To The Unknown Hero by Caroline Louisa Daniel

We hold no record, boy, of your brave deed;
We know not how ’twas done, nor in what need
Your courage lept to life.
We only know you’ve won a name,
And that you bravely played the game,
And conquered in the strife.

We try to picture, boy, just how ’twas done;
We hear the shriek of shell, the boom of gun,
And sudden in our dream.
Was it at night you braved the foe,
Or while the evening’s sunset glow
Made golden hill and stream?

We do you honour, boy, howe’er it was
Our hearts are full for you, more so because
We know not who you are.
We know you are some mother’s son,
And that a splendid Cross you’ve won,
Which glistens like a star.

And though you record boy, is not on earth.
And though no book of fame sets forth your worth,
Your heart need not be sad.
A surer book is kept on High,
And your brave deed will never die.
Rejoice, then, and be glad.

You are a hero, boy, though yet unknown;
I would Australia’s arms were round you thrown
In proud and loving care.
We cannot do too much for you,
A nation’s homage is your due,
A nation’s grateful prayer.

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A Holiday Wound

A Holiday Wound by Trooper Blugum

When Dingo Dick of Company 3 Anzac Battalion I.C.C.
Got winged in the arm with shrapnel shell
He wrote some letters his folks to tell.

“Dear Mother,” he wrote, “the danger’s past,
I’ve got my holiday wound at last—
A beautiful wound you can hardly see,
But it means a bonzer spell for me. I’m in the A.G.H. 14
I sleep in a bed so nice and clean;
There’s tons of baccy and beer in Cairo
And the papers will call me a “blanky hero,”

So mother was happy and mighty proud
Tho’ her hair was grey and her back was bowed.
A similar lie Dick pitched to his gal;
But here are the facts he wrote to his pal:
“Say, Bill, we’ve just had a hell of a fight,
I lay in Nobody’s Land all night;
My arm was smashed to a lump of meat,
And what with the flies and thirst and heat,
And the wound that throbbed and burned so bad,
I felt I must go raving mad.
For sixteen hours I stewed out there; I wanted to pray; I could only swear.

“I was done when the stretcher-bearers came;
They looked at my disc to find my name,
“Poor Dick’s a goner,’ one of ’em said;
Says I, “You’re a liar, I’m far from dead.
So they carried me back to the ambulance,
‘Cos one of them thought I might have a chance,
They out off-my arm to save my life,
So I’m finished with Camels and War and Strife.”

“P.S.—Dear Bill, when Mollie you see,
Tell her I’m as happy as I can be,
But don’t let on, about all this rot—
Just say it’s a “holiday wound” I’ve got.

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Smoking in the First World War

Tobacco is not so much a luxury as an actual necessity to our men at the front – Lieut-Colonel Henry Paul Treeby, Commandant of the East Surrey Depot, 1916

You ask me what we need to win this war. I answer tobacco, as much as bullets – General John Joseph “Black Jack” Pershing, Commander-in-Chief of the American Expeditionary Force, 1917

Cigarettes and tobacco were an integral part of army life during the First World War. Just two months into the war the British trade journal Tobacco claimed:

it might almost be said that a man in the firing line first thinks of his cartridges and the very next thing he seems to worry about is ammunition for his pipe. The pipe itself is only less precious than the rifle.

Those soldiers who smoked were often described as “devotees at the shrine of Our Lady Nicotine”, or in the case of Orange railway clerk Jack Earls: “a solid worshipper at the shrine of My Lady Nicotine”.

Soldiers departing for overseas service were generally given a farewell gift which invariably included cigarettes. When 24 local lads left Orange for embarkation in Sydney in September 1915 they were each presented with a large packet of Three Castles cigarettes and a pocket testament.

Cigarettes and/or tobacco were often issued as part of a soldier’s rations. Charitable organisations such as the YMCA and Red Cross Society ensured that troops received a steady supply of cigarettes and tobacco. In January 1917 James Anderson Murdoch, a volunteer with the Australian branch of the British Red Cross Society affirmed that the Red Cross distributed 250,000 cigarettes a week to Australian troops, and the demand was visibly increasing. “Cigarettes”, he claimed, were “the most acceptable portion of the Red Cross distribution”, followed by Australian newspapers.

In December 1916 Velda Fletcher of Anson Street was the grateful recipient of a Christmas package from the NSW Comforts Fund. He wrote from France to say that he had spent a most pleasant Christmas:

We had roast beef and potatoes, plum pudding, also preserved fruits for our dinner… We had a packet each from the Comforts Fund of NSW, which contained pipe, cigarettes, lollies, matches, chewing gum, handkerchief, writing paper and matchbox holder.

