BAG History Group / Empire Loyalty
Coromandel Valley Red Cross Club
In 2014, the focus of the Blackwood Action Group History Subcommittee’s regular articles was on celebrating the 100 year anniversary of the 1914 Blackwood Magazine.
"Blackwood was out to demonstrate its loyalty to the Empire"
The First World War exploded onto the world stage on 4th August 1914. The events that quickly followed led ultimately to the involvement of our local communities although other more pressing issues concerned Australians from July-August 1914.
The dry conditions throughout Australia’s cereal growing regions were becoming dire. Locally, below average rainfall and above average temperatures were recorded in every month of the year, affecting the district’s agriculturists. Shortages of water needed for road making meant teams of casual labourers were seeking alternative employment opportunities.
Australia’s federal government was in electoral mode with party leaders pledging support for Britain in the coming conflict. A strong sense of patriotism existed throughout Australia with many people considering themselves to be British. The rush to join up saw more than 50,000 volunteers enlist before the end of the year. An attractive wage of 6/- per day was seen as good in times of high unemployment.
Before the end of August the Australian Red Cross had been established with Patriotic Fund groups springing up throughout the nation, including Blackwood. Although barely a month into the conflict, a patriotic Fund-raising event was held at the ‘Boys Club Hall’ on the 28th August. This was extensively reported in the September issue of The Blackwood Magazine, “Blackwood was out to demonstrate its loyalty to the Empire.” “The national flags of the Allies adorned the walls and platform, but not content with that, Mr Tester did a roaring trade in national emblems: it was really remarkable how often he had the ‘last one’ on hand!” “The evening’s program went with a ‘vim’: even the school children from Coromandel and Belair seemed to realise that something special was required of them and delighted the audience with their rendering of patriotic choruses.” (The Blackwood Magazine, p199).
The patriotic concert included performances by the Blackwood Band, the Male Choir, a duet “The Battle Eve” by R.B. Reid and C.V. Wickens and a stirring rendition of Kipling’s “Recessional” by L.G. Moody.
September’s issue of The Blackwood Magazine commenced with an article titled “The Roll of Honour” and listed those nine locals who had joined the Light Horse and a further 3 who had joined the Infantry in what was known as the Australian Expeditionary Force.
Few in August 1914 actually expected the war to last very long so the rush to enlist was on in earnest. Blackwood was extremely proud of its first enlistees, the editor of The Blackwood Magazine asking how many townships of similar size could equal or better the number of men from the district who had been accepted for active service.
The first article of the August issue is titled, “The War” in which its author writes: “No-one will seriously attempt to minimise the evils of war. Pain and death for the combatants and suffering and agony for many innocent non-combatants - these must be, and are patent to all. On the other hand we have a stirring up of all the best elements in the national life and displays of heroism and self-sacrifice for which we look in vain in times of peace, and a chastening and steadying of men’s minds which are all to the good." The writer concludes in saying, “Let us see to it that our national and private life and our ideals are kept so clean and healthy that, while we escape the evil we do not miss the good things which a war may bring” (The Blackwood Magazine, p169).
By 1919, the families of many local men would question just what good things the war did bring.
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