Australian Quotes & Notes

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The Quotes - 1901 to 1950

12. 1900-1909

'Shoot straight. Don't make a mess of it.' - (Harry Morant, Pretoria, South Africa), 27 February, 1902)

A FIRING squad of Cameron Highlanders obeyed Harry 'Breaker' Morant's final command (above) implicitly when they shot him and Lieut. P.J. Handcock dead near Pretoria, South Africa, on the morning of 27 February, 1902. Morant was an adopted Australian of dubious past (he was supposed to have been married, briefly, to Daisy Bates before she went forth to supervise the twilight of the tribes), while Handcock was a clear-eyed Australian lad (his name was quietly added to a war memorial in Bathurst, NSW, later). They were found guilty of murdering Boer prisoners. Australians did not learn of the executions until long after the men were buried and, as a consequence, passed the Australian Defence Act the following year which made certain that Australian soldiers under British command could not be executed. That probably saved the lives of a score of men during the events of 1914-18. But that horrifying war was yet to come as Australia prepared to embrace Federation on New Year's Day, 1901.

The inconsiderate death of Queen Victoria on 22 January, 1901, at the age of eighty-one rather spoiled Australia's party. She was alive when her Governor-General proclaimed the Commonwealth at Centennial Park, Sydney, but did not live to hear news of the opening of Federal Parliament in Melbourne. Everyone on earth wore black mourning clothes (in Russia, where she had many royal relatives, the Czar ordered three months' mourning). Victoria had been Queen since 1837, when the Australian colonies, with the exception of NSW and Tasmania, were just a collection of raw settlements. There were few in Australia who could remember any monarch other than Victoria. Her son, Edward V11, Europe's portly leader of fashion, succeeded her, but he died in 1910. He was succeeded, in turn, by George V, who knew at least where Australia was, having been there for the opening of the first Federal Parliament in 1901.

Australia was the second country in the world to give women the vote in 1902, lagging behind New Zealand (1893). Women in most other countries, including Britain and the US, had to wait until after the Great War. The same year the National Council of Women in Victoria was formed with the ambivalent motto: 'Do unto others as you would that men should do to you.' Women in other States followed the lead of the Victorians and formed a national council in 1923. From the early years of the century, they campaigned successfully for the appointment of women police, matrons at lock ups, improvements of factory conditions, aboriginal welfare reform, playgrounds and baby health centres. The great political debate of the first decade was Protectionism, led by Alfred Deakin, against Free Trade, led by George Reid. The Protectionists won. Another, the White Australia policy, was accepted by all shades of politics and was not dismantled entirely until the Whitlam government in 1973. While all these issues were discussed, Australians were unaware that the great powers of Europe had been circling each other, preparing for the inevitability of war since the formation of the German empire in 1871. As the decades passed, there was a danger that some trivial crisis would send the European pack of cards tumbling down. In the first decade of the century, alliances were formed and arms were stockpiled. The 'trivial crisis' came on 28 June, 1914, with the assassination of the heir to the Austrian throne, Archduke Frances Ferdinand, and his wife. Within six weeks, Germany and Austro-Hungary (and later, Turkey) were at war with Britain, France, Belgium and Japan. It wasn't our war, but we went to help Mother.

Expatriate Victorians force WA into Federation

Since the establishment of Responsible Government in Western Australia many of Your Majesty's subjects have come from outside the Colony to reside on the Eastern goldfields. - Petition to Queen Victoria, 1900.

• Western Australia was showing some reluctance to embrace the forthcoming Federation. However, the population of the colony's new Eastern goldfields was made up largely of new arrivals from the eastern colonies, principally Victorians escaping the depression caused by the land crash. They were enthusiastic Federationists.

There was once upon a time a rich and beautiful princess called Kalgoorlie, with a sister called Coolgardie, and other younger sisters who will be rich as they grow older. It was their misfortune to be born in a land ruled by a cruel and greedy Knight, called Sir John Forrest ... - Kalgoorlie Western Argus , 26 April, 1900.

It is in reality an agitation manufactured by the Kalgoorlie Press. - Premier Sir John Forrest, Perth, 1900.

• The agitation might have been fuelled by the newspapers of the Eastern goldfields, but in 1900 Western Australians voted 44,800 to 19,691 in favour of joining the Federation.

Britain agrees to let Australia go (sort of)

When the door closed upon them and left them alone, they seized each other's hands and danced hand in hand in a ring around the centre of the room to express their jubilation. - Delegate Alfred Deakin, London, 17 May, 1900.

• The British Government had finally agreed to the last clauses of the Australian Constitution. Deakin, a member of the Victorian Parliament and soon to become Attorney-General in the first Commonwealth Government, shared in the joy.

The 'Hopetoun Blunder' makes the wrong man PM

Welcome, my lad, Australia hails her son

Fresh from the old world with the laurel won.

One task is done. Another is begun. - Table Talk , Melbourne, 26 July, 1900.

• Alfred Deakin came home to a hero's welcome. But, as the magazine's doggerel suggested, the job hand only begun.

It is Lyne. I have declined to join him. - Telegram from Edmund Barton, Sydney, to Alfred Deakin, Melbourne, 19 December, 1900.

• This momentous message came from one 'father' of Federation to another only twelve days before the Australian nation was founded. The Governor-General, Lord Hopetoun, had named Sir William Lyne, Premier of the 'senior' colony, NSW, as Australia's first Prime Minister (the 'Hopetoun Blunder'). It would be all very well - except that Lyne was an avowed anti-Federationist! Barton and Deakin had been quietly selecting a 'shadow' ministry over the previous weeks.

Great surprise expressed at choice of Lyne instead of Barton. Please give reasons. - Sir Joseph Chamberlain, Secretary for Colonies, London, to Governor-General Lord Hopetoun, Sydney, 22 December, 1900.

• Hopetoun would not have been happy when he opened this cable from his master. Lyne helped him out of the 'Hopetoun Blunder' by withdrawing from the position in Barton's favour.

British to the bootstraps ...

We inherit to the full those proud traditions which have made the statesmanship and the policy of Britain the admiration of philosophic historians and the models of constitution-makers. - Sydney Morning Herald , 1 January, 1901.

• Lord Hopetoun, the first Commonwealth Governor-General, proclaimed the Australian Constitution that day in Centennial Park, Sydney.

Awake! Arise! The wings of dawn

Are beating at the Gates of Day!

The morning star has been withdrawn,

The silver vapours melt away. - George Evans, Toowoomba (Qld), 1 January, 1901.

• Evans won fifty guineas from the NSW Government for the best ode on the inauguration of the Commonwealth.

... with some dissenters

There'll be royal times in Sydney for the cuff and collar Push,

There'll be lots of dreary drivel and clap-trap

From the men who own Australia, but who never knew the Bush,

And who could not point out their runs on the map.

O, the daily press will grovel as it never did before,

There'll be many flags of welcome in the air,

And the Civil Service poet, he shall write odes by the score -

But the men who made the land will not be there. - Writer Henry Lawson, London, January, 1901.

It is expected that every poor person in the city will be furnished with sufficient food for his or her immediate wants on the day that ushers in the New Year, the new century and the Australian Commonwealth . - Sydney Rescue Work Society, 1 January, 1901

• The society gave 7000 needy families a square meal.

'.. a glorious destiny awaits if their (Australian's ) hearts are true and their hands strong and they do not suffer themselves to be betrayed by bribed leaders and corrupt statesmen. - Brisbane Worker , 1 January, 1901.

' ... our accession to higher political realms ...'

... Yet Brisbane was not without her enthusiastic side yesterday. That could be seen in the flag-decked streets, the press of thousands of happy, well-dressed folk, who enjoyed the pageantry with which we were pleased to celebrate our accession to higher political realms. The day was warm, a typical Queensland day - glowing sky and fresh breeze, and our citizens arrayed themselves accordingly. Everywhere, there was light and gaiety. Men, in their cool flannels or Tussore silks, viewed the temperature calmly, while Queensland's daughters looked charmingly cool and fresh in their diaphanous muslins or smart skirts and packets of pique. - Brisbane Courier , 2 January, 1901.

. .. the Commonwealth will not be ushered in by the pattering of the feet of people driven out of employment. - Prime Minister Edmund Barton, West Maitland (NSW), 18 January, 1901.

• Barton, speaking in his own electorate just seventeen days after the proclamation of the Commonwealth, stoutly proclaimed his Protectionist views and said the new Commonwealth taxes would be as light as possible.

1901: Queen Victoria dies, succeeded by Edward VII, 21 January.

Slowly, dies the Queen ... dinner called off

Owing to the serious illness of Her Majesty the Queen, several official and social functions are being postponed. Among these is the official dinner which it is proposed to hold at the National Liberal Club, London, in celebration of the inauguration of the Australian Commonwealth, and over which the Earl of Carrington is to preside. - Cable report, London, 21 January, 1901.

• Queen Victoria, born in 1819 and crowned in 1837, had reigned for almost sixty-four of the 113 years of British occupation of Australia. She had given her name to a State, rivers, streets, cattle stations, dozens of pubs, lakes (one, Alexandrina, her actual first name, was honoured by Charles Sturt in 1830 when she was a child princess). Her death on 22 January, 1901, caused a great outpouring of grief in Australia.

Black looks all round Britain

On the day after the Queen's death, and before the issue of any Court Circular, or request or direction on the subject, people, from the highest to humblest positions, appeared either wholly apparelled in deep mourning clothes or wearing some article of mourning such as their means would permit. - Cable report, London, 24 January, 1901.

Long live the King! (he didn't)

The signal services that have been rendered to England during the Boer War by Australasia and other parts of the Empire, combined with the establishment of the great Australian Commonwealth, have led the Times and other influential newspapers to advocate strongly the adoption of a new comprehensive title for His Majesty which would mention Australasia and other portions of the Empire. - Cable report, London, 25 January, 1901.

• Edward V11, by most accounts, was a genial man, much repressed by Queen Victoria. He died in 1910 at the age of sixty-nine.

A number of Royal personages will be present, including the following: The Emperor William; his brother, Prince Henry of Prussia, and the Princess Henry; Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria (the heir to the throne) ... the following German warships are now in British waters - the Hohenzollern, the Kaiser Wilhelm and the Nymphe... - Cable report, London, 25 January, 1901.

• Oh, how the Kaiser must have wished he could go to war with his British cousins thirteen years too soon, particularly with all those lovely warships close by.

MOURNING DEPARTMENT. We are prepared to execute MOURNING ORDERS with the greatest promptitude, and at present hold a LARGE STOCK OF BLACK MATERIALS, suitable for inexpensive mourning. MILLINERY, BLOUSES, MANTLES, ribbons, gloves, ties etc etc. - Advertisement from Robertson and Moffat, Melbourne, 29 January, 1901.

Modes de Deuil - For mourning in every detail, every grade, refined and elegant, go to Finney Isles and Co.'s. Complimentary mourning in modes of the moment adapted and orders executed with promptitude by this leading firm. - Store advertisement, Brisbane, 29 January, 1901.

• Smart shops made a killing out of the British Royals that summer , s'il vous plait. On Commonwealth Day, 1 January, the Brisbane Worker said: The 2000 mothers who paid for the boys' sailors suits were martyrs of the York slump week. The suits were made at Finneys for 4 shillings 11 pence each, cap 1 shilling. Although the boys were measured, some of the trousers were 'treacles' and had to be rolled up ... the Duchess of York wears all her dresses slightly trained. She can afford to do so for her time is spent in carriages and drawing rooms. But the folly is not confined to rich women, and the sheep-crowd of women are now wearing trains in the streets. A woman in a hurry with an umbrella, a bag of bananas, 7 lb of sugar for 1s and a train is an object lesson ...

Kiss the engagement ring goodbye, chum

Once more a correspondent - this one who describes himself as 'Anxious' - is told by Our Lawyer that if a lady breaks off the engagement, the man CANNOT get the engagement ring back. Bye and bye, if Our Lawyer goes on answering this question the fact will be brought home, and persons who fear for the future of engagement rings will only part with them on a letting and hiring agreement. - The Herald , Melbourne, 29 January, 1901.

Coastal folk respond to desert waifs

Many people remarked upon the poor, wizened little children then at Coolgardie. And little wonder, with the primitive living conditions and severe climate. - Kalgoorlie Miner , 11 February, 1901.

• Good-hearted folk in coastal towns, including Esperance, began to sponsor the children on seaside holidays.

Billy Hughes' interesting early army views

This country can't afford a big standing army, and doesn't want it if it could. The standing army means the military caste, altogether antagonistic to democratic practices and ideals, as seen in the insolence and cruelty of German officers to civilians. - William Morris Hughes MHR, Bulletin , Sydney, 16 February, 1901

• Hughes, Prime Minister of Australia, 1915-1923, espoused the idea of a 'civilian' army.

The rains bring mud ... and UP go the skirts!

The drought having broken up, silk petticoats are selling like mad. For several long dreary months, our laces have had no chance whatsoever, and the streets have been kept so vexatiously clean since the plague scare, that there has been no reason why we should raise our skirts a bit higher than our instep. But now that the fragrant showers are making the thoroughfares lonely and slushy, who can blame us for raising our finery as far north as we dare. - Truth , Brisbane, 17 March, 1901.

'Rotten sharks' begin political domination

Every position of any importance in all the States is held by these rotten sharks or by their deputies. - Brisbane Worker , 30 March, 1901.

• The Worker didn't particularly like lawyers, and bemoaned the fact that there were twenty-six in Federal Parliament, including the Prime Minister, Edmund Barton.

Winning hearts and minds, Australian-style

On 8 April, 1901, James Chalmers a 60-year-old recently-widowed (for the second time) Scottish missionary with the London Missionary Society landed on Goaribari Island, Gulf of Papua, New Guinea, bent on converting cannibals to Christianity. He was accompanied by 28-year-old Rev Oliver Tomkins and a party of native helpers ...

... it was ascertained with absolute certainty that the Rev. J. Chalmers and the Rev Mr Tomkins, and the whole party, numbering thirteen altogether, had been slaughtered at Anawalda and eaten. They were clubbed first, then their heads were sawn off with bamboo knives, and the bodies cut up and distributed amongst the neighbouring villages. The native crew were killed in a bunch, but the white missionaries were killed separately. The whole story was told by the native prisoner. The missionary whaleboat was broken up by the natives, and portions of it were recovered. Mr Chalmer's hat was found, and also part of his trousers. A human jaw with the teeth attached, and two human thigh bones, were recovered, and these are believed to be relics of the missionaries. - Brisbane Courier , 9 May, 1901.

Word reached Thursday Island, south of the murder scene, where a detachment of the Royal Australian Artillery was stationed. They boarded the steamer, Parua , sailed to Port Moresby and joined another steamer, Merrie England , towing six whaleboats containing a punitive force (including white volunteers). They all proceeded west to Orokolo Bay, where the events of 8 April had occurred. The Courier continued ...

The Lieutenant-Governor (G.R. Le Hunte) , with four boats, went in, and a large crowd of naked savages immediately charged the boats, but were dispersed by a hot rifle fire. The soldiers were distributed among the boats with the native constabulary, and Sergeant-Major Ferguson had charge of one boat. Two boats' crews leapt ashore and chased the natives, and kept up a sniping fire till dusk ...

The war canoes found on shore were blown up with dynamite, and one prisoner was taken. The fishing canoes were scuttled and turned adrift. Thirteen natives were shot dead and a number wounded during the fight at Oteal, but the Government party had only one native constable hit by an arrow. Two large war houses, each 200 yards long, were burnt down. These houses were found to contain upward of eleven hundred human skulls ... Ten villages implicated in the massacre were dealt with in the same manner as the one mentioned above.

• Australia was only an apprentice colonial bully at this stage, but formally took over Papua from the British in 1905.

Aranda initiation

The scene is a wild one. The blacks are sitting in clusters of three or four around small fires, the background of the camp is formed of lean, long spectral-looking young gum trees. - Anthropologist Francis Gillen, Ellery River (NT), 24 April, 1901.

• Gillen and his partner, Walter Spencer, Professor of Biology at Melbourne University, were about to witness an Aranda initiation ceremony.

Royals off Port Phillip get first radio transmission!

'Hearty greetings of welcome from Queenscliff.' 'Thanks. But where's Queenscliff?' - Australia's historic first radio transmission between Queenscliff, Victoria, and the royal yacht, Ophir , 1901.

• The Ophir , carrying the young Duke and Duchess of York to the opening of Federal Parliament in the Exhibition Buildings, Melbourne, was greeted from a thirty-metre mast at Port Phillip Heads. Its operators were young post office engineers tinkering with a Marconi set. By 1905, the Federal Government had become so alarmed by the proliferation of amateur transmissions that it passed the Wireless Telegraph Act to regulate them.

Parliament opens, condemns Asian hordes

It is good for the world that a White Empire should grow up in these Southern-Asian seas, as a counterbalance to the great Asiatic empires of China and Japan, with all their mysterious possibilities. - Argus , Melbourne, 9 May, 1901.

• The newspaper welcomed the day on which the first Federal Parliament opened, expressing many Australians' unspoken fears of the Asian 'hordes' to the north.

Visitors and Citizens. Meet the Duke and Duchess in a pair of E.TOOTELLS BOOTS OR SHOES. - Advertisement, Melbourne, 9 May, 1901.

• The Duke of York, accompanied by his Duchess, was opening the first Federal Parliament in Melbourne that day and you had to wear proper clobber. The Brisbane Worker , no friend of the nobility, thought the Duke's speech was 'the kind of stuff with which country mayors opened dog shows'.

More interesting in the bush

Neither of us would care to be present at the great function of which not even the faintest rumble reaches us here. - Anthropologist Francis Gillen, Ellery River (NT), 9 May, 1901.

• The opening of Federal Parliament in faraway Melbourne was of no consequence to two men learning about an ancient way of life.

Super-British Brisbane felt awfully slighted ... almost

At the turned of the century, Brisbane was declared an infected port because of an outbreak of bubonic plague. This was of no great consequence to most Brisbanites ... until the Royal yacht, Ophir , with its bevy of warships was due in port in May. Suddenly, there was a last-minute change of plans for the Duke and Duchess of York. In Brisbane, they smelt Another Sydney Plot ...

The general feeling during the early part of the day (15 May) was that some mistake had been made and, strange to say, it was not until nearly midday that a confirmation of a message from the Courier's Melbourne correspondent arrived. It was very little before noon when a telegram from the Governor-General (Lord Hopetoun) informed His Excellency (the Queensland Governor, (Lord Lamington) that the Royal visitors were coming overland, that the first message was received in Brisbane of corroboration of the announcement in this morning's Courier. When the matter was placed beyond doubt, the keenest disappointment was felt generally, because it was taken to mean that all the elaborate plans for the reception of the Duke and Duchess and the subsequent procession would be completely upset. - Brisbane Courier, 16 May, 1901.

Brisbane was informed that the Royal couple would come by train, and the Ophir and her escort would anchor in Moreton Bay, steering clear of Brisbane's allegedly plague-contaminated wharves. Town dignitaries were outraged at a suggestion from Sydney that the Royal entourage could carry the plague there ...

His Worship, the Mayor, shared the general annoyance at the fact that anything should have occurred to interfere in any way with the Royal reception. He indignantly repudiates the suggestion that Brisbane is plague-infected any more than Sydney is ... - Brisbane Courier , 16 May, 1901.

The Brisbane Worker , commenting on 25 May, took a different view ... A wild wave of indignation swept from end to end of Queen Street last week when news arrived that the Ophir and fleet would not visit Brisbane with the Duke. For a whole week, the organ ( the Courier!) of the Queen Street grocery and drapery shops screamed and foamed with rage ... the fact of the Duke's coming overland instead of by sea meant that many hundreds of people on the overland line would not have to come to Queen Street to see the attraction, but would be able to see him passing through. It cannot be too often repeated that these big State-subsidised shows that are given from time to time here in Brisbane are simply huge baits to attract thousands of people into the shops of Queen Street grocers and Drapers. Queen Street is a voracious octopus whose suckers are the State railways (excursion fares) and whose stomach is the rows and rows of grocery and other shops.

But nearly everyone was happy in the end. The Duke and Duchess came by train, left Government House on the steamer, Lucinda , on 20 May and choofed into the arms of 100,000 adoring people ...

We are Britons, Greater Britons if you will, but still owning the same blood as the old country, and today we mean to give abundant proof that we in no wise have forgotten that one fact. - Brisbane Courier , 20 May, 1901.

Game's up for seat polishers, warns Deakin

We lay it down that advancement is to depend upon efficiency and aptitude, and not upon length of service - the time a man has sat upon an office stool, the time he has driven a quill, the number of pages he has filled with his writing. It is his efficiency in the discharge of his duties that will lead to his promotion. - Attorney General Alfred Deakin, Federal Parliament, Melbourne, 19 June, 1901.

• Deakin outlined the new Commonwealth Public Service. It was already large, containing the staffs of the old colonial customs and excise departments.

Snow brought to Brisbane, winter, 1901!

The guard, the mail officers, and some of the passengers brought down samples of that snow and these were viewed with much interest by many who had seen very little snow in their lives, or none at all. - The Week , Brisbane, 2 August, 1901.

• These amazing samples were collected by people on the Sydney-Brisbane Mail as it passed through the Darling Downs.

Dastardly foreigner faces Anglo-Celtic court

The accused is a medium-sized, thickset man, about 34 years of age, with a Frenchified beard and moustache and iron-grey hair. He was dressed in grey clothes, and was unmistakably of foreign appearance. - Court report , Herald , Melbourne, 7 September, 1901.

• Furthermore, he was obviously guilty.

'Yellow peril' might be too good for us!

It is not the bad qualities, but the good qualities of these alien races that makes them dangerous to us. - Attorney-General Alfred Deakin, House of Representatives, Melbourne, 12 September, 1901.

• Deakin was talking about the Japanese. Many people in the Australian intelligentsia felt the White Australia policy of exclusion was needed to protect us from their industry and skills.

Lord Hopetoun gives new Commonwealth the boot

To use a homely simile, we are at the present like a man who has got a new pair of boots, and not only a new pair of boots, but boots of an entirely new kind. Now, it often happens that we find the new boots press on certain tender parts of our feet. We must bear that, however, knowing that however well they fit, new boots will press on us; but the fact that they are not comfortable when we first wear them does not imply that they will not eventually come into shape, and make a most excellent and comfortable and serviceable footwear. - Lord Hopetoun, Governor-General, addressing a Citizens' Banquet, Brisbane, 22 September, 1901.

• His Lordship, who meant well, explained the difficulties facing the new Commonwealth. The Citizens' Banquet was, of course, for men only, but their ladies were allowed to listen and wave their handkerchiefs, modestly, from the gallery.

Deportations caused great sadness

No Pacific Islander labourer shall enter Australia on or after the thirty-first day of March, One thousand, nine hundred and four, except under a licence. - Commonwealth legislation, 17 December, 1901.

• The Federal Government moved with almost indecent haste to exclude Pacific Island workers from 'White Australia'. But the deportation provisions were considered too harsh and the Act was amended in 1906.

'Australia's elected Prime Ministers, the good, the bad and the bloody devious ... (You figure it out yourself).

John Larkins' absolutely even-handed, chronological assessment of Australla's Prime Ministers since the six colonies federated to form the Westminster-style Commonwealth of Australia in 1901.

* William John Lyne
He was actually our first PM (and he might have made a good, compassionate one, too), the victim of the 'Hopetoun Blunder', b. 6 April, 1844, Great Swanport, VDL (Tasmania), d. 3 August, 1913, Sydney, NSW. Free immigrant settler's son who became a wealthy sheep grazier in southern NSW and a socially-reforming Premier of colonial NSW. Unfortunately, he was also a fierce opponent of Federation: unification of the Australian colonies.
But, on 19 December, 1900, the blundering British Governor-General, Lord Hopetoun, appointed him Australia's first Prime Minister, mainly because NSW was the oldest colony. Enthusiastic Federationists Edmund Barton and Alfred Deakin refused cooperation and Lyne failed to form a ministry. His appointment was known as the 'Hopetoun Blunder'. Barton became Prime Minister instead on 1 January, 1901, and appointed Lyne as Minister for Home Affairs.

Edmund Barton, 1901-03
'Founding Father', b. 18 January, 1849, Glebe, Sydney, d. 7 January, 1920, Medlow Bath, Blue Mountains, NSW, Protestant son of free, middle-class English immigrant parents, attended well-heeled Sydney Grammar (nickname 'Toby'), arts/law at Sydney University where he won several academic prizes. Entered politics as a Free Trader (as opposed to Protectionist). Speaker of NSW Legislative Assembly in 1883 and soon dubbed 'Toby Tosspot' by the Bulletin for his evident enjoyment of the good life.* In March, 1891, he took a leading role at the National Australasia Convention in Sydney at which a formula for Federation was discussed. In March, 1897, he was elected chairman of the drafting and constitutional committees at the first Australasian Federal Convention and led the Australian delegation to London in 1900 to nurse the Australian constitution through British parliamentary acceptance. After his prime ministerial term, Barton became a senior judge on the new High Court of Australia.
* The nickname 'Toby Tosspot' was only bettered a century later when a NSW Liberal (conservative) leader, Barry O'Farrell was dubbed 'Fatty O'Barrell'.

Alfred Deakin, 1903-04, 1905-08. 1909-10
Another 'Founding Father', b. 3 August, 1856, Fitzroy, Melbourne, d. 7 October, 1919 South Yarra, Melbourne. Widely-admired as 'Affable Alf'. Intellectual, lawyer (defender, without charge of the ghastly murderer, Frederick Deeming, 'Australia's Jack the Ripper' in 1892), journalist, Free Trader-turned-Protectionist, inland irrigation visionary in the 1880s, probably our equal-best PM. He was closely involved with Edmund Barton in the push towards Federation in the 1890s, and became Attorney-General in the first Commonwealth Government. As Prime Minister, he supervised the introduction of the Basic Wage and Age Pensions, bringing legislative backing to some aspects of the Australian 'Fair Go'. He was responsible inviting the U.S. navy's Great White Fleet (1908). Privately, he was deeply religious with spiritualist leanings. Deakin was a liberal in its true meaning and initiated several welfare reforms. Sadly, his famous memory failed him in his later years and he died a virtual recluse. But he remains one of Australia's significant leaders, immortalised in the name of a major Victorian university and a main street in Mildura, Victoria's most important irrigation centre, as well as the mandatory suburb in Canberra, a city whose site was named in 1913, but yet-to-be-created when he died.

John ('Chris') Watson, 1904
Australia's first Labor Prime Minister, b. Valparaiso, Chile, 9 April, 1867 (son of a ship's officer), d. 18 November. 1941, Double Bay, Sydney. Watson grew up in New Zealand, trained as a newspaper compositor, and migrated to Sydney in 1886 to find work. He was a prominent trade unionist, played a leading roie in the formation of the NSW Labor Party during the maritime and shearers' strikes of the 1890s. He became Prime Minister in 1904 when the Deakin government failed to secure Labor assistance for its first Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. Watson's government was the first national labor government in the world, but he failed to secure support of the Free Traders and Protectionists, and was replaced after five months. Watson was a conscription supporter and left the Labor party in 1916 when the divisive wartime issue split the party. He entered business and was president of the National Roads and Motorists' Association (NRMA) from 1920 until his death.

George Reid, 1904-05
Son of a Presbyterian minister, b. Renfrewshire, Scotland, 25 February, 1845, d. London, 13 September, 1918, wealthy lawyer and persuasive Free Trader, who played an active part in NSW colonial and Federation matters and became Premier of NSW in 1894. He is recalled today for his intelligence, oiliness, extreme fatness, and his facility for fence-sitting ('Yes-No Reid') and the alacrity with which he accepted the post of Australia's first High Commissioner in London in 1909 (and a knighthood) after his prime ministerial term; he was also awarded a seat in the House of Commons. Reid was blessed with a splendid, slender Tasmanian-born wife, Flora, as slim as he was a slob, who was honoured for her work for ex-servicemen during World War One. Reid is remembered for a famous riposte in the NSW Parliament after an opponent remarked on the size of his quivering belly: It's all piss and wind; I'll name it after you.

Andrew Fisher, 1908-09, 1910-13, 1914-15
Scots-born coalminer, Empire loyalist and Labor Prime Minister famous for his unfortunate 1914 speech (Colac, Vic) that Australia would defend the Empire 'to the last man and the last shilling'. It was a stirring remark. but unwittingly provided a platform for the sacrifice of 60,000 young lives, divisive conscription referendums and a fragile post-War nation owing Britain £82 million in war debts. Fisher, b. 29 August, 1862, Ayreshire, d. London, 22 October, 1928, worked in the Scottish pits from the age of 10 until he migrated to Queensland with his brother, James, in 1885. He became active in miners' union affairs and entered the Queensland Parliament in 1893. He became member for Wide Bay, Qld, in the first Federal Parliament. In 1908, he found Prime Minister Deakin's old age pension and tariff protection proposals wanting, so Labor withdrew its support for the government; Deakin resigned and Fisher became Prime Minister. Wartime stress forced his final resignation in 1915 in favour of the dreaded Billy Hughes, but he is remembered as one of the better leaders the country has had.

Joseph Cook, 1913-14
English coalminer's son, a dour Primitive Methodist (he dropped the 'e' from his surname because he thought it too flippant) who migrated to Australia, won office in the NSW Labor Party, then shifted to the conservatives in the Federal Parliament, b. 7 December, 1860, Staffordshire (UK), d. 30 July, 1947, Bellevue Hill, Sydney. His most positive claim to fame was accidental: in the 1890s, as NSW Minister for Agriculture, he employed the scientist William Farrer to develop superior strains of wheat more suited to the Australian climate and local methods of harvesting. Farrer came upon with, among others, the famous heat-hardy Federation strain, greatly-strengthening the wheat export market.

William Hughes, 1915-23
The 'Little Digger', b. 25 September, 1862, London (UK), d. Lindfield, Sydney, 28 October, 1952, was Australia's first truly divisive Prime Minister, a hero to some and an unconscionable ratbag to others. He was a fiery member of the Labor Electoral Leagues in NSW and was elected to the first Federal Parliament as a Free Trader and supporter of race-based immigration policies. Pre-WWI, he supported the notion of a small, citizen-based army, but espoused mass conscription after he became Prime Minister in 1915. The two conscription referendums, coming at times of appalling war losses, polarised the Australian community; much of the opposition was led by Irish-born Catholic Archbishop Daniel Mannix. Hughes was expelled from the Labor Party, but continued to govern with the support of the conservatives. He played a noisy role in the post-War peace talks, claiming to speak for 'Australia's 60,000 dead' and alienated the wartime Japanese allies by rejecting a covenant in the League of Nations agreement seeking the 'equality of all nations and the treatment of their nationals'. He thought it contravened his beloved White Australia Policy. Hughes was defeated in 1923 by a new conservative coalition of the Nationalists and the Country Party, but he remained in Parliament in various guises, finally finding a corner in Robert Menzies' so-called Liberal Party, built from the ruins of the pre-WW2 conservative United Australia Party.

Stanley Bruce, 1923-29
Silvertail British/Australian, b. 15 April, 1883, d. 25 August, 1967, London, schooled privately in Australia, Cambridge law (UK) (nickname: 'Bruggins'), decorated and wounded serving in a British regiment during WWI, returned to Australia, a decent chap wearing spats, to help run his family's softgoods import business. As Nationalist Prime Minister in coalition with Country Party's Earle Page*, Bruce introduced the CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) and oversaw Federal Parliament's move from Melbourne to Canberra. But he came unstuck when he attempted unpopular industrial reforms and was the first Prime Minister to lose in own seat (Flinders, Vic.) in 1929. However, he unwittingly handed the poison chalice of the Great Depression to his Labor successor, James Scullin. Later, he served well and fairly as Australian representative, mostly under an Australian Labor government, on the British War Cabinet and was elevated to the peerage in 1947.
* Bruce and Page had the middle names, respectively, of 'Melbourne' and 'Grafton' lest anyone be in doubt whence they hailed.