Members of the 4th Australian Field Ambulance display their Christmas billies, 1916. The billies contained foodstuffs and a pipe. Some of the men are wearing the billy lid on their head. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial.

Countless fundraisers were held on the home front to supply comforts for those fighting overseas. Cigarettes and tobacco were a fundamental component of care packages. In September 1915 the Leader claimed that fifty percent of soldiers’ letters from the front complained about the shortage of cigarettes and tobacco. The newspaper suggested that the young ladies of Orange host a pipe and tobacco evening “where all who felt so inclined would bring along their quota of the narcotic need in any manufactured form”

Later that month a Pipe and Tobacco Dance was held at the Oddfellow’s Hall; attendees were advised to supply at least four packets of cigarettes. Despite being “not as largely attended as was anticipated”, the event raised 2,010 cigarettes, 12 medium tins of tobacco, one large tin of Vice Regal tobacco, and one pound of tobacco.

The following month Mrs Elder of Anson Street hosted a fundraiser and collected 58 tins of tobacco, eight packets of cigarettes and 46 cakes of soap for the district’s soldiers.

Children were also encouraged to help supply cigarettes for soldiers. In June 1917 schoolchildren from Lewis Ponds sent a comfort package containing predominantly cigarettes and tobacco.

Wartime advertising campaigns linked smoking with patriotism. In 1917 the Southern Cross Tobacco Fund advised:

It is the duty of every man and woman at home to see to it that there is a plentiful supply [of cigarettes for soldiers]. For just one shilling the Fund (authorised by the State War Council) will keep a soldier in tobacco for one week.

Soldiers smoked for many reasons. Smoking helped to relieve boredom and pass the time during the long stretches of relative quiet and waiting at the front. The smell of smoke undoubtedly masked the stench of death and the squalor of the trenches. Smoking provided a chance to momentarily escape, to take time out from the daily horrors of the battlefront. It created a sense of camaraderie, boosted morale and helped to relieve stress. During the Christmas truce of 1914 German and British soldiers left their trenches to fraternise and share a smoke with the enemy.

British and German soldiers fraternising at Ploegsteert, Belgium, on Christmas Day 1914. Image courtesy Imperial War Museum © IWM (Q 11745).

Tobacco was a distinct necessity for wounded and recovering soldiers. Lieutenant William Britt, injured in the first day’s fighting at Gallipoli wrote from hospital in Alexandria:

Luckily I have got some tobacco and the orderly got me a pipe… A little present of Havelock tobacco would be very acceptabel. [sic]

In June 1915 George Tidex wrote from hospital in Heliopolis:

Had two lady visitors last Sunday, giving out cigarettes and chocolate

And in April 1917 Edward Irwin of Hill Street observed from hospital in England:

The nurses are very good to you. They fetch cigarettes and matches to you.

Indeed, cigarettes were even credited with saving a soldier’s life. In August 1915 Norman Douglas Sherwin of Cargo described how a packet of cigarettes saved him from serious injury or death:

I had a very narrow escape, it was a packet of cigarettes that saved me, if not from being killed at least from serious injury. I was opening a packet of cigarettes at the time (holding my hands in front of my body as I did so) when the bullet went through my hand, through the cigarettes, through five thicknesses of my tunic, made a hole in my shirt and hit me in the stomach, taking some skin off and making a large bruise, and also winded me.

Norman sent the cigarette packet home as a souvenir for his mother. He later asked:

Did you get the cigarette packet I sent you, with the shrapnel wound in it? There is a bit of my blood on it, which I want again when I return.

[Unfortunately Norman’s “good luck” later ran out; he died in Palestine in March 1918 whilst a prisoner of war.]

According to a recent World Health Organization (WHO) study more people died during WWI as a result of smoking than were killed in action or died of wounds.

Smoke Wreaths in Egypt by Sir Peter McBride

I’ve wandered afar from Old England,
With pleasures of London I’m done;
I’m at drill where the sand around Cairo
Gleams white to the kiss of the sun.
The canteen’s quite close and I’m thirsty,
But I am financially broke,
So I light up the pipe that you gave me,
And my troubles soon vanish in smoke.

The Major has given us ”Smoke oh!”
I rest with my pack by my side;
And in fancy I see in the smoke rings—
“Best wishes from Catherine McBride.”
My mates by my side are forgotten,
All fear of the Major has fled,
For I seem to be roaming in Egypt
Ere the Queen of all Egypt was dead

I go for a stroll by the river,
Cleopatra salutes with a smile;
The Harem all spring to attention,
Then form a platoon by the Nile.
But Anthony sees me and curses.
And fondles his gun rather queer,
So I beat a retreat for the Wazza,
And promptly I call for a beer.

