Recruiting banner : South Coast Waratahs

Accession Number RELAWM12471
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Flag
Physical description Silk; Cotton; Gold bullion braid; Silver bullion braid
Location Main Bld: First World War Gallery: Western Front 1916: Homefront
Maker McIlwraith, (given names unknown)
Rodway, D
Place made Australia: New South Wales, Nowra
Date made 12 November 1915-26 November 1915
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Tussore silk banner with appliqued waratah and lettering, and a braid edged scroll. Red silk waratah flower has petals hand-painted on to it in a darker red and has then been appliqued to the banner with buttonhole-stitched red embroidery cotton. Olive green silk stem and two leaves has been appliqued to the banner with buttonhole-stitched olive green embroidery cotton. Across the bottom of the waratah stem is a scroll edged with narrow gold braid. The extreme right end of the scroll is edged with silver braid, apparently because the supply of gold had run out. Within the scroll are grey-painted letters, 'SOUTH COAST WARATAHS', over embroidered in black embroidery cotton buttonhole-stitch to give a shaded effect. The top and bottom edges of the banner have a border of cream silk cord with a loop at each end to take the carrying poles.

History / Summary

A recruitment method that enjoyed popularity during the First World War in 1915 and 1916 was the 'snowball' recruiting march. Beginning with a small group of men, a march would follow a chosen route, usually through rural communities, finishing at a town or city with a training camp. At each town or community visited civic receptions and recruitment meetings would be held to welcome the marching volunteers and encourage local men to enlist, and so the march would 'snowball' in size.

This banner was made by the Nowra Branch of the Red Cross Society for the South Coast Waratahs Recruiting March. Captain Blow, who had been selected to lead the march, was presented with the banner on 30 November 1915 by the branch's secretary Miss Emma Bice and its treasurer Mrs Ruby Hayes. The Waratahs left Nowra on 30 November 1915. Approximately 120 men enlisted as the march progressed north along the coast to Sydney where it arrived on 18 December 1915.

The men underwent three months military training at Liverpool Camp and on its completion returned home for a short spell of leave. At one of the major functions held to farewell them the banner was placed in the care of Mrs Nea Rodway, the president of the Nowra branch of the Red Cross Society. She stated she would ensure that it was given 'pride of place' in the society's workroom. Waratah recruits began to depart for overseas service in March 1916 and about thirty were killed. This is one half of the original two-sided banner. The other half is held by the Shoalhaven Historical Society Incorporated.

The enlistment figures for snowball marches tended to be low considering the amount of effort that went into organising them and they soon fell out of favour. An effort was made to revive them in 1918 to boost falling enlistment numbers, when a series of 'Freedom' marches were held, but they were largely unsuccessful.