Reflections on Anzac Day 2016
As we approach the 101st anniversary of the landings at Gallipoli it is interesting to look back at how the news of the first Australian campaign of the First World War was received in the Port and how they commemorated the first Anzac Day in 1916.
The First Casualties
In the weeks and months that followed 25 April 1915, as the authorities posted lists of Australian casualties, the people of Port Melbourne learnt of sons, brothers and friends who had been wounded or killed in Turkey.
Captain Fred Wilson, son of a train driver from Princes Street was killed in action at Gallipoli.1
Private Hugh Hogan, a popular member of the local swimming club, who worked at the Dunlop Rubber Company2 died of the wounds he received on 30 April 1915.3
Lieutenant Alex Howlett, a former teacher at the Graham Street school and footballer with Port was reported wounded.4
Another Port footballer, Private ‘Jock’ Menzies was also wounded. As a boy, ‘Jock’ had attended both Graham Street and Nott Street schools.5
Private Edmund Freame, son of an engine driver from Rouse Street and nephew of local butcher Frank Freame was included on the twenty-fourth list of casualties issued by the Department of Defence.6
Private William Miller, whose brother ran a tobacconist and hairdresser in Bay Street, was among the wounded and was evacuated to a hospital in Malta.7
Many more were to follow.
The impact on the psyche of Australia in general and Port Melbourne was evident within days of the landings. On Sunday 9 May 1915, sympathy for the bereaved relatives of those soldiers who had fallen and wishes for a speedy recovery of the wounded were expressed at church services around Port.8
At the Presbyterian Church in Bridge Street on that Sunday morning, Rev J Dunlop Landels said “… the action of the Australians at the Dardanelles had brought us closer in touch with the realities of war.”9 Later stating “By their sacrifice the fallen had made Gallipoli a shrine that Australians would visit through all the ages”.10
At Holy Trinity in Bay Street that evening, Rev W McKie paid homage to the troops. “The landing by the Australians at the Dardanelles would rank on the roll of honor [sic] with the Empire’s greatest deeds. Their action had surprised the world, and caused great chagrin to the enemy.”11
The significance of the events of late April 1915 were not lost on these reverend gentlemen.
First Hand Reports
By July 1915 first hand reports by Port men at Gallipoli were reported in the Standard newspaper.
Private William Miller, mentioned among those first casualties, wrote to his parents from the military hospital at Valleta in Malta.
“Our platoon was the first of the Victorians to land and they gave us up the banks, too. We were very lucky to land at all. All our officers were wounded and we were left to get on as best we could. After I was wounded I had to hop all the way down the hill to the beach. There was a sniper popping at me, I do not give him much credit for his shooting. He was landing bullets all round, but could not hit me.”12
Private Arthur Davenport, another Port man wounded in the early days of fighting also convalescing in Malta wrote to his wife.
“When we landed at Gallipoli the Turks had machine guns and shrapnel on us in the pontoons from the shore, and we had to jump into the water up to our waists and wade ashore, all the time under fire. A lot of poor chaps lost their lives before they could get ashore … It was all hills where we did land and the Turks had us at their mercy. We drove them back and we got into their trenches. That was on Sunday, and all Sunday night they tried to retake the trenches. They would come within 20 yards of our trench, and then we would get out with the bayonet. They cannot stand the bayonet, so they fled. On the Monday we had to advance, it was a day of fire. How I got through I cannot tell. From Sunday till the Thursday we were in the trenches, and then we were relieved. After two day’s respite we were back again plugging away once more.”13
No one in Port Melbourne would have been under any illusions what it was like on the front line.
School Anzac Activities 1916
Anzac Day 1916 fell on the Tuesday following the holy days of Easter. Since the school were on a break both Nott Street and Graham Street schools commemorated Anzac Day on Thursday, 20 April.14
Anzacs, Colonel McNicol DSO who had, at one time, been the headmaster of both Port Melbourne State schools, and a former teacher Sergeant Stedge attended the activities at Nott Street. Sergeant R Tracy, who had served in France and Chief Naval Gunner Lewis also represented those serving. Rev J Dunlop Landels delivered an address as did Mr J Matthews MHR, Cr J P Crichton from the School Committee and Mr Richards, headmaster.15
More is known about the events at Graham Street. One of the pupils, Charles Sharp, wrote a report for the Standard.16
Former teacher, Lieutenant Alex Howlett (identified as Sgt-Major in the article), one of the wounded at Gallipoli, lunched with the staff and then took charge of grades seven and eight.
