Frank MacDonald – Memorial Prize – Essay

Hey there, sorry that I haven’t been posting recently folks.

As it happens, people such as myself that produce videos and media are in high demand all of a sudden. Perhaps it’s the film competitions that are on at the moment, or maybe they’re just requesting my assistance because they feel sorry for me. =) Nah, I’m too good for that. *conceited*

Now I don’t like leaving my website all alone in the dark . . . especially with no new content for weeks . . . and whilst thinking, “I should probably write a post soon,” I came across a brilliant idea. I think I’ll phrase it like this:

Maybe I should just upload that essay that I entered in that competition that I lost.

You see, last school holidays, like any normal school kid [Pffft] I set off to write an 1000 word essay on Tasmania, and World War 1’s effect on it’s society. Well, apparently the judges don’t like you writing about the society’s change, instead of writing about the entire change on the history of Tasmania, they obviously prefer something more personal, but never mind that, apologies for my lack of personal connection you judge folk.

Might as well just post the essay here right? They won’t use the same question again next year, and it’s an essay that didn’t place or get any mention whatsoever, an unimportant waste of time. So, here you go. Enjoy the read.

Approximately, eight million men died in battle, twenty-one million were injured, and over six and a half million non-combatants were killed in what is called “The Great War.”

A whole generation of men came to be known to history as the “lost generation.”

Outline the main impact on Tasmania of such loss and injury; both at the time and across subsequent years.

It is 1914, thirteen years after six British colonies scattered across the surface of Australia were formed into a Commonwealth[1]. A united mateship of 416 809 men [2] were more than eager to show off their newly formed nation in what would be The Great War.  The thousands of volunteers were oblivious to the reality that the carefully advertised “excitement” would turn out to be four years of hail and bloodshed in the “War to End All Wars”.[3]

Reaching an estimated four million people[4], Australia’s 1914 population was nearly six times less than it is today. The Australian community was greatly impacted when thousands of men left to go to war. Of those men, 15 485 were from Tasmania, a state that had a population of about 198 000 people. [5] The small island said its farewells to 7.8 per cent [6] of its population as they left the shores to assist the British Empire in the fight against Germany.  Unknown to the folks left behind, 65 per cent of all those who departed for overseas would become casualties of war through death, wounding or illness.[7]

The war had been in progress for six months, and although it was raging thousands of kilometres away in Europe, Tasmania was beginning to feel the force of it[8]. Mining companies lost thousands of their workers to the high infantry demand[9] whilst some employers struggled to pay their staff because of the economic disruption the war was causing.  One problem led to another; unemployment doubled in six months, inflation increased[10] and political warfare sprung up over issues such as worker strikes and conscription.[11]

When the war first started in August, 1914, Britain arrested twenty one individuals suspected of being enemy spies. [12] In light of this move by the motherland, Tasmanians began questioning the ethnic background of some of their fellow citizens, in particular, those of German descent. Even though they had been living in Tasmania as citizens for years, many people of European descent were now frowned upon.[13]   Given that the Germans were the major adversary Australia was fighting against overseas, [14] many accusations were made claiming those with German heritage were spies sent to monitor our activities and report back to their homeland.  Gustav Weindorfer, a botanist of Austrian background, who had been living in Tasmania twelve years before the war commenced was one example.[15] Gustav, who is widely regarded for his contribution towards the development of National Parks in Tasmania, was accused of using his house on Cradle Mountain to send messages to German ships.[16] His rights as a citizen were infringed and he was ostracised by many others because of his background.  This put Tasmania’s multicultural development on hold, ultimately slowing down the development of Australia’s society. Hundreds of immigrants who had been living in Australia for decades were being removed from society and imprisoned in internment camps.[17] 

A vital sector of the emerging Australian culture was essentially reviled as the parliament expressed its growing anti-German sentiment. Renaming numerous towns with German sounding names all over Australia reflected this response.[18]  Tasmanian towns were not unaffected by this trend and the township previously known as Bismarck was renamed Collinsvale.  In light of this movement, it was hardly surprising that the settlement of Germantown was renamed Lilydale.  Throughout the nation, towns such as Hochkirch, Heidelburg and Steinfeld received new nomenclatures in a bid to soothe the abundant sensitivity caused by the war.[19]

