Author Archives: pcashen

About pcashen

Retired South Australian high school teacher and social historian.

190. Strength of Empire Movement

The Strength of Empire Movement appears to have started in Melbourne in mid 1918. The founder was the Victorian member of parliament, Edmund Wilson Greenwood MLA. In his time, Greenwood held executive positions in the Anti-Liquor League of Victoria and the Australian Prohibition Council. He was a lay preacher (Methodist), a member of the Australian Natives Association and a strong pro-conscriptionist.

Branches of the movement were established in metropolitan and country centres and the movement spread to other states. It also appears to have had some links to the British National Council for Combating Venereal Disease. The charter of the movement had 3 key demands: the introduction of war-time prohibition, using the model introduced in Canada; the use of a ‘bare’ or simple majority in votes to determine the introduction of local prohibition districts; and the application of ’strong measures’ to ‘ensure purity’ (eliminate or limit venereal disease). The movement proclaimed itself intensely loyal to the Empire and represented all its work as underpinning and reinforcing Australia’s commitment to the Empire and the war effort.

The AIF’s perceived problem with ‘drink’ – particularly in the case of returning soldiers – and attempts to combat VD were very much in the public mind at the time.

In early 1918 a Senate inquiry had been set up to investigate the harmful effects of drink on soldiers, particularly in relation to those returning home. The Age (11/1/18) described the function of this enquiry:

… to inquire as to the extent to which intoxicating liquor was adversely affecting outgoing and returned soldiers, and the best method of dealing with the sale of intoxicating liquor during the period of the war and afterwards.

The select committee was adjourned mid year (1918) and its final report did not even appear before the Armistice. Its key recommendation was ‘anti-shouting legislation’ to reduce the level of drinking of returned soldiers.

There was much evidence presented by military authorities, the police and the medical and welfare institutions caring for returned soldiers. It was claimed that drink reduced the soldier’s efficiency, that it had restricted the level of enlistments, that it was overwhelmingly responsible for instances of poor discipline in the field and that returning soldiers in particular were at acute risk.

At the time, some argued that restrictions such as closing local pubs when troopships arrived in port did not go far enough and nothing less that total prohibition would protect the returning soldiers. They argued that the whole of society had a moral duty to protect the returning soldiers and agree to prohibition. The counter view was that society did not have the right to protect the men from themselves, particularly given that the same men had, as volunteers, served the country so commendably. The situation represented the inherent tension between the way society had lionised the men for more than 4 years but now, on their return, was imposing major restrictions on their liberty.

The issue of VD was also very topical. In late 1916, the Victorian Parliament had passed legislation intended to curb the spread of venereal disease. The legislation attempted to stop the work of ’quacks’ peddling bogus treatments. It also attempted to force those with VD to seek out professional medical support. All cases had to be reported to the ‘medical inspector’ so that accurate records could be maintained. The patient was required to accept treatment until a formal statement of ‘cure’ could be issued by the medical practitioner. There was also provision for apprehending and then enforcing treatment for those with VD who refused to comply with the new provisions. At the very end of 1918 there were further legislative attempts. For example, there was a push to give the ‘medical inspector’ the authority to inform either the other party or the parents of the other party that the person he or she or their child was about to marry was infected with the disease. The equivalent law in NSW carried a five year jail term. Many critics voiced the concern that while the legislation focused on the identification and treatment of disease, the larger problem lay outside the law and was driven by the low moral character of those affected. In theory, their solution lay with the elimination of prostitution and the promotion of a more ‘pure’ citizenry.

Importantly, drink and VD were seen, and always represented by reformers, as intimately linked. In this view, drink or inebriation was the root cause of VD and if drink could be curtailed then the incidence of VD would fall. Prohibition would address both major social problems.

One of the cruel realities that drove the debate about VD was the incidence of children born with the disease, and also the number of ante-natal deaths caused by it. In an opinion piece in The Age ( 22/9/17) under the heading The Scourge of Venereal Disease, medical experts outlined the extent to which the diseases affected children:

At the eighth session of the Australasian Medical Congress in Melbourne a special meeting was held concerning syphilis. Dr. P. B. Bennie, reporting on behalf of the section for disease of children, said he inferred that “fully 25 per cent. of the sick children in Melbourne are tainted with syphilis, and that about 10 per cent. of the total number of children in Melbourne are syphilised. .. nearly half the children who die are infected with syphilis. Speaking generally the chances of dying before puberty are for the syphilitic seven times greater than for the non-syphilitic.

The same article referred to the large number of stillborn because of the disease and the equally large number of infants who died because they were born with it. It gave an overall figure of 6,000 deaths, nationwide. At the other end of life, the impact of syphilis was also documented. The same article noted that,

In our lunatic asylums 60 per cent. of the most loathsome, miserable, heartrending cases are victims of this dreadful disease.

The notoriety of Langwarrin as a special AIF hospital for VD cases also served to highlight the prevalence of the disease. Moreover, the statistics gathered at Langwarrin over the War years had revealed another worrying reality: the reformers’ call for ‘purity’ had to extend beyond the common prostitute. Even the notion of the ‘respectable woman’ needed qualification. The article noted that

… statistics that the establishment of the Langwarrin camp has enabled the military authorities to collect – and they are the first reliable statistics it has been possible to obtain on the subject – reveal the startling and disturbing fact that in only 18 per cent. of cases has the disease been caught from common women of the street. The remaining 82 per cent. of the cases were due to association with semi-respectable girls or women, whom the police could not arrest as vagrants.

Obviously, the 2 key areas targeted by the Strength of Empire Movement – drink and VD – had a very high profile over the War years and this profile picked up as the return of the AIF neared. The movement pushed both causes within the context of supporting the War effort and defending the Empire. However, social reformers of many kinds had pushed strongly for prohibition and action against VD before the War and they were to continue their efforts in the post-War period.

It appears that the War years were significant because they provided reformers with what was portrayed as a more urgent and desperate social, political and moral background. They were able to represent the time – not just the War itself but also the period of demobilisation – as one that called for radical solutions. Certainly, (Protestant) religious reformers saw the War as an opportunity for the Christian community to turn back to God, shed their sinful ways and strive to become better people and more loyal and dutiful members of the Empire. It is arguable that their efforts intensified after the loss of the 2 conscription referenda. Moreover, even those who were not religious in their motivation saw the dangers that that the twin evils of drink and VD posed to society and the Empire.

This was the general background to the attempt to establish a local branch of the Strength of Empire Movement in Yarram in the second half of 1918. Given local support, if not zeal, for temperance and the incessant call for religious revival from the local Protestant clergy, the Strength of Empire Movement and the Shire of Alberton appeared to be the perfect fit.

In an editorial on 9/8/18 the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative actively promoted the coming meeting:

The Strength of Empire Movement will be launched on Monday night in Thompson’s Hall by Mr. Gifford Gordon, one of Melbourne’s most notable platform speakers. He is directly acquainted with the facts and effects of drink and disease in hindering Australia’s part in the war. The leading citizens of the State have already identified themselves with this movement to secure wartime prohibition and eliminate venereal disease.

The local paper subsequently provided (14/8/18) a very detailed account of the public meeting. It led with a note of disappointment that so few attended what it described as … a forceful and able address on the evils of drink and immorality. The editor (A J Rossiter) stated that he could not understand why so few locals had attended … as the movement has been inaugurated for the purpose of assisting in winning the war. He could not understand why people did not want to be enlightened on … the evils in our midst which go to sap the virility of the nation. Nor could he understand how while … hundreds turn out to picture shows, only tens attended an address which was for the enlightenment of the people.

The meeting was chaired by two local Protestant ministers: Rev C J Walklate (Methodist) and Rev A R Raymond (Church of England). Walklate’s brother had been killed in the War (22/10/17) and Raymond’s son had also been killed (9/4/17). Both clergymen were recognised as staunch Imperial Loyalists in the community and Walklate, in particular, was very active in the local temperance movement. He was also one of the most outspoken pro-conscriptionists in the local community.

The guest speaker from Melbourne was Gifford Gordon, a prohibitionist. He was very involved with the Victorian Anti-Liquor league. He told the audience that he had been … released form his church for six months in order that he might do what he considered his duty to his country and his fellow creatures. He expressed disappointment at the low number of locals there and stated that he had been … assured that he would have an audience of about 400 people. Indications are that there were less than 50 present. At the end of the night there was a collection taken to cover the costs of the meeting but the results were very disappointing.

