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Nationalism and Identity

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Fundraising Efforts in Fairfield during WWI











Patriotic pageants were organised to raise funds for soldiers’ “comforts” (food and knitted goods) and to maintain support for Australia’s involvement in the war. They were frequently held during World War I.

Even the horses and carts were dressed up for the patriotic procession in support of the allies in World War I. The photographs (from an album belonging to Geroge Stirton) were taken from an album of cards sent to him while he was in the Middle East during WWI where he lost his leg.  Dressed for a pageant ,the little girl dressed as “peace” wrote to Stirton ” Dear Mr. Stirton. From your little friend Gwennie Eddy. Fairfield, NSW, Australia”.


Gladys Quartermain (7 years old) dressed as “Little Nurse” participated in the Patriotic pageants in Parramatta, to raise funds for soldiers Comforts Fund and to maintain support for Australia’s involvement in the war. Gladys rode with friends Phyllis and Constance Holmes on a decorated horse lorry.

Constance, dressed as the spirit of Belgium (or France) in the patriotic procession. Constance Holmes married dairyman Robert Crosby of Homebush. The couple had two sons, Douglas and Robert and a daughter Florence (she died about 32 years of age ).The Crosby family moved to Bossley Park in 1941 where they managed what was to be Fairfield City’s last major dairy farm at Abbotsbury; the farm was closed in 1991.

Phillis Holmes dressed as “Brittania”, also participated in the patriotic pageants.She was married to Alan Calcohoun (a bag merchant from Granville who was a returned soldier in WWI).

Australians in World War I: Home Front

Who would have believed before the war, a Perth clergyman asked his congregation in 1916, ‘that the sons and daughters of this sunny land were capable of the patriotism, self-sacrifice, patience, discipline, cool unfaltering courage, and generous sympathy our soldiers have shown on the battlefield, and that their mothers, wives and daughters have shown in the patient watching and service at home?’
That patient service was usually unpaid, and it was largely performed by women. Some put on white dresses and laboured long hours as overworked aides in military hospitals and convalescent homes, in compensation earning a percentage of the esteem given to a soldier or female nurse in uniform. But far greater numbers embarked on the unglamorous but equally important projects of consoling soldiers fighting at the front and maimed soldiers who had returned home, and of supporting soldiers’ dependants and also some of the millions of Belgian, French and other allied refugees who had lost everything escaping from the fighting. Their labour centred on funding, packing and posting packages of ‘comforts’, from pyjamas to pianos.

Much of the work was coordinated by the Australian branch of the British Red Cross or by an Australian Comforts Fund, and the output was astonishing. Red Cross volunteers sent more than ten million cigarettes to Australian soldiers, and half a million shirts from their central depot – the Governor-General’s ballroom – alone. Many of the clothes sent were home-made, often knitted. ‘Every woman, everywhere, was knitting’, Martin Boyd wrote after the war, ‘in the theatre, in the concert hall, in the trains, in the trams, there was the incessant click-click of needles, and the socks and comforters grew to khaki and grey completion, and, conveying some delicate fragrance of their makers, were sent to be stained with mud or soaked in sacrificial blood in Gallipoli or France’.

According to Historian Joan Beaumont acoount, by 1918, there would be 2200 Red Cross branches across the country involving 82,000 women and 20,000 men and boys . . . Ultimately, the Australian Red Cross would send nearly 400,000 Red Cross parcels to Germany, Holland, Austria and Switzerland, including some 320,389 pyjamas, 457,311 shirts, 130,842 pairs of underpants, 1,163,049 pairs of socks, 142,708 mufflers, 83,047 pairs of mittens and 3000 cases of ‘prepared old linen’ for surgical dressings and bandages. To the Western Front, it would send 10,500,000 cigarettes, 241,232 ounces of tobacco, 94,007 toothbrushes, 57,691 pipes, more than 65,000 tins of cocoa-and-milk and coffee-and-milk, and even 869 Primus stoves.

Australians gave nearly £14 million in total to the funds – almost as much as the federal government spent on the first year of the war. The people of Goulburn gave £1000 in just one month when the war began, a sum with the resonance (if not the purchasing power) of a million dollars today; the people of Cootamundra gave twelve times that amount in just two weeks. Not all donations were for humanitarian purposes, and not every fund dispensed comforts. An Air Squadron Fund raised more than £100,000 (the same amount that might be spent on refitting a hospital) toward the cost of building warplanes, with some machines paid for individually by wealthy rural families. Nor were all voluntary workers women. The father of the three Douglas boys from Erskineville was general secretary of the Polish and Serbian Fund, and coordinator of the Railway and Tramway Patriotic Display Committee. Children were active too, from the two Bairnsdale boys who raised £32 (what a train driver might earn in a fortnight, counting overtime) by raffling a model they’d made of a cannon in Dover Castle to the Muswellbrook teenager who knitted a hundred pairs of socks, thirty pairs of mittens and other items in a single year. For many children, school work came a poor second during the war years to saving the empire and helping war refugees.

[Source: Australians in World War I: Home Front — http://www.anzacportal.dva.gov.au/history/publications/australians-world-war-i-home-front/chapter-9-patriotic-funds &   “Broken Nation: Australians in the Great War” by Joan Beaumont, Allen& Unwin, 2014, pages 332-334]



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