The girls at the Wazza are dancing,
I halt them and make them form fours;
Then I call out a sergeant to drill them,
And sentries I place at the doors.
The landlord posts arms for inspection—
His missus is serving the beer,
We fall in two deep at the counter,
When somebody shouts in my ear.

“We are moving, you fool, get a move on!”
I awake and struggle to rise.
The girls on the Wazza have vanished,
I’m wiping the dream from my eyes;
The Major’s ferociously cursing,
And swears by the Prophets that he
Has a hot time in store for a loafer,
And the loafer, alas! it is me.

Now my harness is on and I’m ready,
“Right turn,” and we’re marching away;
I’d mortgage my chances in Heaven
To be in Australia to-day;
And the Major can go to the devil,
I think as behind him we stride,
For the pipe that I have in my pocket
Carries wishes from Catherine McBride.


Further reading:
Cigarettes or war: which is the biggest killer?


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The Role of Animals in World War I

A military elephant in World War I pulls ammunition in Sheffield. Image courtesy Illustrated War News.

A military elephant in World War I pulls ammunition in Sheffield. Image courtesy Illustrated War News.

Over the years a range of animals have made an invaluable contribution to Australia’s military history. Useful companions and dependable comrades, animals served, suffered, and died alongside the nation’s soldiers.

In the First World War horses, donkeys, camels, mules and even elephants were used to transport soldiers, weapons, ammunition and food. Homing pigeons were employed to convey messages, and dogs to track the enemy and locate injured soldiers. Even the humble European glow worm made a contribution to the war effort; soldiers in trenches would keep a jar of glow worms to read with by night. Read the rest of this entry »

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Story of The Lone Pine (Pinus halepensis subsp. brutia)

The Lone Pine before the charge, August 1915. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial.

The Lone Pine before the charge, August 1915.
Image courtesy Australian War Memorial.

Lone Pine Ridge (or Plateau 400) on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey was the scene of a major diversionary offensive lead by the 1st Australian Infantry Division on 6 August 1915. The ridge had been dominated by the Pinus halepensis tree, commonly known as the Aleppo Pine. The Turks had cut down all but one of these pines and used them to cover their trenches.

The Battle of Lone Pine was centred in a small area in the vicinity of the last remaining pine. Australia lost more than 2,000 men in the Battle; the Turks, 7,000 men.

Seven Victoria Crosses were awarded during the Battle of Lone Pine. Orange born John Patrick Hamilton was awarded his VC for conspicuous bravery at Lone Pine on 9 August 1915.

At least two Australian soldiers souvenired pine cones from Lone Pine Ridge and brought them home after World War I.

The first pine cone was collected by Lance Corporal Benjamin Smith of the 3rd Battalion, whose brother was killed during the Battle of Lone Pine. Smith sent the cone home to his mother, Mrs McMullen of Cardiff in NSW. Mrs McMullen kept the cone for 13 years before planting seeds from the cone in 1928. Three seedlings flourished (possibly representing her three sons that fought at Gallipoli). Mrs McMullen presented one seedling to the City of Inverell, who planted the pine in the Victoria Park. The second seedling was given to the Department of the Interior in Canberra. This tree was planted at the Australian War Memorial in October 1934 by the visiting Duke of Gloucester. Today it stands over 20 metres in height. Unfortunately the third seedling (like her son) did not survive.

Sgt Keith McDowell of 24th Battalion also souvenired a cone from the Lone Pine, carrying it in his haversack until the end of the war. On his arrival home he gave it to his aunt, Mrs Emma Gray, from Grassmere near Warrnambool in Victoria. A decade later Mrs Gray planted the seeds and four seedlings grew. One was planted in Wattle Park in Melbourne in May 1933, and another at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne. The third was planted at the Soldiers Memorial Hall at The Sisters, and the fourth in Warrnambool Gardens.

Many trees have been propagated from the pine at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. There are a number of ‘Lone Pines’ in Orange, all in one way or another close relatives of the original tree from the Lone Pine Ridge at Gallipoli. The first ‘Lone Pine’ in Lone Pine Avenue in Orange was probably descended from the Australian War Memorial tree. A number of trees have since been propagated from the pine in Lone Pine Avenue. There is a pine in front of the RSL Memorial Hall, one at Duntryleague Golf Club and another at the Orange Agricultural Research Station.

