Guy Fawkes Night

Also known as Bonfire Night or Cracker Night on 5 November, this is an annual English tradition going back over 400 years, and until about 1980 was also celebrated in other British colonies including Australia. It commemorated the discover of the Gunpowder Plot of 5 November 1605, when Guy Fawkes (1570-1606), a member of the conspirators was found guarding explosives beneath the House of Lords, ready to blow up Parliament House during the state opening of the new monarch James I’s first English Parliament. To celebrate the King’s survival, bonfires were lit around London soon afterwards and this led to the enforcement of an Act introducing an annual public day of thanksgiving for the plot’s failure, known as Gunpowder Treason Day. By the eighteenth century it became Guy Fawkes Day, when children begged for money, and effigies of Guy Fawkes were burnt on bonfires. In 1859 the Act was repealed and by the twentieth century, it had become an annual social occasion with the burning of ‘guys’ on bonfires and firework displays, and with little understanding of the historical significance. Due to the increasing number of accidents involving children and fireworks, the banning of Guy Fawkes Night was enforced in South Australia in the 1970s.

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It's a Long Way to Tipperary

The popular music hall song It’s a Long Way to Tipperary became the world’s most famous marching song within a few months after first being reported in a UK newspaper on 18 August 1914. Daily Mail reporter George Curnock was on holiday in Boulogne when he witnessed the Irish regiment, the Connaught Rangers singing this song as they marched through the town after coming ashore. His story was cabled to all parts of the world and soon the song’s lyrics were being reprinted in newspapers, including those in Australia. In today’s parlance, the song went ‘viral’. As well as being picked up by other units of the British army, it was further popularised by its recording by world famous Irish tenor John McCormack in November 1914. The song was written by British songwriter and music hall entertainer Jack Judge (1872-1938) allegedly for a 5 shilling bet in Stalybridge near Manchester, north of England on 30 January 1912 and performed the next evening in the local music hall. However it later transpired that the tune and most of the lyrics already existed in manuscript form as "It's A Long Way to Connemara" written by Judge and his song writing partner Henry James ‘Harry’ Williams (1873-1924).

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Madame Melba

During the First World War Australia’s most famous opera singer Nellie Melba was known simply as Madame Melba. Born Helen Porter Mitchell, (1861-1931) in Richmond, Melbourne, she studied singing and left Australia for London and Paris in 1886 to continue her career, changing her name to Melba in honour of the city of her birth. She sang in all the opera houses of Europe as well as London and New York returning to Australia in July 1914 as war in Europe loomed. She made Melbourne her home and set up a music school but also turned to fundraising to help the war effort taking part in charity concerts throughout the country. Her performances, for which she took no fee, raised an incredible £100,000 and for ‘services in organising patriotic work’ she was created Dame Commander of the British Empire (DBE) by King George V in early 1918.

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Torrens Island Internment Camp

Torrens Island Internment Camp opened on 9 October 1914. Hundreds of men – ‘enemy aliens’ – were interned on Torrens Island, in the Port River estuary near Adelaide. Sailors taken off enemy ships, foreign nationals living in South Australia, and even some naturalised British subjects found themselves behind barbed wire. Wartime censorship meant people outside knew next to nothing about internment or life in the camp. Initially life in the Camp was uncomfortable, but not harsh. However, a new commanding officer was appointed in early 1915, and treatment of the internees became more brutal. An investigation into conditions resulted in the camp being closed in August 1915, with many internees being released, while others were transferred to a camp at Holsworthy in new South Wales.

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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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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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Seager, Alexandrine

In business before the war, Mrs Alexandrine Seager had the administrative and organisational skill required for running the Cheer Up Society, which she founded in, after visiting Morphettville camp to see her son in the Australian Imperial Force in November 1914. With the support of the editor of Adelaide newspaper, The Register, she appealed to South Australian women to join the Society, which aimed to provide 'general comfort, welfare, and entertainment' for soldiers. Initially, they visited camps, arranged entertainments, such as concerts and sent comforts to the front. As the wounded began returning from Gallipoli, they provided comfort and care. From 1915 they were based in a large tent behind the Adelaide Railway Station, which was replaced by the Cheer-Up Hut in nearby Elder Park (opened on 14 November, 1915). The Society had eighty country branches, and a key aspect of their fundraising was the annual Violet Day Appeal (first held on 2 July 1915). She was also instrumental in the foundation of the South Australian Returned Soldiers’ Association. For further information, visit History SA's online resource, Adelaidia

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Avery, Louis Willyama

Louis Willyama Avery was born on July 15, 1891, and moved to Adelaide from Broken Hill for his education. He attended St Peter’s College and later the SA School of Mines, where he studied Engineering. He was working in Broken Hill when war was declared, and he decided to enlist for service in August 1914. He was a member of the 3rd Field Engineers, A.I.F, 1st Australian Division, 3rd Brigade, and landed at Gallipoli on 25 April, 1915. Later in the war he fought in Europe, being awarded a Military Medal in 1917. Following his time in the Dardanelles, Avery was hospitalised suffering from typhoid fever, and letters from his father to military administration show how difficult it was for families in Australia to find out information about the health of soldiers overseas.

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HMAS Sydney defeats the German cruiser Emden

The HMAS Sydney was one of the Australian ships escorting the first convey from Albany in November 1914. On 9 November, the Sydney was ordered to leave the convoy and investigate reports of an unknown ship near the Cocos Islands. It was discovered to be a German Cruiser, Emden, which had been attacking and destroying parts of the British Imperial communication system on the Island. HMAS Sydney, with superior speed, gun range and weight, defeated the Emden. Only 12 Australians were killed in the battle while Emden suffered over 100 casualties. News of the victory was greeted with much celebration by the Australian troops and public. Emden: The SMS Emden, a Dresden-class light cruiser of the Imperial German Navy, attacked a communication post on Direction Island in the Cocos region between Australia and Sri Lanka, on November 9, 1914. Prior to this, Emden had sunk 25 other civilian ships and shelled Madras, India. It had completed the destruction of two Allied warships in the Straits of Malacca near Penang, Malaysia as well. The HMAS Sydney was among a group of Australian, British and Japanese ships sent to investigate the communication post, and the Sydney rendered Emden disabled for battle purposes in under two hours of sea battle. The Sydney crew returned the following day to assist any injured members of the German crew.

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