Saturday, 18 March 2017

Army Medical Drill Hall

239 A'Beckett Street, Melbourne
On Wednesday a group of librarians attended a meeting at the Royal Historical Society of Victoria in A'Beckett Street, Melbourne. The RHSV is located in part of the former Australian Army Medical Drill Hall building and the meeting was held in the Speaker's Room, originally the Officer's Mess. In this impressive wood panelled room located upstairs, it is easy to imagine the functions that may have been held in the room in the past.

In 2010 a series of podcast walks describing locations in the area close to the RHSV was prepared and information from some of that research about the medical drill hall is provided in this post. Much of the information about the building was later added to the RHSV website. The article on the website also mentions two historical assessment reports made of the building.
Army Medical Corps
The site of the Amy Medical Drill Hall was continually occupied by the Army from 1866 until 1988. From 1866 the small weatherboard West Melbourne Orderly Room and the adjoining drill hall were used by Colonial Volunteer Forces. In 1900 a contract was signed for the construction of new weatherboard quarters at the eastern end of the site. All these buildings were demolished for the Medical Corps building.

The Australian Army Medical Corps headquarters was built between 1938 and 1939 by J. Whitelaw, Richmond at a budget cost of £25,947. The architect was George Hallandal of the Victorian section of the Department of the Interior, Works Branch.

The principal entrance to the building is at 239 A’Beckett Street, and it is here that the words Army Medical Corps and the badge of the Corps are pressed into the cement cornice.  Of the numerous additional entrances to the building, the one on Williams Street leads to the Officer’s Mess.
Detail of building - corner of A'Beckett Street and William Street
The functional and utilitarian building has two large drill halls with offices along their northern wall. The drill halls are separated by a public entrance foyer which leads off A’Beckett Street. Messes are placed at the centre of the building for sergeants and at the east and west ends of the building for "other ranks" and officers. The room for "other ranks" was located in the basement.

The materials featured in this late 1930s building are primarily brick and plaster, plus timber. Design features include strong vertical and horizontal lines, fluted pilasters, arches, keystones, coffered ceilings and built-in seats. The offices along the side of the hall have Dutch or stable doors. The workmanship in the building construction is impressive showing off the quality of the work of the bricklayers, plasterers and carpenters.

The building was the result of both the defence build-up just prior to World War II and the end of the 1930s depression when government sponsored construction was used to employ trades people.

The Army Medical Corps' new building was purposely designed to provide a centrally located building for the administration, organisation and implementation of training, research and advice in medical, hygiene and hospital procedures, provision of services and the issuing of stores and payroll.

When the hall was built the staff of the Army Medical Corps was 39. By the end of 1944 the members of the corps numbered 32,100, including 3,500 nurses who were admitted to the corps after September 1940. As well as the two halls being used as indoor parade areas, they were used as a gymnasium and for general physical training. The halls were also used for social gatherings. 

Post war use of the building to 1988 included Medical Corps Reserve training, including nurses, premises for the 3rd Psychology Unit, army publicity (with printing equipment), intermittent drill training (including rehearsals for Legacy shows) and garaging of vehicles.

A number of the nurses who have made return visits to the building have described marching drill in the hall and also out in the street, watched by men waiting for accommodation at the Gill, located nearby.

By 1990 the building had been added to Heritage Victoria’s Historic Buildings Register as being of state-wide architectural and historical significance.

Since August 1999 the western end of the building has been the premises of the Royal Historical Society of Victoria to house the society’s library, images and manuscript collections, and as a space for exhibitions and lectures.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

5000 Poppies Project continues

Below is the link to the next stage of the 50000 Poppies Project.
2017 and we are back at it! 

The next target is 2018 - commemorating the end of World War I.

The project organisers have committed to make 50,000 lapel poppies for the RSL to sell as part of their 2018 Poppy Appeal … these will be our own “special edition” hand crafted poppies to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the end of World War I, and a wonderful way for all of us collectively to contribute to the ongoing wellbeing of current and former members of Australian and allied defence forces and their dependants.

The organisers are hoping to deliver at least 10,000 to the RSL in the first half of the this year just to get the ball rolling … the remainder will be delivered periodically throughout 2017 and into 2018 to allow time for the RSL to prepare for them sale … because the plan is that they will be packaged a little differently to the standard Poppy Appeal poppies.

Poppies for this project need to be small to medium, tight knit or crochet poppies .. around 9 cm in diameter.  Slightly larger is ok so long as they don’t “wilt”.  It would be very helpful if you could attach a pin to the back but if that’s not possible then it’s not a major problem, but the less post processing for the RSL the better.

