Tag Archives: Australian

What Australian soldiers ate for Christmas in WWI



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Cover of the menu for the AIF Christmas Dinner, Hotel Cecil, London, in 1916. Illustration by Fred Leist.
Museums Victoria collection, donated by Jean Bourke

Heather Merle Benbow, University of Melbourne and Deborah Tout-Smith, Museums Victoria

We have just concluded four years of commemoration of the centenary of the first world war and, although the guns fell silent in November 1918, by Christmas many Australians were still separated from their loved ones.

For Australians serving overseas in WWI, celebrations such as Christmas were particularly difficult, a reminder that the war had laid waste to their routines and taken them away from their families.

We can see from historical documents that every effort was made to reproduce the form and content of a traditional Christmas meal, whether that be on board a ship, in the mess or even in the trenches

On active service

Maintaining the traditions of Christmas could be logistically difficult. It was often simply a slightly larger amount of food than the normal rations, with additional treats, such as the half pound of Christmas pudding that Major-General John Monash procured for every man in his Third Division in 1917. Alcohol was a welcome addition.

Women distribute Christmas billies to men in Cairo, Egypt, December 1915.
Australian War Memorial

Christmas hampers and billies sent from home provided particular joy to those lucky enough to receive them.
Some, however, experienced Christmas dinners like that of Private John Chugg of 1st Light Horse Field Ambulance, who complained “it was a miserable Xmas” in Egypt in 1914: “boiled beef unpeeled potatoes and tea without milk… [and] no mail or anything to cheer us”.

Sapper Alfred Galbraith described Christmas day in Ismailia Camp, Egypt, in December 1915 in a letter to his family. Each man chipped in to purchase a turkey and

chickens more like humming birds, soft drinks and a few biscuits. The chickens were dealt out 1 between 5 men and some of them would not feed one let alone 5 men, the one we got we tossed up to see who would get it & I won but I half it with my pal & then the two of us went & bought some […] biscuits & some tin fruit.

Alf is depicted in a photo of the dinner, sitting awkwardly on canvas at the end of a row of soldiers, mess tins in front of each and an occasional bottle, likely of beer. Alf’s Christmas letter concludes nostalgically “Dear Australia the land of my Birth which we will all be glad to see again … it will be a glorious day if I live to see it out … ” It was to be his last Christmas.

AIF troops celebrating Christmas at Ismailia Camp, Egypt, in December 1915.
Museums Victoria

A special meal could have the effect of making the war recede, if briefly, for the soldiers who partook of it. This is the impression gleaned from the menu for the 1917 Christmas dinner at the “A” Mess of the 3rd Australian Divisional Headquarters in France, led by Monash.

The hand-drawn menu features bucolic sketches of rural French life, and a list of dishes in a mix of French and English, signalling the prestige of the officers’ dinner.

The 10 courses included hors d’oeuvres (olives and “Tomato au Lobster”), potage _(“_Crème de Giblet”), poisson, entrée (chicken), viands (pork and ham), legumes, sweets (three choices) and a cheese tart, ending with wine and coffee.

The menu served at an AIF Christmas Dinner in 1916.
Museums Victoria collection, donated by Jean Bourke

The “B” Mess dinner at the Headquarters was almost as sumptuous, but with fewer courses. Its more simple menu included a humorous script, poetry and parodies. When the food concluded a toast was made to “Absent Ones”, drunk “while softly murmuring the words ‘Not lost but gone to CORPS’”. Notably, the term “Lest We Forget” was used to remind diners of good etiquette!

Christmas in transit

The voyage to active overseas service was a mixture of excitement, trepidation and monotony. Food service broke the boredom of long days at sea. On board the SS Suffolk on Christmas day 1915 diners were treated to a multi-course dinner, opening with olives, mock turtle soup and salmon cutlets in anchovy sauce. The next course featured iced asparagus, beef fillets with mushrooms and prawns in aspic, before the food became even more serious, with four types of meat, baked and boiled potatoes, and beans.

Members of the 4th Australian Field Ambulance at Christmas in Lemnos in 1915.
Australian War Memorial

Four deserts followed, including plum pudding with both hard and brandy sauces. Like many special occasion menus of the war, diners signed their names on the back.

Aprés la guerre

The desire to be “home by Christmas” had been widely expressed from the very first year of the Great War, yet when the armistice finally came in 1918, Australians on active service still had a long journey ahead of them and faced another Christmas away from home.

In 1918, the 2nd Australian pioneers officers’ Christmas dinner took place “somewhere in France”, featuring a menu entirely in French save for the words “plum pudding” and “God Save the King”. Two half pages of the menu were dedicated to “Autographs”.

