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Follow the Call

A Memoir

A Memoir

A volunteer for the Navy on the outbreak of the Great War, Frank Sheldon Anthony suffered exposure and internal injuries, to the effects of which his subsequent death in 1925, in his thirty-fourth year, was directly traceable.

Brief as was his literary career, its output has brought laughter to many, tears to some, and enjoyment to all his readers. Several of his stories were issued serially, but this is the first to be published in book form, and it is believed that "Follow the Call" will meet with such a favourable reception as to warrant the publication of further stories. The present novel is based largely upon his own experience, but to every incident he has given his own interpretation, and blended with it his own refreshingly original type of humour. There seems good cause why this young New Zealander should, posthumously, be accorded an honourable place in the annals of New Zealand literature.

F. S. Anthony trained himself on a wide field. His experiences as schoolboy, sailor and farmer all contributed their measure of material for his writings. “Follow the Call” was written after the War, in an endeavour to solace the evening hours on his partially developed Taranaki farm. Though continually suffering from his war injuries, laughter and good cheer are the outstanding characteristics of his story.

The author of “Follow the Call” was born at Makaraka, Poverty Bay, on 13th December, 1891, the second child and only son of Frank S. Anthony, a page 6 well-known farmer, hotel proprietor and racehorse owner. Shortly afterwards, however, the family removed to South Taranaki, where the boy received his education and gained his first experience of farm life. This calling proved to have little attraction for him at the time; hence, while it came as a shock it occasioned no great surprise to the family to learn that he had cut short a holiday at Auckland and taken to the sea.

For a few months he worked as a deck hand on New Zealand coastal and intercolonial steamers, but finding monotony where he had looked for adventure he forsook steam for sail. Unlike many of a like temperament he was a good correspondent, thus enabling his family to trace his erratic course from port to port as the ships upon which he signed ploughed their way from the Americas to China, from China to Norway, from Norway to Continental and British ports, and finally to the blue Pacific and home again. While roaming over the globe in windjammers such as the Cambeskenneth and the Wiscombe Park he was absorbing memories which were to stand him in good stead in later years.

Frank was in San Francisco, and twenty-three years of age, when news reached him of the outbreak of war. He at once obtained his discharge, boarded the trans-continental train, embarked for England, and offered for the Navy. He joined as an A.B., and after a special course at White Island, was posted to the new destroyer O pal as a gunner. The O pal formed a unit in the Destroyer Flotillas cruising the stormy North Sea. Amongst other stirring adventures it was the first ship to reach the scene of Lord Kitchener's death when H.M.S. Hampshire struck a mine off the Orkney Islands. Letters treasured by his mother describe how the bitter weather and frozen seas hindered the work of rescue, and tell of the swimmers who struggled awhile and sank before a boat could be lowered.

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Still as a gunner, F. S. Anthony fought through the memorable night when destroyer flotillas bore their gallant part against the German squadron off Jutland. The O pal was in the thick of the fight, and our gunner's letters give a vivid account of the terrors, anxiety and heroism of that deadly encounter. It was shortly after the Battle of Jutland that he was seriously injured by being crushed between a buoy and his ship. Weary months were spent in hospital, his life wavering in the balance as a sturdy constitution fought against the weakening effects of the injury and subsequent pneumonia. He recovered sufficiently to be invalided home to New Zealand, but unfortunately one lung was permanently affected. There followed long months of treatment at the Cambridge Sanatorium, but at last he so far regained his health as to once more concern himself with the problem of a livelihood.

A life in the open was a necessity, so a-farming he went, purchasing an eighty-acre farm near the slopes of Mount Egmont, not far from Midhirst. Living alone, and often in ill-health, his courage was indomitable, and he radiated good cheer; and never was he at a loss for some laughable account of his “pioneering” experiences with which to entertain his visitors. The farm was only partially developed, but readers of “Follow the Call” will be interested to know that he brought it into good order for dairying, and eventually sold it to advantage.

As he worked, so he wrote. He enjoyed social life, but found greater enjoyment when employed during long evenings with pen and paper, as he set down, with lively imagination and that saving sense of humour, his stories of New Zealand farms and farmers. It is believed the verdict of his countrymen will be that not only has he proved his ability to write a good story, but that his work has that elusive quality of “style,” justly entitling it to the claim of good literature.

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On the disposal of his farm F. S. Anthony concentrated on his literary work, and within a few months left to try his fortune in London where, for a newcomer, his good fortune was remarkable, and encouraging prospects appeared to be opening out before him. During the second winter his stories were being accepted with cheering regularity, and it appeared that he might reasonably anticipate some reward and adequate recognition from his reading public. His war injuries had evidently, however, undermined his health; the damp and cold of the English climate disclosed his weakness, and like many another of his generation he was laid to rest in the Mother Country he had faithfully served, far away from his own immediate kin. He died on 13th January, 1925.