Author Archives: historyspark99

History, war and remembering in 2018

100th anniversary of the First World War Armistice

The 100th anniversary of the First World War Armistice will be one of the most notable anniversaries commemorated in 2018.

On 11 November 2018 it will be one hundred years since the First World War Armistice. On this day,  at the eleventh hour, all military action ceased — four years of global war ended.

In allied countries, like Australia, the news of the Armistice and their victory was greeted with immense joy. Reconciling the real cost of the war would come later.

The Australian War Memorial will commemorate the centenary of the Armistice with a creative public program, which will combine public activities, displays, installations and events for the five-week period from 5 October to Remembrance Day, on 11 November 2018. Details can be found here.

The centrepiece for the commemorations will be the installation of 62,000 knitted red poppy flowers on the Memorial’s grounds. Each poppy represents an Australian life lost in the First World War, who are individually listed on the Memorial’s Roll of Honour.

Other 2018 military anniversaries

Other significant military anniversaries in 2018 include:

1 May 2018: 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic in 1943
13 May 2018: 50th anniversary of the Battles at Fire Support Bases Coral and Balmoral (Vietnam War) in 1968
27 July 2018: 65th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice in 1953
16 October 2018: 75th anniversary of Australian work on Hell Fire Pass and completion of the Thai Burma Railway in 1943

What will you be remembering in 2018?

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Armistice Day, 1918, Swanston St. Melbourne




Women of Empire 1914-1918

I often think of Virginia Woolf’s words — for most of history, anonymous was a woman — so I was really pleased to come across the exhibition Women of Empire 1914-1918.

Fiona Baverstock and her husband Keith came up with the idea of the touring exhibition during the 90th anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign. At the time there seemed to be little recognition that women were involved in the First World War. Fiona and Keith were determined that this should be addressed for the centenary of the First World War.

The exhibition profiles Australia and New Zealand women whose experience of the First World War was especially eventful and illustrative of the varied roles women played during the war. Each woman is represented by an original outfit of the era from the extensive collection of the Dressing Australia Museum of Costume. These costumes are a simple and powerful way of letting us imagine the lives of these women.

A few of the women featured in Women of Empire 1914-1918 are familiar names in Australian history. Most though are women, who at best are remembered as historical footnotes, but should be better known in Australian history.

To me all these women sounded remarkable but especially interesting were:

Marion Leane Smith: The only known Indigenous Australian nurse to have served in the First World War. A Cabrogal woman born in NSW, she was raised in Canada and served that country and Britain as a war nurse. During World War II she brought the Red Cross to Trinidad.

Ettie Rout: She set up the New Zealand Volunteer Sisterhood taking them to Egypt in July 1915 where they manned canteens and established a Soldiers’ Club. A safe-sex pioneer Ettie devised a prophylactic kit — eventually adopted by the military — to sell at the New Zealand Soldiers’ Clubs in England in 1917. After the war, she was called the wickedest woman in Britain for her book Safe Marriage, which provided instruction on avoiding venereal disease (VD) and pregnancy.

Dr Elsie Dalyell: In the laboratory at the Scottish Women’s Hospital at Royaumont her pioneering protocols for the treatment of gangrene saved limbs as well as lives. After this, she enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corps as a senior bacteriologist in Malta and Salonika. In Constantinople (now Istanbul), she tackled a severe cholera outbreak. Twice Mentioned in Despatches, Elsie was awarded the OBE in 1919. In World War II, she organized the Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service.

If you want to know more about the women featured in Women of Empire 1914-1918 you can read their profiles here.

GOLD STAR to Fiona Baverstock and her husband Keith for their work to ensure that women of the First World War are not overlooked during the centenary.



Miles Franklin and Vida Goldstein, two of the more well-known Australian women featured in Women of Empire 1914-1918


Remember this is a voice from the tomb

James Wilson was one of the last convicts transported to Australia. His words below are from a smuggled letter sent in 1874 to John Devoy, a Fenian leader, in America. James Wilson’s desperate appeal led the American Fenians to organise the 1876 Catalpa rescue — the liberation of six Fenian convicts from Fremantle gaol.


Now, dear friend, remember this is a voice from the tomb…we have been nearly nine years in this living tomb…it is impossible for mind or body to withstand the continual strain…one or the other must give away.
— James Wilson


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