Mr. Gordon said he was rather disappointed at the amount given, and unless more was received he would be sent out of town in debt.

Gordon described how the Strength of Empire Movement had been started earlier that year (1918) by E W Greenfield MLA who … believed he had been raised up by God to help and strengthen the people in their efforts to do their utmost for the Empire in this most critical period. Then Gordon outlined what the movement stood for:

Firstly, it was for war prohibition and prohibition during the period of demobilisation. Secondly, for the democratic principle of of a bare majority in regard to [the] local option instead of a three-fifths majority. Thirdly, it stood for purity, and to urge the Government to cope with the terrible evils that were attacking home life.

Gordon declared that he personally supported the movement because … it was in the best interests of the community, and because he was a Britisher. To be loyal a person had to live a life worthy of the great Empire. He believed that the … ideals of the movement were in the best interests of the country, and most of all for the soldier.

Gordon then proceeded to give an extraordinary account of the effect of alcohol on the War effort. Earlier posts have touched on the push for prohibition over the War years and the threat that drink posed to the AIF but Gordon’s remarks that night were striking. At the outset, he claimed that the single factor that had most harmed the War effort over the past 4 years had been ‘intoxicating drink’. Drink lay behind every problem:

It has robbed the firing line of thousands and thousands of men, has caused strikes and all sorts of impediments towards the successful issue of the war. Millions of pounds have been expended in the manufacture of intoxicating drink that should have been used for food for people who were almost on the verge of starvation.

Gordon did not see this as a uniquely Australian problem. Drink had compromised effort across the Empire. He gave the example of Canada where, in the early stages of the War, the temptation of drink had undone all the fine efforts of those promoting and enforcing prohibition and even the desperate wishes of the mothers of the young men:

When Canada sent over her troops they carried with them the requests from thousands of mothers to keep the boys away from drink. These lads had come from prohibition camps and had gone across in prohibition ships. The request was honoured for a while, but the ranks were eventually broken through, and the cry of those mothers disregarded, and tens of thousands of those boys who had never known the taste of drink before were returned home disgraced and degraded, and never saw the firing line; and this through drink.

But Gordon also praised both Canada and the USA for their much tougher stance on prohibition. He presented a stark difference between Canada and Australia. Canada, with prohibition, had been able to make a far more significant contribution to the Empire:

The success of the prohibition movement in Canada should be an example. Canada and prohibition has presented 150 aeroplanes to England and 600 to the United States. Australia has sent none. Canada has built 89 ships and sent them laden with provisions: Australia had built none. Canada loaned £ 81,000,000 to Great Britain; Australia had borrowed £ 139,000,000. The expenditure in Canada on drink would soon be nil; in Australia it was about £ 18,000,000. That was the difference between prohibition and a licensed evil.

Gordon’s address also featured a full-on expose of what he saw as the extent to which drink had undermined the AIF and limited the size of the army Australia could raise. People in his audience would have known of the harmful effects of drink – and the actions taken to try to limit its effects – in the training camps in Australia and on overseas service, but Gifford was presenting a far worse picture. It was a picture of how Australia had failed the Empire:

It might be news to the people to know that 60,000 Australian boys who were in camp never left these shores because of drink. They enlisted because duty called them, and their aims and ambitions were to fight for their country. But the cursed drink defeated them. If we tolerate this sort of thing then we should not claim to be loyal subjects of the British Empire. This awful barrier that came between the boy and his duty should be swept away. Think of the hundreds of thousands of lads who were defeated this way when the mother country was calling for more men; and yet we sanctioned it. It was all very well for the Government to send out recruiting sergeants to get men to enlist, but they allowed these boys to be surrounded with the two great evils – drink and bad women.

[Commonwealth figures from the time – The Senate, 5/12/18 – referred to 68,937 men who had enlisted (upto the end of 1917) who did not go to war. The reasons given were: ‘some had died, some had deserted, and some were discharged.]

Later in his speech Gordon claimed that, Ninety per cent. of the boys who proved unsatisfactory as soldiers were defeated through drink.

Gordon also specifically targeted the drink problems associated with the returned men. He referred to the … thousands of broken hearts and broken homes amongst the returned soldiers caused by the cursed drink alone… and in a striking image he described how … it made his heart bleed to see some of the boys who had returned, some with one limb or one eye, staggering down the street defeated by these curses [drink and bad women].

Commonly, the Strength of Empire Movement held separate meetings for men and women, presumably because of sensitivities over any discussion of venereal disease. But on this occasion Gordon spoke on the topic to a combined audience. The comments were general and focused on the extent of the problem. He referred to it as ‘the purity question’. He also claimed that the authorities had tried to keep the extent of the problem concealed and that in a real sense it was just another manifestation of the problem of drink:

There had been a conspiracy to screen the awful vice of impurity, but it was time now that the veil was lifted. Eighty per cent. of those people affected with that awful venereal disease was the direct result of drink.

He gave statistics on the problem from the UK and Australia, emphasising the number of babies born with the disease, the number of ante-natal deaths and extent of childless marriages. He also claimed that, Eight thousand Australian boys had been treated in Langwarrin camp during the war. He even claimed that ’high medical authorities’ had determined that VD had … killed more British people in one year than all the victims of this great war.

He also touched on the fear of ‘race suicide’, another preoccupation of the time. Australia, or more specifically White Australia, was threatened by a low birth rate, war deaths and casualties and, of course, drink and venereal disease. White Australia was destroying itself through its own reckless and wanton ways. Gordon claimed,

The Health Department had stated that unless the disease [VD] was checked that in 50 years the population would be devastated and we as a people would cease to exist, and that drink was in the main the cause.

Earlier he had despaired that, Australia could not work out the destiny that was intended for it if it allowed this damnable curse [drink] to continue.

Obviously, Gordon was talking that night to the converted. Presumably, the people there were the same locals who had always been strong in local Temperance circles and who had called, for example, for the cancellation of the liquor licence of the local co-op store (See 2 earlier posts: 97. The war against drink and 151. The war against drink 2: the grocer’s licence at the Yarram Co-op Store.) But the comments were at odds with the conventional view of Australia’s support for the War – to the last man and the last shilling – and also the image of the Anzac, as the epitome of the Australian male. With regard to the latter, Gordon had the Anzac as someone lacking in character and moral strength, addled by drink and cursed by VD. He had to be protected from himself. His image of the returned, wounded Anzac staggering down the street in the thrall of drink was decidedly at odds with the common talk of returning heroes who could never truly be repaid the debt their country owed them.

Arguably, the activity of the Strength of Empire Movement represented the early manoeuvring of religious zealots, social reformers and conservative politicians as they prepared for the return of the AIF. For this broad alliance, the men of the AIF would be welcomed as heroes but, equally, their natural failings, augmented by 4 years of war, needed to be contained. They could not be allowed to set the social and moral agenda.

The tension between the Anzac as hero and the Anzac as menace and the related debate as to what represented reasonable limits on their behaviour were both very topical. One specific example illustrates the situation. From mid 1918 there was controversy over returned AIF men having to wear blue arm bands. Army regulations required that returned men, still receiving treatment in hospital, had to wear blue arm bands when they went on leave. Publicans were prohibited from selling alcohol to any AIF member wearing one of the arm bands. The returned soldiers themselves could easily circumvent the requirement but the broader issue over the appropriateness of the measure certainly touched the public conscience.

John Vale, a leading prohibitionist, supported the blue arm bands as a responsible, interim measure on the path to full prohibition. He clearly recognised their limitations but he urged that people saw them as a sign of courage. His views appeared in the Spectator and Methodist Chronicle on 14/8/18:

There are two quite different ways of regarding the blue bands on the arms of our disabled soldiers. ‘To some they appear to be insulting and futile. They are certainly a poor substitute for the measure of Prohibition, which would apply to soldiers and civilians alike; but no right-minded person will regard them as insulting. In Britain a complete suit of blue is the hospital uniform, and usually secures for the wearer special respect and consideration. The blue band on the soldier should be taken as the outward and visible sign of courage in the wearer. It may point to cowardice on the part of politicians.

The following letter – from a Mr W Seamer of Yarraville – appeared in The Herald a few days later (17/8/18). While it also advocated prohibition as the only solution it also highlighted the extent of the heavy-handedness of the authorities and the perverse way the ‘heroes’ were punished while the ‘slackers’ were rewarded.

