The Anzac Day service was held at Foley Park at 7.30am on Wednesday 25 April. The service was led by Rev Mark Wormell, Rector of St John’s, Glebe. Max Solling addressed the gathering, and his speech is reproduced below.
Max Solling’s Anzac Day address
This morning I’d like to share some thoughts about Glebe at War between 1914 and 1918. News of the outbreak of war reached Glebe on 5 August 1914 where it was enthusiastically greeted at Glebe Council chambers by Mayor Frederick Artlett who offered the Minister of Defence ‘all parks, pavilions, buildings and grounds under council’s control for the purposes of military training’.
But war seemed remote initially. It was not until the Gallipoli landing on 25 April 1915 that Glebe’s War effort began to take on a sense of purpose and direction. The community quickly mobilised to conduct house-to-house collections for the Patriotic Fund, dances and euchre nights to raise funds. Local women dominated these efforts with Eva Rainford especially prominent singing at concerts for the Belgian Fund, and the Red Cross branch assembled and sewed clothes. The energies of many women were absorbed in sending messages of support and in various forms of self-sacrifice. A committee of the recruiting movement was established at the town hall under Sergeant Taylor, and a rifle club formed. The recruitment drive resulted in 500 residents filling the town hall on 4 August 1915 where a meeting passed unanimously a motion expressing Glebe’s ‘inflexible determination to continue to a victorious end the struggle in the maintenance of those ideals of liberty and justice which are the common cause of the allies’.
Enlistments in Australia reached fever pitch during 1915; 33,000 volunteered in the first four months of 1915, and almost 79,000 ‘donned the khaki’ between July and September 1915. Gallipoli claimed 8,141 Australian lives (and 26,111 casualties). Twenty-four Glebe residents, the youngest 19 and the oldest 34, lost their lives there. Many more were wounded. The morass of trench warfare in France from 1916 saw a dramatic escalation in the rate at which Australian troops were killed and wounded. The Western Front was a truly horrifying experience where human life was squandered on an unprecedented scale. Estimates of the largest number of deaths are Germany 1.95 million, Russia 1.7 million, France 1.5 million, and 1 million perished in both the British Empire and in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Some 12,541 Australians were killed in action or died of wounds in France and Flanders in 1916, 20,036 in 1917 and 12,189 in 1918 and casualties were more than twice these figures. Signs of changing attitudes towards the war began to surface in Glebe in 1916. Though Glebe Council earlier indicated its opposition to internment of enemy aliens, mounting casualty lists turned simple patriotism at home into something much more grim and ugly. A Glebe Anti-German League ranted about enemy aliens in their midst; two Australian-born sons of German parents, Dr Rudolph Bohrsmann, and Fred Kurtz found themselves shunned by local folk. Bohrsmann, a medical practitioner in Glebe since 1898, left the suburb in 1918.
Evangelical Protestants utilised the war to press for more temperance reform, inspired by the spirit of self denial accompanying the patriotic fervour. Locals were urged to follow the example of King George V and forego the demon drink for the duration of the war. The hotel trading hours referendum in June 1916 resulted in introduction of 6 o’clock closing of pubs, dramatically limiting access to the worker’s temple, now shuttered and barred at the most accessible time. Voting at Glebe polling booths varied widely. Derby Place and Mitchell St booths voted overwhelmingly for 9 o’clock closing. At Toxteth Rd booth residents favoured 6 o’clock closing by a two to one ratio. Figures at St Johns Rd booth were evenly divided.
Pageants, celebrations and processions, enlivened by bands, banners and decorated cars, were a regular feature of the Glebe landscape throughout 1916; a sense of participation was encouraged by para-military organisation. Under a newspaper account of ‘Glebe Fighters Home’ the Glebe Cadet Band and the Police Band, flanked by local councillors, led a rowdy public welcome to returned men travelling from the town hall to the pavilion at Jubilee Oval on 16 September 1916. Many local residents were dressed in fancy dress with prizes given for representations of Australia and France and the best women’s and men’s costumes. At the oval Mayor Stone claimed 1,500 men enlisted from Glebe, and returned men would be given preference in Council employment. Rozelle tram depot became the venue for the first memorial in Glebe, unveiled in November 1916 for 34 tram workers.
Prime Minister W .M. Hughes began calling up unmarried men between 21 and 35 years for military service in anticipation of conscription being agreed to at the referendum on 28 October 1916. Long lists at Glebe Court filled with the names of young men seeking exemption from service indicated many in Glebe were unmoved by any martial or Imperial enthusiasm. Only a few were granted exemptions.
The fabric of Australian politics and society was torn apart by the conscription campaigns. Anti-conscription rallies in Glebe held at Bay St, Mitchell St, Ferry Rd, on the corner of Bridge Rd and Ross St and at Record Reign Hall were marked by violence. Glebe Town Hall was the main venue for pro-conscription meetings chaired by Mayor Ralph Stone. Glebe’s 12 councillors were self-employed businessmen, conservative in outlook and guardians of the status quo, endorsed at municipal elections by the Glebe Ratepayers and Property Owners Association. On Empire Day the Glebe Mayor delivered patriotic homilies at the public schools and Glebe Ragged School, seeking to inculcate the virtues of patriotism, and hopefully a willingness to enlist. The conscription referendum polarised the nation and its defeat heightened tensions. At Glebe booths 68.6% voted No. Australian casualties climbed to 53,600 in 1917. At home the latter months of 1917 were ones of escalating industrial tensions, bitterness in public life, and violence at levels rarely seen in Australian politics. The second conscription campaign of December 1917 was marked by more heated and acrimonious debate than the first. The ‘No’ vote in Glebe was even stronger than in 1916, and the Federal Government for all its heavy handedness, was rebuffed again by a slightly larger ‘No’ vote.
The resulting disputes — over conscription, cost of living increases and obligations of citizenship — left Australia divided along fault lines that lasted at least a generation: the volunteer and ‘the shirker’; the conscriptionist against the anti-conscriptionist; and — though sectarianism was not created by the war, Catholic against Protestant.
Between 1916 and 1922 nine separate honour boards in Glebe recorded names of those who enlisted for active service. Premier Holman unveiled the first board at the town hall in February 1916, followed by Glebe Rd Methodist Church, at Johnny Meloy’s carrying business, Glebe branch of the Red Cross, Glebe Presbyterian Church, Glebe Rowing Club and Forest Lodge School. And in 1922 at Glebe Town Hall again, and at St Johns Bishopthorpe a large honour board at the rear of the church, a gift of parishioner Horace Jackson.
Glebe paid an extraordinary price for the defence of the Empire. Death or incapacitation of the breadwinner whose family often lived from week to week inflicted great deprivation on their dependants. A widow’s pension was less than the level of benefit paid in Britain and France. Governor General Lord Foster unveiled the names of 174 Glebe citizen soldiers who died, inscribed in marble at the Glebe memorial on Anzac Day 1922, and on 26 June 1922 General Granville Ryrie removed the drapery to reveal the names of 792 Glebe citizen soldiers who sailed for foreign shores, arranged alphabetically in the foyer of Glebe Town Hall.