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Autograph Album (HT 27665) of Elizabeth Louise Shelly, RMS Omrah, circa 1916

Autograph Album - World War I, circa 1916

Image: Autograph Album - World War I, circa 1916

Source: Museum Victoria

Autograph album HT 27665 most likely belonged to Elizabeth Louise Shelly (nee Floyd), the wife of Edmund 'Ned' Shelly from Adelaide. They married in December 1910 (1)  and Edmund joined the AIF in August 1914 (2)  and took part in the Gallipoli landing before he was transferred to No 2 Command Depot in Weymouth, England in 1916. Elizabeth decided to go to England to join Edmund.

The album starts with farewell wishes from immediate family and friends - for example, from her sister-in-law Maud Floyd, who was married to Elizabeth's brother Walter Floyd (3). There is also a entry from Adelaide meant for 'Neds eyes only'.

From September 1 to October 18 1916 Elizabeth sailed from Adelaide to Plymouth, England on the RMS Omrah. There are a number of entries in the album made by other passengers during the voyage. The most notable ones are the drawings done by Sidney R. Dudley (listed as Sydney in the Passenger List). There is also a number of entries made by Elizabeth herself, signed either E. L. Shelly or just E. Shelly - for example, a poem about leaving her land of birth.

The RMS Omrah was one of the Orient Lines travelling between England and Australia, part of the main line of communications between Australia and the 'Motherland'. She was built in 1899 and after the war broke out in 1914 was used by the government as a troopship before reverting to her former role as ocean liner between Australia and England. Even after she reverted back her its civilian role Omrah still carried army personnel overseas - for example army nurses. In 1917 she went back in to service as a troopship. She was sunk a few miles north of Sardinia in 1918.

Elizabeth Shelly arrived in England in Oct 1916, about the same time as Edmund started serving with the depot. There are a number of entries from late 1916 and early 1917 both from people living in the Weymouth area, especially the village of Broadwey, and of soldiers (and their war brides) serving with the depot in Weymouth. Edmund also made a couple of entries, most notably a poem called ?What have you done? expressing a feeling that he isn't doing his bit ?to keep old flag on high? compared to the ?the chaps in the firing line?.

There are also a couple of entries made by the extended Shelly family - for example, W. G. Shelly (Edmund's younger brother) (4) who was on leave from active service in France, J. J. Shelly  (most likely a close relative who also shares the same first name as Edmunds father John Joseph Shelly)  and D. H. Thulborn  (6) (who is also from the same area of Adelaide and shares the same surname as Edmund's cousin F. Thulborn (7)).

There are a couple of drawings among the entries made in England, chiefly from W. G. Shelly, but also one interesting drawing of a baby with the caption ?Be I Dorset, no I be Anzac? signed Edmund Shelly.

The camp Ned served in during the war was called Monte Video Camp and was located in Chickerell, a small village north of Weymouth, Dorset in south-eastern England. The camp was established in the middle of 1915 for wounded troops from the Gallipoli campaign. By the end of the war the AIF had several camps in the Weymouth area. Chickerell appears in several of the entries, especially in the civilian ones written to Elizabeth 'Louie'. Weymouth is also mentioned, as is Broadwey (sometimes misspelled as Broadway), which is a village approx 10 km north east of Chickerell.

How the album came back to Australia is unclear, but there are a couple of entries made ?at sea? from the latter half of 1918. There are also two entries from 1920 that might have been made during a post-war showing of the album.

Edmund or Ned is frequently mentioned in advertisements for dance evenings after the war.

The Shelly family:

John Joseph Shelly and Alice Shelly (nee Thulborn) 
Edmund 'Ned' Shelly (born 1889)
William George Shelly (born 1894)
Thomas Shelly (born 1896)
Michael Shelly (born 1902)
Margareth Alice Dahl (nee Shelly, eldest sister)
Cathrine 'Kitty' Mary Cibich (nee Shelly, second daughter)
Eileen McConnochie (nee Shelly, youngest sister).

References:

1. Family notices, 'Shelly - Floyd', Adelaide Advertiser, 24 Dec 1910
2. Edmund Shelly's Service Record, National Archives of Australia
3. Family notices, 'Floyd', Adelaide Advertiser, 13 Aug 1926
4. William George Shelly's service record, National Archives of Australia
5. John Joseph Shelly's service record, National Archives of Australia
6. David Henry Thulborn's service record, National Archives of Australia
7. Family notices 'Thulborn' Adelaide Adviser, 5 Apr 1918

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