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Friday, 12 December 2008
Foster Mirror - War Declared
Topic: GW - August 1914


13 August  1914, War is Declared, Foster Mirror

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 Foster Mirror, this did not happen until a week later, on Thursday, 13 August 1914.

Apart from being a major regional agricultural and forestry area, the South Gippsland region supported minor military training facilities. The Militia formations throughout the region included: Foster Rifle Club; Toora Rifle Club under the command of Captain RH Downing; Welshpool Rifle Club; Leongatha, 46th Australian Infantry Regiment,  "E" Company (part);and, Leongatha Rifle Club.

Foster was a regional centre which boasted of a bi-weekly newpaper. On Monday, it was the Foster and Toora Mirror incorporating the South Gippsland Shire Advocate, while on Thursday, it was just the Foster Mirror incorporating the South Gippsland Shire Advocate. It was priced at 3/- [3 shillings or in 2008 AUD, $60.84] per quarter. The newspaper was circulated around the South Gippsland region from Leongatha to Welshpool. Apart from some of the most breathtakingly beautiful forests and rural landscapes dotted by wonderfully rustic villages and hamlets, the area contains the natural wonder known as Wilson's Promontory. The following two pages are indicative of the life experienced in Gippsland when the Great War was declared.

War is Declared

This page explores the way the Foster Mirror dealt with the news.

Foster Mirror, Thursday, 13 August 1914, p. 2.

[Click on page for larger version -  1.056mb]

Patriotic Meeting

The lead story deals with a patriotic meeting held at Toora. The meeting was organised by one Jabez Richards, a former veteran of the Boer War. He ran a dairy farm at Toora and during the Boer War, served as a Private with the 3rd Victorian Bushmen embarking to South Africa on 10 March 1900 and returned to Australia, 6 June 1901.

At the meeting, the following motion was put:

That we now offer ourselves to serve as light horse or infantry in the Commonwealth, and would suggest that the proposed corps be used for the protection of the coast from Leongatha to Port Albert, a nucleus being started in Toora.

Proposed by Major HA Jacobs and seconded by Captain RH Downing.

A number of names were put forward of men who wanted to volunteers. They were:

Bert Hall, K McLellan, A Morgan, A Whitely, A. Crouch, H Thomas, V Warrington, CL Fox, L Pearce, L Baker, and Major HA Jacobs.

During the first flush of enthusiasm, many men who nominated to serve were not able to do so.  While the meeting envisaged 100 men volunteering in a Militia capacity, 64 men did volunteer to serve with the AIF. 16 men did not return home again. One man, Arthur Randolph Trimnell made a place for himself by taking part in one of the more romanticised aspect of the Great War, the Charge at Beersheba. The men are listed below with the unit they enlisted in and their ultimate fate.

