DEAR EM: MAJOR GEOFFREY MCLAUGHLIN'S LETTERS TO HIS FAMILY, 1914-1917

Author: Geoffrey Mclaughlin

Editor: Susan Warmbath

Publisher: Blue Mountains Historical Society Incorporated, 2015, 390 pages, softback

ISBN: 9780958683791

Through a wonderful collection of 134 letters sent home to his family from 1914-17, we gain a glimpse into the fascinating life of Geoffrey McLaughlin, a First World War artillery officer. Now carefully compiled into the book ‘Dear Em’, we share Geoffrey’s journey from pre-war solicitor to a major in the Australian Field Artillery.

Geoffrey was a Captain in the Australian Field Artillery with five years' service prior to the start of First World War.  His first letter is written when he embarked with the 1st Field Artillery Brigade in Sydney in October 1914 aboard HMAT Argyllshire for Egypt. During service at Gallipoli he suffered jaundice and was evacuated to Malta in early November 1915 before re-joining his unit in Egypt following their withdrawal from Gallipoli. Captain McLaughlin was awarded the Military Cross in January 1916 for distinguished service in the field and was also Mentioned in Despatches. He was promoted to Major in March 1916. The Brigade relocated to the Western Front, France, during March and April 1916. Geoffrey was wounded in action near Flers in November 1916 and was evacuated to Rouen and then to England for treatment and recuperation. In early April 1917 he re-joined his unit near Amiens where he took command of the artillery brigade with the temporary rank of Lieutenant Colonel for 3 months until July 1917. Geoffrey was again wounded in action during an attack by phosgene gas on 2 November 1917. His last letter home was dated 31 October 1917, four days before he died of those wounds in No 2 Canadian Casualty Clearing Station and is buried in the Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Belgium. He was aged just 30 years.

The letters are an excellent record of the progress of the war, clearly describing not only the conditions but the impact it was having on many of his friends and the developing role of artillery during the War. From training and preparation in Egypt and England, to the horrors of Gallipoli and the Western Front, the letters are extremely detailed. Geoffrey was in the thick of many actions undertaking duties as an artillery observer, gun line officer, battery commander, and for periods as acting artillery brigade commander. Because there was little room for deploying all the Division's guns at Anzac, Geoffrey's battery went ashore at Helles in support of the British forces. He supported the battles of Third Krithia and was forward observation officer in the Vineyard during the fierce fighting in August 1915. He eventually moved up to Anzac following the Suvla landing, finding many friends had become casualties. Sadly his own promising career was tragically cut short like so many in the First World War, but this book serves as a memorial to his memory and all those who served. Highly Recommended.

 

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