South Australia - World War I
- Anzac and Armistice Day
- The Build Up
- Comment on the War
- Community Involvement
- The Conflict
- Domestic Economy
- Germans in Australia
- Industrial Affairs
- Memorials to the Fallen
- Women and the War
Cheer Up Hut
Formation and operation of a Cheer Up Our Boys Society is reported in the Register,
5, 6 and 10 November 1914, pages 4f, 4e and 5h; also see
9 February 1915, page 5g,
5 March 1915, page 8g,
17 September 1915, page 6e,
16 October 1915, page 10b,
4 November 1915, pages 4i-7c,
27 December 1915, page 5e,
20 April 1916, page 6e,
29 July 1916, page 9b,
10 August 1916, page 7g.
Photographs are in the Observer,
13 March 1915, page 27,
13 November 1915, page 29,
25 August 1917, page 26,
15 September 1917, page 23,
27 July 1918, page 24,
13 November 1915, page 18,
29 September 1917, page 24.
A photograph of Mrs A. Seager, Secretary of the Cheer-Up Society, is in The Critic,
19 April 1916, page 27,
of "willing workers" on 12 December 1917, page 3.
Also see Register,
29 November 1917, pages 4d-5d,
17 June 1918, page 4c,
18 November 1918, page 4c,
26 November 1918, page 5b,
29 January 1919, page 7c,
31 May 1919, page 8d,
30 June 1919, page 9c,
16 September 1919, page 7f,
8 and 25 November 1919, pages 6e-f-8c and 8g,
24, 25 and 27 December 1919, pages 6c and 11a,
3 July 1920, page 9e,
3 and 25 August 1920, pages 6 and 6g,
14 September 1920, page 8d,
12 and 26 November 1920, pages 8e and 9d.
The taking over of the Hut by the government is reported in the Advertiser,
27 April 1923, page 14d.
An obituary of Miss Trix Pearce is in the Observer,
12 March 1927, page 37.
"Cheer-Up Society - Peace Time Reorganisation" is in the Register,
23 July 1926, page 12c.
A photograph of the Anzac Arch is in The Critic,
25 June 1919, page 5,
The proposed removal of the Anzac Arch at the Hut is reported in the Register on
17 May 1923, page 10; also see
29 and 30 May 1923, pages 13d and 3g,
16 November 1923, page 11f;
a photograph is in the Chronicle,
20 June 1925, page 38.
Patriotic Funds are discussed in the Register,
24 August 1914, page 6b,
16 and 28 September 1914, pages 6b and 9f,
8 December 1914, page 4b,
30 August 1915, page 6f,
14 and 16 September 1915, pages 4c and 4b,
2 December 1915, page 6c,
9 May 1916, page 4b.
"The Red Cross" is in the Register,
15 and 17 August 1914, pages 14c and 8d,
11 December 1914, page 6f,
9 September 1915, pages 8b-9c.
Photographs of a fair at the Austral Gardens in aid of Red Cross are in the Chronicle,
26 June 1915, page 28;
also see Observer,
1 September 1917, page 24.
Photographs of French Red Cross day are in The Critic,
11 December 1918, page 16.
A patriotic dog show at the Austral Gardens is reported in the Register,
18 October 1915, page 11c.
"Apple Day - Practical Patriotism" is in the Register,
5 April 1916, page 4i;
also see 29 April 1916, page 8e,
5 May 1916, page 4g.
The opening of No 1 Red Cross Hospital (formerly Mareeba) at Woodville is reported in the Register,
7 August 1916, page 9b;
also see 21 December 1916, page 7a. Also See Woodville.
Photographs of Adelaide's response to the "Appeal from Belgium" are in the Chronicle,
17 April 1915, page 27,
8 May 1915, page 28, 24 July 1915, page 27
of "billycans and sandbags for our boys" on
30 October 1915, page 27.
Photographs of homes and institutions offered for the accommodation of wounded soldiers are in the Observer,
5 June 1915, page 28,
of a presentation of ambulances on
12 June 1915, page 29,
of a patriotic carnival in the Mt Lofty Ranges on
4 September 1915, pages 28-29,
of Navy Day on
27 October 1917, page 23,
of a carnival on the River Torrens on
16 November 1918, page 26,
of a war orphans' fete on
1 January 1921, page 25.
"Party Politics and Patriotic Funds" is in the Register,
16 September 1915, page 4b.
Also see South Australia - Politics.
"Patriotic Funds" is in the Register,
9 May 1916, page 4b,
"The Government and Patriotic Funds" is in the Register,
28 June 1916, page 6c,
"The Work of Patriotic Bodies" on
15 May 1918, page 6h.
Photographs of a fair at the Austral Gardens in aid of Red Cross are in the Chronicle,
26 June 1915, page 28; also see
1 September 1917, page 24.
"For the Maimed and the Bereaved" is in the Register
on 12 June 1915, pages 8c and 11f.
A pageant of patriotism is described in the Register,
31 July 1915, page 14.
"Sandbag Day" is explained in the Register,
10 and 11 December 1915, pages 4c and 9c.