Why should we call one gambler a patriot and another “a rogue and a vagabond?” Why should we legalise the open temptation and encouragement to drink and then punish the drunkard? Why, indeed, should not the blue arm band principle be applied all round? It is cruel and selfish to have taught some of these noble fellows to love drink and now make them stand by and see the beer they love swallowed by selfish stay-at-homes. They have lost their health for our sakes and must abstain to regain that health. If we were to all adopt the blue arm band principle we should not only help them, but would be everyone of us morally and physically better for the self-denial. That is scientifically and experimentally indisputable. Then, if we are humans or patriots, why not do it?

The last comment on these bands comes from a local from the Shire of Alberton. It was made by H J Alford at the unveiling of the school honor roll at Wonwron and it appeared in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 7/8/18. Alford, as the father of heroes, was very clear about what he thought of the arrangement. He even employed then unchallenged racial slurs to castigate those who refused to accept the worth of the returning men – men returning to their ‘native ‘ land – and who were unwilling to repay the debt owed.

Mr. H. J. Alford stated he was pleased to be present. He had three sons at the war, and one had paid the supreme sacrifice, but as a father he would sooner any of them die a hero than a shirker. They had done their bit for us, but had we done anything for them? He stated that before long he thought the Returned Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Association, the Fathers’ Association, and the Sisters’ Association would unite and make things better for the heroes and worse for the shirkers. He was of the same opinion as Cr. O ‘Connor that land should be given to those who wanted it, and they shouldn’t pay for it. He disagreed with the Department’s decision to put bands around returned men’s arms thus preventing them from being served with liquor. This he thought the blackfellows’ brand. He trusted that the remaining 27 men on the roll would be spared to return to their native land. (Applause.)

Rev Walklate was still trying to establish a local branch of the Strength of Empire Movement in Yarram in October 1918 but he was not having much success. However, with or without a local branch of this particular movement, it was clear that, everywhere, the return of the AIF – both those men already back in Australia and the vast number still to return – was generating a complex and volatile mix of unrealistic expectations and deeply-considered anxieties.

References

The Age
The Herald
Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative
Spectator and Methodist Chronicle

Stanley, P 2015, ’Enduring: Sacrifice, Aborigines and Sex’, in Connor, J, Stanley, P, Yule, P, 2015, The War at Home, Volume 4 The Centenary History of Australia and the Great War, Oxford, South Melbourne.

Cochrane, P, 2018, Best We Forget: The War for White Australia 1914 – 18, The Text Publishing Company, Melbourne.

Stanley, P, 2010, Bad Characters: Sex, Crime, Mutiny, Murder and the Australian Imperial Force, Pier 9, Millers Point NSW.

 

189. Spanish Flu. Part 1

The 1918-1919 Spanish Flu pandemic is estimated to have killed 50 + million worldwide. In Australia, estimates have about 40% of the population affected to some degree by the virus and between 12,000 -15,000 deaths. In Europe at the time, it was determined that there were 3 waves, with the first in March 1918, the second more fatal wave from September to November 1918 and the third wave in early 1919.

In Australia, the disease was not officially identified until early January 1919 and the initial outbreak was also followed by an equivalent series of waves over the next 12 -18 months. Worldwide, the disease was particularly virulent and, unlike previous historical pandemics, on this occasion the young and fit were particularly susceptible. Death from Pneumonia was a common outcome and, in fact, in Australia the disease was referred to as ‘ Pneumonic Influenza’. The movement of large numbers of soldiers on transport ships played a critical role in the spread of the disease, particularly the movement of US troops to and from Europe over 1918-1919. However, there is still much about the pandemic which remains unknown, including its origin and the reasons for its particular virulence.

This initial post looks at the period through the second half of 1918 as the nature and extent of the threat facing Australia became apparent. A subsequent post next year will cover the actual impact and responses.

The perceived threat posed by the influenza pandemic on Australia was inextricably tied up with views of Australia’s ‘natural’ protection which were themselves tied to its geographical isolation. Admittedly, during the War, many had argued vehemently that Australia was not protected by its isolation. There was the famous 1918 enlistment poster by Lindsay (below) of defenceless Australians being shot by German soldiers against the tank stand in the back yard. The threat of German invasion was proclaimed as real and Australia could not simply rely on its unique geography. Similarly, the fear of an unpopulated and defenceless North was widely seen as an ongoing threat to both national integrity and the White Australia policy. However, there was also the common-sense conviction that Australia was greatly protected by its isolation. Certainly, in the case of the flu pandemic, both the medical authorities and the general population were initially reassured by the relative isolation. Also, Australia, again because of its relative isolation, had time to prepare for the flu should it breach the natural defence of geography.

The flu itself was hardly unknown at the time. Moreover even then, before the pandemic, it could and did kill, most commonly from either pneumonia or heart complications. For example, the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative reported on 4/11/14 a severe flu outbreak at Womerah:

Severe forms of influenza have been responsible for confining many residents to their beds for a few days. The most serious case was that of Mrs. E. Stokes, who is being attended by Nurse Cocking [ Alice E Cocking enlisted in the AAMC in July 1915] of the Bush Nursing staff. On Wednesday evening it was thought that the patient was suffering from pneumonia, and the services of Dr. Rutter were quickly requesistioned. Anxiety was relieved when the doctor assured the nurse that it was only a severe attack of influenza.

Similarly, on 23/6/15 the paper reported the death of a 52 yo, highly respected local who had died from … heart failure following on an attack of influenza.

Word that there was a far more virulent form of influenza in Europe seems to have started to appear in the Australian press around June 1918. From late June, there were reports, admittedly very limited, that spoke of ’Spanish Influenza’. For example, Under the headlines Spanish Influenza in London and Hospitals Overcrowded, The Age (26/6/18) described how … Spanish Influenza is spreading in London. It noted that it was ‘extremely contagious’. Similarly, on 2/7/18 The Argus reported:

Influenza is spreading rapidly through the English towns, half the employees in some factories and business places being incapacitated by it. There are thousands of cases in London.

However, it then added, presumably at the direction of the censor:

The attack generally, however, is not serious, and only a few cases are fatal.

And it also noted – again, presumably, to level the perceived playing field – that the disease was …  also prevalent throughout Germany. In fact, at the time, there were several stories specifically detailing the extent of the epidemic in Germany.

In a short time, the level of fatalities associated with the flu became an issue. The Argus on 4/7/18 again noted how quickly the flu outbreak was spreading in England. Schools were now being closed and the number of children affected was very significant. Reporting on the situation in the Midlands, the paper noted:

Four thousand children at Dudley (in the heart of the “black country”) are affected and there have been some deaths.

A little later, The Age (23/7/18) reported that in the past fortnight there had been 5,500 deaths in England and Wales. However, the reporting remained inconsistent. For example, on 31/8/18 The Argus gave a contradictory account of the ’So-called Spanish Sickness’. It noted its prevalence in the UK – and, again, also in Germany – and quoted the London Daily Telegraph as stating that … In nearly every part of the Empire the epidemic continues to rage. Yet it also declared how fortunate it was that … the epidemic is taking a mild form.

Those back in Australia would also have been receiving word of family members who had been hospitalised with (Spanish) influenza. For example, in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 21/8/18 there was a reference to the family of Private A J Cummings receiving word that he had been admitted to hospital in Birmingham suffering from ‘Influenza, pleurisy and effusion.’ Alfred John Cummings was a carpenter from Yarram who had enlisted as a 25 yo in November 1915. After his hospitalisation with the flu he was repatriated to Australia and discharged as medically unfit.

McQueen (1976) has argued that between July 1918 and February 1919 … Australian troops in Britain suffered approximately a 10 per cent infection rate. He added that of this number 209 cases were fatal.

Against the picture of what was developing in Europe it was hardly surprising that any outbreak of (normal) flu in Australia took on a more sinister characteristic. In mid August 1918, The Age (17/8/18) reported on an outbreak of flu at the Broadmeadows Camp. It actually described it as ’Spanish influenza’:

A particularly severe type of influenza, believed to be a form of Spanish influenza, has broken out at the A.I.F. training camp at Broadmeadows. The epidemic first started about a week ago, and already over 150 recruits have been affected. The sickness has also made its appearance at the military camp at Laverton, although in a lesser degree. It is estimated that at the two camps the cases so far reported number at least 200. Patients have been arriving at the base hospital, St. Kilda road, at the rate of 30 and 40 a day. Some of them are very ill indeed. The sickness starts like an ordinary cold, and is followed by feverishness and severe pains in the head. In two or three cases the illness has developed into pneumonia, but so far there have been no deaths.