James Scullin, 1929-32
Labor Prime Minister whose triumphant accession coincided with the Crash of the New York Stock Exchange, thus causing the Great Depression, b. 18 September, 1876, Trawalla (Vic), d. 28 January, 1953, Melbourne, He was the son of Irish-born Catholic working-class parents, a clever, frugal, abstemious man who, despite his failed struggle against the Depression, succeeded in having King George V recognise he was a constitutional monarch and accept his nomination of Sir Isaac Isaacs as Australia's first home-grown Governor-General.

Joseph Lyons, 1932-39
Labor politician who became the willing tool of big business, helped form the conservative United Australia Party and unseat his sometime colleague James Scullin, b. 15 September, 1879, Stanley (Tas), d. 7 April, 1939, Sydney. Lyons had, like Scullin, an Irish Catholic background, became a Tasmanian schoolteacher, Labor stalwart and State Premier. He won a Tasmanian Federal seat in the 1929 elections and, with the onset of Depression and his unease at the direction of the Scullin government's financial management, became the prey of a powerful conservative business network. As Prime Minister, Lyons defeated Labor at three elections, but some of his influential supporters, notably the newspaper boss, Sir Keith Murdoch, became disaffected and withdrew their support; the future Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, resigned from Cabinet and less than a month later Lyons died of a heart attack. His wife, Dame Enid, became a Minister in the post-WW2 Menzies government. Earlier, Menzies and Lyons had been thoroughly 'duchessed' by the British Government during an overseas jaunt during which Enid compared the pyramids of Egypt unfavourably with the mullock heaps of golden Kalgoorlle.

Earle Page, 1939
Medical doctor and businessman with wide interests, seen by some as too clever by half, b. Grafton (NSW), 8 August, 1880, d. Sydney, 20 December, 1961, entered Federal Parliament in 1919 as a Farmers' and Settlers' candidate and helped form the Country Party (now National) in 1920. He joined coalitions with the various city-based conservatives and became caretaker Prime Minister for nineteen days after Lyons' death until the UAP elected Robert Menzies.

Robert Menzies, 1939-41, 1949-66
Australia's longest-serving Prime Minister, Liberal, known variously as 'Pig Iron Bob' (over the sale of pig iron to pre-War Japan), and, rather more kindly, 'Prince of the Pacific' or 'Ming' (a reference to his Scots surname and the comic strip villain, Ming the Merciless), b. 20 December, 1894, Jeparit (Vic), d. 15 May, 1978, Melbourne. A lawyer and avowed Monarchist who ruled briefly at the beginning of WW2, was forced to give way to the Country Party's Artie Fadden (briefly) then to Labor's John Curtin in 1941, but regained power with the newly-formed Liberals in 1949. He reigned over a period of unparalleled post-War prosperity, with a one million-person immigration boom, assisted by Red can-kicking, including the Petrov defections from the Russian Embassy and a Catholic-inspired split in the Labor Party in the 1950s over Communist influence in the trade unions. In 1961, he narrowly avoided defeat during an economic downturn and, soon afterwards, made Australia part of the U.S.'s military disaster in Vietnam and introduced military conscription, an anathema to many Australians. In 1965, he was appointed to succeed Winston Churchill as the gorgeously-ceremonial Lord Warden of Britain's Cinque Ports, an offer he accepted unblushingly. In 1966, he left politics undefeated and lived a benign and democratic retirement in suburban Malvern.

Arthur Fadden, 1941
Accountant, Federal Treasurer (presented eleven Budgets) and Leader of the Country Party, 1940-58, Prime Minister for 40 days after the resignation of Robert Menzies and the accession of John Curtin, nickname 'Artie' (definitely not 'Arty'), noted raconteur, b. 13 April, 1894, Ingham (Qld), d. 21 April, 1973, Brisbane. His popularity evaporated among farmers when he brought down the 'horror budget' of 1951 to pay for Australia's involvement in the Korean War, but wool growers were rewarded with untold riches of the subsequent ('£-a-pound') Korean War Wool Boom' in which world demand for fine wool happened to coincide with that inconclusive, freezing and bloody war.

John Curtin, 1941-45
Labor Prime Minister who guided Australia through its time of greatest peril, but died just a month before final victory over the Japanese, b. 8 July, 1885 Creswick (Vic), d. 5 July, 1945, Canberra. Curtin, son of an Irish Catholic immigrant, worked in minor newspaper jobs until his trade union/political career began with the Victorian Timber Union in 1917, and continued as editor of the Westralian Worker. He entered Federal Parliament for Fremantle in 1928, lost his seat in 1931, but regained it and remained member until his death, triumphing in a much-publicised earlier battle with the bottle. He insisted, despite strong protestations from the British war leader Winston Churchill, on the return of Australian troops from the Middle East. He formed a close relationship with the U.S., through a powerful statement of strategic realignment away from traditional ties with Britain, His close friendship with the US. Supreme Commander in the Pacific, General Douglas MacArthur, assisted in the struggle against the Japanese, defeated by Australian troops on the Kokoda Track and Milne Bay when they menaced Port Moresby; America led a naval force which wrecked Japanese invasion plans in the Battle of the Coral Sea off the coast of New Guinea/Australia. Curtin oversaw the transfer of wartime income taxation powers from the States to the Commonwealth (which became permanent), and enacted legislation covering widows' pensions, and protecting the rights of women in the workplace. He died prematurely of weariness and heart disease, a casualty of war, having wished his wife farewell.

Francis Forde, 1945
Caretaker Labor Prime Minister for a week, 6-13, July, 1945, between the death of John Curtin and the elevation of Ben Chifley, b. 18 July, 1890, Mitchell (Qld), d. 28 January, 1983, St Lucia, Brisbane, another Irish-Australian, entered Federal Parliament in 1923, held several portfolios, High Commissioner to Canada after his defeat in 1946.

Ben Chifley, 1945-49
Third Irish-Australian Labor Catholic (but of diminished piety as he grew older) Prime Minister in succession, b. 22 September, 1855, Bathurst (NSW), d. 13 June, 1951, Canberra, train driver, became politically active in a railway strike in 1917 and entered Federal Parliament at the behest of James Scullin in 1928. At the height of WW2, Curtin remarked: I would not like to think how I could carry on this job without what I get from old Ben. As PM, he oversaw the launch of the Snowy Mountains Scheme (boycotted by Bob Menzies' Liberals), and the first Holden, 'Australia's Own Car', and the beginning of expansive post-War immigration, but came undone with his clumsy handling of a coalminers' strike, suggestions that he would nationalise the banks, and voters' general post-War aspirations. He lost the 1949 election and died of a massive heart attack in 1951, while Opposition Leader. He was a comforting, pipe-smoking figure. much loved in Labor circles.

(Robert Menzies' second term, 1949-66)

Harold Holt, 1966-67
Robert Menzies' patient, anointed successor as PM, declared Australia's unstinting support for U.S. in Vietnam ('all the way with LBJ', June, 1966), and drowned in the surf while in office, b. 5 August, 1908, Stanmore (NSW), d. 17 December, 1967, Cheviot Beach (Vic). Educated Wesley College (Melb,), law, Melb. Uni, entered Federal Parliament for the UAP in 1935, joined AIF at outbreak of WW2, recalled to the ministry by Menzies in 1940 when three senior ministers were killed in an air crash. Various portfolios in Menzies post-War administration leading to Treasurer in 1958, and the virtual automatic choice to succeed Menzies, but he became plagued by an increasingly-unpopular Vietnam War while remaining a congenial chap. The search for his body was abandoned on 5 January, 1968, and his remains have never been found (there were persistent Cold War conspiracy rumours that he had been spirited away in a Red Chinese submarine, but these were dismissed as highly unlikely). In November, 2007, there were revelations that Holt was acutely depressed at the time of his disappearance, and may have committed suicide. But this speculation was dismissed by former Army Minister Malcolm Fraser, who said Holt was busy with future plans.

John McEwan, 1967-68
'Black Jack' McEwen, Country Party leader and caretaker PM after Holt's disappearance, denied the obvious successor, William McMahon the Prime Ministership ('... I don't trust you'), and obliged the Liberals to choose John Gorton, b. 29 March, 1900, Chiltern (Vic), d. 20 November, 1980, Toorak, Melbourne, WWI soldier settler, highly-successful farmer, entered Federal Parliament in 1934, influential, imposing member of Menzies post-War Cabinet.

John Gorton, 1968-71
Convivial fellow, only Senator to become Prime Minister, WW2 fighter pilot whose face was extensively-reconstructed after a plane crash, came from a prosperous background, educated Geelong Grammar, Oxford University, b. 9 September, 1911, Melbourne, d. 19 May, 2002, Sydney, became involved in local government before entering the Senate for the Liberal Party in 1949. As PM, he quietly began to downgrade Australia's military commitment in Vietnam while alienating some powerful traditional Liberals with his bon vivant style. Eventually, he voted himself out of office when a Liberal Party vote of confidence was tied.

William McMahon, 1971-72
Conservative, tricky but likeable, known in some press gallery circles as 'Koala Head' (his tonsorial appearance from the rear), b. 23 February, 1908, Sydney, d. 31 March, 1988, Sydney, educated at Sydney Grammar, law, Sydney University, entered Federal Parliament 1949, given his first portfolio in 1951, finally becoming Treasurer under Harold Holt. McEwen dropped his veto of McMahon after Gorton fell on his sword, but his prime ministership was a humiliating one; he was constantly outperformed by the Opposition Leader, Gough Whitlam, made a gig of himself when he appeared in Washington with his stunning (late-in-life) wife, Sonia, in a gown split to the thigh, and was easily defeated in the election of 1972. When he resigned from Parliament in 1982, he was the longest-serving member. Keen squash player.

Gough Whitlam, 1972-75
Labor Prime Minister, energetic reformer after 23 years of conservative rule sacked in controversial circumstances by Governor-General Sir William Kerr, a wobbly jurist Whitlam had appointed, b. 11 July, 1916, Kew, Melbourne, lives in Sydney. Whitlam trained as a lawyer, served in the RAAF, entered Federal Parliament for the seat of Werriwa and, in 1954, with French defeat imminent in Vietnam, warned MPs with remarkable foresight, against any future Australian involvement in Indo-China that was not sanctioned by the U.N. Succeeded Arthur Calwell as Labor leader early in 1967, went China and met the Premier Chou En-lai in July, 1971. When elected as PM under the theme, 'It's Time', his government acted quickly to abolish conscription, recognise China, reform health services (Medicare), abolish British Federal honours, support equal pay for women, abolish the last vestiges of a racially-based immigration policy (White Australia), increase arts subsidies and search for a new national anthem. But clumsy and irrational handing of their portfolios by some ministers too anxious to hasten the reform process culminated in the 'Loans Affair', the refusal of Supply by the Opposition Leader, Malcolm Fraser, and the government ambush dismissal by Kerr. Fraser won the subsequent election, but Whitlam continued to relish the role of elder statesman.

Malcolm Fraser, 1975-83
Liberal Prime Minister, caretaker appointed by Sir John Kerr after the Dismissal, won subsequent election in a landslide, characterised by an aloof expression which some said, most unkindly, gave him the appearance of an Easter Island statue, b. 21 May, 1930, Melbourne, into a pastoral family, attended the exclusive Tudor House preparatory boarding school, Moss Vale (NSW), Melbourne Grammar and Magdalen College, Oxford (politics and economics) where he honed his uniquely British/Australian toff's accent. Returned to assist on his family's recently-purchased grazing property, 'Nareen' in Victorian Western District, won the seat of Wannon in 1955, at his second attempt. Fraser became Army Minister in 1966, and had, successively, Education and Defence portfolios under Gorton, but a dispute with the PM brought about Gorton's downfall. He had little impact as Prime Minister and was replaced by a resurgent Labor under Bob Hawke. In later years, he became a forthright critic of some of the less humane policies of the Howard Government.

Bob Hawke, 1983-91
Australia's longest serving Labor Prime Minister, Rhodes Scholar and former trade unions boss, known admiringly in dinkum Aussie circles as the 'Silver Bodgie' (slick, swept-back, grey/white wavy locks and a finger-clickin' style), a dynamic leader who revitalised the economy in association with his Treasurer, Paul Keating, and set the stage for phenomenal growth in the ensuing 20 years, b. 9 December, 1929, Bordertown (SA). Congregational pastor's son who moved with his family to Perth, became a star pupil and extravagant batsman at Perth Modern School, graduated arts/law at University of WA and won a scholarship to Oxford. He became a noted trade union negotiator and, finally, president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. He won the Victorian seat of Wills in 1980, was propelled into the Opposition leadership in February, 1983, and defeated Malcolm Fraser on 5 March. In government, he concentrated on industrial relations, micro-economic reforms and globalisation, assisted by his links to the trade union movement. The economy deteriorated in 1990 and Hawke was deposed by his deputy, Paul Keating, but remained an authoritative Labor voice.

Paul Keating, 1991-96
Labor Prime Minister, working-class French antique clock collector, lacking the folksy charisma of the man he supplanted, but having a steely resolve and lacerating tongue which enabled him to complete the long-overdue transformation and internationalisation of the Australian financial system, b. 18 January, 1944, Bankstown, Sydney, son of a boilermaker and union official, educated at a Catholic high school and a suburban technical college, worked as a clerk then paid union official, won a seat in the House of Representatives in 1969. As Hawke's Treasurer, he came into public prominence with the bold decision to float the Australian dollar which was historically akin to Curtin's wartime breaking of traditional alliances with Britain. In the early 1990s, however, a recession put strains on his relationship with Hawke, and Keating succeeded him at his second attempt in 1991. Keating won the Federal election against John Hewson in 1993, but continued to struggle with the deregulation of the economy at a time when the Australian voter was feeling a twitching in the hip pocket nerve (he affected some other nerves, too: he once said that if people weren't living in Sydney, they were camping out, reinforcing the view of dwellers in more sophisticated cities that he was just another Bankstown lair). Keating was easily defeated by John Howard at that 1996 Federal election, a decision by the electorate which seemed like a good idea at the time.

John Howard, 1996-2007
Conservative, cunning, populist politician, nicknamed 'Honest John' by exasperated opponents, became the nation's 25th Prime Minister with a decisive win in 1996 and won subsequent elections in 1998, 2001 and 2004, b. 26 July, 1939, Earlwood, Sydney, son of a keenly rightwing garage owner, educated at State schools and Sydney University, graduated in law, 1961. Howard joined the Liberal Party at 18 and became, seemingly, its most loyal servant. In 1964, while on holiday in England, he campaigned for the Tories, but Labor's Harold Wilson won office. He entered Parliament for the Sydney seat of Bennelong in 1974, became Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs after Fraser's victory, and Treasurer in 1977, when he emerged as an ideological economic rationalist. As occasional Opposition Leader, 1983-96, he had many character-forming disappointments, but as Shadow Treasurer he said it was his intention to challenge the Basic Wage legislation which had come into being in 1907. In 2006, his WorkChoices, which effectively did just that, caused widespread anxiety in the community; his apparently opened-ended commitment to the Bush Administration and its Iraq War, and his slowness to grasp climate change contributed to the unease. On 10 September, 2007, the day after he had finished hosting the APEC conference, which might have restored his fortunes, his government trailed the Opposition by 14 points in a Fairfax newspapers opinion poll. He was beaten in the 2007 poll in Bennelong by a high profile Labor candidate, Maxine McKew, a former ABC and Bulletin journalist. Howard was the first Prime Minister since Stanley Bruce in 1929 to lose his seat (Flinders, Vic) at an election.

Kevin Rudd, 2007-
Former diplomat and senior Queensland public servant, not nearly as nerdy as he appeared, entered Federal Parliament for the seat of Griffith in 1998, defeated Kim Beazley to become Federal Opposition Leader on 4 December, 2006. Born 21 September, 1957, Nambour (Qld), BA (Hons) (ANU), committed Christian (baptised Catholic, converted to Anglicanism), married to feisty Therese Rein (wealthy owner of an international job placement agency), three adult children. Labor's stocks improved immediately Rudd was elected leader with his lawyer deputy, Julia Gillard, born in Wales in 1961, came to Australia with her family at the age of five, also elected to Federal Parliament in 1998. Immediately, Labor's favoritism was confirmed in the opinion polls, Howard began a series of familiar, diversionary 'wedge' tactics, but the pair handled him deftly by refusing to be drawn into debate. The Coalition became increasingly frustrated. At the 2007 APEC conference, Rudd charmed Chinese delegates with his fluency in Mandarin. He claimed to be an 'economic conservative', as did his Shadow Treasurer, Wayne Swan, an old schoolmate from Nambour High on the Sunshine Coast, Qld. His stunning victory on 24 November, with his cerebral and droll deputy, Julia Gillard, gave a new word to the Australian lexicon: 'Ruddslide'.

Delicate matter of the Australian armed forces

We have before us the difficult and delicate task of welding together into one harmonious whole the Military Forces of the six States of Australia. Success can only attend our efforts by the heart cooperation and earnest determination of all ranks to sink personal interests and ambitions in the welfare of the Commonwealth. - NSW Military District Order, Sydney, 30 January, 1902.

• There might have been a greater sense of urgency if they knew that the German military commander, Count Alfred Von Schlieffen, had already devised a plan to invade Belgium and France.

Firing squad shoots Breaker and his mate

Shoot straight. Don't make a mess of it. - Lieut Harry 'Breaker' Morant, Pretoria, South Africa, 27 February, 1902.

• Morant and Lieut P.J. Handcock were shot by a British firing squad for the murder of Boer prisoners. The executions of Morant and Handcock prompted an exchange of telegrams between the British and Australian authorities. The British Commander in Chief, Lord Kitchener, had the final word in this message to the Australian Governor-General, Lord Hopetoun, on 6 April, 1902:

In reply to your telegram, Morant, Handcock, and Witton were charged with twenty separate murders, including one of a German missionary who had witnessed the other murders. Twelve of these murders were proved. From the evidence it appears that Morant was the originator of the crimes, which Handcock carried out in cold blooded manner. The murders were committed in the wildest part of the Transvaal, known as Spelonken, about 80 miles to the north of Pretoria, on four separate dates, namely, 2nd July, 11th August, 23rd August, and 7th September. In one case when eight Boer prisoners were murdered, it was alleged in defence to have been done in a spirit of revenge for the ill-treatment of one of their own officers, Lieutenant Hunt, who was killed in action. No such ill-treatment was proved. The prisoners were convicted after most exhaustive trial, and were defended by counsel. There were, in my opinion, no extenuating circumstances; Lieut (G.R) Witton was also convicted; but I commuted the sentence to penal servitude for life in consideration of his having been under the influence of Morant and Handcock. The proceedings have been sent home.

The English-born Morant had achieved minor fame in Australia for his poems in The Bulletin , published under the pseudonym, 'The Breaker'. Sixteen thousand Australians served in the Boer War, mostly light horsemen attached to British regiments. A total of 251 were killed or died from wounds, 267 died of disease and 1400 were wounded.

Next, they'll want to wear trousers

I believe that instinctively a woman knows the character of a man better than a man does, and I believe women will be able to record a better vote in the selection of the best men to represent the community in the halls of the Commonwealth ... - Federal politician Sir William Lyne, Melbourne, 23 April, 1902.

• Women were given the right to vote in Federal elections in 1902, but there was no suggestion, heaven forbid, that they would actually STAND for Parliament! The first women, Dorothy Tangney and Edith Lyons, were elected to Federal Parliament in 1943.

Wanted: An Australian accent

Why not a twang? - Bulletin , Sydney, 14 June, 1902.

The Bulletin , full of republican fervour after Federation, pleaded for the creation of a unique Australian accent. It can't have realised that we had already developed one (see Peter Cunningham, Two Years In NSW, 1827) .

Best quote of the winter, 1902

I didn't know I had any to lose. - Horse tram driver Tom Taylor, Melbourne, 1 August, 1902.

• Tom responded to a robber's threat to out blow his brains in suburban Hawthorn, our only tram stick-up.

Thoughts on Australia

We believe that ordinarily Australia will sufficiently discharge its duty to the Empire by providing for the defence of this particular portion of it. - Federal Labor leader Chris Watson, Melbourne, 1 September, 1902.

... in Australasia, the cost of living is 39 pounds 19 and fivepence per person ...the expenditure of the kind is 32 pounds 16 and twopence per head in the United States, 26 pounds 14 and ninepence in Great Britain, and 23 pounds six shillings and twopence in Canada. - Adelaide Advertiser , 1 September, 1902.

Melba's return is noisier the than relief of Mafeking

It was the same thing at the conclusion of each song; had the occasion been the relief of Mafeking, enthusiasm could hardly have been wilder or under less restraint. - Age , Melbourne, 29 September, 1902.

• The Age was reporting Nellie Melba's rapturous return to her hometown from her successes in Europe. Her audience's reaction was not reciprocated by Melba; in her autobiography, Melodies and Memories (London, 1925), she recalled: After having known all the luxuries and amenities of Europe, I was soon to discover that this country of my birth had a very great deal to learn about the things which go to make life comfortable .

SIR Toby Tosspot! Gift from Mother

We must not forget our independent spirit. At the same time, we must keep up the credit of the family. - Prime Minister Sir Edmund Barton, Sydney, 17 October, 1902.

• Barton (previously dubbed 'Toby Tosspot' by the Bulletin ) had returned from the Colonial Conference in London, where he was feted by the British and knighted by the King. He also agreed that Australia should pay Britain 240,000 pounds a year for naval protection. Barton's statement reflected Australia's uncertain place in the Empire ... we should flex our independent muscles cautiously, while not embarrassing Mother.

Tom Roberts' 'Big Picture' finally finished

At last my task is through. Got the 'gem' off to Paris for the reproducers yesterday, and I don't know what to say to you for I'm tired of thinking of one thing for so long. - Note from painter Tom Roberts to Attorney-General Alfred Deakin, Melbourne, 17 November, 1902.

• Roberts' 'gem', also known as 'the Big Picture' was the huge painting he executed of the opening of the first Federal Parliament in Melbourne on 9 May, 1901.

Steamed open

I hope we shan't go to Frenchies and Germans to carry our mails. - Prime Minister Sir Edmund Barton, Sydney, 22 January, 1903.

• The new Commonwealth had yet to resolve whose steamships would carry Australia's overseas mail, but the alternative to British ships was too awful to contemplate.

600km of water from Perth to Coolgardie

Our distinguished visitors will learn with astonishment that nine years ago this place, which is 387 miles by rail from Fremantle, was absolutely unoccupied and unknown, and was in reality an arid wilderness. - Federal Minister for Defence, Sir John Forrest, Kalgoorlie, 24 January, 1903.

• Sir John, former premier of Western Australia, opened the goldfields water supply system, bringing water from near Perth. The Coolgardie-Kalgoorlie area had a population of nearly 50,000.

Yellow press says Melba is 'wantoning in wine'

Your powers are ripe; your reputation is made; all the world asks of you is the privilege of paying to hear you, and applauding you. What more could woman wish or desire? What woman with a heart or soul would rashly risk such rich gifts and golden opportunities as yours by wantoning in wine? The careers of great divas - some of whom have died drunk and destitute - who have caressed the cup and drowned their songs in strong drink, should cause you to look upon champagne with a shudder, and to shun it with a shiver so long as God shall give you leave to sing. - Open letter to Nellie Melba, Truth , Sydney, 28 March, 1903.

• This was part of a vicious attacked penned by John Norton. proprietor of the newspaper, after Melba's triumphant return tour of Australia, 1902-03. It was published while she was at sea. Norton succeeded in branding the great soprano, in the minds of many, a champagne-swigging drunkard.

Sidney Kidman recalls his days of having nothing

I think I was 13 when I decided to clear out. I got hold of a cheap horse and, bound for nowhere in particular, and with practically nothing on my back and nothing in my pockets, away I went. I rode to Kapunda. I earned a few shillings there and then I went on to the Burra. If I remember rightly, it was there I swapped my horse with a bit to boot. I gradually worked my way north until I struck the Barrier. - Sidney Kidman, Australia's 'cattle king', interview, Adelaide Observer , 5 September, 1903.

• Kidman, born in Adelaide in 1857, ran away from home to join his brothers working in western NSW, and eventually became a horse and cattle dealer. At his death in 1935, he leased or owned a string of more than 100 station, totalling 325,000ha, allowing him to get stock safely to market in the worst of droughts.

Lord Northcote wears 'smart casual'

Following the practice at Henley, the dress was to a large extent holiday attire. Lord Northcote (Governor-General, 1904-1908) set the example by appearing in a sac serge suit and bowler hat ... - Age , Melbourne, 21 March, 1904.

• A sac serge suit was a gentleman's idea of holiday attire in Edwardian Melbourne. If a toff wanted one for next year's year Henley-on-Yarra, he could acquire it made to order with an extra pair of trousers thrown in for 42 shillings at the London Tailoring Depot, opposite the GPO in Elizabeth St. The catch was that this was about $1000 in today's money.

Australia says King can keep his head

Press messages it is proposed new Commonwealth stamp should not bear head of King. Hope report unfounded as His Majesty desires that his head should appear on all stamps. - British Government cipher message to Prime Minister Edmund Barton, Melbourne, 16 July, 1903.

• The Federation of Australia might be an exciting new concept, but everyone knew who was really still boss. Barton replied that King Edward V11's wishes would be met.

Australia's blessings

It (Australia ) has three main curses: Horse racing, rabbits and politicians. So far, the country has only attempted to rid itself of the rabbits - perhaps the least harmful of the three. - Seamen's Coast Journal , San Francisco, 23 August, 1905.

... the Government will not hesitate to give concessions to induce people of a worthy character of our own race to come from abroad. - NSW Premier J.H. Carruthers, Sydney, 20 September, 1905.

• The Australian States resumed assisted immigration after a break of nearly twenty years. Solid British stock made up the preferred newcomers. Many people were worried about the new power of Japan and were keen to fill up the country before some Asian neighbour did it for us. In the ten years after 1905, the Australian population grew by a million to five million.

1905: Commonwealth of Australia accepts responsibility for British New Guinea, henceforth to be known as Papua.


Adelaide's enthusiastic breeders

The main industry of the Village (Adelaide ) is child-bearing, and Adelaide, both married and unmarried, does her best to help the birth-rate. - Thistle Anderson, Arcadian Adelaide , 1905.

Tasmania, Mainland linked by telegraph

To the Governor of Tasmania from the Governor-General. The Commonwealth greets Tasmania, and rejoices at the establishment of new means for uniting the people of Australia more closely together. Northcote. By Marconi wireless telegraph. - Queenscliff (Vic), 12 July, 1906.

• The historic message from Lord Northcote to the telegraph station in Devonport, northern Tasmania, was taken by a boy on a bicycle to a boatman, who rowed it across the Mersey River and gave it to another telegraph office. From there, it was transmitted to the Governor, Sir George Strickland. His chagrin was unimaginable on discovering it did not contain the Melbourne footy scores.

Vision of Sam McCaughey and others: NSW Inland Greening

Soon after arriving in Tumut, on the northwest side of the Snowy Mountains in 1874, Isle of Man settler Fred Kinred began badgering the NSW Government about irrigating the inland. He was supported by Philip Adams, NSW Surveyor General, who happened to have a vineyard near Albury. Then, early in the 20th century, far-sighted people noted the grazier Samuel McCaughey's 320km private complex of irrigation channels at North Yanco, in southern NSW, steam-pumping water from the Murrumbidgee River. In 1906, the NSW Government finally acted ...

I desire to explain that this is a bill to authorise the construction of the Barren Jack dam and all works incidental thereto, the weir known as the offtake in the vicinity of Narrandera and all the works in connection therewith and for the construction of the main channel. - Charles Lee, Minister for Public Works, NSW Parliament, Sydney, 4 December, 1906.

• Everyone was happy. Sir Samuel McCaughey, Irish-born Presbyterian, true pioneer, Federation enthusiast, philanthropist, was happy. All sides of politics were happy. Charles Lee was happy - they named the headquarters town of the new Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area after him: Leeton. Walter Burley Griffin was commissioned to design it. He even gave the new town Art Deco water towers.

Charles Lee continued ...

The cost per million cubic feet of water stored in Barren Jack will be 22 pounds 19 shillings and sixpence, whereas the cost per million cubic feet of the water stored at Assouan (Aswan, on the Nile) is 62 pounds eight shillings and 10pence. Therefore we come out on the question of cost at about one-third of what it has cost at Assouan. That it easily accounted for, because there is no finer site for a reservoir than we have got at Barren Jack.

Interjector: Why call it Barren?

Charles Lee: It is a name I do not like, but it is sometimes a mistake to depart from well-known names. Instead of Barren Jack, it will be soon a most fruitful Jack.

(The name of the dam, near Yass, was soon changed to Burrinjuck, said to be aboriginal for 'rugged-top mountains').

Charles Lee's vision: 50,000 settlers on Murrumbidgee

Charles Lee was an honest country storekeeper from Maitland who brought down a government in 1893 when he censured those legal Founding Fathers, Edmund Barton and Richard O'Connor, for accepting briefs to act against NSW Railways. So the parliamentarians listened to him as he continued ...

The water, impounded and supplied to the settlers, will be sufficient to irrigate about one in three-and-a-half acres of the first and second class lands. That means that there will be mixed farming. The settlers will have a dry area which will be very necessary for the proper conduct of their business, as well as an area sufficiently large, when irrigated, to supply not only their wants for stock, but also to enable them to go in for fruit-growing, and thus make an excellent living. The question has been thrashed out over and over again as to an area that a settlers can profitably live upon. We have it in evidence before the committee, and it has been verified over and over again, that there are in the Commonwealth today, particularly at Mildura, areas of 10 acres, on which settlers have been living for some time, and they have made an excellent living ... There will be villages at various points, and it is expected that these villages will afford all the conveniences of civilisation where people can have access to amusements and churches and to everything necessary to be provided for a community, which we hope to see prosperous and happy. We know that in the interior of this country, the isolated existence is terrifying to most people. The bringing together of a community in this way has a marked effect on settlement. In the vicinity of these villages, it will be necessary to have areas for artisans and people engaged in business, who will be very glad to take up land in this way, so they can bring it into proper development preparatory to their taking up residence ... it is estimated that on the northern and southern sides (of the Murrumbidgee) we shall settle 50,000 souls .. . (NSW Parliament, Sydney, 4 December, 1906).

Leeton and the Riverina thrived. In 2005, it produced 35 per cent of Australia's citrus and 1.2 million tonnes of rice.

Sydney-Melbourne by phone

People can converse directly with the words as they fall from their lips picked up and instantly transmitted the whole six hundred miles on the wings of harnessed lightning. - Sydney Daily Telegraph , 11 July, 1907.

• The newspaper was reporting on the opening of the direct telephone line from Sydney to Melbourne (or vice versa, depending to which fractious city you belonged).

'Kidman's Luck'

Glowing reports continue to arrive regarding the splendid rains on Mr S. Kidman's well-known Annandale depot on the Herbert River, near Birdsville. Twenty-three inches has been recorded on the run. This is a record for any border station. These excellent rains have occurred at a time when large mobs of cattle are coming in from Victoria River Downs, in the Northern Territory. - News report, Charleville, Queensland, 20 August, 1907.

• Some people said this was Sidney Kidman's luck. Others said it was his pluck in buying cattle stations at unfavourable times. Cattle fattened on Victoria River Downs, which he owned, could be driven slowly across to Annandale, where they were rested, and on through a series of Kidman-owned stations to the markets in Adelaide. He also had stock routes to Melbourne and Sydney.

1907: New Zealand becomes a dominion.

Basic Wage established

I selected Mr McKay's application out of some 112 applications made by Victorian manufacturers because I found that the factory was one of the largest, and had the greatest numbers and variety of employees; and because his application was to be keenly fought. - Justice Henry Bourne Higgins, Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court, 8 November, 1907.

• The 'Harvester Judgment' laid the ground rules for the Basic Wage. Under the Excise Act of 1906 companies which did not pay 'fair and reasonable wages' were subject to an excise duty. Justice Higgins selected Hugh McKay's giant Sunshine Harvesters for the test case.

