The Love Story
Contributed by Michael Hall, November 2013
In December 1913 the residents of the Duntroon area joined together to celebrate Christmas. There were about four hundred people living in the vicinity of the Royal Military College including not only cadets and military and instructional staff but also civilians working as cleaners, grooms, stewards and clerks and tradesmen. Close by, on the site of the Australian Defence Force Academy, the Department of Home Affairs had established a camp for its employees and some of these men had their wives and children with them. So on Christmas Eve they held a party for the children at the Duntroon Amusement Hall.
About 130 children and fifty adults attended including the Commandant of RMC, General Bridges, and his wife. The children sat down to a meal washed down with soft drinks, followed by games and races outside the hall until dusk. Amidst all the excitement for the children came the highlight of the night; the distribution of toys from beneath the Christmas tree by Santa Claus.
‘Santa Claus’ was Alfred Herbert Love, a plumber from Melbourne who arrived in Canberra around the middle of 1913 to work for the Department of Home Affairs. He, his wife Glenora and five year old daughter Essie probably lived at the Home Affairs camp next to Duntroon known ironically by its inhabitants as ‘Toorak’. The loss of a baby son in Melbourne earlier in the year may have triggered their decision to come to Canberra but, whatever his motivation, Love threw himself into his work and the Canberra community and was soon the secretary of the Royal Federal Lodge of the Grand United Order of Oddfellows. It was Love who organised the Christmas party and arranged for local shopkeepers and residents to provide the food and refreshments.
Early the next year the Loves returned to Melbourne but when the Great War began Alf soon enlisted. Christmas 1914 would be much different to that which he had enjoyed the year before. Like many soldiers in the war Love kept a diary, much of which was reproduced by Patsy Adam-Smith in her book ‘The Anzacs’. The entries are short and to the point.
His troop ship departed Melbourne in late December and Christmas was spent at sea off the southern coast of Australia. “Friday 25th. Xmas day. Church parade at 9.30. Xmas greetings exchanged from crew of submarine (the AE2) and boat. Had good dinner.” Yet Love’s mind was somewhere else. “Thinking of home and wife and child” he wrote.
It was a recurring sentiment as his entry written in Egypt in March 1916 shows. “8 years married today - Glenora and Essies birthday today. Many happy returns of the day to them. May God bless them. On guard tonight. Very tired. Glenora … God bless her and keep her true to me until I can return to her.” In early April 1915 the men were told they were headed for the Dardenelles. Then, on 24 April aboard his ship at Lemnos: “A lot more troops left today. The battle starts tomorrow morning in earnest at daybreak.” Again, Love wrote: “Thinking a lot of home and wife and child.”
Love and the 14th Battalion landed on Anzac at around 5pm on 25 April. They spent the next day in reserve then on 27 April, after breakfasting, they marched up Shrapnel Gully towards the head of Monash Valley. Love was a member of A Company which was sent to what was later known as Quinn’s Post. It was, as one man described, “a veritable death trap”. It was the most dangerous position on Anzac and with only shallow rifle pits for protection, the men were vulnerable to the Turkish machine gunners.
Even in the chaos of battle, Love found time to update his diary: “Tuesday 27 April: Arrived at firing line at 10 o'clock this morning. Having a very bad time of it so far. Machine guns played hell on our men for a start, they are getting hit and killed all around me but I escaped so far.” Not for long though as it was his final entry. On the back cover of his diary is written: “In the event of my death I wish this book to be sent to my Dear Wife to let her know that my last thoughts were of her and Essie my darling daughter.” He was buried the same day with other men of the 14th Battalion below Quinn’s Post.
1914 'Duntroon Xmas Treat.',Queanbeyan Age (NSW : 1907 - 1915), 2 January, p. 2, viewed 20 December, 2013, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article31400271
Adam-Smith, Patsy. The Anzacs. Ringwood, Vic : Penguin Books, 2002.
Report on the Royal Military College of Australia, 1912-1913.
Stanley, Peter. Quinn's Post : Anzac, Gallipoli. Crows Nest, N.S.W. : Allen & Unwin, 2005.