The same article accused the authorities of trying to … unduly minimise the extent of the epidemic at Broadmeadows.

The official response – The Argus 19/8/18 – from the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) was that the reporting was ‘very much exaggerated’ and that the outbreak at Broadmeadows … was simply the ordinary form of influenza and that no one was seriously ill. The Age (19/8/18) reported the same official line but continued to accuse the military authorities of ‘secrecy’ over the numbers of men at the camps who had been struck down by the sickness.

In the heightened awareness of of the time, there were ongoing reports of outbreaks of (normal) flu. For example, The Argus reported on 24/8/18 how the Melbourne Hospital had just set a record for admissions (400) as a result of ‘Winter influenza’.

In The Age on 7/10/18, there was a report that the flu was affecting the rate at which US troops were being sent to Europe. The rate had been 250,000 per month but this number was to be curtailed as there were 100,000 cases of influenza in ‘home camps’. The same report noted the very serious situation developing in South Africa:

The spread of Spanish influenza is assuming unprecedented proportions. Nothing like it has ever been known in South Africa. Every industry and public department is more or less seriously affected.

Towards the end of 1918, there was no doubt that those in Australia knew that the ‘Spanish Influenza’ was a major, international health crisis.

Also in October 1918, the authorities began issuing advice should the influenza pandemic reach Australia. They were still hopeful that Australia could escape the pandemic but should it arrive the best advice was ’strict isolation’. On 25/10/18 the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative published recommendations issued by the officer in charge of the Quarantine Department:

“Most people know that influenza is spread from person to person with extraordinary rapidity, and the only way its progress through the community can be stayed is by the most rigid isolation on the part of not only the patient, but all who have contact with him from the time of attack. Such isolation includes confinement to bed, separation from children, and all others in the household, except one personal attendant, who should, of course, not come into contact with the rest of the household more than can possibly be avoided.”

By itself, Australia’s geographic isolation was increasingly seen as insufficient protection and the pandemic was moving closer. Its progress appeared inevitable and unstoppable. First South Africa and then New Zealand became the focus of attention. On 18/10/18 the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative gave an account of the dire situation in South Africa:

It is officially stated that the deaths from the influenza epidemic in Cape Town and suburbs from 1st to 13th October number 5,000, of which 33 per cent. were Europeans. Signs of abatement are now evident locally, but the disease is spreading rapidly in country districts. The outbreak took on epidemic proportions in the first week of October. No similar development of influenza, so rapidly assuming virulent characteristics, with such a high mortality, had previously been known anywhere.

In late December 1918, with Australia still officially free of the influenza, the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative described the crisis in New Zealand. It used war deaths to drive home the very high mortality level:

Seven hundred and sixty people died in 21 days in Auckland from Spanish Influenza. The total New Zealand losses in the war amounted to 12,000, while between 4000 and 5000 died in four weeks from influenza.

Then it rounded out the warning by pointing out that in the USA … this plague killed six times as many people as the war.

In late November 1918, there was a conference in Melbourne involving all the state health ministers to plan for an outbreak of the flu. At the meeting, a series of protocols for the notification of the disease and strategies for tackling it were agreed by all parties. The Commonwealth was given the critical lead responsibility. The Age (27/11/18) under the headlines The Influenza Peril and States and Commonwealth to Co-operate reported on the level of cooperation between the states and Commonwealth:

The conference of representatives from the various States, convened by the Commonwealth Government to consider methods of co-operation in regard to the influenza peril, met at Federal Parliament House [Melbourne] yesterday. … The fullest co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States … was assured in any steps that it might be necessary to take in combating any epidemic.

However, at this point – less than 20 years after Federation – there was no Commonwealth Department of Health and, as events were to show, Spanish Flu was going to test key principles underpinning the very ideal of federation. State borders were about to be re-imposed.

Not surprisingly, by the end of 1918 the level of anxiety in Australia was high. In fact, some were convinced in November and December that the flu – the Spanish Flu – had already taken hold. For example, on 15/11/18, an editorial in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative ran together the increasing number of deaths in New Zealand with reports of ‘further deaths’ in Sydney. Certainly, people realised that the most likely source of any outbreak would be returning soldiers, and, not surprisingly, some would have reasoned that this line of defence had already been breached. The same paper on 27/11/18 noted the need to maintain strict quarantine:

Several district soldiers were aboard the troopship that arrived in the Bay on Monday, but to guard against an outbreak of Spanish influenza, the boys are obliged to remain in quarantine for three days, until tomorrow.

Australia was more fortunate than most other nations at the time. It knew what it was facing and had had time to prepare. It was protected by its isolation and it knew the most likely source of entry for the disease. But in the end, ‘Spanish Flu’ or ‘Pneumonic Influenza’ did penetrate the country’s defences and while the death rate in the general population was not as severe as elsewhere – the death rate in Indigenous communities was very high – the level of infection certainly did reach epidemic proportions. The effects were bound to be both medical and psychological.

References

The Age

The Argus

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

McQueen, H 1976, “The ‘Spanish’ Influenza Pandemic in Australia, 1912-19”, in J Roe (ed.), Social Policy in Australia Some Perspectives 1901 -1975, Cassel Australia, Melbourne, pp. 131 147.

For a general background on the epidemic see the online resource Influenza pandemic from the National Museum of Australia’s Defining Moments in Australian History series.

 

 

Courtesy of Australian War Memorial

188. Valentine Crowley and the cost of disloyalty

Prior to the 1950s power throughout Gippsland was provided largely by private companies, with hydro-electric generation the preferred model. Many of these private electricity companies were set up during WW1. For example, the Yarram Hydro-Electricity Supply Company was set up in 1917. Local councils were generally reluctant to take on the significant financial costs involved in setting up the necessary infrastructure and the associated management and operating costs. Similarly, while local businesses and residents were keen on the idea of the new technology, they were as reluctant to purchase shares in the companies set up. There was also a raft of technical and engineering challenges involved in what was the new technology of the time.

Against this background, there appears to have been one individual who was critical to the success of setting up and operating these new ventures. Valentine J Crowley was an electrical engineer based in Melbourne who, as well as providing the engineering expertise, vigorously prompted the various schemes and sourced the essential capital – essentially from Melbourne backers – to set up the companies. At Yarram, in October 1916, a public meeting was held to present plans for the formation of the proposed electricity company. The meeting was reported, extensively, in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 27/10/16. The report makes it clear that Crowley was the driving force behind the proposal and the chief spokesperson at the meeting.

At the meeting Crowley outlined the technology to be employed – hydro electricity generated from the Tarra River – as well as the arrangements involved in the transfer of the option for supply of electricity from the exisiting provider – the local butter factory – to the new company. Additionally, he detailed how the company would be financed – 10,000 shares at £1 per share – and his role in securing the essential backing of Melbourne capital. Under the proposal, Crowley himself was to receive 150 shares. Crowley also detailed the composition of the board of directors. As well, he spent a lot of time promoting the business opportunities that electricity would bring. He claimed it would support regionalism and decentralisation and maintain both population and employment in rural areas, such as the Shire of Alberton. There was considerable vision:

Mr. Crowley mentioned woollen mills for Gippsland, the climate approximating that of Bradford in England, where the best tweeds were made. Electricity meant decentralisation, for manufactories would start and keep men in the country.

Importantly, while on this occasion he was promoting the development of a power company specifically for the Shire of Alberton, Crowley emphasised how all the existing and planned Gippsland power companies could, in time, act as an interconnected system. It was a prescient vision. The report in the local paper noted his plan.

Eventually all the schemes in Gippsland would be linked up. The Toora scheme would be extended to Fish Creek and to Leongatha. The next line, at Warragul, would extend to Drouin, across to Korumburra, and connect at Yarram. North and South Gippsland would be linked up by electricity, and later East Gippsland would be embraced. The local scheme would extend to Alberton, and it is proposed to take Jack River in.

The reality of a single system across Gippsland would not not come until after WW2; and then it would be a public enterprise.

