That’s Enough, Freddy From!

A Review

With military service in his blood, it wasn’t surprising that when the Second World War broke out that Freddy From would enlist and in 1940 he joined the Seventh Divisional Cavalry.    

 

From travelled to Cairo en route to Palestine where he explains:

 

‘My Uncle Rennie and many of the men of my district who served in the Australian Light Horse had been stationed near Cairo and had leave there.  They of course visited the tourist attractions.  Most of them had their photographs taken in a group mounted on camels with the Cheops pyramid or the Sphinx as a background.’  Later in the same paragraph, From recounts, ‘They entertained one another with stories of the fleshpots of Cairo.  They made much of the ‘Battle of the Wazir’ but seldom seemed to disclose details of the event.  This made me suspect that they themselves had not been involved. All I found out was the Wazir was part of the red-light area of Cairo and some troops had sacked it and fought a battle with the Red Caps (British Army Police). P.181

 

From served in Cyprus, Syria and New Guinea before transferring to the RAAF.  Unsettled following the Second World War, From enlisted again in 1950 for the Korean War.  Having been a farm worker on his parents’ farm, in the 1950s, From studied Agriculture at Queensland University, where he met his future wife Jessie.

From was different just as all service personnel are individuals.  But rather than coming from Anglo-Saxon stock, From’s father, Frederick Christian Emil had served as an officer in the Danish military before coming to Australia. A week after Freddy’s birth in May 1917, his father left for the Front where he was wounded.  After the First World War, while farming in the Lockyer Valley, From enlisted in the 2nd/14th Light Horse. Frederick Christian Emil was a cheery, sociable soul with bags of guts, who brought multiculturalism to the Light Horse before the term had even been coined.

In his easy and informative style, Freddy From depicts the impact of his father’s service in the 1920s and 1930s on his family, 'There was a troop of the Light Horse stationed in Lowood as part of the 2/14 Regiment.  The 2/14 Regiment was made up of troops based on the small towns in southeast Queensland.  For example, there was the Lowood Troop, the Boonah Troop, the Gatton Troop, the Toogoolawah Troops, and several others.  Dad had been a subaltern in the 25th Infantry Battalion in France when he had lost his arm.  In spite of being an infantryman and only having one arm, he was approached and asked to become the Lowood Troop leader.

 

Both Mum and Dad thought that this would open up life for both of them, and Mum especially thought that Dad was a soldier at heart and that he could fulfill his ambitions in a field he understood.  This meant more work for the rest of us, but we were rewarded by having a new interesting life presented to us.  We now talked of military tactics, military sports, and looked forward to military balls, where Mum would sometimes be the Matron of Honour.  Mum went to Brisbane to the United Service Ball and sometimes to other social events.’ (Page 51) Frederick Rennie From, That's Enough, Freddy From!

 

By the time Dad was a captain in the army and spent much more time away at schools or camps, so Mum worked much harder.  As the first camps often coincided with my holidays from school and I was some help with the many farm jobs.   When I passed Junior I came home, as I thought for good.  Mum's load lessened and Dad's absences were not so important, although I was upset by Mum doing outside work.  I was involved in the work of the farm and interested in the processes, but was not included in the planning or organization of the farm.’(page 62)

 

From has an acute sense of history which he blends with his own observations, typically in some of his character studies, for instance of, ‘a German Fred Gutzki who’d wanted to enlist to serve in the Boer War, but when he lined up at the recruiting post, they said they didn’t want a bloody German, ‘Nah, Nah,’ he said, ‘that was the last time.’ From points out that they lost a good sniper as he was a superb marksman as I will explain later, he was an expert in stealth. (page 108)  Freddy had grown up in a community that had attracted many German immigrants.

 

In his same easy style, Freddy goes on to explain the build-up towards the Second World War and its impact on his local community.

 

‘A war seemed imminent and Punch and I talked of it a lot.  Punch was of the opinion that war was inevitable.  I doubted this.  I think my doubt was based on wishful thinking, as I knew a war would interfere with my plans for the immediate future.  The three Carr brothers and their brother-in-law, Santo Rigasoli, had been in the Light Horse in the First World War and were staunch patriots who thought that if a war did start, any worthwhile Australian would be in it.

 

It seemed that the Carrs saw themselves as ‘British’ farmers a yeomen class needing a special code of behaviour to mesh with a community of itinerants—cutters, mill specialists and workers, professionals, businessmen, and government employees—many foreign and lacking the permanence of the family farmer.’ P. 149

 

Frederick Rennie From’s That’s Enough, Freddy From! is a detailed, gripping portrait of twentieth-century life in multicultural, regional Queensland. Like so many of his contemporaries, From combines his farming and agricultural life with his military service. The result is a rich tapestry of experience.  It is a great read for those who enjoy autobiography with a military slant.

 

Honor Auchinleck