Olga Cecil Locke
Olga Cecil Locke (standing) and Olga’s friend Ricky. Olga addressed this photo ‘to Aunty Anna (Hannah Morley) with love from O. C. Locke’. Reproduced from the Lock family in WWI by Philippa Scarlett, courtesy of Noel Morley.
Service Number 120
Link to Service Record: http://discoveringanzacs.naa.gov.au/browse/records/345500/1
Olga Cecil Locke was born at Waterloo NSW in 1895.
Olga Cecil was one of the many men of the Locke family who served in the First World War with the Australian Imperial Force (AIF). He was the great grandson of the eminent Darug woman, Maria Locke (See Locke Family Lineage)
Olga Cecil’s father Jerome Locke, and Olga’s brother Leslie John (‘Jack’), also served in the AIF during WWI. In May 1916, Olga and his father Jerome left for Europe on the same ship, the Beltana. They served together in the 53rd Battalion, but Jerome, who had lied about his age, was discharged for being over age and sent home in June 1917. (See Jerome and Leslie John’s stories)
On 21 January 1916, while living at Leura, 20-year-old Olga applied to enlist with the AIF at Liverpool, southwest of Sydney. Olga’s ‘Attestation papers’ indicate that he was born at Waterloo and that he worked as a labourer. Labourers were often itinerant and he may have found work in Leura. Family photos also show Olga visiting Locke relatives in Katoomba, so he had links to the area.
His height was only 5’1″, and his chest measured 30-33”, which were certainly below the requirements for enlistment but with the decline in the number of men applying since Gallipoli, it seems the Army were happy to waive the rules. By this time his mother was deceased and his father was already serving with the AIF. His complexion is noted as ‘fair’ with blue eyes and dark hair. He was passed as ‘fit’ and accepted on the 25 January.
On 13th of May 1916, Jerome and Olga left Sydney for Europe on the same ship, the HMAT Beltana.
Olga Cecil Locke: The horrors of war
Olga’s transport ship arrived in England in July 1916. After training with the 14th Training Battalion, he was shipped to France on 22 October 1916.
The winter of 1916/17 was extremely harsh and the men had to be rotated in and out of the trenches. The 53rd Battalion participated in the advance following a German retreat to the Hindenburg Line after gains made during the second Battle of Bullecourt. Olga may have shown skill in warfare because he was first of all chosen to take part in a musketry course at Point Remy in January, and sent to a Bombing School later in May.
In the March of 1917, by which time he had been in the trenches for five months, Olga was admitted to the 9th General Hospital at Rouen, diagnosed with “exhaustion and appendicitis”. This may have been hiding the real diagnosis however of shell shock. It seems likely that Olga may have been suffering from shell shock rather than appendicitis as there is no record of removing any offending appendix in the casualty forms of his Service Records.
What must it have been like for a 20-year-old soldier, previously living in the quiet environs of the Blue Mountains, with the unending noise and trauma of exploding shells, the mud and the extreme cold of the 1916/17 winter, frostbite, and so many casualties and death surrounding him?
In late 1917 all five AIF Divisions took part in the third battle of Ypres in Belgium. Olga’s training in bomb warfare would now have come into its own. Both sides used bombs in the underground trenches under ‘Hill 60’ to try and destroy each other. In these battles there were 38,000 AIF casualties, many of the wounded men dying in the deep mud which was a hallmark of this war. In September, Olga was ‘wounded in his right hand’ and sent to the Commonwealth Depot Hospital at Rouen and then on to Havre in France. He rejoined his unit in December 1917.
After leave in January 1918 in England, Olga rejoined his unit in February. In March, he was again ‘wounded in action’ near Villers-Bretonnaux, the Somme region, with a shell-wound to his right arm. He was at first admitted to an army hospital at Boulogne and then transferred to England for surgery, on the transport ship St. Denis.