At the time, Crowley was himself heavily involved in all these separate Gippsland operations he mentioned. He had controlling interest in the Toora and Foster Electric Company Ltd. which had been formed in 1915. He was also heavily involved in the Warragul Hydro-Electric Company. Moreover, while he was the key player in the supply of electricity in Gippsland, he also had extensive involvement in the provision of other services – for example, water and electric trams – in other rural areas, such as Clunes and Werribee. He was also heavily involved in similar projects in (outer) Melbourne suburbs, including Ringwood, Croydon, Doncaster and Lilydale.

Overall, Valentine J Crowley was a very successful engineer/entrepreneur/company director/publicist. He was very well known and respected right across Gippsland and, specifically, in the Shire of Alberton.

However, neither his fame nor success could save him when, in mid 1918, he was charged with and convicted of the offence – under the War Precautions Act (1914-16) – of making statements calculated to prejudice recruiting.

The case held at Foster on 25/101/8. It was reported widely and, specifically, in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 30/10/18.

The case related to remarks made by Crowley on a train trip from Foster to Meeniyan much earlier in the year on 31/5/18. On the day, he had been in conversation with 3 other passengers, one of whom was Constable Johnston of Meeniyan. It is probable that Crowley did not know Johnston was a police officer. Further, it must have been Johnston who initiated the charge.

The conversation on the War apparently started after Crowley revealed to the others that he had spoken to a returned Anzac. Crowley claimed that this Anzac had told him that McKie/McCay [the Gallipoli commander, Lieutenant General (Sir) James McCay] had been responsible for the slaughter of 9,000 men in one night [Fromelles, 19/7/16 when there were 5,500 AIF casualties]. Crowley was also claimed to have stated that German officers were superior to their British equivalents and that whereas people had been told that on the Western Front one British soldier was fighting 10 German soldiers, the reverse was true.

In the court case, the 3 men who were involved in the conversation with Crowley on the train that day, including the police constable, stated that they did not agree with Crowley at the time and that they had made this clear to him. One stated that he had explicitly told Crowley that he (Crowley) was disloyal. They also stated that they believed Crowley was wrong and that they did not believe that they had been influenced in any way by his comments. Further, they accepted that no other passengers on the train had overhead the conversation.

On the advice of his lawyer, Crowley did not give evidence.The lawyer did not dispute the general content and nature of the conversation that had taken place on the train but he argued that it was a private conversation between the 4 men and the others there had disagreed with Crowley’s claims and made this known at the time. He argued that the men had not believed the claims and nor had they been influenced by them. Crowley’s lawyer maintained that ‘the case had not been proved’.

However, Crowley was found guilty and fined £5 with nearly £10 costs and one month’s imprisonment in default.

Arguably, the guilty finding reflected the fact that a higher standard of behaviour and patriotic sentiment was expected of someone with Crowley’s social standing and high profile in the community.

In his opening remarks, the prosecutor had … contended that [the] defendant in making such statements had gone too far. He was an educated man, and knew such statements were likely to prejudice recruiting of his Majesty’s forces, and were weights on the minds of men who were thinking of enlisting. Had Crowley stood up at a recruiting meeting and delivered the comments then, in theory, they might have had a negative impact on the intentions of those there planning to enlist. Obviously, in such a case, under the legislation, he could have been charged. More likely – particularly if he had been a ’unknown’, lone individual – he would have been howled down and ejected from the meeting.

But this particular case only involved a conversation between several men. However, while it was an unplanned, limited, private conversation it could still attract the attention of the authorities. The law allowed the focus to be on what was said rather than the context in which the comments were made. Even though Crowley’s comments had not influenced the men involved – other reports indicated that none of them, because of either age or occupation, were even eligible to enlist – the court determined that Crowley’s claims by themselves, outside of any actual context, would have had the effect of discouraging enlistment. It was a very potent interpretation and a powerful reminder to everyone to watch what they said.

Nor was there any suggestion that truth was a defence. Admittedly, the claim that McCay was personally responsible for the ‘slaughter’ of 9,000 in one night men was an overreach. At the same time, the more pertinent observation is that by early 1918 there were many returned AIF men who were prepared to give a more accurate account of the disaster at Fromelles and who were highly critical of McCay as an officer. However, the real story of Fromelles did not emerge until after the War and in May 1918 the ‘truth’ was still contained. In Crowley’s case the claims he made about McCay – or more accurately the claims he made about what others had claimed about McCay – were simply taken as proof of disloyalty.

The other 2 claims – which side had the better (more intelligent) officers and what exactly was the numerical balance between the armies – apart from being essentially trivial in nature were both focused on criticisms of the British Army. Again, in the AIF by that point, there was a strong undercurrent of hostility directed at the British officer class: their leadership was problematic and they were the left-overs of a failed class system. It was part of the established AIF belief that had positioned the Australian soldier as better than his (conscripted) English counterpart. However, for Imperial Loyalists this style of (nationalist) criticism was not to be tolerated, and the War Precautions Act gave zealous Imperial Loyalists the chance to curtail such mischief.

Doubtless Valentine Crowley would have been shocked by the court judgement. Presumably he paid the fine and just hoped the matter was behind him. However, he was sadly mistaken. He had been publicly named as disloyal and with his significant profile he became an immediate target.

The first problem came with the Coburg Council. At the time – late 1918 – Crowley was involved in an ambitious plan for electric lighting in Coburg. The Age (28/10/18) had earlier written about the plan:

Coburg town council, acting upon the advice of Mr. V. J. Crowley, electric expert, has arranged to borrow £13,000 from the State Savings Bank, at 6 per cent, to carry out the electric lighting of Coburg in four sections.

Within one month of his conviction there was an orchestrated effort to remove Crowley from the project. The Argus reported on 22/11/18:

At a recent meeting of the Coburg Council a letter was received from the United National Federation calling attention to the fact that Mr. Valentine J. Crowley, electrical expert adviser to the Coburg Council in its scheme of electric lighting, had been convicted at the Foster Court by Mr. V. Tanner, P.M., on October 25, and fined £5, with £9 costs, under the War Precautions Act on the charge of having made statements calculated to prejudice recruiting. The federation requested the council to remove the stigma of disloyalty from Coburg.

The article also outlined how Coburg Council had then communicated with both the court at Foster and Crowley himself. In correspondence, Crowley acknowledged the basic facts,

He [Crowley] said he must admit having been indiscreet, but that he had merely repeated what had been said to him by a returned Anzac. In speaking to a constable of police and men ineligible from age or other reasons for enlistment, he had not imagined that he was in any way prejudicing recruitment.

At the council meeting one of the councillors … moved that no further action be taken. Whatever Mr. Crowley had done he had been punished for, and they did not want to persecute him. However, the motion failed and the matter was adjourned to another meeting to be held on 27/11/18. The follow-up meeting attracted considerable attention. It was reported in The Age on 30/11/18 and in detail in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 4/12/18.

At the meeting there were deputations from the Coburg and Moreland Districts Returned Soldiers’ Club, the United National Federation and the Victorian Protestant Federation. The latter 2 organisations were vehemently pro-Britain and pro-Empire. They were strong backers of the Hughes government and had taken upon themselves responsibility for uncovering and attacking ‘disloyalty’ in the community. They ran under slogans such as ‘stamp out disloyalty in Australia’. They opposed ‘red raggers’, ‘bolshevists’, pacifists and anarchists. They were committed to the ‘one flag’ and believed that Australia’s pledge to help the Empire to the last and and the last shilling still applied, even though this was after the Armistice. This was exactly their sort of case.

The Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative gave a picture of the charged scene at the council meeting:

From shortly after 9 o’clock till midnight on Wednesday 27 ult., the proceedings in the Coburg council chamber resembled those at an excited meeting at a general election. There were cheers, bursts of applause, and loud shouts of dissent. The conclusion was the enthusiastic singing of the National Anthem.

Crowley had little chance and the vote to dismiss him from the position was passed 7 – 2. The 2 councillors who opposed the motion were … greeted with loud cries of “Traitors, traitors!”. At a subsequent meeting (23/12/18) reported in The Argus on 25/12/18, Crowley’s position was transferred to … Mr. A. J. Bassett, a returned soldier.

Condemnation of Crowley was not completely universal. At the second Coburg Council meeting (27/11/18), his representative – Mr. Claude Lowe – spoke to letters he had received from a range of people who testified… that they had known Mr. Crowley for a considerable time, and were convinced that he would never be guilty intentionally of any disloyal utterances or anything to harm the cause of the Allies. The same representative also stated that Crowley’s wife was an ‘ardent Red Cross worker’ in the Hawthorn branch of the Red Cross Society and that Crowley’s younger brother was serving with the AIF in France. The brother was Captain Arthur Herbert Crowley who had a commission in the Australian Army Medical Corps. He had enlisted in early 1918 as a medical practitioner and embarked for overseas service on 19/3/18.