Photographs are in the Observer,
18 December 1915, page 29.
"The Soldiers' Fund - Helping Heroes and Dependents" is in the Register,
6 and 19 January 1916, pages 6c and 6b,
9 February 1922, page 8d (details of work).
Formation of a Peace Day League is reported in the Register,
13 April 1916, page 7c.
Photographs of peace celebrations are in the Observer,
26 July 1919, pages 26-27.
"Apple and Rose Day" is in the Register,
4, 5 and 6 May 1916, pages 4b-f, 5d and 10c;
photographs are in the Observer,
13 May 1916, pages 24-25.
"Violet Day" is in the Register,
16, 17, 19, 21, 24, 25 and 26 August 1916, pages 8f, 6g, 9a, 6b-e, 6h, 6b-7b and 9b;
photographs are in the Observer,
2 September 1916, page 22; also see
25, 28, 29 and 30 June 1917, pages 6d, 6h, 4c and 9b,
12, 21 and 22 June 1918, pages 6f, 6c and 6h,
20 June 1919, page 6c-h,
6, 9, 10 and 12 July 1920, pages 9e, 6g, 6f and 8a.
Photographs are in the Chronicle,
1 May 1915, page 27,
10 July 1915, page 27.
Also see Register,
1 August 1921, page 7a,
11, 22 and 29 July 1922, pages 6d, 12g and 9e,
19, 28 and 30 July 1923, pages 10g, 8d and 9e,
25 July 1924, page 8g,
4 August 1924, page 9a,
8 August 1925, pages 8g-9h,
31 July 1926, page 9f,
2 August 1926, pages 8e-9c,
6 August 1927, page 8g,
2, 11 and 13 August 1928, pages 10a, 8g and 15d,
3 August 1931, page 9e,
3 August 1936, page 14g.
"Violet Memory Day - What it Means" is in the Advertiser,
2 and 11 August 1928, pages 15d and 13a.
War Anniversary - Patriotic Celebrations" is in the Register
on 5 August 1916, page 9b.
"Mother of Men! - Many Happy Returns" is in the Register,
4 and 6 November 1916, pages 4g and 4d.
The opening of a Veterans' Club is reported in the Register,
10 July 1916, page 6e and
a new clubhouse for the Returned Soldiers' Association on
18 December 1916, page 6c; also see
13 and 24 August 1917, pages 3a and 4b,
15 and 16 April 1918, pages 4d and 7a.
A controversy between the Returned Soldiers' Association and the trustees of the Soldiers' Fund is traversed on
9, 10 and 11 July 1918, pages 4c-h, 7b and 7c.
"War Anniversary - Patriotic Celebrations" is in the Register
on 5 August 1916, page 9b.
"Around the Christmas Tree - The Soldiers Children" is in the Register,
14 and 20 December 1916, pages 6f and 8e.
"Spinsterhood - The Toll of War" is in the Register,
10 March 1917, page 4h.
The inauguration of a Win the War League is reported upon in the Register,
11 June 1917, page 6f.
Information on the All-British League is in the Register,
20 July 1917, page 9c,
3 September 1917, page 6h.
"The Cross in the Window - A Striking Appeal" is in the Register,
29 May 1918, page 6g,
1 June 1918, page 7b.
"Bobbing - An Australian War Discovery" is in the Register,
29 May 1918, page 7c; also see
30 May 1918, page 4b.
"Some YMCA War Figures" is the Advertiser,
8 July 1918, page 4e.
"Children and the War" is in the Register,
13 and 16 July 1918, pages 6c and 7d,
14 August 1918, page 6g.
A hostel for soldiers' orphans is discussed in the Register,
22, 23 and 31 October 1918, pages 7f, 6c and 6h,
5 November 1918, page 7h.
Information on and photographs of "Red Triangle Efforts" are in The Critic,
2 July 1919, page 5.
The celebration of "Peace Day" is reported in the Register,
17, 18, 19 and 22 July 1919, pages 7a, 7a, 8c and 6c and
a distribution of peace medals to schools on
22, 23 and 26 July 1919, pages 6c, 9d and 10b.
"Button Days - A Chapter of War History" is in the Register,
2 October 1919, page 8a.
Photographs are in the Observer,
18 September 1915, page 28,
4 December 1915, page 27.
Photographs of SOS Day are in the Chronicle,
18 December 1915, page 29,
of a "No-More-War" demonstration in Botanic Park in the Observer,
4 August 1923, page 29.
Information on Samuel Lunn, OBE, a prolific fund raiser, is in the Advertiser,
26 and 27 August 1918, pages 6f and 4e,
31 August 1918, page 2f,
13 February 1920, page 6h,
15 and 16 March 1921, pages 9d and 9f,
18 October 1920, page 6h, 3,
15 and 16 March 1921, pages 6g, 6f and 12e,
21 November 1921, page 2d,
13 January 1922, page 3e,
3 and 10 January 1922, pages 10a and 8d,
3 March 1922, page 10f,
6 September 1923, page 14a (obit.),
6 September 1923, pages 4c-6c-7b,
8 and 11 September 1923, pages 11e and 20d,
25 June 1924, page 13e,
4 September 1924, page 1c,
7 October 1924, page 13c,
17 October 1925, page 35c,
17 May 1926, page 12e,
22 May 1926, page 43a.
Photographs are in the Observer,
7 August 1915, page 28,
12 September 1923, page 11 (funeral),
22 May 1926, page 40,
22 May 1926, page 34,
1 May 1930, page 6e.
"Adopting Ruined Towns" is in the Register,
12 August 1920, page 4e,
"Adoption of French Towns" on 15 October 1920, page 6f,
10 December 1920, page 6d.
"Adopting a French Village" is in the Advertiser,
11 December 1920, page 11a.
See Place Names - Dernancourt.