Olga did not return to active service. The next months were spent in various hospitals. First of all, this was to the War Hospital at Epsom, then to the 3rd Auxiliary Hospital at Dartford, and finally he was transferred to the No. 4 Depot at Hurdcott, Dartford, for convalescence. In August, he was discharged per a “D23” (medically unfit for service), and returned to Australia on the ship, Rumi, leaving on 18 September and arriving back in Australia on the 27 November 1918.
Olga’s Service Records also reveal a letter from Base Records in November 1917 to his Aunt, Miss H.M. Sims of Laureton, Camden Haven, NSW, in answer to her enquiries about her brother Jerome and nephew Olga. The letter informed her that Jerome had been discharged on account of his age but Olga was still serving abroad. The Records also reveal a number of letters were sent to Olga’s father, Jerome, concerning Olga’s injuries but it is doubtful that he ever received them.
Olga received two medals, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
Olga Cecil Locke: Family memories
In the early 1920s Olga married Winifred Olive Young, who was from Newcastle. They had a daughter, also named Winifred, and settled in Belmore, Sydney.
Olga Cecil Locke and Winifred Young on their wedding day – photo provided by Michelle Finneran, great granddaughter of Olga Cecil Locke.
An only child, often lonely, Winifred had a close relationship with her father Olga and her grandfather Jerome, who together would take her out bush to camp. Olga’s affinity with nature was also shown in his love of gardening. ‘He had a very green thumb – he could grow anything,’ said Olga’s great-granddaughter Michelle Finneran.
Winifred Harkins (seated), then clockwise granddaughters Michelle Finneran, Julie Dolcel and Winifred’s daughter Denise Saunders. Photo provided by Michelle Finneran, great grand-daughter of Olga Cecil Locke.
Olga loved birds and raised finches and budgies, some of which he sold to supplement his income. With Winifred in a sidecar on Olga’s motorbike, and her mum on the back, they would go out to South Creek around St Clair and to St Marys to catch birds. Winifred had a pet baby kookaburra which Olga helped her to raise by hand.
Though Winifred was not told she was Aboriginal, her granddaughter Michelle said, ‘Their lifestyle was connected to Country. They had Darug spirituality and beliefs.’
Olga continued to do manual labour, including laying lines for the telephone exchange. “Whatever he did, he was good at it. He was very good with his hands – he could fix anything,” says Michelle. For extra income, the enterprising Olga mended shoes and made toys called ‘Tumbling Tommies’.
Winifred’s much-loved grandfather Jerome died in 1929 in Newtown, Sydney when she was a young child. Her beloved father Olga passed away in 1970. Michelle told Winifred about this Aboriginal Diggers Project and she was very pleased that Olga and Jerome were being honoured in this way. Sadly, on the 15 of April 2016, only 10 days before the first exhibition was to open, Winifred passed.
The second exhibition commemorating the Diggers in these stories was held on Remembrance Day, the 11th of November 2016, at Katoomba library. Michelle Finneran spoke and her speech is included below:
“Warami N’Allowah Mittigar
This year marks one hundred years since Jerome and Olga Locke enlisted in the Australian Imperial Forces. My great grandfather and his father who went to war to defend the rights of people that did not consider them as Australian.
That is why this exhibition is so important to my family. In honouring these men you identify and acknowledge us. My Mum, Aunties, Siblings, children, myself and most importantly my Grandmother, Olga Lockes only child.
Winifred Olive Locke passed away on 15th April 2016. She was ninety four (94) years young. Growing up she was not told she was Aboriginal, in fact it was not until she was eighty six (86) years old that this true was told to her. On hearing this she said, ‘ Now there are things in my childhood that make sense to me’
So today I want to thank all of the people involved in this project, The Blue Mountains Outreach Community Service and the Blue Mountains People for Reconciliation.
Not only have you given Aboriginal ANZAC Diggers the recognition they have so long deserved. In doing this you have offered me and my family an opportunity to be openly proud of who we are and where we come from.
Didgergoor. Thank you”
Photo of Olga Cecil Locke provided by Michelle Finneran, great grand-daughter.