One of the character witnesses was no less than G H Wise MHR (Gippsland) and then Assistant Minister For Defence. Two others who signed letters of support were A H Moore JP and Cr. Buckley, both from the Shire of Alberton. Moore was one of the directors of the Yarram Hydro-Electricity Supply Company Ltd.

However, impressive character witnesses were not able to save Crowley. Importantly, not only was his character being destroyed but his considerable business interests and his professional profile were also being damaged. And the damage was not restricted to Melbourne. Later that month (December 1918) the local shareholders of the Toora and Foster Electric Light and Power Company called a meeting … to secure the resignation of the managing director, Mr. V. J. Crowley. The episode was reported, again in great detail, in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 18/12/18.

The local Foster shareholders were not successful in their bid and, in fact, the meeting itself was … not a legally constituted meeting. The basic problem they faced was that they did not have control of the company. As noted earlier, as much as locals in rural districts favoured the introduction of a regular and reliable supply of electricity they were very reluctant to invest. In this case, Crowley and the Melbourne shareholders who were prepared to back him had overwhelming control of the company. Crowley had 500 shares himself and his Melbourne backers another 1700 +. There were only 675 local (Toora and Foster) shares. Crowley pointed out at the meeting that without his involvement in the company it would never have been established:

The Melbourne shareholders put their money into the show because I was running it, other wise they would not want to keep their money in it.

Even though Crowley won this particular battle it was clear that his reputation had been badly damaged and his chance of continuing his previous run of success with local government in rural and metropolitan areas had been fatally compromised. One conversation with strangers on a train in Gippsland had cost him dearly.

There was strong irony in this whole situation. Crowley had been undone by a casual conversation with strangers on a train trip in rural Victoria. He maintained throughout that he was merely recounting comments that he had from a returned Anzac. There is no doubt that returned members of the AIF were determined to relate the truth of Fromelles and other battles. Nor is there any question that throughout the War the Australian soldiers had been fashioning for themselves a distinctively nationalist – uniquely Australian – persona, and a key mechanism in the creation of this image relied on drawing distinctions, often in crude and over-hyped ways, between themselves and the British soldiers, particularly the officer class. Taken at face value, Crowley was not too far of the mark. However as things played out immediately after the War, when the conventional ethos of the Imperial War still dominated, and returned soldiers were keen ‘to settle the score’ with ’shirkers’ and all those identified as ‘disloyal’, he did not stand much of a chance. The fact that he was a very successful 34 yo who did not enlist would not have helped. Nor would his (Roman) Catholicism. Also, you would have to consider that some of Cowley’s rivals in the business world stood to gain by any damage done to his reputation and business interests.

Historical post script

It seems there was another whole chapter to the alleged disloyalty of Valentine Crowley. As far as I can establish, the same Valentine Crowley and another younger brother – Clarence Crowley born 1889 – were 2 of the 18 members of the Australia First Movement who were interned in early 1942 at the time of heightened fear of Japanese invasion. Both were living in NSW at the time. While the younger brother was eventually released and the authorities conceded that he should not have been charged, the same (military) authorities continued to believe that Valentine Crowley was a key ring-leader of the Australia First Movement. Certainly Valentine Crowley was a co-proprietor of the The Publicist, the publication most associated with the movement.

The Australia First Movement reflected a complex and contentious episode in Australian history. At the time of the internments in early 1942 the movement was presented as a group of ‘fifth columnists’ who were actively plotting to support the Japanese invasion of Australia. It was accused of plotting assassinations of prominent Australians and other acts of sabotage. It was said to be pro-fascist and pro-German. It was also stated to be anti-Semitic (anti-Jewish). Its own declarations portrayed itself as anti-USSR and anti-communist. The headline it used was – A Non-Party, Non-Sectional Organisation, pledged to uphold Australia First. I have included a link to a list of a so-called ’50 Points of Policy’ which the The Publicist advocated for an “Australia First” Party after the War. It was written in May 1940 and it appears in a group of papers from the National Archives (NAA: A6335,3 p.68) titled, Australia First Movement (The Publicist). Many of the ‘points’ of the list read like the drivers of the populism and nationalism that appear to be in vogue again in our own times.

The final line in the manifesto : Australia First and Long Live the King is intriguing as, at the time, the AFM was certainly portrayed as anti-British and anti-British Empire. It is generally accepted that the movement grew, at least in part, from the conviction that Australian nationalism had to be free from British influence and links. It wanted a distinctly Australian identity. Valentine Crowley for his part had called for severing links between Australia and Britain and he had even advocated the removal of the Union Jack from the Australian Flag. He was also accused – at least in intelligence reports – of having gloated over the defeat of British forces at the start of WW2.

It is interesting to speculate on the extent to which Valentine Crowley’s experiences at the end of WW1 influenced his move to the more extreme edge of Australian nationalist politics in the lead up to WW2.

References

The Argus
The Age
Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

Australian Dictionary of Biography (online)

Adams, J 1990, From these Beginnings: History of the Shire of Alberton (Victoria), Alberton Shire Council, Yarram, Victoria

187. W D Glanfield

GLANFIELD William Donovan 191
8 LHR Died of Illness 15/10/18

William Glanfield was the last of the Shire men to die in the War. He was also one of the ‘originals’ who had enlisted in September 1914 which meant that he survived on active service for just over 4 years.

William Glanfield was born in Fitzroy and attended the state school at Preston. When his father completed the information for the (National) Roll of Honour he specifically identified Preston as the location with which his son was ‘chiefly connected’. While William grew up in Melbourne he must have moved to Alberton several years before he enlisted. His enlistment papers show that he was working as a ‘telegraph operator’ at Alberton and his occupation on the 1915 electoral roll appeared as ‘railway employee’. Other forms described his occupation in terms of ‘assisting station master’. Presumably he had started in the Victorian Railways after school and when War broke out he was working at the Alberton Railway Station, which was the station from which the first mass group of volunteers from the Shire of Alberton – including William himself– departed in September 1914.

William’s father – George H Glanfield – was listed as next-of-kin and at the time of the enlistment the father was living in Sydney. There was another, younger, brother – George Frank Glanfield (6230) – who also enlisted, in Sydney. He survived the War and returned to Australia in March 1919.

While William Glanfield may only have been working in the Shire for a short period before he enlisted, his name was included on both the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial and the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor.

In the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative in 1914, there are many references in the local paper to William Glanfield playing football for the Alberton team. In fact he was often in the best players and he was even referred to as the team’s ‘topnotch’ player. He also played district tennis for Alberton. Also, over the course of the War, Glanfield wrote letters back to people in Alberton and these were sometimes published in the local paper. The publication of these ‘soldiers’ letters’ shows how important such information was for people at home. For example, on 23/2/16 the local paper published extracts from one of Glanfield’s letters – he had written to Mr. Geo. Barry of Alberton – under the headline: Soldiers’ Letter (sic) Tidings of District Lads. The letter was written at Heliopolis. It described how … a good many Yarram boys are camped here with the Brigade and it specifically – by name – mentioned 17 local men. One man mentioned was Edgar Appleyard. Private Glanfield also described how relieved the men were to be out of the trenches and looking forward to the next stage of fighting, given that it was to be on their terms:

We are now, with the aid of reinforcements, to go once more (mounted this time) in to the firing line to avenge our fallen mates. It will be fighting after our own style, not the monotonous trench warfare of Gallipoli.

In the same letter there was an account of the stunning success of the evacuation from Gallipoli – a marvellous piece of strategy . There was also outrage over the killing of Nurse Cavell and the pledge to defend Australian women. Overall, the tone was positive and proud but also naive:

By all accounts our boys are having great sport on the western frontier (sic), and we are hoping they will have us into it. They have worked our brigade pretty hard, but we will take all they can give us, and we have the name of giving more than we get.

There was also the suggestion of resigned prescience:

The boys are looking forward to the time when they will return, and I hope they all do, but it will be a lucky man who does.