Occasional Essays on South Australian History
Researched and Written by Geoffrey H. Manning
Part 1V - Tales of Adelaide
Essay No. 15 - Alms Across the Sea - A Tale of Two Towns
During World War I a form of repartee common among the French people, with whom our soldiers talked that curious language called 'entente', was 'Apres la guerre.' Like many catchwords it expressed, unwittingly, a national attitude. The thing that mattered, it cheerfully implied, was to push on, in spite of wounds and loss towards a goal - Afterwards there would be time again for pleasure, prosperity, and all the lighter sides of life. And after the war - what?
For many of them it was a heartbreaking prospect. Of 6,000,000 acres of devastated land in Northern France, half a million would never again, as suggested in 1920, be fit for cultivation; another million could be used only after great expense. Further, at least a million acres of forest was utterly destroyed.
In important manufacturing districts hardly one stone had been left on another; machinery had been removed, factories dismantled, coal mines flooded. Every establishment that might be considered likely to compete with German businesses was utterly destroyed.
It was one vast picture of desolation with a poignantly human side - the blackened hearths, the ruined farms, the heap of stones where cottages had been. With all the national spirit so splendidly displayed in war, the French quietly set to work to build up their towns and villages again.
Out of their brave efforts arose the proposal that the more prosperous British towns should give organised assistance by 'adopting' a town or village. The idea was enthusiastically received and for months the big British cities rendered substantial help. Late in 1920 the idea spread to Australia.
In the euphoric days following the dawn of 1919, and in common with the rest of the civilised world, Australia, it was said, owed a great debt to France. Glory was shared equally among the allies, but in the great catastrophe that overtook civilisation in 1914, it was France who first bared her bosom to the common foe.
Readily and gallantly Australian men took their places at her side, but - our homes never suffered. We were never to witness the most heartbreaking sight of war - non-combatants taking their poor household goods and leaving their homes, drifting helplessly before a catastrophe entirely beyond their comprehension.
It was in saving those homes that Australian soldiers played one of their finest parts in the war. 'Great was the link thus forged between them and the people of France in the days of the Armistice in November 1918.' At many a French fireside an 'Aussie' was welcome, many an Australian grave was piously tended by those who had recognised in the boys from over the seas the 'very brothers of their own gay and unconquerable spirit.'
Events in England
Following the Armistice on 11 November 1918, M. Marce Braibant, Consul-General of the Ardennes in France, visited London to coordinate individual efforts to help his country, and at whose suggestion a scheme commenced for the 'adoption' of devastated towns and villages.
The object was not to relieve Germany of her obligations by raising money to rebuild shattered France, but to extend from one town to another such personal help and sympathy as are given naturally by friend to friend.
The headquarters of the central committee was in London, where it played the part of liaison officer, placing the God-parent town into touch with its French protege and thereafter taking no part in the arrangement, unless specially asked for its advice or assistance.
At its height the people of Great Britain extended a helping hand to nearly a hundred French towns and, in due course, Dominion 'adoptions' included Poilcourt by Sydney, Villers-Bretonneux by Melbourne and Dernancourt by Adelaide.
Action in Adelaide
In August 1920 the Editor of the SA Register suggested that 'in view of the magnificent part played by Australian divisions on the western front, and the intimate ties which link Commonwealth peoples to that region and its heroic populations, it is highly desirable that Australians should follow the lead of their kindred in the Motherland and render appreciable assistance to our heroic allies.'
He concluded by saying that: 'This State is quite able to take under its foster care at least one of the considerable towns especially memorable in connection with our boys' brilliant and noble exploits in the decisive arena of the war.'
At a meeting of the Society d'Assistance Maternelle et Infantile at the Adelaide Town Hall in October 1920, a proposal was made that an endeavour should be made to adopt one of the French towns for which Australians had fought with grim determination and courage to save. Such adoption would provide the means to help clear land for farmers and, when families returned to their former homes, to provide clothes, furniture, one horse and cow and farm implements.
Two French women, Berthe Mouchette and Marie Lion, were the prime movers and said they accepted the responsibility of starting the new activity with the fervent hope that more influential persons within the community would become involved. The towns of Bapaume, Dernancourt and Morlancourt were suggested together with Hamel and Neuville.
The Lord Mayor of Adelaide, Mr. F.B. Moulden, who presided, urged that before putting the matter before the public, it would be wise to find out exactly what the responsibilities of such an adoption would be. His advice was to approach the French government through the Consul-General in Sydney and find out what 'adoption' really meant. In passing he mentioned that the society had forwarded about £600 and eighteen boxes of garments for charitable work in France.
Positive responses emanated from the public following the promulgation of these proceedings. One correspondent, under a nom-de-plume of 'Josephine', said that as 'worthy are the many memorial schemes in our own land, it would surely be a fitting method of perpetuating the great deeds of the Australian abroad to help the people reconstruct their homes on some site where the Australians distinguished themselves.
'The scheme is as far removed from mere "charity" as was the great and never-to-be-forgotten kindness of the French people to our men during the war; and those ties of friendship will be drawn closer yet if we can make some small acknowledgment.'
