our troops – recruitment 1914

I found this article on NLA Trove newspaper archive, in the Sydney Morning Herald, dated Tuesday 22 September 1914. It gives an insight into the new recruitment arrangements for those enlisting in the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF), one hundred years ago.

Extract from article in the Sydney Moring Herald, 22 September 1914.

Extract from article in the Sydney Morning Herald, 22 September 1914.

OUR TROOPS.

RECRUITING CHANGED.
COUNTRY ENROLMENTS.

The new arrangements for recruiting from the country came into operation yesterday, and there was a marked improvement in the number of these men coming forward. It is now no longer necessary for applicants to pay their own fares to Sydney and have a receipt in order to get a refund at this end. When passed by local Government medical officers the men are given a pass, as ordinarily used by the Police Department, the Commonwealth Government subsequently making good the amount to the Railway Department. These passes can be obtained at any country police station. In the case of those under 21 years of age the written consent of parent or guardian is required. With this Lieutenant Colonel Antill, the enrolling officer is prepared to take men under 19 years of age – the limit first provided – but they must be over 18 years. The acceptance of applicants, particularly these minors, is a matter left to his discretion.

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Volunteers queuing to enlist outside Victoria Barracks, Sydney, 1914-1918. [AWM negative A03406]

The service will accept married men and widowers with children provided they can state that they are aware that no separation allowance will be issued either before or after embarkation and that they signify, on the form of attestation their willingness to allot at least two-fifths of their pay (not including deferred pay) while abroad to their wives, or in the case of a wife and children at least three-fifths. Applicants for enrolment are not to be over 45 years of age and must of course be of the required physique.

Privates are to receive, while in Australia 4s per diem and 1s per diem deferred pay, and while abroad 5s per diem and 1s per diem deferred pay. The period of service is to be for the duration of the war and four months thereafter, unless the men are sooner lawfully discharged, dismissed or removed. No members of either Commonwealth or State Public Service are to be accepted without their departmental head being first consulted.

Intending recruits from the metropolitan area can apply as usual at the barracks and be allocated to duty, subject to their passing the medical examinations, which after tomorrow will be conducted at the Rosehill Racecourse. Batches will be sent away by train leaving each day at about 3 p.m. The recruits will then be taken in hand by the different officers and placed in their respective ranks. A matter of interest to city men is the requirement of good artisans for the Army Service Corps. Fifty-five men were sent there yesterday as drivers. Now word has been received to enlist men (not too heavy) who are qualified saddle or harness makers and others who are good at tent making.

Detail from Private Ernest Clive Buck’s WWI Attestation Papers.

Detail from Private Ernest Clive Buck’s WWI Attestation Papers.

THE PRESENT VACANCIES

The ranks of the artillery and engineers are filled as far as the New South Wales quota of the second contingent is concerned but the other branches to make up the 3,000, have vacancies for over 1,000 altogether. The enrolling officer is being inundated with letters from country applicants seeking advice, and he wishes it to be made public that the police everywhere have been instructed what to do. Men cannot, he says, pick their jobs. What they are required to do is to get their medical certificate of fitness and a free pass to Sydney. Their services will thereafter be placed to the best advantage. All cannot go to the Light Horse the Army Medical Corps or the Army Service Corps, but men will not be sent to the infantry if they are specially qualified for these other divisions.

As to those who want commissions in the expeditionary forces it is pointed out that it is no use applying to the enrolling officer for these as many are doing. Colonel Antill does not doubt that some of the applicants are deserving of appointment but all he can do is to have their names registered. It rests with the officers commanding the respective divisions to select those considered to be most suitable, and make recommendations accordingly to headquarters.

Recruits undergoing medical examination at Victoria Barracks, Sydney, (1914-1918) [AWM negative A03616]

Recruits undergoing medical examination at Victoria Barracks, Sydney, 1914-1918 [AWM negative A03616]

