Jacinta Fisher shares the story of her husband’s great grandmother, Annie Fisher, an extraordinary story of a woman who saw eight sons head to war.
Early in the 20th Century, Annie Fisher was a widow and an ordinary housewife in Footscray, tending her chooks and her garden. The most amazing thing about Annie at that time was that she was the mother of 11 of her own children and of 4 living step children. Some of these children were grown up and married, but some still lived at home. Annie loved her large family and she worked hard to keep them happy and fed. However, beginning in 1914 Annie Fisher became an extraordinary mother.
Annie is my husband’s great grandmother. Her photo is on my dining room wall. In that photo, Annie sits proudly amongst eight of her sons. They are all in the uniform of the 1st Australian Imperial Force (AIF), and they all went to war during the 1st World War. She must have been a very small woman. Annie is dwarfed by her sons; however, their army records show that most of them were only about 5’6” tall. Annie is wearing a brooch with 8 pins on it. They represent one for each son in military service: Walter, Eli, Terrence, George, John, Cecil, Edward and James. Her ninth son Robert tried but was barred from joining the AIF due to poor eye sight. Apparently, there was only one other mother in the British Empire to send 8 sons to war.
Two of Annie’s sons, John and Walter sailed in the first embarkation to leave Melbourne on board the Hororata. They heard the call from the Empire and immediately sought to do their duty. Six of their brothers followed soon after.
In the photo, I see her pride of her boys is obvious. However, there is a certain sadness in her eyes; sad because the photos of two of her sons have been superimposed into that family photograph. John Martin Fisher died as a result of the battle of Lone Pine, Gallipoli while James, a Gallipoli veteran, re-joined in early 1918 and died of malaria caught while on duty in occupied German New Guinea. Both son’s names are on the honour wall at the Australian war memorial.
John’s name is also on the Lone Pine Memorial at Gallipoli. He died on 9 August 1915 at 8pm aboard the hospital ship ‘Gascon’ at Imbros. He died of wounds received the previous day (08 Aug 1915) at the battle of Lone Pine whilst holding Jacob’s Trench against a bomb attack. He was buried at sea in the Dardanelles by Chaplain C. Mayne.
John Martin Fisher was engaged to a young lady back home, but not married. As he had no children, so it is up to his great nephews and nieces to remember him. My husband and I are family historians and John’s story certainly lives on in our family. In 1996 my husband (who is also John Fisher) and I took our five then teenage children to Turkey so we would visit Gallipoli. It was a very poignant moment finding John Martin’s name on the wall at Lone Pine.
John, Walter, Eli, Terrance, George, Cecil, Edward and James and their mother Annie are not forgotten, not while their photo is on our dining room wall.
Fisher Family Photograph taken after WW1 of surviving brothers and Annie
Back L to R: George, Cecil, Edward, John Martin, Eli, and James Joseph
Front L to R: Walter, Annie, and Terence
Note that John Martin and James Joseph were deceased at the post-war time when this photograph was taken and ‘faded in’ by the photographer. Note the long line of badges worn by Annie – she wore a badge for each son serving in the war. The story goes that Annie and another mother in Canada had the most sons serving. She thus merited a trip overseas but did not take it.