Joanne Scanlan shares the story of her grandmother’s brother, George Makin.
George Makin (known as Les to his family, ‘Old George’ to his chums) sailed on the Orvieto with the 5th Battalion Australian Imperial Force.
Les landed at Gallipoli on 25 April, and stayed on the peninsula until he succumbed to enteric fever in October 1915 (after the horrors of Lone Pine) and was shipped to England.
He re-joined the 5th Battalion for Pozieres, after marching in London on the first ever Anzac Day in 1916. He served with the 5th Battalion for four years, rising to the rank of Second Lieutenant.
He soldiered on through that hideous winter and into 1917. He came so close to making it home, but, to the heartbreak of everyone who knew him, he never made it. Les died on the Western Front on 8 September 1918. He is buried at St Severs Cemetery near Rouen.
Les left behind three brothers and two sisters, all of who carried his story with them down through the generations. Les was an avid writer of letters, especially to his mother, Marianne Frances Makin.
Marianne donated her collection of war-time letters and photos to the fledgling Australian War Memorial in 1928. The existence of this correspondence was eventually forgotten by the family until it was rediscovered by chance at the Australian War Memorial about 70 years later by Les’s nieces Philomena and Kath.
Many in the extended family have since been engrossed and enthralled by the story of Les, and of his brother Jim who returned but left Australia forever in 1924.
A portrait of Les with his fellow officers in France, which turns out to be one of the now famous Vignacourt collection, has always been on the wall of the Middle Park house he set out from – a house that is still in the family.