Australia cuddles up to US

No other Federation in the world possesses as many features of likeness to that of the United States as does the Commonwealth of Australia, and I doubt whether any two people could be found who are nearer in touch with each other, and are likely to benefit more by anything that tends to knit their relations more closely. - Prime Minister Alfred Deakin to US Consul-General John Bray, Melbourne, 14 December, 1907.

• Deakin visited Bray personally to invite the Great White Fleet to visit Australia (see 20 August, 1908) .

Master Menzies, aged 13, is on his way

Master Robert Menzies, son of Mr Jas. Menzies JP, Jeparit, succeeded in coming out 'top' of 1400 candidates in the recent State School Scholarship Examinations, scoring 672 marks out of a possible 900, and exceeding the next best scholar by 36 marks. The boy has only just turned 13 years of age and Punch agrees that he gives promise of a successful scholastic career. For the past two years, he has been tutored at the Ballarat East School, which has been signally successful in its scholarship examination result for many years past. - Melbourne Punch , 6 February, 1908.

• The young Bob Menzies was on his way to Wesley College, Melbourne, and a career which would eventually make him Australia's longest-serving Prime Minister.

Mawson's brave Antarctic saga

A terrible chapter in my life is finished. - Explorer Douglas Mawson's diary, Antarctica, 8 February, 1908.

• Mawson, a thirty-year-old geologist, led an Australian expedition to Antarctica in 1907-08. One of his companions disappeared down a crevice and a second died. On 8 February, he was rescued by a search party from the ship, Aurora.

Cattle King Kidman takes his blanket drum to the ol' UK

Some of my men away up on the Katherine River in the north have sent me a costly dressing case. I thank them very much for it. We have always been on the very best of terms. But I'm not used to these sorts of things. I have always carried my clothes rolled in a rug . - Sidney Kidman, Kapunda (SA), 24 March, 1908.

• Kidman, the enormously wealthy 'cattle king, was about to embark on a European tour with his wife and children. Everyone in their hometown, Kapunda, turned up at a civic reception to farewell them. Before they boarded the Asturias , a reporter wrote: The Kidmans will travel in quite a princely fashion. Yes in ordinary, everyday life, Sidney Kidman is one of the most unassuming men to be met 'neath the Southern Cross, and I venture to predict that midst all the pomp and vanity that will surround him on his European trip, he will long for a bit of outback mutton and damper and a billy can of tea.

Melbourne holiday train disaster kills 44

Down on the rails among the piles and piles of splintered woodwork and the upholstery, their blood and brains splashing the wheels, many more dead bodies and bodies in which there was still life, mingled in frightening sickening heaps in a way that seemed to defy extrication. - Age , Melbourne, 22 April, 1908.

• On 20 April, 1908, a Bendigo-bound holiday train collided with another heading for Ballarat in the Sunshine rail yards, west of Melbourne. Forty-four people were killed and more than 400 hurt. The Age did not believe in sheltering the victims' next-of-kin.

Commonwealth Old Age pensions

In every enlightened community, the establishment of old-age pensions is regarded as an ideal whose attainment should be earnestly sought, it being felt to be a reproach to civilisation that many persons whose lives have been spent in working for the advancement of the State should in their old age, through no fault of their own, be compelled to end their days in charitable institutions. - Attorney-General Littleton Groom, House of Representatives, Melbourne, 3 June, 1908.

• The introduction of Commonwealth old-age pensions took seven years to implement, largely because of the cost. NSW, Victoria and Queensland had already instituted such schemes, but they tended to discriminate against itinerant workers.

Snowy Mountains water/power: A great 1908 idea

The State (NSW ) shall grant to the Commonwealth, without payment therefore, the right to use the waters of the Snowy River or such other river as may be agreed upon or, in default of agreement, may be determined by arbitration for the generation of electricity for the purpose of the Capital Territory, and to construct the works necessary for that purpose, and to conduct the electricity so generated to the Territory. - Commonwealth Seat of Government Act, 1908.

• The Commonwealth and States had agreed to build Burrinjuck Dam, on the Murrumbidgee near Yass, in 1906. Agreement to build the Snowy Mountains Scheme was reached in 1949.

'Scab' is deemed proscribed word

You scab, you rotten lot of scabs. - Tramways striker, Sydney, 24 July, 1908.

• Fined two pounds or fourteen days jail for 'insulting words'. Those days, tramways bureaucrats held the view that all their employees were thieves. They believed, for example, that conductors sold used tickets and kept the change. When an alleged offender was dismissed, 2300 workers struck and were joined by 70,000 supporters in Hyde Park. Eventually, the strikers caved in and returned to work.

US Great White Fleet comes to Australia

Welcome brave kinsmen

From o'er the broad ocean

Hearts warm with friendship

Extend the glad hand

Speaking the tongue of your

Own mother country

Brothers not strangers you'll

Find in our land - Welcoming poster, American Great White Fleet, Sydney, 20 August, 1908

• The visit of the sixteen ships of the American Fleet to Australia ports in 1908 was an expression of defiance by Prime Minister Alfred Deakin. Australia was worried by growing Japanese naval might. But Britain did not want to upset the Japanese, with whom it had a treaty. Deakin invited the Americans without consulting the Colonial Office in London. In Sydney, 80,000 people lined the harbour to welcome the Americans.

On Saturday nearly half a million of enthusiastic Australians saw the iron wall of America's might glide over the waters of Port Phillip Bay ... never before have such dense and serried crowds witnessed a procession along Melbourne streets, not even in 1901. - Age , Melbourne, 1 September, 1908.

• The American Fleet had such a warm welcome in Melbourne, particularly from the fairer sex, that more than 300 sailors deserted.

1909: Henry Ford perfects the assembly line in the U.S., allowing mass production of cheap cars.

Kidman sells 'one quarter England, Wales' to Brits

The largest land and cattle property in Australia has just been purchased from Mr Sidney Kidman and others by a London group supported by Bovril Limited. The property is of enormous area, being one quarter of the size of England and Wales and a company to be known as Bovril Estates Limited is being formed to acquire and float it. - Daily Mail , London, 25 March, 1909.

• Sidney Kidman, in London, sold properties including Victoria River Downs for 180,000 pounds, a huge profit on his 27,500 pounds outlay ten years earlier.

Speaker struck down by very public stroke

Dreadful! Dreadful! - Speaker Sir Frederick Holder, House of Representatives, Melbourne, 23 July, 1909.

• These were Holder's words as he suffered a fatal stroke and fell 'prone from his chair' at 5am during an all-night sitting of the House. It was a night when our politicians were developing their infamous reputation for personal abuse in Parliament.

Fatso Monash, the very model of a modern major-general

They look like two comic characters out of a pantomime or a music hall. The colonel is inclined to be large. His waist measure cannot be a day under sixty. He is not tall, either, and his girth makes him look short. When he wears the candle-extinguisher of a helmet of the Intelligence Corps, he is strongly reminiscent of a large mushroom . - Melbourne Punch , 5 August, 1909.

• That humorous-looking citizen colonel later became General Sir John Monash, commander of the AIF on the Western Front.

Australia's little 'Titanic' missing with 211 aboard

At Port Adelaide, the feeling of anxiety with regard to the Waratah deepens as time wears on. Mariners who, until a few days ago, held an optimistic view concerning her are not so hopeful now. The general view now is not that an accident has happened to the machinery, but that the vessel foundered in the fierce gale which raged just after she sailed from Durban on 26 July. - Adelaide Advertiser , 10 August, 1909.

Waratah , with 211 passengers and crew, left Adelaide on 9 July. With 100 first class cabins and eight staterooms, she was the new pride of the Blue Anchor Line. She disappeared en route from Durban to Cape Town in a gale which whipped up 20-metre waves and huge troughs. Her wreck was discovered in 1999 by a British search party using identical technology to that used to discover Titanic .

13. 1910-1919

'The lamps are going out all over Europe' (British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey, London, 4 August, 1914)

TWO years before this decade began, the German General Erich Ludendorff was assigned to revise the Plan to invade Belgium and France. The Plan had, in fact, been devised in the 1890s by the military commander, Count Alfred von Schlieffen and been allowed to simmer until the opportunity arose to use it. In 1914, this beckoned and, four-and-a-half years and ten million lives later, hostilities concluded at the Armistice. Australia lost more nearly 60,000 killed out of a population of five million.

The War years saw visible social changes. Before the War, women universally wore ground-length dresses; by 1920, the knee-length (or, heavens) even shorter dress or skirt had crept into vogue. Sea bathing among women was being discussed in the most respectable journals. The fashion editor of the Weekly Times , commenting on the summer of 1919, said: These days, nearly everybody wears stockings to complete the bathing outfit. At Portsea last season, costly silk stockings finished off many a fanciful bathing costume, but the average woman regards a pair of costly silk stockings as something far too precious to wear while taking a header into the ocean. She makes her choice among those of fine black lisle. Of course, there were those who would never change with the new era. Nellie Melba lamented at the post-War reopening of Covent Garden in 1919 at the presence of ordinary men wearing brown tweed coats and, do you mind , sitting in the most expensive seats in the stalls.

In Australia, the decade belonged to William Morris Hughes, the London-born Welshman. He assumed the Prime Ministership in 1915 upon the resignation of Andrew Fisher and presided over the first Labor split on the issue of conscription in 1916. When he was not in Australia seeking more and more volunteers for the graveyards of Europe, he was in London, dressed up like a dandy, or in Versailles, putting Australia's case before the rich and powerful of the world. Little Digger, or Little Dictator, call him what you will, but the soldiers, bless their hearts, adored him. He was the consummate politician. He didn't even want Federation in 1901, but he long outlasted all his peers in the first Parliament.

In Australia during first years after Federation, politics was dominated by the Labor Party (founded in 1894). Its opponents were Alfred Deakin's Protectionists and George Reid's Free Traders. But the Labor Party government became bitterly divided over the 1916 conscription referendum and the breakaway Laborites, under Prime Minister William Morris Hughes came together with conservative groups as the Nationalists and continued to govern. In 1917, Earle Page, a doctor from Grafton (NSW) began agitating for the right of people to found a new state in New England and out of this emerged a national Country Party in 1920. Thus, the stage was set at the dawn of the 1920s for the three dominant political parties - Labor, Nationalists (later the United Australia Party, and finally, the Liberal Party), and the Country Party.

Henry Lawson was in his decline, a burned-out case. They found him dead in his backyard in Sydney in September, 1922. He had spent the War years wrestling with alcoholism and increasing despair. C.J. Dennis published his Songs Of A Sentimental Bloke in 1915 but the blush of his youth faded and he was content to spend the rest of his years as a hack staff poet on the Melbourne Herald. But it was the decade of the anonymous poets, expressing themselves in the agony of the In Memorium columns of the newspapers:

... the tale of the awful fighting,

'Midst the boom of the cannon's roar.

He left his dear Australian home,

To die on a distant shore.

Lawson's mates banish bush bard to dry out

A poor bard in exile in a strange and savage land. - Writer Henry Lawson, Mallacoota Inlet, Victoria, 1 March, 1910.

• Lawson's protectors in Sydney had sent him on a camping holiday at the seaside with friends, far from the temptations of the pubs at Circular Quay.

1910: Edward VII dies, succeeded by George V.

Fair prediction from a gossip sheet, eh?

There is no doubt that if the day comes when Australia has to take down the rifle in real earnest, it is upon men such as Monash that she will have to depend. - Melbourne Punch , 9 March, 1911.

• The weekly newspaper was beginning to take John Monash seriously after its earlier satire (5 August, 1909 ).

Commonwealth Bank founded on fine principles

This will be a bank belonging to the people, and directly managed by the people's own agents. - Prime Minister Andrew Fisher, House of Representatives, Melbourne, 15 November, 1911.

• The Commonwealth Bank was not sold off for 85 years. That must be a record for a politician's promise.

Is Billy Hughes acting like real Prime Minister?

Like a Colossus, Mr Hughes bestrides both wing of the Caucus. Mr Fisher will find upon his return that his brainy Attorney-General has made so good with the party that his (Mr Fisher's) continued pre-eminence is seriously imperilled. - Melbourne Punch , 17 November, 1910.

• William Morris Hughes was acting Prime Minister in Andrew Fisher's absence in London for the coronation of King George V. Contrary to the newspaper's mischievous expectations, Hughes did not attempt to topple Fisher and did not become Prime Minister until Fisher's resignation in 1915.

Jack Riley's deathbed claim to be the Man

Banjo's put it a book and got it all mixed up. There was no one called Clancy on the ride. - Jack Riley, Khancoban (NSW), 1912.

• Banjo Paterson's The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses appeared in book form in 1895 and was an immediate best-seller. But who was the Man? Jack Riley, who died in 1912, is buried under a headstone at Corryong, Victoria, which states unequivocally that he was the Man. Paterson, who died in 1941, said he had no particular bushman in mind.

Imaginative stamp

The design is exceedingly simple. It consists of a dark background with the continent of Australia outlined as a white blank. In the centre of this blank is a kangaroo. - Exciting official description of Australia's first postage stamp, 6 April, 1912.

First sod turned on the Transcontinental Railway

He looked as though he might be about to turn the first sod of a railway to Mars. - Age , Port Augusta (SA), 15 September, 1912.

• The Governor-General, Lord Denman, turned the first sod in the Transcontinental Railway. But the day belonged to the flamboyant Australian politician, King O'Malley, the subject of the Age's sly remark. A crew of 3500 men completed the 1692km line on 17 October, 1917.

'Cann-brah' - it's official

I name this capital CANBERRA. - Governor-General's wife, Lady Denman, Capitol Hill, 12 March, 1913.

• Lady Denman permanently impressed on the minds of Australians how the name should be pronounced. Being an upper class English gel, she said: 'CANN-BRAH'. And that was that.

Billy Hughes builds ominous pre-War power base

In the early days of the Labor movement, he largely influenced its course in New South Wales. Since he has been in Federal politics, he has overwhelmed everyone else in his party. Mr Fisher has been the nominal leader; Mr Hughes has been the actual head of the Federal Government. - Sydney Morning Herald , 13 March, 1913.

• William Morris Hughes continued to attract media admirers, although he made no attempt to take power.

Weird sounds heard for first time in UK

(The Australians present ) burst into their strange and echoing cooees. - Daily Express , London, 24 July, 1913.

• Thus, did they welcome the laying of the foundation stone at Australia House.

'Australia's Own Fleet' arrives from Britain

Please God, she (England ) is not to be overthrown as long as our strong right arms hold! Our Empire is not for aggression. Our fleet is not for conquest. It is our belated contribution to the fabric of Empire, which today is the best guarantee of peace throughout the world. - Prime Minister Joseph Cook, Sydney, 5 October, 1913.

• 'Australia's Own Fleet' arrived in Sydney to a tumultuous welcome. The ships, all built in Britain, were the dreadnought , Australia, light cruisers , Melbourne, Sydney and Encounter (on loan from Britain until the completion of Brisbane ), and the destroyers, Warrego, and Yarra.

C.J. Dennis thinks The Bloke might be goer

I have an idea that 'The Sentimental Bloke' will go when published. - Penniless poet C.J. Dennis to a friend, Robert Henderson Croll, Melbourne, 28 October, 1913.

• And go it did! Dennis' rhymes sold more than 50,000 copies in the first nine months ... and sales were climbing.

Nationalists lament we still call England home

We have learned from our wistful mothers to call old England 'home', but, excepting in a poetic sense, the use of that fond expression as an alternative word for England is incorrect, and perhaps even mischievous. Our home is Australia. The apologetic and self-depreciatory attitude of many of us regarding Australia, though perhaps due to the fact that we are still in the 'shy self-conscious stage of nationhood', is also very largely due to the prejudice inherited from our parents, or derived from English books and English people, with whom we come into contact with in so many ways. - Advance Australia (journal of the Australian Natives' Association), 16 December, 1913.

No job for a white man in tropical paradise

Whites could live in comfort, their wives would have domestics to do the housework, and the sea coastline would be quickly peopled and defence made easier. - Pastoral Review , Sydney, 15 April, 1914.

• The Review solved the problem of populating Australia's empty north: import black or 'coloured' labour on strict short-term contracts. The newspaper said it was 'obviously unnatural' to expect white people to do manual work in the tropics.

Melba shrugs off extremist wowser accusers

They say. What say they? Let them say . - Nellie Melba's autograph, Australia, 12 July, 1914.

• Melba was acutely conscious that people were discussing her drinking habits ( see 28 March, 1903 ) while making a second tour of eastern Australia.

First Melbourne-Sydney airmail

Pilots nowadays mount their aeroplanes with as much equanimity as they would mount a bicycle ...' - Sydney Morning Herald , 20 July, 1914.

• The newspaper celebrated the first airmail flight from Melbourne Showgrounds to Moore Park, Sydney, on 16-18 July. The pilot carried 1785 postcards weighing 20kg.

Ist August, 1914 ... and the French mobilise

(Vance) said there were groups in the square clustered excitedly around the baker and one or two other men. The baker's a fine, fair man who makes great good primitive bread in a primitive way. It seems that he and several other men have to go the war. That means, of course, that they are mobilising the reserves. - Author Nettie Palmer, Tregastel, Brittany, 1 August, 1914.

• Australian writers Nettie Palmer and her husband, Vance, were honeymooning in France in that balmy European summer when war began. They hurried back to England.

War correspondent sees the 'new' Australians

Yet, though many of the older men and women had actually lived in them, the colonial days were, by 1914, almost as extinct as those of William the Conqueror. - War historian Charles Bean, Anzac to Amiens , Canberra, 1946.

• Bean, Australia's official war historian from 1914-18, was able to give a considered view of events by 1946. He was Australian-born, but English-educated, and worked for The Sydney Morning Herald before joining the front line troops.

Probably nowhere were the less wealthy folk more free, or on such terms of genuine social equality with the rich, in dress, habits, or intercourse . - War historian Charles Bean, Anzac to Amiens , Canberra, 1946.

1914: World War One with Germany begins, 4 August.

War's eve: The lamps go out all over Europe

The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime. - Sir Edward Grey, British Foreign Secretary, London, 4 August, 1914.

• The German General Staff had been planning the crushing of Belgium and France since 1908. Erich Ludendorff, who had responsibility for this plan, became the principal military leader in the latter stages of the war.

Australia is now at war. - Prime Minister Joseph Cook, Melbourne, 4 August, 1914.

• Australia fired its first shot of World War One across the bows of the German merchant ship, Pfalz , while it was trying to slip through Port Phillip Heads on 5 August. The vessel surrendered.

Suddenly, a Frenchman got up on the steps and commenced singing the Marseillaise. The crowd grew frantic with enthusiasm. He was lifted bodily into the air, shouting, 'Vive l'Australie! Vive la France!' - Age , Melbourne, 4 August, 1914.

• Australians were fervent in their enthusiasm for the War. By 1918, patriotism had become muted.

After the war is over, the nations will call for tenders for the supply of artificial limbs so that the maimed workers will not look so shocking, and that they may be able to work once more for their masters. The authorities will award some with baubles and fill their ears with claptrap of the glories of the war, and the maimed workers will be left to wonder why they fought and what the war was for. - International Socialist , Sydney, 8 August, 1914.

• An alternative view amid the King-and-Empire chorus.

Cost of getting news of the War

As an indication of the extent of The Herald's war cable service, it may be mentioned that yesterday 2477 words were received at this office, the cost of transmission alone being no less than 81 pounds three shillings and sevenpence. - The Herald , Melbourne, 8 August, 1914.

Labor likes its boyish new face John Curtin

John Curtin, the Labor candidate for Balaclava, is one of those rare men who carry the impress of greatness. You meet him, and are attracted, for his very personality has a magnetic suggestion of the potential quality of the man. You hear him, and, in spite of preconceived notions and prejudices that biassed report may have conjured up, and fostered in your thoughts, you feel you are in direct touch with that elevating and inspiring force a mastermind. - Labor Call , Melbourne, 10 August, 1914.

• Curtin, then aged twenty-nine, was secretary of the Victorian branch of the Timber Workers' Union. Labor Call's flattering assessment of him was prophetic: he became Prime Minister in 1941 and guided the nation through its darkest period until his untimely death in office in 1945.


Panama Canal opens on 15 August.

First Australian casualty of WW1, German New Guinea, 11 September, Able Seaman William Williams, mortally wounded.

German New Guinea surrendered to an Australian armed force, 13 September.

Monash gains fan club among solid citizens

He inspires respect, and he also inspires. A rigid disciplinarian, there is nothing of the martinet about him. The gods have blessed him with a keen sense of humour, and at the same time with an honest kindliness. He is always ready to sympathise, always ready to stiffen the weak-kneed, and help along the stumblers. This city is full of men who are proud to regard themselves as friends of John Monash. - Melbourne Punch , 24 September, 1914

• Monash, still a colonel, had volunteered for overseas service and sailed with the AIF for Egypt in December.

Pox mows down Diggers in Perth

21 men taken ashore tonight for refusing to be vaccinated!!! 35 sick men (mostly those men who have syphilis) . - War correspondent Charles Bean's diary, Albany (WA), 31 October, 1914.

• Bean sailed for Egypt aboard the liner, Orvieto, part of the 36-ship fleet conveying Australian and New Zealand troops. He had been appointed official war correspondent in August and accompanied the Ist Division headquarters staff under Major-General Sir William Bridges, who died in 1915 from wounds received at Gallipoli.

German raider Emden sunk in Indian Ocean

Emden beached and done for. - Signal from HMAS Sydney , off Cocos Islands, Indian Ocean, 9 November, 1914.

Sydney, an escort for the convoy carrying the first Australian and New Zealand troops to the Middle East, intercepted the Emden after receiving an alarm signal from the wireless station on the Cocos Islands. Emden's captain ran her aground on a reef off North Keeling Island after she was hopelessly outgunned.

It was all very sudden, this fight in the morning - the Sydney had raced off, killed them, and was ready to return as swiftly as a terrier would kill a cat. - War correspondent Charles Bean's diary, Orvieto , Indian Ocean, 9 November, 1914.

Sailing off to Gallipoli: onboard tea and cricket

Final test match, Australia and England on boat deck. We crumbled in the first innings and England won easily. - Charles Bean's diary, Orvieto , Red Sea, 28 November, 1914.

Armchair warrior sneers at street 'loafers'

The people here apparently fail to realise the seriousness of the present position - that is, a large section of them - and something in the shape of an attack upon our shores is surely needed so that they may be galvanised into life . - Reader's letter, Sydney Morning Herald , 23 December, 1914.

• The correspondent complained that many young men continued to loaf on street corners rather than enlist. On the other hand, he said, the 'class' who enlisted were the sons of city businessmen and farmers.

The Hun is at our gateway, and liberty and nationhood are suspended in the balance beneath the Damoclean sword. - Reader's letter, Sydney Morning Herald , 29 December, 1914.

Our innocent lads are lured into Casbah Capers!

Between 200 and 300 of our men are at this present moment in Cairo - their whereabouts are not known. - War correspondent Charles Bean's diary, Mena Camp (near Cairo), 1 January, 1915.

• Some of the not-so-innocents of the AIF had a whale of a time when they reached Egypt. Bean blamed much of it on the inexperience of the officers in charge of a hastily-raised volunteer force. All leave from Mena Camp was cancelled on 8 January and military police sent in to round up the stragglers. In Sydney, on 14 February, 1916, a soldier was shot dead and nine others wounded after a drunken riot at Central Station and other places. The Daily Telegraph reported:

The most disgraceful episode in our military history occurred yesterday when thousands of men at Casula Camp struck against the extra time for training (about one hour and a half per day) provided under the new syllabus, walked out of quarters and, gathering more men from Liverpool Camp, took charge of the trains for the city, and entered upon a round of riots and general misconduct.

Apparently a few malcontents were responsible for the whole business, and the decent men were cajoled or threatened into passive or active support. Some establishments in Liverpool - hotels and fruit shops - were entirely denuded of supplies, and the bill was lawlessly 'put down to Kitchener'.

The trains for the city were packed with khaki clad men, who refused to pay their fares, and by the time the city was reached the last vestige of of discipline or regard for private property had disappeared. Hundreds of men were obviously intoxicated, and quite irresponsible. Other became inoculated with their comrades' vainglorious, devil-may-care spirit.

The dreaded Hun and the Australian housewife

It is very dangerous to have Germans in the employ of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works. - Reader's letter, Melbourne Herald , 2 January, 1915.

Surely, since these hostilities have broken out, every Australian, or, as far as that is concerned, every British woman married to a subject of this women and baby-killing and wanton church-destroying barbarians, should be free as if she had been legally divorced in a court of justice . - Reader's letter, Melbourne Herald , 2 January, 1915.

• Germans were very unpopular in some circles.

Postcards from Cairo report unsavory doings

I hear they recently shot three Indians for trying to get away from the Canal on a pilgrimage to Mecca. - War correspondent Charles Bean's diary, Mena Camp (near Cairo), 7 January, 1915.

• Obviously, the Indian Army was far more severe on its miscreant soldiers than the Australians.

From this time on, although there was a good deal of disease amongst our men, which they brought on themselves by their indulgences in Cairo, the discipline steady improved. The disease is simply deplorable, but apparently quite unpreventable. Cairo is a hotbed of it - in particularly serious forms - and some of the cases are simply tragic; young soldiers, really fine clean simple boys who have been drinking, and have found themselves with a disease which may ruin them for life. - War correspondent Charles Bean's diary, Mena Camp (near Cairo), 9 January, 1914.

Meanwhile, southeast Australia hit by drought

The drought which has been in evidence in South Australia, Victoria and Riverina for more than a year has now extended until practically nine-tenth of Australia is crying out for moisture. From progress returns of stock at the end of last year, we find our losses have been already heavy, and no doubt, Australia had at least eight million sheep less than the previous year ... Pastoral Review , Sydney, 16 March, 1915.

• The drought of 1914-15 was, for many Australians, more compelling than the start of World War One. Rain began falling on most areas a month after this report appeared in the Review.

Kiwis blame VD on Egyptian lasses, wreck brothels!

Some New Zealanders who had picked up certain diseases in a particular street near Shepheard's Hotel seem to have made up their minds to go in and pay the house back for what they got there. About 5 o'clock this plan first began to have visible results. Mattresses and bedding were probably torn up inside the house or houses first - but the first the public knew about it was when the this debris began to be piled into a bonfire in the street. - War correspondent Charles Bean's diary, Mena Camp (near Cairo), 2 April, 1915.

Academics agree to abstain from booze (not compulsory)

That, during the continuance of the war, the members of the staff of the University and affiliated Colleges pledge themselves to abstain from the use of alcohol, except under medical advice. - Resolution of the teaching staff at Melbourne University, 21 April, 1915.

• The meeting also decided that the resolution would not be forced on anyone who was not at the meeting.

The eve of Gallipoli disaster: facing the facts

It's a great gamble the whole thing really - a lot of bits of metal in the air; and just a chance whether you stop one or let it past. A lot of men at one end of a machine throwing things into space with a deadly swiftness without the least idea what is going to be the effect of each discharge: it may mean a tragedy in some cottage home in Tasmania or in an English country house; it may kill or wound or take off a leg. And a lot of Australians - boys who began life on the Murray or in a backyard in Wagga or Bourke or Surry Hills will be left lying in Turkey. - War correspondent Charles Bean's diary, aboard the troopship, Minnewaska , Lemnos, 24 April, 1915.

• Bean had been given permission to land at Gallipoli next day once a beachhead had been established.

1915-1916: Battle for the Dardanelles, Gallipoli, 25 April (invasion) until 8 January (final British withdrawal).

25 April, 1915

They were happy because they knew that they had been tried for the first time and had not been found wanting. - War correspondent Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett, Gallipoli, 25 April, 1915.

• The experienced British correspondent Ashmead-Bartlett reported on the apparently cheerful disposition of wounded Australian troops after the landing at Gallipoli. By the end of the unsuccessful campaign in December, 7600 Australians had died and 19,000 were wounded.

The sight of the hills as we got in closer and could see what they really were made one realise what our men had really done. I remember someone saying that the map ought to have been made more precipitous, that it really didn't give an idea of how steep the hills actually were - and I understand what they meant. The place is like a sandpit on a huge scale - raw sandslopes and precipices alternating with steep slopes covered with low scrub - the scrub where it exists is pretty dense. There seems to be a tallish hummock at the N. end of the beach and another at the south end. We are landing between them. The boat grounded in at 2ft of water. We jumped out - got used to this at Lemnos where I saw many a man spilt by his heavy pack, so I got out carefully, waded to the beach, and stood on Turkish soil. - War correspondent Charles Bean's diary, Gallipoli, 25 April, 1915.

Several times I go back along the lines of dressings, and find a dressing saturated, and have to apply more dressing and pressures, the boys are bricks, they smoke on, and patiently wait their turn. They think the old ship is heaven after the peninsula. All this time we can hardly hear ourselves speak with the banging which is going on outside, the ship just shivers with the extra heavy reports, but we are much to busy to think of what is going on, even forget that we haven't had a meal, till the steward says there is a cup of tea in the pantry, sister - about 6 o'clock, the last dressing is finished about 2.30am; the men are nearly all sleeping. - Australian army nurse Ella Jane Tucker's diary, hospital ship Gascon , off Gallipoli, 25 April, 1915.

• Ella was one of only seven nurses caring for 560 wounded on the Gascon by the end of the first day.

Gallipoli: the aftermath of the first days

I heartily congratulate you upon the splendid conduct and bravery displayed by the Australian troops in the operations in the Dardanelles. They have indeed proved themselves worthy sons of the Empire. - Cable from King George V, London, to the Australian Parliament, Melbourne, 29 April, 1915.

Turkish prisoners are brought each day into camp. The Australians certainly look on prisoners with disfavour. They have heard stories of mutilation - some of those who came back from the advanced positions in the fight on Sunday brought stories of comrades they had passed, mutilated. - War correspondent Charles Bean's diary, Gallipoli, 29 April, 1915.

It was pathetic seeing the walking patients go off the ship, some with half their trousers torn, others with great dry bloodstains on their khaki.. - Australian army nurse Ella Jane Tucker's diary, hospital ship Gascon, Alexandria ( Egypt), 29 April, 1915.

• The Gascon took in coal and water that night and returned to Gallipoli for another load of wounded. After they were landed, the men were transferred to temporary hospitals around Cairo such as the luxurious Mena House Hotel, the Heliopolis Palace Hotel or the Gezirah Palace Hotel, on an island in the Nile.

The Government and people of Australia are deeply gratified to learn that their troops have won distinction in their encounter with the enemy. We are confident that they will carry the King's colours to further victory. - Cable to the British Government, London, from Australian Prime Minister Andrew Fisher, Melbourne, 29 April, 1915.

The whole face of the cliff of the nearer hill which yesterday was covered with bushes, is today bare, and along the top of it our dead can be seen lying like ants, shrivelled up or curled up, some still hugging their rifles: about a dozen of them. - War correspondent Charles Bean's diary, Gallipoli, 3 May, 1915.

Was this article beginning of the Anzac legend?

It is peculiarly fitting that it should be the sons of a new land, nurtured in the atmosphere of freedom, who should have the task of driving the unspeakable Turk at long last from Europe. The Russians have tried it. The Bulgarians and Servians have made the attempt, but it is left for Britons from across the sea to complete the job. - Melbourne Punch , 6 May, 1915.

The Australians and New Zealanders defeated every counterattack, and the positions everywhere were consolidated by 2 May. In the successful performance of this difficult operation against determined opposition, the troops displayed unsurpassed courage and skill. Our losses were heavy. - British Prime Minister Herbert Asquith, House of Commons, London, 6 May, 1915.

• By this stage, according to the journalist, Charles Bean, the Turks were firmly entrenched and the Anzacs were suffering up to 1000 casualties in each attack.

There is no further news from the Allies concerning the operations in the Dardanelles, but the publication of a long list of casualties bears evidence of the stubbornness with which the Turks opposed the landing of the troops . - Weekly Times , Melbourne, 8 May, 1915.

