Category Archives: War

Sportsmen for the Front Line

At the tail end of the suggested themes from Sepia Saturday this week was “posters”. And so I’ll start my ramble this week with a poster.

Poster WW1 b

When recruiting for the Australian Imperial Forces during the First World War  a theme was often used to appeal to certain members of the public.  And this time in 1917 it was the sportsmen who were targeted.  As the war progressed taking part in sport became frowned on so why shouldn’t one thousand of these fit and healthy young men go and help the soldiers at the front.  The promise was that they would be kept together from the day they enlisted until the day they came home again, at least for those able to come home.

The theme usually included a well known person as an added attraction.  This time it was Albert Jacka VC, the first Australian to win this honour in this conflict for his bravery at Gallipoli.    In the poster he is surrounded by men taking part in a variety of sports.

It was said that one of the reasons he was such a good soldier, and had such a fighting attitude, was that he had been a boxer before the war. The campaign to enlist sportsmen was fuelled by a strong belief that by playing sport young men developed specific skills and qualities that could be used on the battlefield –     The Age, March 10th, 1917

The Sportsmen’s Thousand Band played  regularly at recruiting rallies around the state,  In towns large and small the band members were billeted by local residents and then the local newspaper would report on the number of recruits.  One such visit on August 10th 1917 was to Castlemaine, which was later  to be the town where I grew up and  the visit was reported the next day in the Bendigo Advertiser.

Last night the Town Hall was packed on the occasion of the recruiting rally.   Stirring addresses were delivered by Mr. D. Mackinnon, Ex-Senator St. Leger. Lieutenant Bolton and Miss Martyn. The Mayor   (Cr. Cornish) presided and introduced the speakers, while the splendid band of the Sportsmen’s Thousand rendered valuable aid. Vocal items were contributed by Miss   Marjorie Eadie and Miss Macoboy, of Bendigo, the meeting was marked by great  enthusiasm.

This is the band .  They had only just been presented with their new instruments in July, according to  The Broadmeadows Camp Sentry. a weekly news publication  for the servicemen training at the Broadmeadows camp.

Sportsmen's Thousand AIF Band

Sportsmen’s Thousand AIF Band

It was this Sportsmen’s Thousand band photo on a postcard which brought me to the poster which introduced this post.  Some time ago  a friend in Geelong  allowed me to copy his postcard  which he had because  his grandfather was a member of the Band.  And there he is, H.E. Monk,  the big chap, seated second from the left.

By October 12th 1917 the soldiers were ready for a lunch time march through the city of Melbourne followed by lunch at the YMCA in St Kilda Rd.  A few days later  a detachment of them  were photographed marching along Alexandra Avenue as reported in “The Winner” on October 17th, 1917.

Sp thous Alexandra Pde March The Winner Oct 17 1917The Winner was a small sporting paper, published weekly. Then on November 14th it  showed some of the “boys”  on board  on their way to England.  This was the winning Tug of War team.   Boys of the Sp Thous 1917

The Australian TV mini-series “Anzacs” in 1985 gave us a fictional taste of how a recruiting rally may have been conducted

And perhaps for more posters, or carting coal , or horses and carts or anything vaguely connected with the afore-mentioned, then go to this week’s Sepia Saturday .


A Soldier’s Farewell to his Girl

Sepia Saturday’s them for the week  – trains, trams, transport.  But  if  I say trains and transport then the next word is troops.

I prefer to use images from the family albums but this time I am going with my favorite photo from the State Library of Victoria.   It is listed as being from the Melbourne newspaper of the time, the Argus on August 14th, 1940.  However it does not appear in the paper. but  is one of a collection which came from the paper.  Why ever wasn’t it used.  Every photo tells a story and this photo tells a very powerful story.

The unanswered question is – Who are these two central people ?

14th August 1940

14th August 1940

Is she his wife,  fiancee, girl friend ?  Was this an embarkation leave farewell?  Troops were still being sent to the Middle East .  Did he come back safely or was he killed at Tobruk like the driver of the bread van in my home town ?

In this second photo  you can again see her on the shoulder of some strong person.

Aug 14th 1940

Aug 14th 1940

Another time we see the soldiers marching down platform 10A at Spencer St Station  in 1944,  the engine for their train waiting t in the background.

