.Lang), should be proud of their attainment.
The Mayor took his position on the stage as President, and around him were Lieutenant R. Mecham, Quarter Master Sergeant C. H. Shelley, Sergts. Reg. and H. Mecham, Troopers F. Bates, Percy Lambert, Milton Joyce, E. Wyburn, and D. Kebblewhite.
Other troopers previously returned were also present.
The Band discoursed capital music.
The Mayor read apologies from Mr. R. Donaldson, M.L.A., and from Mr. C. J. Fraser, who wished all success to the undertaking and a hearty welcome to the “boys.”
'The Mayor then extended a hearty welcome home 'to the troopers.
He had great pleasure in congratulating them on their past career.
They had done their part worthily and well in upholding the honor and glory of the grand old flag, under which anyone could be safe to sleep at night.
Out of 26 Tumut men sent, they had made a big record in promotions.
One out of every two had been promoted for gallantry on the field.
They should be proud of the record they had put up, and he could heartily say he was proud of them.
It fell to his proud, and important lot to present each of the troopers now returning, who had not previously received, a gold medal, on behalf of the citizens of Tumut; further, to Quarter-Master Sergeant Shelley he was pleased to present, on behalf of his Tumut Plains friends, a beautiful set of gold sleeve links and a collar-stud.
Quarter-Master Sergeant C. H. Shelley said he knew one speech would be expected from him, but he was afraid he was in for two.
Everything had turned out nicely since leaving Cape Town.
The first news they heard on arrival in Sydney (from the deck of the pilot boat) was 'that peace was proclaimed in South Africa last night.' All could rejoice in that news, but those who had fought for that end more so.
He sincerely thanked the people of Tumut for the kind reception and the medal given him ; and the people of Tumut Plains - nearer home, his old school fellows - he could not thank enough for their valuable trinket received.
Lieutenant R. Mecham desired to thank all on behalf of his comrades and himself for the splendid reception accorded them.
He had been 18 months in the field, most of the time on trek, and he felt proud to be one who had represented Tumut in the war. Several Tumut boys were still at the front.
For his own part, he could say other contingents had had as hard a time as they had ; the grit and endurance of all had been tried.
They had endeavoured to do their best in what they considered a good and noble cause, and he thanked all for the medals bestowed, on behalf of himself and comrades.
They would remind them of their Tumut friends in years to come. Sergeant Reg. Mecham thanked all for the very hearty reception accorded them.
They had had a good time whilst away, and he always felt, as their worthy Mayor had said, they were safe for a good night's rest under the British flag; but sometimes it had been jolly rough.
He had had a good trip over the sea, a good reception in Sydney, a train trip, a coach trip, and then relief on the horses so kindly sent as a change from the coach.
Sergeant H. Mecham also returned thanks.
He felt soldiers were not made for speaking; fighting was more in their line.
Trooper E. Wyburn had very much pleasure in thanking all for their kind reception.
He didn't want a medal to remind him of the war; it was a wonder he was alive to tell the tale.
The news of peace was good for the Tommies, who only saw a few oxen conductors in tho far-out back, hard biscuits and some tins of C.J.V.
He felt grateful for the great and grand welcome accorded them on their return.
Trooper Milton Joyce was pleased to be present that evening, and thanked them all for the medal they had presented him with.
He never expected a medal, but fought honestly and true for the grand old flag.
Trooper F. Bates looked for no praise, but could say he had tried to do his level best for his noble Sovereign.
Trooper Dan Kobble white was thankful, very thankful, for the medal and the grand reception given.
When he left Tumut he went to fight.
He did not go away to get a reception on his return. Trooper Percy Lambert, who, by the way, met with a terrible accident, surviving a shower of bullets, one of which pierced one of his lungs, thanked all sincerely for the noble way they had been received.
He felt extremely grateful for tho kindness bestowed on him, and could say he had honestly striven to do his duty on the battlefield.
The Rev. T. Owens-Mell, who was warmly greeted on rising cordially welcomed the 'boys.'
Most of them had read the reports' of their movements. About two years ago they were gathered together in another hall to rejoice over the relief of Mafeking.
Their thoughts were then turned to South Africa for another reason.
While celebrating the relief they thought of their boys at the front.
They met that night to welcome nine who had returned, and, he was glad only a few who had left here remained behind.
He was delighted to hear that peace had been proclaimed.
They were not to regard, their soldiers as storm petrels, but as doves of peace.
The British Government had thought £10,000,000 would be sufficient to subjugate the Boers; they would simply be having a picnic.
