First Battle of the Marne

The River Marne, some 30 miles east of Paris, was the site of the First Battle of the Marne in early September 1914. This is generally believed to have been a key turning point in the war, as it prevented the Germans from entering Paris, and from putting the 'Schlieffen Plan' into practice. The Schlieffen Plan had been conceived in 1905 as a strategy for Germany to approach an impending was with neighbours to the East (Russia) and the West (France). It assumed that while Russia was still mobilising troops (a process that would inevitably take some weeks), the German Army would take the French by surprise, approaching Paris through Belgium. This is what happened in August 1914, and the Germans came close to their objective. Although the Allies were successful at Marne in halting the German advance, the cost was high - almost 250,000 Allied casualties, with a similar number of German soldiers killed or injured.

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Race to the Sea

The Race to the Sea was not, in fact, a race north to the coast, but a series of manoeuvres by both the Allied and the German forces attempting to envelop the northern flank of the opposing army. The Germans were hoping to capture the northern ports, and cut off the British supply lines. The British were particularly worried that if the Germans had control of those ports, the German U-boats (submarines) could pose significant threat to the Royal Navy. They too, saw strategic advantage in disrupting the German supply lines. Neither side was successful, and as the opposing forces tracked north, battles were fought in Picardy, Artois and Flanders. By the end of the year, the ‘Race to the Sea’ had ended in a draw, and two lines of trenches had been dug, stretching more or less from the Belgian coast to the Swiss border.

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Capture of the German colony of New Guinea

The Australian Naval & Military Expeditionary Force (ANMEF), consisting of 1000 soldiers and 500 sailors, was tasked with the capture of German Pacific Protectorates. The German forces in New Guinea were not large – they were typically used to put down rebellions. Six Australians were killed in the operation, but the AN&MEF were soon victorious. Although this force also had an objective to take control of German colonies further north, plans were foiled, as the Japanese, who entered the war on the side of the Allied Powers in late August, occupied the German colonies north of the equator.

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Federal Election - September 1914

The Federal election on 5 September was called prior to the outbreak of war in August. All of the 75 seats in the House of Representatives and all 36 seats of the Senate were up for election due to Parliament's first ever double dissolution. The double dissolution was triggered when the Labor-dominated Senate refused to pass the Government Preference Prohibition Bill, which sought to abolish preferential employment for trade union members in the public service. At the election, the Australian Labor Party, led by Andrew Fisher, was victorious over the incumbent Commonwealth Liberal Party, led by Joseph Cook. The ALP won the election comfortably, winning 42 (of 75) seats in the House of Representatives and 31 (of 36) seats in the Senate. It was during the campaign, in July, that Fisher gave a speech containing his now famous pledge to support the British War effort ‘to the last man and last shilling’.

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Fisher, Andrew

Of Scottish heritage, and a former miner and trade unionist, Andrew Fisher served as Prime Minister of Australia three times, in 1908–09, 1910–13 and 1914–15. During his second term he was instrumental in the passing of legislation that saw the introduction of Australia’s first national old-age pension scheme. Fisher was also PM when construction began on the Trans-Australian Railway – originally running the “Great Western Express” and nowadays the “Indian-Pacific” – and the Australian Capital Territory was founded. He won the election in 1914 just six weeks after war broke out across Europe. The new Labor Government was thus immediately consumed with devising defence measures and planning Australia’s War effort in support of the Empire. It was Fisher’s responsibility to despatch the troops to Europe at the beginning of the war, and as there were reports of German cruisers, he refused to allow the convoy to sail until it had been fully assembled. He also made the commitment that Australia would finance its troops itself. He had hoped to do this by raising the funds through taxes and duties, but this was not possible, and he negotiated a loan from Britain. This debt proved to be an ongoing burden to Australia in the 1930s. On 27 October, 1915 Fisher resigned as Prime Minister due to ill health and was succeeded by his deputy, William Morris (Billy) Hughes.  

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10th Battalion

The 10th Battalion was among the first infantry units raised for the AIF during the First World War. The battalion was recruited in South Australia, and together with the 9th, 11th and 12th Battalions, formed the 3rd Brigade. The battalion was raised within weeks of the declaration of war in August 1914 and embarked for overseas just two months later. After a brief stop in Albany, Western Australia, the battalion proceeded to Egypt, arriving in early December.

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3rd Light Horse Regiment

The 3rd Light Horse Regiment was raised in Adelaide on 17 August 1914. Although most of its recruits were enlisted in South Australia, one of the regiment’s three squadrons was composed of Tasmanians and was raised and trained in Hobart. The two components sailed from their home ports in late October 1914 and arrived in Egypt in the second week of December. Here, they joined the 1st and 2nd Regiments to form the 1st Light Horse Brigade.

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12th Battalion

The 12th Battalion was among the first infantry units raised for the AIF during the First World War. Half of the battalion was recruited in Tasmania, a quarter was recruited in South Australia, and a quarter from Western Australia. With the 9th, 10th and 11th Battalions it formed the 3rd Brigade. The battalion was raised within three weeks of the declaration of war in August 1914 and embarked just two months later. After a brief stop in Albany, Western Australia, the battalion proceeded to Egypt, arriving in early December.

