Open April 29 – September, 2016
Rockhampton Girls Grammar School has a long and proud tradition of service and respect. It is in this spirit that the Paterson Hall Heritage Museum at Girls Grammar presents its first major exhibition entitled Innocence and War. The exhibition commemorates the sacrifice of men and women of the Girls Grammar community who served in World War I, in this, the centenary year of the Gallipoli Campaign.
Significant research indicates that there were at least 21 men and women who attended Girls Grammar as students prior to 1914 and participated in World War I. Most of this number (18) were boys, six of whom were killed in action during the War. In the early years of the School’s existence, a kindergarten was established at the Rockhampton Girls Grammar School that catered to both boys and girls. The girls continued their education through Girls Grammar, while the boys would enrol in the Rockhampton Grammar School.
During the war years Girls Grammar continued life in the shadow of the sacrifices of families past and present. Three of the Kindergarten boys in particular have been singled out in this exhibition; the first, Geoffrey George Broome, attended Girls Grammar in 1903 at the age of seven. Through a letter from his superior, his bravery and service are known; his landing at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915, to his death at Quinn’s Post on 18 May. The second boy, Peter Fitzalan MacDonald Stuart, attended Girls Grammar in 1899. According to newspapers of the time, and in part to Stuart’s own missives, he was aboard the first boat to land at Gallipoli, where he was promptly wounded. After 6 weeks in Malta, Stuart returned to Gallipoli and served there until the end of the abortive campaign before being posted to the Western Front. He was killed in action at Mouquet Farm, Pozieres, France on 4 September 1916.
Other alumni were more fortunate, particularly Douglas Wallace Rutherford, a Kindergarten boy of 1898. Initially enlisting as a Lieutenant in the 5th Light Horse Regiment, 2nd Reinforcement, Rutherford was promoted to Captain in late 1916 after serving broadly in the Middle East and at Gallipoli. He transferred to the 67th Flying Squadron where, on 20 March 1917, his plane was forced down near a Turkish camp close to Jerusalem. Fortune smiled on him as Lieutenant Frank McNamara witnessed his landing and rescued Rutherford, despite already being injured, earning him the rare Victoria Cross. Rutherford continued to serve in the Middle East until May 1918 when he was captured and kept as a POW in Turkey until five days before the Armistice.
While our boys were killed and wounded in battle, it was our girls that fostered them back to health. Three Girls Grammar girls served amongst only 2139 nurses as part of the Australian Army Nursing Service during the War: Helen Lawson, Louisa Sarah Parnell, and Nellie McIlwraith Reid. All three women bore witness to the brutality of our nation’s baptism of fire, serving variously in India, Salonika, Egypt, France, and England. All three returned home safely in 1919.
Although Girls Grammar is now exclusively a girl’s school, its history demonstrates its links to the community of Rockhampton as a whole. Through the stories of the individual children who spent their earliest years of schooling with the Kindergarten, it is possible to gain an insight into the Rockhampton community more broadly and its role in the formation of our ANZAC legacy.
Heritage Museum Curator
Heritage Museum Curator