A brief history of Fr Thomas Mullins’ war-time service
(From the War Diary of Fr Thomas Mullins)
When Australia entered the first world war, Dr Gallagher approached Fr. Mullins to go to the front as a chaplain. He joined the Australian Infantry Force on March 17, 1915. He went to Holsworthy for training and was attached to the 4th Light Horse Brigade with the rank of Captain.
He embarked from Sydney on HMAT “Suevic” on May 29, 1915 for Port Suez. 160kms on the Perth side of Adelaide they had to return to Adelaide to drench the horses.
They continued on, arriving at Aden on July 10. They left Aden on July 24 for Port Said then Cairo. After a few weeks training at Egypt, he left for Gallipoli arriving October 31. On the morning before leaving Egypt, Father had 400 soldiers for Holy Communion.
Along with many others he was evacuated from Gallipoli on December 15, and he sailed for Alexandria arriving December 24. He left for Cairo Christmas morning and enjoyed biscuits and bully beef for Christmas dinner. The next day in Cairo they got a change of clothes after wearing the same clothes for 12 days straight.
They left for Serapemm ar Maddi on February 27, 1916 and stayed there until April 2, then Deliah in the Sinai Desert. They encountered heavy fighting at Bir el abd, where it was very hot and water was a problem. They returned to Dueden on October 1 and remained there until November 16. (Diary entry finishes)
From his medical records, Father Mullins was a sick man whilst overseas, spending a lot of time going to and from hospital. He suffered from dermatitis and contracted Malaria in Jordan. Father Mullins was appointed Senior RC Chaplain in Egypt on 18th April 1917.
On 6th March 1916, he was Mentioned in Despatches by General Sir Charles Munro of the Mediterranean Expeditionary force, for distinguished and gallant services in Gallipoli.
On 26th March 1917 he was recommended for the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in tending the wounded at the Battle of Gaza. He was all the time up with the men in front attending to the wounded and burial of the dead. He displayed great fearlessness and was right up in the firing line. His conduct has been the same on all occasions.
On 28th June 1917, he was Mentioned in Despatches by Sir Archibald Murray, Egyptian Expeditionary Force, for gallant or distinguished conduct in the field or for other valuable services. On January 1, 1918 he was awarded the Military Cross.
Discharged from AIF 12th April 1920 with the rank of Lt. Col.
On his return to Ardlethan he brought back seeds of the Olive Trees from the Garden of Gethsemane. Some are still growing in the old Presbytery today.
Father Mullins was responsible for establishing the Catholic Church, Presbytery, Convent and the School. By 1930 he had catholic churches in Ariah Park and Barellan. He passed away on January 14, 1939. He is buried in the catholic portion of the Ardlethan Cemetery.
Father Mullins received four military medals, and one non-military.
- The Military Cross —the one framed is a replica as the original is embedded in the front of the altar.
- The 1914-1915 Star
- The British War Medal
- The Victory Medal shown with an Oakleaf (this is awarded to servicemen who are Mentioned in Despatches).
- Finally the Jerusalem Pilgrim’s Cross of Honour, issued by Pope Leo Xlll, as recognition of merit to Pilgrims to the Holy Land. It is not a war medal but a religious medal. Approval was granted from the War Memorial to display this medal alongside his military medals.
Some of the ribbons are new. The others incorporate the original and new ribbons.
Also in the frame is a medallion given to Father Mullins by the parishioners of Barmedman on his return in 1920.
Maybe it is a coincidence or divine intervention that Father’s medals are being displayed 100 years from when he served in the First World War and as close as we could get it to Armistice Day- Nov 11th, when the war ended.
We are privileged to display Father Mullin’s medals in our Church.