Another correspondent reminded readers that Melbourne had formed a committee, with General Sir John Monash as President, and Villers-Bretonneux was adopted, with enthusiastic support being promised by the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League. Further, it was hoped that many towns in Victoria would follow the example of the metropolis.
Dernancourt, France - South Australia's God-Child
The Adelaide committee, following an exchange of letters with appropriate French authorities, agreed upon Dernancourt as its God-child and proposed to collect funds and forward the money to the Mayor of that village, M. Fernand Belison, who undertook to distribute it among distressed villagers. In a letter the Mayor extolled the courage and morale of Australian troops and his informative, heart-rending remarks are reproduced in an abridged form:
If the whole of France has rendered just and solemn homage to the bravery of the Australian troops, Dernancourt is nonetheless one of the villages of the devastated regions rich in remembrance of their generous intervention. Owing to this gratitude the municipal council, when planning to reconstruct this ruined village, gave the name of Rue d'Australie to the street formerly called La Fontaine - a simple yet sincere expression of our gratitude, expressive to the Australians of our sentiments of admiration for their heroism..., of keen sadness for their free-will offering of sacrifice.
Dernancourt, 336 inhabitants, in the valley of the Ancre, was in 1914 to 1916 about six kilometres from the enemy's lines... Dernancourt seems to be the heart of all Australians for it was from here that all the Australian 'waves' started which pushed back the Germans in 1916 and 1917, and had such dire punishment in 1918...
Until July 1917, the Australian troops progressed steadily, but on May 1917, the 4th division left the district to go and share in the attack on Flanders; it came back to Dernancourt in March 1918. Between times, the population, superbly courageous, with their morale well kept up by the Australian officers and soldiers, forced itself to endeavour to cultivate the fields, and restore in a measure the normal state of the land occupied by war materials and 'behind the lines' services which had followed the onward moves.
Dernancourt became a rest camp for the troops. The Australian military authorities offered their help to the farmers who had so little manpower, and the unforgettable spectacle was seen of soldiers, yesterday in the trenches, helping in the work in the fields, carting, sowing, planting and reaping with warm enjoyment. It seemed as if these soldiers were working for themselves.
There was a general joy in the return to our fields at a common table; there was only one family, and this family was complete, for photographs of loved ones passed from hand to hand. What happiness there was for the children who had in each soldier an adopted father to replace the real parent at the front, and which were the happier? Those who received the help, or those who gave it?
History has never recorded in ancient or modern times facts with such deep moral and far-reaching effect. Then came the unhappy events of March 1918; the enemy was 10 kilometres from Dernancourt. For three nights the Boche 'planes shelled the village trying to destroy Dernancourt and its important railway junctions. On the night of March 25 we had to evacuate the town...
Yes, indeed, the Boche tried to advance to Dernancourt... The Australians would not allow it... At last on August 8, the Australian bravery fought against German tenacity, the Boche gave way and from then his retreat was precipitate... The village was but a heap of ruins; 28 inhabitants came back in May 1919.
There are, today, 212 in miserable shanties, made hastily with what materials they could find. There is not a tree in this valley formerly so smiling. The Australians loved it and knew its desolation, because they sent us from Gippsland photographs of our ruins. Frequent letters show that they do not forget us, nor we them, for, alas, we are the guardians of the blood which they have shed on our soil. Out of the 2,250 graves which are in the military cemetery, there are 361 Australian officers and soldiers, whose names are known, and 40 unidentified.
The village cemetery also has several other graves, Captain Leane and Lt-Colonel Leane, [sic] a marble stone on the latter grave bears this inscription - 'Erected by his men and officers.' On 2 November 1919, the municipal council and the children, in procession, escorted by the populace, placed flowers and crowns on all the tombs, and extolled the valour and heroism of the Australian troops.
No, Dernancourt will never forget, for the municipality has offered its services for the care and upkeep of these graves which are for the present generation what they will remain for those later born, the expression of our gratitude towards Australia and its armies in the great war which has bled, but liberated humanity.
At the foot of this letter in the newspaper is an announcement that the committee had arranged to 'sell badges at the show on Friday in order to raise money... The badge is to be inscribed with neat letters - "Dernancourt, the God-child of South Australia" and is mounted with a French flag.'
Events in South Australia
In May 1921 a dance was organised for the evening of Adelaide Cup Day when Osborne Hall was 'particularly festive' with over 200 people enjoying themselves. The event was organised by Mrs Herbert Rymill and Jack Fewster's jazz orchestra 'played irresistible music', their services being given gratuitously. There were two or three tables for bridge at one end of the supper room that were occupied all the evening.
At 8.45 the Consul for France (Mr Frank Moulden) and Lady Hackett arrived and the 'Marseillaise' was played in their honour and at 10 o'clock 'God Save the King' heralded the arrival of the Governor, Sir Archibald Weigall; Lady Weigall was not well enough to be .
By June 1921 the sum of £200 and parcels of clothes had been forwarded to Dernancourt and this prompted a gracious letter from M. Belison:
I have the honour to inform you that your kind letter of March 9 last has been communicated first to the municipal council and then to the population of our unhappy village. The news has contributed greatly to the re-establishment of 'morale', which has had many blows from the lack of faith observed by the Germans in keeping their promises.
But the arrival of woollen clothes made by the ladies of Adelaide, the reception of a cheque, the promise of other tokens of your care for us, have greatly increased the grateful feelings of all my fellow citizens.