*  Cr Reg Kidd, 5 February 2014

Post script
The tree in the main park in Inverell was later removed, due to its age and excessive weather damage. I was present at the time and was given two cross sections of the trunk. One was presented to the RSL in Orange, and the other will form part of an upcoming WWI display at Orange City Library. I also have a cone from the Inverell tree.

Whilst visiting Gallipoli in 2010 I was fortunate enough to receive a cone from the pine from the Lone Pine War Memorial. This tree was one of two trees given to the Turkish Government to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Lone Pine in 1990. This tree was propagated from the second pine that Mrs McMullen grew at Cardiff in 1928.

Lone Pine tree at the Australian War Memorial


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Australia Day

Australia Day 1915 fund raising ribbon. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial.

Australia Day 1915 fund raising ribbon. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial.

In 1818 Governor Lachlan Macquarie acknowledged the thirtieth anniversary of the British occupation of Australia by proclaiming 26 January a public holiday in New South Wales. The day was known as ‘Foundation Day’, and each colony commemorated their founding independently. It was not until 1935 that all states and territories agreed to observe the same national day – Australia Day – on 26 January each year.

In July 1915 ‘Australia Day’ was observed as a national fundraising venture to support wounded soldiers. The concept of such a day was initiated by the mother of four servicemen, Mrs Wharton-Kirke of Manly. In June 1915 she suggested to NSW Premier, Sir Charles Wade, that such a day would draw on the nation’s pride and contribute to a growing sense of national identity. July 30 was subsequently declared as ‘Australia Day’ with a variety fundraising events including auctions, stalls, performances and street collections. £839,500 was raised in New South Wales alone, close to $1.7 million in today’s currency. The success of Australia Day in 1915 saw a repeat of similar national fundraising events for the duration of the war. In recognition of her efforts, the NSW Premier presented Mrs Wharton-Kirke with a gold medalet. It is one of only four commemorative Gallipoli medalets that were struck in solid gold.

Australia Day in Orange in 1915 was celebrated over several days. Events in the week preceding 30 July included a concert and memorial service at the Australian Hall, a social evening and variety entertainment at East Orange Public School, a torchlight procession, a rugby football league benefit match and an Australian fair at the Oddfellows’ Hall. On the day school children joined military and friendly societies and numerous community groups in a huge street procession that terminated outside the Australian Hall. The Mayor then addressed the people of Orange and delivered an appeal. Throughout the day special Australia Day souvenirs and badges were on sale. Other events included a patriotic rifle match, continuous children’s concerts and a presentation of moving picture displays by the Empire Picture Company. Celebrations concluded with the presentation of the Orange Player’s Club drama, The Englishman’s Home.

Australia Day celebrations in Orange in 1915 raised in excess of £10,000 ($20,000). Australia Day Special Fund

For Australia’s Heroes – the other ‘Australia Day’, 30 July 1915

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Poppies for Remembrance

Poppy bed in the form of a Maltese Cross at Cook Park, Orange, c1920, in memory of fallen soldiers. The poppies were grown from seeds gathered from French battlefields and were supplied by the director of the Botanic Gardens in Sydney. Image courtesy Orange City Library.

Poppy bed in the form of a Maltese Cross at Cook Park, Orange, c1920, in memory of fallen soldiers. The poppies were grown from seeds gathered from French battlefields and were supplied by the director of the Botanic Gardens in Sydney. Image courtesy Orange City Library.

This year 11 November marks the 96th anniversary of the Armistice which ended the First World War. On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month the nation stops and Australians unite to observe one minute’s silence in memory of those who have fallen in war.

Since the end of the First World War the Flanders poppy – Papaver rhoeas – has been associated with Remembrance Day. This vivid red flower has become synonymous with the great loss of life in war and is an internationally recognised symbol of remembrance. The poppy first emerged as a symbol of remembrance following the publication of John McCrae’s poem ‘In Flanders Fields’. Read the rest of this entry »

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“Emden beached and done for”

The wreck of the German light cruiser SMS Emden after her action with HMAS Sydney, 1914. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial.

The wreck of the German light cruiser SMS Emden after her action with HMAS Sydney, 1914. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial.

Since the beginning of the war SMS Emden, under the command of Captain Karl Friedrich Max von Muller, had been patrolling the Indian Ocean threatening British and Allied interests. Between August and October 1914, Emden captured or sank 25 civilian vessels, destroyed two Allied warships at Penang and shelled Madras. The vessel was clearly a threat to the convoy transporting the first contingent of Australian and New Zealand troops that had set sail from Albany on 1 November.