The souvenir menu card from the 13th Australian Field Ambulance 2nd anniversary dinner, held on Christmas Day 1918 in the Palace of Justice, Dinant-Sur-Meuse, Belgium likewise has a page for autographs. The festive menu features an extensive list of desserts.

The menu served to the 13th Australian Field Ambulance on Christmas Day 1918.
Museums Victoria collection, donated by John Lord

Christmas dinner in 1919 saw Australians who had served in Europe returning home on the SS Königin Luise, a German ship allocated to Britain as part of war reparations. A menu saved by Sergeant Tom Robinson Lydster bears no references to the war.

A wreath of holly frames an eclectic menu including “Fillet of Sole au Vin Blanc, Asperges au Beurre Fondu” but also “Lamb cutlets, Tomato sauce, Roast Sirlion of Beef”. The Christmas element is provided by “Plum Pudding, Brandy Sauce, Mince Pies”. More than a year after the end of the war, some surviving Australians were yet to celebrate Christmas on home soil.

Christmas traditions for Australian soldiers, nurses and medics helped maintain cultural normalcy during overseas service. Yet Christmas on active service could be a time of significant stress, a reminder of loved ones far away and of fallen friends. Unfortunately, for those who returned to Australia, forever changed by their experiences, Christmas was not always what they remembered or had imagined.The Conversation

Heather Merle Benbow, Senior lecturer in German and European Studies, University of Melbourne and Deborah Tout-Smith, Senior Curator, Society & Technology Department, Museums Victoria

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Barracking, sheilas and shouts: how the Irish influenced Australian English


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The Warrnambool potato harvest of 1881.
State Library of Victoria

Howard Manns, Monash University and Kate Burridge, Monash University

Australian English decidedly finds its origins in British English. But when it comes to chasing down Irish influence, there are – to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld – some knowun knowuns, some unknowun knowuns, and a bucket load of furphies.

Larrikins, sheilas and Aboriginal Irish speakers

The first Irish settlers, around half of whom were reputedly Irish language speakers, were viewed with suspicion and derision. This is reflected in the early Australian English words used to describe those who came from Patland (a blend of Paddy and Land).

The Irish were guided by paddy’s lantern (the moon); their homes adorned with Irish curtains (cobwebs); and their hotheadedness saw them have a paddy or paddy out. These Irish were said to follow Rafferty’s Rules – an eponym from the surname Rafferty – which meant “no rules at all”.

More than a few Irish were larrikins. In his book Austral English, E.E. Morris reports that
in 1869, an Irish sergeant Dalton charged a young prisoner with “a-larrr-akin about the streets” (an Irish pronunciation of larking, or “getting up to mischief”). When asked to repeat by the magistrate, Dalton said: “a larrikin, your Worchup”.

This Irish origin of larrikin had legs for many years, and perhaps still does. Unfortunately, here we have our first furphy, with more compelling evidence linking larrikin to a British dialect word meaning “mischievous or frolicsome youth”.

But if larrikin language is anything to go by, these youths went way beyond mischievous frolicking – jump someone’s liver out, put the boot in, stonker, rip into, go the knuckle on and weigh into are just some items from the larrikin’s lexicon of fighting words.




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With the Dalton furphy, though, we see evidence of something called “epenthesis”, the insertion of extra sounds. Just as Dalton adds a vowel after his trilled “r” in a-larrr-akin, many Aussies add a vowel to words like “known” and “film” (knowun and filum) – and here we see a potential influence of the Irish accent on Australian English.

In contrast to larrikin, the word sheila is incontrovertibly Irish. Popular belief derives it from the proper name, Sheila, used as the female counterpart to Paddy, a general reference to Irish males.

Author Dymphna Lonergan, in her book Sounds Irish, prefers to derive it from Irish Gaelic síle, meaning “homosexual”, noting Sheila wasn’t a particularly popular Irish name as it began to appear down under.

Significantly though, St Patrick had a wife (or mother) named Sheila, and the day after St Paddy’s Day was once celebrated as Sheelah’s Day. So, Sheila was something of a celebrity.

Barrack is another likely Irish-inspired expression. A range of competing origins have been posited for this one, including the Aboriginal Wathawarung word borak, meaning “no, not”, and links to the Victorian military barracks in Melbourne.

But the most likely origin is the Northern Irish English barrack, “to brag, be boastful of one’s fighting powers”. The word has since sprouted opposite uses – Australian barrackers shout noisy support for somebody, while British barrackers shout in criticism or protest.

Perhaps surprisingly to many, the Irish were the first Europeans some Australian Aboriginal tribes encountered.

This contact is evident in the presence of Irish words in some Aboriginal languages. For instance, in the Ngiyampaa language of New South Wales, the word for shoe is pampuu, likely linked to a kind of shoe associated with the Aran Islands in Ireland, pampúta.