We loved having your soldiers here for the safety which they guaranteed and we also admire and revere those women who, after long years of uncertainty, while still mourning their dead, so kindly wish to alleviate the immense distress of those who cannot yet foresee the end of their privations.
To all the ladies of Adelaide, to all your fellow citizens, and to your committee, give our most profound gratitude and thanks and our imperishable remembrance.
Fund raising activities continued on a monthly basis and in June 1921 the Queen's Hall was the venue for a musical and/or elocutionary recital. The performers included the pianist, Miss Coralie Goodman, who contributed two instrumental solos 'in pleasing style', Mr E. Fairhurst Derbyshire sang 'The Trumpeter' and 'The Two Grenadiers' 'with marked effect' and Mr Edward Reeves gave the 'Exploits of Brigadier Gerard', by Conan Doyle, in his 'usual masterful manner'.
Miss Lily Butler exhibited a French victory flag, one of 50 issued and the only specimen in Australia, and spoke of the gratification felt by the people of France for what Australia had done during and since the war. The general arrangements were made by Messrs N.H. Taylor and S. Price Weir, assisted by a committee, of which Mrs d'Arenberg was secretary.
A Visit to Dernancourt
Samuel Lunn, MBE, a prolific fund raiser during the Great War, while on a visit to England in 1922, was requested by the South Australian committee to visit Dernancourt, to call on the Mayor, and deliver a box containing children's clothes, boomerangs and sweets. In an interview with the Mayor, 'Sammy' Lunn was told how thankful the people of Dernancourt were, for on that day they had received a further £150. Mr Lunn observed:
With the inspector of police of Albert I reached Dernancourt and went out to the fields. The Mayor was dressed in moleskin trousers and wide-brimmed straw hat and using a coloured handkerchief to mop his face. He was on a load of hay, working very hard. Through an interpreter he said he wished to inform the people of South Australia that although he had been through the university and had plenty of money to live on, he, like many other Mayors of ruined towns, thought it his duty to get out into the fields and help his people.
I also visited the school, where I met the teacher who could speak a little English. The dear little kiddies were so delighted to meet me and saluted me with 'Bon jour, Australien'. Then I gave each of them some sweets... I must say I do love the French people. They seem to be such a pleasant race, and speak very highly of the Australian soldiers...
Delay in France
Towards the close of 1921 anxiety was felt concerning the fate of a box of presents sent to Dernancourt because it was confiscated by French customs officials pending the payment of duty. However, due to the efforts of the Mayor of Dernancourt and protests by the press and the Minister of Reconstruction the presents were released without the payment of an impost.
Monsieur Belison took up his pen and informed Madame Mouchette of Rose Park of later events:
After many vicissitudes we received on January 3 the box and basket containing the presents collected by you, Mrs A.J. McLachlan, Mrs Gaynor and many other benefactresses of Adelaide. The distribution was made yesterday to our 63 children, including 16 girls, by the Municipal Council and the ladies of the school committee. It was a great success.
It was, indeed, a touching spectacle to see our children, who could not believe their own eyes and who, besides the toys, each received a packet of sweets and a cake. Our 34 returned soldiers - of the 49 who went to war - also participated in the distribution of the gifts. That which caused the greatest sensation was your magnificent oil painting, 'Ecce Homo'.
From the eleven pounds sent for the fete we spent 150 francs for cakes and kept the balance for 'Adelaide Day' of which I spoke in my last letter. We distributed yesterday only the toys, garments, sweets and small objects, keeping the prizes destined for the best scholars of the school.
At the forthcoming fete there will be, in the morning, a solemn commemoration service in honour of the Australian soldiers. In the afternoon every Dernancourt family will go in procession, and will bring flowers and wreaths to be placed on the graves of the soldiers from our antipodes...
My wife and daughter are preparing, with the help of the girls, a quantity of Australian flags to decorate the newly-erected huts and the ruins; but beforehand I am asked to be the medium through which to thank you and your friends who have brought such a wave of joy into their homes.
Our returned soldiers have received the tobacco, cocoa, coffee, biscuits and preserves that you sent. They are sorry that they had not had the opportunity of fraternising more with their Australian comrades in arms during the war, they being on other fronts, but they are conscious of having lived the same life in the trenches...
Yesterday will be an epoch in the life of each one of us. We shall always remember it, and for it I can only say 'Merci'! That word in all its simplicity covers our emotions and our gratitude... We have distributed the seeds so kindly sent by the curator of the Adelaide Botanic Gardens. If they thrive, as we hope they will, we shall plant the shrubs and the trees on the graves of the Australian soldiers, so that the Australian soul, which hovers over their cemetery, will find an Australian oasis in the midst of France.
Country Participation in South Australia
Several country towns participated in the 'adoption' and, in March 1922, Mrs E.W. Hawker of 'Calcania', Clare, received a letter from the Mayor of Dernancourt:
Clare is very far from us; too far for our liking, but not far enough, however, to prevent coming to us upon the wings of the wind and the waves of the briny ocean, the echo of the splendid fete organised at Clare... and where the generosity of the people poured out copiously.
How can I express to you effectively and completely our gratitude, and that of your municipal council and the entire population? We owe to Australia an immense sacred debt for the blood that she shed in coming to our help, and you have increased, still further, that debt in aiding us towards the restoration of our ruins.
