Karragarra residents Jan Leader and partner Graeme Mitchell are definitely into family history.
So much so that a piece of Graeme’s family story which originally featured on 60 minutes, is now a wonderful illustrated children’s book.
It tells the story of World War 1 nurse Sister Anne Donnell in a fun way that children will understand.
It sets a new trend for children’s books, because it is based on a true story!
Anne Donnell was born in South Australia and became a dedicated nursing sister.
It took her to the worst battlefields of Gallipoli and Europe.
Such were her exploits, Anne was recognised by King George V and was personally presented with a medal by the King at Windsor Castle in 1917.
Her war efforts became even more famous when 60 minutes, a couple of years ago, sought assistance from the State Library of NSW and wanted some information about heroic Australian nurses.
One of the names the library gave them was that of Graeme Mitchell.
Graeme has always been interested in family history and he knew of his grand mother’s war record.
She had kept some wonderful pictures from those war years and they had been passed onto Graeme.
Amazingly, they survived his many early travels and exploits at the bottom of a kit bag.
Unbeknown to him, Anne’s precious diaries of her wartime experiences were passed on to his brother Rhett (thanks Gone With the Wind)
It wasn’t until recent years that Rhett passed these valuable diaries onto Graeme.
When he and Jan saw their fading condition, they decided the information had to be preserved and Jan set about transcribing them.
The transcripts were also passed onto the NSW Library, hence the 60 minutes contact.
To Jan, a medical receptionist for much of her working life, the transcripts presented a challenge and an ‘idea’.
Why not turn Anne’s wartime experiences into a book for children that would educate school children about some forgotten wartime women who were heroic?
The result is the children’s book Anne Threw a Streamer.
In simple words, and using some of the text from Anne’s diaries, Jan made Anne the narrator with a little help from ‘Stitcher’ the Fearless Pomeranian.
Stitcher is famous in Australian military folklore. He was successfully smuggled aboard an Australian troop ship when a little girl who was there to see the troops return, made the following observation: “Did you see that cute little dog running about? I saw him jump out of one of the soldiers’ kit bags!”
Anne Threw a Streamer is a great read and beautifully illustrated by young Sunshine Coast artist Alice Ashby.
It has only come off the presses and the Redlands Library is going to help launch the tome.
Jan and Graeme are hoping to take it to schools throughout Queensland and Australia to provide a valuable educational tool telling the story of a brave Australian woman ‘ Graeme’s grand mother!
This may not be the last book from Jan and Graeme.
There are quite a few other stories that are presently being looked at by publishers.
Watch this space!
• Graeme Mitchell and Jan Leader with the diaries, the old photographs and the new children’s book.