Men from Toora who served with the AIF

11755 Gunner Harold Percy Foers, Field Artillery Brigade 2, Reinforcement 14, Returned to Australia.
27458 Gunner Daniel Martin Ireland, Field Artillery Brigade 2, Reinforcement 20, Roll of Honour.
10617 Gunner William John Squire, Field Artillery Brigade 2, Reinforcement 13, Roll of Honour.
6275 Gunner Andrew Swan, Field Artillery Brigade 4, Head-Quarters, Returned to Australia.
22823 Gunner Walter Darchy Mason, Field Artillery Brigade 7, Reinforcement 1, Returned to Australia.
20074 Gunner Edwin James Cyril Bryant, Field Artillery Brigade 8, Battery 32, Roll of Honour.
35052 Gunner Edgar Hector Guest Barrett, Field Artillery Brigade, Reinforcement 27, Returned to Australia.
34992 Gunner Thomas Brown Lovat Fraser, Field Artillery Brigade, Reinforcement 27, Returned to Australia.
38949 Gunner Arthur Ernest Bradly, Field Artillery Brigade, Reinforcement 33, Returned to Australia.
29767 Gunner Alfred George Pearce, Howitzer Brigade 119, Returned to Australia.
32064 Gunner Ronald Herbert Edwards, Howitzer Brigade 22, Reinforcement 10, Roll of Honour.
4849 Private James Harkness Knight, 14th Battalion, 15th Reinforcement, Returned to Australia.
1412 Private William Robert Silcock, 14th Battalion, 1st Reinforcement, Returned to Australia.
618 Private Frederick Burgh Ker, 22nd Battalion, C Company, Returned to Australia.
5651 Private Henry Victor Olsen, 22nd Battalion, 15th Reinforcement, Roll of Honour.
3639 Private Leonard Smith, 23rd Battalion, 8th Reinforcement, Roll of Honour.
1861 Private Norman Ireland, 31st Battalion, 2nd Reinforcement, Returned to Australia.
2186 Private Reginald Woorayl Barratt, 37th Battalion, 3rd Reinforcement, Roll of Honour.
1165 Private Robert John Cameron, 37th Battalion, D Company, Roll of Honour.
1183 Private Alfred William Foxon, 37th Battalion, D Company, Returned to Australia.
1361 Private Henry George Morphett, 39th Battalion, D Company, Returned to Australia.
1384 Private John William Rice, 39th Battalion, D Company, Returned to Australia.
2386 Private Charles Seton, 3rd Pioneer Battalion, Reinforcement 3, Returned to Australia.
1941 Private Ernest Martyn Ker, 46th Battalion, 3rd Reinforcement, Returned to Australia.
3103 Private Edwin John Silcock, 57th Battalion, 8th Reinforcement, Roll of Honour.
2016 Private Harry Walker, 57th Battalion, 3rd Reinforcement, Returned to Australia.
3250 Private William Henry Wintle, 57th Battalion, 8th Reinforcement, Roll of Honour.
3116 Private Harry Carlton Busby, 58th Battalion, 8th Reinforcement, Returned to Australia.
2204 Private Alfred Norman Milburn, 58th Battalion, 4th Reinforcement, Returned to Australia.
4731 Private Alexander Annand, 5th Battalion, 15th Reinforcement, Returned to Australia.
4136 Private William John Bishop, 5th Battalion, 13th Reinforcement, Roll of Honour.
702 Private George Thomas Dale, 5th Battalion, D Company, Roll of Honour.
Second Lieutenant Harold Dunstan George Ferres, 5th Battalion, 9th Reinforcement, Returned to Australia.
2843 Private Sidney James Humphrey, 5th Battalion, 9th Reinforcement, Roll of Honour.
5419 Private Reginald George Page, 5th Battalion, 18th Reinforcement, Returned to Australia.
3120 Private Samuel Henry Cameron, 60th Battalion, 8th Reinforcement, Returned to Australia.
2886 Private William Truscott, 6th Battalion, 9th Reinforcement, Returned to Australia.
2129 Private Leslie Robert Curram, 7th Battalion, 6th Reinforcement, Returned to Australia.
2793 Private Edwin Walter Gasson, 7th Battalion, 9th Reinforcement, Returned to Australia.
2232 Private William Michael James Guilfoyle, 7th Battalion, 6th Reinforcement, Returned to Australia.
3089 Private Laverick Hope Mcleod, 7th Battalion, 10th Reinforcement, Returned to Australia.
2497 Private Charles Edward Rooney, 7th Battalion, 7th Reinforcement, Returned to Australia.
Second Lieutenant John Kenneth Sorrell, 8th Battalion, 25th Reinforcement, Roll of Honour.
55691 Private Norman Abel Spokes, 7th General (Victorian) Reinforcements, Roll of Honour.
17346 Private Alfred Nailer Jacobs, Army Medical Corps February 1917 Reinforcements, Returned to Australia.
4620 Private Thomas Donald Dale, Light Horse General Service Reinforcements, February 1918, Returned to Australia.
791 Private Walter Atkin, Machine Gun Company 2, Reinforcement 15, Roll of Honour.
680 Private David Leslie Liddell, Machine Gun Company 6, Reinforcement 12, Returned to Australia.
611 Private Charles James Warner, Machine Gun Company 6, Reinforcement 10, Returned to Australia.
53089 Private Frank Rodgers, Queensland Reinforcement 2, Returned to Australia.
6118 Private Robert Wallace Lee, Tunnelling Companies, December 1916 Reinforcements, Returned to Australia.
6119 Private Roy Edward Lee, Tunnelling Companies, December 1916 Reinforcements, Returned to Australia.
5385 Sapper Arnold Blandeston Mason, 7th Field Company Engineers, Reinforcement 2, Returned to Australia.
2997 Trooper Percy Bucknall, 4th Light Horse Regiment, 22nd Reinforcement, Returned to Australia.
1681 Trooper William Lamb, 4th Light Horse Regiment, 12th Reinforcement, Returned to Australia.
1264 Trooper Arthur Ernest Peterson, 4th Light Horse Regiment, 9th Reinforcement, Roll of Honour.
2389 Trooper Arthur Randolph Trimnell, 4th Light Horse Regiment, 16th Reinforcement, Charged at Beersheba, Returned to Australia.
3049 Trooper Wilfred James Binding, 8th Light Horse Regiment, 23rd Reinforcement, Returned to Australia.
2584 Trooper Nathan Clark, 8th Light Horse Regiment, 18th Reinforcement, Returned to Australia.
707 Trooper Albert John May, 8th Light Horse Regiment, 2nd Reinforcement, Returned to Australia.
488 Trooper Ernest Singleton, 9th Light Horse Regiment, C Squadron, Returned to Australia.
1943 Trooper Cyril Crameri, 13th Light Horse Regiment, 12th Reinforcement, Returned to Australia.
158 Trooper Harold John Curram, 13th Light Horse Regiment, C Squadron, Returned to Australia.
1788 Trooper Albert Edward Smith, 13th Light Horse Regiment, 9th Reinforcement, Returned to Australia.


