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Ern Latchford: his WWI adventures in western Europe, Persia and Russia.

June 11 @ 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm


Ern Latchford: his WWI adventures in western Europe, Persia and Russia.

This event will now be delivered by Zoom. The invitation details are below.

In late 1918, thousands of Australian soldiers, exhausted and scarred by war in Europe, began to head home. However, one ANZAC headed the wrong way, toward more conflict and risk in vast and frozen Siberia, thousands of miles from his fiancée waiting on the family farm in Western Victoria. This is the story of Ernest Latchford MBE MC, told through his articulate, observant letters home from three very distinct theatres of war.

Ern Latchford was one of the early recruits to newly federated Australia’s embryonic militia and when war did break out in 1914, he was reluctantly held back to train the battalions that were soon to land in Gallipoli. He finally reached the Western Front in 1916, and served with distinction through the bloody battles of Messines and then Passchendaele, where he earned a Military Cross. In early 1918, he (among a handful of other Australians) was personally selected by General Sir John Monash to serve in the ‘hush-hush’ Dunsterville campaign in Persia (Dunsterville* led his ‘Dunsterforce’ of elite troops across present-day Iran in an attempt to prevent an invasion of India by a combined Germano-Turkish force). His particular responsibility was to train Armenian refugees against the Ottoman Army (and to protect the oil wealth of the Persian Gulf). At the end of the war, instead of returning to Australia, he became the only Australian to be deployed in central Siberia to train White Russian forces against the Bolsheviks during the Russian Civil War.

Every week, irrespective of location, intensity of battle or injury he wrote to his fiancée, Linda Dehnert in Western Victoria. These previously unseen letters, often many pages in length, were always passionate and vivid as he describes the politics of the conflicts and the horrors of the battles, especially the loss of much-loved colleagues. He eloquently described the cities and towns he passed through and the variety of nationalities he came across, including French farmers and villages; the Arab, Armenians and Persians of the Middle East and finally the Russians, caught in the bloody conflict that would have ramifications for decades. In between, he wrote romantically of his courtship of Linda and the joy of life at home on the farm.

Mark Latchford is a Sydney-based businessman with a passion for history. As the son and grandson of professional army officers, he had a nomadic upbringing, which also instilled a particular interest in military history. He graduated from the University of Sydney with a degree in Political Science and Economic Geography and then undertook a 35-year corporate career with the IBM corporation which included postings to Adelaide, Tokyo, Paris and Hong Kong. He is the father of 3 grown children and in semi-retirement continues his passion for history, biography and travel. Letters to Lily Vale is his first published book. 

* Lionel Charles Dunsterville (1865-1946) was a contemporary and close friend of Rudyard Kipling who based his character Stalky on Dunsterville.

The Zoom details are

Friday 11 June, 12:30pm – 1:30pm AEST

Join Zoom Meeting: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83143108812?pwd=VmpzTzVjZndFN0VJNGR2OFRObC9Idz09    

Meeting ID: 831 4310 8812

Passcode: 717317


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June 11
12:30 pm - 1:30 pm
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Royal Historical Society of Victoria
03 9326 9288