Topic: GW - August 1914
Due to the time zone differences, the declaration of war by Britain against Germany, while officially recorded as 4 August 1914, in terms of Australia, did not happen until Wednesday, 5 August 1915. For the The Walhalla Chronicle, this did not happen until the end of the week, on Friday, 7 August 1914.
Apart from being a major regional agricultural area, the Walhalla region supported minor military training facilities. The Militia formations throughout the region included only the Walhalla Rifle Club
Walhalla was a regional centre which boasted of a weekly newspaper published every Friday called The Walhalla Chronicle incorporating the Moondarra Advertiser. The Walhalla Chronicle was priced at 3d [3 pence or in 2008 AUD, $5] per edition. The newspaper was circulated around the Walhalla region including the locations and towns of Walhalla, Happy Go Lucky, Erica, Jacob Creek, Moondarra, and Cooper's Creek.
Walhalla Chronicle Office, 2008
[From: By permission from Stevage]
The area is mountainous with Walhalla located in a valley. The region presents a diverse landscape of alpine wilderness. In 1914, Walhalla was the primary city in the region with 15 hotels, 40 shops, two breweries, seven churches, a school with over 500 students. Its wealth was based upon gold which was discovered in 1863. At its peak, Walhalla had a population in excess of 4,000 people. It was classified as the wealthiest town in Victoria. Now with a population of about 20 people, it is a town frozen in time. The following two pages are indicative of the life experienced in the Walhalla region when the Great War was declared.
War is Declared
This page explores the way The Walhalla Chronicle dealt with the news.
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Federal Electorate - Gippsland
Federal Representative - Mr James Bennett
State Electorate - Walhalla
State Representative - Mr Samuel Barnes
Municipality of Walhalla - Founded in 1886
PH Miles (President)
Secretary and Rate Collector - H McC Kelly
Health Officer - Dr F Hayes
Inspector of Nuisances - John Butler
Oddfellows - W Trembath, Secretary
Foresters - G Masters, Secretary
Mechanics' Institute - AE Rodda, Secretary
Walhalla District Hospital
GD Smith, President
M Riley, Medical Officer
JJ Smith, Treasurer
HH Ryan, Secretary
Miss Armstrong, Matron.
Editorial - Appalled by the War Declaration
The editorial of The Walhalla Chronicle is clearly indicating a devastation with the announcement and a dread at the result. The editorial bears full transcription.
The feelings of every man who thinks and who is capable of realising what a European war means under modern conditions of fighting, must have been thrilled during the past few days, as the declaration of war by one nation against another was announced in natural sequence, culminating in the news that the British Empire had been forced to join in the general eruption. The dreadful possibilities involved have temporarily paralysed the great nations of the earth, and business and commerce, even in Australia, on the remotest confines of the Empire, are soon likely to be seriously affected. It is an appalling condemnation of our boasted civilisation, that in this 20th Century we cannot find means of allaying the passions of men, and of settling our national misunderstandings, on the basis of equity and peace.
This editorial will never date. Some of the expressions are out dated. The term "thrilled" has taken on new meanings as the century progressed. In the context of this article, the term evokes the notion of horror and terror rather than the newer meaning which is more synonymous with exciting.
Things are different at Moondarra
In contrast to the reflective editorial, W. Whitney of Moondarra, penned this piece of doggerel on 4 August 1914 urging the British to join in the fight against the Germans. In Australia, the following day saw this wish come to fruition.
The war-clouds darkly race,
Across thy sky of freedom
They ominously chase.
Draw the sword Britannia,
The ocean shouts to thee,
"Clear the decks for action,"
If you would still be free.
Remember Holstein, England,
Alsatia's mountains, blue
The hour to strike is on us
Or else for ever rue.
Draw the sword Britannia.
Speed on they trusty fleet,
Bear your part in British heart
Or bow at German feet.
Oscar Wilde's famous invocation comes to mind when reading this poem. Wilde said: "When the gods wish to punish us they answer our prayers." One can only speculate over thoughts of W. Whitney in August 1915, a year after this prayer was granted.
Light Horsemen from Walhalla
Below is the brief list of the men from Walhalla who served overseas with the Light Horse.
- 1218 Trooper Robert William Chance, 13th Light Horse Regiment, 6th Reinforcement.
- 2334 Trooper John Clements Guatta, 4th Light Horse Regiment, 16th Reinforcement.
- 617 Trooper William Edwards, 8th Light Horse Regiment, 1st Reinforcement.
All men returned to Australia.
Walhalla Activities, 7 August 1914
While the war announcement was a significant story, the life of Walhalla did not halt but just kept going on, as it did for the duration of the war. This page details quite clearly some of the life that occurred within the south Walhalla region.
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The year may be different but some things never change
Narnargoon boy James Patrick Canty, 13, watched his father blowing up stumps with gelignite. Impressed with the explosive power, he purloined some gelignite to demonstrate to his friends the explosive qualities of the material. He placed the gelignite on a stump and lit it. The resulting explosion was sufficient to damage the boy's face. In addition, he lost an eye. His friends escaped any injury by keeping a distance from the gelignite.
Again, some things never change.
The following was a letter purportedly sent to a Sydney newspaper.
NSW is a glorious country, bounded on the north by taxes, on the south by strikes, on the east by the Arbitration Court and on the west by the Trades Hall. It is noted for the high cost of living, sport worshippers, work shunners, never pays, prize fighters, land and mining swindles, red-tape and caucus rule. It is the best place on earth for drobes and idlers, who readily respond to the beck and call of paid agitators, for whom the industrious and thrifty are taxed, taxed, and taxed to desperation.
This particular complaint seems to appear every year in one form or another. It is updated to suit the times but the complaint is still the same. People are too lazy and no one wants to work. Unionists rule every aspect of life. Every honest person is taxed beyond endurance. The reality in 1914 was the same as in 2008, it was never true in any sense. But it makes for a wonderful grizzle and one things Australians do love to do, it is grizzle.
No golden era in Australian history
Two sisters driving their horse and sulky were bailed up by two armed robbers. Misses Catherine and Flora McLean had £2/19/- with them as they drove along the Stockton Road near Williamstown in NSW. After being bailed up, their money and sulky was stolen.
Many people reflect over the days of yore and imagine that there was a golden era in Australian history when people were law abiding and the streets were safe to travel. It was never true in 1914 any more than it is fact today. Despite all the troubles, Australian life is far safer today than a hundred years ago. But, it is hard to disprove the fantasy which believes the contrary.
The history revealed by a newspaper
A newspaper is a historical snapshot of a particular area on the day the newspaper was published. They contain a wealth of information which can be extracted and used according to the individual taste. The above extracts give an example of the depth of information contained within a simple rural newspaper. Every story contains many more stories, each layered upon each other like onion peels. As one peels away one skin, more appear to reveal a vibrant community brimming with history.
Do you want to take part in uncovering and writing Australian history?
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Citation: The Walhalla Chronicle - War Declared