The history was profound as we walked into the tiny Queensland town of Linville – population 431. Its historic train station, pub, and war memorial all whispered to us as the bell birds heralded our arrival. We were walking the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail in preparation for taking on the Outback in August to raise money for Mental Health in rural and remote Australia. This was living and breathing history at its finest. Watch a short film here.
The first train to run from Linville 109 years ago was crowded with visitors (pictured). On board were luminaries like Charles Handley and his bride Mary. He was the chairman of the local Shire of Esk and the couple had only married earlier that year.
The auspicious event on the 21st of November 1910 was a day excursion from Linville to Pinkenba which is 100 miles away on the mouth of the Brisbane River. The revellers then boarded the ‘Lucinda’ which was the famous paddle steamer built in Scotland 26 years earlier. The Lucinda was one of the most magnificently upholstered and effectively equipped steamers afloat. She had previously accommodated the Federation founders as they finalised Australia’s draft constitution in the late 19th century, and the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George V and Queen Mary) on their visit to Queensland in 1901.
Across the road from the train station is the Linville Hotel that was built seventeen miles away in 1904. In 1911 it was transported by bullock teams to its present location to service the town’s increasing number of visitors with the opening of the railway. Legend has it that trading in the pub continued unabated during the journey.
However, it’s the unique war memorial between the two feature buildings of Linville that’s the emotional heart of the town. Local man Tom Cross (pictured) designed the memorial that includes a pagoda and a German machine gun souvenired from the First World War. Tom and his brother Frank were responsible for getting the memorial built. Tom’s own name appears on the plaque as one of those locals who volunteered for service. He narrowly survived the influenza pandemic at the end of the war that caused in the deaths of up to 100 million people worldwide. But look closely and it’s the name of Benjamin Cross that explains why Tom and Frank were so active in establishing the tribute. Benjamin was their brother and was among those who never came home. Before the war, he was a teamster and quite likely one of the bullockies who brought the Linville Hotel to town. Benjamin was killed in action on the Somme at Flers, France, in 1916.
There’s no telling how many Australian deaths for which the machine gun on the memorial (pictured) was responsible. It was manufactured in 1917 and captured by the Australian 9th Battalion at Flesselles, France, on the Western Front on the 11th of April 1918. This was the same day that British general Sir Douglas Haig issued his now famous ‘Backs to the Wall’ special order. The war could have been lost that day but for the halting of the enemy advance by silencing guns like this. The 9th Battalion was one of the first units raised in 1914 and comprised mostly of Queenslanders including men from Linville.
Thirteen days after the gun was captured, the youngest of the Linville men on the memorial made the supreme sacrifice. Alfred Greber (pictured) had lied about his age and enlisted one month after his sixteenth birthday. He was killed in action at Villers-Bretonneux on the 24th of April 1918, still just seventeen-years-old. Alfred was a battalion runner when a shell landed right on top of him and he was atomised. Two of his older brothers had also enlisted. One, Ernest, was wounded and awarded the Military Medal.
Another brother, Albert, had been killed in action the previous year. Before the war Albert was the publican at the Linville Hotel, and his wife Lucy was there when she received the news of his death. Prior to taking over the pub, Albert worked at the Sandy Gallop Asylum in Ipswich. I can’t help thinking that he would be sympathetic to the charitable cause that brought me here.
This is the third year that I’ve raised money for mental health, first in Queensland’s World Heritage-listed rainforest, then in the Australian Alps, and now in the remotest part of Australia’s Outback. Mt target is another $10,000 for the charity Drug ARM Australasia and their work for better Mental Health in rural and remote Australia. In August we’ll be joining the scientific Australian Desert Expeditions in the Simpson Desert, travelling on foot and leading pack camels in the grand tradition of the early explorers. The region boasts the world’s largest parallel sand ridge desert and the biggest wild river system on the planet. I’ll be joined by mates Don McMillan and John Kelleher.
Our training has commenced in earnest by walking the 161km Brisbane Valley Rail Trail which is the longest in Australia. It’s for better Mental Health in rural and remote Australia. This includes towns like Linville.
Donations are tax deductible. Please donate here today https://give.everydayhero.com/au/simpson-desert-hike-for-health
Walk around Linville by watching the video here:
First train at Linville 2019 – my own
First train at Linville 1910 – John Oxley Library State Library of Queensland
Private Tom Cross – Australian War Memorial AWM 6857649
Linville’s WW1 German machine gun – my own
Private Alfred Greber – Adopt a Digger Project