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Patriotic Fundraising in Port During the Great War

During the course of researching the Society’s World War One Centenary Project we have been struck by the sheer number and variety of patriotic and fundraising events in Port Melbourne during the war years. 

Sometimes the proceeds went to local causes but the majority were for some aspect or other of the war effort. There were plenty of local people ready to help as shown by a meeting in March 1919 meeting to organise a Pleasant Sunday Afternoon to aid the establishment of a Port Melbourne Sub-branch of the Returned Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Imperial League of Australia where representatives of fourteen local patriotic bodies attended.1

The efforts of the Busy Bee, a group women workers at Swallow & Ariell under their Secretary, Miss Elsie Holmes should be better known.  In the early days of the war they knitted cardigans and later socks and balaclavas as the effects of winter on the European war front were reported back in Port.  They also organised shipments of Swallow & Ariell Chistmas goodies, although sometimes they didn’t quite make it in time for the December celebrations.  

In mid 1917, Miss Holmes received a letter from Thomas Greenwood AB who worked in the mess on board the HMAS Australia somewhere in the North Sea.2

“…I feel that I must at least drop you a line to thank you and your party for the splendid collection of Xmas luxuries that has just arrived aboard.  Undoubtedly the good things were intended for distribution at Xmas, 1916, but, as they have been held up at some of the depots down south, they are about eight months adrift.  Nevertheless, everything has arrived in excellent order and condition, not one article the worst for the delay.  If you could only realise the amount of pleasure and light-heartedness that has resulted, you would certainly be assured that the enterprise was a monster success. That you and all your party of ‘Busy Bees’ may live long lives and very happy ones is the fervent wish of – (Sgd) Thos. Greenwood AB.”

Bazaars were another popular fundraising event.  For instance, on Saturday, 28 July, 1917 a bazaar was held in the Temperance Hall in response to a request from Miss Ada Reeve for the Australia public to raise money for the Anzac Buffet.3  The Anzac Buffet was established in 1915 by the Australian Natives’ Association to provide comforts to Australian and New Zealand troops on leave in London.4

The bazaar was organised by Mesdames P Wilson, A O Davies and R Hooper and raised £50/16/7 for the buffet.

Themed dances and raffles were also extremely common.  A few snippets from the “Electric Sparks”column in The Standardnewspaper from 4 August 1917 hints at just how frequent these events were held.5

Silver mounted pipe disposed of Miss I Stephens in aid of “Mirnee” Red Cross goes to 38.”

“The pincushion disposed of by the Women’s Welcome Committee goes to 41 (Mr Gordon, Footscray).”

“Every purchaser of a ticket for the bal masque, to be held next Wednesday evening, has a chance of becoming the owner of a handsome hand-painted mirror now on view at Moore’s.” *

“Prize-takers at the ‘Hard Up’ dance in St Joseph’s Hall included Mrs Grant and Mr Murphy, ‘Tramp and his Missus’ and Miss M Watt and friend, ‘Mr and Mrs Ally Sloper’.”

“Prizes at the bazaar organised by Mrs A O Davies and other ladies for the Anzac Bazaar were won as follows – Kewpie basket, Pte C Hooper; Scotch Kewpie, 3; glass bowl, 26; basket of sweets, 52; decorated cake, 3321W; basket of sweets, 88; box of sweets, 2827; oak and copper pedestal, 2461; clock and jewel case, 7310; wicker chair, 66; rose cushion, 675; chain bag, 3146X.”

Often held on Fridays, “Button Days” were a regular occurrence during the war.  In September, 1917, The Standardreported on the nine “Button Days” held in Port Melbourne during the Mayoralty of Cr William Howe.6

“Wattle Day”, 1 September, 1916 – £37/11/1
“Hospital Day”, 20 October, 1916 – £35/6/4
“Our Soldiers’ Day”, 1 December, 1916 – £26/15/3
“Win the War Day”, 23 February, 1917 – £40
“Our Sailors’ Day”, 23 March, 1917 – £18
“Anzac Day”, 28 April, 1917 – £56/0/8
“British Red Cross Day”, 24 May, 1917 – £30/17/-
“Italian Red Cross Day”, 6 July, 1917 – £19/13/1
“Wattle Day”, 24 August, 1917 – £23/3/8

In total, £320/7/1 was raised locally through “Button Days” during twelve months with a further £37/16/1 raised for the Belgian Children’s Christmas Appeal. Mrs Coverdale raised the most money with her personal tally totalling £103/10/9½.

Set of four Fundraising Badges (Buttons) from 1917. PMHPS Collection.


*Moore and Co, Cash Drapiers and Clothiers were located at 313, 315 & 317 Bay Street, Port Melbourne.7


11919 ‘RETURNED SOLDIERS’ LEAGUE.’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 22 March, p. 3. , viewed 05 Mar 2019,

21917 ‘”BUSY BEE.”‘, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 4 August, p. 1. , viewed 05 Mar 2019,

31917 ‘BAZAAR FOR ANZAC BUFFET.’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 11 August, p. 3. , viewed 05 Mar 2019,

4‘THE ANZAC BUFFET, LONDON, 1915 – 1919.’, Discovering Anzacs website, viewed 05 Mar 2019,

51917 ‘ELECTRIC SPARKS’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 4 August, p. 3. , viewed 05 Mar 2019,

61917 ‘BUTTON DAYS IN PORT.’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 8 September, p. 1. , viewed 05 Mar 2019,

1917 ‘Advertising’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 11 August, p. 2. , viewed 05 Mar 2019,


  • Peter Munro
    Posted April 1, 2022 12.43 pm 0Likes

    Thank you for the great little historical pieces that add to the fabric Port Melbourne.
    They are most readable and the quotes from the primary sources reflect authentically the language of the day.
    I was taken by the fact that Governor & Lady Hotham actually travelled on the first steam powered train from Flinders Street to Sandridge. Perhaps as he travelled, he was thinking about the storm clouds emerging over the Ballarat goldfields and the discontent of the miners over the question of increase in gold licences leading to the Eureka Rebellion a few weeks’ later.

    • Janet Bolitho
      Posted April 5, 2022 9.24 am 0Likes

      Thanks Peter, like the way you relate local historical events to broader themes. Although that first railway was definitely seen as a colony shaper.

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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.