HMAS Sydney was one of four vessels escorting the convoy of ships, however, on the morning of 9 November, left the convoy to investigate a distress call from a British wireless and cable transmission station on Direction Island in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. At 9.15am Sydney surprised Emden, which despite being over 9km distant, proceeded to open fire with long-range guns. Sydney advanced, and began firing shells at 8.7km. At 5km she started firing torpedoes, damaging Emden’s wireless and steering equipment and rangefinders. The ship’s funnels and foremast collapsed as fire took hold of the engine room. At about 11.20am Emden ran aground and Sydney ceased fire.

The battle resulted in 134 German sailors killed, 69 wounded and Captain von Muller and 156 other survivors taken prisoner. The Emden managed to strike Sydney, killing four Australian sailors and wounding sixteen.

Confirming the Australian victory, the captain of Sydney – Vice Admiral John Collings Taswell Glossop – cabled ‘Emden beached and done for’ to the Department of Defence. The Battle of Cocos was an emphatic first victory at sea for the recently-formed Royal Australian Navy; Australia had put an end to the Emden’s dominance in the Indian Ocean and ensured safe passage for the 1st Australian Imperial Force convoy.

Interview with Alan Zwek, descendant of Sidney Russell, who fought in the Battle of Cocos

Transcripts of accounts of the battle between HMAS Sydney and SMS Emden:
Franz Bordeaux, paymaster on SMS Emden
Leonard Darby, surgeon on HMAS Sydney
Vivian Agincourt Spence, chaplain on HMAS Sydney

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Gone to the War

World War I or as it was known, the ‘Great War’, began on 28 July 1914 when the Austro-Hungarians fired the first shots in preparation for the invasion of Serbia. As Russia mobilised, Germany invaded neutral Belgium and Luxembourg before moving towards France, leading Britain and Australia to declare war on Germany on 4 August of that year.

For Australia, as for many nations, the First World War remains the most costly conflict in terms of deaths and casualties. From a population of fewer than five million, 416,809 men enlisted (8.5% of the population), of which over 60,000 were killed and 156,000 wounded, gassed, or taken prisoner.

In stark contrast to today’s almost instantaneous news services confirmation of Australia’s involvement dribbled through to an anxious public. On 5 August the Orange Leader reported:

War fever has attained an epidemic degree in our midst. Everybody thinks war and talks war, and are waiting, the latest details as it filters through the telegraph and telephone. All day long people have been watching the special notice board for the posting of press messages, with the latest particulars.

On the 7 August the Leader advised that from that day they would be issuing a, special war edition each day at 1pm which would be available from the ‘leading agents, runner boys, and at the office, at a cost one penny.’

The outbreak of war was greeted in Australia, as in many other places, with great public enthusiasm.  One of the first people in Orange to enlist was Dr Neville Howse then aged 50 and at that time Mayor of Orange. Howse had previously served in the Boer War where he had been awarded the Victoria Cross, and held the rank of honorary medical officer in the Army Medical Corp. His sudden departure took everyone by surprise including the other doctors in the practice who found a note propped on the mantelpiece that read ‘I have gone to the war, you can do what you  … well like with the practice N R H’.

In response to the overwhelming number of volunteers, the authorities set exacting physical standards for recruits.  Among those who volunteered from the district in August 1914 are many familiar ‘Orange’ names. Edmund Thomas Cornish, a labourer at the Dalton Brothers mill and resident of 90 March Street enlisted on 24 August aged 21. As a Sergeant with the 10 Field Artillery Brigade he would be killed in action almost four years later at Amiens in France. His younger brother Walter, who had enlisted in 1915, had died 11 months previously while another brother, Thomas, had been invalided home suffering from shell-shock.

The journalist writing of Edmund’s death in the Leader on 2 September 1918 reflects the effect of the war on families when he wrote ‘It can well be said of the Cornish family that they have done their bit for the Empire’.

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Indigenous servicemen

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are warned that content on this page may contain images and references to deceased persons.

It is estimated that up to 800 indigenous servicemen served in the First World War. The exact number will never be known since ethnicity was not recorded on enlistment papers.

When war broke out in 1914, many indigenous Australians who attempted to enlist were rejected on the grounds of race, their attestation papers marked ‘Unsuitable physique – Aboriginal’ or ‘Unsuitable physique – Colour’. This was in accordance with the Commonwealth Defence Act 1909 which prevented those who were not of ‘substantially European descent’ from enlisting in the armed forces.

Many indigenous men enlisted under false names and/or places of birth in an attempt to evade these conditions. Others claimed to be African American, Maori or only distantly related to Aboriginal people. Read the rest of this entry »

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