Sunday, January 19, 2014

5000 Poppies: a community tribute of respect and remembrance

There are currently a number of blogs and websites in existence to commemorate the forthcoming centenary of the First World War or Great War - there are the official Government sites - some are listed in the links on the right and there are others created by community groups or  individuals such as the 5000 Poppies: a community tribute of respect and remembrance blog

This is what the 5000 Poppies blog is about: From its association with poppies flowering in the spring of 1915 on the battlefields of Belgium, France and Gallipoli, the poppy has become a symbol of both great loss in war and hope for those left behind. As part of the 2015 Anzac Commemoration, the 5000 Poppies project will be “planting” a field of more than 5000 poppies in Fed Square Melbourne as a stunning visual tribute to Australian servicemen and women for more than a century of service in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations. We are inviting all crafters to participate in this meaningful and heartfelt project.

People can hand make as many poppies as they wish  by crocheting, knitting, felting or sewing and the 5000 Poppies blog provides patterns and will provide details of workshops.

This is such a lovely idea which anyone could get involved with and it reminds me that 100 years ago, the women on the home front would have been busy doing the same sorts of home sewing and crafting - knitting socks and balaclavas for the men men serving overseas; knitting clothes for family members, crocheting rugs, making clothes for themselves and their children and even re-making clothes to fit - when times were tight 'hand me downs' were the order of the day.  All the information you need to participate is on the 5000 Poppies blog.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

ANZAC - a history of the word

We call the Australian and New Zealand troops the Anzacz - but what does it mean and when was the word first used? The Department of Veteran Affairs has this explanation of the history of the word.

Historically, ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) was an acronym devised by Major General William Birdwood's staff in Cairo in early 1915.  It was used for registering correspondence for the new corps and a rubber stamp was cut using the letters A.&N.Z.A.C.  Australia's Official War Historian of the Gallipoli campaign, Charles Bean, ascribed the origin of the acronym to a British Officer of the Army Service Corps, Lieutenant AT White.  Another British Officer, Major CM Wagstaff, suggested running the letters together – ANZAC – as a code word for the corps.

After the landing at Gallipoli, General Birdwood requested that the position held by the Australians and New Zealanders on the peninsula be called 'Anzac' to distinguish it from the British position at Helles.  Permission was also sought to name the little bay, where the majority of the corps had come ashore on 25 April 1915, ‘Anzac Cove'.  The letters now were upper and lower case, indicating that the original acronym had already found a use beyond that of a military code word or corps designation.  Not surprisingly, the word was soon applied to the men of the corps who became 'Anzacs'.  There is substantial contemporaneous documentary evidence such as diaries and letters from those soldiers showing that they used the term in upper and lower case.

The Anzac Book, which was published in 1916, was written in 1915 by the Anzacs themselves, while still at Gallipoli.  In their own writings and illustrations the word is frequently spelt as 'Anzac'.

By the time Charles Bean wrote his two volume official history of the Gallipoli campaign in the 1920s, the word 'Anzac', in upper and lower case, was well established.  Indeed, the histories were called The Story of Anzac, not ANZAC.  In the Glossary at the back of volume II, Bean outlined the various usages of the word during World War I.  After Gallipoli, it was again used to refer to the two large Australian and New Zealand units in France and Belgium – 1st Anzac Corps and 2nd Anzac Corps.  On the Western Front also, British soldiers used the term 'Anzacs' to describe the Australian and New Zealand soldiers, although strictly speaking the only men entitled to that description were those who had actually served at Anzac (Gallipoli).  That service was proudly denoted by a brass 'A' on a man’s unit shoulder flash.

Department of Veteran Affairs website

The earliest mention I can find of the word 'Anzac' in a local paper is from the Lang Lang Guardian of December 15, 1915. It is reproduced below.  It is interesting also because it gives us an glimpse of the sort of fund raising activities that were being undertaken by local communities to raise funds for the war effort.

Lang Lang Guardian December 15 1915  News-article119514977

Australian Army War Diaries

The Australian War Memorial ( has digitised war diaries from the First War. They are the diaries of the Unit's administration, operations and activities and rarely contain information about individuals. However, they can give you a real feel for what was happening on a day-to-day basis and will be of immense interest if you had relatives serving in a particular unit. The soldier is my great uncle Alf Weatherhead , who was in the 23rd Battalion.  Alfred Herbert Weatherhead (September 20, 1895 - May 3, 1976)  was the son of Horatio and Eleanor (nee Hunt) Weatherhead and he enlisted on February 13, 1915; served mainly in France and was discharged June 29, 1919. Alf suffered from shell shock after the war, operated a saw mill at North Tynong and lived for  a time at Morwell.

The map, below,  is from the diary of the 23rd Battalion and it formed part of Battle Order 20 from July 20, 1916. The diaries are on the Australian War Memorial web site - follow this link. These are an amazing resource and well worth exploring.

Welcome to our new blog

Welcome to our new blog. The aim of this blog  is to be a  forum for commemorating and recording the impact of World War One on the people in the region now covered by the City of Casey and Shire of Cardinia - it will cover life on the home front, information about local soldiers and other personnel such as nurses and the development of local groups such as the Red Cross and Patriotic Groups. It will also look at the aftermath of the War and how communities commemorated their losses and service by the creation of Avenues of Honour and other memorials.

This won't be a chronological work - it will be an eclectic look at the Great War and it's impact on our area. However, our blog, along with the general community will commemorate the centenary of a number of events over the next four years such as  - August 4, 1914 when England declared War against Germany and the Australian Prime Minister, Andrew Fisher, declared our support and this was the official start of World War One. Voluntary recruitment for the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) which began on August 10, 1914 and the Australian Red Cross which was established on August 13. The First Division of the AIF sailed from Albany, W.A for Egypt on November 1, 1914. Australian troops landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey on April 25, 1915 and they remained there until December 20 that year when the last Australian troops were evacuated from the Peninsula.  On April 7, 1916 Australian troops took up positions on the Western Front in France. On June 6, 1916 the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia (RSSILA), the forerunner of the current Returned and Services League of Australia (RSL), was formed. July 19, 1916 was the start of the Battle of Fromelles and the War officially ended on November 11, 1918. (Source:

Unveiling of the Cranbourne War Memorial. The Memorial was officially unveiled on August 27, 1939, ironically only about a week before Australia was once more at War, as it was on September 3 that the Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, announced we were at war with Germany. The picture is from the Cranbourne Shire Historical Society collection.

If you want general information about Australia and the Great War, then a good place to start is the Australian War Memorial website This site has a history of our involvement in all conflicts; information about the various Units that served in the War, including the Unit War diaries,  and the nominal rolls and embarkation rolls.

The full records for World War One service personnel can be found on the National Archives of Australia website  The Federal Government has established a website  Gallipoli and the Anzacs  which records information about Australia's involvement in the War especially the Gallipoli campaign. We also have a list of other relevant websites on the right hand side.