Her War Exhibition

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The new exhibition at the Wollondilly Heritage centre is “HER WAR”. This has been produced in conjunction with the research by Betty Villy for her book “Red Poppies and the White Waratah; heroines from Wollondilly in the Great War.”

The exhibition uses objects from the collection to illustrate the patriotism of local women in the lead up to the Great War. From early in childhood children were encouraged to support the British Empire in their books and toys which featured English scenes and Colonial armies. A collection of letters from 1918-1919 written to a local soldier and brought back by him reveal the changes as the war ground on. From the initial excitement that their boy was going to defend King and Country, gradually his friends begin to return with lost limbs and minds – or are added to the long lists of those who would never return. Confusion begins when returned men strike for jobs and socialism becomes the news of the day.

The nurses tell their own stories of the horror of nursing the wounded and dying on the battlefield and casualty clearing stations and inadequate hospitals.

HW_Cash FamilyAt home, women were trying to cope without men to help on the farms, in businesses and with growing families. Many, like Cissy Cash, waited for years before knowing what had happened to someone posted as ‘missing’. She ran the general store and photo studio and managed their five children and the death of one small twin while Dick was stuck in a German POW camp for three years.

Others, like Sabina Kerswell, were so overjoyed and relieved when her son came home in 1919 that she took her youngest boy Owen to watch the transport sail into Sydney Harbour. They had not taken into account the Influenza Epidemic and both Sabina and Owen died, leaving the running of the homestead in the Burragorang valley to 16 year old Poppy.

These and more stories are told in the new exhibition.