The Blue Boys
The impact of wounds, gas, disease and post-traumatic stress or shellshock, meant many returned war veterans would spend a long time in hospital for years after the war – sometimes well into the 1920s.
In the era before antibiotics, people could spend many months recovering from injuries and illness. Dedicated veterans’ hospitals were set up throughout Australia and New Zealand during the war.
In a 1957 radio interview, two New Zealanders, Frank Broad and Alan Kernohan – who were in the King George V Hospital in Rotorua – remembered the restrictions placed on the recovering soldiers.
Throughout the British Empire, men who were able to get out of bed, were known as “Blue Boys” because of their “hospital blues” – a uniform worn by the convalescing soldiers. This marked them out and was supposed to prevent the invalids sneaking off to local hotels for a drink, as civilians were prohibited from supplying alcohol to the men in blue… but there were ways around this, as the men recall.
Early newsreels: A 1915 Pathé Animated Gazette
People went to cinemas during the war to be entertained, but moving-pictures also played an important role in providing cinema-goers with news and information from abroad. Early newsreels, or topical films, were an important part of the typical cinema programme of the time.
This film is an example of a full-length Pathé Animated Gazette newsreel that was shown during the war. It demonstrates the contents of these types of films and how they mixed serious topics with more light-hearted footage: scenes of the Algerian Native Cavalry in Flanders, a brief glimpse of King George V and Queen Mary making their way through packed London Streets to a service at St Paul’s Cathedral, the opening of a New Zealand military hospital, and Zouaves (Algerian French Infantry).
Fashion on the field, 1912
“To-day is Taranaki Cup day – the sportsman’s day in Taranaki – and from near and far worshippers at the shrine of Pegasus will do pilgrimage to the local racecourse to lay their offerings on the altar of sport.” (Taranaki Daily News, 14 February 1912)
By 1912 signs of militarism in New Zealand - like compulsory military training, and the commissioning of the battleship HMS New Zealand - were increasing. In the rural province of Taranaki, however, the threat of war seemed a million miles away as crowds assembled for the Taranaki Cup horse race. They are seen here dressed in their finest, parading on the lawn, meeting and greeting, seeing and being seen. These scenes were quickly processed and screened at the local Empire Picture Palace, “the home of intellectual refinement”, the very next day.
New furs from Georges
While a bitter war raged on the other side of the world, some wealthy Melbourne residents carried on with their lives just as usual. This 1915 newsreel item shows women modelling expensive fur coats, stoles, muffs and hats for Georges Department Store in Collins Street, Melbourne. Georges was a 'favoured spot with most of the smartest people in Melbourne'. The furs shown here would have been beyond the reach of most Melbourne residents at that time. As the war progressed, public condemnation of excessive or wasteful fashion became more prominent in the press.
Originally silent, this footage has had the 1911 song Every Girl is a Fisher Girl added.
“The Rushin’ Bear and the Flying Turk”
Australian sketch artist and caricaturist Harry Julius often ridiculed the enemy by using the techniques of political cartoonists. In this episode of his weekly Cartoons of the Moment, ironically captioned The German Dove of Peace, an eagle represents Germany. His second sketch deals provocatively with contemporary fashion trends, while the third refers to the ‘Rushin’ Bear’ and the ‘Flying Turk’ to show the capture of the eastern Turkish city of Erzurum by Russian forces in February 1916.
The turkey, the eagle, the lion and the dove
'The War Zoo' is the original title of this animated cartoon by the renowned Australian caricaturist Harry Julius. The miserable fez-wearing turkey represents the battered Turkish forces. The ferocious German eagle is approached by the ‘dove of peace’ and the British lion, ‘still the king of all’. Cartoons like this one, screened about 1915, were a direct and light-hearted form of war news and propaganda for the public at home.
The naming of the capital
Australia’s federal capital was purpose-built from 1909, since neither Sydney nor Melbourne would agree to the other city becoming the capital. The new capital was named ‘Canberra’, apparently from the name of the indigenous people of the area. The capital’s name was kept a secret until it was read out by the Governor-General’s wife, Lady Gertrude Denman.
This film shows the ceremony on 12 March 1913 when the new-born federal capital was formally named. Governor-General Lord Denman and PM Andrew Fisher are seen proceeding to the saluting base where the Australian Light Horse, field battery and lance regiments and Royal Cadets are lined up for inspection. Many of the men in this footage would not return from Gallipoli, the Western Front and other battlefields.
The Lynch Family Bellringers
The Lynch Family, Harry Lynch and his four sons, toured Australia’s regional areas for several decades with their hand bell-ringing show. Gradually singers, dancers and comedians, including visiting European performers, were incorporated into the show. This poster advertises a 1914 tour featuring the novel attractions of the Glassophone and Aluminum Organ Chimes.