Being unable for the present to do anything in a material or tangible form, we will endeavour in the near future to prove to you that our heart is full of thought for you, as we intend to transmit to our posterity the precious souvenir of your affectionate sympathy. We will exhibit in a prominent place in the Salle d'Honneur of our new municipal offices your photograph and that of your committee as well as of our benefactors.
This will show to future generations that in the hour of our great distress we found at Clare a source of powerful comfort. We ask you to convey to all those who have been kind enough to second your efforts our deepest gratitude, and to beg you to accept personally the homage of our respectful sentiments and eternal gratitude.
At the same time the Mayor addressed his villagers' benefactors in Adelaide: It comforts us in our troubles to know that you are thinking of us, for we really have no luck in our farm work. Last year we had only wheat, the dry summer spoiled the oats, the beetroot and the feed for the animals. This year the severe winter has destroyed part of our wheat. We really need two or three years to allow us to form a little reserve and to ensure feed for our cattle. Still we must not be discouraged and mus redouble our efforts in hope of better days. We are passing through troublesome times. A cyclone visited us last week and destroyed much reconstruction work in the fields, already hindered by winter.
It seems as if we are in a place accursed.
Madame Berthe Mouchette Reports
In June 1922 Madame Mouchette informed the daily press in respect of Adelaide's adopted village: 'During 1921, as the result of efforts in the city, £192 was forwarded to the communal authorities and a bazaar and fete at Clare produced £103... In a letter recently received... the Dernancourt authorities said that what was now most needed was a threshing machine to enable the villagers to reap their harvest.
'They have been able to cultivate and sow about 1,600 acres, but have no implements to take off the crop. As the harvest occurs about the middle of August, we have no time to lose if we are to assist them. This need for haste precludes the idea of raising money by the usual methods of sales, fetes, amusements, etc., so it is decided to make a direct appeal...
'Of [Dernancourt's] 110 houses, 107 were completely destroyed and the inhabitants are at present living in huts built from material recovered from the trenches. The population is entirely agricultural and depends on its crops for its livelihood. The fact that there was a number of deserving charities before the public is not lost sight of, but it is hoped that a sufficient number of The Register's readers will be interested enough to assist in raising the desired sum [of about £150 to £200].'
On the same day the Editor of The Register lent his support to the appeal and urged former members of battalions that fought in France, and sympathisers, to raise money by small contributions which could be cabled to Dernancourt in time to purchase the 'needy implement before the harvest is ready'.
The Premier Visits France and Belgium
Sir Henry Barwell travelled abroad in 1922 and while in France he and Lady Barwell visited some battlefields, including Amiens, Peronne, Bapaume and Pozieres and other towns and villages, including Dernancourt.
There they were received kindly by the Mayor, who asked him to convey to the people of South Australia the thanks of the inhabitants for the assistance that had already been given.
The Premier said that: 'The village has suffered very considerably as a result of shell fire. The money received has been distributed, firstly in the supply of clothes and the necessaries of life, and secondly, in the erection of buildings, including a pavilion, which is used for school and other public purposes.
'The village is still in need of a considerable sum of money for repairing the damage that has been done and for providing the necessaries of life for the people, many of whom lost everything they were possessed of. In Belgium we visited the town of Liere, which has been assisted by a grant from the South Australian Belgium Relief Fund.
'Here again we were enthusiastically welcomed by the Mayor... They conducted us over a small model suburb which is being built, partly with South Australian subscriptions, and to which the name of "South Australia" has been given...'
A Franco-Australian Fete
A French newspaper sent to Madame Mouchette gave an interesting report of a fete held on 16 June 1922; La Gazette, Peronne, stated:
Dernancourt, the little village in the valley of the Ancre, which was completely razed to the ground in 1918, but which has already began to rise from it ruins, organised on June 16, a manifestation of gratitude in honour of its Australian God-mother, Adelaide.
Favored with beautiful weather, the fete attracted visitors from miles around, who were both pleased and astonished at the successful efforts made by the inhabitants to conceal their ruins with foliage and flowers. Every building, broken or whole, was gay with color, the French and Australian flags everywhere floated to the breeze, and all helped to render Dernancourt worthy of the occasion.
M. Belison, the Mayor of Dernancourt, was the originator and moving spirit of the fete, and was ably assisted by the various patriotic and welfare societies in the district.
In the morning a memorial service was held in honor of the 300 Australian soldiers who repose in the military cemetery in the village. Canon Vaquetts of Amiens Cathedral, who was born at Dernancourt, officiated and delivered an eloquent and inspired address. The music was supplied by the Albert Symphony Society. At 1,30 pm the procession formed up in the Place Marshall Foch and moved off preceded by the band.
At the farther end of the Rue Georges Clemencau the young folk had erected a triumphal arch, decorated with foliage and bearing the words 'Adelaide, Merci'. Here each group of the truly imposing cortege halted for a few seconds to be photographed. First came a body of horsemen, each wearing a special badge, the bridles and manes of their horses bright with ribbons and flowers, then a group of cyclists, also gay with colors.
Then an Australian soldier, mounted and carrying the Australian flag. This was one of the features of the procession. He looked superb in his Australian uniform, carrying his proud flag. A bystander approached him. 'Please sir, your name?' He replied, 'Compris, very well. Je m'appelle, Boucher Alcide, laitier a Dernancourt, of soldat dans la Grand Guerre.' (My name is Alcide Boucher, dairyman, of Dernancourt, and soldier in the Great War.) He was a Frenchman.