STEADY ENROLMENT

Yesterdays enrolments did not constitute a record but the total (270) was a distinct improvement. The country was well represented and all the men were of excellent physique. One applicant was from the Northern Territory. He said he had been doing “kangarooing and driving,” and being in Sydney he thought he would “give a look in.” “Can you ride a rough horse?” asked the Colonel. “I must have slipped a lot if I can’t,” was the quaint reply. “We shoot kangaroos on horseback-and,” he continued “I can cook and track.” He was sent to the Light Horse. Another man could “shoot a bullock on sight.” “Can you ride?” the officer asked of another. “I cannot say that I am exactly a sticking plaster, but I can stick on as well as most of them.” “You look it,” said the officer who included him also in the Light Horse. A man who had driven live horses in George-street and four in a plough was sent to the Army Service Corps. This corps benefited also by a physically strong man, who was designated a stretcher-bearer. A hod-carrier equally powerful was sent to the ammunition column. In reply to the Colonel he said, “he did not care how heavy the shells might be so long as some good might be done with them.” A “bushman” from Gosford was sent to the Infantry. An undergraduate never added “Sir” to his replies and was told to cultivate the habit. He was sent to the Infantry. The day’s total included about a dozen men who had served in the Boer war.

The 1st Infantry Brigade exercised yesterday at the Kensington Racecourse, there being no route march.

ROUTE MARCH TO-DAY

The 2nd battalion of the 1st Infantry Brigade will leave the Kensington racecourse this morning at 8 o’clock for a route march via the Central Railway Station to Harris-street. The force, which should pass the station at about 9.15, are expected to return to camp in time for lunch. Colonel Braund will be in command.

Mr. Dunn M.L.A., will, the enrolling officer says, be eligible for inclusion in the Light Horse Brigade when he has completed his private arrangements. Dr. A. Mark Stanton of Granville has been gazetted captain in the Army Medical Corps of the Commonwealth defence forces, and has been attached to the 20th Regiment with headquarters at Parramatta. Mr. William Barry, son of Senior-sergeant Barry of the North Sydney police, who is leaving with the expeditionary force, was yesterday presented with a purse of sovereigns at a social gathering in the North Sydney School of Arts.

New recruits moving through the Army camp lines at Liverpool, New South Wales, c1914 [AWM H03358]

New recruits moving through the Army camp lines at Liverpool, New South Wales, c1914 [AWM negative H03358]

CIVIL SERVANTS VOLUNTEER

The Minister for Public Health stated yesterday that nearly 10 per cent of the general staff attached to the administration of the Lunacy Department has been accepted for service with the Expeditionary Forces. The male staffs of the various hospitals for the insane exclusive of officers comprise 586 men and 53 of them are going to the war. One of the matrons Miss Pocock of Gladesville is going to the front having joined the Army Medical Service, in which she served during the South African war.

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Sources: NLA Trove newspaper archive; images from Australian War Memorial collection, read more about WWI voluntary recruiting here.

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Life Interrupted: Personal Diaries from WWI

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5 Jul 2014 – 21 Sep 2014 
Exhibition Galleries, State Library of NSW

I saw this wonderful exhibition at the State Library of NSW a few weeks ago.

From 1918 the State Library of NSW began collecting the WWI stories of servicemen, doctors, nurses, stretcher-bearers and journalists so that future generations would know about their experiences.

This extract from the exhibition program gives an insight into the Library’s collection:

By 1921 the total number of war diaries in the Library had reached 247, complemented by collections of letters and in some cases photo albums as well. Today the collection stands at around 550 diarists and over 1100 volumes.

A small number of diaries were acquired from the families of men killed abroad but the majority in this collection were purchased from men who made it home, survivors, many of them diarists over two, three or four years.

The diaries take many forms. Some were written on odd sheets of paper or in memo books or signal message books. Others were cloth or leather bound.

The soldiers, airmen, sailors and nurses who kept a diary, knew they had a big story to tell. For some their diary was a way to connect to home. They were writing for an imagined audience, for the family and friends they left behind. The importance of a  ‘conversation’ with home can hardly be overstated. Along with letters and postcards and sometimes photographs, the diaries were the Facebook of their day.

Last but not least, these wartime chroniclers wanted a record of duty done. They wrote of hard times, of battle and death and ruin everywhere. There are lines, hastily scrawled upon the eve of battle, by soldiers who knew this entry might be their last.

These are voices full of life and fun and fear; and resolute purpose. They are voices from the greatest tragedy of the twentieth century, a tragedy that engulfed an age.

Peter Cochrane – July 2014

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Over 500 World War I diaries on display at the State Library of NSW.

