Thursday, December 30, 2021

McDonalds Track - from Tobin Yallock to Morwell

 McDonalds Track originally went from the Tobin Yallock Bridge (where the South Gippsland Highway crosses the Lang Lang River) to Morwell. It followed the ridges of the Strzelecki Ranges and was about seventy miles (about 110kms) in length. You can see the start of the track as it is the first turn-off into Lang Lang on the Highway coming from Koo Wee Rup, then it went to Nyora and Poowong. Remnants of the track are still named on maps, around Poowong East, Mount Worth (the highest point of the original track); then there is another section around Childers, Thorpdale and Narracan.

The track was surveyed by Assistant-Surveyor George Thomas McDonald. He started in 1860 and it was finished in 1862. It was hoped that the track would provide an alternate route for stock to get from Gippsland to Melbourne.

Map of McDonalds Track. 
Source: Pack Tracks to Pastures: a history of Poowong District by Ross Hartnell (Poowong Centenary Committee, 1974)

The Argus of January 1, 1863 (1) published a report from George McDonald of his progress and it makes interesting reading -

The accompanying report has been received from Mr. Assistant-Surveyor McDonald, of the progress he has made with his survey of a road to Gipps Land, from Yallock to Morwell.

 Survey Camp. Yallock,
4th December, 1862.

Sir, I have the honour to forward here with a plan of my survey for a new line of road from Melbourne to Gipps Land, viá Cranbourne and Yallock, which I propose shall diverge from the Lower Gipps Land road at Tobin Yallock bridge and join upon the upper road at the Morwell bridge.

In compliance with your instructions, I made it my duty to keep along the Dividíng Range-a task of great difficulty, on account of the irregularity of the country and of the density of the scrub. I have nevertheless succeeded in accomplishing it; and am most happy to state that, with the exception of a few places, an excellent road may, when cleared, be had to Gipps Land.

The range, as you will observe on this plan, is crooked, yet the distance is very little in excess of that by the Fern-tree Gullies, while in every other respect this road will be infinitely superior, as there are no creeks to cross, consequently no bridges will be required. The ground is almost all good and firm, so that travelling may be performed with safety and comfort at all seasons of the year.

The cost of clearing will be the chief item of expenditure, but that, together with the expense of making a few side cuttings at the places indicated below, should not exceed £10,000. Indeed, for that sum I consider that a thoroughly good road, one chain wide, could be made, which would be practicable for travelling day or night. I specify a road of a chain wide because the ridge for a large proportion of the distance would not admit of one wider, and in one or two places it cannot without levelling be made wider than forty five or fifty feet.

One of the greatest objections by the public to this road will be the scarcity of feed for stock, there being a length of nearly fifty miles in which the only herbage to be obtained is ferns, sword-grass, and a small quantity of creeping grass, which last in some places climbs from bush to bush, making travelling very painful work to the pedestrian. Even were the grass plentiful, the density of the scrub would prevent advantage being taken of it. But as the soil is generally good, I have little doubt that in the course of time hotel keepers along the road will clear and sow paddocks with grass for the accommodation of themselves and others.

Although no creeks are crossed by the road, yet there are few points of it at which water cannot be obtained at all seasons of the year, by clearing a short distance to the creeks on either side,  [Here follows a list of points at which improvements are suggested, plan of which can be seen in the Board of Land and Works office.]

I have now seen a large portion of this country, and find a great similarity in it. Everywhere the scrub prevails, so that no view of any extent can be obtained, not even from the highest hills. Nature generally presents her shady side in this district, as the face of the sun is generally veiled by the scrub. Indeed, during the few days I was engaged in the open country at the Morwell, I found the glare most oppressive, and was glad to get back to the scrub again.

Bush fires have destroyed a large quantity of the timber, which now looms round on every side like huge gaunt skeletons. The look is not the worst, however, as branches are constantly dropping with a force considerably increased by a fall of two hundred and fifty or three hundred feet. At one of my camping places a limb fell upon the mess tent, and almost frightened the life out of the men in the adjoining tent. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

During the winter and after a heavy fall of rain the earth loosens at the roots of the dead trees, when large numbers of them fall with a crash, which at a distance resembles the sound of a cannon. Several times after storms I have been obliged to send back men to clear the logs from the track, and the carter invariably carries an axe when going for stores.

I observed only one place which appeared to have escaped the fires, and there the timber attained a magnificent size, the scrub also was large in proportion and tolerably open but I have invariably found where the timber was dead the scrub was dense, and the converse.

I have met with no surface indication of gold; but at a creek during my return from the Morwell one of the men made shift to wash two pannikinfuls of earth from the bed of the creek, in the lid of the ' billy,' and found a large percentage of black sand; indeed, I thought he had got several specks of gold, which on close examination proved to be unfounded. 

As tin ore, or black sand, as it is generally called, is frequently found in conjunction with gold, and by experienced miners is considered a good indication of that metal, gold may yet be found when more perfect appliances and greater care are brought to bear upon the search for it. A short distance lower down the same creek I found a quantity of lignite. 

At a point marked on the plan, where a tree had been blown down, exposing part of the rock, I found a vein of soft earthy coal about three inches thick, and fourteen inches wide, besides three or four smaller veins about half an inch in thickness. I put one of my men to clear off the débris, but made no further discovery. 

The scenery in many of the gullies is of a most charming description, and were it not for the difficulties of access, would well reward some of our distinguished artists for visiting. I trust, however, that the time is not far distant when they may do so with ease. The immense quantities of fern-trees, with the innumerable forms and shades of the gums, lightwoods, wattles, musk, hoyles, and various other small shrubs, together with the gracefully tapering form of the sassafras, combine to form scenes of the most enchanting beauty, the description of which is utterly beyond the power of pen or pencil.

