Backward Glance – Beyond the broken years, the end of World War I
  • Wednesday 07 November 2018

The Near North Coast was a young community when war was declared on August 3, 1914.

Patriotism was high and young men enlisted throughout the district, some eager for adventure.

Field Marshall Lord Kitchener had visited Australia in 1910 and recommended a scheme of military training where boys aged over 12 years joined junior cadets but did not wear uniforms.

From 14 to 18, young men became members of uniformed cadets and from 18 to 26, they became members of citizens military training.

The Commonwealth Government supported the scheme on both sides, believing Australia needed a type of militia preferable to a standing army.  

Australia did not realise just what was about to occur.

Prior to the start of the Great War, Australia only had a small military force and a part-time militia, district rifle clubs and the cadet corps.

On August 10, 1914, voluntary recruitment of the AIF began.

In 1915, a recruitment train known as the “March to Freedom” left Rockhampton.

The train stopped at most stations on the North Coast line and by the time it reached Nambour there were well over 2000 men on board the recruitment train.

Many volunteered from the North Coast, promising mothers and families not to worry as they would be home soon.

Approximately 150,000 Australian troops were wounded in the Great War.

Sadness and grief was forever at someone’s doorstep as messages arrived about the loss of a family member or that they were missing in action.

More than 60,000 soldiers did not come home to Australian shores, including many from this region.

There are plaques and memorial trees inscribed in Eumundi to honour those who never returned.

One such plaque reads: “To the memory of Private E.H. Allan 9th Battalion A.I.F. killed in action in Ypres September 25th 1917”.

Around 20 servicemen from that district lost their lives in the Great War.

Each tree at Eumundi was originally enclosed by a small fence, bearing the name and service details of each deceased soldier.

During the 1970s, 15 of the Eumundi trees were replaced and the plaques were remounted on stones at the base of the trees.

Glass House resident Charles King enlisted in Brisbane for service in the AIF Forces on April 7, 1915, aged 26.

He served with B Company, 26th Battalion.

He survived the war and was discharged on July 3, 1918. However in many small communities like this tragedy occurred.

The Gilvear family from Glass House region lost three sons – Ken, Robert and Alex – while their fourth son Jack was injured.

Six sons had enlisted in 1914.

To have so many brothers together in any theatre of war is unique for this country but their father Thomas Gilvear enlisted as well.

He was allowed to return home to his grief stricken family due to the loss of their boys. 

Australian Infantry Forces experienced their first major battle when they landed on the shores of Gallipoli Peninsula on April 25, 1915 and were killed in the thousands.

Most of Australia’s forces died on the Western Front in France and Belgium between 1916 and 1918.   

Those who died are buried in war graves, never to return home.

While over three-quarters of the AIF were single, thousands of children lost their fathers.

Mothers and fathers lost their sons and daughters during this terrible time.

More than 430,000 men and women served in the Australian Armed Forces during World War I, both in Australia and overseas.

Hostilities ceased at 11am on November 11, 1918 and a Peace Treaty was signed on June 28, 1919.

The news caused jubilation as it quickly spread across Australia. 

While disabled soldiers had returned to Australia during the four-year period of the war with nurses caring for them, many had injuries that would stay with them for life.

In 1919, most of the war’s survivors would return to jubilant families and communities.

There was a shortage of shipping so many thousands of veterans, some very traumatised and badly injured, would have to wait months for a homeward voyage to Australia.

On those ships throughout the war and at the cessation, the nurses of the AIF still cared for convalescent casualties such was their dedication to duty.

Private Robert A. Roberts was the son of Robert Roberts and wife Betsey (nee Perren), who were cane farmers at Rosemount.

Robert was employed at Moreton Central Sugar Mill where he worked as fireman on the locomotives.

He enlisted in the Australian Medical Corp. on October 3, 1915 and trained at Enoggera military hospital.

He left for overseas service on March 29, 1916 and after a month in Egypt, served in France in the 13th and 6th Field Ambulance, but he sadly died on April 7, 1918, aged 23.

Gallipoli veteran Norman Craig from Peachester worked for Grigor's Mill and also on road and fencing contracts in the district prior to enlisting.

Upon his return to Australia he purchased “Thistledown”, a Peachester dairy property.

While overseas he met a Scottish lass and later married her, they settled on the Peachester property in 1920 so far from her home country.  

Charles Tutt from the North Coast was a farmer and timber cutter like his brother Bert.

On April 7, 1916 aged 34, Charles enlisted.

He served in the 41st Infantry Battalion, 5th Reinforcements and embarked from Brisbane aboard the “Kyarra” on November 17, 1916.

Charles was killed in action during the Battle of Mont St Quentin France on September 1, 1918, only weeks before the cessation of the war.

The Nambour Returned Servicemen’s League Sub-Branch commenced in 1918 and was formed by wounded veterans returning home from World War I.

A Wall of Remembrance was built to commemorate 90 years of the RSL in 2008 and today honours the men and women from the district who have served in conflicts dating from World War I to the present day.

The consequences of the Great War affected many families and memories are still raw in family stories passed down through generations.  

Australia respects two dates of national significance – Armistice Day November 11 and Anzac Day April 25. 

Anzac Day is the day the AIF landed at Gallipoli and changed our nation. 

Maleny Branch of the Red Cross Society participated in a victory parade in Maleny on Armistice Day, November 11, 1919.

A year after the end of the war patriotic locals gathered.

The town’s people travelled down Maple Street across the Obi Obi Creek Bridge on to Bunya Street.

They rode in their sulkies, horse drawn-wagons, on horseback and many travelled on foot.

These parades occurred throughout Australia.

To honour those lost to war, memorials started to be built and trees were planted to remember those never to return and those who served.

There are no living veterans of World War I left in Australia today.

On November 11, on the 11th hour when the guns ceased, we will remember what happened 100 years ago with a minute’s silence.

Thanks to Sunshine Coast Council’s Heritage Library Officers for the words and Picture Sunshine Coast for the images.


Image details 

Hero image: World War I Armistice Day gathering in Maple Street, Maleny, 11 November 1919.

Image 1: Montville Hall and Memorial Gates, Memorial Close, Montville, ca 1990. The Memorial Gates at the entrance to the hall were unveiled on 11 November 1921. Marble plaques mounted on the front pillars record the names of members of the Montville District who enlisted during World War I, those who fell and those who were not accepted for service.

Image 2: Patriotic procession led by the Nambour Town Band, Currie Street, Nambour, ca 1918.  

Image 3: Maleny school students and local residents gathered on Obi Ob Creek Bridge to welcome home a soldier returning from WWI, March 1919.

Image 4: Float in the shape of HMAS Sydney participating in the Maleny street parade on Armistice Day, November 1919.

Image 5: Buderim Carnival Float in peace celebrations to mark the end of World War I, 1918.