Platform 10A, Spencer St. 1944


Then in 2012  Toni Jordan published her novel Nine Days which was inspired by the kiss photo.  She put her imagination to work to give a story going both back to the past and forward  to the future.  It is so believable and particularly enjoyable to anyone who enjoys their inner Melbourne suburbs and the idea of life as it was,  in this case  inner-city Richmond.

Nine Days by Toni JordanThe photo, with the help of a bit of colour, was used for the cover of the book.

How the novel came about, The Age, Aug 19th, 2012

Review of Nine Days by Toni Jordan in the Age, August 26th, 2012

And a bit of trivia for the young-uns as to those beautiful marcel waves in the first photo.  These days with all the electric wands for straightening and curling you might not know that in the 1930s when these marcel waves were popular, to make them at home you used these torturous butterfly metal grips with sharp teeth which pinched the damp hair together into ridges.  When dry the hair would comb out into waves.

Marcel Waves

Making Marcel Waves

 Go to Sepia Saturday to read more stories of earth-bound transport of every imaginable kind.

Sepia Saturday



Crowded Streets

A first reaction to the idea of crowded streets is “Cars”.   But there are many ways to crowd a street.

Stratford Memorial 1922February 12, 1922 and Bridge Street in Stratfod-on-Avon in Warwickshire was crowded with foot traffic for the unveiling of the War Memorial which listed the names of the local serving men who died in World War One.  Notice that the Memorial is standing in the middle of the street.  After it was hit by a lorry it was shifted to a safer location.

We met Mary Matilda Checkets in Framed in a Doorway in Snitterfield , By 1922 she was  the widow Mrs Tansey, had moved from Snitterfield and  was now  living in Stratford on Avon .  Her youngest daughter Ellen was also a widow.  She had been married to Private Amos Unitt but he had been killed at Pozieres in 1918  and Ellen had gone to Australia and re-married.

Mary Matiilda sent this postcard to her six year old  grandson in Australia.  His father Amos Latham Unitt had  been born in Stratford on Avon and so his name was entitled to be included on the War Memorial.

Stratford Memorial 1922 Back

I think there is a little bit more to this postcard.  It is stamped so has been sent to Mrs Tansey  without putting it in an envelope .  Then she has signed it as Gran and indicated that it was for her grandson Stan and it has ended up in Australia.   I think the two handwritings are different so who was it sent it to Mrs Tansey in the first place ?

Earlier than this, in 1907 on the other side of the world, Camp St in Beechworth was crowded  with four horse- drawn vehicles. Beechworth in north eastern Victoria is a remnant of the  gold rush in the 1850s  This postcard has a linen type texture which makes it hard to scan.  Bandmaster Tom Tansey and his wife were to live in this street in the 1930s.

Beechworth Postcard 1907Perhaps some day I will be able to find a family member connected to the recipient of this  Beechworth postcard and hand it over.

Beechworth Postcard 1900 BackA Parade is another way of crowding a street.  A Gala Day Parade is held each year in Geelong to raise money for the local hospital  Here is the Geelong West Brass Band marching down Moorabool Street in the Gala Day Parade in 1931.  The bandmaster was Eric Searle.  The band had been revived in 1929 after having lapsed a couple of times.


Anyone who follows the road bike racing might be interested to know that this is the part of Moorabool Street which was the start and finish of the 2010 World Road Championships Time Trials. and was the finishing point for the Road Races,

And in a Parade in Sydney c1938 the members of the Sydney Ladies Brass Band were on a highly decorated float, led by their trainer and conductor Hilda Tansey.

Float1For more interesting early  street scenes go to the links in Sepia Saturday


Holidays with Father

Suitcases are our theme for this week. It was impossible to go on holiday without a suitcase. Sometimes it even came in handy as a seat,

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERABarbara and Charles Fricke c1940 holidaying at Hastings, a small town on Westernport Bay in Victoria,  They were staying with Charles’s sister on an orchard, a couple of miles out of town. I suspect that Barbara was being left here on her own for a holiday. as I don’t think she would be going travelling with those muddy shoes !

F3 Travelling 1943 - Copy

Barbara and Charles Fricke again in 1943, this time walking down a street in the centre of Melbourne with a smaller suitcase while Charles sucks on his cigarette though a cigarette holder

Barbara is wearing a mixture of clothes.  Remember it is wartime and clothes coupons were issued for the purchase of clothes.  So… there is a navy blue hat – at least one hat was needed  for wearing to church.  Under the coat is a navy blue school uniform topped  with a hand-knitted russet coloured cardigan with a knitted tie at the neckline  to turn it into a going-out outfit.