• A 238-day war of attrition had begun. A fresh landing at Suvla Bay in August gave the Allies some hope, but the Turks quickly regained ascendancy.

Have been at Gaba Tepe since Sunday, receiving our patients, in very small batches. Am on night duty this trip at the Acute end of the ship. Every night, there are two or three deaths, or sometimes five and six. It's just awful flying first from one ward into another; and dreading what the orderly might have to tell you, when you get there, how you wished you could be in the four wards at once. The Orderlies haven't had much training, but they do their best, each night is a nightmare, the patients' faces all look so pale with the flickering ship's lights, it's such a relief to see them by daylight. - Australian army nurse Ella Jane Tucker's diary, hospital ship Gascon , off Gallipoli, 15 May, 1915.

Turks' suicidal counterattack

At 3.20 (am) the Turks attacked. The men had been ordered to stand to their arms at 3 o'clock. They had been there about a quarter of an hour when the sentries reported (1st and 4th Battalions) that there were men coming out of the Turkish trenches. Fire was immediately opened. The Turks made no noise about their first attack this time. Afterwards, they frequently blew bugles to get their men out of the trenches, but the first attack was noiseless. They seem to have come out all along the line at nearly the same moment, except on the right where a battalion probably lost its way and did not work up through the scrub until about 4.30. The Turks did not seem well-trained. There was no attempt at covering fire, and so our men could sit right on the traverses of the trench, or even the parapet, and shoot for all they were worth. The Turks would lead out all along the main path, one after another - simply inviting death. - War correspondent Charles Bean's diary, Gallipoli, 19 May, 1915.

• The Turks suffered 10,000 casualties in this battle; the Australians lost 160 dead and 468 wounded.

Gallantly attacking seven Turks single-handed, Lance-Corporal Albert Jacka, of the 14th Battalion (Victoria), 4th Infantry Brigade, killed five by rifle fire and two by bayonet, and has been awarded the Victoria Cross. - Citation, Gallipoli, 19 May, 1915.

• Jacka, a 22-year-old fencer from Wedderburn, Victoria, returned to a home fit for heroes. His was Australia's first VC of the war. He died in poverty of chronic nephritis in 1932, a victim of the Depression. An embarrassed community raised the money for a house for his widow, Frances.

Burying their dead

The Turks came out today under a white flag and began burying their dead. - War correspondent Charles Bean's diary, Gallipoli, 20 May, 1915.

BHP opens Newcastle works with drums beating

...we mean to make the ploughshares, but at the same time, should any nation have the temerity to threaten the independence of this, our own country, they will find us quite prepared to turn these ploughshares into swords - swords and guns, which, in the hands of the bravest amongst the brave - our Australian soldiers - will enable the Commonwealth to cry aloud, 'Hands off!' - G. D. Delprat, general manager, BHP, 2 June, 1915.

• Delprat spoke at the opening of BHP's steel-making works at Newcastle. It more dramatically illustrated Australia's coming of age than the events at Gallipoli. The company had a remarkable rise from its origins in 1883 when a boundary rider, Charles Rasp, took samples of ore from an outcrop 1200km west of Sydney. In 1913, Australia imported 400 000 tonnes of steel. Within a few years, we imported none.

Notes from the Front

One of their shells today hit a man in the water and took off his arm- at least it was hanging by a thread as he came out of the water holding it. It didn't stop the bathing. I heard there were eight casualties on the beach in all, but the bathing went on as usual, except for a few minutes. - War correspondent's Charles Bean's diary, Gallipoli, 23 June, 1915

The other day, a shell landed in the dentists' dugout and covered the hillside with false teeth. - War correspondent Charles Bean's diary, 5 July, 1915

The very men who shunned me, and even the very women who carelessly passed me by when I was so horribly flat-chested and had no bust, became my most ardent admirers shortly after I obtained such a wonderful enlargement of my bust. I therefore determined that all women who were flat-chested should profit by my accidental discovery. - Advertising testimonial from 'Margerette Merlain', Australian newspapers, August, 1915.

• Margerette claimed to have enlarged her bust by six inches in thirty days. Women wishing to share her secret were invited to write to an address in London. She promised they would not be robbed by 'fakirs or frauds'.

Australia's Colonel Blimps talk conscription, 1915

But today, Australia is being defended in the fields of Flanders and on the hills of Gallipoli. If she is to be saved at all, it must be there. If, through some disaster to the armies or fleets of the Allies, it should become possible for the enemy to land a force in Australia, our hope of successfully defending her shores would be slender. - Universal Service League manifesto, Sydney, 11 September, 1915.

• The League sought compulsory military service, but the question was not put to the people until October, 1916. It was defeated. A second referendum a year later was also defeated.

Diggers 'dread' Front: a cold reality of War

Then there is the nonsense of wounded soldiers wanting to get back from hospital to the front. I have asked the nurses, I have asked the men, I have heard them discussing it - and everyone says - what everyone here knows - that it is not one soldier in fifty that wants to go back to the front. They dread it. Not very many will actually shoot their fingers off to escape from the front, but this is not uncommon even among Australians, and it is probably less common with them than most. There are men who want to get back to the front, great, stalwart, true Australians - but there are not many like them in the army. - War correspondent Charles Bean's diary, Imbros island, Mediterranean Sea, 26 September, 1915.

• Bean was holidaying on the island of Imbros (now called Gokceada), 16km off the southern end of the Gallipoli Peninsula. The island, previously occupied by the Turks, had been seized by the Greeks in 1912 in the First Balkan War. It was returned to Turkey in 1923. Bean went back to Anzac Cove by torpedo boat on 28 September.

Anzacs did better than Kitchener thought

The King asked me to tell you how splendidly he thinks you have done - you have done splendidly, better, even, than I thought you would. - British army chief Lord Kitchener, Gallipoli, 13 November, 1915.

• Kitchener visited Anzac troops, inspected the forward trenches at Lone Pine and praised the soldiers, who gave him a hearty cheer.

No conscription ... yet, says PM Hughes

I want to say that no conscription will be brought into this country without an appeal to the country. The country will have the opportunity of expressing its own opinion in regard to the matter. - Prime Minister William Morris Hughes, Melbourne, 8 December, 1915.

Anzacs evacuate Gallipoli, 20 December, 1915

So I have left old Anzac. In a way, I was really fond of the place, I have certainly had some enjoyable times there in my old dugout - yarning to friends or going round the lines. I can't pretend that I ever liked shells or attacks - but one came to put up with them as much as one does with toothache. - War correspondent Charles Bean, off Gallipoli, 18 December, 1915.

• Bean was evacuated on the British ship, Grafton . The last Australians, covering troops, left the beach at 4.10am on 20 December. There were two Australian casualties in the evacuation to Egypt and the islands of Imbros and Lemnos. The British finally left Capes Helles on the night of 8 January, 1916.

The withdrawal of the troops was carried out without the Turks being aware of the movement. The great armies were withdrawn from one of the areas occupied on the peninsula, although they were in the closest contact with the enemy. - War Office communique, London, 19 December, 1915.

• Thus was the announcement of the Gallipoli withdrawal made. There was immediate criticism of the campaign and its appalling casualties. The Times said: We have spent an incredible amount of money which has returned nothing save imperishable records of heroism.

The withdrawal from Anzac and Suvla Bay does not come as a complete surprise. For some months it has been known that the operations in the Dardanelles, so far as the main objective, the capture of Constantinople, was concerned, were hopeless ... Australians will receive the news with mixed feelings. The blood of our bravest has been poured out in no mean measure in the effort to force the Straits. The mounds which mark the resting places of our heroic dead may, in the passage of years, merge into the contour of the soil, but the memory of our gallants' deeds will be as ineffaceable as the time-worn cliffs that witnessed them. - West Australian , Perth, 22 December, 1915.

Girlish prank!

I wanted to join the Red Cross and I tried very hard to get accepted. When I failed, I bought a khaki suit and stowed away. - Sydney waitress Maude Butler, aged 18, 1 January, 1916.

• Miss Butler tried to sneak off to Egypt on a troopship with the most virtuous of intentions.

Bloody hot

It's so hot here in February that you can wash out your pants, hang them on the line, and run around the house and take them off dry. - Writer Henry Lawson, letter to a friend, Leeton (NSW), 20 February, 1916.

• Lawson had been commissioned for two guineas a week to write about the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area which came into being after the construction of Burrinjuck Dam from 1908. The town was 'dry', but Lawson was accommodated by the regular 'drunks' express' which steamed to nearby Narrandera and Whitton.

Conscription demands grow louder

The new despotism has arrived . - Labour Call , Sydney, 30 March, 1916.

• Empire patriotism was replaced, in some places, by an ultra-nationalism. Demands for conscription were becoming shriller. The brutal repression of the Easter Rebellion in Dublin caused many Irish-Australians to reconsider enlisting in the Imperial cause in Europe.

1916: Easter Rising, Dublin, 24-29 April.

London 's 'Cooee March' on first Anzac Day

The Australians in London were very much in evidence, frequent cooees ringing out from the street throngs. - Weekly Times correspondent, London, 25 April, 1916.

• The first Anzac Day was commemorated by a march of Australian and New Zealand soldiers to Westminster Abbey. Tens of thousands of Londoners gathered along the route and the correspondent was so overcome as to describe the marchers as 'perhaps the most magnificent body of men that ever marched the streets of London'.

As the men filed into the Abbey, the sunlight burst through the lofty windows, and this beautiful light, bright, though diffused, hung over the worshippers throughout the service. The Anzacs filled all parts of the Abbey, except 600 seats in the nave, which were reserved for the dead men's relatives and the King's Scholars, and stalls where distinguished worshippers sat. - Weekly Times correspondent, London, 25 April, 1916.

Finally, Anzac Legend becomes official

Before the Anzacs astonished the watching nations, our national sentiment was of a flabby and and sprawling character. We were Australian in name, and we had a flag, but we had been taught by our politicians not to trust ourselves - we were constantly admonished by our daily journals to remember that we were nothing better than a joint in the tail of a great Empire ... Anzac Day has changed all that. - Freeman's Journal , Sydney, 27 April 1916.

• The Anzac legend was born. This had been our coming of age as a nation. A great mystique grew around the events on Gallipoli. Perhaps the slaughter was not entirely in vain? Anzac, as one commentator has said, was becoming Australia's secular religion. But many members of the growing peace movement in Australia saw the London commemoration as a sham, 'a picnic 'oer the nation's dead'.

Deserves a medal for marketing spiel

But for a plentiful supply of Bovril I don't know what we should have done. During Neuve Chapelle and other engagements, we had big cauldrons going over log fires, and as we collected and brought the wounded, we gave each man a good drink of hot Bovril, and I cannot tell you how grateful they were. Letter from the Front. - Newspaper advertisement, 1916.

• Bovril, another advertisement said, gave you the strength of a tank. And it had a drawing of a tank to prove it.

Crafty Kraut unmasked in inner Melbourne

George Schickert, pastrycook, of Brunswick Street, charged at the Fitzroy Court today with that, being a naturalised subject of enemy origin, he used, for the purpose of trading, a name other than that by which he was ordinarily known at the date of the commencement of the war, was fined 25 pounds with five guineas costs. A stay of seven days was allowed. - Herald , Melbourne, 17 May, 1916.

• George, the crafty Kraut, changed the name of his premises from the Cafe Schickert to the Cafe Australia.


Turks attack on Sinai Peninsula, 23 April.

Battle of Jutland, 31May to 1 June, main naval engagement of World War One.

First Battle of the Somme, 25 June-14 November.

Allies defeat Turks, Battle of Romani, Egypt, 3-9 August

Prelude to the slaughter of Pozieres

I am leaving you, you to do your duty and I mine. - Prime Minister William Morris Hughes to AIF troops, Salisbury Plain, England, 24 June, 1916.

• He returned to Australia, and they proceeded to France and the carnage at Pozieres.

They have to stay there while shell after shell descends with a shriek close beside them - each one an acute mental torture - each shrieking tear crashing bringing a promise to each man - instantaneous - I will tear you into ghastly wounds - I will rend your flesh and pulp an arm or a leg - fling you half a gaping, quivering man like other that you see smashed around you, one by one, to lie there rottening or blackening. - War correspondent Charles Bean's diary, Pozieres (France), 5 August, 1916.

• Australia suffered 22,000 casualties in that battle.

King George asks a sensible question

It makes a lump come in my throat, to think of all these splendid fellows coming all those many thousands of miles and what have they come for? - King George V to Major-General John Monash, at a review of Australian 3rd Division, Salisbury Plain, England, 27 September, 1916.

Billy Hughes' threatening appeal to women

Women of Australia, mothers, wives, sisters of free men, what is your answer to the boys at the front? Are you going to leave them to die? What is your answer to Britain, to whom we owe so much: to France, to Belgium? Are you going to cover with shame and dishonour the country for which our soldiers are fighting and dying? Now is your hour of trial and opportunity. Will you be the proud mothers of a nation of heroes, or stand dishonoured as the mothers of a race of degenerates? Prove you are worthy to be the mothers and wives of free men. - Prime Minister William Morris Hughes' Manifesto to the Women of Australia, Melbourne, 15 September, 1916.

• Hughes made a desperate, threatening, appeal to women to vote in favour of conscription. On 28 October, the people narrowly rejected compulsory military service by 51.61 per cent to 48.39 per cent. In a second referendum next year, the 'no' vote had risen to 53.7 per cent.

In this great hour, we Australians must rise, and putting aside all other things, we must prove ourselves worthy of this great sacrifice, and prove ourselves worthy as free citizens in a great democracy. Our duty is clear, let us gird up our loins and do that which honour, duty and self-interest alike dictate. - Prime Minister William Morris Hughes, pro-conscription rally, Sydney, 18 September, 1916.

• Hughes surrounded himself with Labour Party worthies at this rally at Sydney Town Hall, but many members of the party were tiring of his pro-war zeal.

Jacka family rejects pro-Conscription lies

1. That I am the father of Lieutenant Albert Jacka VC, of Lieutenant William Jacka and Private Sidney Jacka.

2. That I have received several letters from my sons, Lieutenant Albert Jacka VC and Lieutenant William Jacka, who are in France. They have never complained of the want of reinforcements. On the other hand, they have stated that the conditions in France are much better than in Gallipoli as they are more frequently relieved. Lieutenant Albert Jacka VC, in one letter, that while out of the trenches they almost forget the rattle of the guns and 'we have plenty of fun'. Never in any letter have any of my sons supported conscription and in my belief they are all still opposed to it. My wife and daughter are working against conscription believing as I do that we should keep free the land for which our sons went out freely to fight.

3. That I have read what appears to be a letter to the Argus of today from Reg W. Turnbull, of Linda Cottage, Wedderburn. I have lived in Wedderburn for about thirty years and know all the people in and around the town. There is no such person as Reg W. Turnbull living in Wedderburn. I know each and every Turnbull in the whole district. The only Turnbull in Wedderburn is Walter Turnbull, a butcher who is childless. I believe the letter said to have been received by Reg W. Turnbull to be a fabrication made for the purpose of improperly influencing votes in favour of Conscription. - Statutory declaration by Nathaniel Jacka, Wedderburn (Vic), 27 October, 1916.

• The letter from 'Reg W. Turnbull' was a fake which claimed that Jacka VC had written to 'Turnbull' urging Australians to vote in favour of conscription. Jacka had won the first Australian VC of the war at Gallipoli on May, 1915. The day after Nathaniel Jacka's angry rebuttal, Australians voted narrowly against conscription.

W.M. Hughes is no longer leader. By an overwhelming majority, the Little Dictator has been pulled down from the place of honour he disgraced, and stripped of the prestige he gathered so unworthily from association with the Labour Party. - Australian Worker , Sydney, 16 November, 1916.

• Hughes' dominance of the Labour Party, his war-at-all-costs policy and his strident calls for the introduction of conscription were major causes of his undoing. Labour withdrew confidence in him as leader, but he continued as Prime Minister with the support of 23 out of 65 Labour members and the conservatives.

Norman Lindsay's brother tells the bloody truth

If we have to hang out here till the going gets hard enough to spring off - well. Our spring won't have as much bite in it as it had before - it's the survival of the hardest. Chaps crack up every day - cannot weather it - the continual mud is a heart-breaker. If it's not mud and drizzle - it's frost and bitter cold - that thaws and the going's worse than ever - snow and sleet vary the discomfort. Yes, it's a great show. Wandering over the ridge the other day in search of firewood - which is hellish scarce - hunting through old Hun trenches and dugouts - I couldn't help going back to look at a dead Hun I had passed - Lay on the broad of his back - head and shoulders twisted slightly sideways, rifle on the ground that had fallen off his left shoulder - the right withered hand tightly holding a bomb, which he evidently had been on the point of throwing when he was knocked. - Letter from Reginald Lindsay, France, to his brother, Norman, Sydney, 29 December, 1916.

• Reginald was killed on the Somme two days later. His bloodied notebook was sent to Norman. Historians say that conditions on the Somme that winter were the worst endured by the armies during World War One. In that battle alone, combined Allied and German casualties were about 1.2 million.


U.S. declares war on Germany, 6 April.

Allied assault on the Hindenburg Line near Bullecourt, 10 April-20 May.

Amy Tranter, woman at war in France, is sickened

Today I had to assist in 10 amputations, one after another. It is frightfully nerve-wracking work. I seem to hear that saw at work whenever I try to sleep. We see the most ghastly wounds - and are all day long inhaling the odour of gas gangrene. How these boys suffer. This war is absolute hell. We see and hear all day and every day the result of its frightfulness. We can hear the guns quite plainly from here. - Army nurse Elsie Tranter's diary, near Bullecourt (France), 2 May, 1917.

• This entry was made before the battle started in earnest. In the second offensive at Bullecourt, the Australians suffered 7000 casualties by 17 May. Little was achieved in the fighting.

1917: Third Battle of Ypres, 7 June-30 November, ends in bloody stalemate.

Do not blame me for this. It is Fritz's fault. He will do these dastardly tricks. - Letter from army nurse Dorothy Cawood, Armentieres ( France), 22 July, 1917.

• Miss Cawood, one of 2300 Australian army nurses who served overseas, wrote to her parents in Sydney to inform them she had won the Military Medal for helping wounded escape from a bombed casualty station.

Military intelligence

It is the very thing for a soldier and requires neither skill nor knowledge to use it. - Newspaper advertisement for a Vest Pocket Kodak camera, 1917.

Earle Page and Country Party emerge

Why not strike at the root of the whole evil? Give the Commonwealth complete control of immigration, federalise the Crown lands, subdivide the State into areas whose outlines are determined solely by the lines of community of interests and big enough to attack national schemes in a large way, but small enough for every legislator to be thoroughly conversant with every portion of the area, and land settlement and proper development will naturally follow. We hold that if some means such as this of unifying national policy are not found to combat the prevailing condition of things, failure will be the result of the repatriation scheme. In fact, success can only be achieved by unification of our land and taxation laws of railway gauges. - Dr Earle Page, Brisbane, 13 August, 1917.

• Page emerged on the political scene when he addressed the annual meeting of the Australian Provincial Press. His ideas about the formation of New States and the development in Australia were concerned originally with northern NSW, but were soon espoused throughout regional Australia. In 1919, he was elected to Federal Parliament as an Independent, but under the auspices of the Australian Farmers' Federal Organisation. In 1920, farmers' organisations founded the Country Party with Page as leader.

1917: British royal family abandons all German titles to become the House of Windsor.

Awful anticipation of Passchendaele

I suspect that they are making a great bloody experiment - a huge gamble ... I think they are playing with morale of the troops. I feel awfully anxious, terribly anxious, about tomorrow. - Charles Bean's diary, France, 9 October, 1917.

• Bean was writing on the eve of the muddy assault on Passchendaele. The Australian and New Zealand divisions had 5000 casualties

1917: Russian Revolution, 6-7 November ( 24-25 October, old-style ).

Allies take Jerusalem from Turks, 9 December.

Hughes hit by Warwick Egg, starts own police force

Arrest those men, constable! - Prime Minister William Morris Hughes, Warwick (Qld), 29 November, 1917.

• Those men had just thrown eggs at Hughes. When the policemen refused to arrest him on the grounds that he was bound the enforce only State laws, Hughes decided to form the Commonwealth Police.

1918: Germany's last onslaught, France, including Amiens, 21 March-3 May, paves way for autumn counter-attack.

States ignored?

There seems no doubt that efforts have continually been made ever since Federation was established to ignore the rights which the States retained for themselves when they entered into the federal compact, to magnify the federal function, and to minimise those of the States, and to elbow out States with the inevitable tendency towards unification. - Note from Tasmanian Treasurer N.E. Lewis, Hobart, 30 April, 1918.

• Lewis' particular gripe was that the States' Agents-General offices in London were considered inferior to that of the Commonwealth High Commission. But he expressed a view held by many States-righters that the Commonwealth was attempting, by stealth, to assume many of the powers once enjoyed by the former colonies.

1918: Russian royal family shot dead, Tobolsk, Siberia, 16 July.

Australians, Canadians invent blitzkrieg, win WW1

TO THE SOLDIERS OF THE AUSTRALIAN ARMY CORPS. For the first time in the history of this Corps, all five Australian divisions will tomorrow engage in the largest and most important battle operation ever undertaken by the Corps. I earnestly wish every soldier of the Corps the best of good fortune, in a glorious and decisive victory, the story of which will re-echo throughout the world, and live for ever in the history of our home land. - Message from Corps Commander Sir John Monash, Amiens, 7 August, 1918.

August 8 was the black day of the German Army in the history of the war ... it put the decline of our fighting power beyond doubt ... the war must be ended. - General Erich Ludendorff, German commander, France, 8 August, 1918.

• In the summer of 1918, the final Allied offensive began. Sir John Monash's five Australian divisions, with four Canadian, three British and three French, were positioned south of the river Luce, in front of Amiens. On 8 August, this army, spearheaded by the Australians and Canadians, punched through the German lines. Between them, the Australians and Canadians took 8000 prisoners. At the end of the month, they faced their last great obstacle, Mont St Quentin, which dominated the approaches to the crossings of the Somme. The Australians captured the hill on 2 September in one of the greatest feats of arms of the war. The Allies crossed the Somme and swept on unhindered towards the Hindenburg Line. The Australians took part in the initial attacks on the Hindenburg Line, but were withdrawn in October. Their war was over.

I have just returned from a visit to the battlefields - where the glorious valour and dash of the Australian troops saved Amiens and forced back the legions of the enemy - filled with greater admiration than ever for these glorious men, and more convinced than ever that it is the duty of their fellow citizens to keep these magnificent battalions up to their full strength. - Prime Minister William Morris Hughes, London, to Amalgamated Wireless (Aust.), Sydney, 22 September, 1918.

• This was the first message received in Australia by wireless telegraph, though the telegraph cable to England had been operating since 1872. Hughes urged Australians to keep enlisting for the army, despite the fact that the military commanders had decided the war was won and the Australians could prepare to come home.

Forelock-tugger forgets our war dead and debts

I wonder whether our people fully appreciate the potent influence of Britain's wisdom and generosity in every phase of our national well-being. It is devoutly to be hoped that this aid and liberality may be continued until oversea commerce resumes its normal flow. - Treasurer W.A. Watts, House of Representatives, Melbourne, 25 September, 1918.

• Watts made this remarkably sycophantic statement while introducing the Budget. Australia had just lost more than 50,000 dead fighting for the Empire and was left owing Britain giddying war debts.

And what photo opportunities!

What great, what wonderful days through which we are passing! - Prime Minister William Morris Hughes, London, 9 October, 1918.

• Hughes had returned to London via the United States to savour the Allies' impending victory.

1918: World War One ends, 11 November.

German Kaiser does a bunk to Holland

News was also received that the Kaiser and Crown Prince, with General Hindenburg and others of the staff, had fled to Holland, that revolution had spread rapidly throughout Germany, ending in the downfall of many monarchs, and that the Austrian Royal family had fled to Switzerland. - Reuters report, London, Monday, 11 November, 1918.

• Other reports said the Kaiser was looking at desirable properties to buy, with a view to settling in Sweden.

The nation which hurls civilisation over the precipice ought to be made to pay for its criminality. - Acting Prime Minister William Watt, Melbourne, 11 November, 1918.

• There were almost universal demands for the punishment of Germany. But none could see the horror of Adolf Hitler rising from the embittered remains of that nation.

Be proud. You have adorned your colours with undying glory. Posterity will owe you eternal gratitude. - Message to troops from Marshall Ferdinand Foch, commander of Allied forces, France, 12 November, 1918

The British-Australian temperament of Australian citizens caused them to be restrained and law-abiding even at a time of great individual and national rejoicing - Bendigo Advertiser , 13 November, 1918.

• The crowd celebrating the end of war in Europe cheered quietly and sang Nearer My God To Thee . The local newspaper approved. But other reports said people called be heard singing Australia Will Be There until dawn.

Repatriation of 270,000 Australian troops

The commanders of the AIF were now suddenly faced by a problem in some ways opposite to that of the four previous years. It was certain that more than a year would pass before the last of the AIF could be transported home. - War historian Charles Bean, Anzac to Amiens , 1946.

• On Armistice Day, 11 November, 1918, Australia had 270,000 men overseas. Seventeen months elapsed before the last could be brought home. A Department of Repatriation has been established to care for for permanently crippled, organise work training for some and find work for others. The final tally was horrifying. Out of 330,000 men sent into battle, 59,392 died and another 152,171 were wounded.

Spanish influenza comes back with the diggers

A danger greater than war faces the State of New South Wales and threatens the lives of all. - Proclamation by NSW Premier W. A. Holman, Sydney, 3 February, 1919.

• An estimated 11,500 people died in Australia during the 'Spanish' influenza epidemic of 1919. It is thought to have been brought to Europe by American troops late in World War One. Eight passengers on the troopship, Sardinia , which arrived in Sydney in January, 1919, died from influenza.

Seeing that picture shows and theatres are closed, races off, stadiums shut, bars closed and places of worship unopened, all I can do during my enforced holiday is to stay at home and grow whiskers. - Soldier newspaper, Sydney, 7 February, 1919.

• NSW imposed strict measures against influenza. Churches were, in fact, allowed to open, but the clergyman had to stand at least six feet from his congregation.

Noble thought on future of Diggers

I seek to give Australia a 'spiritual momentum'. I mean the influence of brave men, returned to their native country in good condition, equipped for a great future. - AIF Commander Sir John Monash, London, 11 March, 1919.

• Monash was engaged in the huge task of getting 270,000 men home from the battlefields of Europe and the Middle East.

Victoria closes her borders against flu

The wives of mayors and presidents in all parts of the State are invited to assist in securing meetings to promote the educational campaign for fighting the disease. - The Herald, Melbourne , 30 April, 1919.

• NSW suffered half the deaths in the influenza epidemic. For a time, the Victorian government closed the border at Albury and other border towns. In Echuca, for example, visitors were forced to spend five day quarantine in the town. Women made gauze masks impregnated with creosote and eucalyptus and sold them for sixpence each. All churchgoers were required to wear masks. At Tambo, in western Queensland, a memorial honours Reginald Sylvester Barry, a station manager, who 'worked unceasingly to save those people stricken with pneumonic influenza', but died himself on 17 June, 1919, near the end of the epidemic.

Early Commo can-kicking from Right

We are going to put them right out of Australia and their sympathisers are going with them. - Speaker at an anti-Bolshevik rally, Brisbane, 24 March, 1919.

• Australian scare-mongers, particularly in the right-wing newspapers, invoked the dreaded word 'Bolshevik' at every opportunity in 1919. The word had first come to their notice after the 1917 October Russian rebellion. Bolsheviks (Russian for 'One of the Majority') seized power, eventually executed the Czar and his family, and instituted the Communist state. When World War One ended, there were revolutions and restlessness across Europe. The mood struck a chord with Australian leftists, but they were vehemently, and sometimes, violently, opposed by the right, with the aid of many ex-servicemen.

1919: Treaty of Versailles signed.

NZ proposes memorial to the fallen of Gallipoli

Mr W.F. Massey, Prime Minister of New Zealand, has secured the insertion in the Peace Treaty of an agreement providing that the battlefields on Gallipoli shall be transferred in perpetuity to Britain in order that they be maintained exclusively as a cemetery memorial to the fallen. - Correspondent's report, Paris ( Versailles ), 24 April, 1919.

• This did not happen. After a peace conference in 1923 in Lausanne, Switzerland, resolved ongoing Turkish-Balkan animosities, a Turkish republic was declared after 600 years of Ottoman rule. Australian and New Zealand troops were part of the occupying force on Gallipoli in 1919. Turkey retained the peninsula and has honoured the Anzac dead.

Japan overlooks racial slur (for the time being)

Well informed people say that Japan will join the League of Nations, despite the rejection of the amendment proposed for the recognition of racial equality . - Correspondent's report, Tokyo, 24 April, 1919.

• The League came into existence formally with the ratification of the Treaty of Versailles in January, 1920. The Japanese delegation did not pursue its ambition to be recognised as equals of the other nations, much to William Morris Hughes' satisfaction. Japan left the League of Nations in 1933.

Melbourne gets electric trains

At the Richmond station, on an island platform, a hundred or so schoolchildren looked wonderingly at the train which came on without an engine. - Herald, Melbourne, 30 April, 1919

• Melbourne successfully completed its first electric train trials on the Sandringham-Flinders Street line.

Old snob Melba laments the end of an opera era

Can you imagine in the old days men walking into Covent Garden on a Melba Night, or any other night, and sitting in the stalls in shabby tweed coats. Yes, that is what I saw on this night, and though I have no objection to brown tweed coats, or any other shabbiness, I could not help feeling a sensation almost of resentment that men who could afford to pay for stalls could not also afford to wear proper clothes. - Dame Nellie Melba recalling the post-war reopening of Covent Garden, London, 12 May, 1919.

• Melba, a Victorian-Edwardian snob, did not realise that the Great War had wrought vast changes in attitudes.

PM Billy Hughes, 'idol of the masses'

With the streets packed with wildly cheering crowds, the sun shining warmly, and aeroplanes circling overhead, Mr Hughes this morning returned to Melbourne. He is once again the idol of the masses. - Sydney Morning Herald correspondent, Melbourne, 1 September, 1919.

• Prime Minister Hughes returned to Australia from the peace conference at Versailles to scenes of adulation. Crowds, largely composed of returned soldiers, mobbed him in Perth, Adelaide and, finally, Melbourne.

Hughes hasn't heard of Hitler ... yet

I hope there is no man or woman in Australia so credulous as to listen to the babble that comes from the lips of those in Germany who call themselves Socialists, and who declare that they have cleansed their hearts and purged themselves of all their iniquities, and desire now to live at peace with the world. - Prime Minister William Morris Hughes, House of Representatives, Melbourne, 10 September, 1919.

• Even Hughes, who believed he was one of the World's Great Statesmen, can't have known that September, 1919, was the month when a disgruntled Adolf Hitler joined the German Workers' Party, forerunner, in 1920, to the Nazi Party.

Country Party becomes conservative fixture

The farmers in Australia feel that the time has arrived when they should take a very decisive interest in Australian politics, with a view to securing representation in both Houses of Parliament. - Farmers and Settlers Association manifesto, Sydney, 20 November, 1919.

• The Country (now National) Party was formed the following January with a core of eleven Federal members. Its secretary, and eventual leader, was Dr Earle Page, a country doctor who became Prime Minister briefly in 1939. In 1923, the Country Party forced the resignation of William Morris Hughes as Prime Minister and went into coalition with the Nationalists under Stanley Bruce, who became Prime Minister. Page became Treasurer.

Aussie aviators make first England-Australia flight

Mr Staniforth Smith, Acting Administrator of the Northern Territory, has received a wireless message from HMAS Sydney, stating that Captain Ross Smith, who is flying to Australia, passed over the cruiser this morning. He was then 180 miles north of Darwin and was flying well. - Government residence, Darwin, 10 December, 1919.

