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Town Hall, 333 Bay Street, Port Melbourne
Town Hall, 333 Bay Street, Port Melbourne

Returned Soldiers’ Reception and Smoke Concert

About 250 returned soldiers and sailors with about the same number of relatives attended the civic reception provided by the Mayor, Cr Richard Gill and councillors at Port Melbourne Town Hall on the afternoon of 5 Dec 1918.

The reception and the ‘smoke concert’ to be held later that evening were the work of the Anzac Reception Committee that had been convened by the Mayor some weeks earlier. The arrangements had been put in place under the guidance of the Town Clerk, Mr A V Heath.

The hall was arranged with long tables running the length of the building set for afternoon tea with bouquets of gum leaves in vases. The Mayor, councillors and representative citizens sat at a table running across the head of the hall.

The balconies and walls were draped with the flags of Great Britain, her dominions and the Allies.

Reception given by Port Melbourne in honour of the Men of the Navy and Soldiers of the AIF on the afternoon of Thursday December 5th 1918. CoPP Collection

The souvenir programme carried a fitting quote from Shakespeare’s Henry V.

Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof!
Fathers, like so many Alexanders
Have in these parts from morn till even fought
And sheath’d their swords for lack of argument

Joining the Mayor and Mayoress at their table were the other councillors and their wives, Mr J L Murphy MLA and Mrs Murphy, Chaplain-Captain J Dunlop Landels, Mr J Matthews MHR, Mr F T Derham, Hon. J Disney MLC, Lieut. E Nugent MC, Rev. William McKee, Rev. Charles Crossley, ex-Cr C H Martin, Mr G W S Dean, Mr and Mrs Testro, Cr T Craine (of South Melbourne), ex-Cr D C Armstrong, Rev. Hugh Macdonald and the captain of the local salvation Army corps.

After the National Anthem the assembly heard from the Mayor, Mr Derham and Chaplain-Captain Landels and were then entertained with songs by Misses Rosa Walton and Ivy Sears and Mr Edward Leahy, and narratives from Mr Gerald Massey. Pipe-Sergeant Mrs Jessie Young, of the Lady Pipers, along with some of her small pupils provided what the Mayor described as a delightful interlude.

The details of the ‘smoke concert’ held at 8 o’clock that evening are not as extensive but as the photo below shows, there were no women attendees and the cups and saucers have been replaced with beer bottles.

About 400 returned soldiers and sailors. Most of the male representative from the earlier reception were also present and Messrs W E Pearcey, I Joel and ex-Cr Tucker also joined the Mayor at his table.

Apart from a reverent interlude while the memory of the un-returning brave was honoured, the proceedings were merry and seasonable.

Smoke Concert given by Port Melbourne in honour of the Men of the Navy and Soldiers of the AIF on the evening of Thursday December 5th 1918. PMHPS Collection.


1918 ‘RETURNED SOLDIERS ENTERTAINED.’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 7 December, p. 2. , viewed 13 Nov 2018,

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Acknowledgement of Traditional Custodians

We respectfully acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we meet and work, the Bunurong Boon Wurrung and Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung peoples of the Eastern Kulin Nation and pay respect to their Elders past, present and emerging.