I had always thought of the rationing in Australia as being due to shortages but apparently the reasons were more complex.  It’s also a bit embarrassing to  even think about it when you think of the severe rationing in Britain.

Australian Clothing Coupons from World War II.

Australian Clothing Coupons from World War II.

The Australian War Memorial Web site tells us …..

“Rationing regulations for food and clothing were gazetted on 14 May 1942. Rationing was introduced to manage shortages and control civilian consumption. It aimed to curb inflation, reduce total consumer spending, and limit impending shortages of essential goods. The broad reasoning behind the introduction of rationing was to ensure the equitable distribution of food and clothing. It was also hoped that a cut on consumer spending would lead to an increase in savings, which in turn could be invested in war loans.

Australians were never as short of food nor rationed as heavily as civilians in the United Kingdom. Rationing was enforced by the use of coupons and was limited to clothing, tea, sugar, butter, and meat. From time to time, eggs and milk were also rationed under a system of priority for vulnerable groups during periods of shortage.”

Go to Sepia Saturday for more links to people’s adventures with their suitcases.

2014.01W.18 (1)

ctoria, south-east of the capital Melbourne.

Re-visiting “What the children didn’t know”

Happy 200th birthday, Sepia Saturday.

2013.10W.04 I have only been a member of Sepia Saturday for three months which is only 7% of its lifetime.  So I was hesitant about re-publishing a post which was only made two months ago. But writing the post was a revelation to me as I started researching what was happening on the date which was written on the photo. This is a method I will continue to use whenever I know when a photo was taken but hopefully won’t be quite as long-winded in future.Garden party

Our theme for  today is groups of three. These three girls were  prizewinners at Mrs Burnell’s  garden Castlemaine, Central Victoria, on Nov 16th, 1940 . It was part of the way into World War II, when raising money for war effort charities such as the Comfort Fund, Red Cross or Bundles for Britain was the usual reason for holding a money-raising event. It was such a patriotic time, not so long after the last coronation and a new king, with the country at war.  Best dresses and hats were brought out  for this special occasion, and the pram reflects the feeling at the time  with its crown, its Australian flags and red, white and blue bunting.. Crepe paper was the standard material for these creations, willingly constructed by parents. .  And the special doll Elizabeth was  named ,of course, after Princess Elizabeth.

A typical pretty, peaceful, family album picture of the time.  But it is what the picture doesn’t show which makes it interesting to me.  When the two girls on the right got out of bed that morning they had probably been primed to wish their mother a happy birthday.  It was her forty-first birthday.  But they would have been blissfully unaware of the reaction of their parents when they opened their morning newspaper of choice, the Argus, from Melbourne, and its news of the war from England. .Two nights before the worst bombing raid on the city of Coventry was carried out.  Over 4000 homes were destroyed and over 500 people killed. Coventry was the home of the  children’s 90  year old maternal great grandmother.  I don’t know long it was to be before the Australian family  found out that she was alive and well and was to live for another two years. Then on the night of the garden party the Royal Air Force  retaliated by bombing Hamburg.

But the children weren’t aware of this.

The Ruins of Coventry Cathedral
The Ruins of Coventry Cathedral

Also on the other side of the world and on that same day the Warsaw ghetto was closed to the outside world by the Nazis. In the previous month the Jewish people of Warsaw, about one third of the total population , had been rounded up by the Nazis and  confined to a small are of the city, These 400,000 people were held behind three metre high walls topped with barbed wire.  And on this fatal day the gap was closed.  Thirty percent  of the population crowded into two and a half percent  of the area.

But the children in Castlemaine weren’t aware of this

chilldren in warsaw ghetto

or of a group of three children in the ghetto in Warsaw,

The garden party was held at the home of Mr and Mrs Burnell, a beautiful home with a large front lawn suitable for all the stalls and competitions that go with a fund-raising garden party.    It was directly across the road from  Thompson’s Englineering  & Pipe Works, established in 1875, where Mr Burnell was the General Manager.  He had won the MC during WorldWar I.  Thompson’s was the most important business in Castlemaine, commonly known as Thompson’s Foundry  and was spread out alongside the main railway line from Melbourne to Bendigo, an ideal position for transporting the heavy goods which  it made, a wide range of steam-engines, boilers, mining machinery, railway equipment and centrifugal pumps. But during World War II they made  artillery and tank guns, marine engines, circulating pumps and other heavy forging and foundry work.