If you go to the patterns page on the blog the Chelsea patterns are perfect and Ing’s poppy pattern is gorgeous but you can make just about any one of these poppies and it will work … the key is the tension … the important thing is to avoid flopping.

Keep an eye on the 5000 Poppies Project blog for the latest information.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Poppies in Perth

When walking through Cathedral Place in Perth on Remembrance Day we discovered a 'field' of knitted and crocheted poppies poppies behind St George's Cathedral. Additional poppies were added to the display at the Remembrance Day service held later in the morning. A total of 7,200 poppies were used in the final display.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Remembrance Day 2016

The Remembrance Day display display at Nunawading Library this year features memorials.
These included the Shrine of Remembrance and the Australian War Memorial.
Local memorials in Box Hill and Blackburn are also included.
 Whitehorse Manningham Libraries has a Diggers Database which can be accessed via the initial catalogue page. The database includes the names of those from our region who fought during World War I.
Lest we Forget

(Thank you Paul for the images)

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Ken Moses - wallet

In December 2014 I wrote a post about some of the possessions that my father had when he served in the Australian Army during the Second World War. One of these possessions was a leather wallet with a Rising Sun Badge attached to the front. An assignment for the unit, Place, Image, Object, part of the Family History course at the University of Tasmania required students to prepare an object biography. I decided to do some further research and use Dad's wallet for this assignment. Since the original post I have received a request asking if I have additional information soan ammended version of the assignment is included below.
My special object is this brown leather document wallet that belonged to my father.
Wallet measurements:  15 cm (width when folded) x 22.5 cm (height) with a depth of 1 cm
Materials: leather, cardboard, thread, glue, metal press stud, silk fabric, [celluloid sheet – missing]

The dark brown leather bifold wallet was possibly manufactured at the end of the 1930s as it was one of Dad’s possessions during the Second World War. He left Sydney to travel with the 2/4th Battalion to Egypt in January 1940. Unfortunately there is no maker’s mark on the wallet though a label may have become detached. The wallet is machine sewn and there is a side strap with a press stud to fasten it. The corners of the wallet are rounded.

The wallet is made from split leather. Once the hide of an animal has been washed and put through the fleshing machine it is vegetable tanned (bark tanned). The hide is then washed and pressed smooth before being put through a machine to split it into various thicknesses.  To finish the leather each piece is rubbed with oil or soap to make it soft and pliable. The leather used for wallets was often from the bottom section of the hide so after being died an embossing plate would be used making the finished product resemble full-grain leather. [1]

The cover of the wallet is stiff so the leather has been glued to thick cardboard, before assembly.  The wallet is lined with dark brown silk. The front edge of the leather is folded as a seam inside the wallet when stitched. 
The leather inserts inside the wallet are cut from thicker split leather than that used on the cover and have been coloured and finished in the same way as the cover leather. The main pocket is the height of the wallet and has two pockets, possibly for cards, stitched on the lower section plus another insert which would probably have had a celluloid window for a larger card or photo. On the right section a piece of leather is attached to the wallet to hold a notebook or map in place. A small leather loop in the centre plus a small leather pocket attached to the bottom of the wallet would have held a pencil or pen.  West describes the method of construction of a similar wallet design.[2]
Attached to the top right hand corner of the wallet is a Rising Sun Badge (General Service Badge) worn by Australian soldiers during World War I and World War II. This is the third version of the Australian Army badge in use from 1904 until 1949.[3] According to Cossum there were more than ‘thirty different variations of hat badges … and more than fifty different variations of collar badges.[4]  Festberg describes the choice of design for the badge.[5]

The wallet badge is brass and measures 2.6 cm (width) x 1.5 cm (height). The design at the top of the badge represents the rays of the rising sun. A crown in a semicircle is above the words AUSTRALIAN COMMONWEALTH MILITARY FORCES inscribed on three scrolls. The badge is attached to the wallet with two metal prongs placed through cuts in the leather and folded inwards to secure. As the back of the badge cannot be seen it is not possible to see if there is a maker’s mark. I do not know when the badge was attached to the wallet.

I searched online to locate information about other wallets like Dad’s wallet. The Australian War Memorial website[6] produced the best results. A search for ‘wallets’, on the Collection page of the website, located examples of document wallets.  These included wallets with ‘Good luck from the Red Cross Society’ stamped on them plus wallets with printed inscriptions showing they were presented to departing soldiers by local councils. One trifold wallet also had a Rising Sun Badge on the front cover[7]. The Victorian Collections website[8] also has examples of soldiers’ wallets. I suspect that there were many wallets decorated with Army badges during the Second World War but they have not survived or are not in collections.