The exhibition Life Interrupted: Personal Diaries from World War I is beautifully curated by Elise Edmonds. The chronicle of the war is highlighted by the captivating personal accounts of those who enlisted – farmers, doctors, nurses, photographers and artists – and is supported by newspapers, photographs, artworks, maps and ephemera.

Many of the photographs in the exhibition are by Private Henry Charles MARSHALL (1890-1915) who enlisted in Sydney in the same week as my grandfather Ernest Clive BUCK (1895-1974).  My grandfather’s service number was 571 and MARSHALL’s was 577. They were both in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF), 1st Infantry Battalion, E Company. They served together throughout training billeted at the racecourse at Kensington. They embarked on HMAT Afric out of Sydney for the Middle East.

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Henry Charles Marshall (1890–1915). Kensington to Cairo and from Cairo to Gallipoli: Album of photographs, 1914–1915. [State Library of NSW PXA 1861]

Henry Charles MARSHALL photographed his journey from the military camp at Kensington in Sydney, to Cairo and then on to Gallipoli. He captured the daily lives of the 1st Battalion setting up camp and pitching their tents at Mena in Egypt near the pyramids.

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Pitching tents in sight of pyramids, Henry Charles Marshall (1890–1915). Kensington to Cairo and from Cairo to Gallipoli: Album of photographs, 1914–1915. [State Library of NSW PXA 1861]

MARSHALL photographed the 1st Battalion rowing towards the enemy shore at Gallipoli on the afternoon of 25 April 1915. He captured candid scenes of his mates from E Company in the trenches and relaxing with mugs of tea during a lull in the fighting.

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Uncaptioned photo of Australian servicemen at Gallipoli, Henry Charles Marshall (1890–1915). Kensington to Cairo and from Cairo to Gallipoli: Album of photographs, 1914–1915. [State Library of NSW PXA 1861]

 On 5 June 1915, both Henry Charles MARSHALL and Ernest Clive BUCK were severely wounded in fighting. Henry received a gun shot wound to the chest and died aboard a hospital ship and was buried at sea. Ernest was shot and bayoneted in the chest. He was evacuated to a hospital ship and then to the base hospital on the island of Malta a fortnight later; and then on to England to recover from his injuries. Ernest was one of the few who survived such severe injuries.

Private MARSHALL’s, films, photos, letters and equipment were sent back to his family in Devonport, Tasmania. His father and sister organised the photos in chronological order and created an album using information in Henry’s note books as a photo index.

I believe the Marshall family offered copies of the photos and albums to the ex-servicemen of the 1st Battalion. My grandfather Ernest had an album, Kensington to Cairo, but not the Cairo to Gallipoli volume. Maybe he did not need photos to remember the horrors of the Gallipoli campaign.

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This is why we wear our hats turned up on the side, Lieut PV Ryan (1881-1950). Sketchbook purchased by the State Library of NSW in 1919.

The exhibition doesn’t only focus on Gallipoli, it gives a voice to all the brave servicemen and women, from the beginning of the war in Ausust 1914, through all the desert campaigns of the Middle East and the muddy trenches of France.

One of the diaries featured in the exhibition is that of Anne DONNELL, a nurse stationed near Ypres, France. On New Year’s Day 1918 she sat on her bed and wept, homesick and exhausted. She had been away from home for three years. Sister Donnell was working in the acute medical ward. Her patients were mainly suffering from gas poisoning and there were lots of pneumonia cases. As she wrote in her diary, she could detect the smell of sickly sweet pineapple in the air – the tell-tale sign of poison gas:

‘10 p.m. Will this restless life never end. As I write the shelling is going on again – heavier too. I am not undressing – It’s a terrible life this’.

The Life Interrupted exhibition at the State Library of NSW is free and runs until 24 September 2014. I recommend you block out a day in your diary to visit the Library, and reflect on the personal accounts of these extraordinary men and women of the global conflict a century ago, which profoundly affected and shaped Australia and its people.

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SOURCES: State Library of NSWKensington to Cairo and from Cairo to Gallipoli: Album of photographs, 1914–1915. Henry Charles MARSHALL [State Library of NSW PXA 1861]; Kensington to Cairo: photo album, 1914–1915. Henry Charles MARSHALL, Buck/Brooks family collection; WWI service records of Henry Charles MARSHALL and Ernest Clive BUCK.