• Later that day, Smith touched down between banyan trees at Fannie Bay, completing the first aeroplane flight from England to Australia in twenty-seven days and twenty hours. He was accompanied by his brother, Keith, and two mechanic, Sergeants J.M. Bennett and W.H. Shiers. Their rivals in the great race were strung out from Austria to Burma. Smith collected a 10,000 pound prize from the Australian Government and he and his brother were knighted by King George V. The decade which had begun so poorly ended heroically.

14. 1920-1929

'All I can say is - sing 'em muck!' (Dame Nellie Melba, as quoted by Dame Clara Butt, London, mid-1928)

SPANISH 'flu, an American-inspired pandemic, came and went by late 1919, claiming 30 million lives worldwide. But west of Kansas, where influenza was first noted, an even more virulent and long-lasting virus was being hatched. In a country village called Hollywood, the actors Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and Charles Chaplin, with the director, D. W. Griffith, founded the United Artists Corporation to distribute their silent movies. And so began the Americanisation Of The World. Australians, tired of the great events that had ruled their lives in the previous decade, embraced the 'pictures'. Chaplin's The Gold Rush , Pickford's Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and Pollyanna and Fairbanks' The Mark of Zorro, The Three Musketeers and Taming of the Shrew (with Pickford), along with films starring Gloria Swanson, Buster Keaton and Rudolf Valentino became the escapist fare of ordinary Australians.

Of course, people could still go to the theatre and see, on one end of the social scale, the fading Dame Nellie Melba and, on the other, the beloved vaudevillians, Stiffy and Mo. Some people observed the Gay Twenties at the cinema; others, particularly members of the Smart Set, lived them. Freda Irving, a young socialite in the Twenties, recalled: 'I led a very free life. Oh, it was disciplined and I had to report in and report out. I went round with a bunch of university chaps and I didn't have the hard word put on me until 1925. I was 23 and the American fleet was in town.'

In country areas, people tended to observe old-fashioned values. Outside Arthur's barbershop in Charleville, western Queensland, police arrested several men at a game of illegal two-up. 'Bad language was used,' a police witness began his evidence. 'Will all ladies leave the court,' the magistrate, Mr Gallagher, hastily ordered. In the country, too, some people were benefiting from an unexpected boom in rabbit skins. Economists attributed it to a cessation in the export of furs from Russia because of the Revolution coupled with an increasing demand for fur coats for women in the period of post-War prosperity. The rabbit boom caused serious labour shortages in some rural areas. In the city, certain establishments clung to the old ways. Harry Woodward, a window-dresser at Farmer's Sydney store in the early 1920s, said: 'Farmer's was so exclusive that the blinds on display windows were drawn at one o'clock on Saturday afternoons and not raised again until nine on Mondays. The directors considered that people shouldn't be allowed to window shop over the weekend.'

Those people who weren't at the pictures or trapping rabbits were engaging in political pursuits. A new enemy to the social order, the 'bolshevik' had emerged and his political meetings had to be broken up by muscular young ex-servicemen. William Morris Hughes continued as Prime Minister until 1923 when a coalition of Nationalists under Stanley Bruce and the Country Party under Dr Earle Page came to power. Both men were virtual unknowns, but they ruled in harmony until their defeat by James Scullin's Labor Party at the very beginning of yet another American-induced disease, the Great Depression. But, if you preferred, you could look to the skies for those heroes, Charles Kingsford Smith (first US-Australia flight, 1928) and Bert Hinkler (first solo flight from England, 1928) or marvel at the magic of the emerging Don Bradman (first Sheffield Shield match, 1927).

Peace in our chime

It was noticeable last night with the return to peace that more people had reverted to the time-honoured custom of assembling about the Elizabeth Street post office to watch the hands of the clock slip past midnight, and thus usher in the New Year. For half an hour before midnight, groups of them sang ragtime songs while others sang hymns. - Argus , Melbourne, I January, 1920.

Practically every family locked up their house and joyfully sought the open air. It was a day for joy, too. The sun shone brightly. The wind blew lightly ... and there is not the slightest apprehension that the community is in danger of forgetting how to spend a holiday merrily, yet rationally. - Sydney Morning Herald , 2 January, 1920.

To many persons, the War is becoming nothing but a memory a none too vivid memory at that. Once the spectacular side of warfare died away, when the soldiers ceased to march down the street and the big days no longer attracted, we cast aside our war work and allow ourselves to be cast into the vortex of post-War pleasures. - Woman journalist, Sydney, 2 January, 1920.

West end dressmakers assert that the return of the crinoline is mandatory, at least for evening wear. Large Parisian fashion houses are rushing it and London designers are offering ballroom species described as bewitching. They are composed of a flowered net of various shades of pink with rosebuds and catching up draperies. Modistes advise Junoesque matrons to adhere to the present straightline fashions . - European fashion notes, Australian newspapers, January, 1920.

NO SMART WOMEN can afford not to remove the hair from her arms and armpits. Consult Mrs A. Graham, 178 Castlereagh Street, Sydney. - Advertisement, Sydney Morning Herald , January, 1920.

Home fit for heroes

Returned soldier wants EMPLOYMENT. Willing to do any kind of labouring work. - Classified advertisement, Sydney Morning Herald, 2 January, 1920.

Congratulations on your senatorial success stop Know nothing of politics myself but all for seeing the country run by the men who have saved it from the Hun . - Telegram from aviator Ross Smith, Ipswich, Qld, to Brigadier-General C. ('Fighting Charlie') Cox, 4 January, 1920.

• Smith, awaiting engine repairs after his England-Australia flight, expressed admirable Boy's Own Annual sentiments.

Swamped with replies

To remove Corns or Warts without any humbug or disappointment, try the Queensland Cattleman's remarkable discovery known as Swamp; just try and see results. Swamp is available from all leading chemists for one shilling and sixpence . - Guaranteed cure advertisement, Western Australia, April, 1920.

Hughes' sinister appeal to the 'truly patriotic'

No man can be a true Australian who does not believe heart and soul in the Empire. - Telegram from Prime Minister William Morris Hughes to a 'patriotic' rally, Bendigo, 9 July, 1920.

• Bendigo had been split asunder by a play, Advance Australia , written and produced by a local priest, Joseph Kennedy, a former AIF chaplain, and performed earlier in the month. Kennedy's loyalist opponents said it besmirched the Empire. Hughes dismissed it as 'Sinn Fein propaganda thinly disguised'.

We open our doors to every loyal Roman Catholic to come in and join us in an offensive alliance against all sorts and conditions of disloyalty. - Retired General Sir Charles Rosenthal, Sydney, 18 July, 1920.

• Sir Charles made his rallying call to a 'King and Empire Alliance' meeting at Sydney Town Hall. His remarks, apparently made on behalf of all imperialist Australians, were meant to appeal to the better instincts of Irish-Australians, who were regarded with suspicion by Empire loyalists.

Demob suits reshaped from just 70 bob!

RETURNED MEN! Bring your suit to us and we will turn it into a suit to your satisfaction. Fit and style we guarantee from 70 shillings and upwards! - Bon Marche advertisement, West Australian , July, 1920.

Bright prospects predicted for bridegroom Bob

... the bridegroom of today will one day be Prime Minister of Australia. - Rev. J. Ringland Anderson, 27 September, 1920.

• Anderson was officiating clergyman at the wedding of Robert Menzies and Pattie Leckie.

'...nothing to lose but their chains'

The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at the Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. - Communist Manifesto, Sydney, 2 October, 1920.

• Thus was the Communist Party formed a month earlier.

Australian-Irish suggest an Australian republic

That this meeting of Australian citizens, in view of the policy of oppression and tyranny pursued by the English Government in Ireland, and which has brought eternal disgrace upon the whole British Empire, of which Australia forms a part, pledges its support to any movement for the establishment of an Australian republic. - Resolution at an Irish-Australian mass meeting, Melbourne, 7 November, 1920.

• This, of course, would have outraged the 'King and Empire' people (18 July, 1920 ). The Melbourne meeting protested against British harshness during the struggle which led to the foundation of the Irish Free State. They were also annoyed at the exclusion from Ireland of Daniel Mannix, Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne.

If he had been one of those hot-blooded Celts who, burning with passion, allowed words to flow from him in boiling torrents, he might have pleaded passion by way of an excuse. But this man is not such a one. He has done this thing for some purpose. What is this purpose? He has done it not for assisting the party of which he is a member - not for the purpose of assisting Australia, not for the purpose of healing the breach between the English and Irish. - Prime Minister William Morris Hughes, House of Representatives, Melbourne, 11 November, 1920.

• Hugh Mahon, MHR and convener of the 7 April Melbourne meeting, had accused English police in southern Ireland of being murdering thugs (among other things). Hughes had him expelled from the House of Representatives on the grounds of sedition and disloyalty.

25,000 in pre-Shrine Anzac Day march

Halt, then, for the resurrection of the Digger! Let us keep this day, if no other, free from the empty things, and sacred to the great dead and noble living. Let the Anzac feel that today is his in more than name, and let our children learn and feel the thrill of the high adventure that was Gallipoli. - Herald, Melbourne, Anzac Day, 25 April, 1921.

• About 25,000 people marched from St Kilda Road to the Melbourne Cricket Ground for the memorial service.

Sid doesn't drink, smoke, swear, gets knighthood

Sir Sidney Kidman is not only a public benefactor but the largest landholder in the Empire. He owns over 32,000,000 acres which carry some one quarter of a million cattle and many thousands horses. He neither smokes, drinks or swears. Such an exemplar among the Order of Knights might confound Falstaff at the first blush - literally - and convert him at the second. - Times, London , 3 June, 1921.

• This was the announcement of Sid's gong. His wife, Bel, would have explained what this twaddle meant.

John Curtin makes his mark ... 'will go far'

One of the outstanding figures at the Trades Union Conference was Jack Curtin, formerly the boy orator of Melbourne Trades Hall, but for the last five years editor of the Westralian Worker. Curtin is eloquent, studious, and desperately in earnest, and if he doesn't kill himself with overwork (a feat he nearly accomplished at the last Federal election, when he ran his paper and a strenuous political campaign at the same time) he will go far. - Bulletin , Sydney, 7 July, 1921.

• Curtin became Prime Minister of Australia, 1941-45. At his death in office on 5 July, 1945, he was regarded as having been a casualty of war.

Mrs Cowan relieves taxpayers of embarrassment

I was told that the election of a woman would involve an expenditure during the present session of 300 or 400 pounds, owing to the necessity of making alterations to a portion of the building; but none were made, and I might add, owing to my moderation, and the care of the Speaker, such an expenditure has not been incurred. - Edith Cowan, WA Legislative Assembly, Perth, 28 July, 1921.

• Mrs Cowan was the first woman elected to an Australian parliament.

Australia , the great!

The cornerstone of our national, social and economic life, the White Australia policy, and those pillars of our national temple - the standard of living, the wages paid for labour, markets for our produce - are, or may be, affected, not only by what other nations do, but by what they say or think. - Prime Minister William Morris Hughes, House of Representatives, Melbourne, 30 September, 1921.

• Hughes was gloating about Australia's growing voice in world affairs since the War. He felt Australia was an equal partner in the Empire.

Murray River Soldier Settlers prosper ... at first

Soon after the acquirement of Red Cliffs, the Government decided to clear the land make provision for settling 1000 returned soldiers on irrigated blocks ranging from 15 to 20 acres. When the scheme is completed, it is expected that 20,000 acres will claim the attention of producers who will engage in the dried fruit industry and citrus cultivation. - Report on the Red Cliffs Soldier Settlement, northwest Victoria, 5 November, 1921.

• By 1922, the settlers had produced 750 tonnes of fruit and, by 1929, the yield had risen to 17,000 tonnes.

1922: Joseph Stalin becomes Soviet Secretary-General.

Risky stunt lives up to its promise

I want you to come with me on this stunt. Of course, there is a risk of being done in, but that, to my mind, and I think to yours, too, only adds to the entertainment. - Letter from Sir Ross Smith, England, to J. M. Bennett, shortly before they were 'done in', near London, 13 April, 1922.

• Smith and his brother, Sir Keith, were preparing for a round-the-world flight. Moments after the impact, in which Ross Smith died, Keith is reported to have said: It is all up. Oh, my poor mother and father. This will kill them.

Henry Lawson goes out in style

The 'people's poet', Henry Lawson, was given a State Funeral at St Andrew's Cathedral, Sydney, on 4 September, 1922. Thousands watched the funeral leave for Waverley Cemetery

As the coffin was born from the Cathedral, an incident marking the popularity of the deceased attracted the attention of many members of the congregation. A typical countryman, tall, sinewy, and brown, stood like a gaunt statue as the coffin was borne towards the northern door. For a moment he wavered, and then burst into tears that flowed down his rugged cheeks - 'the grief that must have way'. - Daily Telegraph , Sydney, 5 September, 1922.

At war with the Turks? Again!

We do not believe in war, but in peace with honour. If Great Britain thinks it necessary to go to war, we believe that Australia, as part of the great British Empire, should always be ready to come to her assistance. - Country Party leader Dr Earle Page, House of Representatives, Melbourne, 19 September, 1922.

• Just seven years after the heroic debacle at Gallipoli, Australians were being asked to consider fighting the Turks again ! By 1922, the British had only a small occupying force on the Dardanelles. The Turks, under Mustafa Kemal, defeated the Greek invaders in 1921, and forced the Ottoman ruler, Sultan Mehmed V1, into exile on November, 1922. The British perceived a threatened Turkish invasion of Europe and, at the urging of Winston Churchill, tried to get Australia and New Zealand involved. But any decision was overtaken by events. The modern, Turkish Republic was proclaimed on 24 July, 1923. Mustafa Kemal was given the name 'Ataturk', or 'Father of the Turks', in 1934.

1922: Irish Free State constitution, 25 October.

1922: King Victor Emmanuel, of Italy, appoints Fascist leader Benito Mussolini as Prime Minister, 31 October.

Dick's Creek avoided (sixpence a glass for water)

Keep your height, mon, and dinna land near there. Well I know the place. - Alexander Kennedy, first Qantas passenger, western Queensland, 2 November, 1922.

• Scots-born Kennedy, then 87, was a founder director of Qantas in 1920. Hudson Fysh was the pilot on their epic inaugural flight from Longreach to Charleville. The place Fysh was advised to 'dinna land' was Dick's Creek pub, a low shanty which charged sixpence for a glass of water in times of drought.

Page snubs Hughes, makes deal with Nationalists

We are willing to work with the National organisation, but not with you. - Country Party leader Dr Earle Page to Prime Minister William Morris Hughes, Melbourne, 17 January, 1923.

• At the December, 1922 elections, the Nationalists and Liberals had won 31 seats, the ALP, 29, and the Country Party, 14. Thus, the Country Party held the balance of power for the first time. They refused to cooperate with any Hughes-led government. Hughes finally resigned, very reluctantly, on 2 February after even his staunchest allies, such as the Sydney Morning Herald , deserted him. Next day, Page travelled from Grafton to Melbourne for a secret meeting with Bruce (see next item) .

Historic deal for Australian conservative parties

1. The identity of the Nationalist and Country Parties to be respectively maintained.

2. A composite Ministry to be formed, the Cabinet to consist of eleven members. The following positions to be held by the Country Party: Treasurer; Works and Railways; Postmaster-General; Vice President of the Executive Council; Honorary Minister.

The following positions in the Ministry to be held by the Nationalist Party: External Affairs; Customs; Attorney-General; Defence; Home and Territories; Honorary Minister.

3. Dr Earle Page to take precedence in the Ministry after the Prime Minister and to speak on behalf of the Ministry where necessary in the absence of the Prime Minister. In the event of the necessity for the appointment of an Acting Prime Minister, Dr Earle Page to occupy such a position.

4. The Ministry to be the Bruce-Page Ministry. - Agreement at a meeting between Prime Minister-elect Stanley Bruce and Country Party leader Dr Earle Page, Melbourne, 8 February, 1923.

• The two men did not sign this agreement, a measure of their mutual trust.

Pomp and ceremony in a democracy

Fancy us, a democratic community, having our Governor-General drawn through the streets in a State carriage with uniformed postillions in powdered wigs, and with outriders on prancing fancy steeds. - Labor MP Dr William Maloney, Melbourne, 2 March, 1923.

• The new Prime Minister Stanley Bruce was a confirmed Anglophile who welcomed the opportunity to display pomp at the opening of Parliament in Melbourne. Maloney, the 'little doctor', member for Melbourne, was not amused.

Canberra gloomily foreshadowed

What are we going to do at Canberra? It is just a windswept, cold, miserable place that would not keep a bandicoot. - Senator J.G. Guthrie, Federal Parliament, Melbourne, 13 June, 1923.

• Prime Minister Stanley Bruce had just announced that his new Nationalist-Country Party government would honour a pre-War promise and move Parliament from its temporary home in Spring Street, Melbourne, to Canberra by 1927. The Age newspaper agreed with Guthrie: It is difficult to find motives that would lead any sane body of men to live in such an out-of-the-way place for the sole purpose of governing the continent.

Blankets, straw mattresses for destitute diggers

A shelter for destitute returned soldiers was opened yesterday on the upper floor of the 20th Battalion Drill Hall, at Millers Point. Accommodation will be provided for up to 100 men ... each man will be issued with three blankets and a straw mattress. - Sydney Morning Herald , 11 July, 1923.

• The land 'fit for heroes' was not living up to its promise. By 1927, 37,000 soldier settlers had also walked off their land.

Returned Diggers bust Melbourne police strike

The Ministry asks all returned soldiers to rally round General Elliott at the Melbourne Town Hall to enrol as special constables, to assist in preventing further looting in the city. - Sign flashed on cinema screens, Melbourne, 3 November, 1923.

• Rioting and looting broke out in the centre of Melbourne when it became apparent to the mob that the police were on strike. That evening, 500 men signed. By the next day, Sunday, 2000 men had enrolled and by Tuesday, Melbourne Cup Day, the last of the rioters had been dispersed.

The main business centre of Melbourne has never before been left in such a state of chaos as on Saturday night last. Hoodlums practically took possession of the city, and after having broken the windows of nearly 80 shops, looted goods valued at thousands of pounds. This exhibition of mob violence was due to the strike by police, who objected to special constables, known as 'spooks', supervising them in their work. - Weekly Times , Melbourne, 10 November, 1923.

• Melbourne police, the lowest-paid in Australia, began to refuse duties on 1 November and more than 600 were dismissed. They were never reinstated. The success of the returned Diggers in restoring order prompted talk about the formation of rightwing private armies, such as the New Guard, which came into brief prominence in NSW.

You know where I got them? Somebody pushed them into my hands. - Suspected looter Thomas Ellis, City Court, Melbourne, 5 November, 1923.

• The court didn't believe Ellis, who was caught in Swanston St with an armful of clothes, and jailed him for three months. He was one of 71 looters dealt with by the City Court that day.

Aborigines are 'far removed from their ancestors'

About half a mile below the township (Barham) we came to the biggest aboriginal station in NSW (Cummeragunja,) and were conducted over it by the manager, Mr Gibson. We had imagined a collection of huts and mia mias. We found quite a model village built of trim weatherboard houses with iron roofs and enclosed in small but pretty gardens. Over two hundred aborigines live in comfort here. Half-castes predominate. All are far removed from their ancestors as they speak only English and know nothing of the old tribal customs. - Diary of Dennis Brabazon, Murray River, 12 April, 1924.

• Brabazon and a friend, Albert Burton, were paddling from Albury to the sea in South Australia.

Origins of Reserve Bank

The important functions of banking can properly performed only with the guidance and control of a central bank. Decision and settled policy are essential. Divided counsel and clashing interests of individual bankers must in the end be fatal to good credit management, and banking can be raised to its greatest perfection only be the action of a central bank working always for the good of all. - Treasurer Dr Earle Page, House of Representatives, Melbourne, 13 June, 1924.

• The Bruce-Page government, mindful of the disaster wrought by reckless banking in 1893, introduced legislation giving the Commonwealth Bank the sole powers of a central bank. It was formally constituted as a Central Bank in 1945. The Reserve Bank was constituted from it in 1959.

Melba's first farewell raises huge sum for Diggers

And I never was prouder than I am tonight to be an Australian woman. -Dame Nellie Melba, Her Majesty's Theatre, Melbourne, 13 October, 1924.

• Melba addressed her adoring hometown public after her first 'farewell' performance in La Boheme . The night raised 18,000 pounds for the Limbless and Tubercular Soldiers' Fund. Several other farewell performances followed.

Ford begins car production in Geelong

A manufacturing plant will be incorporated under the name Ford Manufacturing Company of Australia, Proprietary Limited, with an authorised capital of 1,500,000 pounds, head office at Geelong. It will engage solely in the work of manufacturing and building bodies, together with any other automobile parts which it may prove feasible to produce here. - Statement from Ford, Geelong, 4 April, 1925.

• The Ford plant at Geelong was established under the auspices of the Ford Company of Canada.

PM Bruce sticks with Country cousins in Coalition

We are working successfully together. We can carry on or we can fight one another. We have complementary personal qualifications, and we have gained our achievements as a harmonious government. If we divide and fight, we will have no time for constructive work. - Prime Minister Stanley Bruce to Treasurer Dr Earle Page, Melbourne, confidential discussion, after the Federal elections, 14 November, 1925.

• Gains by Bruce's Nationalists at the expense of Labor encouraged some Nationalist members to call for a split in the Coalition, so that the Nationalists could govern alone. Bruce disagreed and the Coalition continued. A Conservative (National, UAP, Liberal) coalition with Country (National) partners has been a feature of Australian political life for more than 75 years.

They ripped the conductor's duster in half!

Together, they souvenired the tram. The bellstraps, gongs, advertisements, destination boards, straps - everything detachable - were torn off and borne off by the scrambling crowd. One couple wrestled for the conductor's duster and eventually satisfied themselves with half each. - Age , Melbourne, 27 December, 1925.

• Thus ended the last journey of the St Kilda Rd-Brighton cable tram. Similar scenes were enacted throughout the city from 1925 until 26 October, 1940, when the last cable tram ran. The first tram ran in November, 1885.

Nineteen shillings and a plug of tobacco

F.H. Bailey, farrier and general blacksmith, Sharp Street, Cooma, after serving his time in Sydney, started on his own account in Cooma with 19 shillings and a plug of tobacco. - Cooma (NSW) centenary booklet, 20 February, 1926.

Dreadful Victorian bushfires

Nojee town practically wiped out. Only hotel and two buildings left standing. Police station, railway station, several bridges destroyed. Damage estimated thousands of pounds. Hundreds of persons homeless. Supposed five killed - this not authentic. - Telegram from Sale (Vic) police, 27 February, 1926.

• The fires, the worst yet experienced in Victoria, burned from the Yarra Valley, east of Melbourne to Gippsland. At least 30 people died on Black Sunday, 14 February.

No near-nudity, by order

No person shall bathe in the open sea at any part of the foreshore, within the municipal district of St Kilda, unless effectively and decently clothed from neck to knee in a bathing costume, kilted or similar to that known as the Canadian costume. - Municipal By-Law, St Kilda ( Melbourne), November, 1926.

• This regulation, adopted by all Melbourne bayside councils, brought derision. Neck-to-knee costumes had disappeared before World War One. Consequently, slowly, quietly, the wobbly old municipal wowsers bowed to modern trends.

Canberra Parliament opens, guests pinch crockery

Great though our progress has been, Australia is but on the threshold of achievement. In the future, millions of the British race will people this land. In numbers surpassing the motherland, standing resolutely for those principles of freedom and justice upon which the Empire is based, who can foretell how great may be the part of our our nation will play in the years to come? Today, we look back and renew our faith in what has been achieved. Thus, we will strengthen ourselves for the greater accomplishment that lies before us . - Prime Minister Stanley Bruce, Canberra, 9 May, 1927.

• Bruce was speaking at the opening of Parliament House. Five hundred invited guests attended, during which time they stole 128 pounds worth of crockery, towels and other embossed items from the hastily-built hotels at which they were accommodated. Another 6000 watched from temporary grandstands, far short of the 100,000 anticipated, necessitating the burial of tonnes of unwanted edibles.

It is impossible not to be moved by the significance of today's events as a great landmark in the story of Australia. I say this because today sees the opening of a new Parliament House and marks the inauguration of a new capital city, but more because one feels the stirrings of a new birth, a quickened national activity, of a fuller consciousness of your destiny as one of the great self-governing units of the British empire. - Duke of York, opening the new Parliament House, Canberra, 9 May, 1927.

Chilly reports from Canberra were brought to the city yesterday when the (NSW) Parliamentary contingent returned, having taken part in the ceremony. Enthusiasm appeared to be mainly directed in general criticism of the way officialdom had carried out the job, and the frigid manner in which mere State members and their wives had been treated. - Labor Daily , Sydney, 11 May, 1927.

• State MPs were particularly peeved that their womenfolk were allowed to 'walk about footsore'.

For all the life you can see in the streets of Canberra normally, you might suppose that someone was liberally distributing banknotes or beer a hundred miles away. - Sydney Morning Herald , Canberra, 10 October, 1927.

• The Australian Capital Territory, by government decree, was a liquor free zone. A year later, a Liquor Poll showed that only 288 of the 4413 adult residents favoured continued prohibition.

Squizzy Taylor , nasty Melbourne thug, shot dead

From his youth, the life of Squizzy Taylor was a sordid record of criminality. Taylor, who affected smartness of dress and 'polish' in his dealings with the police force, delighted to surround himself with an air of mystery and cleverness. By his spectacular exploits, he came to be regarded as a mastermind among criminals. Taylor was a criminal of ordinary mentality, whose distinguished features were his callous disregard for the lives of others, his treachery towards others, and his personal cowardice. - Obituary. Melbourne, 28 October, 1927.

• Joseph Theodore Leslie Taylor was shot dead by another underworld figure, John 'Snowy' Cutmore, who also died, at Cutmore's mother's house in inner-city Carlton. Cutmore's mother was also wounded in the affray.

'We heard the siren and the ship trembled slightly'

On 3 November, 1927, the San Francisco-bound liner, Tahiti , collided with the Watson's Bay ferry, Greycliffe , on Sydney Harbour. A passenger on the liner recalled the moment ...

It was all over before we knew anything about it. We heard the siren, and when the ship trembled, slightly, I remarked to a friend, 'They are putting the brakes on'. That was the last time I laughed. Looking over the side, I could see the ferry turn over and the, to my horror, she split in halves. One piece swept by on the side on which I was standing. It was terrible to hear the women and children screaming. I could not look any longer and in a minute or two we had left the wreckage and its struggling occupants behind.

• The ferry had 150 occupants and, at first it was feared at least 60 had perished. The final toll was 27, the highest on the harbour.

Hats off to Hustling Hinkler and his Flying Machine

Australia at last! I landed at Darwin about five o'clock this afternoon, after flying over the sea practically the whole way from Bima ( Indonesia). I found Bima inconvenient. They put me up in a native's hut, and I was bitten continuously by mosquitoes and could not sleep. - Aviator Bert Hinkler, Darwin, 22 February, 1928.

• Hinkler had eclipsed Ross Smith's 1919 record flight of 27 days 20 hours by flying solo from England to Darwin in sixteen days.

Did Nellie Melba really think that ?

All I say say is - sing 'em muck! It's all they can understand. - Statement attributed to Dame Nellie Melba, casting aspersions on Australian concertgoers, mid-1928..

• Melba was livid when the above quote appeared in a biography of the singer, Dame Clara Butt, who toured Australia in 1921. She denied having used those words, but other comments she made about the cultural qualities of her fellow Australians over the years, indicate that she may have at least thought it.

Eyewitness to history! Wonderful, soaring journalism!

With her three, 220 h.p. motors roaring above the minor drone of the two diminutive Moths who accompanied her, the giant Fokker monoplane Southern Cross loomed out of the ether thirteen minutes after 10 o'clock on Saturday morning on the triumphal completion of her 7000 miles flight over the Pacific, spanning two continents in a hop, step and jump that heads a new chapter in the history of aviation. More than 10,000 persons shivered in the rawness of the morning at Eagle Farm aerodrome to see the big 'plane land. They waited for four hours and then they saw her sweep over, her enormous wing spread of 60 feet dwarfed, at a height of 2000 feet. Then she circled three times like a giant hawk, gradually dropping lower, until she shot over the tree tops, and alighted with graceful precision, pulling up to a standstill in a remarkably short distance. Captain Kingsford Smith (pilot), Mr C.T.P. Ulm (relief pilot), Lieut Harry Lyon (navigator) and Mr James Warner (radio expert) received a wonderful ovation when they climbed out, the crowd mobbing them in an ecstasy of of enthusiasm, and breaking the barriers. The final hop of the intrepid aviators from Naselia Beach, Fiji, to Brisbane occupied 21 hours, 18 minutes. They left Brisbane again yesterday, arriving safely in Sydney in the early afternoon. - Brisbane Courier, 11 June, 1928.

• Thus, on 9 June, ended the first flight over the Pacific.

Sydneysiders too hot to worry about sharks

Sydney is in the throes of a phenomenal heat wave. Although yesterday's official temperature reached 106.2deg., the temperature at Cremorne, just opposite Circular Quay, reached 111deg. Thousand of people slept on the beaches, and thousands indulged in night bathing, despite the danger from sharks. - News report, Sydney, 10 January, 1929.

Rebels force Depression-eve election

During the last few days we have had the spectacle of three men coming into the chamber - a kind of shadow Cabinet - to criticise the government and afterward congratulating one another on their efforts. It is obvious that there intention is to do all they possibly can to disrupt the alliance between the Nationalists and the Country parties. They affect to believe that the fusion between these two parties is an unholy alliance. - Treasurer Dr Earle Page, House of Representatives, Canberra, 18 March, 1929.

• The three conservative rebels were William Morris Hughes, E.A. Mann and P.G. Stewart. They continued to object to the course the government was taking until 10 September when they forced it to an election.

Your medical allusions are more poisonous than anything I can say in criticism. Everyone will now think that I have some loathsome disease. What about calling it a day? - Private remark from William Morris Hughes to Treasurer Sir Earle Page, Parliament House, Canberra, 18 March, 1929.

• Page (a rural general practitioner) had likened Hughes' criticism of the government to the bursting of a long-accumulating abscess of jaundice, spite and venom, with all the after effects of poison, which turned it into a running sore. According to his autobiography, Truant Surgeon , he and Hughes (described by some independent observers as reptilian) agreed to end their personal attacks on each other.

Smith, Ulm suspected of tragic publicity stunt

Canberra found Southern Cross 30 miles from Port George. Crew all well. dropped food. - Radio message from Captain Leslie Holden, pilot of the search plane, Canberra , 12 April, 1929.

• The disappearance of the Southern Cross for 12 days on a flight from Sydney to London caused nationwide anxiety. The crew of four, including the heroic Charles Kingsford Smith and Charles Ulm, were found in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Two other airmen died looking for them. Kingsford Smith and Ulm were suspected of a publicity stunt, but an enquiry exonerated them.

Depression 'inevitable,' says Treasurer Page

That sooner or later we should enter upon a period of depression was inevitable. This condition is merely a phase of our economic life. A sure path out of our difficulties can be found in a combined national effort to obtain industrial peace and increased and more efficient production. - Treasurer Earle Page, Canberra, 22 August, 1929.

• Less than two months later, the coalition was swept from office. Some commentators said the government failed to recognise the disaffection of thousands of traditional conservative voters who were fearful of losing Federal awards if the government's intention to abandon the Arbitration Commission succeeded.

For six years, we have been sailing the Commonwealth political seas with the right honourable gentleman (Bruce) on the bridge. For six years, he has steered due north; we have gone through stormy seas, and at times our hearts have failed us, despite his assurances that if we persisted on the course he laid down we should reach ere long a safe haven. But we have never come to those calm and sunny waters into which he has promised to bring us. - William Morris Hughes, House of Representatives, Canberra, 10 September, 1929.

• The revolt against Bruce had finally come. Hughes, the man succeeded by Bruce in 1923, took his revenge.

James Scullin wins 'poison chalice' election

Mr Bruce leaves his high office with the demeanour and record of a statesman and gentlemen. - Sydney Morning Herald , 14 October, 1929.

