Saturday, 25 July 2015

When Rosie married Roy

The wedding of Rosie and Roy. Courtesy Coburg Historical Society.

In June 1992 someone found this photo at a Coburg Trash'n'Treasure sale and donated it to Coburg Historical Society. 

On the back are written the words 'To dear Auntie Annie. With best wishes from Rosie and Roy.'

But who are Rosie and Roy? And what is their connection, if any, to Coburg?

There are three men in uniform in the photo. Roy and one other are wearing officer's uniforms and a younger man, centre back row, is wearing a slouch hat. 

Roy has stripes on his uniform sleeve, and someone with a better knowledge of patches will be able to tell me who he served with. This detail from the larger photo shows the patch and stripes quite clearly:

The woman on the left of the photo is wearing some sort of service badge. I think she must be the mother of either Roy or Rosie, so I'm guessing it's a mother's badge, but I'm sure someone will let me know!

No one in the photo seems very happy, so perhaps Roy was about to sail for the Front. 

I have already eliminated all the servicemen with Roy in their names who had connections to Coburg.

They are:

6470 Private Roy Beattie, 14th Infantry Battalion. KIA, 11 April 1917, France.
8166 Private Percival Roy Bridger, 2nd Australian General Hospital.  Member of Coburg Harriers Club. 
7549 Sapper Roy Marcus Bright, 2nd Divisional Signal Company.
2813 Acting Corporal Roy Phillips Bromley, 29th Infantry Battalion, D Company. KIA 26 Sep 1917, France. Memorial service for the fallen, Coburg, February 1918. Memorial Avenues of trees, Coburg Lake. Memorial Avenue of Trees plan. Tree # 9.
2342 Albert Royston Chapman, 21st Infantry Battalion, 5th Reinforcements then 67th Infantry Battalion.
7362 Roy Rupert Davis, 8th LIght Horse Regiment.
Roy Cavanagh Downs.
16332 Private Alan Samuel Roy Ferguson, Hospital Transport Corps.
3390 Private Cecil Roy Hambridge, 58th Infantry Battalion..
5153 Private Alexander Roy Main, 8th Infantry Battalion.
626 Sapper Roy Gustav Nilsson, Tunnelling Company.
Roy McCowan Russell.
2nd Lieutenant (MGS) Roy Blamire Sewell, HQ Staff of 22nd Infantry Battalion.
Roy Booty (or Botty) Watson.
1187 Private Alfred Roy Werner, 38th Infantry Battalion, D Company.
2476  Private Walter Roy Wilson, 5th Infantry Battalion. KIA 18 August 1916.
2920 Signaller Roy Yorke, 6th Infantry Battalion. 

I am hoping that I will eventually be able to identify this couple, and the other servicemen in the photo, so any help you can offer will be very much appreciated!

Monday, 20 July 2015

Adela Pankhurst, the anti-conscription movement and Pentridge Prison

Not long ago, my attention was drawn to several articles relating to a crowd of ‘no conscriptionists’ who had gathered outside the Women’s Prison at Pentridge to protest the imprisonment of Adela Pankhurst, daughter of English suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst and sister of Christabel and Sylvia. Estranged from her family, she had arrived in Melbourne in 1914.

Image of Adela Pankhurst from Wikipedia 

On 7 January 1918, about 50 supporters, mostly women and ‘understood to be socialists’, gathered at the entrance to Pentridge and sang to Adela, who was now Adela Walsh, having married Tom Walsh while on remand in September 1917. She was serving a four month term for repeatedly defying a ban on public meetings. The sounds of ‘Solidarity Forever’, ‘The Red Flag’ and ‘We’ll keep Australia Free’ rang out along Champ Street. Enthusiastic Cooees, meant to send support to Adela on the inside, were heard. Soon a crowd of 300 had gathered.

Front gate of Pentridge Prison c1930. Image courtesy Coburg Historical Society.

The police dispersed the crowd quickly, but Carlton couple Richard and Lilias Mary Land were arrested, charged with ‘offensive behaviour’.  Many in the crowd followed the couple to the Coburg Police Station where they were charged, and while their supporters waited for the Lands to be bailed, they continued singing into the night.

The following articles outline the story:

Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 11 January 1918, p.2.

Weekly Times, 12 January 1918, p.10.