Making guns for war, what  the children didn’t know.

How's this for a crankshaft ?
How’s this for a crankshaft ?

The  eldest girl in the photos remembers the workmen on their pushbikes, four and five abreast, sweeping up and down the Main Street on their way to and from work. With such a large work force the foundry had a piercing whistle  which screamed out at 7.00am, 7.20am and 7.30am. There was no excuse for being late for work and the whole town and beyond had its own non-negotiable alarm clock.

Small towns are such a web of people and places.  The mother of the two girls on the right had originally come to Castlemaine with her parents as from 1923 to 1928 her father worked in the office at Thompson’s and was Bandmaster of Thompson’s Foundry Band. This is the same man who brought a book on Shakespeare with him when he came to Australia.  The man really did have itchy feet and jumped as bandmaster from one small country town to another several times. The Foundry has had its own brass band since  1887 and 24 members of the band served in World War I, six of whom were killed.  I have no figures for the Second World War.

When is the world going to learn .


Thompson's in 1960
Thompson’s in 1960

And for more interesting stories about groups of three, click on the links in Sepia Saturday.


Peace and Processions

195 minibannerYou lived in the small town of Apollo Bay on the south coast of Victoria. So what did you do when the need to celebrate arose..  The usual thing  was to hold a procession, follow it with a lunch,  then some sports at the oval in the afternoon and conclude with a concert at night.

This is how Apollo Bay decided to celebrate Peace in July 1919.   On June 28, 1919, Germany and the Allied Nations (including Britain, France, Italy and Russia) had signed the Treaty of Versailles, formally ending the war. The procession started from “Milford House,” headed by the Band, in the following order:—Returned Soldiers in charge of Lieutenant W. Vipont, decorated vehicles, fancy costumes, lady riders, and riflemen   Some distance away from Apollo Bay the Camperdown Chronicle later  reported  that  bad weather spoilt the planned sports events so the children spent the afternoon playing games in the Mechanics Hall.

ABProcessionStreetThe town had organized its first ever procession two years before in April 1917 to celebrate Anzac Day.  Not exactly a celebration of peace but remembering fallen soldiers and a we-are-hoping-that-one -day-there-will-be-peace celebration – in its way a rehearsal for the Peace Celebration.   I think that this image is possibly for that day in 1917.  They are marching towards the south, shops and houses on their right and the ocean just outside the picture on their left.  It typifies the way that a small community has of celebrating – let’s get together and do what we can with what we have available to us –  people, a community hall, a sports oval and some imagination.

A report by the Colac Herald said the procession was led by returned servicemen followed by boys in white, all riding  white ponies. Then boys representing the nation’s hope, carried flags on poles. The remains of the Rifle Club followed – married men and men over military age being nearly all that is left of the Rifle Club. Vehicles and banners and representations of the Allied nations followed.

ABProcessionCircleAnother photo was taken when the reached the Sports Ground high on the bluff overlooking the ocean.

This description seems to fit the above photo boys on white ponies and dressed in white.  But whether 1917 or 1919 is not the important as I am merely trying to show that when they had some news that was worth celebrating at that time they followed the same formula

In the following  photo the people representing the various nations can be seen more clearly. Boadicea is there with her shield, girls in white looking as though they are ready to dance a maypole, Anzac written on the front of a drum, blackface used to represent some friendly countries, a Scot in a kilt.

AnzacDay(poss)Australian Screen has a short  video of a 1915 Empire Day pageant which follows the same formula as was used for the processions in Apollo Bay.  Please watch it and you’ll see the similarlity between how different towns celebrated.  I don’t know which town had this pageant

1915 Empire Day Pageant

This is how the Peace Celebration was reported in the Camperdown Chronicle , 19 July 1919.