I beg to state that I have the black sand, also specimens of the coal and lignite, and trust shortly to have the honour of submitting them for your examination.

I have the honour to be, sir,
Your most obedient servant,
George T. McDonald.
C. W. Ligar, Surveyor-General.

The McDonald's Track was a surveying and logistical feat as all the supplies had to be transported from Cranbourne, the vegetation was often impenetrable and the terrain was difficult.(2). Sadly for George McDonald his hopes of the route becoming a major road never eventuated, apparently due to the fact that there were no permanent water holes along the route (3), and thus no hotel keepers ever came to provide accommodation and hospitality. It was from the start a seven foot wide 'dray track' straddling the survey line was constructed to within approximately four and half miles of Mt Worth - the highest point on the route. From there it narrowed considerably (4). The 'Dray Track' can be seen on the map. above.  Due to the lack of use, the vegetation began to re-grow and an early account of the track likened it to  a tunnel due to the dense vegetation -  The sight which met the eyes of the pioneer selector when he approached the western fringe of the hazel scrub on McDonalds track was that of a narrow, winding, darkened lane or tunnel about seven feet in width, curving to the right and left to avoid the huge gum trees (5).

It was about 1874 that settlers began selecting land along the McDonalds Track around Poowong, and, by then, the reports were that the track was completely overgrown. Later settlers branched out from there to Poowong East and Poowong North. This area was also opened up by the establishment of a coach track from Poowong to Drouin (the Dray Track) after the Gippsland Railway was opened in 1878 (6)

The Track saw the establishment of  a small town, Tobin Yallock, where it commenced at the Lang Lang River. The first store and hotel were built c.1867 by William Lyall and located on part of the Tobin Yallock (or Torbinurruck) squatting run on the junction of McDonald’s Track and what is now called the South Gippsland Highway. This store and hotel became the nucleus of the town of Lang Lang, as it was officially known, though the locals called it Tobin Yallock. Tobin Yallock would eventually have a church, a Post Office, Mechanics’ Institute and other stores. Its decline began with the coming of the railway when the station, called Carrington (later known as Lang Lang), was built east of Tobin Yallock, in February 1890. By about 1894 most of the businesses and public buildings had transferred to the new Lang Lang based around the railway station. (7).

What do we know of George Thomas McDonald? He came from Dumfries in Scotland (8). According to the State Government Gazette he was employed in the Lands and Survey Office in August 1857 and was there until about 1879.  

George McDonald's appointment as Assistant Surveyor
Victoria Government Gazette February 26, 1867

On November 24, 1869 he married Amelia Margaret Mitchell at her parents house in Barfold, near Kyneton. He was 34 and she was 24 years old. George was listed on the marriage certificate as being the son of James and Isabella (nee Bustard) McDonald and Amelia was the daughter of William Henry Fancourt and Christina (nee Templeton) Mitchell. W.H.F. Mitchell was a member of the Legislative Council. You can read his entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, here.

Marriage notice of George McDonald and Amelia Mitchell

The couple had eight children - Isabel (born 1871), William (1873), Christina (1875 - 1883),  James (1877), Allan (1878),  Thomas (1880 - 1881), George (1882) and Sidney (1885).  The first five were born in Victoria and the last three were born in Queensland (9).

In spite of giving birth to eight children in 14 years, Amelia lived to the ripe old age of 94 and died in Brisbane in 1939. I have the impression that Amelia McDonald was a ‘good catch’ and perhaps George ‘married up’ as they used to say. Certainly in the report of her death in The Argus on July 25, 1939 (reproduced below) there is no mention her husband, only her illustrious father.

The obituary of Amelia Mitchell. She actually had eight children, not five.

As the obituary of her mother states their daughter, Isabel, married Brigadier-General Cecil Foott. You can read entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, here. Foott was born in Bourke in New South Wales and had a distinguished military career and retired to Beaconsfield Upper where he died in June 1942. Brigadier General Foott is buried in the Berwick Cemetery. He was in an unmarked grave until 2015 when the Narre Warren & District Family History Group discovered this whilst they were doing research into the World War One soldiers buried at the cemetery. The Family History Group, in conjunction with the R.S.L, unveiled a headstone on his grave on April 11, 2015.

George McDonald's death notice
Brisbane Courier February 3, 1915

Another death notice, with some different details.
The Australasian, February 13, 1915

Back to George Thomas McDonald - he died on January 29, 1915 aged 79. His death notice listed his address as ‘late of Rocklea and Gladstone districts’.  I can't find an obituary of him. I feel that he is a forgotten man in the history of Victoria, but now every time you drive past McDonalds Track on the way down to Phillip Island or South Gippsland, then you will know a bit about the man behind the name.

(1) The Argus, January 1, 1863, see here.
(2) Hartnell, Ross Pack Tracks to Pastures: a history of Poowong District (Poowong Centenary Committee, 1974), p. 9
(3) Ibid
(4) Ibid
(5) Hartnell, op. cit.,p. 27
(6) Hartnell, op.cit., passim. I have written about the Gippsland Railway line, here.
(7) Gunson, Niel The Good Country: Cranbourne Shire (Cheshire, 1968), p. 111, 167-168. I have written about the South Gippsland Railway line here.
(8) Marriage Certificate
(9) More details on the children - information from the Victorian and Queensland Indexes to Births, deaths and marriages and family notices newspapers.
Isabel Agnes McDonald - born 1871 at Castlemaine, married Captain Cecil Henry Foott in 1901, died December 1926 in Queensland. Read her obituary in the Brisbane Telegraph, December 30 1926, here.
William Alexander Fancourt McDonald - born 1873 at The Lodden. Died January 1952 at Gladstone, QLD.
Christina Annie McDonald - born 1875 at The Lodden. Died January 1883 in Queensland.
James Edward Fancourt McDonald - born 1877 at Castlemaine. He was a Doctor. Died May 1954 in Toowoomba, QLD.
Allan Robert Fancourt McDonald - born 1878 at Castlemaine. Died October 1939 in Townsville, QLD.
Thomas Herbert Fancourt McDonald - July 1880 - April 1881, born and died in Queensland.
George Fancourt McDonald - born September 1882 in Queensland. Enlisted May 1915 and Died of Wounds in France March 22, 1918.
Sidney Fancourt McDonald - November 1885 in Queensland. He was a Doctor. Died August 1947 in Brisbane.