Following the Australian(?) came three young soldiers, representing the French army, then the school children, the little girls carrying bouquets, the boys bearing flags. At a short distance followed 'France in Mourning' represented by a charming young girl, who, clad in the garments of grief, and accompanied by three Red Cross nurses, stirred the emotions of all with memories of our wounded, our mutilated, our dead. 'France Victorious' struck a gayer note.
A young girl, proudly carried the Palm of Victory. At her side walked another handsome girl, portraying 'Australia succouring France.' Next came the group 'On ne passe pas' (no admittance), composed of men of the village who served at Verdun, in the Champagne, in Artois and in Flanders. 'There were more of us in 1914', said one of them. Yes, there were more of them then. Some stayed behind on the field, but they denied admittance to the invader.
Then followed three maidens representing Alsace and three for Lorraine, dressed in the costume of the provinces, then the municipal council and the welfare committee. These preceded a group typifying 'France at Peace and Work' consisting of a decorated waggon containing a little girl dressed as France and bearing a banner inscribed 'Pax'. Accompanying her were children, representing the industries of peace, harvesters, blacksmiths, carpenters, etc. After this group followed the remainder of the inhabitants, all carrying bouquets of flowers.
The procession passed along the Rue Clemencau to the Military Cemetery which contains some 3,000 graves, and there ranged itself beside the graves of the Australian soldiers. The members of the symbolic groups and the school children placed their flowers on the graves, while the spectators stood in an attitude of reverence. A move was then made to the General Cemetery, where flowers were placed on the graves of French soldiers.
The municipal council proceeded to an Australian grave, the only one in the General Cemetery. Here lies Colonel Leane, brother of Brigadier-General Leane, president of the Dernancourt adoption committee in Adelaide. Here the Mayor delivered a stirring oration in which he thanked his fellow citizens for having placed flowers on all the Australian, English and French graves.
'It is but right', said he, 'to include in your gratitude those who were associated in their sacrifice. And your council have deemed it their duty to assemble at the grave of Colonel Leane May the wreaths of flowers that we place here symbolise our admiration towards those heroes and represent to General Leane, to the Adelaide committee, and to all who continue towards us in peace, that generous assistance they rendered us in war, the assurance of our lasting gratitude.'
The procession returned by the Rue Marechal Petain passing beneath an arch inscribed 'Australia For Ever' and dispersed in the Rue Marechal Foch. At 4 pm a number of gifts, specially sent by the ladies of South Australia, were distributed to the school children and to the mothers of large families to whom they proved very acceptable.
This pleasing ceremony was followed by tea of which all partook with relish. At 6 pm a free lottery enabled each family to obtain a souvenir of the occasion. The fete was a great success and was much enjoyed by all. It was designed to show in some way the lasting thanks of the inhabitants of Dernancourt towards its Australian God-mother, and it will long live in their memory, coupled with the name of Adelaide.
A Final Plea
Mrs Eva Roubel d'Arenberg, honorary secretary of the 'adoption' committee put forward a final plea in September 1922 when she said: 'The winter is approaching and clothes, and above all, money will be needed, as the houses are still in a dilapidated condition. 'Mr G. Anstey, Glenelg, as the honorary treasurer, and Miss Macdonald, Grand Coffee Palace will receive any parcels of clothes, new or second hand. Clothes for babies are not required, but men's and women's are, urgently...'
Madame Mouchette - A Biography
Born at Forcalquier, Bas Aples, France, she travelled in her early years with her father who was a civil engineer. While in her teens she passed the examinations qualifying her to hold the position of teacher of painting in the National Art Schools of France.
Her husband, having been ordered abroad for reasons of health, decided to come to Australia and they arrived in Melbourne in the summer of 1881, Monsieur Mouchette having been appointed secretary of the French Consulate. Shortly after their arrival Madame engaged in the teaching of painting and exhibitions of her own and pupils' work earned flattering press notices and, encouraged by this success, she established a college for girls that grew to a flourishing institution, necessitating the employment at one time of thirty teachers.
Monsieur Mouchette, however, became involved in the great land boom and when this collapsed, his health, never too robust, gave way and he succumbed to heart failure. Madame Mouchette found herself practically ruined and with a few meagre possessions arrived in Adelaide in 1891. During her residence here she engaged in teaching painting and French and Spanish languages, ably assisted by her gifted sister Madame Marie Lion. For some years Madame Mouchette conducted the oral examinations in French at the University of Adelaide.
They proved themselves good citizens and lived up to the noblest ideals of their race and upbringing. During the war the sisters proceeded to France where Mlle Lion took up nursing in a military hospital and Madame Mouchette pursued her teaching activities as a means of providing funds to carry on their charitable work. Returning to Adelaide she took an active part in the work of 'Societe Maternelle et Enfantine' whose object was to render aid to the mothers and children of France stricken by the war. She also took a keen interest in the village of Dernancourt.
She was one of the promoters and a foundation member of the Alliance Francaise of South Australia. Deeply patriotic, she retained, even in the darkest hours of the war, an unshaken confidence in the ultimate triumph of the Allies. A number of her kinsmen made the supreme sacrifice upon the stricken fields of France.