• Bruce's Nationalist-Country Party coalition had suffered a crushing defeat at the 12 October poll. Labor won 46 seats, Nationalists 14, the Country Party 10, the Independent Nationalists three and the Country Progressives one. Bruce, who lost his own seat of Flinders, had failed to gauge the mood of electorate when he tried to abolish the Arbitration Court at a time of great industrial unrest. But the Great Depression was about to haunt the new Labor Government.

Bruce's graceful letter to Page's wife, Ethel, after his defeat

Thank you so much for your telegram of good wishes for the election last Sunday. Unfortunately, our hopes were not realised; nevertheless I am quite certain that we were right in the course that we took, and that eventually the people will realise it. The realisation will come sooner, I believe, than most people anticipate. In any event it has been, I think, a useful six and a half years for Australia, and what we have achieved has only been possible by the extraordinarily good relations that have existed between your husband and myself. I shall always look back with the greatest possible satisfaction on the period that we worked together, and shall look forward to our acting together again in controlling the destinies of the Commonwealth. - Letter from defeated Prime Minister Stanley Bruce, Melbourne, to Earle Page's wife, Ethel, Grafton, 19 October, 1929.

• The Bruce-Page years were useful ones. The accomplishments, including the foundation of the CSIRO, the Standards Association, and modernisation of marine and land transport, including roads, were equally attributable to both men. According to Page, they did not exchange a cross word while in coalition.

1929: Wall Street crash, 29 October.

Depression might be good for us, says (optimistic) paper

The crash cannot but have ramifications far away from the United States, and in the main they may be favourable to other countries than unfavourable. - Sydney Morning Herald , 31 October, 1929.

• The newspaper's comment on the Wall Street crash was, alas, terribly wrong. In Australia, the economic ogre crippled primary and secondary industries, threw half a million workers on the streets, tore the Labor Party apart and lingered until the eve of the Second World War. In Australia, conditions in the late-1920s were ominously akin to those preceding the Depressions in the 1840s and 1890s: unrestrained use of foreign funds. )

Scullin, called to explain by women, skirts issue

It might be that the women do not vote for one of their own sex because the men tell them not to. The reason why women do not rule in Parliament is because they rule in the home. - Prime Minister James Scullin, Sydney, 1 December, 1929.

• Scullin attempted to explain to the women's organising committee of the ALP the dearth of females in Federal Parliament.

Police shoot dead strking coal miner

Police began to fell men left and right with their batons. The mounted police came through and were merciless in their attacks. Then the guns came out and there were about a dozen men lying prostrate in no time. - Jim Comerford, Rothbury (NSW), 16 December, 1929.

• Comerford, then aged 16, recalled the scene at the Rothbury coal mine, near Cessnock, when striking coal miners protested against the use of scab labour. One miner was shot dead and another died, apparently of a heart attack. It was a sign of increasing unrest as the Great Depression took hold.

Oh, Norman Brown, oh Norman Brown, the murdering coppers they shot you down,

They shot you down in Rothbury town, to live forever, Norman Brown. - Verses from a miners' song, Rothbury (NSW), December, 1929.

• Norman Brown was the miner who was shot dead on 16 December.

15. 1930-1939

'... nobody in Germany wants war' (R.G. Menzies, London, 8 August, 1938)

JAMES Scullin, country-born and an honest soul, had the misfortune to become Prime Minister at a time when the nation was falling headlong into the Great Depression. His Labor government had a handsome majority in the House of Representatives, but faced a Nationalist-Country Party controlled Senate. To add to his woes, the intransigent NSW Labor Premier Jack Lang repudiated his Depression cure of retrenchment and deflation and defiantly refused to pay interest due on foreign loans, particularly to British interests. Scullin was defeated by the newly-formed United Australia Party in 1931 and Lang was dismissed by the Governor, Sir Philip Game, in 1932.

Everyone was feeling jittery and, often, behaving without characteristic good humour. The Melbourne Sun News Pictorial reported on 10 August, 1931: When his partner, Marjorie Tiller, fell and sprained her ankle during a dance turn at the Tivoli on Saturday night, Tex McLeod, cowboy rope spinner, lassoed an interjector, after accusing him of having upset the dancer's nerve. One day in 1930, a man named Arthur Stace bought a box of yellow chalks and began to walk around Sydney ('wherever God commanded me') writing 'eternity' on the pavements. (Arthur died in 1967, but soon the word 'Arthur' began to appear. Puzzled Sydneysiders eventually were rewarded with a full sentence: Arthur is Jesus' brother and is the poor devil that cops the lot .)

Men concerned with simple survival took to the country roads, often leaving their womenfolk to cope with eviction bailiffs. Some reopened the old gold diggings as their fathers had done during the depression of the 1890s; they trapped rabbits and hawked them in the city streets with cries of 'rabbit-oh!'; they 'rode the rattler' and felt a grim comradeship under the title, 'bagmen'; hundred of homeless folk crawled into rusted boilers and tin humpies at Dudley Flats, near Melbourne's business centre; in Sydney, the dispossessed and 'Langites' often felt the wrath of the ultra-rightwing New Guard, a 30,000-strong private army. Those who could afford a ticket sought relief at the cricket. Don Bradman's 452 in the NSW-Queensland Sheffield Shield match in the summer of 1929-30 had already eclipsed Bill Ponsford's world record. The crowds besieged the turnstiles in the 1932-33 series against England ... the infamous 'Bodyline' series, made even more memorable by the immortal remark by Australian opener Bill Woodfull, in Adelaide in 1933: Of two teams out there, one is playing cricket, the other is making no effort to play the game of cricket.

Dame Nellie Melba and Sir John Monash both died in 1931. Monash, Australia's great World War One military leader went quietly. For some years, he had been general manager of the State Electricity Commission. When Melba died of septicaemia in Sydney on 23 September, there was a nationwide outpouring of grief. At her funeral in the town of Lilydale, near Melbourne, where she lived, a newspaper reported: 'Never in the history of Melbourne - not even in the emotional stress of war years - have the streets witnessed such scenes as accompanied Melba's funeral procession.'

The lean years barely touched many. The well-to-do could take Pioneer holidays in stretch chauffeured stretch limousines. A 14-day round tour from Melbourne to Sydney, taking in the Blue Mountains, the Jenolan Caves and Canberra (including first class accommodation) cost 23 pounds (or a year's pay for a shopgirl lucky enough to have a job). A 14-day round trip by sea and land to Brisbane cost 26 pounds. In 1931, 7000 Australians took their holidays on cruises. Japan was very popular. So, while the people managed as best they could, the conservative government of the Tasmanian Prime Minister Joseph Lyons enjoyed the slow climb out of the Depression. But for many, it did not end until the Sixth Division was raised for World War Two in 1939.

Scullin appoints an Australian Governor-General

I have yet to learn that it has been laid down that an Australian may not be recommended for the position. - Prime Minister James Scullin, Canberra, 1 April, 1930.

• Scullin replied to a question in the House of Representatives about rumours that he had taken the revolutionary step of nominating the Australian-born Chief Justice of the High Court, Sir Isaac Isaacs, as the first native-born Governor-General.

Amy Johnson easily resists dopey male entreaties

There is no doubt that Miss Johnson was told on leaving England that she would run against a lot of savages. Don't take a bit of notice of such twaddle. We are all Empire builders. I warn you that every young man in the world will be proposing to you, and I impress on you to harden your heart! - Mayor W. James welcoming aviator Amy Johnson, Darwin, 24 May, 1930.

• Miss Johnson, 26, ('Call me Johnny'), a confirmed tomboy, made the solo flight from England in nineteen days. She replied that she got too dirty cleaning her engine to welcome any proposals of marriage. She disappeared over the Thames Estuary on 5 July, 1941, while on a flying mission for the Air Ministry.

Sir Otto Niemeyer, Britain's harbinger of doom

There is also evidence to show that the standard of living in Australia has reached a point which is economically beyond the capacity of the nation to bear. - Sir Otto Niemeyer, Melbourne, 21 August, 1930.

• Sir Otto, a harbinger of doom and a director of the Bank of England, had arrived in Australia the previous month. He had been invited by the Scullin Labor Government, which found itself at a loss to cope with the sudden onset of the Great Depression. There were many who believed his principal mission was to protect British capital in Australia. On this occasion, he was hectoring a specially-convened Premiers' Conference. In January, 2000, the Howard Liberal-Country Party government announced the Niemeyer Scholarship in honour of this avowed anti-Australian Briton.

Police hound Depression outcasts in Sydney

They who have no home save the caves or cliff shelters of the Domain; whose only beds are those made of old newspapers - those unfortunates whom the denial of work has made outcasts in this city - they are to be evicted. - Labor Daily, Sydney, 27 August, 1930.

• The NSW Government had ordered police to give unemployed men their marching orders.

'Reluctant' Joe Lyons defects from Labor

I wasn't feeling too good yesterday either. I worked at the office till about 4.30 then called in at the Cathedral and again later at St Francis' mainly to get a bit of comfort for my poor frazzled nerves ... It's wonderfully soothing to get within the atmosphere of the Altar, isn't it? I suppose I'm in for a strenuous day or two in Canberra and may come out of it without a feather, but as I told you before, I'm going on. If Cabinet approves our proposal, I'll send you a wire just saying 'Yes' and any other messages about my movements, and if not, 'No'. Of course, I think the Cabinet will say 'Yes' but it's the party I fear. We expect a wire from Scullin tomorrow as to what he supports. If he is with us, the majority in Cabinet is set, if he isn't I'm getting out ... I've been terribly blue lately and wish I could lay my head in your lap ... I'm a good bit a baby and that baby has to carry a big load these days - a whole nation's problems and sometimes it feels too heavy. - Labor acting Treasurer Joseph Lyons, Melbourne, to his wife, Enid, Devonport (Tas), October, 1930.

• Lyons was about to defect from the Labor Party (although he may not have known it at the time) and become leader of the new United Australia Party, which won government next year. Some conservatives, most notably the financier Staniforth Ricketson, newspaper proprietor Keith Murdoch and future Liberal Party leader Robert Menzies were already scheming Lyons' conversion.

King George V caves in to Scullin's choice of Isaac Isaacs

I have been for 20 years a monarch, and I hope I have always been a constitutional one, and being a constitutional monarch I must, Mr Scullin, accept your advice which, I take it, you will tender to me formally by letter. - King George V, London, 29 November, 1930.

• Scullin had prevailed in his dogged quest to have the British accept his nomination of the Australian-born, Sir Isaac Isaacs, as the first homegrown Governor-General.

Scullin calls for united effort to beat Depression

I have limitations. It will require strong effort, and it will require united effort if Australia is going to get on to the high road of prosperity. I do not believe that we will solve the problem of unemployment by tearing down the standard of living in Australia. - Prime Minister James Scullin, Fremantle (WA), 6 January, 1931.

• Scullin spoke on his arrival in Australia after attending the Imperial Conference in London.

Labor fails, aided by Theodore's 'funny money'

I do not want to deceive the workers that there is an easy road to millions that will lead them to emancipation. Do you think I would refuse an easy road if it was there to travel? There is a danger in the relying on the printing of notes, because that leads to wild inflation. - Prime Minister James Scullin, Ashfield (NSW), 15 January, 1931.

• Three days earlier, his Treasurer, Ted Theodore, had said: Australia needs today not $20 million but $120 million extra credits. Scullin gently rebutted Theodore's 'funny money' ideas but, on 26 January, supported his reappointment as Treasurer, despite Theodore's alleged involvement in a serious financial scandal. The Labor Government rapidly disintegrated.

Conservative plot to install Lyons thickens

SCULLIN MUST GO, LYONS MUST LEAD, LATHAM MUST SUPPORT. - Slogan of the newly-formed Citizens League of South Australia, Adelaide, 11 February, 1931.

• That was precisely the arrangement being worked out by powerful Melbourne-based conservatives. Lyons had already resigned from the Labor Cabinet.

New Guard on the scene

ALL FOR THE BRITISH EMPIRE. - Slogan of the New Guard, Sydney, 18 February, 1931.

• The paramilitary New Guard came into being on 18 February at a secret meeting at the Imperial Service Club, Sydney, of Colonel Eric Campbell, a solicitor, and several other World War One officers. The New Guard was anti-Labor and, above all, anti-Lang. It soon boasted a membership of 50,000, mostly ex-servicemen, and had singular success in breaking up leftwing marches. Its tactics were likened to those of the German Nazis. By 1933, with the accession of a conservative government in NSW, it began to languish.

Conservative woman's plea: 'End British slander'

Australia must appoint agents in Britain to dissipate the insidious propaganda which is being carried on against her prestige, a propaganda in which the whole of the British Press, with the exception of the Times of London is taking part. I do not know whether foreign countries are using their influence to foster this prejudice against Australia in Britain, though it is significant that the newspapers of France and Germany lose no opportunity to slander Australia. - Mrs I. H. Moss, president of the National Council of Women, Victorian branch, Melbourne, 19 February, 1931.

• Mrs Moss was speaking at the inaugural meeting of the conservative Australian Citizens League, and voiced the concern of many Australians that a concerted campaign was being waged in Britain to belittle's Australia's economic circumstances in the Depression at a time when unemployment had reached 20 per cent. In London, Viscount Rothermere, proprietor of the Daily Mail , claimed Mrs Moss's statement was mischievous, and said the Daily Mail was was replete with sympathetic references to Australia's plight. He added, further, that he favoured Britain cancelling war debts of 82 million pounds incurred by Australia in World War One.

Those engaged in Australian affairs desire to give all possible assistance to the country in which their capital is employed. Their injuring of Australian credit would injure their own. This at the present moment would be insane. It is unwise for representative Australians to stir up hostility towards Great Britain, because the restoration of Australian credit is largely dependent upon British support. - Letter to the London Times from Lord Stanley, former Governor of Victoria, 26 February, 1931.

Okay for some. What Depression?

It is expected that next month 7000 tourists will leave Australia in the fleet of 10 ships scheduled for various ports abroad. - Tourism statistics, 27 February, 1931.

• Not all of us were on the breadline at the height of the Great Depression. Our most popular cruise destination was Japan.

Lyons declares himself for conservative camp

I have no magic wand to wave to get Australia out of her difficulties. I have never sought leadership. Where I have led, it has been because circumstances and my conscience have forced me to lead, and if through circumstance today I able to do anything for Australia and her people, whatever I can do, I will do. - United Australia Party leader Joseph Lyons, Adelaide, 9 April, 1931.

• The new Messiah to lead Australia out of the Depression had emerged in the form of the plump, suburban Lyons.

C.J Dennis, Murdoch's pet poet, praises Lyons

'And parlous times they were,' he'll say.

'And heavy was our load,

But I am glad I saw the day,

Australia took the road,

And made the choice that saved her name,

And brought peace to the land,

When politics were but a game,

And Lyons made his stand.' - C.J. Dennis, Herald , Melbourne, 11 April, 1931.

• In May, 1931, the Nationalist Party fused with other conservative groups to become the United Australia Party, with Joseph Lyons, a Labor Party defector as leader. Lyons defection had been sought actively by the Melbourne-based Group of Six conservative businessmen, including Keith Murdoch, proprietor of the Herald , and Dennis' employer. The aim of the new party was the destruction of the Scullin Labor Government, which it achieved in December, 1931. Lyons remained Prime Minister until his death on 7 April, 1939.

Country Party plays coy, but says it'll help UAP

The Country Party ... will wholeheartedly assist in every endeavour to secure an appeal to the country at the earliest possible moment and to formulate and support a positive policy that will bring about the restoration of confidence and its speedy rehabilitation of the affairs of the Commonwealth. - Country Party leader Dr Earle Page to UAP deputy leader John Latham, Canberra, 7 May, 1931.

• The newly-formed United Australia Party was anxious to have the Country Party as its formal coalition partner. The Country Party, anxious to maintain its own identity, said, coyly, 'No'. But it agreed to help.

Governor's Game's sympathy for Jack Lang

I must say I have a good deal of sympathy with him (Jack Lang). I feel pretty certain he is not out for himself, and is really out to help the underdog. - Private letter from NSW Governor Sir Philip Game, Sydney, 18 June, 1931.

• On 13 May, 1932, Game dismissed Lang from office.

Survival hints in the Depression

Fresh air will never hurt your baby. Nothing but driving rain or thick fog should keep him indoors. Place his pram or basinette in a sheltered part of the veranda, and bring him in only for meals and changing. - Advice to new mothers, September, 1931.

I would be most thankful if you would be so kind as to give me full directions on how to make rissoles and plain ordinary plum pudding. I wish to boil the pudding in a two-quart billy can - it will be a fair size one but, you see, I like cold pudding. When I say I will boil it in a billy can, I mean I will put it in a two-quart tin, put the lid on, put it in a cloth and boil it in some receptacle. Can you tell me the quantities of material I'll need to fill that sized billy can or would it be wrong to fill the can right up - perhaps the pudding expands in cooking. - Letter from 'Bachelor' to Miranda columnist, Weekly Times , 5 September, 1931.

Asparagus purifies the blood

Beets and turnips are appetisers

Celery should be eaten by sufferers from rheumatism

Lettuce should be taken by those afflicted with insomnia

Spinach is good for the kidneys

Tomatoes act on the liver

Turnips benefit sufferers from chest complaints

Watercress should be eaten by the anaemic

Carrots should be eaten by the asthmatical

Onions, leeks, shallots and olives all have medicinal virtues which stimulate the circulatory system . - Survival hints, 1931.

Melba's final (fair dinkum) farewell

Joan, run and tell your mother that our marvellous songbird, Dame Nellie Melba, has died! - Dame May Barlow, Point Piper (NSW), 23 September, 1931.

• It would be unfair to report that Joan Sutherland, then aged four and playing in her front yard, vowed there and then to take Melba's place one day. But she did.

Landlords warned as Depression wars grow

We intend to do all in our power to prevent brutal crimes being committed against our class. - Pamphlet circulated by the Anti-Eviction Committee of Port Melbourne, March, 1932.

• The pamphlet was a warning to landlords after a family was evicted. On 1 March, a crowd of 400 unemployed men wrecked the house, and three days later it burned to the ground.

Francis de Groot slashes the ribbon at Bridge

On behalf of decent and loyal citizens of New South Wales, I now declare this bridge open! - Captain Francis de Groot, Sydney, 19 March, 1932.

• Horseman de Groot, a New Guardsman, pre-empted NSW Premier Jack Lang by slashing the opening ribbon with a sword. His act was the New Guard's last hurrah. Governor Sir Philip Game dismissed Lang less than two months later and the New Guard had no real reason to exist.

Bloody eviction violence in Newcastle

Batons fell like hail as the police moved forward to break down resistance, and pickets wielded palings torn from fences, and wooden batons, and one man even had a sledge hammer. Frightful blows were exchanged, and some of the combatants looked as if they were covered in red paint, so grievous were their wounds. - Newcastle Sun , 14 June, 1932.

• The newspaper reported on one of many fights during the Depression as police tried to enforce eviction orders.

Lang's defeat marks conservative comeback

Mr Lang could not borrow a bob because no one would lend it to him. - Prime Minister Joseph Lyons, Goulburn (NSW), 27 May, 1932.

• Lyons spoke the day after Jack Lang launched his doomed campaign to be re-elected as Premier of NSW. Lyons, who had defected from the Labor Party the previous year to form the United Australia Party, campaigned strongly against Lang and his fiscal policies. With Lang's defeat on 11 June, the conservatives had regained power in Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney.

Game: Did I do right? No response to cheers of toffs

In spite of the popular endorsement of my assassin's stroke, I am still wondering if I did right. I still believe that Lang has a great deal of right on his side, that a lot of what he advocates will have to come to pass. With all his faults of omission and commission, I had and still have a personal liking for Lang and a great deal of sympathy for his ideals, and I did not relish at all being forced to dismiss him. - Private letter from NSW Governor Sir Philip Game, Sydney, 2 July, 1932.

• This letter was written less than two months after Game dismissed Lang. A few days after the dismissal, Game was cheered by a Sydney opera audience, but he did not respond to the applause.

'I don't want to speak to you, Mr Warner.'

I don't want to speak to you, Mr Warner. Of two teams out there, one is playing cricket, the other is making no effort to play the game of cricket. It is too great a game to spoil by the tactics you are adopting. I don't approve of them and never will. If they are persevered in, it may be better that I do not play the game. The matter is in your hands. I have nothing further to say. Good afternoon. - Australian opening batsman Bill Woodfull to England manager 'Plum' Warner, Adelaide, 14 January, 1933.

• This was the height of the 'Bodyline' crisis during the 1932-33 England-Australia Test series. The English captain, Douglas Jardine, in an attempt to curb the Australian batsman, particularly Don Bradman, ordered his fast bowlers to aim at their bodies on the leg side while placing on side six fieldsmen in catching positions. Several batsmen were injured. The issue outraged the Australian public and caused a serious diplomatic rift between Australia and England. The MCC, governing body of English cricket, outlawed 'Bodyline' in 1935.

1933: Adolf Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany, January.

1933: Germany and Japan withdraw from League of Nations.

1933: Australian Antarctic Territory declared, 7 February.

Bruce's inaccurate prediction on WW2

I got matey at the dinner with a former U-boat captain, who said the return of the nameplate was a very charming gesture. I replied that I hoped it didn't create any misunderstanding: next time we got into a war together we'd sink his new Emden just as we'd sunk the old one. - Stanley Bruce, Resident Minister in London, Berlin, 26 February, 1933.

• Bruce handed over the nameplate of the Emden , beached on the Cocos Islands, in the Indian Ocean, after a battle with the Sydney in 1914. In 1941, the 'new Emden ' was named Kormoran and sank after battling a new Sydney , which was lost with all hands.


'Night of the Long Knives', 30 June, during which Adolf Hitler used the SS to murder his enemies and establish total power in Germany.

Joseph Stalin institutes show trials and executions of leading Russian Communist rivals.

Ben Chifley speaks up for the poor

Scores of thousands of Australian men and women are hardly getting enough to keep body and soul together. - Labor politician Ben Chifley, radio talk, Sydney, 9 August, 1934.

• Chifley, a minister in the Scullin government, lost his seat in the 1931 election, but returned to Federal Parliament in 1940. He was Prime Minister, 1945-49.

R. G. Menzies' rosy future predicted

With remarkable unanimity, the newspaper prophets and quidnuncs are proclaiming Robert Gordon Menzies the coming man in Federal politics. And this, despite the fact that he is not yet a Federal member! - Today magazine, Melbourne, 1 September, 1934.

• Menzies made the shift from the Victorian Parliament to Federal Parliament in the general election that month. The Lyons United Australia Party government retained power, but lost its absolute majority. Menzies was appointed Attorney-General.

Egon Kisch's Gaelic test fiasco

My English is broken, my leg is broken, but my heart is not broken. - Czech journalist Egon Kisch, Sydney, 20 November, 1934.

• Kisch, considered dangerous to the established order by some conservatives, had broken his leg in Melbourne when he tried to leap on to Station Pier in Melbourne from a liner. He came to Australia as main speaker at a Congress Against War and Fascism. The new Attorney-General, Robert Menzies, tried to have him banned from the country by making him take a dictation test - in Scottish Gaelic -and became a nationwide figure of ridicule. Kisch landed in Sydney, but left Australia in March, 1935.

An Australian identity

We have to discover ourselves - our character, the character of our country, the particular type of society that has developed here. - Writer Vance Palmer, Melbourne, 9 February, 1935.

• Palmer had been urging the search for an Australian identity from pre-War days.

Menzies (privately, of course) considers Churchill weak

I hear Winston Churchill and I perceive that the idol has feet of clay. - Attorney-General Robert Menzies' diary, London, 2 May, 1935.

• Menzies visited the House of Commons and heard Churchill speak.

'True Briton' holds forth in Westminster Hall

Will our Parliaments survive? I believe that they will. No son of the race can stand, as I have had the privilege of standing, on the fields of Runnymede, on the drive of Great Hampden House, in Westminster Hall, whose rafters still ring (if sound be indestructible, as the scientists tell us) with the voices of Cromwell, of Edmund Burke, of Stanley Baldwin, of the great lawyers whose courts for centuries opened out of this room, without realising with dramatic force that the growth of Parliament is in truth the growth of the British people; that self-government is here no academic theory, but the dynamic power moving through 800 years of British history. - Attorney-General Robert Menzies, Empire Parliamentary Association, Westminster Hall, London, 17 May, 1935.

• Menzies had found Home at last!

This is a real family. We leave walking on air. - Attorney-General Robert Menzies' diary, London, 11 July, 1935.

• Menzies and his wife, Pattie, had tea with the Duke (later King George V1) and Duchess of York and the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret.

Menzies' 'culture' is not fair dinkum, says paper

That sort of (English) culture is no good to us. We want our representatives to speak not like cultivated Englishmen but like cultivated Australians. We want them to look at the world through Australian eyes. We want them to ponder on the problems of our times with Australian brains. - Australian Worker, Sydney, 24 July, 1935.

• The newspaper was angry with a report in the London Sunday Times that Robert Menzies spoke precisely like a cultivated Englishman.

1935: Nuremberg Laws, September, codify 'Aryan superiority', deny Jews German citizenship and forbid intermarriage with 'Aryan' Germans.

Curtin reassures doubters, takes Labor reins

My aim is to revive the spiritual unity of the Labour movement, to renew and revive its sobriety and commonsense so that it may once more serve the needs of Australia in an era in which the portents of evil are grave and ominous. - Opposition Leader John Curtin, Canberra, 1 October, 1935.

• Curtin spoke on his election as Labor leader to succeed James Scullin, who had resigned because of ill-health. There were concerns in the Labor Party about Curtin's sobriety, but he gave an assurance that he would become a total abstainer.

Menzies: Britain won't interfere in Australia

My own view is that the average Australian is well content to be closely associated with Great Britain and is not inclined to devote very much attention to considering the exact legal status of his own government. He believes in Great Britain; he believes in the British Empire; he finds any reference to the 'British Commonwealth of Nations' something of a mouthful and not altogether self-explanatory; he knows that in the last resort Great Britain will not seek to interfere in the domestic problems of Australia; and he is normally quite content to leave it at that. - Attorney-General Robert Menzies, Australian Quarterly , December, 1935.

1936: George V dies, succeeded by Edward VIII.

A woman's Depression tale, broken but unbowed

In the summer of 1936, a reporter from the rural newspaper, The Weekly Times , came upon Ellen Read and her son, Leslie, 7, who were spending a blessed fortnight at a charitable camp at the seaside on the Mornington Peninsula ...

I'm just an ordinary Mallee woman. I look 60, don't I, but I'm only 46. I married the man I love. That's simple enough. We went to the Mallee 14 years ago, and with every cent we had we bought a farm. We grew wheat. The first season we got our wheat back - in seed. The next season, we got nothing. And that's how it has been ever since. After the third season, we were forced to mortgage our farm. Then for 10 years, Les - that's my husband - and I worked like slaves. He went grey. My hair turned to silver. We fought and we struggled. Our three children came. We worked and fought and struggled harder than ever for their dear sakes. Bless them! They are great kids. But it was no use. One day, about a year ago, Les came home to me, all crumpled up. He told me we had no home any more. They had foreclosed. We had a week to get out. We had a little weep together. Then we packed up the few things we had. They were not much, believe me. We and our little family wandered down by the banks of the Murray. We called a halt at Robinvale. It was great fun for the kids, but for me and Les, it meant starting all over again. We slept in the open for a while, then Les got a job on the weir. We bought tents. That's where we live still - on the banks of the Murray in tents. Oh, I forgot. One of our tents has an iron roof. Les bought it just a week or two back, and has fixed it up. So, you see, we have a roof over our heads again. - Ellen Read, Mallee Children's Camp, Frankston ( Port Phillip Bay, Vic), 22 February, 1936.

1936: Capture of Addis Ababa by the Fascist Italian Marshal Pietro Badoglio ends Abyssinian War, and demonstrates failure of League of Nations to deter aggression and make sanctions effective (Badoglio became Italian PM after the fall of Mussolini in 1943).

1936: Spanish Civil War begins, 17 July, with a coordinated military uprising against the Republican Government and ends with the collapse of the Republican forces, 31 March, 1939.

Australia interferes with wicked Mrs Simpson

The alarming and devastating possibility is that the King should marry Mrs Simpson. Should he do so, it is impossible to calculate the consequences. The people of this country and the Dominions would never accept her as Queen, quite possibly the House of Commons would cancel the Civil List, the Throne would be imperilled, the Empire would be endangered, there would be a demand for the King's abdication - Resident Minister Stanley Bruce, private notes, London, 15 November, 1936.

• Bruce recorded a lunch conversation at which he gave the above advice to British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin. Edward V111's love affair with the twice-married American Wallis Simpson was fast becoming common gossip. On Baldwin's advice, the King abdicated on 11 December, 1936. He married Mrs Simpson next year.


German law passed, November, confiscating Jewish property.

Nazi Germany and Japan sign a pact declaring hostility towards international communism (Anti-Comintern Pact), 25 November. Italy joins a year later.

Edward VIII abdicates, succeeded by George VI, 11 December.

Wonthaggi coal mine disaster entombs 13 men

Our canaries are dead. There is no hope. We may not get them for four or five days. The place is a wreck. Tell the parson to let the wives know . - Coal mine manager J. McLeish, Wonthaggi (Vic), 19 February, 1937.

• An explosion at Wonthaggi State Coal Mine in Gippsland entombed thirteen men.

Enid Lyons finds British depressing

I am beginning to feel a little depressed here. There seems to be a wrong attitude in the world altogether. All hatred and distrust. - Enid Lyons' diary, London, 17 May, 1937.

• The Prime Minister, Joseph Lyons, and his wife, Enid, made their second trip to Britain for the coronation of George V1 in 1937. On the first, in 1934, they were accompanied by a large entourage of Australians, including the Attorney-General, Robert Menzies and his wife, and were thoroughly 'duchessed' by the British (in the manner of William Morris Hughes during World War One). On the second trip, however, they found the mood had changed. The British were preoccupied with Adolf Hitler. However, they did find time to confer a Damehood on Enid Lyons.

Australia quietly prepares for army war, 1937

The aims of the army are to concentrate first on acquiring the best new equipment, so that the Australian soldier will be armed as least as well as any attacker; at the same time to prepare for the rapid mechanisation of a large army by constant experimenting in the improvisation of military from commercial vehicles; to maintain and improve the efficiency of the nucleus of permanent staff officers and instructors on the one hand, and of militia leaders and others on the other; and to place along the coast new the great industrial coastal batteries against which no naval force would venture. - Feature article, Sydney Morning Herald , 29 November, 1937.

• This extremely well-sourced piece reflected the views of military commanders. Japan was already the anticipated enemy. Early in 1938, fast-moving events abroad caused an increase in the volunteer militia to 70,000. In 1938, Prime Minister Joseph Lyons announced a twofold increase in defence spending to 43 million pounds over the next three years.

100,000 at the barricades in Sydney

A virile nation of seven millions celebrates with pride and thanksgiving the mighty growth of a seed planted less than five generations ago. - Editorial, The Times , London, 25 January, 1938.

• Australia celebrated 150 years of European settlement with great enthusiasm on 26 January. In Sydney, where it all began,100,000 people lined the barricades by 5am.

1938: German-Austrian unification (Anschluss), proclaimed, 13 March. Austrian Nazi leader invites Germany army to occupy Austria.

Menzies admits (tacitly) to being 'duchessed'

I have no doubt at all that there are plenty of people in Australia who are saying that those fellows of ours in London are succumbing to a clever combination of duchesses and tea parties. - Attorney-General Robert Menzies, London, 20 June, 1938.

• Menzies had gone to London to discuss trade and immigration and, yes, people were saying that.

Menzies' lofty observations on German aims

It is a truism to say that nobody in Germany wants war. - Attorney General Robert Menzies, London, (interviewed in Yorkshire Post ), 8 August, 1938.

• Menzies discovered this fact during a four-day visit to Germany at the end of July.

