Thursday 16 October 2008 by Pen Roberts. 2 comments
Personal Stories, New acquisitions, Collection

Almost a century ago this Saturday, a Welcome Home function was held at the Sydney Town Hall for members of the NSW Cadets Coronation Contingent. The cadets, part of the Australian Coronation Contingent, had just returned from attending the London coronation of King George V, held on 22 June 1911.

Programme for the Welcome Home function. Souvenirs 3/18/1.

Large numbers of people from across the Commonwealth converged on Westminster for the festivities. This was a time when the concept of ‘King and Country' was still fundamental to Australian life. To send their sons on such a long and expensive journey was a matter of great honour for the families involved.

Senior Cadet William Davison (Bill) Walster from the New South Wales country town of Junee, was only fifteen at the time. For Bill it must have been a great adventure. Thanks to his family, we have the story of his coronation journey as told in objects and photographs now held in the Memorial's National Collection.

Leaving Australia in May, the group travelled with the shipping company, The Aberdeen Line, aboard T.S.S. Themistocles. A brochure of the time illustrates the ship's elegant cafe.

Cafe of T.S.S. Themistocles. Souvenirs 3/18/1.

Once in London, Bill spent time at his grandmother's home in Epworth. A photo was taken of him in ceremonial uniform in her garden, prior to the Coronation.

cas.awm.gov.au/photograph/P05184.003 Senior Cadet Bill Walster in the garden of his grandmother, Mrs Alice Walster. P05184.003

There were various cadet duties to perform, such as the raising of a flag at Crystal Palace, and also functions to attend. This photo captures members of the Australian Coronation Contingent on their travels around England.

cas.awm.gov.au/photograph/P05625.001 Members of the Australian Coronation Contingent boarding a train at East Croydon and Coulsdon station. Major George Watkin Wynne (second from right) was the Commanding Officer of the Contingent. P05625.001

From a Garden Party to a session of the ‘The Prince and the Beggar Maid' at the Grand Theatre, Brighton, their busy schedule is reflected in these souvenirs. Their final function was a Farewell Concert at the Hove Town Hall on 26 August.

Collection of souvenirs from Bill Walster\'s trip. Souvenirs 3/18/1.

Amongst Bill's souvenirs from the trip is this small box of cards, descriptive of the social etiquette of exchanging visiting cards. These cards were handed out by the cadets who were on the trip.

Visiting cards. Souvenirs 3/18/1.

Within three years of this journey, many of these cadets had joined the Australian Imperial Force. Australia's relationship with Britain was soon to change forever.

3465 Private Bill Walster joined the AIF in 1915 and served with 4 Battalion.

T.S.S. Themistocles the ship they had travelled on to England in 1911, was requisitioned for the First World War effort as a troopship.

cas.awm.gov.au/photograph/P05184.005 Private Bill Walster, 4 Battalion, taken in 1915. He is wearing his Coronation Medal ribbon. P05184.005

Comments

Ron Thomas

I have already placed under the history of the Australian Cadet Movement photos of my father, a 1911 senior coronation cadet. I would appreciate contact with the web master of this page. It appears my father's diary of the event is the only existing personal recond.

Brian Slater

my great grandfather Henry Maling Slater embarked on this ship on the fourth day of August 1917 with the 3rdpioneer battalion,reinforcement 7 to die of wounds the third day of October 1918 he is buried in France his reg number is 3372 i hope this helps Ron LEST WE FORGET