Mlle Marie Lion died at Rose Park in 1922 and in September of that year her sister left for France to spend the eve of her days with her relatives. Upon her departure the Adelaide press said: 'Though well advanced in years, Madame Mouchette is in full possession of all her faculties; indeed, until a few days ago she was actively engaged in her profession. Her adieu to Adelaide will cause the deepest regret in a wide circle of friends, who honour her for her exceptional gifts, and revere her for her many acts of self abnegation in worthy causes, as well as to assist, in every possible way, in the cultivation of an aesthetic sense in the life of the people among whom she had cast her lot.
'Fais ce que doit, advienne que pourra - "Do your duty come what may" was the motto of "the famille Lion", the remarkably talented members of which came to this State many years ago and entered into the intellectual and artistic life of the community .'
Dame Nellie Melba Intervenes
Madame Mouchette left for France in RMS Narkunda in September 1922 and from Bombay she wrote to a friend in Adelaide: 'During the stay... at Bombay I took advantage of the embarkation there of Dame Nellie Melba at the end of her Indian tour, by enlisting her practical sympathy in the organization of a concert for the benefit of Dernancourt...
'Nothing could have been more auspicious than the presence of the diva, and most willingly and graciously she entered whole-heartedly into the arrangements for an entertainment which produced a surprisingly good result for Dernancourt.
'The concert was ably managed by the manager of Mr Charles Workman's Australian D'Oyley Carte Company and a most attractive programme arranged. Dame Melba, who had kindly consented to collect funds, was so pleased with the amount raised, that to stimulate still greater contribution, graciously sang four songs - "Chanson Triste" (Duparc), "Papillons" (Chausson), "Adieu" (from La Boheme) and "Home, Sweet Home". 'The marvellous vocalization of Melba was a revelation to some who had not heard her before. Dame Melba took up the collection, plate in hand, and she was most ably seconded by the chief officer. They were able to hand one hundred pounds to me, a sum to help increase the amount still wanted for Dernancourt's new tractor...'
As from this time the newspapers of the day are silent and it must be assumed that Madame Mouchette's visit to France was a finale to the 'adoption' of Dernancourt.
Dernacourt - Adelaide
In 1923, Richard Arthur Hobby, of Campbelltown, created the suburb of Dernancourt within the Hundred of Yatala, the first sale of an allotment being registered early in 1924. While there is no substantive evidence to support the contention, as the name 'Dernancourt' was before the public in respect of fund raising activities over the period 1920-1922, it is reasonable to assume that the nomenclature was suggested to Mr Hobby from a sense of national and civic pride.
Another significant event was the war service of Leslie R. Hobby, a cousin of R.A. Hobby. Aged eighteen years he volunteered for army service and joined the South Australian 27th Battalion that entered the battlefields of Belgium in June 1916. In one of the many battles that followed he won the Military Medal for bravery in action, while the battalion's history says:
Leaving St Laurence Farm at 8 pm on April 16  we moved into the front line and relieved the 25th battalion in our previously occupied position... Our artillery support was steadily increasing, and from time to time an annihilating fire was brought to bear upon all likely concentration areas from which an enemy attack could be launched, two particularly destructive shoots taking place during the early morning, when daylight disclosed the fact that the remnant of Ville-Sur-Ancre Church tower was missing and the ruins of Dernancourt and Morlancourt were burning...
Leslie Hobby returned to Australia in December 1918 and died at Woodville on 25 November 1976.
'Charity never faileth' - Rarely has this Biblical truism been so splendidly exemplified nationally as in the provision of practical help to innocent sufferers from the Great War of 1914-1918. Heavier and still increasing burdens of taxation did not prevent South Australians contributing lavishly, again and again, to various war funds.
In view of the magnificent part played by Australian divisions in France and Belgium, the help given to Dernancourt assisted in cementing the Anglo-French Entente into what was hoped, in the 1920s, to be an 'imperishable friendship'. In some respects this dream has been shattered over past decades! Perhaps it is fitting to close this evocative historical chronicle with a poem entitled 'Children of Dernancourt' that appeared in the Adelaide press in 1921:
- The little gardens bright with flowers
We played in thro' the sunny hours
Are gone! Poor Dernancourt! They say,
How it was pretty! and so gay-
Before They Came.
They came-they shelled our little town,
And all our houses tumbled down-
Our little homes, they were not there;
And we could only stand and stare
But now they say (our mothers say),
That in a land that's far away,
Kind people think of us, and send
Money, to help us mend
Our broken Dernancourt!
Our father's gone! our brothers too-
That died for France! What else to do?-
But France lives! France! What joy to give
To that dear land. And we shall live
Again in Dernancourt!
(See Journal of the Historical Society, No. 27, 1999, pages 125-141 for the initial appearance of this article and a notation of sources.)
AcknowledgmentThe research assistance of Mr George Daws in respect of the Hobby family, is gratefully acknowledged.
General Notes"Soldiers' Cemetery - Government Assistance Sought" is in the Advertiser,
16 February 1921, page 9a.
"Ypres Day" is in the Register,
10 October 1922, page 5i.
Information on the Belgian Relief Fund is in The Critic,
21 and 28 July 1915, pages 16 and 17,
18 January 1923, page 5d.
A photograph of a Legacy Boys' Camp is in the Chronicle,
22 January 1931, page 37.