Letters to the editor

Letters to the editor reveal as much about the thoughts of the time as do advertisements. Two letters deal with issues that seem local but are indicative of the social mood prevailing at the time.

Letter #1:

PF Sterling of St Mary's in Yarram writes about sectarianism. It would appear that an anti-Catholic rumour was passed around suggesting that the Catholics would unite and vote as one block in the up coming Federal elections. Mr Stirling's assurance could easily be given as even the notion of such a voting caucus is preposterous. However, it does give a window into the paranoia that existed at the time which induced Mr Sterling to write such a letter.

Letter #2:

On more mundane matters, the letter of Mr GY Hendy regarding the Foster Rifle Club reveals some real problems involved in mobilisation of the AIF. He reports that the Foster Rifle Club has been ordered to cease any rifle practice and to hand in all available ammunition. This is an interesting insight into the the Militia status of the Rifle Club movement. Ammunition and rifles were supplied to rifle clubs by the Department of Defence for the purposes of training men to shoot. An order relating to the return of ammunition implies that there was a shortage of ammunition for AIF troop purposes. The only reservoir of ammunition readily available at short notice was through the rifle clubs.

The second issue raised in the Hendy letter related to drilling the members into proper military drill. At the time, specific members of the Australian Instructional Staff had been allocated to participate in drill training members of the rifle clubs. The letter reveals that when reality met theory, there was a great shortfall. At least one member of a rifle club had to be trained in the fundamentals of military drill and that at meetings, military drill was part of the activity conducted by the rifle club. Mr Hendy reveals that in the reality, no one at the Foster Rifle Club trained to be a drill instructor and so, the military drill part of their program slid away or was never invoked during the period leading up to the Great War.  

Foster Activities, 13 August 1914

While the war announcement was a significant story, the life of South Gippsland 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 Gippsland region.


 Foster Mirror, Thursday, 13 August 1914, p. 3.

[Click on page for larger version -  1.088mb]


Market Train

The important economic indicator of the region was the train service. The market train from Foster to Leongatha was scheduled to depart from Foster at 9am on Thursday 13 August. It was all stops from Foster to Leongatha which included the towns of Hoddle Range, Fish Creek, Boys, Buffalo, Stoney Creek, Meeniyan, Tarwin, Koonwarra. The Market Train was the key export infrastructure that extracted the produce from the region and moved it to the markets where the commodities were sold. This train was the key piece of infrastructure responsible for maintaining the economic wealth within the region. Mundane though it may appear, it is often the mundane that is the key to prosperity and success.

Leongatha Labor Colony

Illustrative of the mundane playing a key role in economic success was the news that the Leongatha Labor Colony exported 500 cases of apples to Glasgow over the 1913/14 financial year. At an average price of 10/- per case, the income was about £2,500 or in 2008 AUD, $100,000.

The story that lies behind the Leongatha Labor Colony is even more intriguing. The following summary is an entry from the book by RCS Trahair called Utopias and Utopians: An Historical Dictionary, (1999), p. 235:


Leongatha Labor Colony was the most successful of many utopian experiments during the 1893 depression in Victoria, Australia. It belonged to an antiutopian tradition of employing workhouse labor. A heavily timbered site, eighty miles southeast of Melbourne was chosen to establish the colony. It was to be supported by public subscription and sale of produce, but instead it had to he subsidized by the government (1893-1898). The colony mainly existed to give unemployed men temporary work at subsistence wages. Middle-class Melhournians saw the colony was a utopian lifestyle for the undeserving poor, while the poor saw it more as an English workhouse. The colony was not self-supporting as planned. and skilled agricultural labor had to be brought in. In its first year the average stay was about three months. Altogether nearly 3.500 unemployed people and families settled communally in Leongatha. In April 1903 the colony was closed by government proclamation. When poverty did not disappear the venture was reproclaimed in 1904. It offered a cheap way to ensure that men did not starve. Men were dismissed from the colony as soon as they had earned £2. The colony cost the government almost £21,000 and helped 9,300 people over twenty-six years. It ceased in May 1919, the government took it over for veterans of World War I, and the land was given to soldiers who had served the British empire.

The region was part of some radical solutions to major social problems of the time, facts which underly the story within the Foster Mirror.

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?

If this entry or other entries inspires you to produce further insights, please feel free to post a response and it may become an acknowledged part of the article.


Further Reading:

Complete list of Newspaper References for 5 August 1914


Citation: Foster Mirror - War Declared

Posted by Project Leader at 7:27 PM EAST
Updated: Saturday, 13 December 2008 7:56 PM EAST

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