Anzac Day 2021

War memorials are so ubiquitous that it’s easy to forget what they represent. At Ormond there are three on the ground floor of Main Building alone. As you walk past them this Anzac Day, imagine if 16 of our students and recent alumni died in a single fortnight; then dozens more. Think about ordinary people like Eric.

On 22 July 1915 an Ormondian medical student named Eric Whitehead was at Gallipoli when a fellow soldier went to hospital with piles, leaving behind a stash of writing paper – a rare commodity in the trenches. Eric used it to write to his father. He describes life at Gallipoli, including how he missed pyjamas and how exciting it was to watch distant explosions under searchlights, although counterattacks made his ‘nerves…a bit jingley’.

Described by a colleague as ‘one of the most popular fellows in his regiment,’ Eric was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant on 7th August. That day he was part of a contingent that stormed up a ridge towards Turkish troops to distract them from another attack. Facing the full fire of both rifles and machine guns, three waves of Australian men were cut down within 45 minutes. Eric’s body was never recovered. 

If Eric was a current student, his family and friends might like his memory to be inscribed on the very fabric of Ormond so he could never be forgotten. That’s what previous generations did: funded by donations from current and former students. There’s a small memorial plaque in Eric’s former study, as there is in each room of a fallen soldier. Outside the Dining Hall there are two large brass plaques inscribed with the full name of Eric and all Ormond men who died on active service; its counterpart outside the MCR has both WWI and WWII names. Finally, the JCR’s door into the Quad carved of mountain ash with surrounds, clock and Latin inscription is also a war memorial.

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