There was another report in the local paper on 10/8/17 which detailed how Sergeant Glanfield had written to the parents of Edgar Appleyard (above) who had died of wounds on 3/8/17.  In fact, the various articles in the paper suggest that Glanfield played an important role in maintaining contacts across all the various locals serving in the Light Horse.

There was also a specific reference in the local paper – 25/8/16 – to William Glanfield himself. No indication of the source of the information was provided.

Footballers will be pleased to hear that Glanfield, who is at the front, received a commission as lieutenant. He scored in the examination 99 1/2 out of a possible 100 points.

Like others who ‘rose through the ranks’, before enlisting in the AIF, Trooper Glanfield had held ranks in the senior cadets/citizens forces. On his enlistment papers he indicated that he had had previous military experience. There is a note that he had been Colour Sergeant, Cadets at the Alfred Crescent State School and he had also held the rank of Petty Officer in the Preston Naval Brigade.

As indicated, William Donovan Glanfield enlisted in Yarram on 16/9/14. He had his initial medical with Dr Pern and was re-examined in Melbourne, where it was noted that his ‘teeth [needed] to be attended to’. As with most of the other ‘originals’ who enlisted at the same time he was put down for South Gippsland Light Horse. However, in Melbourne he formally joined 8 Light Horse Regiment. He was 22 yo at the time, single and he gave his religion as Church of England.

His unit left Melbourne for Egypt on 25 February 1915. The embarkation roll shows him as holding the rank of corporal (signaller).

He reached Gallipoli in May 1915 but after 2 months he was taken off with influenza and admitted to hospital on Mudros (26/7/15). He returned to Gallipoli in August (22/8/15) but was taken off again the next month (13/9/15) with colitis and ‘Acute dysentery’ and did not return to duty until early December.

In June 1916 he was made 2nd Lieutenant and it appears he was appointed the Regimental Signal Officer. Then in September he was back in hospital, with another bout of dysentery. He did not get back to 8 LHR until the end of October (31/10/16).

In December (17/12/16) he was confirmed as full Lieutenant and it appears that throughout 1917 he undertook training at the Imperial School of Instruction (Zeitoun). He was back with his unit by the end of March 1918 and then in April he was given temporary command of 3 Signal Troop.

His service record shows that he was admitted to hospital (German Hospital in Damascus) on 8/10/18 and then died one week later on 15/10/18. The cause of death was given as cholera.

The war diary for the unit (3 Signal Troop) – the unit of which he was the commanding officer – throws some light on Lieutenant Glanfield’s fate. The general background involved the occupation of Damascus early in October 1918 and the major health crisis that followed with ‘broncho-pneumonia and malignant malaria’. Bean covered the situation in his Official History (Vol VII, Chpt XII). The situation in all the hospitals in Damascus at the time was dire and being admitted to hospital posed considerable risk. Bean gives a very bleak picture of the conditions in the hospitals in Damascus, for both the Allied and Turkish sick whose numbers ran into the thousands. The extent of the medical crisis is evident in the war diaries of the various units involved. For example, the diary for the 8 LHR shows that in October 1918 from an original troop strength of 391 officers and other ranks, 106 – nearly 30% – were evacuated to hospital.

As indicated, Lieutenant Glanfield had taken command of 3 Signal Troop in April 1918. When he was evacuated to hospital the former OC – Lieutenant Latham – re-assumed command (21/10/18) and it was this officer who completed the war diary for October 1918. In the diary there is a reference to Lietenant Glanfield’s medical evacuation:

(8/10/18) Lieut Glanfield (OC 3rd Signal Troop) evacuated sick to hospital.

It is clear from the diary that many men were coming down with sickness. In fact, the casualties were so high that the troop was having difficulty in discharging its responsibility to maintain the ‘cable lines’ between the various units. The ‘natives’ were constantly cutting out whole sections of the line.

(10/10/18) Continuous trouble through day on Divn line. Linesmen report many pieces of cable cut out by natives. Owing to evacuations to hospital unit now 12 deficient, making task of maintaining communications particularly difficult.

While the diary does refer directly to the death of one member of the unit – 3054 Sapper Gunter, S E – at the English Hospital Damascus on 15/10/18, there is no reference to the fate of Lieutenant Glanfield, who died the same day.

It is also worth noting that the cause of Gunter’s death was described as malaria. However, for Glanfield the cause was given as cholera. Bean makes the point that it was not until about 12 October that the medical authorities in Damascus had the facility to identify the true nature of disease and prior to this … Some cases of malarial diarrhoea were diagnosed as cholera (737).

Lieutenant Glanfield was buried in the Damascus Military Cemetery, which was in the grounds of the German Hospital.

The cable advising of his death was dated 22/10/18. All kit, medals etc were sent to the father as next-of-kin who, as indicated, was living in Sydney. As an officer, the personal kit was extensive. It came in 3 lots:

(1) one paper package:
one wallet cont. stars, badges, photos, & 1 letter.

(2) one small wooden box:
1 pr top boots, 1 woollen warm, 1 shirt, 1 pr. gloves, 1 balaclava, 1 pr. putties, Military books, 1 notebook.

(3) one black steel trunk in hessian:
1 pr. Scissors. 1 box Visiting cards. 2 shirts. 4 prs. Trousers. 1 pr. Breeches. 2 Sword frogs. 1 S.B. Shoulder strap. 1 pr. Braces. 1 pr. Suspenders. 3 prs. Socks. 1 Pack Playing Cards. 10 collars. 3 ties. Safety Razor & case. 2 prs. Shoes. 1 pr. Boots. 1 pr. Leggings. 1 Belt. 1 tin contg stars. Visiting cards. 1 testament. 1 Photo frame. 1 tunic. 1 military book. 2 writing pads maps. 1 luggage tag. Box contg. Photos. Military notes.

On 6/11/18, just 5 days before the Armistice, the following notice appeared in the local paper:

ALBERTON.
The sad intelligence has reached the many Alberton friends of the death on active service of Signalling (sic) Lieutenant William Donovan Glanfield, at the age of 26 years, after nearly four years active service with the A.I.F. in Palestine. Lieutenant. Glanfield was amongst the first to enlist from this district, prior to which he was employed by the Victorian Railways, in which capacity he was widely known to all for the courteous and civil manner in which he fulfilled his duties. As a man, apart from his many public duties, he was all that could be desired, and will be remembered by all the sporting fraternity of the district as one of the leading footballers of the Alberton Football Club, and was instrumental in placing this club at the head of the premiership list during the year that they were so fortunate in having his valued services.The community has, indeed, lost a valued friend, and extend to his relatives their sympathy in their sad bereavement.

As noted, Lieutenant Glanfield, one of the very first to enlist, was the last of the volunteers from the Shire of Alberton to die before the fighting ceased. Several deaths – from wounds or illness – occurred after the Armistice but he was the last to die on active service before the end of hostilities.

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

Bean, CEW 1941, Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918, Volume VII – The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine, 1914-1918, 10th Edition 1941

National Archives file for GLANFIELD William Donovan
Roll of Honour: William Donovan Glanfield
First World War Embarkation Roll: William Donovan Glanfield

184. Enlistments in the second half of 1918

This post covers those men with a link to the Shire of Alberton who enlisted in the second half of 1918. It builds on the work of 8 earlier posts that have analysed enlistments, in six-monthly intervals, from August 1914:

Post 21: Enlistments to the end of 1914: identifying the ‘locals’
Post 55: Enlistments in the first half of 1915
Post 61: Enlistments in the second half of 1915
Post 81. Enlistments in the first half of 1916
Post 101. Enlistments in the second half of 1916
Post 126. Enlistments in the first half of 1917
Post 144. Enlistments in the second half of 1917
Post 171. Enlistments in the first half of 1918

In the second half of 1918 enlistments continued right through to November. In fact, the last recorded enlistment for the Shire of Alberton (Peter James McAinch) occurred on 9/11/18.

Over the second half of 1918, 12 men enlisted and this takes the overall number of enlistments associated with the Shire of Alberton to 768.

To the end of 1914: 138 enlistments
First half of 1915: 102
Second half of 1915: 200
First half of 1916: 183
Second half of 1916: 70
First half of 1917: 31
Second half of 1917: 10
First half of 1918: 22
Second half of 1918: 12

Importantly, as the research behind the blog has unfolded over the past 4 years, I have identified at least another 20 men associated with the Shire of Alberton who enlisted but who have not yet been included in the above analysis. I will include these as a separate group in a future post. These additional enlistments will give a total figure of 788 men. The final total of approximately 800 men matches estimates in the local press at the time.

