Monday, October 14, 2013

Sepia Saturday: Diggers return on the Marathon

It's been a naval month with Australia celebrating the centenary of the Royal Australian Navy, so the Sepia Saturday theme this week is timely.

I've selected a couple of photos from the family's album to write about. In April 1919 Melbourne's Argus newspaper reported that a ship called Marathon had sailed from England with a large number of Australian soldiers on board. The war had been over for five months but there were a lot of diggers who still hadn't made it home, particularly those who were recovering from injuries received on the battlefields of France and Belgium. The newspaper report is quite detailed in that it lists the names of the injured soldiers, the nursing staff and some of the other passengers. The list includes my husband's grandfather, R J D (Roy) Phelan who was recovering from a bad shrapnel wound to his skull. There will be a sad story behind every single name on the 'injured' list.

The Argus, 29 April 1919. Accessed at Trove, NLA.
Roy Phelan, recuperating in England, 1919
It also includes the names of two other Australian soldiers whose photos are also in our family's album so they must have been friends of Roy.

Bill Bateman
Ted Taylor
I don't know who took these two photos because the public wasn't allowed onto the wharf as far as I know. Maybe it was Roy himself because there are several other photos in the album that he took on the voyage home. It's the Marathon tied up at Railway Pier, Port Melbourne. It must have been such an exciting time for the soldiers and their families.

Marathon, Port Melbourne, June 1919
AIF soldiers disembarking from the Marathon, Melbourne, June 1919
Arrival of the Marathon, Port Melbourne. The Argus, 9 June 1919.
The Marathon is mentioned quite a few times in the newspapers in 1919 because it twice carried soldiers to Fremantle, Adelaide and Sydney and it carried several VIPs on board (McCay in particular, listed under 'Other Reasons' on the first newspaper article). And later in the same year it was involved in a collision with a Japanese ship in the English Channel - it was refloated and steamed to London under her own power.

I'm sure the naval historians would have much more to say about the life of the Marathon, but this is the extent of her impact on the Phelan's family history.

I suggest you sail on over to see what others write about this Sepia Saturday.


  1. The three look like they could have been friends, close in age it seems.

  2. Posts like this make me want to cry. Good that all these men got home. Has Bill Bateman got his hands in his pockets? A typical Aussie bloke. Great photos.

  3. Very interesting. I know the ships that my grandfather embarked on in 1914 and 1916 - he went over twice - but not the ones he came back on.

    1. You should be able to pick up the name of all the ships in his file at NAA.

  4. Some sad stories for sure but how uplifting that they were returning home at last, and to the relief of their families.

  5. At least, these boys got to go home to their families.
    Too often, all the family gets is a letter acknowledging the soldier's service,
    perhaps a medal and a flag, and a coffin.
    Love those pictures, especially Roy's of the boat.


I love to read your comments. Thankyou for your interest.



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