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Morphettville Camp

Australia did not have all the infrastructure required for the war, and some camps for enlisting soldiers were set up at racecourses. Morphettville Camp was one such camp, where soldiers trained and were housed before being deployed overseas. The land was donated by Richard MacDonnell Hawker (1865-1930), well-known sportsman and pastoralist of Bungaree Station near Clare.  He was also the owner of Morphettville Stud Farm, about 80 acres of land alongside the Morphettville Racecourse.  Following the outbreak of war, Hawker made ‘a splendidly patriotic offer to the military authorities … for the free use of encampment of the expeditionary force… ‘(The Register, 13 August 1914).

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Terrell, Frederick Leopold

After working as an iron moulder, 25 year old Frederick Leopold (Leo) Terrell was frustrated by the lack of work in South Australia and, enlisted for service for the Royal Australian Naval Bridging Train at Keswick on 27 March, 1915. After several months of training, Terrell embarked from Australia on 3 June 1915 and served with the AIF at Gallipoli, landing at Suvla Bay. He later served with the 12th Field Artillery Battery on the Western front in Europe.

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Broken Hill

Broken Hill is an isolated mining city on the Barrier Highway in far west New South Wales (NSW), just over 500 km from Adelaide. It is closer to South Australia’s capital city than Sydney, NSW’s state capital. When silver-lead-zinc ore was first discovered at Broken Hill in 1883, the town developed rapidly over the next decade with the establishment of Broken Hill Propriety, then and now (as BHP Billiton), the world’s largest mining company. The outbreak of the Great War in 1914 saw the closure of several of Broken Hills’ mines due to the suspension of German contracts. The resulting unemployment of many miners led to an incentive to join the A.I.F. when the call for volunteers came. The first transports of newly enlisted men left for Adelaide on 16 August 1914, less than two weeks after war was declared. The second contingent left a week later and it was reported that ‘the troops marched through the streets headed by a band, and were sent away by a large and enthusiastic crowd’ (The Register, Saturday 22 August 1914). By the end of August, 400 volunteers had been accepted from Broken Hill. 4,000 men eventually volunteered from the Broken Hill region during the First World War.

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Cooper, Ethel

Caroline Ethel Cooper (1871-1961) was something of an eccentric – for starters, she had a pet crocodile called Cheops which she kept in her apartment, and lived a very independent lifestyle. A proficient musician, she formed her own Women’s Orchestra in Adelaide before the outbreak of the war. A regular visitor to Germany, she was living in Leipzig when the war broke out. She remained in Germany for the duration of the war, writing a letter each week to her sister Emmie in Adelaide. Although these letters could not be posted during the war, the first 52 were smuggled to Switzerland and posted from Interlaken and the remainder were hidden and sent from England in 1918. Although her premises were often raided by police and she was forbidden from leaving several times during the war, she was not detained and had a pass that stated her presence was ‘agreeable to the military authorities’. She returned to Adelaide for a few years after the war, but returned to Europe where she participated in relief work. She settled in Adelaide in 1936, with her then-widowed sister.

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Mawson, Douglas

Sir Douglas Mawson (1882-1958) was a geologist who in 1914 was embarking on a worldwide lecture tour promoting his recent Australian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) of 1911-1913. This first major scientific investigation by Australians beyond their shores had earned him a knighthood in the King’s Birthday Honours list that June. His talks would have been received warmly in Adelaide for he had been a University of Adelaide lecturer since 1905, while there were also several young Adelaide graduates on the team such as Cecil Madigan, Percy Correll, Morton Moyes and Alexander Kennedy. Adelaide audiences paid from 2 to 5 shillings for their seats, with proceeds helping to eliminate the debt of the expedition. Mawson continued his tour in other Australian cities and New Zealand and then back to London via New York. No doubt Mawson would have thrilled onlookers with his experiences of the frozen south, ‘illuminated by unique colored moving pictures’ as well as an ‘unrivalled series of colored views’. Mentioned in several newspaper reports was the extraordinary story of his survival after sledging alone across the ice for a month after losing first one dog handler, Ninnis down a crevasse and then the second, Mertz from exhaustion.

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Bates, Daisy

Daisy Bates (1859-1951) was an Irish-born, self-taught journalist and anthropologist. Her Adelaide lectures for the Royal Society of South Australia during September 1914 were based on her 15 years living with the ‘natives’ throughout Western Australia. Aided by a map and lantern slides, her talks concentrated on the customs and kinships of the tribes with whom she had lived and tended. Appointed the first woman Honorary Protector of the Aborigines in 1912, her home was a tent at Eucla. Travelling cross-country by a camel-drawn buggy and thence steamer, her 1914 Adelaide visit was firstly prompted by the Royal Commission into the treatment of Aborigines. During sessions at Parliament House she requested that she might continue her work as Protector of Aborigines in South Australia. She believed that the Aborigines were a dying race but was intent on making their passing easier. She also attended meetings with leading scientists of the Commonwealth organised by the British Association for the Advancement of Science in Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne. She was highly respected in academic circles but also a popular figure in the press for not only her unusual lifestyle but also commitment to an Edwardian style of dress, gloves, coiffure, hat and veil.

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