In January 1919, eight families received a letter from Major Lean, Officer-in-Charge, Base Records in Melbourne. It enclosed a photograph, taken at San Stefano prisoner-of-war camp in Constantinople.  San Stefano was located where Istanbul international airport now stands.

Major Lean wrote that it was “forwarded as a memento of the trials this soldier has undergone whilst serving in the Australian Imperial Force.  I trust he will be spared to return none the worse for his trying experience.”


The Photograph, San Stefano Camp, Constantinople, 30 June 1918. (AWM C01052)

All the men returned. I have previously told the stories of some of them, listed at the end of this pot.

This post is about Private Joseph Cahir 14th Battalion (standing far right),  Private Harry Foxcroft, 14th Battalion  (sitting far right) and  Trooper Robert Malcolm McColl (seated, centre), 2nd Australian Light Horse Regiment.

Private Joseph Cahir 14th Battalion

Private Joseph Cahir’s sister, Miss Stella Cahir worked for the Bank of Victoria in Wonthaggi.

Major J M Lean wrote:

10th January, 1919.

Dear Madam,

Enclosed herewith is a photograph including your brother, No 960 Private K J Cahir, 14th Battalion, which was transmitted to this office from London Headquarters. The photograph was taken at the San Stephano Prisoners of War Camp, Constantinople, Turkey, and is forwarded as a memento of the trials this soldier has undergone whilst serving in the Australian Imperial Force.  I trust he will be spared to return none the worse for his trying experience.

Kindly let me know whether it comes safely to hand.


Officer i/c Base Records

Joseph Keith Cahir, born in Carlton, attested on 1 October 1914 and joined the 14th Battalion. He was captured on 8 August 1915 in the disastrous 4th Brigade action on Sari Bair – see earlier ‘Dear Miss Deakin’ post.

By the time the photograph arrived Cahir was on his return to Australia. He left Suez on Christmas Day 1918, and arrived on 8 February 1919. He was discharged from the AIF on 15 April 1919.

DAX2203 lean

Major J M Lean, Officer-in-Charge, Base Records

Trooper Robert McColl, 2nd Light Horse

Robert McColl’s father wrote back, as asked.


Yelarbon Q

Jan 20th ‘19

To the Officer in Charge

Base Records Office

Victoria Barracks


Dear Sir

I received the photograph “including my son” I thank you for your kindness in sending it. I hope that he will soon arrive home safely.

Again thanking you, I am yours faithfully

Duncan McColl

Trooper Robert Malcolm McColl was a 30 year old farmer from Queensland, who attested on 2 November 1915 and was allocated to the 2nd Light Horse. He was captured on 4 August 1916 at Romani in Palestine. On 29 October he wrote to request ‘warm clothing such as overcoats blankets boots etc as well as some money as we are penniless.’

He endured the camps at San Stefano, And Afion Kara Hissar, and returned to Australia on 5 March 1919. His sisters Isabel and Jean also wrote letters to the Red Cross, and to Senator Pearce, Minister for Defence.

Private William Alexander 1230 of the 2nd Light Horse reported to the Board of Inquiry:  ‘During the night of 3rd/4th August we had been out on outpost duty. Towards dawn the Turks forced me to retire. During the retirement I saw McColl running along on foot. I told McColl to hang on to my stirrup, and I would help him along. He kept alongside me for some distance, and suddenly fell. The Turks were very close, and I kept on. That was the last I saw of him. The rifle fire was very heavy.’

[Trooper Alexander was Falkland in Fifeshire, Scotland aged 22 when he attested at Dalby Queensland on 29 March 1915. He returned to Australia on 13 Maerch 1919, and was discharged on 21 June 1919.]

Private Harry Foxcroft, 14th Battalion.

Friends of Harry Foxcroft enquired of him.  Miss Vera Deakin of the Red Cross Wounded  and Missing Bureau sent this rather optimistic (about the food), but reassuring letter to Driver Edward Townley, 1st Australian Pioneer Battalion on  14 January 1918

18 1 .18

Dear Dvr Townley

In reference to your enquiry for  1720 Pte Harry Foxcroft, 14 Btn AIF – we are glad to be able to tell you that as far as we know he is well & at an internment camp in Turkey – Ada Pasar. We have recently received from him 2 postcards – one dated 5.10.17- the other  1.11.17 – both acknowledging the receipt of money, which we are at present sending to our men in Turkey instead of food parcels, which have lately been prohibited by the Turkish authorities.

If you should wish to write to him it would be as well to address your letter

c/o Prisoners of War Department, Australian Red X, 36 Grosvenor Place, London

As our men are often moved from one camp to another, when notice is sent top the Prisoner’s Dept, they can always redirect letters to the latest address given and to save delay in delivery when writing to your friend, be careful to say nothing to which the censors can object & make no reference to his treatment as a prisoner.

One of our workers is a lady who has spent a great deal of her time in the East knows the district in Asia Minor in which Ada Pasar is situated. She tells us it is a large town on the Baghdad Railway in a fertile agricultural district, & she is sure that any of our men who are interned there will be much better off than anywhere else in Turkey or Asia Minor. There is abundance of food in that district & meat is also plentiful: so that she thinks your friend will be fairly comfortable there.

With all good wishes,

Yrs fly

Vera Deakin

[Driver Edward Townley born in Lancashire, attested at South Melbourne on 20 August 1914, and served at Gallipoli and the Western Front.  He was discharged in London in 1919, and returned to Lancashire – the Bull’s Head in Oldham.]

Pte Harry Foxcroft, 14th Battalion, of Heywood, Lancashire, attested at Melbourne, on 7 December 1914, aged 20.  He also was captured on 8 August 1915 during the attack on Sari Bair, Gallipoli.

He was repatriated to England on 8 December  1918, and got into a little trouble with the civil police, on one occasion removed from the police station  in Manchester ‘under escort.’ Major  Eckersley dismissed the case.

He returned to Australia on 12 May 1919, disembarking in Melbourne on  2 July.

 Caption, with previous posts.

  • Standing, from left Frederick Ashton, 11th Battalion (Get to buggery! The Turks are coming!);
  • Lance Corporal David Boyle 14th Battalion, (Dear Miss Deakin);
  • Reginald Francis Lushington, 16th Battalion (Gurkhas to the left- don’t shoot!);
  •  Pte Thomas Chalcroft, 14th Battalion, of Sundridge, Kent, who enlisted at Broadmeadows, Victoria;
  • Private Joseph Cahir, 14th Battalion.
  • Front row, from left John Troy, 16th Battalion,  (A Man called Troy),
  • Pte Robert Malcolm McColl, 2nd Australian Light Horse Regiment, of Toowoomba, Queensland; and
  • Pte Harry Foxcroft, 14th Battalion, of Heywood, Lancashire, who attested at Melbourne, Victoria.