A version of this post, which I wrote and researched, has appeared on my work blog, Casey Cardinia Links to Our Past.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Australian Jewish Land Settlement Trust at Berwick

The Jewish Land Settlement Trust endeavour was established at Berwick in 1927. A similar Jewish settlement had been established at Orrvale near Shepparton in 1913. Berwick was selected because it was close to Melbourne and the land could be used for market gardening or poultry which allowed a quick return for effort rather than having to wait for years for orchards to establish like the settlers did at Orrvale (1). The rationale behind the settlements was to give newly arrived Jewish immigrants an opportunity to become farmers and find employment outside the cities  but with ongoing support from the Land Settlement Trust. There is an excellent overview of the rationale of the scheme and how it operated in a report in the Hebrew Standard of Australasia of August 31, 1928, read it here.

The actual settlement was at the Closer Settlement Board Estate, Hallam Valley, Berwick.  This Estate was bordered by Narre Warren-Cranbourne Road on the west, Berwick-Clyde Road to the east, Golf Links Road to the north and  Greaves Road to the south.  The State Rivers and Water Supply Commission had purchased  land in the area in 1924 with a view of cutting up the land into blocks of 10 acres to 16 acres for market gardens and intense culture, as The Age reported. (2)  The report continued with  A portion of the area is at present subject to flooding by the tributaries of Eumemmerring creek, but steps are being taken to reclaim this portion by means of suitable drainage. The blocks are to be supplied with water pressure by means of a pipe system from the Berwick Dandenong main race (3). The Weekly Times described it as scrub-covered, morass land (4). 

Work continued on the reclamation works and The Argus reported on August 18, 1927 that it was now practicable to establish permanent settlement on the land, a large proportion of which formerly carried a dense growth of tee tree scrub covering an undrained swamp (5).

It would be interesting to see the slides of Berwick from this 1928 presentation.
Hebrew Standard of Australasia August 24 1928

In a paper written by Jeffrey John Turnbull From Ghettoes to Gardens (6) he lists the eight initial settlers at Berwick as H. Ash, D. Brown, I. Eizenberg, A. Hayat Senior, Hayat Junior, M. Meshaloff, G. Rovkin, A. Sneid.

The Hayat family - photo taken in Cyrpus, early 1920s.
Left to right - Joseph, Jacob, their mother Rachel, Sara, their father Abraham, Amram and Isaac.
Abraham and his son, Jacob, farmed at Hallam Valley.
Image courtesy of Mrs Freda Pamamull, the daughter of Sara.

The Shire of Berwick Rate Books list a number of settlers from the Closer Settlement Board subdivision in the 1928/29 year. The Rate books were not always accurate with the spelling of either given or family names, but here's the most likely matches from the Rate Books. You can find the exact location  of the blocks on the section of the Parish of Berwick plan, below.

Ash, Harry - 31 acres, Lots 30 & 31, Section 3 Hallam Valley
Brown, D - can't find him listed in the Rate Books, however, more of him later.
Eizenberg, I - Mordeka Eisenberg - 12.5 acres, Lot 20, Section 4
Hayat, Abraham - 20 acres, Lot 32, Section 4
Hayat, Jacob - 13 acres, Lot 21, Section 4
Mishaloff, Nathan - 19½ acres, Lot 10, Section 4
Rovkin, Gregory - 22 acres, Lot 14, Section 4
Sneid, Adolph - 25 acres, Lot 21, Section 3.

Jewish settlers were able to buy 11 blocks of the first 89 sold by the Closer Settlement Board, and this later increased to 17 blocks (7). It is hard to work out who the other settlers are as obviously  the religion of rate payers is not listed, but here are some other settlers (8) who acquired land at the same time and who may  have been part of this group of Jewish settlers -

Braun, Boris - 14 acres, Lot 19, Section 4.
Bulate, Alex - 25 acres, Lot 28, Section 3
Ephstein, Boris - 15 acres, Lot 31, Section 3
Haber, Harry - 20 acres, Lot 22, Section 3
Kapel, Judel - 20 acres, Lot 15, Section 4
Mond, Isaac - 15½ acres, Lot 29, Section 3.
Ostin, J. Boris - 24 acres, Lot 23, Section 3
Rothfield, Jacob - 24 acres, Lot 12, Section 3
Silverstein, Abraham - 16 acres, Lot 3, Section 3
Sneider, Moses - 24 ½ acres, Lot 17, Section 4
Sokolow, Abram (also listed as Sholoff) - 12 acres, Lot 26, Section 3 and 12 acres, Lot 26, Section 3a.
Jewish Society -  Lot 9, Section 4 - this was a listing in the 1931/32 Rate Books

The Hallam Valley Estate, from the Berwick Parish Plan. 
Click on the map to enlarge. The Closer Settlement Board farms were on a lease and the land could eventually be purchased but because most of the Jewish settlers had to walk away from their farms due to economic circumstances they are not listed on the Parish Plan, it is the farmers who came after them that ended up buying the farms and it is their names that appear on the Plan. Most of these farmers settled at Hallam Valley from 1934 and about half of these were returned soldiers, who had the land under the Soldier Settlement scheme. To give you some idea of the location of these properties, Lot 9, Section 4 C.M Hatton is the property where the Old Cheese Factory is located.