At 2 o’clock the school gathered around the flagpole. The head teacher, Col McShane, gave a short address followed by the National Anthem and God Bless Our Splendid Men.
The ‘old boys’ who had enlisted spoke in turn led off by Corporal Joseph Kruger who had been awarded a DCM for “conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during rescue operations near Anzac, Gallipoli Peninsula, on 29th October 1915, when he repeatedly entered a mine tunnel to rescue others”.17
Alex Howlett, then Albert and Frederick Banton spoke to the assembly. Recently enlisted, the Banton brothers were due to embark for the front within the next few months.
The students cheered the Anzacs, then sang The Recessional and O God, Our Help in Ages Past. The ceremony was brought to a close by the sounding of the last post.
Elsewhere in Port
On Anzac Day itself, the flags were flown on the Town Hall, many shops, houses and factories across the Borough and church services were held in the evening.18
At Holy Trinity, Rev McKie paid tribute to the soldiers saying “The gallant Australian troops who took part in the exploit, by their valiant conduct, showed that the heroism, that had ever been a great trait of the British character, was richly inherited by Australians”.19
For the remainder of the week, members of the Womens Welcome Committee and Port soldiers sold buttons to raise money for the fund for discharged soldiers, the YMCA and the Purple Cross Society. The librarian, Mr J Turner, acted as the honourable distributor of buttons on behalf of the Mayor.20
Subsequent Anzac Day Commemorations
We can assume that in the following years the Anzac Day commemorations would have followed a similar pattern. The Society holds in its collection an order of service probably dating from 1920 or 1921. The handwritten note was hidden in the Nott Street School Honour Board along with several dozen papers relating to ‘old boys’ serving in WWI. It isn’t identified as an Anzac Day service but it bears a striking similarity to the events at Graham Street in 1916.
• Hymn – O God, Our Help in Ages Past
• Address, Head Teacher
• Recitation, Grades 7 and 8
• Addresses, Mayor and Clergyman
• The Recessional
• Address, returned soldiers
• Flowers on Honor [sic] Roll. Reading names of those who died
• National Anthem
• Sounding of Last Post
Anzac Day 2016
This year’s Port Melbourne Anzac Service will be held at the war memorial on the foreshore on Monday 25 April commencing at 9.45 am.
1 1915 ‘Fell Facing the Foe.’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 8 May, p. 2. , viewed 12 Apr 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article91165959
2 1915 ‘Soldier-Swimmer Killed.’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 8 May, p. 2. , viewed 12 Apr 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article91165961
3 NAA: B2455, HOGAN H, viewed 12 Apr 2016, http://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/ViewImage.aspx?B=4760681&S=1
4 1915 ‘ITEMS OF NEWS.’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 22 May, p. 2. , viewed 12 Apr 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article91166883
5 1915 ‘Footballer-Soldier Wounded.’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 22 May, p. 2. , viewed 12 Apr 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article91166889
6 1915 ‘Private Freame Wounded.’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 29 May, p. 2. , viewed 12 Apr 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article91166494
7 1915 ‘Yachtsman-Soldier Wounded.’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 29 May, p. 2. , viewed 12 Apr 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article91166501
8 1915 ‘AUSTRALIA’S HEROES.’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 15 May, p. 1. , viewed 12 Apr 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article91165862
11 1915 ‘AN INSPIRATION TO FUTURE GENERATIONS.’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 15 May, p. 1. , viewed 12 Apr 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article91165865
12 1915 ‘LANDING AT GALLIPOLI.’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 17 July, p. 1. , viewed 12 Apr 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article91167590
14 1916 ‘SCHOOL ANZAC CELEBRATIONS.’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 6 May, p. 1. , viewed 12 Apr 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article91164691
16 1916 ‘SCHOOL WORLD.’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 29 April, p. 2. , viewed 12 Apr 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article91164162
17 NAA: B2455, KRUGER JOSEPH HARVEY, viewed 12 Apr 2016, http://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/ViewImage.aspx?B=7374335&S=1
18 1916 ‘ANZACS DID NOT FAIL.’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 29 April, p. 2. , viewed 12 Apr 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article91164159
20 1916 ‘ANZAC DAY.’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 22 April, p. 3. , viewed 12 Apr 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article91168022