Woombye woman Diane Melloy (centre) prepares to leave to Gallipoli with nine other widows of First World War veterans to commemorate the Anzac Centenary. Photo Chris Calcino
Woombye woman Diane Melloy (centre) prepares to leave to Gallipoli with nine other widows of First World War veterans to commemorate the Anzac Centenary. Photo Chris Calcino Chris Calcino

Widows of the Anzacs: tales of love after war

A QANTAS A380 Airbus took 10 widows of Australian First World War veterans to Turkey for the Anzac Centenary yesterday.

The 10 widows came from all walks of life, but shared one experience - marrying an older man after his return from war.

VIDEO: Abbott sends off 'keepers of the Anzac flame'

Taking the grimmest memories to the grave

DIANE Melloy met her husband when she started working at the Real Estate Institute of Queensland, where he was the president.

Robert "Bob" Melloy was 69 when they married seven years later.

He was 46 years her senior, but his widow was certain it was true love.

"We knew we were headed in the right direction, right from the start," she said.

The couple travelled the world together, returning to many of the places where Mr Melloy had served during both World Wars.

Mrs Melloy began compiling her husband's memoirs soon after they were married into a book titled Time Will Tell: Memoirs of a Kangaroo Point Kid.

It was published just before his 96th birthday.

Despite its candour, Mrs Melloy believes he "took some of his grimmest stories to the grave". 

Robert Melloy and his wife Diane Melloy, from Woombya, who has left for Gallipoli with nine other widows of Australian First World War veterans. Photo Contributed
Robert Melloy and his wife Diane Melloy, from Woombya, who has left for Gallipoli with nine other widows of Australian First World War veterans. Photo Contributed

The soldier

MAJOR Robert "Bob" Melloy had the rare distinction of having served in both World Wars.

He left Australian soil in June 1916 as Armourer Sergeant of the 42nd Battalion and served on the Western Front until the end of the war.

In his memoirs, Mr Melloy described the horrors he faced in Flanders and on the Somme in 1918.

"I was in the wrong place at the wrong time," he wrote.

"I was blown up with a 5.9 shell and the impact parted me from my gas mask.

"I was unprotected when Fritz sent over the gas. I inhaled the phosgene.

"For days afterwards, my lungs felt as though they were being continuously ripped apart by barbed wire.

"Breathing was agony... Shell-shock also got me. The shakes were uncontrollable."

Mr Melloy was discharged medically unfit on his return to Australia late in 1919.

He re-enlisted during the Second World War and served with the Army in Queensland.

"There is no doubt that the one single event which has shaped my life and thinking more than any other was the First World War and my role as sergeant in the 42nd Battalion," he wrote. 

QANTAS

THE A380 Airbus taking the Australian delegation to Turkey has been named Fysh-McGinness to honour the two Qantas founders who served at Gallipoli.

Sir Hudson Fysh received his training in Egypt before embarking for Turkey in May 1915 - two weeks after the original Anzacs landed.

His description of war-torn Gallipoli outlined the horrors soldiers faced.

"We lived like rats in their holes, and hung on to our hillside with the enemy on one side and the beach a few hundred yards away on the other," he said.

Fysh was evacuated after seven months and sent to Palestine and Egypt's Sinai Peninsula as a Light Horseman.

He later joined the Royal Flying Corps and was trained as a gunner.

Like Fysh, McGinness enlisted with the Light Horse but was deployed to Gallipoli as an infantryman and remained there for seven months.

He became an ace pilot with the Australian Flying Corps in the Middle East with seven victories.

Fysh was his gunner before he also trained as a pilot.

Both Fysh and McGinness were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for their service in the AFC.

McGinness also received the Distinguished Conduct Medal for "conspicuous gallantry" for his role scouting at a Turkish outpost, Jifjaffa in the Sinai.

-APN NEWSDESK


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