As the years came to pass, and the war front grew in more dire need of infantry, the number of volunteers joining the military declined.[20] Prime Minister Billy Hughes[21] noticed this decrease and in an attempt to ensure Australia’s numbers stayed strong in the front lines, he fought to change the conscription policy of the Defence Act so that military enrolment would be mandatory for all men.[22] Two national votes were held; one in October 1916 and another when Hughes, yet again, tried in December 1917.  In the end, both referendums opposed conscription,[23] ending the debate and leaving military enrolment optional for men throughout World War 1 until the beginning of World War 2.[24] It could probably be said that if it were not for these debates throughout World War 1, the conscription would never have been approved in 1939 and thousands of men would not have been ‘forced’ to go to World War 2.[25] Most likely because of this first debate, along with the tedious situation of war, the majority of parliament house members voting in favour of conscription was profuse.[26]

After the war, Tasmania’s population stayed stationary, only climbing by 7 000 people in the ten years that separated 1920 and 1930.[27] Censuses taken before 1915 suggest that in the ten years the population would predictably increase by about 18 000 people.[28] Since this was not the case, it became evident that World War 1 had left Tasmania shaken.  Testament to this was not only the loss of two thousand Tasmanian soldiers,[29] but also the return home of physically and psychologically combatants scarred from their time on the battlefield.  It is also thought the returning servicemen brought home with them the Spanish influenza which swept through Tasmania in 1919, affecting one third of the population.[30] Cautious after the war, Australia was also no longer allowing the number of immigrants to enter the country that it formerly received.[31]  This reduced Tasmania’s population and sociological growth considerably.  Tasmania’s population increase between 1920 until 1930 was almost three times less than it had been before the soldiers left the shores of Australia to assist Britain in the fight against Germany.[32]

It is 1918, seventeen years after six British colonies scattered across Australia were formed into a Commonwealth.  A united mateship of 357 848 men[33] returned home and reflected on the four years of hail and bloodshed whilst mourning the loss of almost 60 000 comrades. [34] These brave men now faced the challenge of putting the horrors of war behind them as they were absorbed back into Australian society.

Contemplating the aftermath, Tasmania undoubtedly suffered loss; the loss and injury of thousands of loved ones.  Families grieved for those who did not return home or who returned home as broken casualties of war. Yet as significant as these deaths and injuries were, Tasmania suffered other losses; loss in terms of the growth of our society and the prosperity of our culture and heritage.  Now, some ninety three years since the battlefields fell silent, this small but proud state of Tasmania still feels the pain of these losses.

 

Lest We Forget

 

Word Count: 1083



[5] Tasmania’s 1914 population was estimated by using both the 1900 and 1910 census information on EPlanner. http://eplanner.education.tas.gov.au/item/edres/b7b87a46-224d-71b6-1b72-be995f251f7f/1/Timeline.zip/1900-tasmanian.html

[6] The percentage of Tasmania’s population going to war was calculated by dividing the number of Tasmanian volunteers by the estimated population in reference 4, that number was then multiplied by 100.

[7] H.P. Willmott, (2008) World War 1, Dorling Kindersley Limited + Chris Oxlade, (2010) Secret History World War 1, Arcturus Publishing Limited + http://www.anzacday.org.au/history/ww1/anecdotes/stats01.html

[12] Chris Oxlade, (2010) Secret History World War 1, Arcturus Publishing Limited

[14] H.P. Willmott, (2008) World War 1, Dorling Kindersley Limited + Chris Oxlade, (2010) Secret History World War 1, Arcturus Publishing Limited

[15] http://www.utas.edu.au/library/companion_to_tasmanian_history/W/Weindorfer.htm + a little mathematics

[33] The number of men enlisted for the war minus the number of deaths, NOT including casualties. http://www.awm.gov.au/encyclopedia/enlistment/ww1.asp

[34] Rounded number of death count http://www.awm.gov.au/encyclopedia/enlistment/ww1.asp

4 comments

    I know what you mean by a waste of time,
    unlike you I had no choice on doing or not doing the essay due to being ahead of everyone esle and having a teacher rewards earler finishers with more work.
    Not naming any names but I’m sure you can figure out who I mean.
    Not only did I waste my time but I stressed to get it finished before the holidays as we were going away.

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