A Widow’s Mail

If you haven’t yet seen our WWI exhibition make sure you pop down to our museum in Mascot Library. There are many personal artifacts on display and you have just two-and-a-half weeks to see them.

Among the most moving are the letters and medals that were sent to a local World War I widow, Maude Goold. Although her house and street no longer exist (they were resumed by Sydney Airport), the everyday nature of the envelope above brings home the cold hard reality of her husband’s death.

Francis Goold served with the Reinforcements of the 35th Battalion and died on 31 May 1917, just a year after he enlisted. With no grave to mourn at, these simple objects would have provided Maude with a final, tangible link to her husband.

Francis Goold enlisted with his relative Edward Goold of Bondi. They are both standing on the right-hand side of this photo. Francis is probably standing 2nd from the right. All objects and photographs courtesy of Christine Myers.

Another moving artifact is this card sent out from the Australian Graves Services in London. It contains a picture of Francis’s grave and the exact spot where he was buried in Trois Arbres Cemetery, Steenwerck, Nord Pas de Calais, France. It sounds morbid, but it probably provided the family with some sense of closure.

Maude probably received this card some years after her husband’s death. In that time she had remarried – to her husband’s brother, who was also widowed during the war.

Some local families, such as that of Private William Francis Evans, never received such concrete information. He was reported missing in July 1916 and it took over a year for the Australian Red Cross to complete their enquiries and officially declare him dead . William is commemorated at the VC Corner Cemetery, in France, with 409 other unidentified Australian soldiers. Their bodies were found on the battlefield and buried together.

In the Botany area, approximately 15% of those who served lost their lives.

 
The memorial plaques, like the one above, were produced by the British government and distributed to next-of-kin from 1919 onwards. Because of its coin-like appearance it was commonly known as the Dead Man’s Penny, the Death Penny, Death Plaque, and Widow’s Penny. Each memorial plaque was engraved  with the deceased’s full name. Rank or regiment was intentionally excluded to make no distinction between the sacrifices each service man and woman had made. The following letter was also enclosed.
Samantha Sinnayah, curator.
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