Nott Street School Honour Roll
For the best part of 75 years the Nott Street WWI Roll of Honour rested securely in a recess in the “Old Boys” memorial at the school. When the school closed in 1993 the memorial was moved to the foyer of the Port Melbourne Town Hall in Bay Street and the roll, along with several temporary versions of the roll and some loose papers, were added to the Port Melbourne Historical and Preservation Society archives where they hold a special place in the Society’s collection.
The bound blank book was provided to the school by the Victorian Education Department. It appears that all State Schools in Victoria were given such a book.
The title page features a sword, wreath and wings rendered in Art Nouveau style in the form of a cross. The title reads “Roll of Honor [sic] – Nott Street School – Port Melbourne” while the base of the cross bears the epitaph “LEST WE FORGET.
The title page is dated 1918 but does not include a signature. It was almost certainly designed by Harold Herbert, a teacher at the Ballarat Technical Art School, and later an artist of some note, who did a series of similar graphics for the department’s official Record of War Service 1914-1919.1
Inside, the names of the “Old Boys” are written with some space left for a brief account of their war service.2. For reasons lost in the ensuing 100 years it is not known why this part of the roll was not completed. (See An Unfinished Tribute below)
All through this article, and others, we have made reference to the Nott Street School “Old Boys” but of course there were also teachers who enlisted and they were included at the back of the school Roll of Honour.
An Unfinished Tribute
From other versions of the honour roll and the loose papers kept with them, we know that not all the names of the “Old Boys” were transcribed into the official book. We can piece together the process for compiling the roll of honour but why it remains unfinished is a mystery.
For the final few years of the First World War the school collected the names of the “Old Boys” who enlisted. The names were probably passed onto the Head Teacher, Mr A Richards, on various pieces of papers and the names were then transcribed onto a temporary honour roll and the pieces of paper discarded.
The first temporary roll of honour, written in an exercise book, was prepared for the Anzac Day commemorations in 1917. Reading the names of the “Old Boys” became a feature of the annual commemorations.
The next list, the pin list, probably prepared for the 1918 commemorations, was on loose sheets of paper held together with a small pin. It is undated but includes more names than the 1917 list.
The last temporary roll, the foolscap list, probably dates from Anzac Day 1919. Again it is undated but it includes names than do not appear on either of the previous lists and was held together with 1919 Anzac Remembrance Appeal Stickers.
The final part of the process was to transcribe the names into the bound Roll of Honour book. This is where we have the mystery of the unfinished tribute. The Foolscap List includes names that are not included in the bound book. The loose pieces of paper kept with the various versions of the honour roll include names that are not on any of the other lists or the book.
One theory is that the official Roll of Honour was to be in alphabetical order and as the school continued to receive names, that became a problem (as illustrated below) and so the completion of the roll was suspended until all names had been received.
The roll remains unfinished but that has allowed the Society to explore the complexity of completing an honour roll for a local State School and provided us with a wealth of papers that would have otherwise been discard once the roll had been completed.
As part of the Port Melbourne WWI Centenary project the Society has tried to identify all the Nott Street “Old Boys” and tag them within the project and in fact we have tagged enlistees with all local organisations and institutions that they were involved with where that information has come to light.
The centenary project has proven to be more extensive as was first envisioned. As the years of the war passed, more and more names came to light and it has given us an insight into what the staff at Nott Street went through compiling their own Roll of Honour.
LEST WE FORGET
1 ‘Photograph – Black and White – Harold Herbert of the Ballarat Technical Art School, 1919’, Federation University Australia Historical Collection (Geoffrey Blainey Research Centre), Victorian Collections, viewed 04 Jan 2019, https://victoriancollections.net.au/items/549234492162f116140c0e36
2 1918 ‘ANZAC DAY.’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 4 May, p. 3. , viewed 04 Jan 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article88367313