The settlement started off with high hopes. In May 1928, the Australian Jewish Herald, wrote about the Progress at Berwick -
A few short months ago the place looked very desolate and now, only four months since the Australian Jewish Land Settlement Trust has selected the additional four blocks, the place is fast taking shape, and already presents a pleasing picture. The landscape is changing fast. The newly-built houses are becoming surrounded with green vegetables. Poultry pens, sheds, out-buildings, are springing up. The cackling songs of pedigreed poultry are becoming louder as their numbers increase, and the faces of the settlers are becoming brighter; the hope of soon making a living from the farm does not look so very far distant now, as it did four months ago (9).

Neuman H. Rosenthal, who was acting honorary Secretary of the Australian Jewish Land Settlement Trust, was reported in the Hebrew Standard of Australasia in August 1928 - Then there is Berwick, a settlement of comparatively recent origin but already thoroughly established and already producing revenue for the settlers. Berwick is only 27 miles from Melbourne and there the main product is vegetables. But I would that you could see the difference that even six months toil has made to the immigrants who have been placed at Berwick (10).

Mr L. Morris, a member of the Australian Jewish Land Settlement Trust, also believed that the Berwick Settlement would be successful due to the motivation of the settlers and the standard of the land - 
In regard to the farmer himself, it needs no stretch of imagination to tell you first of all he will do his best because invariably he comes from a  land where he was persecuted, and where he did not know whether he would, apart from natural causes, be alive in the morning. You can understand that they will endeavour to make the best use of their opportunities. These people, we have found, have the fertility of mind, the enterprise, the courage and all that is required to make out from the opportunities that they have the best means to make a living. There is no better land in the world, and we have found a very good spot in Berwick (11).

On the farm at Hallam Valley
Image: Australian Jewish Herald, December 1, 1927

There was much interest from the wider Jewish community in Melbourne in the Berwick Settlement and organisations raised money to support the settlers and make the community a success. In April 1928, the Women's Auxiliary of Jewish Welcome Society was formed  and they organised a picnic for the Jewish farmers at Berwick. The President of the Committee was Mrs Reuben Hallenstein (nee Lucie Michaelis) a woman involved in many charitable causes (12). Mrs Hallenstein provided a sumptuous repast for all present, and the farmers and their wives were very deeply moved by the kindness shown to them. She also told the settlers that she hoped at any time the settlers felt they needed the assistance of the Auxiliary and herself, they would indicate it, and the assistance would be gladly given (13).

A settlers house at Hallam Valley
Image: Australian Jewish Herald, December 1, 1927

From the beginning it was recognised that the success of the enterprise at Berwick would depend on the sense of community that the Jewish settlers found. Newman Rosenthal, who I quoted before, wrote this in December 1927 after a  visit to the settlement -  
I came away from Berwick very sincerely impressed by what I had seen, but, at the same time convinced that more settlers would have to be placed there, and that speedily, otherwise the settlement was doomed. The settlers would only remain there as long as they were forced to. The hardships of isolation were endurable only by those who had no choice. There were the children growing up. What was to become of them? The adults wanted some community life - they had grown up in it.

They feel to-day, as one little woman described it, as if they are living in “Yenner velt.” (14) They require Kosher meat, they feel the loss of the many things that went to make up their Jewish life. And in the absence of numbers, the difficulties in the way of them getting just a little of those things, are insuperable. In my opinion, before the Victorian Community embarks on any other enterprise, it has got to finish the job at Berwick. A number of blocks are still available under the Closer Settlement Act in the immediate vicinity of those already occupied by Jewish settlers. These must be procured, and settled. With a dozen or so families, life will be ever so much more endurable for the individual, and ever so much more Jewish.

And let us not forget that the latter must be, for us, a very important consideration. With a dozen families settled close together, maybe 30 souls in all a real Jewish communal life is possible. They can have their own Shochet, a teacher for the children, and doubtless a little Synagogue. With these things they will probably remain within the fold.  Without them there can only be assimilation or abandoning the settlement. Those who have interested themselves in the endeavour, I know, want neither one nor the other. Then there must be more settlers placed, and at once (15). 

In common with all small family farms, everyone helps - Jewish Settlers at Hallam Valley.
Image: Australian Jewish Herald, December 1, 1927

There were various reports in the newspapers of the community and cultural life of the Jewish settlers which developed at Berwick. This report is from March 1928 and is about the first Beriss-Milah (16)  which took place at the community. Beriss-Milah is the  circumcision ceremony for Jewish baby boys. 
 A large and representative gathering journeyed to Berwick, where the new Jewish Settlements are situated, to attend the Beriss-Milah of the infant son of Mr. and Mrs. David Brown, which took place at their residence on their new farm, on Sunday, February 26, 1928. Mr. Yoffa, Shochet and Mohel, performed the ceremony in his usual most efficient and capable manner. Dr. Jones was Sandik, and Mr. Mrs. and Miss Ellinson, and Dr. Schalit, acted as Godparents. After the ceremony, the guests adjourned to a sumptuous repast, set outside the house, amidst the glorious surroundings of chains of hills, green with tall gums, wattles, and eucalyptus. Dr. Jones, President of the Melbourne Hebrew Congregation, acted as Chairman, and the usual toasts were honored. The speakers emphasised the importance the first Beriss-Milah held on the new settlement, and also, they hoped that the present Jewish settlers will co-operate with each other and with other settlers who will eventually arrive, stressing the fact that congenial association with each other was necessary for the settlement at Berwick to become a huge and lasting success (17)

The  procession for the presentation of the Sefer Torah to the Jewish Settlers at Berwick
Image: Australian Jewish Herald September 20, 1928 

