In this last instalment of our four-part series about Anzac Day and how it was commemorated in South Australia, and Gawler, during the years immediately following the first landing at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915, you can read about the more organised Anzac Day commemorations that occurred in 1917 and 1918.
As the war dragged on with no end in sight and more reports of deaths on the battlefield, Anzac Day assumed even greater importance and reverence. Plans for the ‘celebration’ on 25 April 1917 were the responsibility of the South Australian Branch of the returned Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Imperial League of Australia¹.
The focus of the day was the military parade. Through streets decorated with bunting the parade made its way to Elder Park Reserve. ‘Pride of place’ was given to 250 soldiers who had returned from active service. They led the procession which included cadets and trainees from the Naval Reserve, training forces from Mitcham Army Camp, a field artillery unit, infantry reinforcements, military bands and the Army Medical Corps reinforcements with motor vehicles. As the parade passed the Adelaide Town Hall, the Governor of South Australia, Sir Henry Galway, took the salute².
By April 1917, a recruiting campaign for new volunteers was well underway as the number of people volunteering had dwindled significantly during the previous year. A feature of the military parade was aimed particularly at attracting eligible men to join the Australian Imperial Force. Bringing up the rear of the procession were men of the Light Horse regiment leading fifteen riderless horses bearing signs inviting volunteers to fill the saddles and take a ‘joy ride’. Eight of the fifteen saddles were filled by the time the parade passed the Adelaide Town Hall³. Prior to the military march, four stands for encouraging volunteers to join were set up in the city. Numerous speakers appealed to all eligible men to enlist in the armed forces4.
Upon reaching Elder Park Reserve the parade participants gathered ‘on three sides of a gun-carriage draped with a Union Jack [flag]’ for the military church and commemoration service. It was attended by the Governor, dignitaries from the government and the military, and a large number of members of the public. The Governor and the Chief Secretary (on behalf of the Premier) spoke of the courage and devotion that Australian and New Zealand troops had revealed when in battle and of the great sacrifice many had made for their country and Empire5.
At noon, trains and trams stopped for two minutes to commemorate the sacrifice of the Anzacs. Operations at Government works also halted so that employees could give thanks and cheers to the ‘Anzac heroes’, the King, the Empire and the Allies6.
After the conclusion of the formalities at Elder Park Reserve, entertainment was provided for the soldiers at the Cheer-Up Hut. About 600 returned men were treated to a sit-down lunch while another 1500 soldiers were similarly entertained in grounds near the Hut7.
During the day, many ladies were out on the streets of Adelaide selling Anzac Day buttons and souvenirs on behalf of the Ladies’ Button Day Committee. More than 1300 pounds was raised for the State War Council8. In Gawler, members of the Gawler Cheer-Up Society also sold buttons. The proceeds of 25 pounds went to the Returned Sailors and Soldiers’ Association9.
The possibility of 25 April being proclaimed as a public holiday was again raised at the 1918 Congress of the Returned Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Imperial League of Australia (RSSILA) because it was regarded as the date when Australia really became involved in the war10. It was not until 1927, however, that a public holiday on 25 April was declared in all States.
During mid-April, the Federal Government had decided that 25 April should be a day of ‘national memorial’ and that the sale of ‘buttons’ should not occur nor any collections of funds11. In South Australia, the Premier asked the State War Council to make arrangements for a military parade and commemorative service on Anzac Day12. On 22 April the Federal Government reinforced its desire that 25 April be a day of ‘intercession and commemoration’13.
Organisers in South Australia acceded to the Federal Government’s request and on 25 April Anzac Day was commemorated by a military parade through city streets followed by a religious service that was held at the Exhibition Building rather than at Elder Park because of inclement weather14.
On 26 April ‘sombre thoughts of Anzac Day were dispelled … when people of all ages flocked from the suburbs’ to watch the procession of returned service men, veterans of earlier wars, military and civilian bands (including May’s Band from Gawler), members of the Light Horse Regiment and much more. With civilian participation this was more of a pageant than a military parade. Returned soldiers carrying placards and streamers encouraged enlistment by reminding the public that they should ‘pay’ because the returned soldiers had already paid their share. Fundraising was the focus of the day. The Loyal League of Women held a market on North Terrace. From the stalls they sold all manner of produce, flowers and souvenirs, the proceeds of which were given to the RSSILA15.
After the procession, the annual Anzac lunch at the Cheer-Up Hut was attended by a large number of men who served at Gallipoli. Additional commemorations were held in churches and other places in the city on 25 or 26 April and the annual dinner for about eighty members of the original landing force at Gallipoli was held at the Cheer-Up Hut on the evening of 25 April16.
In Gawler special church services at St George’s Anglican Church and the Church of the Transfiguration were held during the morning of Anzac Day and in the Congregational Church in the evening17. At midday, employees at May Bros & Co. Ltd observed two minutes silence before giving cheers for the King and the men on the battlefields18.
Post Contributor: Anne Richards
1. ‘Result of Street Sales’, The Journal, 26 April 1917, p. 1, http://trove.gov.au, accessed 17 December 2015.
2. ‘Local Mems’, The Bunyip, 27 April 1917, p. 4, http://trove.gov.au, accessed 17 December 2015.
3. ‘Returned Soldiers’ League’, The Advertiser, 5 March 1918, p. 6, http://trove.gov.au, accessed 23 December 2015.
4. ‘Anzac Day’, Daily Herald, 13 April 1918, p. 6, http://trove.gov.au, accessed 23 December 2015.
5. ‘General News’, The Advertiser, 20 April 1918, p. 8, http://trove.gov.au, accessed 23 December 2015.
6. ‘General News’, The Advertiser, 22 April 1918, p. 6, http://trove.gov.au, accessed 23 December 2015.
7. ‘Anzac Day’, The Advertiser, 26 April 1918, p. 7, http://trove.gov.au, accessed 22 December 2015./
8. ‘Remember Anzac’, The Express and Telegraph, 26 April 1918, p. 1, http://trove.gov.au, Accessed 23 December 2015.
9. ‘Anzac Day’, The Advertiser, 26 April 1918, p. 7, http://trove.gov.au, accessed 22 December 2015.
10. ‘Local Celebrations’, The Bunyip, 26 April 1918, p. 3, http://trove.gov.au, accessed 20 November 2015.
12. ‘The Fame of Anzac’, The Express and Telegraph, 25 April 1917, p. 1.
13. ‘Australia’s Great Day’, The Advertiser, 25 April 1917, p. 7, http://trove.gov.au, accessed 17 December 2015.
14. ‘A Cheer-Up Luncheon’, The Journal, 25 April 1917, p. 1, http://trove.gov.au, accessed 17 December 2015.
16. ‘Recruiting Campaign’, The Register, 21 April 1917, p. 10, http://trove.gov.au, accessed 17 December 2015.
17. ‘The Fame of Anzac’, The Express and Telegraph, 25 April 1917, p. 1, http://trove.gov.au, accessed 17 December 2015.