Anzac Day this year will be very different to any previous Anzac Day due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This Anzac Day we will focus on Roy Dollin who at just 23 enlisted and served at Gallipoli, coming home to his family with shell shock and nervous tension, going on to work at the Small Arms Factory in Lithgow only to succumb to Pneumonic Influenza (Spanish flu) in the pandemic of 1919.
Private Roy Dollin – service number 845 – AIF D Company 25th Battalion
Born in St Marys, Roy was just 23 when he joined the Australian Infantry. A bricklayer by trade, he enlisted in Brisbane and left on the HMAT Aeneas on 29 June 1915. He served at Gallipoli for several months and was part of one of the last battalions to evacuate from the Peninsula. By October 1915 he had been admitted to the Beach Hospital at Anzac Cove. According to his service record he was blown up by a high explosive whilst at Gallipoli which left him with shell shock. It is unclear whether this happened in October or later. There was particularly heavy shelling on 29th November with war historian Charles Bean noting that this was the “first occasion upon which Australian infantry in trenches were subjected to heavy modern bombardment”. This bombardment resulted in many shellshocked soldiers and the collapse of trenches suffocating others.
According to his service record Roy was moved to Mudros, Lemnos where the 3rd Australian General Hospital was located. Due to winter approaching in England it was decided to send the Australian troops coming out of Gallipoli to Egypt rather than England for convalescence, rehabilitation and training. Roy was sent to Abassia with the No. 3 Australian General Hospital. After Abassia he was placed at Ghezireh Palace Hotel which was being used as an overflow for the No. 2 Australian General Hospital at Mena House. In March 1916 he also spent time in hospital for an injury to his scrotum. In April 1916 he was sent to Tel El Kebir – a training camp for the AIF.
It is unclear from his service records what happened to him in 1916 apart from his time in hospital recuperating.
In April 1917 a recommendation was made for him to be sent to England for a change. He was at Rollestone possibly the training camp or more probably one of the Command Depots where Australian soldiers were sent to recover and recuperate. According to the Nepean Times (3 March 1917 p4), while still in Rollestone, Roy wrote to his parents asking them to thank the people of St Marys for the Christmas Cheer Fund parcel – also letting his parents know he had met up with his old friend William Garner (Garner died in August 1918 in the Battle of Amiens). Roy was still in England in June 2017 when he was penalised 7 days pay for being insolent to an officer and failing to salute.
He was in hospital for 3 and half months. His medical notes noted he was unable to sleep at night, adding that “the least excitement brings on violent shaking”. The report from 20 April 1917 also notes his present condition as being “a very nervous individual with marked tachycardia and fine tremors”.
In August 1917, the Medical Board at Rollestone changed his classification from temporarily unfit for general service to “permanently unfit for general service”. Eventually on 26 November 1917 he returned to Australia and was sent to the 6th Australian General Hospital (Kangaroo Point) in Brisbane Australia. He was at the hospital until 18 December 1917. However according to the Nepean Times (1 December 1917) he was welcomed home to St Marys in late November with a large community gathering.
By 1919 Roy was working at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory when he tragically succumbed to pneumonic influenza and died at his boarding house.
The article below from Trove announces his death at this terrible time.
If you want to view his service record you can access it from the link below
If you would like more information on the Dollin family visit lesdollin.com
Bean, Charles E. W. Official history of Australia in the war of 1914-1918 Volume 2 The story of Anzac from 4 May 1915 to the evacuation of the Gallipoli Peninsula (11th edition) Sydney, Angus and Robertson, 1941 p849