Monday, 24 April 2017

ANZAC Day in Ballarat 1917

The second ANZAC Day was commemorated in Ballarat with events being confined to the schools. There was no public events held on the day but on the following Saturday, 28th April a drumhead service and display was held at the Civic Oval. Citizens attended this event in large numbers to pay their tribute and respect to fallen soldiers and remember those still fighting the war.  Various church denominations remembered ANZAC Day as part of their normal Sunday church services.

This ANZAC Day was especially poignant as it occurred a week after the disastrous First Battle of Bullecourt on the 11th April when Australian troops carried out a unsuccessful attack on Germany's Hindenburg Line near the village of Bullecourt in France. They suffered 3,000 casualties and had 1,170 men taken Prisoner of War.

Here is the report of Anzac Day as it appeared in the Ballarat Courier:

Ballarat Courier 26 April 1917

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Writing the War : the State Library of Victoria's travelling exhibition to commemorate WW1

The State Library of Victoria has an extraordinary archive of diaries, letters, artefacts and visual material relating to World War One, revealing the experience of Victorians during The Great War 1914 – 1918. Seven personal stories from this rich collection have been selected for the touring exhibition to Victoria's public libraries as part of the Statewide Public Library Development Projects.

The great news is that the Writing the War exhibition arrived in Ballarat Library today.  After a morning of hecticness while we set it up, we are thrilled to invite all to come and view it.

As well as the panels, stories and audio visual material provided by the State Library, we have also on display some precious items from our own collection, which are not often shown due to age and fragility.  These items include letters, diaries, and photographs from World War 1.

The Writing the War exhibition will be at Ballarat Library until January 8th.  Keep an eye out for the great program of events we have devised around the exhibition. 

The SLV's featured stories are :

Alice Kitchen
 Alice Kitchen was a nursing sister, born in Ballarat, Victoria. She was 40 years old when she enlisted in the Australian Army Nursing Services in August 1914, sailing to Egypt with the first detachment of the Australian Imperial Force. Kitchen served in Egypt, France and England. She was working at the No. 1 Australian General Hospital in Cairo when the first group of casualties from Gallipoli arrived, and later on a hospital ship in Anzac Cove. Alice served for the duration of the war and was repatriated to Australian in August 1919.

Percival Langford
 Percival Langford was born in Victoria.  He was teaching at University High School when he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in August 1914, aged 30 years.  A lance corporal, he served in the 4th Light Horse Regiment in Egypt and Gallipoli. On 24 May, Langford witnessed the armistice between the Australian and Turkish forces on the Gallipoli Peninsula. After serving at Gallipoli, he was discharged as medically unfit in September 1916, and for the remainder of the war was based at the Melbourne Recruiting Centre with the rank of Lieutenant.

Keith Murdoch
1885 – 1952
Sir Keith Murdoch, a journalist from Camberwell, Victoria, was 33 years old when Prime Minister Andrew Fisher sent him to Gallipoli in 1915. Murdoch spent four days on the peninsula. While there, Murdoch met with war correspondents Charles Bean and Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett. After failing to smuggle a letter written by Ashmead-Bartlett past the censors, Murdoch wrote and sent his own 8000-word letter on the Gallipoli campaign to Fisher. This letter is said to have influenced the eventual withdrawal of troops from Gallipoli.

Eric Chinner
 Eric Chinner was a 20-year-old bank clerk from Peterborough, South Australia, when he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in August 1915. A first lieutenant, he served in the 32nd Battalion in Egypt and France, and first saw action at the Battle of Fromelles on 19 July 1916. During this battle, Chinner was mortally wounded while leading a party of grenadiers. That night, 5533 soldiers were lost. In 2010 Eric Chinner was one of 96 soldiers to have his remains identified and re-buried at a new cemetery in Fromelles. 

Vida Goldstein
1869 – 1949
Vida Goldstein was born in Portland, Victoria. A veteran of the women’s suffrage movement and a staunch pacifist, Goldstein was 45 years old when war broke out in 1914. She used her newspaper, The Woman Voter, to protest the war and Australia’s involvement in it. In 1915 she became the chair of the newly established Women’s Peace Army and worked hard promoting peace and anti-war propaganda. Goldstein actively campaigned against conscription in both the October 1916 and December 1917 plebiscites.

