by clicking the arrows at the side of the page, or by using the toolbar.
by clicking anywhere on the page.
by dragging the page around when zoomed in.
by clicking anywhere on the page when zoomed in.
web sites or send emails by clicking on hyperlinks.
Email this page to a friend
Search this issue
Index - jump to page or section
Archive - view past issues
The Rock-itt : March Rock-itt 2014
vvvvvvvvvvvvvv v vv vvv by Simon Lyon, The Rock-itt’s Historian LEST WE FORGET One of the frequent questions I get asked by the younger folk these days is why did Australia join this terrible war. Many people are ill inf ormed on this subject and make generalisations based on a bias that never existed. At the dawn of the 20th Century, Australia was in the throes of Federation, i.e. becoming a Nation in its own right, independent of the parent country (old Mother England). This factor alone could explain the reason, but it is more complex than that. Casting one’s m ind back to the Boer War where sev eral contingents of Australia’s growing but untried Militia, trav elled to South Africa to fight on the British side against the Boer, in the late 19th Century, there was a distinct sense that the Australian forces needed to be as efficient as all the other forces on the battlefield. Many of these Regiments were trained by the British Army and were indeed populated by men from the British Isles, albeit not ex clusiv ely. These troops trained in their spare time and were in effect a Reserve Force, which was brought together at the outset of hostilities in Europe in August 1914. Sadly for many men, the journey to France took too long. More on that later. So when war finally broke out the Australian contribution had already been decided and the structure worked out. A 1st Division was to be assembled and a large flotilla was to be put to sea with a view to disembark in Egypt (which is precisely what did occur). W e all know now that the final destination was to change in April1915 and it was not until 1916 that the Australian presence was felt on the W estern Front. However in order to fill the places in the 1 st Division and the fleet, a m assiv e recruitm ent drive was necessary. Anyone who as watched Peter W eir’s mov ie GALLIPOLI (1982) will recall the two lads who were sprinters in the bush and made the long journey to a town where recruiters could take their details and thus sign up. This picture of what happened throughout this great and massiv e continent, was fairly accurate and what must be remembered is that ALL these m en were v olunteers. This is also an important factor I answering that question. A large proportion of the Australian population at this tim e were in fact from the British Isles; many had come over with the various Gold Rushes that occurred in the second part of the prev ious century and had stayed on. Most families looked to London for the latest fashion, read the papers desperate for news of what was happening in the Old World and would have wanted to be involved. For those who had serv ed in Transv aal, war held a secret that the emotionally blind v olunteer could not discov er, until that fatal mom ent on 25th April 1915 on a coastline they knew nothing about and against an enemy they didn’t really want to fight. W ar was about to change dramatically within a few months of the outbreak in Northern Europe. No longer was a cav alry required to charge against trench defences, bristling with the modern v ersion of Father Time’s Sickle; the Maxim machine gun. Nor had anyone env isaged the massiv e impact and dev elopment of High Explosiv e (HE) and the huge guns that these shells were fired from, often MILES back behind the front lines. No, that was next on the agenda. Most volunteers felt that the war might be over by Christm as 1914 and they didn’t want to miss out on any opportunity to have a go at the bullying Germans. The “romantic” notion of a brave bayonet charge against a terrified Hun front line, was in fact a rare occurrence and possibly only at the end of the war, was it used to effect against a rag tag German force starved of food and strained beyond imagination. Uppermost in these young men’s minds was a sense of WHY DID AUSSIES WANT TO JOIN UP AND FIGHT IN WORLD WAR 1?