Didgeridoos, chooks and shouts: An Irish language perspective

Lonergan argues that more attention should be directed to this sort of Irish Gaelic influence.

Lonergan points, for example, to archival evidence linking the origin of didgeridoo to an outsider’s perception of how the instrument sounds, questioning the degree to which the sound corresponds to the word.

As a counter-argument, she notes an Irish word dúdaire meaning “trumpeter or horn-blower”, as well as Irish and Scots-Gaelic dubh, “black” and dúth, “native”. She observes that Irish and Scots-Gaelic speakers first encountering the instrument might well have called it dúdaire dubh or dúdaire dúth (pronounced respectively “doodereh doo” or “doojerreh doo”).




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Similar arguments are made for a number of other words traditionally viewed as having British English origins.

The Australian National Dictionary sees chook (also spelled chuck) as linked to a Northern English/Scottish variation of “chick”. However, Lonergan notes this is phonetically the same word (spelled tioc) the Irish would have used when calling chickens to feed (tioc, tioc, tioc).

Another potential influence also comes from the transference of Irish meaning to English words. For example, the Australian National Dictionary is unclear as to the exact origin of shout, “to buy a round of drinks”, but Lonergan links it to Irish working in the goldfields and an Irish phrase glaoch ar dheoch, “to call or shout for a drink”.

Lonergan posits that Irish miners translating to English might have selected “shout” rather than “call” – “shouting” could easily have spread to English speakers as a useful way to get a drink in a noisy Goldfields bar.

Good dollops of Irish in the melting pot

Irish influence on Australian English is much like the influence of the Irish on Australians themselves – less than you’d expect on the surface, but everywhere once you start looking.

And those with a soft spot for Irish English might feel better knowing that some of their bête noires are in fact Irish (haitch, youse, but, filum and knowun).

The ConversationAs Irish settlers entered the Australian melting pot, so too did a hearty dose of their language.

Howard Manns, Lecturer in Linguistics, Monash University and Kate Burridge, Senior Fellow at the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies and Professor of Linguistics, Monash University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


How the Australian Constitution, and its custodians, ended up so wrong on dual citizenship



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Members of the Australasian Federation Conference, 1890.
Parliamentary Education Office

Hal Colebatch, UNSW

For those who take only an ordinary interest in politics, the drama over citizenship and eligibility to be a member of parliament has been puzzling. Surely these people looked at the rule book, the Australian Constitution, before deciding to stand for election? Why were their nominations accepted if they weren’t qualified?

Well, it’s not quite that simple. The constitution is not the rule book, but the record of a deal between the leaders of six self-governing colonies to form a federation; it covers what they wanted to cover, and it means what relevant people make it mean.

It doesn’t say that there has to be a prime minister, but it does say that “there shall be an Inter-State Commission”. That we do have a prime minister and don’t have an inter-state commission reflects the way relevant people have used the words in the constitution.

What did the constitution writers think they were doing?

The constitution was put together by many hands over ten years. The qualifications for candidature were drafted by the Tasmanian attorney-general, Andrew Inglis Clark, in a straightforward and inclusive way: at least 21 years old, resident of the electorate, and a subject of the Queen (which would have included New Zealanders, Canadians and Britons).




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But Samuel Griffith, the Queensland prime minister (as they were then called), wanted a section on disqualification. This would cover felony, bankruptcy and:

any person who has taken an oath or made a declaration or affirmation of allegiance to a Foreign Power or done any act whereby he becomes a subject or citizen … of a Foreign Power.

So there were separate sections on qualifications and disqualifications, from different sources and reflecting different values, and they took this form in the successive drafts of the constitution.

In the smoke-filled room: the drafting committee

The final session of the constitutional convention was held in Melbourne early in 1898. There was no further discussion of what became the now-infamous section 44, and a drafting committee took over to prepare a final draft.

Edmund Barton – soon to become Australia’s first prime minister – was the chair and dominant figure. He insisted on working till 4 or 5am, even though the other two members of the committee had gone to bed and only Robert Garran, the secretary, was left to maintain the illusion of a committee.

Sir Edmund Barton, who snuck in 400 amendments to the constitution at the last minute.
Parliamentary Education Office

After four days of drafting, Barton presented the convention, on its second-last day, with 400 amendments. He proposed a three-hour break for the delegates to study them, after which they could be put to the vote en bloc.

Barton assured the convention that there was only one amendment of substance – to section 44(ii). What he did not say was that section 44(i) had been completely rewritten, changing it from an active voice (“done any act whereby”) to a passive voice (“is a subject or citizen … or is entitled to”).