Peace celebrations were held here on Saturday, but were greatly Interfered with by the inclement weather. The procession started from “Milford House,” headed by the Band, in tho following order:—Returned Soldiers, In charge of Lieutenant W. Vipont, decorated vehicles, fancy costumes, lady riders, and riflemen. Mr. J. J. Cross was awarded the prize offered for the best decorated vehicle. Lunch was partaken of in the hall, after which the children proceeded to the reserve, intending to indulge In races and sports, but the rain drove them back to the hall and the afternoon was’taken up till tea time playing games, etc In the evening a concert was held, the hall being packed right back into the vestibule. The pro gramme was as follows:—Pianoforte duet, Misses Jessie and Blanche Mc Phee; song, Mr. T. Fonin; song, Miss D. G. Stanford; song, Mr. M. M’Phee; selection by the Band; song, Mr. J. Jforan (encored); song, Miss D. Q. Stanford. The Pierrots then gave a short entertainment as follows:— Pianoforte duet. Misses M’Phee; trio, “Tooraloo,” Messrs. Mitchell, Murdoch and Cross; song, “Susie,” Miss Mitchell; patter, “Kiver Y,” Messrs. Murdoch and Cross; song and dance, “Keel-row,” Mr. and Mrs. A. Murdoch (encored); song, “Mr. Bear,” Miss E. .Berry (encored); song, “Bllla bong,” Mr. E. Cross; burlesque, “Tip perary,” Messrs. Stone, Mitchell, Mur doch and Cross; finale, “Leader of the Band,” Mr. A. Murdoch and Company. Supper was then partaken of and the proceedings terminated with “God Save the King.”

And can you imagine any self-respecting store in Melbourne neglecting to try and cash in on the Peace celebrations ?  Ladies and Gentlemen, spend up big – we now have Peace !

From the Melbourne Argus after the November 1918 Armiistice.

Argus ad 1918For other stories centred around Peace click on the links on Sepia Saturday.

Flags of Australia


We’re back at Apollo Bay on the southern coast of Victoria and talking about flags   Here we have the turning of the first sod of the Anglican Church in Australia at Apollo Bay in 1905.  And the  babe in arms is none other than Charles Fricke who later lived in Castlemaine and volunteered in the Militia between the wars, and whom I’ve written about before


Here  Charles is held by his mother with his father. wearing his hat at a rakish angle,  standing next to her looking at the camera. There had been no Anglican Church for his parents to marry in so their wedding service had been held in the local Mechanics Hall. 

Australia had been a separate nation with its own flag since 1901 but the flag on display is the British Union Jack. At this stage the ‘Anglican Church in Australia’ was still organized by the church in England, hence the British flag and not the Australian one.  It remained this way until 1961 when the Australian church separated and had its own Primate, later changing its name to the ‘Anglican Church of Australia ‘.  Here is a more recent picture of the beautiful little Gothic-style church. It was  completely built from local timbers as the area had no all-weather roads to bring in other materials and is virtually unchanged since it was built.


Australia had had its own flag since 1901, the design being the result of a competition. An exhibition of the nearly 40,00 entries was opened at the Exhibition Buildings in Melbourne on September 3rd, 1901 and the winning entry flew for the first time above the dome of the Exhibition Building.


A flag is a symbol of a nation and our flag tells the story of how the British Nation established a new society across the seas under the constellation of the Southern Cross. A larger star, the Commonwealth Star at first had six points to represent the federation of the six states in Australia. A seventh point was added later to represent the Territories such as the Northern Territory, the A.C.T (Australian Capital Territory), Norfolk Island, etc. The wisdom of the past and the hopes of the future.

So far, so good.  But it’s amazing what a learning experience putting together little bits and pieces for Sepia Saturday can be.  I didn’t know that  the winning flag design was never debated in the Australian Parliament – it was sent to England to be approved and it wasn’t until late 1902 that King Edward VII formally notified the Australian Government of the approval.

But  the flag still had no legal status beyond the original British Admiralty authorisations which only related to use at sea. It wasn’t until 1953 that the Flag Act was passed by the Menzies Government and Australia finally had an official national flag, one that was required to be flown in a superior position to any other national flag (including the Union Flag). Good on you old Bob Menzies!

Which goes a long way to explaining how, while  having its own Australian flag, the Union Jack continued to be used.


In 1915, Britain could not supply money for war loans. The Australian Government, under Prime Minister Billy Hughes, put in place a series of War Savings loans at 4.5% interest which later rose to 5%.

Well I wouldn’t mind 4½% at the moment, thank you !