In early June 1915 Reverend Mr Langley walked from his St Mary’s vicarage in Caulfield to an unfamiliar Currall Road address in Elsternwick. He opened the picket fence gate, walked up the path and knocked on the door. Sixty-five-year-old widow, Mary Reid, answered the door. Langley guided Mary into a room, sat her down and shared the ‘sad tidings’ that her son, Lindsay, had died on the first day of the Gallipoli landings. Mary must have slumped in her chair and stared at that telegram. No doubt, Reverend Mr Langley would have offered Mary words of comfort but she would have no memory of them and would not recall how long he stayed or when he left.
The news of Lindsay’s death overwhelmed Mary. Everything seemed swept away by the hand of fate. Yet, Mary knew that Victorian sensibilities meant that displays of emotion in public were frowned upon. Weeks earlier, Melbourne’s Argus had told readers that they must exhibit the self-control of a ruling race and not let their private sufferings dim their eyes to the glory of those killed for the empire.
From darkened rooms, such as Mary’s, came, throughout 1915, what Gallipoli soldier and poet Leon Gellert evocatively described as the ‘sound of gentle sobbing in the South’.
Discover Mary’s moving story in Scott Bennett’s ‘The Nameless Names: Recovering the Missing Anzacs.’ Available in bookshops on 29 October 2018.