1938: 'Kristallnacht' (Night of Broken Glass), 9-10 November, during which Nazi mobs attack Jewish businesses throughout Germany.

Black Friday bushfires kill 71 Victorians

Some went so far as to search among the debris of burnt houses for valuables overlooked by their owners. Because of the crowd of unwanted visitors to the town, police had their hands full controlling the the traffic, and were almost powerless to stop the pillaging. - Weekly Times , 21 January, 1939.

• The newspaper reported on the activities of looters at Warrandyte, on the Melbourne outskirts, after the bushfires of Black Friday, 13 January, in which 71 people perished.

Menzies' sudden grab for political power

Since last September I have more than once had the misfortune to find myself at variance with the majority of Cabinet on matters of moment, and particularly on important aspects of defence preparedness. - Attorney-General Robert Menzies, Canberra, 14 March, 1939.

• Menzies finally resigned from Joseph Lyons' UAP Cabinet on 14 March. Lyons died in Sydney of a heart attack on 7 April, and many people blamed Menzies' 'betrayal' for his death.

Anti-Menzies group's plea to Bruce: 'Come home!'

As you can understand, Lyons' sudden death has left political complications which in my opinion should be solved, if a solution is practicable, at the earliest possible date. I think that the only way in which an election can be avoided is for you to return to politics in UAP ranks. No need to impress to you how important is to have in power Government which has confidence of whole people and cooperating wholeheartedly with Britain. Personally, I would be prepared to resign from Cowper to enable you to enter Parliament immediately. Glad urgent advice your ideas and whether proposal acceptable to you. - Cable from Acting Prime Minister Dr Earle Page, Canberra, to High Commissioner Stanley Bruce, Los Angeles, 12 April, 1939.

• Page, interim Prime Minister while the UAP prepared to elected a new leader, was desperate to block Menzies' passage to the Lodge. But Bruce, on his way to London after talks with the government in Canberra, politely declined the offer.

Page rejects Menzies, but he becomes PM, anyway

That in spite of past harmonious cooperation in Government with the United Australia Party and a willingness to continue similar cooperation to maintain stable Government, the Party is definitely unable to cooperate in a Government with R.G. Menzies K.C. as its Prime Minister; nor is it willing to give any undertaking to support such a Government if it is formed. - Resolution at Country Party meeting, Canberra, 18 April, 1939.

• Next day, Menzies was elected leader of the United Australia Party and, automatically, became Prime Minister. But Earle Page, the Country Party leader, and several other leading conservatives, believed that Menzies' disloyalty precipitated Prime Minister Joseph Lyons' death earlier that year.

It would be well to realise that the cleavage between the UAP and the Country Party arises out of causes more desperate than any feelings of Mr Menzies or Sir Earle Page. Had the UAP been sagacious enough to fall in with the suggestion to invite Mr Bruce to lead government or it had elected Mr Casey, I feel that the present difficulties would not have arisen. - J.S. Teasdale, President of the WA Primary Producers' Association, Perth, 25 April, 1939.

• The Western Australian Country Party had already sent Page a telegram urging the Federal Party to sit on the cross benches rather than cooperate with the Menzies government.

Snotty newslady likes posh 'new chatelaine' of the Lodge

Mrs Menzies is not greatly interested in sport, but she is regarded by her immediate friends as one of the best woman drivers in the Commonwealth, and one of the best drivers of either sex anywhere. - Argus , Melbourne, 24 April, 1939

• The social page article about Mrs Pattie Menzies was headed, ' New Chatelaine of Prime Minister's Lodge', hinting that she was of a different social class from her predecessor, Dame Enid Lyons, who was overheard saying, during her first trip to Europe in 1934, that the pyramids of Egypt compared unfavourably with the mullock heaps of Kalgoorlie.

Earle Page just fails to put Menzies to the sword

This Council supports the proposal of the Leader of the Australian Country Party, Sir Earle Page: 'That is in the best interests of Australia and the Empire that a National Government be formed under a Leader who would be acceptable to all parties prepared to cooperate.'

This Council supports the Australian Parliamentary Country Party in refraining from participating in the formation of a composite Ministry under the Prime Ministership of the Rt. Hon. R. G. Menzies PC. KC. MP. - Resolution at the NSW Country Party Council, Sydney, 24 April, 1939.

• Menzies had just squeaked home in the UAP ballot for leadership and now had a margin of just one vote in the House.

Fellow Australians, today I an introducing myself to you as your Prime Minister. I come after Mr Lyons, a leader who had your affection and respect - a simple and understanding man. I come as one who has been freely accused of grave defects - aloofness, superiority, and one thing and another. The truth is that my apparent aloofness is just one of the fantastic ideas that obtain currency. We all like gossip. I am a singularly plain man, born in the little town of Jeparit on the fringe of the Mallee, educated at Ballarat in a State school, and then by scholarship at a public school and Melbourne University. Apart from having parents of great character, intelligence and fortitude, I was not born to the purple. - Prime Minister Robert Menzies, radio broadcast, Canberra, 26 April, 1939.

• Menzies underwent a baptism of fire. On 20 April, confirming the Country Party's decision not to cooperate with him, its leader, Sir Earle Page, launched a vitriolic attack in Federal Parliament accusing him, among other things, of shirking service in World War One by resigning his army commission in 1915. The issue of Menzies' war record had been raised first during his unsuccessful campaign in 1928 for a Victorian Parliamentary seat. He won at a by-election later that year. Page is said to have regretted the personal attack later. Two Country Party MHRs, Arthur Fadden and R.H. Corser dissociated themselves from Page's speech and sat as Independent Country Party members in future.

Britain will prevent Jap aggression against us

I would appreciate for the information of the present Government whether assurance can be given that Australia is entitled to assume that in the event of war with Japan the United Kingdom Government would send a Fleet to Singapore within appropriate time capable of containing Japanese Fleet to a degree sufficient to prevent a major act of aggression against Australia. - Cable from Prime Minister Robert Menzies, Canberra, to Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, London, 24 June, 1939.

• Chamberlain gave the assurance.

Menzies resists increase in regular army

It (the government) feels that, while the national efforts are being properly directed towards putting Australia into a position to defend itself, regard must always be had to the inevitable future period of readjustments when the dangers of war have passed or are sensibly reduced. It is plainly much more practicable to effect, at some future time, a modification in citizen military training to bring about a modification of measures which possess a permanent character. - Prime Minister Robert Menzies, Canberra, 2 August, 1939.

• The Menzies government decided not to enlist troops in a regular army, but instead raise 14,000 more militiamen.

1939: Britain and France declare war on Nazi Germany, 3 September.

So we're at war again, 3 September, 1939

Fellow Australians. It is my melancholy duty to inform you officially that, in consequence of the persistence by Germany in her invasion of Poland, great Britain has declared war upon her, and that, as a result, Australia is also at war. - Prime Minister Robert Menzies, radio broadcast, Melbourne, 3 September, 1939.

Talk of a wartime 'National Government' collapses

(The Country Party) believes that the choice of Ministers should be made by arrangement between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Country Party. Such mutual agreement is the best guarantee of subsequent satisfactory cooperation in Parliament and is indeed essential to make complete and continuous cooperation possible. - Letter from Country Party Leader Sir Earle Page to Prime Minister Robert Menzies, Canberra, 6 September, 1939.

• An exchange of letters took place between the leaders of the three political parties about the formation of a National Government. John Curtin's Labor Party had already politely declined, but the Country Party was prepared to haggle.

I feel bound to tell you that I cannot accept this position (see above entry) for two reasons: the first is that to condition my appointment of Ministers upon the agreement of the Leader of another Party not only leads to a bargaining process - in which I am not prepared to engage - but would unduly restrict my choice and so tend to weaken the Government. The second is that it would appear to involve your own entry into the Cabinet. - Letter from Prime Minister Robert Menzies to Country Party Leader Sir Earle Page, Canberra, 7 September, 1939.

• Menzies had not forgotten Page's speech of 20 April! Further talk of a coalition soon evaporated.

Sixth Division raised for service overseas

We are at war as part of the British Empire. Our strategic position may very well change from time to time according to the alignment of the combatant nations. At present, the prime necessity is to ensure the defence of Australia itself. But it would be wrong to assume that throughout the duration of the war, our duty would continue to be as circumscribed as that. It may be that, under some circumstances, Australian forces might be used to garrison some of the Pacific islands, to cooperate with New Zealand, to release British troops at Singapore, or at other posts around the Indian Ocean. Under other circumstances, it may be practicable to send Australian forces to Europe. - Prime Minister Robert Menzies, radio broadcast, Canberra, 15 September, 1939.

• Menzies announced the raising of the 20,000-strong Sixth Division whose volunteers began to stream into training camps within a fortnight. The force sailed for the Middle East in January, 1940.

Farmers smell victory

This war, like the last, will probably be won and lost on the economic front, with victory to the side strongest in raw materials, foodstuffs and all those commodities that keep guns firing, armies marching, and a nation's morale high. - Land newspaper, Sydney, 15 September, 1939.

• The newspaper pointed out that the War would create greater demand for commodities, but that 'every Australia plough' could be a force against oppression.

Menzies: Our aircrew to Britain spells death knell to Nazis

I have no hesitation in saying that this great scheme is not only the most spectacular demonstration of Empire cooperation that the war has produced, it is an announcement which really spells the death knell of German ambition in the War. - Prime Minister Robert Menzies, Canberra, 11 October, 1939.

• Under the Empire Air Defence Scheme, Australia supplied 16,000 aircrew. A total of 10,264 were killed and 3236 wounded.

16. 1940-1949

'This is the gravest hour of our history' - (Prime Minister John Curtin, 8 December, 1941)

JOHN Curtin, Australia's reluctant wartime hero, became Prime Minister on 3 October, 1941, two months before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour and entered World War Two. The conflict came to Australia's shores on 19 February, 1942, when 188 carrier-based aircraft inflicted a terrible blow on Darwin. Curtin had already ordered the return home of Australian troops in the Middle East, despite fierce opposition from the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. On 26 December, Curtin had made a dramatic shift in Australian foreign policy by saying that Australia looked to America 'without inhibitions', a view supported by the American Allied Commander-in-Chief in the Southwest Pacific, General Douglas MacArthur, when he met Curtin for the first time in Canberra on 26 March, 1942. 'Mr Prime Minister, we two, you and I, will see this thing through together,' he said.

Australia's seven million people went to war in 1939 much more worldlywise than their parents had been in 1914. Their patriotism was far more muted. This was seen has a job which had to be done, rather than a grand foreign adventure. The then Menzies government set about in a workmanlike way to raise the initial force of 20,000 soldiers and 10,000 airman at the outbreak of war with Germany and Italy. After heady successes against the disheartened Italians in North Africa, Australians joined Allied forces confronting the Germans in Greece and Crete. Many of the men of the Sixth Division found themselves POWs in Germany. One of these, Gerald Carroll, left his taxi with the daughter of a bank manager from the Melbourne suburb of Kew and joined the AIF in December, 1939. By October, 1941, he was in Stalag 8B, near Oppeln, Poland, later, until his liberation by the Americans, in Stalag Luft 3 (of Great Escape fame) in Germany in 1945. He was taken to London and immediately went to the Commonwealth Bank branch at Australia House to check on his financial affairs. 'Ah, yes, Corporal Carroll, you have been in business on the Continent. Everything is in order,' the teller said. In 1942, the Commonwealth had assumed control of all income tax as a wartime measure and refused to return the right to the States in 1946, significantly increasing its power.

Curtin died at the age of sixty on 5 July, 1945, just weeks before the final Japanese surrender and was succeeded as Prime Minister by Ben Chifley. Australian society changed radically. Returned soldiers left the inner city and settled into the new outer suburbs where they were soon wrestling with new-fangled devices, such as Hills Hoists. From 1947, a growing swell of immigrants, many of them displaced by the War, arrived and began to fill the recently-abandoned inner city suburbs. That year, the Federal government initiated assisted migration to British migrants, and extended the scheme to Italians, Germans and Austrians in 1951-52. Mount Isa copper mine, first discovered in 1923, struck it rich in 1947. Next year, Prime Minister Chifley proudly unveiled ' Australia's Own Car', the Holden, in Melbourne. A year later, Governor-General William McKell, fired the first charge of the Snowy Mountains Scheme at the site of Adaminaby Dam, later Lake Eucumbene. Chifley's Labor, which had won a handsome victory at the 1946 Federal election was finally undone in 1949 by industrial unrest and a plan to nationalise the banks. Robert Menzies' conservatives, rebranded as the Liberal Party won and ruled in coalition with the Country (later National) Party for the next 23 years.

Off they go again, sons of the fathers

One was reminded as they strode forward with youthful step, heads erect, eyes shining with the glow of health and the pride of achievement, of John Masefield's first impression of the old Anzacs: 'For physical beauty and nobility of bearing, they surpassed any men I have ever seen. They walked and looked like the kings in the old poem'. - Sydney Morning Herald , 5 January, 1940.

• Men of the Sixth Division marched through Sydney before their embarkation for the Middle East on 9 January.

Spending a Brave New Year at the hairdresser's

To start the New Year bravely, I would do my hair up in a new way. I would take it up at either side of the face over the temples, and arrange it in soft curls (easy enough to manage with the help of the little metal pegs which the hairdressers use). The front I would pile on top of my head in three or four curls, which later would fall into a soft roll. The back I would have neither too short nor too long, but arranged in simple curls on the nape of the neck, and quite plain above them. - Hairstyle advice, 6 January, 1940.

Anzac fleet leaves Sydney with first 13,000 men

It was an unforgettable sight to see these ten ships, seven of them luxury liners, flanked by warships of the British and Australian navies. They kept in perfect formation - it seems as if their engines might be throbbing in unison. Here were approximately 13,000 troops on their way. Here was the spearhead of Australia's and New Zealand's challenge to Nazism, or any other 'ism', that might menace the Empire or democracy at large. It must have given every man who watched this advance a great surge of satisfaction to be of it, a sense of privilege to be one of the chosen of the Second AIF. - Cpl Roland Hoffman's diary, at sea off Sydney, 9 January, 1940.

• Hoffman, aged 32, was aboard the fleet bound for the war. They were not told their destination, but they learned, anyway, before they reached Fremantle, that they were going to Egypt. It was announced on German radio! Hoffman, a journalist, was appointed diarist of the 16th Brigade and later, as a sergeant, became editor of AIF News in Jerusalem. He died in England on 3 August, 1945, after his release from a German POW camp.

Military tramp of 'a world gone mad again'

The tramp of military boots resounds down the pavements of a world gone mad again. The respite is over. And in the confusion, people are apt to speak vaguely of 'passing on' and 'handing over' the Spirit and Traditions of the 'old' AIF to a '2nd' Australian Imperial Force ... there is no second AIF any more than there is an old AIF. The same army, the same flesh and blood, and the same old spirit carry on. New and more elastic footsteps have swung into the line, that is all. - 'Retired Soldier', Reveille , Sydney, 1 February, 1940.

Canberra girls 'display their ankles' for war effort

The (university) college council has expressed displeasure, but some of Canberra's prettiest girls have offered to display their ankles in the cause of charity. - News report, Canberra, on the forthcoming War Fund bazaar at Government House, Yarralumla, 2 March, 1940.

1940: British and Free French forces begin the evacuation at Dunkirk, 26 May.

Battle of Britain air war begins, 7 June, 1940, continues through 57 German raids, and ends, March/April, 1941.

Japanese Army enters northern Indo-China, September, 1940.

Key union assures government of cooperation

Because of the gravity of the war situation, my organisation feels that the time has arrived when very definite steps should be taken to ensure that maximum production is achieved so that Australia can render the greatest assistance to the Allied cause. - Letter from Amalgamated Engineering Union (AEU) chairman J. Cranwell to Prime Minister Robert Menzies, Canberra, 16 June, 1940.

• The 30,000-strong AEU would play a key role in the munitions and aircraft industries.

Govt gets absolute wartime powers

I am not afraid of what the present Government may do with the powers now to be conferred on it, but I am afraid of what the enemy might do if we did not vote these powers. - Opposition leader John Curtin, House of Representatives, Canberra, 20 June, 1940.

• Federal Parliament quickly resolved to give the Government absolute control of resources, production, manpower and people.

Ministers, senior officials die in ACT plane crash

Geoffrey Street, Henry Gullett and James Fairbairn had their greatest attributes in common: they were men of courage and untouched honour, fired by a burning loyalty, and enlightened by ability and experience. - Prime Minister Robert Menzies, House of Representatives, Canberra, 14 August, 1940.

• Street, Minister for the Army, Gullett, vice-president of the Executive Council and Fairbairn, Minister for Air, along with General Sir Brudenell White and six others were killed when their RAAF plane crashed near Canberra airport the previous day. It was a severe blow to the Menzies government.


Fascist General Franco opts to keep Spain out of War, 7 December, 1940.

British and Commonwealth forces take Sidi Barrani, Bardia, Tobruk and Benghazi, North Africa, from the Italians, 7 December, 1940-6 February, 1941.

Blooding of 2nd AIF on the Egypt/Libya border

Tonight is the night. By this time tomorrow, the fate of Bardia should be sealed. Everyone is happy, expectant, eager. Old timers say the spirit is the same as in the last war. Each truckload was singing as we drove to the assembly point in the moonlight. - Sgt Roland Hoffman's diary, Bardia (Libya-Egypt border), 2 January, 1941.

• This was the long-awaited blooding of the Second AIF. On 3-4 January, their disheartened Italian opponents surrendered in droves.


German General Erwin Rommel drives British from Benghazi, 1 April, and begins Siege of Tobruk, mainly garrisoned by Australians, 11 April.

Allied withdrawal from Greece, April.

German paratroopers land on Crete, 20 May.

Germans invade Soviet Union, 22 June

R.G. Menzies judged 'inept' by Canadian diplomat

Mr Menzies is a man of great personal charm and of outstanding intellectual capacity. Unfortunately, however, he lacks the qualities that a successful leader of a nation and a government must have. He has not been able to command the loyalty of his party and is unpopular with the people. He is tactless and seems to have a flair for antagonising people by unnecessarily parading his intellectual superiority. He seems to exercise very poor judgment. His handling of the situation in the last few weeks can only be described as inept. - Canada's Acting High Commissioner E. B. Rogers, Canberra, confidential memo to his superiors, Ottawa, 28 August, 1941.

• This was Menzies' last day in office - until 1949 when his new Liberal Party-Country Party coalition came to power.

Looker, I'm all in! - Former Prime Minister Robert Menzies, Canberra, 28 August, 1941.

• Menzies, according to reports, walked from the Cabinet room and fell into the arms of his secretary, Cecil Looker, after colleagues forced his resignation.

Earle Page's special UK job

My function will be to establish personal Cabinet liaison between the Governments. I am still directly responsible to the Australian Parliament and people. The primary purpose of my mission will be the presentation of the Australian point of view on certain major problems and immediate strategy in the war situation. The second purpose will be to arrange the best mechanics for maintaining a system of direct Cabinet representation in London. - Special Envoy Sir Earle Page, radio broadcast, Canberra, 21 September, 1941.

• Page's appointment to London had been announced by the caretaker Prime Minister Arthur Fadden on 7 September. Page was aware that John Curtin would be asked to form a Government shortly, so he consulted him. Curtin had no objection to the appointment.

They're already thinking about postwar poverty

New South Wales has a widows pensions scheme, but no adequate slum clearance policy; Victoria has a slum clearance policy, but a less adequate provision for widows; Tasmania has developed a country medical service, but as yet no slum clearance policy. - Joint Committee on Social Security, House of Representatives, Canberra, 24 September, 1941.

• It was about to be Australia's darkest hour, but Federal Parliament still found time to discuss solutions to Australia's postwar poverty.  

Conservative's Menzies out, Labor's Curtin in

In Opposition, the Labor Party set a commendable example of sober restraint and of criticism that was mainly constructive. By doing so, it created a reciprocal obligation on those whose places it is about to take. - Age , Melbourne, 6 October, 1941.

• Internal dissensions had forced the resignation of the Menzies Government in August, 1941. Country Party leader Arthur Fadden succeeded him briefly, but he was unable to retain the support of two Independents. Labor leader John Curtin was invited to form a government on 3 October.

Churchill wants to keep AIF in Middle East

I have heard again from General Auchinleck that he would be very greatly helped and convenienced if the remaining Australian troops could stay in Tobruk until the approaching battle is decided. I will not repeat the arguments which I have already used, but I will only add that if you felt able to consent it would not expose your troops to any undue or invidious risks, and would at the same time be taken very kindly as an act of comradeship in the present struggle. - Cable from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, London, to Prime Minister John Curtin, Canberra, 14 October, 1941.

• Curtin had been Prime Minister for less than a fortnight when he received this cable from Churchill. The 9th Division was relieved from 'the Siege of Tobruk' late in November.

Australian Crawl demonstrated in Downing St

May I crave five minutes of your time today so that I may indicate the nature of the facts that I think your Cabinet should have from its officials in order to make a decision when I state the Australian position. We in Australia think the sands of the Japanese crisis may run out in days. This view is powerfully reinforced by Chiang Kai-shek's personal message to you and the President. Your own ambassador gave a few weeks time at the most. In the considered opinion of technical experts on the spot, so little extra aid in the air and on the sea will do so much to determine the issue in our favour. It may even prevent that crisis, at any rate for the present. Could that aid not be sent forward immediately to prevent disaster? On the morrow of disaster more reinforcement must be sent now that can command success. - Note from Special Envoy Sir Earle Page to Prime Minister Winston Churchill, London, 5 November, 1941.

• Churchill saw Page that day and graciously fobbed off his pleas to reinforce Singapore. On 8 December, Japan attacked Pearl Harbour and the Allies declared war.

Curtin, impressive in office, fools the cynics

Plain John Curtin, alleged by his political opponents to have shivered for six years in opposition at the prospect of going into office, has taken the plunge, and, as Australia's Prime Minister, he is amazing his former critics. - Journalist Alan Reid, Sydney Sun , 9 November, 1941.

Churchill sends British battleships to Far East

Since last telegram met War Cabinet last Wednesday at special meeting and made an urgent appeal for immediate reinforcements Far East. Have since travelled for three days with Prime Minister through the devastated districts in eastern England which afforded excellent discussions on international situation generally. Have been greatly impressed by the universal spirit of hope and confidence amongst all sections of the people in the damaged areas. You will be pleased to learn that Churchill today at Lord Mayor's Banquet made public the dispatch of the heavy British Fleet to protect British interests in the Pacific and Indian Oceans and has also promised all necessary aid to ensure the safety of Australia and New Zealand. Am meeting Cabinet again on Wednesday . - Confidential cable from Special Envoy Sir Earle Page, London, to Prime Minister John Curtin, Canberra, 10 November, 1941.

• On 10 December, the British battleships, Prince of Wales and Repulse , which had arrived in Singapore on 2 December, were sunk soon after they ventured out of the harbour. Singapore's 90,000-strong garrison of British, Indian and Australian troops surrendered to the Japanese on 15 February next year. Twelve days later, the Battle of the Java Sea began. Two Dutch cruisers, De Ruyter and Java and four destroyers were lost on 27 February, and an American cruiser, Houston , and an Australian cruiser, Perth (with 350 men) the following day.

General Tom Blamey deplores footy, offers thrills of war

Great crowds during the winter saw young men play football. There is a far more stirring game where they can get all the thrills they want. I agree that there must be some degree of relaxation, but at the same time I deplore the terrific amount of sport there seems be to be in Australia. - General Sir Thomas Blamey, Age , Melbourne, 18 November, 1941.

• VFL football was severely cut back after 1942. Many young footballers enlisted in the armed services, and Geelong withdrew from the competition from 1942-44. The Australian services requisitioned several grounds, and the Americans took over the MCG, which became Camp Murphy.

Sydney sunk by German raider Kormoran

Show your secret sign. - Signal from HMAS Sydney to German raider Kormoran , Indian Ocean, 19 November, 1941.

• The Kormoran , posing as a Dutch ship, did not know the secret sign. Her captain opened fire. After the battle, in which both ships were sunk, 337 German crew were saved. But no trace of the Sydney has been found.

Heavy tidings sadden the people of Australia today with the Prime Minister's announcement the HMAS Sydney must be presumed lost after an action with a heavily-armed merchant raider which she sank by gunfire. There is news only of enemy survivors, and although the search by air and surface craft is being continued, it must be feared that the cruiser has gone down with her complement of 645 officers and men. - West Australian , Perth, 1 December, 1941.

• Curtin waited more than a week before breaking the sad news about the Sydney to the nation.

1941: Japanese planes attack Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, 7 December, and, almost simultaneously, troops land at Kota Bharu, Malaysia, 300km north of Singapore.

Japan bombs Pearl Harbour 'in gravest hour'

This is the gravest hour of our history. We have a heavy responsibility. I ask every Australian, man and woman, to go about their allotted tasks with full vigour and courage. - Prime Minister John Curtin, radio broadcast, 8 December, 1941.

• Japan had bombed the American base at Pearl Harbour, Hawaii. Australia was finally at war on another front.

Propaganda machine goes into high gear

If you think the enemy would spare your wife and child ... remember what battle-drunk Japanese have done to the wives and children of others. - Liberty Loan advertisement, Australian newspapers, 1941.

John Curtin's 'without inhibitions' statement

Without inhibitions of any kind, I make it quite clear that Australia looks to America, free of any pangs as to our traditional links or kinship with the United Kingdom. - Prime Minister John Curtin, Canberra, 26 December, 1941.

• This extraordinary declaration finally turned Australia's foreign relations around. It was greeted with shock by conservatives and joy by pragmatists.

Press divided over 'without inhibitions' statement

It is the statement of a leader who refuses to throw up his hands in the air in the face of an enemy, but looks hard facts in the face. What do the Sydney Morning Herald, and what do the other jingoes wish Mr Curtin to do? Hope that sometime in the future, after Germany has been beaten, the Democracies will restore Australia to her former status? - Daily Mirror , Sydney, 29 December, 1941.

The Sydney Morning Herald had said that morning that Curtin's 'without inhibitions' statement ( see 26 December, 1941 ) was 'deplorable', but the Daily Mirror rushed to his defence.

Mr Curtin's simple, commonsense statement has been badly misinterpreted in some places. - Daily Telegraph , Sydney, 30 December, 1941.

• One of Curtin's biographers, Norman Lee, says he meant, simply, 'that Australia could be overrun by Japanese armies, while Australia's four divisions were overseas, with Australian airmen, fighting Britain's battles'.

Curtin hasn't forgotten the Brisbane Line theory

Curtin had never forgotten the Chamberlain theory that Australia might have to be lost 'temporarily' if Britain were at war, nor the disquieting fact that some of Chamberlain's cronies are still active in Whitehall. - Sunday Telegraph, Sydney, 4 January, 1942.

• Neville Chamberlain, architect of the so-called 'appeasement' policy towards Nazi Germany, resigned as British Prime Minister in May, 1940, and died later that year. He was replaced as Prime Minister by Winston Churchill.

1942: Japanese occupy Rabaul, New Guinea, 23 January.

Those were desperate days for desperate talk

It may be necessary to submit to the occupation of certain areas of Australia by the enemy should local resistance be overcome, and I remind the Government that it may be necessary to accept such a possibility. -Australian Lieut General Sir Iven Mackay, Memorandum, Canberra, 4 February, 1942.

1942: Singapore capitulates to Japanese, 15 February.

Churchill tries to bully Curtin ... but it's all in vain

I am quite sure that if you refuse to allow your troops, which are actually passing, to stop this gap, and if, in consequence, the above evils, affecting the whole course of the war, follow, a very great effect will be produced upon the President and the Washington circle, on whom you so largely depend. - Cable from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, London, to Prime Minister John Curtin, Canberra, 15 February, 1942.

• Churchill protested vainly at Curtin's determination to bring home the divisions of the Second AIF to confront the Japanese. This threat about the ' Washington circle' would not have been well received in Canberra.

If possible all Australian forces now under orders to transfer from the Middle East to the Far East should be diverted to Australia. These forces are the 6th and 7th divisions and the accompanying corps, base and lines of communications troops, in all 64,000; and there is also a British Armoured brigade of about 3000. They would prefer that all of these forces should be concentrated in Australia but are mindful of the fact that the strategical position of Burma may necessitate some reinforcements there until other troops are available from elsewhere. - Cable from Prime Minister John Curtin, Canberra, to Prime Minister Winston Churchill, London, 17 February, 1942.

On the question of how Japan could finally be beaten, it was unanimously recognised that Australia and India must be preserved as main bases for operations against Japan herself irrespective of what Japan was doing elsewhere. Further, that the road for supplies to China must be kept open at all costs. Apart from the vital necessity of keeping China in the war this was the only area in which land operations could be continued at present. Ultimately, the Burma Road and China might be the route through which Japan could be directly attacked by air. - Cable from Special Envoy, Sir Earle Page, London, to Prime Minister John Curtin, Canberra, 17 February, 1942.

• Page reported on a British War Cabinet meeting which had decided, among other things, that the Australian Seventh Division, then in Colombo, should be diverted to Rangoon. Curtin did not waver in his resolve to bring them home. However, in a later cable to Page, Curtin appeared to question his loyalties, provoking a wounded response from Page. On Page's return to Australia, they became close friends once more.

In my view, it is essential that we agree to the Seventh going to Burma. The aim is to try to keep the Burma Road open and supplies flowing to China. Even if this were not successful, it would help China's morale and will to resist. If Australia agreed, it would strengthen our position in demanding similar action to meet our necessities . - Resident Minister, Stanley Bruce, London, to Prime Minister John Curtin, Canberra, 18 February, 1942.

• Bruce, possibly at Churchill's urging, kept the pressure on Curtin to divert the troops.

Japanese bomb Darwin, 19 February, 1942

The Japs have bombed Darwin! That settles it! - Minister for Supply and Development John Beasley, War Advisory Council, Sydney, 19 February, 1942.

• The Council had been debating the ticklish question of bringing home the Australian divisions from the Middle East. Beasley had just heard the news of the Japanese air attack on Darwin. The Australian public was told only 15 people had been killed.

Curtin's patience runs out with British over 7th Div

After most anxious consideration the Australian Government has decided it cannot agree to the proposal that the 7th AIF Division be diverted to Burma. - Cable from Prime Minister John Curtin, Canberra, to Special Envoy Sir Earle Page, London.

• Page was trying to stitch together an arrangement in which an American division would be sent to Australia immediately if the Seventh were allowed to go to Burma. But Curtin and his Cabinet were tired of the whole affair. They wanted their soldiers home. Curtin sent a curt message to Churchill about a unilateral British decision to divert the Ninth to Burma, and received the hurt reply ...

We could not contemplate that you would refuse our request, and that of the President of the United States, for the diversion of the leading Australian division to save the situation in Burma. We knew that if our ships proceeded on their course to Australia, while waiting for your formal approval, they would either arrive too late at Rangoon, or even be without enough fuel to go there at all. - Cable from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, London, to Prime Minister John Curtin, Canberra, 22 February, 1942.

• Curtin replied: We feel a primary obligation to save Australia, not only for itself, but as a base for the development of the war against Japan. In the circumstances, it is quite impossible to reverse a decision which we made with the utmost care, and which we have affirmed and reaffirmed.

Sound reasons for secrecy of Darwin death toll

The interests of public security prevented me from stating previously the number who were killed or drowned in the harbour and on the wharves. That information, together with the shipping losses, constituted information which the enemy would have valued had it been made public immediately. - Prime Minister John Curtin, Canberra, 25 February, 1942.

• Six days after the first attack by 188 aircraft, the censor lifted restrictions on the truth about Darwin. In fact, it said 240 had died (later revised to 233). Eight ships in the harbour were sunk, including the US destroyer, Peary , on which 80 sailors died. After a second raid in the afternoon when 54 Japanese bombers attacked the RAAF base, survivors stretched barbed wire across the streets, and waited for Japanese troops to land. But none came.

1942: Final capitulation, 8 March, of Dutch forces in Indonesia to the Japanese.

