Baily Flag

In   Issue Volume 18 No. 2 .

On 14 September 1915, Tasmania’s Seventh Field Ambulance C Section relieved the New Zealanders who were in charge of the dressing station under Hill 971, to the left of the Australian position at Gallipoli’s Chailak Dere. The worst of the fighting was finished, the British having nearly conceded defeat. Even so, although a Red Cross flag flew over the station, it was often a target for shrapnel, explosives, and stray bullets. This persistent danger led the commanding officers to order the move to Mule Gully on 14 November.

One member of C Section was Harry (Bill) Baily, a young mechanic from Huonville. Tasmania. Just before the move, a piece of shrapnel lodged in Baily’s left hip and his friend, Bill Mawby, from New Town, removed it. Baily, like most other men at Gallipoli during November, suffered from dysentery and rheumatic pains caused by the cold and damp. During the evacuation, he and Mawby were the last to leave. Baily was so weak that he did not think he could walk the distance, so Mawby wrapped the Red Cross flag, made of fine Australian wool, around his back for warmth and support.

From 16 November until 3 December, when Baily boarded a hospital ship, the flag kept him warm as he and others sheltered in a leaky dugout from a huge thunderstorm, followed by a blizzard. The flag stayed with Baily for the duration of the war, returning to Australia in August 1919 on board the Ceramic. Baily asked his ‘mates’, mostly service personnel, to sign it, collecting over five hundred signatures.
About Harry (Bill) Baily
Joining Up
Harry (Bill) Baily was born in 1892, the eighth child of William, a Huonville merchant, and Louisa. Despite the protests of his mother, he signed up to go to war in March 1915, having sold his much loved motorbike. He was the first of his family to join – his older brothers, Percy and William, did so in 1917. Since he was a mechanic, Baily originally joined motor transport but was persuaded to transfer to the C Section of the Seventh Field Ambulance because of his big frame. Stretcher-bearers needed to be strong because, with no ambulances at Gallipoli, the men carried wounded soldiers a long distance over difficult terrain. Baily was a mischievous recruit, frequently flouting leave regulations, but in Brisbane during May 1915, just before the Seventh Field Ambulance left for the front, he went to the YMCA tent and ‘I gave myself up … to go strate [sic] in life. I wish I had of gone before’.

At Gallipoli
The Seventh Field Ambulance sailed to Egypt on the Ascanius, taking five weeks. After training in basic surgical procedures, they went on to Gallipoli, arriving on 15 September. The following day, they relieved the New Zealanders at the dressing station under Hill 971. The men worked long hours at an exhausting pace in nearly impossible conditions and in constant danger of Turkish fire. In the dressing station, they carried out first aid and cared for ill soldiers with limited medical supervision because there were not enough doctors. Baily also delivered despatches on a bicycle. Despite dysentery, rheumatic pain, and a recent shrapnel wound, he helped to move the dressing station on 15 November. Although Baily was almost too weak to walk to the new site, he helped to set up the new camp and build a dugout. After enduring terrible weather, he boarded a hospital ship on 3 December and went to Egypt where he was hospitalised with pleurisy and jaundice. Doctors tried to return him to Australia four times but because of his ‘hard battling’ against the idea, did not. While in Egypt, Baily tried to interest senior officers in his inventions, an automatic stabiliser for planes, a crankless engine, and a two-inch gun.
In England
Baily arrived in England on 11 June 1916, initially going to Parkhouse Camp, near Salisbury, and then to the Engineers Training Depots at Christchurch, Dorset and Brightlingsea, Sussex to learn gunnery so that he could perfect his inventions. Norman Allom, an assistant architect, and Rae Gluyas, a mining engineer from Broken Hill, drew up plans. Baily began making frequent trips to London in an effort to have the inventions patented and taken up by the armed forces. He received a ‘good hearing’ but had few expectations because there was ‘far too much red tape for a private to do any good’. Baily also failed to get a transfer to the Engineers as he hoped and had to return to the Australian Army Medical Corps. He may have gone to France with them for five months in 1918 but, if so, no one wrote it into his war record. An unexpected result of Baily’s trips to London was that he met Lorna Gibbons whom he married on 20 December 1916. She already had two children from a previous marriage, Delcie, aged thirteen, and Maurice, aged twelve. The couple had another daughter, Yoland Marjorie, on 14 January 1919. Baily returned to Australia with his wife and three children on the Ceramic in August 1919. The army discharged him as medically unfit on 14 December. He spent a short time in a Melbourne hospital recovering from the effects of the war and then moved to Sydney.

In Australia
Lorna Baily died within a few years of arriving in Australia and her children returned to England. His second wife, Isabelle, helped raise Yoland, who died when she was eighteen. A second daughter, Suzanne, was born in 1938. Baily settled in Devonport where he set up Baily’s Auto Garage, a small engineering works that sold new cars and tractors. He became a member of the Returned Soldiers League and the Devonport Masonic Lodge. According to Suzanne, he was a ‘big man’ in size and personality, a ‘stickler for the right thing’ who was well known along the north-west coast. She says that he ‘had the most wonderful life’ doing things ‘at the drop of a hat’ such as going to Queensland to look for ambergris. His greatest pleasure was organising charity stage productions, including a folies bergére complete with metal robot costumes made in his garage. In old age, he lived with Suzanne and her husband before moving into the Freemasons Home, Hobart. Baily died in 1975.

As pictured on the front cover – it is housed at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG) as part of their Treasures collection.  It was purchased by TMAG with assistance from the Department of Veterans Affairs after the Tasmanian State Premier, Jim Bacon recognised it as a significant war artefact. The story of the flag and its owner Harry (Bill) Baily is amazing and we are grateful to TMAG and the family of Harry Baily to be able to tell it to you.