Stanley John (Stan) GILWHITE

GILWHITE, Stanley John

Service Number: 6317
Enlisted: 26 September 1916, Perth, Western Australia
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 28th Infantry Battalion
Born: Upton Park, Essex, England, 24 November 1898
Home Town: Subiaco, Nedlands, Western Australia
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Audit clerk
Died: Lung Failure (result of chlorine gas - Broodseinde), Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, 7 February 1931, aged 32 years
Cemetery: Karrakatta Cemetery & Crematorium, Western Australia
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World War 1 Service

26 Sep 1916: Enlisted AIF WW1, Perth, Western Australia
29 Dec 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 6317, 28th Infantry Battalion, --- :embarkation_roll: roll_number: '16' embarkation_place: Fremantle embarkation_ship: HMAT Persic embarkation_ship_number: A34 public_note: ''
29 Dec 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, 6317, 28th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Persic, Fremantle

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My Father, Stanley John Gilwhite

Well now, I want to set the scene of my father. He had enlisted in the Australian AIF during WW1 in 1916 at 18 years of age. He and my mother Verna Alberta Lawrence were childhood sweethearts prior to his leaving for war overseas. My father returned in late 1918 aged 22 and very much worse in health due to the inhalation of German gas in the trenches of France. My mother and he married in 1922 and I was born in 1923. My memories of him are few indeed, but old photographs, certain events, and my mother's comments create an image I believe to be true.

My Dad was very good looking, sun tanned and athletic. He was fun loving and gay in manner, but stable and responsible. The war changed him in some ways and especially physically, as it did many men. I was born in a little house at 23 Eric Street, Cottesloe (which still stands,) but about three years later we moved to live in Kalgoorlie because his chest weakness required a drier climate. He was the branch manager of Goode Durrant and Murray Company in Kalgoorlie and I think my mother was his
bookkeeper. The Company was a wholesale clothing warehouse and my father had many orders to fulfil distributing clothing to shops in Kalgoorlie and outlying districts. Often he took me along, aged 4 - 7, and I’d think I was helping by carrying some of the smaller parcels out to his car (a black Willys Knight with celluloid removable windows). The warehouse was upstairs and I think he had trouble negotiating the steps because of breathing difficulties. On some Saturdays a few friends would come for tennis as we had a court at our "Lamington Heights" home. My Daddy had been an avid player prior to the war. Perhaps he watched more than played, but I remember he looked so lean, handsome and brown in his long white trousers, shirt and hat. There were usually slices of cold watermelon too from the cooler. Tennis days were so exciting for me.

I remember we often returned to Perth for short periods, and I always became car sick from sitting in the back seat. My travelling companion was “nigger” our black cocker spaniel. Looking back, I think my father had to report regularly to the Repatriation Hospital in Perth for checkups, X-rays etc.

One other aspect of his health that touched me was his diet. He had what I know now as an “invalid diet”, and in those days it included brains and tripe - the latter three times a week. Horrors, how I hated the smell, the appearance, and the taste of that food. I can see myself now on a stool at the table trying so hard to swallow it, but up it would come each time. Mother’s response was always ”Eat it all up. You’re not leaving the table until you do!”Consequently I sat there sometimes for an hour or so.

There came the day when we left Kalgoorlie. I don’t remember all the happenings at the time, but somehow my dad was never at the house where mum and I now lived with Grandpa and Grandma Lawrence (68 St Leonards Avenue, West Leederville named Tarwonga). Mother told me “daddy is sick in hospital”and I didn’t see him much at all. When I did I couldn’t go near him or kiss him - he had developed complications from the gas, tuberculosis of the throat. My mother was very concerned every time I coughed or had a cold because she thought I might catch this very infectious disease. In those days the only treatment was isolation, fresh air and good food. He was in the Edward Millen Home, a Repatriation Hospital in East Victoria Park. 

In those days, 1929-32, this area was way out in the country. I can still picture my mother and I catching the tram from Leederville to go and see daddy. There came the day in 1932 when my mother told me “daddy has gone to heaven”. I wasn’t sure what that meant. I hadn’t come in touch with death before, nor learned where heaven was or how you got there. But she told me daddy wouldn’t be coming home again and she cried so I knew it was serious. I guess, as his sickness made him delicate and an invalid I didn’t have physical contact in games and play. He’d been in hospital for three years and I’d hardly seen him. So I didn’t cry, but tried to comfort my mother. She must have carried a big burden for a long while, caring for him and for me. He was 34 when he died. I didn't get to say goodbye to him.

As a result of his death I became what is known as a Legacy Club child. This voluntary group was formed of businessmen who made funds available for the schooling of children whose fathers were killed in action, or died as a result of war injuries. This went on till I was 16 years of age and certainly helped my mother financially. Each Christmas there was a party held for Legacy children at Government House. My pride and joy aged about 11 was finding a photo in the “West Australian”in which I featured standing near the WA Lieutenant Governor Sir James Hobbs amidst a host of other children.

Because of my Legacy membership I was twice chosen to lay the school wreath at the local war memorial on Anzac Day. I felt very proud indeed. It wasn’t until the 1980's at an Anzac Dawn Service in Kings Park that I wept for the father I never knew….
(MY FATHER by Laurel Gilwhite from "Warts and All" published privately 2005)