From the Principal

ANZAC Day Reflection 2018

It seems fitting in Shelford's 120th anniversary year, that we remember an ANZAC with connections to the School and its history. We all know Blundell House. This is the ANZAC story of the Blundell family. The text below is part of a presentation I gave to the students at our annual ANZAC Day Assembly on 24 April.

Dora Mary Petrie Blundell is a significant character in the history of Shelford. Educated at PLC and matriculating at the University of Melbourne with second class honours in English and History, Dora started teaching at Shelford shortly after it opened in 1898. Supporting Emily Dixon, Dora became the School's second Principal in 1904. She moved Shelford from a little house on Glen Eira Road to her home at 77 Allison Road, Elsternwick. Teaching students with her sister Fanny, Dora led the School through World War One until her retirement in 1921. Dora always kept a close association with Shelford, sitting on the School Board and attending sports days until the mid-1930s. Blundell House is named after this remarkable woman in our history.

Dora was from a large family of seven daughters and four sons. Her eldest brother was named Martin Petrie Blundell. A senior banker at the Bank of Australasia during the late 19th century, Martin Blundell was a very wealthy man with links to high society. He built 'Castleton' on Orrong Road in Toorak (it still stands today), and lived there with his wife, five daughters and one son. Whilst the life of Martin Blundell is interesting in itself, it is the wartime experiences of his son and daughter, the niece and nephew of Dora Blundell, who are remarkable and historically significant to the ANZAC story.

Madeline Patricia Petrie Blundell was known as 'Pattie'.The only unmarried daughter in her family, Pattie left her secure and privileged life of high society to train as a nurse at the Royal Children's Hospital in 1911. She was 31.

Matron of the Royal Military College in Duntroon in 1914, Pattie enlisted in the Australian Army Nursing Service in May 1915. Not long after, she was deployed to reinforce the casualties from the Dardanelles campaign and ended up on the island of Lemnos. There were over 300,000 Allied casualties from the Gallipoli campaign and Australian nurses were sent to Lemnos, a Greek Island off the coast of Gallipoli, to nurse the AIF casualties from ANZAC Cove. They arrived to find their tent hospital only partially constructed, wounded patients lying in the mud and a grave shortage of medical supplies, food and water.

Martin Petrie Blundell (Junior) was 10 years younger than his older sister Pattie.

Having attended Melbourne Grammar and Geelong Grammar, Martin excelled at sport, played for the Firsts in both rugby and cricket, and became a member of the Melbourne Cricket Club in 1911. Martin clearly had an adventurous spirit. Working at his father's bank for a period, he travelled to the Riverina and then Queensland before enlisting in the AIF in January 1915. Noted as being tall and with good riding skills, Martin was assigned to the 4th Light Horse Regiment in France and was then sent to Gallipoli. Martin kept a diary during the war, which gives a stark insight into the life of an ANZAC soldier and is a treasured primary source for historians.

 "28th: Snowed last night while on post. Spent a very miserable time. Machine gunner killed in next post. Shot through the head. Came out of line 9.30am. Very glad to get out".

"29th: Went into firing line. One person got hit in back with shrapnel. Everything freezing. Turks gave Lone Pine a terrible bombardment".

  There are many cases of brothers enlisting in the First AIF and in some cases serving together, but it is very rare to find a brother and sister enlisting and then serving in the same location. Martin and Pattie Blundell did just that… and this is their story.

On December 11 1915, Martin Petrie Blundell was evacuated to Lemnos as part of the general Australian extraction from Gallipoli. He would meet with Pattie many times over the next weeks.

 "13th December 1915: Fixed up our camp in the morning. After lunch went across in boat to No. 3 General Hospital right opposite and saw Pattie. She was surprised needless to say. Looked thinner, but in good nick. Came back 5pm. Beautiful day".

Whilst heartfelt, their reunion was short lived. From Lemnos, Martin was sent to Alexandria in January 1916 and then to Marseilles with the ANZAC Mounted Regiment. Martin Blundell was killed in action on 18 April 1918 in the battle of Kemmel during the General spring offensive in Flanders. Acting as a liaison between his regiment and the French, the dugout which he was in was demolished by shellfire. Martin's body was never recovered. He was 27. After living a life of extreme wealth and privilege, Martin's wordly goods were sent back to his mother in May 1918. They consisted of a set of nail scissors, a handkerchief, a strop (a strip of leather used to sharpen a razor) and two soap cases. Martin is remembered on the Roll of Honour Board at Geelong Grammar, the Melbourne Cricket Club and the Australian War Memorial. He is listed on Panel 7 at the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial. Pattie left Lemnos in January 1916 too. She was sent to a large Australian military hospital on the outskirts of Cairo, before moving onto Malta and then Kent, outside London, where she tended to patients from the Western Front with shell shock. Pattie then served in a tent hospital on desolate and windswept cliffs in France before travelling back to England and working in a repatriation hospital. In July 1918, Pattie boarded the ship Barunga with 800 returning soldiers heading home for Australia. The ship was torpedoed by the Germans and sunk. All on board had to abandon ship and Pattie survived. She returned home safely on the Boonah a month later. On returning to Melbourne, she applied to the Army Medical Board for discharge, writing that she felt "very tired out". Granted discharge, Pattie did not work again as a nurse. Nor did she marry.

Her mother, who died in the 1920s, left her a substantial legacy of 4,000 pounds as inheritance and she is recorded as living in East Melbourne and Toorak in the years after. There is some record of Pattie holidaying with her aunts and sisters in Mt Macedon and although we do not know for certain, we could assume this might include Shelford Principal Dora Blundell.

Awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal, Madeline Patricia Blundell died in 1968, aged 88.