Today I was invited to morning tea at the Officers Mess at Victori Barracks here in Sydney by one of our recipients but more on that later.
This is the beautiful and imposing Guard Gate at the Barracks which is located in Oxford Street, Sydney and it is referred to as the Queen Victoria Gate.
Victoria Barracks is an Australian Army Base in Sydney and is located in Paddington. The Sydney Cricket Ground and the Sydney Football Stadium are just south of it.
Hawkesbury sandstone was used to build the Main Barracks. It was built by convicts in Regency style between 1841 and 1846. The Officer’s Quarters was the first building completed, finished in 1842.
The Main Barrack Block was completed in 1846 and was designed to accommodate 650 soldiers. In 1856 the bell and clock were added to the building. British Army soldiers were the original occupants until 1870. From its completion until just after Federation, the Barracks was the premier military training site in Australia,
Can you imagine the stories the walls can tell. There are faded grey marks on the walls where flint stones have struck the wall to get a spark to light a fire. On one doorway there is a deep groove where bayonets were sharpened repeatedly over the years.
These days Victoria Barracks houses Headquarters Land Command and Headquarters Training Command.
The Garrison Hospital was built in 1845 to accommodate 36 patients. During the 1930s it was converted into an Officers’ Mess and I was taken through the mess on the way to morning tea in a lovely tree shaded courtyard. I would have loved to take photos but did not want to disturb the other officers there enjoying their morning tea.
My hurried photos do not do justice to the beauty of the rooms.
Not many Officer’s Mess Dining Rooms are as beautiful as this one. Remember I have been in a few myself.
There is so much history in place at Victoria Barracks and if you are interested you can take a tour of the Barracks Precinct, with very knowledgeable guides, every Thursday starting at 10am. Might have to put that on my list of things to do once I have had my knees done!
Victoria Barracks is also home to the The Army Museum of NSW which is housed in the original District Military Prison, constructed in 1847. It is open to visitors on Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and the first Sunday each month (by appointment) from 10:00 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. The museum is closed during December and January.
As I said I was invited by one of our recipients to join her for morning tea. This is another story that makes me smile. Not long after she arrived in Kabul her room mate requested a quilt for her. I put out the request and Kylie put her hand up to make it. When the quilt was finished it was sent off and the recipient eagerly awaited it. Finally it arrived and I received an email…….
telling me that the quilt had been passed on to the recipient’s boss who did not have long enough left of her deployment to request a quilt for herself. That was a very generous gesture so I contacted Nancy and asked her if she would be kind enough to arrange another quilt for this recipient. Nancy got to work and before long a second quilt was ready to go off.
Another email came through from our kind hearted recipient. This time she had been so excited to receive our parcel she had (if my memory serves me correctly) sat in the coffee area with a colleague and opened the parcel. Now this colleague had been having a bad day, or just generally a rough trot. She pulled out her bright and cheery quilt and he just loved it. Yep, you guessed it! That afternoon he went back to his accommodations with a smile on his face and a bright cheery quilt under his arm. So here I was again, on the hunt for a third quilt for our recipient and now her time on deployment was dwindling rapidly and we had much less time to get a quilt finished and on the way to her.
Now here comes the second twist in this tale! I received this email –
My name is Sally and my sister Major XXXXXX is currently serving in Afghanistan as part of operation Slipper. I have been hearing from her all about your wonderful organisation and how beautiful the quilts are that have been sent overseas. She has told me that she has received 2 quilts so far, however out of the kindness of her heart she has passed these quilts onto other service men and women. This began my thinking! My little sister is one of the most important people in my life and I miss her very much. I decided that in order to stop her from giving away her quilts I would get on the band wagon and organise something so very special that she just couldn’t give it away unless it was to her children. I work with a wonderful group of ladies that are willing to help me make a special quilt for my sister. I have read the requirements and we have started the process. I thought I had better get in contact with you in order to avoid your organisation sending her another quilt. She doesn’t know that I am organising this because I wanted it to be a surprise 🙂 I was just wondering what the process is once the quilt is finished and ready to be posted??
Thank you very much for your time
Well, at least I didn’t need to hunt down another quilt. Sally and her friends started their quilt and beavered away at it but as often happens, “life” got in the way and things got held up.
As the quilt took longer to make because of “life’s interventions” it became apparent that our recipient would be home before it was completed. She even emailed me with six weeks to go to diplomatically enquire as to its progress. I wrote to her and explained that a special quilter was working on it and whilst I could not say too much for fear of spoiling the surprise she would appreciate the story once she got home and received her quilt. It was arranged that she would collect the quilt once she returned to work in Sydney. Her sister, Sally, is not a quilter so there was no risk of suspicion falling on her.
Not long before our recipient was due to return Sally contacted me and said that she had made the decision to come from SA to Sydney to be with her parents to meet her sister at the airport. How lovely to have such a loving family! Sally would now be able to present the quilt to her sister herself.
I have to tell you that I have often wondered what the resulting quilt looked like – I knew our recipient would love it -how could she not when so much love and thought went it to it – but I was still curious as to what it looked like so you can imagine my delight when I received the following email….
Yes it is me – the pesky XXXX who kept giving away quilts!!
My beautiful sister gave me my quilt the day I got home, after surprising me by meeting me at the airport, along with my parents, which was AMAZING!!
I love love love my quilt and can’t thank you enough for the part you played in its creation. I has pride of place on my couch and is already very well used.
I made it home safely and am back at work after taking some leave. The email that I tried to send you (that didn’t make it) was inviting you to come out to Victoria Barracks one Thursday morning for a tour and morning tea.
Please let me know if this would suit you, if not I can come to you.
The rest as they say is history. It was so nice to meet someone personally and hear some stories from over there. And at last I got to see her gorgeous quilt! A quilt is a blanket stitched with love and I think it must be extra special when made for you by your own sister!
The design is called “Trip Around The World” and was chosen to represent our recipients many travels over the year. In fact I invited her to join us for the end of year dinner at my home in Sydney on the 9th of December but she will be overseas again on a holiday for her birthday!
An added bonus was meeting another Major who had received a quilt. Most of the officers present for morning tea were in their uniforms complete with name tags and I was scanning names to see if any stood out. Then in front of me appeared a guy whose face was familiar and whose name came back to me – along with a mental picture of his quilt! He was the legal officer from 7RAR TG and I had seen his face in their Christmas Video PLUS his name was a little more recognisable than Smith!
There is a story behind his quilt as well but you will have to come back next week to read that story!
To be continued………………………………………………………………………………………………..
And to my lovely hostess this morning – thank you so much for thinking of me. I really enjoyed meeting you and seeing your quilt as well as seeing the Barracks and I will definitely let you know when there is another dinner on in Sydney.
Till next time……………keep spreading the word and happy stitching! JMxx