The important presentation ceremony of the Sefer Torah (spelt Sifer Torah in the article, below) was a joyous and historic event in the small Berwick community;  it took place in September 1928. This is from the Australian Jewish Herald report
Presentation of a Sifer Torah - Impressive Ceremony at Berwick Jewish Settlement.
Rabbi Brodie described it as “historic,” when in the midst of a comparatively large gathering at Berwick on Wednesday last, he formally accepted, on behalf of the settlers, a Sifer Torah, lent the settlers by Mr. Louis Morris.....The Sifer Torah was handed over to Rabbi Brodie by Mr. Morris at the entrance to the settlement, and the settlers, with the visitors, then formed in procession behind the Rabbi, as the Torah was conveyed to the residence of Mr. Hyatt, Senior. There, thanks to the generosity of Mr. Morris, an Ark had been erected, in which the Sifer was to be housed. As Rabbi Brodie entered the dwelling, Mr. A. Kozminsky opened the Ark, and the Sifer was placed in it, whilst “Uv’nucho Yomar” was said. Mincha service was then conducted. 

Rabbi Brodie then addressed the gathering. He stressed the significance of the function in which they were all participating. In his opinion, the occasion was historic, and, in the years to come, would mark a further milestone in the progress of the community. He hoped that the settlers would come together regularly, and, as time went on, build a small Synagogue for themselves. He expressed the privilege that was his in having been asked to conduct the ceremony, and he hoped that they would all have a happy New Year. Messrs. L. Morris, L. Kanevsky, I. J. Super, A. Kozminsky, and Dr. M. A. Schalit also spoke. The speakers all expressed the hope that, as the Berwick settlement increased in size, the settlers would work together for the common good, and, as the Jewish people throughout the ages had always made the Torah their rallying point, so would the small beginning that had been made that afternoon develop into a powerful influence for good in the life of the Jewish community of Berwick (18).

Rabbi Brodie accepts the Sefer Torah
Image: Australian Jewish Herald September 20, 1928 

Rabbi Brodie addresses the gathering at the Sefer Torah presentation.
Image: Australian Jewish Herald September 20, 1928 

My friend, Isaac, explained to me that a Sefer Torah is the Old Testament, hand inscribed with special ink on a special parchment scroll. It has a specially embroidered velvet cover. There are usually a number of scrolls, the Sefer Torah (The Law) is the scroll containing the 5 Books of Moses. Other scrolls would contain the Prophets and Writings. They are kept in a special ark in a place of worship, in this case, one of the settler's homes. This is where the congregation/ community would come to pray and hold religious services. The presentation of a Sefer Torah is a very important occasion! A Shofar is a ram's horn blown during our High Holy Days at religious services.

A Hebrew School for the children was conducted on Sundays at the Hallam Valley settlement - The Jewish Weekly News had this report - Rabbi Brodie went out to the Berwick Settlement on Sunday to examine the children attending the Hebrew classes. The United Jewish Education Board sends a teacher out there every Sunday. There are about twelve children in the classes but what they lack in numbers they make up for in keenness. I don’t think I have ever come across a keener lot of kiddies (19)

The Education Department established the  Hallam Valley State School, No. 4407 for the settlers of the Estate. I looked at the Hallam Valley State School file at the Public Records Office of Victoria and came across this list of potential students for the School which opened November 10, 1929. The list (see below) was drawn up a Mr R. Taylor in March 1928. Of the Jewish Land Settlement families, the Eizenberg family had one child aged below 4½, one child aged 4½ to six years old and one child aged between six and fourteen. The Mishaloff family had one child aged between 4½ to six. The Rovkin family had one child aged below 4½, and one child aged between 4½ to six years old.

List of potential students for a proposed school at Hallam Valley
Public Records Office of Victoria Hallam Valley Building file, 1928 - 1954.
Series number: VPRS 795 Consignment number:P0000 Unit number: 3049

The other interesting thing I found in the Hallam Valley School file was this memo dated February 23, 1929 - it reads
Hallam Valley Estate
New School to be erected
Management of Settlement called and asked if possible - Nathan Rothfield - who is now in the Teachers' College be appointed to the school when ready. The settlement is composed of mostly foreigners who desire to learn English and Civics. Nathan Rothfield knows several languages and would be of great assistance to the settlers if an evening school could be established.

Memo regarding the appointment of Nathan Rothfield
Public Records Office of Victoria Hallam Valley Building file, 1928 - 1954.
Series number: VPRS 795 Consignment number:P0000 Unit number: 3049

Nathan was not appointed, the first teacher was Dorothy Miers, then Phillip Jenkin (20) but it would be interesting to know if he had been appointed and with that extra support whether the Jewish Land  Settlement at Hallam Valley would have been more successful. The Teacher Records (21) are available on-line at the Public Records Office of Victoria, so we know something of Nathan and his teaching career - he was born in England on January 29, 1910 and was appointed a Junior Teacher in January 1928. He spent 1929 at Teachers College, then he was appointed Head Teacher at Moyarra State School, No. 3556 in March 1930. Moyarra is near Kongwak, between Korumburra and Inverloch.  His reports were very positive - is very earnest, gives attention to detail, used good methods and secures response, with experience he should do conscientious and hard working...sympathetic...earnest and thoughtful .....reliable, hardworking....mature ability and good teaching power.  However, in August 1932 he was reprimanded for unauthorized absence and neglect of duty; he was granted periods of leave and resigned from the Education Department in October 1934 (22). It is hard to know the reason for Nathan's long period of leave and resignation, but he wouldn't have been the first teacher to find teaching in a small rural school to be difficult and isolating. 

