The First World War broke out in August 1914 and many men in Australia rushed to volunteer for the army that was speedily being raised to fight in Europe. But Reg did not volunteer at first.
In late 1914 Reg visited his brother Theo (GTG) who was on the staff of an indigo plantation in India (Manjhaul, Bihar State). Reg is recorded in a local paper as visiting India for six months, returning in March 1915 (Daily News, 12 March 1915). Six months seems a long time to be away, especially if Reg had his own business or was working as an accountant or clerk for a company. It is interesting that Reg’s wife Laura does not seem to have gone with him. According to the same local paper, Laura had been on her own six month trip to the UK and Europe in 1912 ‘Mrs. Reginald Gill, of Fremantle, who is on a six months’ holiday In tho old country, leaves this month (says an English paper) on a tour of Holland, Switzerland, the Rhine, and Norway.’ (Daily News, 12 July 1912)
It is not known whether Reg spent all six months with Theo or just a part of this time. From the dates of the photos Reg was with Theo from at least November 1914 to January 1915 – click the following photos to enlarge:
Reg’s letters to Theo from the Western Front nostalgically mention a trip they took with friends up to Darjeeling.
The letters also mention The “Munns” and the “Macs” and the “Finch tribe” – possibly Ferrers and Kathleen Munns and their daughters Margaret and Helen, Mr and Mrs E.G. Macpherson and E.J. Finch pictured in later years in Theo’s photo album.
E.J. Finch was a manager at the Indigo estate at Manjhaul in the state of Bihar where GTG worked.
One has to give but a cursory glance at the 4,500 acres of land on the Munjhoul estate, in the district of Monghyr, cultivated on behalf of the proprietor, to see that farming operations have been conducted on thoroughly up-to-date principles, chief among which are a systematic course of manuring and the draining of superfluous water from the soil.
The whole estate comprises an area of about fifteen square miles in extent, and the control of this huge property is vested in Mr. F. H. Holloway, for whom Mr. E. J. Finch is manager. About 4,500 acres are kept in hand, and Java indigo (700 acres), wheat, chillies, tobacco, and other, native crops are grown successfully.
An indigo factory was built at Munjhoul, on a bank of the little Gandak River, in or about the year 1836, and the produce, manufactured under the old system of beating by the hand, may be put down at an average of 9 seers to the acre. The only steam power used on the premises is in connection with the processes of boiling and the pumping of water for the vats. Tobacco, cured on racks, yields 8 maunds to the acre, and all crops are sold where grown, with the exception of indigo, which is sent for disposal to Messrs. Begg, Dunlop & Co., the agents in Calcutta.
The four out-stations are : Sisanni, seven miles distant in an eastwardly direction from headquarters ; Bundwar, four miles to the south ; Gurkpura, nine miles to the north ; and Bissenpore, four miles to the west.
The buildings are substantially constructed, and include five very nice bungalows, factory, carpentering and other shops, sheds, and stores. Constant work upon the land is found for sixty-five pairs of oxen, and about three hundred permanent labourers are required for other duties.
Mr. Finch is assisted in the management by Messrs. P. F. Baddeley-Holloway and H. N. Philiffe.” extract from ‘BENGAL AND ASSAM, BEHAR AND ORISSA, Their History, People, Commerce, and Industrial Resources’, Compiled by SOMERSET PLAYNE, F.R.G.S. (1917)