Tribune, 10 January 1918, p.5. 

Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 11 January 1918, p.1. 

Adela (Pankhurst) Walsh was released on 22 January 1918. Not long afterwards she and Tom Walsh moved to New South Wales.

Punch, 4 April 1918, p.32.

These events at Coburg should be seen against the backdrop of bans on peace or ‘no conscriptionist’ meetings that had been in the news for the previous twelve months. There is little coverage of these meetings in the local newspapers, especially in Coburg where there appears on the surface to have been little support for the anti-conscription or the peace movement. Yet there must have been others in the area who supported the same anti-war and anti-conscriptionist stance as Pankhurst, who was an organiser for Vida Goldstein’s Women Political Association and Women’s Peace Army.

Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 1 June 1917, p.4. 

Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 20 April 1917, p.1 

You can read more about the peace movement, the anti-conscription campaign and other aspects of the Moreland area during World War One on the Moreland Remembers World War 1 exhibition banners.

Let me know if you can add to this story.

Monday, 13 July 2015

1915’s War Census

'Australia has promised Britain 50,000 more men. Will you help us keep that promise?’ Poster courtesy AWM, ARTV00021. The poster depicts the national symbol of the kangaroo against a backdrop of advancing soldiers.

In the notes that accompany the above poster, the Australian War Memorial records that:
Towards the end of 1915, a War Census  of the Australian population showed that 244,000 single men of military age were available for enlistment. Accordingly, on 26 November 1915, the government with W.M. Hughes as its new leader, promised Britain 50,000 more troops - in addition to the 9,500 per month being sent as reinforcements for the 60,000 Australians already overseas.

To view the details of the War Census Act of 1915, click hereTo read more about the Census and its role in the recruitment campaign, click here.

Courtesy Coburg Historical Society.

Francis Greenwood was 49 when he filled out the census cards in September 1915. The cards show that he was a resident of Sydney Road, Coburg and was a produce merchant with assets worth £2,351.

Frederick Greenwood was the son of Coburg pioneer Abel Greenwood who had been a Coburg Councillor and a Shire President. 
It was Abel Greenwood who started the Sydney Road business.

Greenwood’s Produce Store, c1900. Image courtesy Coburg Historical Society.

And just to show yet again how one piece of research leads into another, I was interested when I was researching the 1915 War Census to come across the following article in The Mirror of Australia, 11 December 1915, p.16.

And this one from the Sydney Mail, 8 December 1915, p.30.

I wondered whether the Victorian branch of the National Council of Women had taken up the issue, but it seems not:

Sydney Morning Herald, 22 December 1915, p.5.

Friday, 10 July 2015

Harold Swanson, a Coburg conscientious objector, comes under suspicion

A little while ago, I wrote about a local man, Harold Swanson, who came before the Coburg exemption court in October 1916 claiming he was a conscientious objector.

Age, Thursday 19 October 1916, p.8.

Since I wrote that blog entry, I have found out much more about Harold Swanson and about anti-conscription meetings in Coburg and Brunswick. The research goes on, but some interesting stories have begun to emerge.

Swanson's stance as a conscientious objector must have been well known to his local community, as the following newspaper clipping suggests:

Brunswick and Coburg Star, Friday 4 August 1916, p.3.

The newspaper article also makes clear that although Swanson's opinion of war was well known and clearly not supported by the St. Augustine's congregation, it was not considered an impediment to him taking the role of secretary of the vestry. It seems that although Swanson was anti-war, he still felt able to attend this welcome home to the St. Augustine's 'Anzac heroes'. So it wasn't a case of immovable object meets immovable object.

Whether this was still the attitude six weeks later, as anti-conscription meetings in Coburg and Brunswick met resistance from the local Councils, is unclear, but as the first conscription referendum drew nearer, there were signs of tension everywhere, as the following extracts from the local press reveal.

Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 15 September 1916, p.2.

Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 29 September 1916, p.3.

Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 20 October 1916, p.2.

And such times of great tension provide the perfect opportunity for neighbour to inform on 'suspect' neighbour, just as they did in the days of the Cold War. The World War One Intelligence files held at the National Archives of Australia reveal one such story from Brunswick.

