Among the first casulties of the First World War were Australians fighting in the British Army.
“…it is simply rotten here in the bad weather up to our knees in mud and water and no chance of getting dry …”
How would you measure up?
With the outbreak of war in August 1914, Australia began an official recruiting effort to raise an army to send overseas. However, the Australian Imperial Force (AIF), as it was named, would not take just anyone. It was intended to be a force of skilled, experienced soldiers, chosen from “the fittest, strongest, and most ardent in the land”.1
The Australian War Memorial is currently undertaking a project to create a comprehensive digital archive of the ANZACs and their deeds, and of the wider Australian experience of war. The collections are selected from our extensive archives and reflect the experiences of Australian servicemen, nurses and civilians during the First World War, not just well-known personalities. This project will digitally preserve the Memorial’s collections as well as provide full copies for research on the Memorial’s website.
This is one in a series of blogs that covers the basic aspects of Australian uniforms during the First World War. There is a great diversity between nursing uniforms of the First World War. This variety is due to the fact that nursing uniforms were not centrally manufactured or issued in this war. Instead, nurses were given a uniform allowance to equip themselves and were allowed to make their own uniforms if they chose. This, and tailoring variations within Australia and overseas, led to considerable variety in the uniforms as can be seen in contemporary photographs.
Given it’s the final month of another chilly winter here in Canberra, I felt it was fitting to share with you one of the cosiest objects on display at the Memorial: Corporal Clifford Gatenby’s embroidered blanket. Its unique design has captivated visitors with its richly embroidered images from across the globe, as well as the more familiar symbols of Australia. It is also a rare example of an object of its size to have been created in a prisoner of war camp and to have survived.
“Your spirit astounds us
Your bravery inspires us
Your courage awes us
Your sacrifice strengthens us...”
Engraved jewellery was frequently presented to departing and returning soldiers by local shire councils and ‘Farewell’ or ‘Welcome Home’ committees during the First World War. Also known as ‘Tribute’ jewellery, these were presented in public ceremonies or dinners and often reported in the local press. With some diligent searching, these reports can be located by searching newspaper databases such as ‘Trove’. As the jewellery was engraved and dated, you can use this information to narrow your search.
In August 1915, the SS Warilda was requisitioned by the Commonwealth and fitted out as a transport ship. HMAT Warilda made two trips to Egypt and one to England, carrying more than 7,000 troops. Following the Warilda’s conversion to a hospital ship in July 1916, she spent a few months stationed in the Mediterranean, before being put to work transporting patients across the English Channel. Between late 1916 and August 1918 she made over 180 trips from Le Havre to Southampton, carrying approximately 80,000 patients.