George Auchterlonie
 George Auchterlonie was born in Gippsland in 1887. He enlisted in August 1915 and served in the 8th Light Horse Regiment in Egypt. Auchterlonie was a keen photographer and took with him a small box brownie camera. His photographs and diary entries provide a thorough glimpse of his military life through Egypt, Sinai and Palestine. The 8th Light Horse was made up solely of Victorians and commandeered by Colonel Lionel Maygar.  Auchterlonie fought in the battles of Gaza in March, 1917 and the Battle of Beersheba in October 1917. Auchterlonie finished service in 1919 and returned to Australia in 1920

 Jessie Traill
1881 - 1967
Australian artist Jessie Traill was born in Brighton, Victoria. In late 1914, Traill sailed to England and joined the British Voluntary Aid Detachment. Following her training, Traill worked at the No. 8 British General Hospital near Rouen, France, from July 1915 until February 1919, providing basic first aid, nursing and care to the sick and wounded men fighting on the frontline. She returned to Australia in the early 1920s, dedicating the rest of her life to her art.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Ballarat’s crusading labour paper; the Evening Echo

This week we have a blog specially written for us by Anne Beggs Sunter - one of her favourite subjects, Ballarat's evening newspaper The Evening Echo, unique because it was the only daily in Victoria to oppose conscription during World War 1.

This Ballarat evening newspaper began publication on 12 February 1895, published by Alfred H. Powell, in Camp St. Its motto was ‘Fearless, Truthful and Just’.

In July 1903, the newspaper was floated as a company of 160 shares, as  Powell & Co. Ltd., a consortium of Ballarat business and professional men with Powell holding a half interest. Powell remained as managing director until the Australian Workers Union (AWU) began to increase its investment in the company through individuals like John Barnes and D.C. McGrath, and from early 1912 the Echo became a strongly labour paper.

It was published daily, with two editions – early and late evening. It was a four page broadsheet in the early 1900s, and published a sought-after annual Christmas supplement. A souvenir illustrated edition was published in December 1904 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Eureka. 

The Cyclopedia of Victoria (1904) carried a flattering article on the Evening Echo. It noted that the Echo was the first provincial daily to have a rotary press. The article noted that the paper had a large circulation in Ballarat, and was distributed to 52 other towns in Victoria.  The paper was noted for the rapidity with which news was published, and for its illustrated line work Saturday page, and its annual special supplement. Powell and Co. Ltd also produced from 1907 an annual publication called  Ballarat the Beautiful, an illustrated book for the Ballarat Progress Association (see for example advertisement in Evening Echo,  7 April 1911.) 

The Ballarat grocer and AWU member James Scullin was appointed editor by the Board of Directors on 6 June 1913. He had been a grocer at 322 Skipton St. Ballarat, working for McKay McLeod Pty. Ltd. before gaining the seat of Corangamite for the Political Labour Council at the 1910 election. When he was defeated in May 1913, the AWU looked around for a job for him. In later life Scullin said that he was appointed an editor without any journalistic experience, and a prime minister without ever having been a cabinet member.

In 1916 and 1917, the Echo played an important part in the conscription debate. It was the only daily newspaper in Victoria that opposed the idea of compulsory military service. It covered the dramatic news of the Dublin Easter Rising with front page headlines throughout May 1916, then the news of the arrival of the ANZACS in France and the bloody battles of the Somme. Its reports of the statements of Prime Minister ‘Billy’ Hughes became increasingly critical, especially after his announcement on 30 August 1916 of a referendum to seek support for compulsory military service. 

Throughout September and October, the paper advertises meetings organised in halls all over the district, with speakers from Ballarat Trades Hall, parliamentarians like Senator John Barnes, and Scullin and local school teacher Tom Carey. Often these meetings would be outdoors, with the Galloway Monument in Sturt St. a popular meeting place. Scullin’s great oratorical skills, honed at the South Street debating competitions, would have been much appreciated. For Scullin and his associate Jordan at the Echo, the attack on capitalists and profiteers came through strongly, as well as the theme that Australia had done more than its share in defending the Empire.