No attention was drawn to this change, there was no explanation of it, and there was no time for debate on any clause unless someone objected to it. The constitutional text that proved so significant more than a century later was a last-minute change, drafted in private and accepted out of weariness.

In his history of the convention, J.A. La Nauze points out that, by this stage, the delegates “had had enough”, but muses:

it may one day interest a curious lawyer to inquire whether judicial review has lingered with significant consequences on new words approved on trust and intended … merely ‘to put the wishes of the convention in more complete and concise form’.

As it turned out, it interested more than the curious lawyer, and created a problem which has yet to be adequately managed.

Appealing to the umpire?

The constitution was rather unclear about how these provisions would be enforced. It said both that questions about qualification could be settled by each house, but also that “any person” who believed that an elected representative was disqualified by section 44 could sue them in “any court of competent jurisdiction”.

In any case, there was little call for either until the High Court decided in 1999 that the UK was a foreign power.

Even then it refused to hear a case calling for Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard to produce evidence they had renounced their UK citizenship, on the basis that they had declared that they were qualified, and so the court should presume that they were. To do otherwise would be a vexation and an abuse of the court’s time.

But when the court did deign to interest itself in the matter, it took the traditional High Court view that it was not interested in the problem, or what the writers of the constitution were trying to do, but only with the possible meaning that a black-letter lawyer could squeeze from these words, irrespective of its impact on the governing of Australia.

Where does this leave us?

The situation now is that the qualifications for candidature for the Australian parliament are set by the parliament, but the disqualifications are largely set by foreign governments via the High Court. This diminishes the ability of electorates to choose the representative they want (though, when given the chance, electorates show what they think of the High Court’s action by returning the ousted members in the ensuing byelection).




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And the High Court’s escapade in the china shop is not yet over, for it has yet to rule on the disqualification of those who are “entitled to” foreign citizenship, even if they have not applied for it. If the court applied the same logic that it has used in the cases already decided, this would disqualify not only any Jew, but also anyone with a Jewish parent, grandparent or spouse, all of whom are entitled to Israeli citizenship under the Israeli Law of Return.

The best course would be to start with recognising the problem, rather than searching for a preferred solution. In contemporary Australia, identities are often complex, and citizenship entitlements may be multiple and overlapping. How these are to be recognised in the qualifications for candidature demands a period of public discussion culminating in political action.

The only way we could get this is to take the matter out of the hands of the High Court and foreign governments and return the task of defining qualifications and disqualifications for candidature to parliament. This could be done by adding to section 44 the phrase “until the parliament otherwise provides”, which is used in section 30 on qualifications, and at a number of other points in the constitution.

This would be a logical and constitutional response to the political problem that has landed on us. If the five main parties in the parliament (all of which have had their parliamentary representation threatened by the High Court’s actions) supported a referendum to achieve this change, it would probably be carried.

The ConversationThe voters, too, as they showed in New England and Bennelong, have had enough. They want the political leaders to lead.

Hal Colebatch, Visiting Professorial Fellow, UNSW

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Cricket: Australia – The Baggy Green Cap


The link below is to an article that looks into the history of Australian cricket’s ‘Baggy Green Cap.’

For more visit:
http://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2015/dec/23/australian-crickets-baggy-green-cap-a-journey-through-its-rich-history


Australia: HMAS Voyager & HMAS Melbourne 50 Years On



Article: Rewriting Australian History?


The link below is to an article that looks at the possibility of rewriting Australian history based on the discovery of a few old coins.

For more visit:
http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/journal/historians-baffled-by-ancient-african-coins-found-in-northern-territory.htm


Article: The Mystery of Ludwig Leichhardt


The link below is to an article that looks at what happened to Australian explorer Ludwig Leichhardt.

For more visit:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2013/may/31/what-really-happened-ludwig-leichhardt


Article: Australia – 10 Worst Floods


The link below is to an article that considers the 10 worst floods in recorded Australian history.

For more visit:
http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/journal/the-worst-floods-in-australian-history.htm


Today in History: 17 February 1864


Banjo Paterson Born

On this day in 1864, Australian poet, journalist and author, Andrew Barton Paterson (Banjo Paterson) was born. Paterson was born near Orange in New South Wales, Australia. Banjo died on the 5th February 1941 in Sydney, Australia.

His most important works include ‘Waltzing Matilda,’ ‘The Man From Snowy River‘ and ‘Clancy of the Overflow.’

A pdf copy of ‘The Collected Verse of A. B. Paterson’ can be obtained via the link below:
http://www.archive.org/details/collectedverseof00pate


Today in History – Posts to Return this Weekend


Just a quick note to explain the absence of posts of late. I have been having some Internet issues. I am pleased to be able to report that normal service will resume on Saturday (Australian time) – for daily posts on history I mean. Looking forward to the return.
 

 


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