On 20 October 1916, the very week that Harold Swanson appeared in Coburg Court, a report was filed at Brunswick Police Station on Otto Draeger, a 56 year old watchmaker of Sydney Road. Constable R.R. Dugdale was requested to provide a report on Draeger who was 'said to be a full blooded German canvassing for the Anti-Conscription Party.' Constable Dugdale found no evidence of this and said that Draeger was a 'quiet man and does not take any part in public matters'.  He went on to say that Draeger had been born at Emerald Hill in 1860 of German parents. He then listed some of Draeger's nephews who were away at the war. (National Archives of Australia, MP16/1. 1916/1273)

What isn't mentioned here is that one nephew, 33449 Driver Clarence Norman Draeger, 11th Howitzer Battery, 11th Brigade Australian Field Artillery, had enlisted the week before the report was written. An old boy of Coburg State School who lived in Bell Street, Preston during his school days, Clarrie Draeger was a resident of Blackburn at the time of his enlistment. He was killed in action in France on 22 June 1918 and is remembered on the Preston Cenotaph.

Uncle Otto, a quiet man from a respected family of local jewellers, a private man who 'does not take part in public matters', must have been mortified at being questioned about his loyalty. And he was just one of many.

Over six months passed before the tensions around Harold Swanson's anti-war stance re-emerged. A World War One Intelligence File dated 2 May 1917 reveals that Harold F. Swanson, of 98 Blair Street, Coburg, had been working as a munitions worker, but this appointment was about to be cancelled. (National Archives of Australia, MP16/1. 17/394)

The attack on Swanson was two-pronged. 

Firstly, the family's loyalty was called into question. It was said that Harold's father, A.E. Swanson, a patent attorney, had visited Paris 'and was known to travel towards the German frontier.' It was also claimed that 'his business was primarily to exhibit some patents; one being on a submarine ... This invention is now in use by the Germans, and since the return of Mr Swanson he appears to be much better off financially.' UK Inward Passenger Lists reveal that Albert Swanson did indeed travel to Europe, reaching London on 9 December 1911, three years before war was declared, so he could hardly be accused of selling secrets to the enemy.

Secondly, of Harold Swanson it was claimed that he was 'a socialist to the backbone' and 'states that he would not volunteer or be a conscriptionist, and would sooner be placed in front of a barrack wall and shot.' And just as bad - 'He helps break up recruiting meetings at Coburg.' Not only that, but the mother of the informant against Harold Swanson said that she had 'asked him before the referendum [the October 1916 referendum]  if he intended to vote for the KING or the Kaiser, and he said the Kaiser.' She had then asked him to leave the house!

None of this is new information, of course, but  the case against Harold Swanson was such that his appointment as a munitions worker was cancelled. Swanson's own voice is not heard in the files, but given his previous public statements, he probably did not protest.

Finally, in the week leading up to the second conscription referendum on 20 December 1917, the Swanson family re-appeared in the local press. 

This time it was Harold's older brother Albert, a Brunswick printer, who made the news.

Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 14 December 1917, p.1.

Both local men, Judd, of De Carle St., Brunswick North and Goding, of The Grove, Moreland, were both teachers and as such might be expected to set an example to others. Clearly the heat of the moment had got the better of Judd and his taunt of 'cold-footed rotter' moved Albert Swanson to action. He might have been an anti-conscriptionist, but he certainly was not averse to using force if he deemed it warranted.

It is here that I will leave this short exploration of a turbulent period on the home front. There is much more to be said about the anti-conscription movement and of the way those with foreign names, especially German sounding names, were treated.

There are over 7,000 files in the WW1 Intelligence Section Case Files at the National Archives of Australia, covering the time period 1914-1920. Only a handful of these files have been digitised, Otto Draeger's file being one of them. Here, then, is a relatively unknown source of rich information about Australians' attitudes to 'otherness' during a period of great tension and it's right on our doorstep!

Sunday, 5 July 2015

More exemption claims at Coburg

At a second session of Coburg Court on Wednesday 25 October 1916, just days before the first Conscription Referendum was held, magistrate Dr Cole heard another large number of claims for exemption from military training, mostly on the grounds that the applicants were only sons. This time no one was named, but some of the more ridiculous (in the eyes of the newspaper, at least) excuses were printed.

These were the excuses published in the Brunswick and Coburg Leader on 3 November 1916:

I haven't found any other references to exemption hearings in the local Coburg press and am still pursuing this line of research.