On 27 June 1916, Private Jim Turner wrote what was probably his last letter home. ‘Dear Mother’, he wrote, ‘I hope to see Charley before I go into the firing line again as I have a feeling I won’t come out … I will be home for Xmas 12 month if I do come back, as the war will be over then’. Jim usually closed with ‘love to all’; affection intended for his Apollo Bay friends. He survived in France for one more month, dying on 27 July 1916 in the Battle of the Somme at Pozieres, one of the horrific battles that mark the middle months of that year.
This letter, like others of his that have survived, was written to Mrs Caroline Pengilley who, with her husband William, was licensee of the Apollo Bay Hotel. The Pengilleys seem to have been de facto parents to several young men who had enlisted, and were sometimes named as ‘next of kin’. The young men who wrote to Caroline often addressed her as ‘mother’, though from time to time she is simply, and affectionately, addressed as ‘Mrs Pen’.
Jim’s first surviving letter was posted from Lemnos where he rested after two months in the trenches.
Some of the boys have been on the peninsula. They can tell some blood-curdling tales but they never have anything to say against Jonnie Turk as he is playing a fair game and if anything does go a bit crook German officers get the blame of it.
The Apollo Bay and District Historical Society in the Old Cable Station Museum holds a small metal box in which the letters and postcards to Caroline were gathered.
Jim was one of several servicemen who were regular drinkers or residents at the Pengilleys’ Apollo Bay Hotel and who called Caroline ‘mother’. They all shared Jim’s affection for her. He generally signed off with ‘Ta Ta. Best and fondest love to all’. Mrs Pen’s response to his death is not recorded.
However, she was probably present when most of Apollo Bay’s population gathered on the recreation oval to mark Anzac Day 1919. The old Cable Station Museum collection includes many historic photographs, several marking the first Anzac Day after the war.
Letters from Jim Turner, Rosemary Bellair, Apollo Bay and District Historical Society Inc., Apollo Bay, 1999.
From Apollo Bay to the trenches: Victor Cawood’s WW1 diary, February 1916 to August 1917, Apollo Bay and District Historical Society Inc., Apollo Bay, 1998 (reprinted 2016).
Apollo Bay: 150 years of settlement, edited/compiled by Rosemary Bellair, photographic reproduction, Joan Martin, Apollo Bay and District Historical Society Inc., Apollo Bay, 2001.
Apollo Bay WW1 stories:
Apollo Bay WW1 audio stories:
http://www.apollobay.vic.au/apollo-bay-community-groups/apollo-bay-kids-groups/224-apollo-bay-ww1-stories (Audio story 6: Jim Turner)
Thanks to members of the Apollo Bay and District Historical Society and the volunteers at the Old Cable Station Museum.