US misunderstands Australians

A certain lack of individual self-reliance, resourcefulness and initiative, due primarily to the fact that traditionally they have to look to England for detailed direction... - US Intelligence report, Melbourne, 14 March, 1942.

• The Americans were alarmed at a perceived lack of morale in Australia.

Meanwhile, Sir Irving Benson condemns 'beer swilling'

Never has this fair city witnessed such a beer swilling, and the swinish aftermath of it, that are to be seen any day or night. - Rev. Sir C. Irving Benson's weekly column, Herald , Melbourne, 14 March, 1942.

• He led a rising chorus of people calling for tighter liquor controls, particularly in wartime.

US alarmed at strained British-Australian relations

It would be desirable all round if any way can be found to avoid all further discussion of this, which, it seems to me, plays right into the hands of our enemies. I realise that the Casey appointment is only an incident. The more important issue is the basic relationship of Australia to Great Britain. - Message from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Washington, to Prime Minister Winston Churchill, London, 22 March, 1942.

• Roosevelt had become alarmed at the increasingly-strained relations between Australia and Britain, particularly after Churchill poached Richard Casey, Australian Minister in Washington and appointed him as British Minister of State in the Middle East!

MacArthur arrives as saviour

Mr Prime Minister, we two, you and I, will see this thing through together. You take care of the rear and I will handle the front. - General Douglas MacArthur, Allied Commander-in-Chief, Southwest Pacific to Prime Minister John Curtin, Canberra, 26 March, 1942.

• MacArthur had arrived in Darwin with his staff on 17 March after the fall of the Philippines. He visited Melbourne, established his headquarters, then went to Canberra for a meeting of the War Advisory Council, where he met Curtin for the first time.

AIF arrives home from Middle East

We saw a Tommy officer walking round and said, 'You can't go there'. He glared and said, 'I'm a British officer'. So we pointed out that we didn't care who he was, but that he was in our minefield. It took him two hours to pick his way out again. - Returned digger, Melbourne, 30 March, 1942.

• The Second AIF was coming home from the Middle East. There were many such stories told about Tommy officers.

Crisis hits the cuppa: rationed by a half

The new tea ration is equivalent to 20 breakfast cups, reasonably strong, allowing for three teaspoons full making one-and-a-half pints (four brimming breakfast cups). This means, with care, a cup for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and even an afternoon cup if small cups are used. - Announcement by the Victorian Grocers' Association, Melbourne, 30 March, 1942.

• The new ration reduced by half the amount of tea available to each civilian. In Canberra, the Department of Census and Statistics announced that, before rationing, Australia population of seven million people drank 49 million pounds of tea a year.

'Lost' force in East Timor holds up its hand

Force intact. Still fighting. Badly need boots, money, quinine, tommy gun, ammunition. - Message transmitted from East (Portuguese) Timor to Darwin, 9 April, 1942.

• The message was transmitted from commandos of the 2/2nd Independent Company who had been missing, presumed captured or killed, for 59 days. The Australians fought with great guile against vastly superior numbers of Japanese. They were sheltered and fed by the local population, thousands of whom were killed in reprisals after the commandos were withdrawn. Many Australians recalled they debt owed to the East Timorese when they were brutally attacked by pro-Indonesian 'militias' in September, 1999.

Curtin, MacArthur become good mates

You have come to Australia to lead a crusade, the result of which means everything to the future of the world and mankind. At the request of a sovereign State you are being placed in Supreme Command of its Navy, Army and Air Force, so that with those of your great nation, they may be welded into a homogeneous force and given that unified direction which is so vital for the achievement of victory. - Prime Minister John Curtin, Canberra, to General Douglas MacArthur, Allied Commander-in-Chief, Southwest Pacific, Melbourne, 10 April, 1942.

• Curtin and MacArthur became warm friends immediately. MacArthur's arrival was greeted with relief by a nation feeling isolated.

1942: Battle of the Coral Sea, 4-8 May.

May, 1942: Blamey says Australia saved

It would take a very serious expedition, indeed, to make any impression on this continent as a base for future operations. - Australian commander, General Sir Thomas Blamey, Townsville, May, 1942.

• Blamey was saying that the battle for Australia was won. Early in May, a combined American-Australian force had defeated the Japanese in the Battle of the Coral Sea.

Japanese submarines in Sydney Harbour

I first saw the bubbles 50 yards ahead of the launch and went right over them. I never dreamt of submarines at the time. - Fisherman Phil Farmer, Watson's Bay, Sydney, 31 May, 1942.

• Mr Farmer had, unknowingly, detected the presence of three Japanese midget submarines while fishing outside Sydney Heads. They were sunk in a spectacular sound-and-light show.

Bruce's job of smoothing relations with Churchill

My task, as I understand it, is quietly and if possible without friction, to ensure that we will be fully informed and have the opportunity to express our views before decisions are taken. - Resident Minister Stanley Bruce, London, to Prime Minister, John Curtin, Canberra, 4 June, 1942.

• Curtin had just appointed Bruce as Australian representative on the British War Cabinet, a sensitive role in view of the tension between Curtin and Churchill over Curtin's decision to bring home the Australian divisions from the Middle East. Bruce summed up past differences being caused by Churchill's personality and 'defects of his great qualities'.

1942: Battle of Midway, Pacific, 3-6 June, fought between U.S. and Japanese aircraft, ends any further hope of Japanese invasion.

Curtin, Menzies compared

We would have thought that Menzies was the stronger vessel. His public utterances were cool and collected. Here, we said, was the man who had in him a hidden violence. A paradox; in Curtin, the congenital pacifist, resided the stronger force. - Sydney Morning Herald , 8 July, 1942.

GI women killer Leonski hanged in Melbourne

Private Leonski, it my is duty as president of this court to inform you that the court, in closed session and upon secret written ballot, three quarters of the members concurring, found you of all the specifications guilty, and of the charges guilty. It is my further duty as president of the court to inform you that the court, with all members present and all members concurring, sentences you to be hung by the neck until death. - Sentence of US military court martial, Melbourne, 19 July, 1942.

• Leonski, found guilty of the murder of three Melbourne women in May that year, was duly hanged by Americans on 9 November at Pentridge Jail. It was the most celebrated hanging in Melbourne since Frederick Deeming went to the gallows in 1892. Leonski had caused terror for three weeks in May until his capture. His crimes soured relationships between the civilian population and the Americans, whose numbers eventually reached 100,000.

Melbourne is hardest-drinking city in Australia

There are charwomen in this city who who work extremely hard for a living, and are rationed to one cup of tea a day, while their husbands can go into hotels and drink until they are full and have to be carried out. Is this fair to women and our democracy? - W.H. Edgar, Legislative Council, Melbourne, 21 July, 1942.

• Melbourne already had a reputation as the hardest-drinking city in Australia. Three days later, this was confirmed by statistics compiled by the Customs Department, Victoria Police and the Commonwealth Security Service.


American Marines begin Pacific land campaign on Guadalcanal, Solomons, 7 August, to begin a series of land and sea battles on and around the island which culminates in Japanese withdrawal, February, 1943.

Second Battle of El Alamein, 23 October-4 November, begins ejection of German and Italian forces from North Africa.

Russians prevail in the Battle of Stalingrad, northern summer, 1942-2 February, 1943.

King George V1 appeals for staunchness and zeal

Days of hardship and peril must now retard the steady development which years of peace and prosperity have made possible. The people of Melbourne will, I know, face these days with characteristic staunchness and when they are past, continue with renewed zeal along the path of enlightenment. - Cable from King George V1 to Lord Mayor Sir Frank Beaurepaire, Melbourne, 12 August, 1942.

Australian, American troops push Japanese back

Our fate is in the balance as I speak to you. The Battle of the Solomons is not only vital in itself, but, as part of a continuing action which will go on, represents a phase of the Japanese drive in which is wrapped up the invasion of Australia. - Prime Minister John Curtin, Melbourne, 4 September, 1942

• American troops went ashore at Guadalcanal, in the Solomons, on 7 August and routed the Japanese by December. Australians had repulsed a Japanese attempt to seize Milne Bay, on the southeast coast of New Guinea, in August, and were pushing the Japanese back on the Kokoda Track, relieving Port Moresby of danger.

Australian POW commander signs 'No escape'

By order from the Japanese Commander you are ordered to sign a form personally not to escape. In addition, I have personally satisfied myself that the AIF Commander at Changi has ordered these Japanese instructions to be obeyed. I therefore order you to sign this form in the required manner and I accept official responsibility for your action. - Order from Lieut Col R. F. Oakes, AIF Camp Commander, Adam Park POW Camp, Singapore, 13 September, 1942.

1942: British Eighth Army defeats Germans at El Alamein, 23 October, signalling the end of the Axis threat in North Africa.

Schoolyard trenches in our playgrounds

A world in which their playgrounds are dug up for slit trenches, there is talk of gas being loosed upon them, high-powered bombs come crashing down on people's homes, and the papers are filled with stories of men at death-grips in wild jungles, whole countries are being ravaged by famine, and ships being blown up and sailors being tossed to the sharks. - Writer Vance Palmer, ABC Weekly , Melbourne, 3 October, 1942.

• In Melbourne, a famous wartime photograph showed primary schoolchildren carrying out air raid drill in the slit trenches of suburban Ripponlea State School.

Australians recapture Kokoda, 2 November, 1942

Kokoda in our hands affords a geographic measurement of Australian achievement since the change from defensive to offensive in in New Guinea area beginning with the storming of Ioribaiwa Ridge at the end of September. - Canberra Times , 4 November, 1942.

• Kokoda village was recaptured from the Japanese on 2 November. The enemy was desperately short of supplies and there was evidence they had been reduced to eating grass, roots and wood. But they fought doggedly and by January, 1943, the Australians had lost 2000 killed.

Australian introduces military conscription

Australia has once been perilously near to the brink of disaster. No nation, even Britain, has been in greater danger in invasion and yet lacked the resources to defend itself. - Prime Minister John Curtin, House of Representatives, Canberra, 3 February, 1943

• Curtin was speaking in support of legislation to introduce military conscription, normally an anathema to the Labor Party, for outside Australian territory.

Melbourne girls' 'wanton embraces', says newspaper

Girls with uniformed escorts dragging each other with drunken steps through city streets, exhibitions of wanton embraces in public thoroughfares, girls barely in their teens shamelessly on the make for Allied companions, married women drowning their marriage vows in black market 'hooch' ... - Truth , Melbourne, 13 March, 1943.

• Scenes such as these might have been the product of a reporter's fertile imagination in a scurrilous newspaper, but such reports did nothing to improve the temper of Australian troops abroad.

Cholera deaths in Japanese prison camps

The medical situation in this camp is extremely grave and is becoming worse every hour. At the present moment, cholera is raging - there have been 37 deaths and there are over 90 patients in hospital. New cases are occurring at the rate of 25 or more daily. - Letter from Australian medical officers to Japanese Commandant, Shimo Sonkurei Camp, Thailand, 30 May, 1943.

• On this occasion, the Australian doctors had a victory. The Japanese severely curtailed work.

Conservative governments accused of defeatism

Blind to the danger of the Pacific, the Menzies and Fadden Governments had left Australia very much unprepared. The Labor Government rejected the concept that the little islands to the north of Australia would be taken, and that upper Queensland and the Darwin area would be overrun by the enemy. - Sydney Morning Herald, 27 July, 1943.

• In his policy speech before the 1943 election, Prime Minister John Curtin referred to the 'Brisbane Line' which ran from Brisbane to Adelaide. Some strategists believed the great stand against the Japanese would be made on this line. General Douglas MacArthur, Allied commander in chief in the Southwest Pacific, opposed this negative strategy.

We're safe, so rightwing finds Communist bogey

The Curtin Government, proceeding demurely towards the polls, is more and more embarrassed to observe the effect produced on public opinion by the faithful Communist dog that insists on following at its heels. - Adelaide Advertiser, 12 August, 1943.

• Conservative newspapers, with the notable exception of the Sydney Morning Herald , invented the 'Communist bogey', a useful tool they continued to employ for the next twenty years.

Americans think we're backward!

The people are very much like us. There is the same pioneering characteristic only more recent and evident in the Aussies. I suppose they are about the same as our Westerners of 1880. They like us but resent our money because we've boosted all their prices, We are ridiculously overpaid and I wish someone knew it. - American airman's letter, Boston Herald (US), 1 July, 1943.

• The Americans' money bought three times as much as it would have at home.

But Sydney Morning Herald sticks with Curtin

Mr Curtin is Prime Minister. He is a man unambitious, but high-principled, of considerable ability, stronger and more decisive than his quiet manner suggests, anxious to give any matter a calm and judicial decision, and above all determined to win the war for his country and humanity. We could not chose a better leader today. - Sydney Morning Herald , 19 August, 1943.

Woman's true role is in the home!

This nation, even under the stresses of war, is taking a very short-sighted view by impressing young married women into industry, by encouraging community settlement where the baby will be a novelty, and by leading the people into a way of life from which they will not willingly return to seek the responsibilities of the married state. - J.M. Mullens, Legislative Assembly, Melbourne, 1 December, 1943.

• Mullens expressed a conservative sentiment that that women would be seduced away from their primary domestic role as wives and mothers, particularly by the provision of 24-hour creches for young mothers obliged to work in factories. However, many women longed for a return to normality when the men came home from war.

At present I am living in a sleepout with two of my children, the third being boarded out with relatives. Cooking facilities are a stove in a washhouse, and with winter coming on there is no place to have a fire. My children are all under school age and so are with me all the time. My coming baby will have to be placed in a home or somewhere when it is born. Please help me. - Mrs Marie Topp, Brunswick (Vic), Argus , 28 March, 1944.

• Mrs Topp may well have been an overseas soldier's wife. There was a desperate shortage of houses and flats in wartime Australian cities.

Waiting in crowded shops, coping with ration cards, tramping after scarce commodities, have imposed severe strain. - Women's Weekly , Sydney, 20 May, 1944.

• In one department store, women slugged it out with handbags when a rare consignment of saucepans appeared.


Allies land in Normandy, D-Day, 6 June.

A plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler in East Prussia, 20 July, fails and 150 conspirators are executed.

Americans take Guam, 20-21 July, placing them in reach of the Philippines, which they achieve ( Leyte), 20 October.

Japanese POWs break out at Cowra, 245 killed

Japanese prisoners broke out from B Compound at this camp at 0200 hours today. The position is obscure as to how many escaped and how many have been killed. In cooperation with Cowra military camp the local area is being patrolled for escapees. - Message from Lieut Colonel Montague Brown, Commandant, Cowra POW Camp, (NSW) to army headquarters, Sydney, 5 August, 1944.

• More than 1100 prisoners made the attempt. Of these, 245 were killed and 344 escaped. Many committed suicide. Nine days elapsed before the last of the runaways was caught. Three Australians were killed in the breakout itself.

Military forces in the area have the situation completely in hand, and conditions in the area have been restored to normal. - Military spokesman, Sydney, 6 August, 1944.

• This was untrue. Several dozen prisoners were still at large, being pursued by soldiers, police and civilians. A fourth Australian was killed on the day after the escape.

Various Australian newspapers may reach New Zealand by plane today. These will contain references to riot. Glad if any publication whatsoever in New Zealand can be prohibited. Complete censorship blanket is now operating in Australia pending statement by the Prime Minister. - Cable from Australian External Affairs Department, Canberra, to New Zealand Government, Wellington, 8 August, 1944.

• Prime Minister John Curtin asked the Allies to suppress any more news of the Cowra escape for fear of reprisals against Australian prisoners of the Japanese. The Japanese were bound to find out, however, through the Swiss Government, which represented Japanese diplomatic interests.

The Swiss Government have now informed His Majesty's Minister at Berne that they have received a report on the Cowra incident, and have felt obliged to make some communication to the Japanese Government. They have, however, reduced it to a minimum, saying that an incident has occurred in which Japanese prisoners of war were involved, and that they understand there were casualties; also that a court of inquiry has been instituted, the result of which will be communicated as soon as is known. In these circumstances we would suggest that any statement which the Commonwealth may feel it necessary to publish be confined for the present to terms similar to those indicated by the last sentence of the above paragraph. - Cable from British Government, London, to Australian Government, Canberra, 10 August, 1944.

Meanwhile, Menzies forms Liberal Party

The time seems opportune for an effort to secure unity of action and organisation among those political groups which stand for a liberal, progressive policy and are opposed to Socialism with its bureaucratic administration and restriction on freedom. - Opposition leader Robert Menzies, Canberra, letter to conservative powerbrokers, late-August, 1944.

• A three-day meeting in Canberra in October agreed to form a new organisation, the Liberal Party.

Sunday isn't much fun in Melbourne

There are no hotels, no shops, no places of entertainment, no dance halls open on Sunday. There are no Sunday newspapers. Essential transport is reduced down to the irreducible minimum, apparently on the theory that there is no place to go and therefore nobody should need transport to go there. It is necessary to have both the stealth and lack of ethics of a criminal even to purchase a packet of cigarettes from midnight on Saturday until sunrise on Monday. The purchase of alcohol is a capital offence. Favourite pastime, by an easy process of eliminating the things that can't be done is to take a streetcar into the city and wander aimlessly around looking into the windows of the many fine shops. - George Johnston, Pacific Partner , New York, 1944.

• Johnston, the noted Australian author, reported on a Sabbath situation which continued in Melbourne for years after the war.

Cowra: Japanese bent on 'suicidal combat'

The extensive preparations made by the Japanese, the commencement of the mutiny during the hours of darkness and other attendant circumstances, proved beyond all doubt that the onus for the incident rests entirely upon the prisoners of war themselves, and that it was their intention to engage in suicidal combat with their guards. - Prime Minister John Curtin, Canberra, 9 September, 1944.

• More than a month after the breakout, Curtin released the Cowra military court of inquiry report. The German press denounced it as slaughter; the Japanese said the dead must have been innocent civilians internees, since no Japanese soldier allowed himself to be taken prisoner. In 1964, the Japanese and Australian governments cooperated to establish a Japanese War Cemetery at Cowra where all Japanese killed in Australia in World War Two are buried. Later, the Japanese government donated the town's Japanese Garden and Cultural Centre.

1945: Americans begin offensive, 1 April, to capture island of Okinawa, 600km south of main Japanese islands. They achieve objective after weeks of fighting during which 102,000 Japanese die.

John Curtin dies, a casualty of war

Go on, Mrs Curtin, it's best that you go off to bed now. - Prime Minister John Curtin's last words to his wife, The Lodge, Canberra, 5 July, 1945.

• Curtin, aged sixty, died peacefully. Some said he was worn out. He died just five weeks before victory in the Pacific.

In a new biography in 2005, Curtin's Gift: Reinterpreting Australia's Greatest Prime Minister , John Edwards wrote: Though remembered for bringing the troops home (from the Middle East), his primary intellectual interest was economic policy rather than defence policy and the biggest influence on his thinking was not Australia's experience of war against Japan in the 1940s but its experience in the Great Depression in the 1930s ... His enduring achievement was not saving Australia from Japan but in creating modern, postwar Australia.

Among history's greatest, history will find a place for the name of plain John Curtin, who became Prime Minister in an hour of crisis and led his country through her days of direst peril. - Sun , Melbourne, 7 July, 1945.

• The Allied Commander-in-Chief in the Southwest Pacific, General Douglas MacArthur, said: Mr Curtin was one of the greatest of wartime statesmen, and the preservation of Australia from invasion will be his immemorial monument.

John Curtin had many of the characteristics which Australians admire. He was straightforward and at time blunt in his speech, modest, fair to others and without affectation. Yet his austerity and reserve, which amounted at times to coldness, preclude one from thinking of him as a typical Australian. Whatever his place may be in his country's history, most Australians are agreed that he has set a standard which it will be difficult for his successors to emulate. - Round Table , London, 1945.

Arthur Calwell urges post-War immigration

If Australians have learned one lesson from the Pacific war ... it is surely that we cannot continue to hold our island continent for ourselves and our descendants unless we greatly increase our numbers. We are but seven million people and we hold three million square miles of this earth's surface. Our coastline extends for 12,000 miles and our density of persons is only 2.5 persons per square mile. Much of our land is situated within a rain belt of less than 10 inches per annum and this area is, therefore, largely uninhabited. In those parts more favourably situated, much development and settlement are yet to be undertaken. Our need to undertake it is urgent and imperative if we are to survive. - Immigration Minister Arthur Calwell, House of Representatives, Canberra, 2 August, 1945.

• Calwell, Labor's first Immigration minister, outlined the policy which, coupled with a post-War baby boom, drove Australia's population to 10 million by 1960. He adhered strictly to the nation's 'White Australia' policy. Calwell succeeded Dr Herbert Evatt as Opposition Leader in 1960.


Benito Mussolini executed by partisans, 28 April.

Adolf Hitler shoots himself, 30 April.

Hiroshima devastated by A-bomb, 6 August.

Peace comes to the Pacific

We can get out of those slacks and put on those vogueish floral cottons with pink muslin frills, and dress our daughter in a snip of the same. Hand in hand, we can skip down the drive and forget the half ton of wood dumped there waiting for a husband to come home and cart it into the garage. - Argus , Melbourne, 21 August, 1945.

The land, sea and air forces of Japan have completely surrendered. Tenno Heiko has personally bordered capitulation, and the Pacific war is over. In a few days, United Nations planes will be dropping orders written in English, Dutch, Malay, to United Nation soldiers and civilians in the hands of Japanese forces. The United Nations civilians, soldiers etc should remain calm and in their present positions. When these pamphlets come into the hands of Japanese guards, they must hand them over to United Nations prisoners and treat them with care. After handing over the pamphlets, guards must return to their barracks. Japanese officers and guards are to treat prisoners with care and give them as much good food as they require. This is their responsibility. Within a few days, United Nations officers will come to internment camps with transmitting sets to transmit the needs of prisoners and civilians to the Supreme Commander of the United Nations. The Japanese guards should not interfere with these officers, but should help and protect them. - Leaflet dropped over Changi POW Camp, Singapore, 3pm, 28 August, 1945.

They laughed and joked right up to the moment they were beheaded. - Captured Japanese High Command document, Singapore, 5 November, 1945.

• The Japanese captured eight Australian and British commandos who attempted to blow up the Japanese fleet in Singapore. The executioners admired their courage.

War ends, Catholics start one of their own

The news that Archbishop (Norman) Gilroy has been created a Cardinal will be received with mixed feelings by Australian Catholics. While there will be congratulations for the new Cardinal, widespread consternation and bitter resentment will be felt that honour which rightly belongs to the Archbishop of Melbourne Dr (Daniel) Mannix, should have gone elsewhere, and to a comparatively junior member of the Catholic hierarchy. - Press release by Immigration Minister and prominent Catholic layman Arthur Calwell, Melbourne, 24 December, 1945.

• Calwell was a greater admirer of Mannix, an Irish-born cleric who had been in Australia for 35 years and who had vehemently opposed conscription in Australia in World War One. Many Melbourne Catholics believed Rome discriminated against Irish-trained priests n favour of Rome-trained priests (such as Sydney's Cardinal Gilroy). Calwell believed the Apostolic Delegate, Archbishop Panico, was part of the conspiracy.

Expression 'New Australian' coined

They (immigrants) should be made welcome, not driven in upon themselves by epithets such as 'Pommy', 'Scowegian' and 'Reffo', and then blamed later for creating little colonies of their own. - Recommendation of a fact-finding mission on immigration, Canberra, early-1946.

• Immigration Minister Arthur Calwell said it was this recommendation which caused him to coin the expression 'New Australians'.

1946: Expression 'Iron Curtain' first used publicly by Winston Churchill, 5 March, in a speech at Fulton, Missouri.

Japanese war criminals executed

The 13 war criminals executed at Moratai included a Japanese convicted of the murder of Australian war prisoners at Taulaud Island; ill-treatment of Australian prisoners at Kuching; and denial of medical supplies to Australian prisoners, thus causing their death. - Argus , Melbourne, 8 March, 1946.

• This was the first mass execution of war criminals sentenced by an Australian military court. They were executed by firing squad.

Menzies' post-War vision fails at first test

We are now living in the post-war world which requires post-war ideas, and it is to our credit that we produced for the people a truly post-war policy. Although the people did not accept that policy to the extent of turning the government out, we emphasised post-war thinking and progressive ideas, while Labor dwelt rather heavily and sluggishly on the past. - Opposition leader Robert Menzies, Federal Council of the Liberal Party, Canberra, 29 October, 1946.

• The new Liberal Party had just been beaten at its first general election. There was already talk about forming a coalition with the Country Party.

1946: Fighting starts between the French, attempting to reassert pre-War control, and Viet Minh, near Hanoi, Vietnam.

Short cutter

Opening bat with shots all round the wicket but through lack of patience has only settled down once or twice this season. As a spin bowler, he sometimes sacrifices length for speed, causing worse figures. - Sphinx magazine, Perth, 1946.

• Perth Modern School's magazine was referring, of course, to the 15-year-old Bob Hawke.

War brides are homesick for Australia

I belong to an Australian wives' club in Cleveland, Ohio, and the girls talk of nothing but Australia. - Mrs Philip Bianco, Sydney, 22 September, 1947.

• Mrs Bianco was one of a party of war brides who returned to Australia with their American husbands as assisted immigrants.

'Two Wongs don't make a White'

There are many Wongs in the Chinese community, but I have to say - and I am sure that the honourable member for Balaclava will not mind my doing so - that two Wongs don't make a White. - Immigration Minister Arthur Calwell, House of Representatives, Canberra, 2 December, 1947.

• The honourable member for Balaclava's name was White, but our Asian neighbours didn't know that. Calwell's remark, made at a time when the White Australia policy still flourished, was received poorly to our north.


Israel established as a Jewish state on 8 May.

Malayan Emergency (ends 1960) begins.

1948-49: Battle of Huai-Hai, November-January, decisive encounter of the Chinese Civil War.

1949: First Commonwealth Conference, April, recognises King George VI as Head of the Commonwealth.

But New Australians are all white

No matter how these words ('Balts' and 'DPs') are used, they have an unpleasant ring. If they become embedded in the Australian vocabulary, they could easily come to be used disparagingly. - Immigration Minister Arthur Calwell, Canberra, 10 August, 1949.

• Calwell banned the use of such words in official correspondence. He feared they could take on the unpleasant undertones of 'Dago' and 'Reffo'. But the favoured official expression, New Australians, itself fell from favour among liberal people when newspapers persisted in using it selectively, particularly when describing people alleged to have committed social errors, such as murder.

Communist blasts Labor 'lackeys'

In this great struggle, the rightwing leaders of the Labor Party, headed by Chifley and Evatt, demonstrated that their real concern is the defence of capitalism at all costs, and in fulfilling these functions as the lackeys of the monopoly capitalists, these Labor traitors use every means and are prepared to go to any lengths to defeat the workers. - J.D. Blake, Communist Review , September, 1949.

• Blake reflected on the union's loss in what has been described as the last industrial-political strike of the post-War era. The strikers demands (a 35-hour week and long service leave provisions) do not seem unreasonable, but they occurred in mid-winter at a time of increasing prosperity. At one stage, Chifley ordered troops to work open cut black coal mines.

Labor begins Commonwealth Scholarships

Scholarships will be awarded entirely on merit, and all scholarships will entitle the holders to payment of tuition and other compulsory fees without any means test. In addition, scholars will be entitled to a living allowance subject to a means test. The means test, however, will be more liberal than the test which was applied under the interim scheme. - Reconstruction Minister J.J. Dedman, Canberra, 26 September, 1949.

• Commonwealth Scholarships opened universities to many more people and the number of undergraduates doubled to 30,000 by 1955.

Snowy scheme starts, Liberals boycott opening

I hope this scheme is one that will touch the imagination and the hearts of the people, so that they will develop the spirit of doing their best in whatever they do . - Prime Minister J.B. Chifley, Adaminaby (NSW), 17 October, 1949.

• Chifley spoke at the opening of the Snowy Mountains Scheme, Australia's biggest undertaking. The Liberal Party boycotted the ceremony.

Communist jailed over Red Menace statement

I would like to make it clear that it is no part of the outlook or the programme of the Communist Party to expect Soviet troops to come to Australia to establish Communism. - Communist Party chairman Lawrence Sharkey, Sydney, 17 October, 1949.

• Sharkey was given the maximum three years' jail under the Commonwealth Crimes Act. He told the court he had no feeling of guilt for what he had said. He had been charged with sedition by Federal Attorney-General Dr H.V. Evatt for having told the Sydney Daily Telegraph in March: If Soviet forces in pursuit of aggressors entered Australia, Australian workers would welcome them. Australian workers would welcome Soviet forces pursuing aggressors as the workers welcomed them throughout Europe when Red troops liberated them from the power of the Nazis. I support the statement made by the French Communist leader, Maurice Thorez. Invasion of Australia by forces of the Soviet Union seems very remote and hypothetical to me ...

Election eve, 1949: Menzies has a new image

But close political observers say that Mr Menzies is no longer an incubus to the Liberals. They say the 1949 model Menzies - which has abandoned its shiny duco for rough paint, its antelope upholstery for slightly battered fabrics, its purring Rolls Royce engine for more homely T-model Ford mechanism - is a vehicle which has started to appeal to the electors and has even won over the most of the most vocal detractors. - Columnist David McNicholl, Daily Telegraph , Sydney, 28 October, 1949.

• Menzies had undergone a remarkable transformation in eight years in the political wilderness, and appeared confident he would win power with his Country Party allies at the 10 December poll.

Liberal-Country Party wins election

Saturday's vote proved a striking illustration of both the fickleness and frailties of human nature. Throughout Australia, there are thousands of wage earners who have never been better off in their lives before. They had done so well that they regarded themselves as little capitalists and as has been the case in altogether too many instances in history, they turned from the Labor Party and supported vested interests with which they believed they were part and parcel. - National Advocate , Bathurst, 12 December, 1949.

• This hurt reaction from the newspaper in Ben Chifley's hometown was probably only partly correct. Postwar Australians, aspiring to more material things, were also tired of regimentation. The newly-formed Liberal-Country Party coalition held 74 seats in the House of Representatives. Labor still controlled the Senate.

I hope you are pleased with the result of your efforts in poisoning the public mind during the recent Federal election campaign. The Labor Party has three seats in Queensland and this is due, in large measure to the misuse of your episcopal power. - Message from former Labor government minister Arthur Calwell to Archbishop James Duhig. Brisbane, 12 December, 1949.

• Calwell believed Duhig had intrigued against Labor by encouraging the publication of an article on the dangers of communism and socialism in the Courier-Mail before the election.

Two men fighting at South Brisbane over the result of the election destroyed nine dessert plates, six dinner plates, 12 cups and saucers, two butter dishes, two sugar basins, a hurricane lamp, 12 spoons, 10 knives and forks, 11 soup spoons, 12 teaspoons, an alarm clock and a flyproof safe. - News report, Brisbane, 12 December, 1949.

• The men were each fined five pounds and ordered to pay seven pounds 10 shillings for damage to items aboard the dredge, Platypus , property of the Queensland government.

Bestowal of Federal Honours to mark the King's Birthday and New Year, abruptly discontinued when Mr Chifley became Prime Minister in 1945, will be resumed by the new Menzies government. - News report, Canberra, 12 December, 1949.

The new Australian Government has a unique opportunity to wipe the East Asian slate clean of the odium inspired by the outgoing Minister for Immigration, Mr Calwell. - Australian newspaper correspondent Denis Warner, Singapore, 12 December, 1949.

• Arthur Calwell, who entered Federal Parliament for the seat of Melbourne in 1940, was Minister for Information and Immigration, 1945-49. His espousal of strict Labor doctrine on 'White Australia' won him no friends after World War Two, particularly in Singapore and the Philippines. In 9 February, 1949, he told the House of Representatives: We can have a white Australia, we can have a black Australia, but a mongrel Australia is impossible, and I shall not take the first steps to establish the precedents which will allow the flood gates to be opened.


Dutch East Indies become Indonesia (except western New Guinea), 27 December.

International Monetary Fund established, 27 December.

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