Dad served in the Middle East from 1940 until 1942. When the 2/4th Battalion returned to Australia on the way to New Guinea Dad was discharged as medically unfit.

I do not know what documents Dad kept in the wallet during the war. A work colleague interested in military history has confirmed that it was usual for soldiers to carry wallets with identification and other documents along with papers (and photographs) important to them - often memories of home.

At home my father kept the wallet and its contents, with associated papers, in a filing cabinet. Items relating to Dad’s time in the Army included leave passes on scraps of paper, a program and ticket for an Australian Military Band concert in Haifa, a Manly Life Saving Club membership card for the duration of the war, instructions to proceed to Haifa for Life Saving duty and a certificate that he was medically unfit for service. There were also a series of telegrams to his mother announcing he was back in Australia, a discharge letter plus a letter regarding his pension. The wallet also contained other documents important to my father including his passport, a receipt for the hotel where my parents spent their honeymoon, papers relating to the purchase of their war service home, letters of sympathy received when his father died and an invitation to his brother’s wedding.

Since I have had the wallet it has been kept in a cupboard with other family history material. The wallet is wrapped in acid-free tissue paper.  A copy of the object biography will be stored with the wallet. Individual letters and ephemera are now in polyethylene sleeves and all items relating to the wallet and the Second World War will be stored in a suitable box in the cupboard.

This wallet contained documents and memories important to my father. For my family, the wallet and its contents now provide special memories of my father. They are also important items relating to my father’s contribution to our family story.


[1]  Raymond Cherry, Leathercrafting: Procedures and Projects (Bloomington: McKnight Publishing Co.), 2-3; R M Williams, The Bushman’s Handcrafts (Netley: Griffin Press) 9-34
[2] Geoffrey West, Leatherwork: A Manual of Techniques (Ramsbury: Crowood Press) 98-107
[4] J K Cossum, Australian Army Badges The Rising Sun Badge (Sunbury: Cossum) 3
[5]  Alfred N Festberg, Hat Badges of the Australian Army 1903-1930 (Melbourne: Silverleaf Publishing) 11-23
[7] Australian War Memorial ’Leather Wallet’,
 
Bibliography
Books
Cherry, Raymond. Leathercrafting: Procedures and Projects, 5th ed., Bloomington: McKnight Publishing Company, 1979
Cossum, J K. Australian Army Badges ‘The Rising Sun Badge’, Sunbury: J K Cossum, 1986
Festberg, Alfred N. Hat Badges of the Australian Army 1903-1930, Melbourne: Silverleaf Publishing, 1981
West, Geoffrey. Leatherwork: A Manual of Techniques, Ramsbury: Crowood Press, 1998
Williams, R M. The Bushman’s Handicrafts, Netley: Griffin Press, 1943
White Over Green: the 2/4th Infantry Battalion, Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1963

Websites
Army, ‘Rising Sun Badge’ Accessed 3 August 2016
Australian War Memorial, ‘2/4th Australian Infantry Battalion’, Accessed 3 August 2016,
Australian War Memorial, ‘2/4th Battalion Plaque Australian War Memorial’, Accessed 3 August 2016, https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/PL00092/
Australian War Memorial, ‘Collection’, Accessed 3 August 2016, https://www.awm.gov.au/search/all/
Digger History, ‘Rising Sun Badge’, Accessed 3 August 2016,
Slideshare, ‘Leather Processing’, Accessed 3 August 2016, http://www.slideshare.net/budols/leather-processing
Victorian Collections, ‘Wallets’, Accessed 3 August 2016,

Friday, 1 July 2016

Weeping Window poppies

The Black Watch Museum is the first location in mainland Scotland to host the Weeping Window exhibition which is touring to commemorate those who died during World War I. The ceramic poppies in the display are a selection of the poppies that filled the moat of the Tower of London in 2014. Full article

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

5000 Poppies continued

The 5000 Poppies project initiated in Australia as a community project for the 2015 Anzac Day commemorations has crossed the world to London as part of the Chelsea Flower Show.
3000,000 knitted and crocheted poppies have been transported to London by Qantas. The display is in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea. As well as the poppies from Australia another 26,000 poppies with stems, including 1,200 poppies from the Knitting for Victory project, have been included in the display.
Further information:
Chelsea Flower Show poppies - Telegraph 24 May 2016
The day has arrived - 5000 Poppies
5000 Poppies at Chelsea Flower Show - Anzac 100 Victoria