The positive reports of the success of the Berwick settlement continued into 1929. In fact, so successful was the Settlement that a meeting was held at the Maccabean Hall in Sydney in January 1929 to discuss the formation of a Land Settlement Trust along the lines  of the Victorian Trust.  This meeting was reported in the Hebrew Standard of Australasia and Berwick was mentioned in positive terms. A telegram was sent from Dr Albert Jones, chairman of the Victorian Land Settlement Trust - Berwick Settlement today unqualified success. After fourteen weeks settled farmers earning ten to fifteen pounds  weekly. (23).

A report of the telegram sent by Dr Albert Jones,  chairman of the Victorian Land Settlement Trust.
Hebrew Standard of Australasia January 25, 1929

Also at the Sydney meeting a letter was read that had been sent to Mr Orwell Phillips from his nephew, Mr Archie Michaelis of Melbourne, describing the Berwick settlement -
However, on Sunday last, in company with several others interested, I went out to Berwick (near Dandenong) where the Settlement is and had a good look around, and I must say I was delighted beyond all measure with what is being done. So far about 14 families have been settled on blocks and as far as I can see and learn from the men themselves they seem extraordinarily well satisfied and are already commencing to make a living. The procedure, I understand, is that the Government provides the land and house and give about 28 years (I speak from memory), to repay the capital by half yearly instalments. The Land Settlement Trust lend the money for such items as furniture, poultry, seeds and certain livestock and the settlers are enabled to start making a living at once by the sale of eggs, vegetables etc., preparing the land in the meantime. I saw a lot of the settlers and the progress they have made is remarkable (24).

This is an excerpt of a letter received by Mr Orwell Phillips from his nephew, Mr Archie Michaelis of Melbourne, describing the Berwick settlement.
Hebrew Standard of Australasia January 25, 1929

In June 1931, it was reported that there were 24 families, numbering about 100 souls at Berwick (25). However, the  Shire of Berwick Rate Books show that most of the Jewish settlers had left the area by 1934/1935. For some settlers if may have been the absence of Jewish communal life, however the Depression had a significant impact on the settlers, coupled with a bad season in late 1929, early 1930 - The season through which we have passed has been a particularly bad one. Potatoes which at sowing time could not be bought for £24 per ton, can be obtained to-day at £3 per ton (26)So, clearly commodity prices were one issue, however the situation at Berwick was considered to be no worse that other settlements - In the opinion of the officers of the Victorian State Rivers and Water Commission, the authority controlling the Berwick settlement, the situation at Berwick is no more serious than that facing every agricultural settlement throughout Australia. The complete collapse in the prices of primary products and the problem of financing the farmers through the present depression have created a most difficult position (27). 

Some people actually blamed the failure of some of the Hallam Valley settlers on incompetence of the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission.  Cr MacGregor at a Shire of Berwick meeting held in October 1929 was reported as saying that he believed that the land was sold to the settlers at an inflated price and 'the manner in which they were treated constituted a scandal of the 'gravest nature' - Almost ruined by the inflated prices they paid to the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission for the blocks, residents in the Hallam Valley settlement are faced with acute distress, stated Cr MacGregor at the meeting of the Berwick Shire Council, last Friday, when a protest was received from settlers against the revaluation of their properties. Cr MacGregor claimed that the manner in which they were treated constituted a scandal of the gravest nature, and fully warranted a public enquiry. Settlers paid £70 an acre for their land and now found that it was impossible to make even a living on their holdings. Incompetence in the Commission's administration, Cr MacGregor contended, was one of the reasons for the hopelessness of the settlers. When the land was being prepared for settlement there was a glaring waste of money in the methods employed to do the work. Where two practical men could have done all that was necessary in weeks, it, took eight of the Commission’s staff months (28).

Cr MacGregor says the treatment of Hallam Valley settlers was of the gravest nature.
Dandenong Journal October 29, 1929

Before we leave the Berwick Settlement, there was an interesting report in the Australian Jewish Herald in November 1928 about Ahron Halevy, a talented artist. He was born in Ukraine and then moved to Palestine where he trained as an artist. He later spent time working on farms and as a fisherman on the Jordan River.  Immediately after the war he commenced working for the Scientific Department of the Museum at Jerusalem, which was founded by the Zionist Organisation and which has since been absorbed by the Hebrew University. His work was to depict the flora and fauna of Palestine, and his entire collection now hangs up on the University walls (29). Around 1928 he came to Australia where he was elected as  member of the Victorian Artists Society, but also joined the settlement at Berwick. He not only continued with producing his paintings, wood-cuts, water-colors, and pen and ink sketches at Berwick but also grew strawberries -  Mr. Halevy, who was a strawberry expert in Palestine, is specialising in the same fruit, at Berwick, and, though he has only been a short time on his plot, and has not been graced by too favorable a season, has nevertheless succeeded in making conserves which have astounded all the Governmental experts, who, attracted by glowing reports, asked him to come to Melbourne with some samples (30).  Mr Halevy did not stay at Berwick very long, in fact I can't find him listed in the Rate Books at all, and returned to Melbourne. Mr Halevy held an exhibition at David Jones Department store in Sydney in October 1929 and the catalogue is on-line at the National Library of Australia, view it here.

From the catalogue of Ahron Halevy's October 1929 exhibition
National Library of Australia 

As we said before most of the Jewish settlers had left the area by 1935 but Adolph Sneid, was at Berwick for the longest period, until 1939/1940 and so with the departure of Mr Sneid the Jewish Land Settlement Trust community at Berwick came to an end.

Thank you very much to Mrs Freda Pamamull for providing the photo of the Hayat family. Thank you also to my research colleague, Isaac Hermann, for his input and explaining aspects of Jewish culture to me. It was Isaac who was in touch with Mrs Pamamull, thanks Isaac!

Trove List
I have created a list of newspaper articles about the Jewish Land Settlement Trust at Hallam Valley on Trove, click here to access the list. 

