AIF Camp in Egypt

The AIF began disembarking in Alexandria, Egypt on 3 December 1914. From here it was a five hour train ride to Cairo, then marched to their camp. The Australian Infantry camp was located at Mena, near the pyramids of Giza. Six days a week they were drilled – marching through the sand, digging and attacking trenches and it was here that they were formed into the ANZAC Corps, with the New Zealand forces. Major-General William Birdwood, a 49-year old British officer was given command of the corps.

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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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Conscription in Europe

In the late nineteenth century, most European nations had some form of conscription. For example, in Germany, at 20 years of age, men were conscripted into the military for a period of two or three years, although financial restraints meant that in practice only around half actually completed their service. After their training, they were released back into civilian life, but could be called up again up to the age of 45. The most recent trainees were called up first, with those who had finished their training decades earlier filling roles behind the lines. It was a similar system in other nations. In this way, the army was able to expand very rapidly when war was declared in 1914.

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1914-1915 drought

In the last 100 years the severity of the 1914-1915 drought has often been overshadowed by the outbreak of World War One. It was widespread throughout Australia and particularly prevalent in Victoria, central New South Wales, Tasmania south-western Western Australia as well as in South Australia. Rainfall in early 1914 gave farmers hope for their crops after a long, dry summer. However, as the year progressed, the rain came to a halt and did not return for thirteen long months. The ground became dry and crops began to wither. Stock within the southern states was transported to more suitable areas via railway, causing prices to rise substantially. Throughout various areas of South Australia, May through to October of 1914 remains the driest period on record. By the end of 1914, the wheat harvest was a mere quarter of what had been achieved in the previous year.

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Henley on Torrens Regatta

Organised by the South Australian Rowing Association, in 1914 this event was one of the most popular in Adelaide’s social calendar, growing in importance very year since the inaugural event on 17 December 1910. Based on UK’s Henley Royal Regatta held since 1839 in Henley on Thames in Oxfordshire, Adelaide’s version also rivalled Melbourne’s popular Henley on Yarra, formally established in 1904. In the early years of the regatta, the day’s events included not only various races with entries drawn from metropolitan, country and school clubs, but also a procession of decorated boats which were judged by the current mayoress and awarded cash prizes for best and second best. Reserves along the river bank between the City and Morphett Street Bridges were roped off and the public admitted for a shilling where they could enjoy refreshments and other entertainment under the shade of a marquee. It was traditional to wear white with a fashionable hat, and for days prior to the regatta, local shops advertised their latest ‘Henley fashions’. There was also evening entertainment with concerts and dancing, against a spectacular backdrop of illuminated boats, bridges and boathouse, all decorated with coloured lights. Also see Adelaidia for more history http://adelaidia.sa.gov.au/events/henley-on-torrens-regatta

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Women's Christian Temperance Union

The first mass organisation among women devoted to social reform began in Ohio, USA in 1873, and within two years operated on an international level, reaching Australia by the early 1880s. Those involved saw their work as a religious crusade, aiming initially to prohibit the use and traffic of alcohol because of the problems it caused families and society. The White Ribbon was their badge and members would take a pledge of abstinence. The organisation also developed into other areas of social reform, particularly women’s suffrage. The SA branch was established with 57 members on Thursday 8 April 1886 at the YMCA, Gawler Place, Adelaide by World’s WCTU missionary, Mary Clement Leavitt who was visiting from America. The first president was North Adelaide Baptist Church minister’s wife, Mrs WE Rice. Local South Australian branches of the WCTU followed. In 1914 the WCTU pushed to organise a referendum the following year regarding 6 o’clock closing of hotel bars in South Australia. In December, Helen Barton a staunch WCTU member in her native Glasgow and known as the ‘Queen of Scottish orators’ arrived to help with this campaign. She had been in South Australia 4 years previously and returned again in 1926.

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Christmas truce

It had been five months of battle since the eruption of the Great War in August 1914, when the Christmas truce occurred. On 7 December, Pope Benedict XV himself suggested that opposing sides put down their weapons for the celebration of Christmas, and while the warring countries refused an official cease-fire, the soldiers themselves created an unofficial truce. On Christmas day itself, both German and Allied troops left their trenches, stepping into no mans land to greet each other. They sang carols together and exchanged gifts of cigarettes and puddings. Reports reveal that there was event friendly game of rival soccer against one another. However, the truce was not complete across the Western Front, as in some parts weapons continued to be fired and deaths still occurred.

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