On 30 October1916, the Echo proudly announced that conscription had been rejected in the Ballarat electorate, and that it had been narrowly rejected nationally. The strongly labour areas of Ballarat East and Sebastopol returned a resounding ‘no’ vote, as did the Irish-Australian farmers of the Warrenheip division the so-called ‘savages of Bungaree’.

The Echo’s contribution had been vital, as the only daily newspaper in Victoria taking a firmly anti-conscription stance.  60,000 copies a day were sent to Melbourne for distribution.

Hughes was expelled from the ALP, and joined with the conservative Nationalists to form a new Government in 1917. He tried again to win national support for another conscription referendum to be held just before Christmas in 1917. The collapse of the Russian front meant that the Allies were sorely pressed in France and Belgium, and casualties continued at a high level.

Again the Echo and Scullin went into battle, producing a number of ‘No Conscription’ special issues. The government harried the newspaper with its strict War Precautions Regulations limiting what could be printed, and the government limited the supply of newsprint, so that the paper was sometimes reduced to a single sheet. 

But the second referendum was even clearer in rejecting Conscription, and this time Victoria voted no by a small majority. Once again Ballarat returned a ‘no’ vote.

During 1918, the Echo was charged under the War Precautions Act with publishing statements prejudicial to recruiting after an article on 2 May 1918 headed ‘Peace- Is it for Ever Banned?’ 

Then came the longed-for announcement on 12 November 1918 that an armistice had been signed and the war was ended. The Echo had received the news by Reuters just before 8.00pm last night, and immediately conveyed the news to the Town Hall. Huge crowds gathered, and the City band, conducted by Percy Code, played patriotic songs and hymns.

On 18 February 1922 Scullin was elected to the safe labour seat of Yarra, and at a Board meeting of the Echo the following week Scullin was replaced as editor by his brother-in-law John Kean. 

The Echo struggled on in debt until its liquidation in February 1926.

In 1929 the Ballarat (and Family) Mail began publication from the same address, 6 Camp St. This was published until 1966, followed by the free paper, The Ballarat News.

The State Library of Victoria has a complete set, but it is in a fragile condition and has not been microfilmed. The Ballarat Mechanics Institute used to have a full set, but now only holds a broken set including 1895, 1907, 1908, 1911, 1920 and 1923. The Australiana Collection of the Ballarat Library has some bound copies, including 1916 (13 April-30 June) and 1918 (1 Oct-31 Dec). It has just one of the annual Christmas supplements.

The  Evening Echo is a unique newspaper, in that it was the only daily to oppose conscription during World War One. It has not been microfilmed, and is not digitised as part of the national project to digitise all newspapers published between 1914 and 1918.

Anne Beggs-Sunter, 2016

Conscription in Australia (and Ballarat) in World War 1

The conscription campaign opened in Ballarat on 3 October 1916 in a crowded Alfred Hall, the meeting organized by the National Referendum Council.  The speeches were of the justice of the referendum approach and the great need for reinforcments.  Opponents were dismissed as communists or foreigners. 

The Prime Minister himself, Billy Hughes, visited Ballarat to speak passionately for conscription, on 9th October.

But Jim Scullin (a future Labor Prime Minister) described conscription as a menace to liberty and welfare.  Members of the Trades and Labor Council spoke at the Eight Hours monument in Sturt Street, pinpointing big landowners and financiers as chief conscriptionists, and invoking the principle that no one had the right to send another to his death.

Ballarat newspapers the Star and the Courier appeared in favour of the YES vote, devoting more column space to Hughes than to his opponents. You can follow the arguments and see the results published in those papers online on Trove.  

Ballarat voted NO.  But it was close.

But in those days there were more newspapers in Ballarat than the Star and Courier and our next blog (written by a special guest blogger) will discuss the role of the Echo in the conscription debates.