(1) Turnbull, Jeffrey John From Ghettoes to Gardens published in Fabrications: The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand, June 1995, pp 39-56.
(2) The Age, November 8, 1924, see here.
(3) The Age, November 8, 1924, see here.
(4) The Weekly Times, January 30, 1926, see here.
(5) The Argus, August 18, 1927, see here.
(6) Turnbull, op. cit, p. 51.
(7) Ibid.
(8) This list is based solely on the names - what looked to me like non-Anglo, Eastern European names of rate payers from the Hallam Valley estate.
(9) Australian Jewish Herald, May 3 1928, see here.
(10) Hebrew Standard of Australasia August 24, 1928, see here.
(11) Hebrew Standard of Australasia August 31, 1928, see here.
(12) Mrs Hallenstein - read her obituary in the Australian Jewish News, March 4, 1949, here
(13) Australian Jewish Herald, May 3, 1928, see here.
(14) Yenner Velt - Yiddish - what kind of a world is this?  - comment was made in light of their initial depravations.
(15) Australian Jewish Herald, December 1, 1927, see here and here.
(16) Beriss-Milah - this is how it was written in the Australian Jewish Herald of March 1, 1928, see here. It is apparently also written as Brit Milah or Bris Milah - read more here -
(17) Australian Jewish Herald, March 1, 1928, see here.
(18) Australian Jewish Herald September 20, 1928, see here. You can read another report of the event in the Hebrew Standard of Australasia, September 21, 1928, here.
(19) Jewish Weekly News, December 15, 1933, see here.
(20) Vision and Realisation : a centenary history of State Education in Victoria, edited by L.J. Blake. Published by the Education Department of Victoria, 1973.
(21) Public Records Office of Victoria Teacher Record Books VPRS 13579/P0001
(23) Hebrew Standard of Australasia, January 25, 1929, see here.
(24) Hebrew Standard of Australasia, January 25, 1929, see here.  Archie Michaelis went on to become  a member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly, see his Australian Dictionary of Biography entry, here. Archie was the son of Frederick and Essie (nee Phillips) Michaelis and is also the nephew of Lucie Hallenstein.
(25) Australian Jewish Herald June 11, 1931, see here.
(26) Australian Jewish Herald, February 20, 1930, see here.
(27) Australian Jewish Herald, April 30, 1931, see here.
(28) Dandenong Journal October 29, 1929, see here 
(29) The Westralian Judean, June 1, 1930, see here.
(30) Australian Jewish Herald, November 15, 1928, see here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Seventh War Loan Tank Tour

In 1918,  the Commonwealth Government sought to raise 40 million pounds through the  Seventh War Loan. Each state was allocated an amount they needed to raise - Victoria's share was  £13,500,000 - and each Victorian Municipality was given a quota to raise money, based on valuations and population etc, for instance, the Shire of Berwick's quota was £40,000 and the Shire of Cranbourne was £28,000. 

Seventh War Loan - Victorian Area Quotas
Public Records Office of Victoria - Shire of Alberton, General Correspondence Files
VPRS 17453/ P1 unit 16, item 377-383 (1); 384-386
Image: Isaac Hermann

One of the ideas to encourage members of the public to subscribe to the War Loan was to have a Tank tour the countryside where at each stop people would hopefully be inspired to subscribe. The Tank Tour idea may have come from England via the United States.  The Argus of January 30, 1918 had reported on this idea  It was, surely, an American expert in advertising who suggested the use of a real British tank to assist in selling war bonds to the people of New York. The novelty of such a venture fairly "fetched" the Americans. The British tank was the most popular medium for advertisement that the cutest American had ever seen. A month or so ago. the National War Savings Committee decided to imitate the example of New York, and commence a tank collection in Trafalgar Square. Never has there been such a success (1). An imitation tank as a fundraiser had also been used a bit closer to home, in Frankston. It was one of the attractions in the Pageant of Loyalty held on September 1 in 1917. You can read about this Pageant, here.

In April, a tank was going to tour Melbourne and then was going to tour the North Eastern railway line town,  and the [City of Melbourne] Alderman Sir Henry Weedon will accompany the Tank, and will meet Alderman Joynton Smith, the Lord Mayor of Sydney who is accompanying the Sydney Tank, at Albury Bridge on Monday [April 22] (2).

The tanks were not completely authentic - The Argus had this description of the tanks - At a garage in the city the body of the tank has been dismantled as the light car on which it was mounted was not considered sufficiently strong to stand the strain of the trip. The parts will be reassembled on a motor lorry, which will give it a more imposing appearance, and provide greater accommodation for the party which is to travel with it (3).

The Tanks outside the Melbourne Town Hall, after their return from the their tour of the countryside. The amount raised by each tank is written on the banners (more on this below)
Image (which has been slightly cropped) is from The Australasian October 26, 1918

On September 16 1918,  three tanks were scheduled to leave Melbourne.  You can see the full proposed itinerary here, in The Argus of September 13, 1918 - Tour 1 went to the west of the State, Tour 2 went to the north and Tour 3  to Gippsland. This post looks at the Gippsland tour and in particular the tour of West Gippsland. The Gippsland tour was accompanied by Lieutenant Charles Pickett, who made appeals at each stop. 

The War Tank tour to Gippsland.
The Argus September 13, 1918

The itinerary was also published in a promotional brochure, below, which includes another week of  locations in South Gippsland and the Cranbourne Shire. 