They thought of eating Christmas pudding at Pretoria, but they had never eaten it there yet.
£240,000,000 had been spent, 1072 officers had succumbed from bullets and disease, 20,870 men had died from the same causes; that was a terrible cost.
Scores, hundreds and thousands of men had returned crippled, hundreds of homes in England, Africa, Canada, Australia and elsewhere were o'er shadowed with a cloud of grief, widows lamenting their husbands, many sighing for “he touch of a vanished hand and the sound of a voice that is still"; fathers and mothers, brothers , and sisters have had to mourn.
And they should be thankful indeed to say that only two Tumut men, Troopers F. Morris and Murray, had not been per- mitted to return.
They had thought of all the brave men in the field, and were proud to hear 'so many had come back to Tumut. But, look at the wars of the past!
In 1709, near the confines of Belgium, in a battle between the Dutch, and British, 40,000 were killed.
Nearly 100 years ago, in 1806, when England was fighting the Dutch, they seized the Cape of Good Hope. England has had once more, for 2 years and 8 months, to fight the same people, and from latest advices is going to spend three millions in re-building devastated homesteads and to settle the Boers on the soil again.
They had a right to South Africa as' a right of conquest and by right of purchase.
Think, then, how the Empire has been welded together under this awful war.
There exists now, in the interests of peace, a unity unknown hitherto.
The Duke and Duchess of York were with us' recently and were under the British flag all round the world.
British drums are heard everywhere, so great is the empire to which we belong.
At the naval review in coronation week, guns are to be fired, first at Spithead, then by given signals all round the world.
Four thousand years ago, and later, we saw Greece in her glory, the Chaldean monarchy, Macedonia, Rome, Babylonia and Spain.
What has become of them now?
They lost their cohesion and passed away.
Spain thought, with her Armada in the time of Elizabeth, to defeat Britain; but the Armada was dashed on the rocks of Northern Britain and all went down.
All these empires had their day and passed away. England in her might has been raised up to teach righteousness.
Tumut was indeed a beautiful spot, and they were apt to think it the hub of the world; but look on it as a part of the State, don't then go for New South Wales asthe hub; then don't look at the Commonwealth of Australia as such, but look to the Empire.
The Empire belongs to the world and exists for the world.
The Boers now are our follow subjects. Don't abuse them.
They were a sturdy and a violent foe, and we should speak of them fairly.
The Boers were citizen soldiers; so are our boys who returned to-night.
We keep no standing army.
Help your country to greatness and Providence will protect you.
The rev. speaker gave a sterling, instructive and entertaining discourse, and we regret being unable to publish it verbatim.
Mr. S. Groves proposed a vote of thanks to the Rev. Owens-Mell for his interesting, able and instructive address.
Mr. W. D. P. O'Brien after seconding the motion, said, he was glad to welcome back their boys.
Poor Morris and Murray had been left behind on the veldt.
He was sorry Mr. C. S. Byrne's son Fred was not back.
The sacrifice was enormous, but the gain would be great. The war was a righteous one in every way.
The vote was carried by acclamation.
Song by Mr. W. T. Howitt: 'Dolly Gray'. The company then sang 'God save the King;' and adjourned to the lower hall, to permit of the other being prepared for dancing.
In a short time everything was in readiness, and, to the inspiring strains of the Tumut Brass Band, with the aid of Adelong friends, no less than 256 got up in the first dance.
Such a thing is unparalleled in the history of Tumut, and, had it not been for Mr. O'Brien building the spacious and up to-date hall he did, never would; The scene was indeed a brilliant one.
The well-lighted hall, the elegantly-dressed ladies, the contingent from South Africa, and general surroundings were such as to rivet the attention of the veriest old bachelor.
At midnight a spread was laid out in Mrs. O'Shea's best style, but the attendance was so excessive that many had to go away content with a cup a tea.
We regret this, as the band, who gave services gratuitously, complained bitterly in consequence.
But all is well that ends well, and, with an attendance of fully 400 people, it can well be imagined the credit of the entertainment; was strained to the uttermost.
With the presence of such a large number in the ballroom, the dust was so great that, it was difficult to discern from the door the players on the stage; the fog was like to that of a winter's morning.
Mr. Lang, as secretary, was up to date and well earned his spurs, and, with Messrs. Hilton, Ibbotson, and Kinred, attended to the door, and a merry time they had of it.
The dancing broke up about 1.30 p.m. and everyone went away heartily satisfied of the loyalty of Tumut to the Motherland.