In addition to the men who did ‘enlist’ in the second half of 1918, there is evidence that at least another 12 attempted to enlist over the same period. Overall, while enlistment numbers were small – and ever diminishing – recruiting continued to the very end of the War.

In one of these 12 cases (Samuel Parkinson Kiely), the person failed the medical in Yarram. In another case (John Chancy Kilpatrick) the recruit passed the medical examination in Yarram but then failed the more significant follow-up medical in Melbourne. In addition to these relatively clear-cut cases there were another 10 instances where it is hard to follow the record trail and determine exactly why the enlistments did not proceed. In virtually all of these cases, the men passed the medical in Yarram and then received a railway warrant to travel to Melbourne to complete the enlistment process. In 4 of the 10 cases (Douglas Cameron Paterson, Robert Cornelius Smark, Thomas Lionel McDougall and James Wentworth Davis) there is simply no record at all beyond the point where they were given their railway warrant. In another 3 cases (Robert Owen Thomas, Thomas Lennox Vale and Gilbert Jones) there is a MT1486/1 form which indicates that they were formally rejected in Melbourne. Lastly, in 3 cases the evidence is that the ‘enlistment’ went ahead but was then ‘cancelled’, most likely before the recruit even made it to camp. The 3 men were Albert McEvoy, Christian Gregor Olsen and Alfred Willis Box and as far as can be determined the enlistment dates for them were either late October or early November 1918.

Obviously, none of these men appear on any local memorials but their efforts to enlist underline how recruiting continued right through to Armistice Day.

For the 12 men who did enlist, service in the AIF was very short and only 4 of them (Ernest George Griffiths, Silas Gasson, Albert Greenaway and Roy Turnbull) embarked for service overseas. In all 4 cases, the troopship was recalled.

Most of the men were discharged from the AIF immediately before Christmas (24/12/18). The latest discharge date for the group was recorded as 19/1/19 (Roy Turnbull). One of the group (Alfred McKean) was discharged at least one month earlier than the rest (15/11/18) but this was on medical grounds.

Arguably, the most tragic member of this final group of 12 recruits was Edward Harris. He had previously been rejected – knee – but then in late August 1918, as a 20 yo, he passed his medical at Yarram and was given his railway warrant (9087) to travel to Melbourne. His official enlistment date was 11/9/18. The same month he was hospitalised in camp with influenza. He was discharged – after 106 days of service – with the others on 24/12/18. He enlisted again in WW2 and this time did see active service overseas. Sadly, he died of disease in New Guinea in 1943.

 

 

 

186. Enlistments in the second half of 1918: background characteristics Part 2 – religion, units and service history

This post continues the analysis of the essential characteristics of all those associated with the Shire of Alberton who enlisted in WW1. The preceding posts are:

Post 23: Enlistments to the end of 1914: background characteristics Part 2 – religion, units and service history

Post 57:  Enlistments in the first half of 1915: background characteristics Part 2 – religion, units and service history

Post 63: Enlistments in the second half of 1915: background characteristics Part 2 – religion, units and service history

Post 83: Enlistments in the first half of 1916: background characteristics Part 2 – religion, units and service history

Post 103: Enlistments in the second half of 1916: background characteristics Part 2 – religion, units and service history

Post 128. Enlistments in the first half of 1917: background characteristics Part 2 – religion, units and service history

Post 146. Enlistments in the second half of 1917: background characteristics Part 2 – religion, units and service history

Post 173. Enlistments in the first half of 1918: background characteristics Part 2 – religion, units and service history

Religion

The numbers are too small for any meaningful comparison with earlier cohorts. However, all 4 key religious groups – Church of England,  Presbyterian, Methodist and Roman Catholic – were at least represented and the predominance of Church of England and Presbyterian recruits,  a feature throughout the War, continued to the very end. As noted, this last feature reflected the relative breakdown in the 1911 census.

Units

In some instances the recruits were recorded as being allocated to specific groups of reinforcements but in most cases the only designation to appear on their enlistment forms was ‘Recruit Depot’ (Battalion). In only one case was there any further indication of the unit the recruit was to join. This involved Larry Johnson who, according to notes in his file, had been accepted to join the Light Horse and who had volunteered to serve in Egypt. He had not enlisted until 7/10/18 and was discharged with the majority on 24/12/18.

Service History

None of this cohort ever saw action and most never even embarked. Those who did embark were recalled.

Only one man (Roy Turnbull) served for more than 4 months and in most cases the length of service did not extend beyond one or two months. In some cases, service was measured in terms of weeks.

In terms of medical records, only 2 men were hospitalised. Ernest Griffiths spent time in the ship’s hospital – before the ship was recalled – with influenza. Alfred McKean had a more significant medical condition and was discharged on medical grounds after only a few months service.

It appears that as soon as the Armistice was declared, it was AIF policy to discharge those men who had only recently enlisted. None of this group were still in the AIF after January 1919 and in fact most had been discharged by Christmas 1918. The speed with which the AIF shifted its focus from securing enlistments and sending reinforcements overseas to, as it were, ‘clearing the decks’ and focusing on the repatriation of all those overseas was striking.

185. Enlistments in the second half of 1918: background characteristics Part 1 – movement, occupation, age and marital status 1

This post continues the analysis, in six-monthly intervals, of several key characteristics of all those with a link to the Shire of Alberton who enlisted in WW1. The relevant previous posts in the sequence are:

Post 22: Enlistments to the end of 1914: background characteristics Part 1 – movement, occupation, age and marital status

Post 56: Enlistments in the first half of 1915: background characteristics Part 1 – movement, occupation, age and marital status

Post 62: Enlistments in the second half of 1915: background characteristics Part 1 – movement, occupation, age and marital status

Post 82: Enlistments in the first half of 1916: background characteristics Part 1 – movement, occupation, age and marital status

Post 102: Enlistments in the second half of 1916: background characteristics Part 1 – movement, occupation, age and marital status

Post 127: Enlistments in the first half of 1917: background characteristics Part 1 – movement, occupation, age and marital status

Post 145: Enlistments in the second half of 1917: background characteristics Part 1 – movement, occupation, age and marital status

Post 172: Enlistments in the first half of 1918: background characteristics Part 1 – movement, occupation, age and marital status

For a more detailed account of the methodology and sources refer to the earlier posts.

Movement

As for at least the last 3 cohorts – from the start of 1917 – this cohort is small (12). And like the cohort for the first half of 1918, it is decidedly ‘local’ in nature:  only one of the men was born outside Victoria and all of them, when they enlisted, were living and working in the local area. Possibly, this characteristic reflected the fact that the pool of outside or itinerant farm workers left in the local area by this point of the War was very small.

Occupation

With the exception of 2 young men (Ernest Griffiths and Roy Turnbull) engaged in clerical work and one (George Clark) working at the local timber mill, all the others were involved in farming in the local area. They either worked as farm labourers or they helped on the family farm. And, as pointed out previously, often these roles overlapped, in the sense that some family farms were so marginal that sons would work as labourers on other farms – or in other activities – in the district. As before, the most common description of occupation was that of ‘farm labourer’.

Age

As before, the concentration of those of the youngest possible enlistment age is striking. Eight of the men are under 21 yo. By this point, recruits in the local area were coming predominantly from the group of young men who were reaching the age when they could finally enlist. As indicated already, this situation was constantly highlighted by speakers at recruiting drives, farewells and welcomes who strongly attacked the older ‘eligibles’ who refused to enlist and left it to the ‘boys’ to step forward and ‘do their duty’. The youngest recruit was 18 yo Peter McAinch. The family had a  dairy farm at Waronga. He had even tried to enlist at a recruiting drive in Yarram in May 1917 but he must have been rejected when the authorities learnt his age. He was born on 16/9/1900 so he was not even 17 yo at the time.

Presumably, these young men had absorbed the (patriotic) narrative of the War, including the fame of the AIF, over the years of their mid-teens. They would have seen older brothers and friends enlist and they were keen to follow. For these young men, enlistment in the AIF  had become a ‘right of passage’.

Marital Status

There is only one married man in the group. William Berry was a farm labourer from Jack River. His enlistment was not typical in that he was 35 yo, married and had at least 3 children. He enlisted in early September 1918 and was discharged at the end of December. Interestingly, after the War he became a soldier settler and was allotted land at Waronga.