Seventh War Loan Tank Tour
Public Records Office of Victoria - Shire of Alberton, General Correspondence Files
VPRS 17453/ P1 unit 16, item 377-383 (1); 384-386
Image: Isaac Hermann

Seventh War Loan Tank Tour
Public Records Office of Victoria - Shire of Alberton, General Correspondence Files
VPRS 17453/ P1 unit 16, item 377-383 (1); 384-386
Image: Isaac Hermann

This Itinerary was later amended and locations were added in South Gippsland and the Cranbourne Shire - Lang Lang was  on October 5; Caldermeade, Monomeith and Koo Wee Rup on October 7 and Tooradin, Sherwood, Clyde and Cranbourne on October 9. 

Seventh War Loan Tank Tour - Special Itinerary
Public Records Office of Victoria - Shire of Alberton, General Correspondence Files
VPRS 17453/ P1 unit 16, item 377-383 (1); 384-386
Image: Isaac Hermann

What was the local reaction to the Tank Tour? This report comes from the Pakenham Gazette of September 20, 1918. Read the full report, here.
The Tuesday night was spent at Pakenham, when a meeting was held in front of the Mechanics' Hall. The speeches were delivered from the top of the Tank. Cr Cunningham, shire president, occupied the chair, and introduced the speakers. He said it was the duty of all to assist in the war, and those who could not send their sons to fight could help financially by subscribing to the War Loan.

Cr Frank Groves, M.L.A., then made an urgent appeal for money for the War Loan. He said the money was needed to carry on the war, and of the forty million pounds required, the Berwick shire was asked to contribute £40,000. The amount was comparatively small when they considered the wealth of the shire, and when they recognised that the money was to help the brave lads fighting at the front who had crowned the name of Australia with honor, he was sure that the shire's quota would be more than raised. The troops had to be paid, fed and equipped, and for this the people were asked to find the money. They were not asked to give it, but to lend it to the Government for five years. The security offered was the finest in the world, and at the end of the five years they would receive the sum lent by them together with 5 per cent. interest.

 Lieutenant Pickett then made an appeal for funds, pointing out that subscribing to the War Loan was not only a patriotic thing to do, but made sense financially - He said the people of Australia were asked to provide funds to help the men at the front, and they were worthy of all the assistance that could be given them. He pointed out that it was the people's Loan, arranged by the Government to keep the interest in Australia. The amount required, or even forty times as much, could be borrowed outside of Australia, but then the interest would have been lost to our people. The security offered was Australia itself the the world. Forty million pounds were asked for, but this was a mere flea-bite when the wealth of the country both above and below ground was considered. ........After referring to the war bonds, and their value, he asked for subscribers, and the first £10 bond was quickly disposed of. At £100 there was a slackness in business. Lieut. Pickett continued his appeal and when £250 had been reached a buyer for 3 bonds of £100 was found, bringing the total to £550. The speaker then went on to describe the Honor Flag, which is to be presented to each municipality securing its quota. A final appeal brought the total up to £910. The proceedings throughout were interesting, and the result satisfactory seeing that the attendance was only moderate......The tank continued its tour on Wednesday morning, when Narnargoon, Garfield and Bunyip were visited. At Bunyip, where Cr C. Pearson occupied the chair, bonds to the value of £1,500 were sold. (4).

The Pakenham Gazette had a separate report on the visit of the War Tank to Nar Nar Goon -
The War Loan Tank arrived at the School on Wednesday morning at 11 o'clock. The children were assembled, and after saluting the flag sang the National Anthem. The Tank was escorted into Nar Nar Goon by the children with their flag. A large crowd was in waiting, and the Tank halted at the post office. Cr Cunningham opened the meeting and introduced the speakers, Mr F. Groves and Lieut. Pickett. After a very short appeal by Lieut. Pickett the gratifying sum of £770 was obtained (5). 

The Bunyip and Garfield Express of September 20, 1918 reported on the tour in Garfield and Bunyip - On arrival of the tank at Garfield Cr Dowd, headed the leading residents of the town and district, in welcoming it. He introduced the object of the visitation, after which Mr Groves and Lieut. Picket made an appeal for subscriptions, which were quickly forthcoming. The tank then proceeded to Bunyip where it was met by the School children with flags, under Mr Daniel, Cr C. Pearson, made an introductory speech, and appealed to the people to invest in bonds. Mr Groves also spoke on behalf of the cause. The main appeal was made by Lieut. Pickett who proved to be a talented speaker, and when he concluded something like £1,500 worth of bonds had been sold. Among the subscribers were: Capt. a’Beckett £150; T. Strafford £130 ; T. Stacey £110 ; W. Temby £100. The following L50 each – Messrs C. Pearson, H. Miles; Mesdames Wilkington and Pearson; H. Rodger, L30. The following L20 – Messrs H. Wilson, H. Harcourt, R.I Flett. The following L10 – Arthur Pearson, A. Rodger, Mrs Miles jun, Mrs Jenkens, Miss Bell, Mr Ball, N. Hocking, Mrs Forsyth, Mrs Holgate, Miss Flett, Miss A. Botterill, Miss L. Botterill, S. Cock, R, Carter (6). 

Shire of Cranbourne Tank Tour advertisement
Koo Wee Rup Sun October 2, 1918.

The Koo Wee Rup Sun of September 25, 1918 reported mainly on the tour in the Cranbourne Shire but started off with some figures from neighbouring areas -  Berwick Shire's quota is £40,000, and the various towns have contributed as follow : — Dandenong, £8000; Berwick and Pakenham, £1200 each; Narnargoon, £800, Tynong, £500; Bunyip, £1500; Longwarry, £700. The paper also had a stern warning to those members of the community who were hesitant in participating - Those who cannot fight must put their money in the loan. The percentage is good, and the security first class. Cranbourne Shire must come forward and help the loan all it can. The first thing the Germans would do if they came here would be to take the lot, without interest, and no return of the principal (7). 

The Koo Wee Rup Sun reported on the tour again  in their October 9 issue -  No. 3 war tank, with Lieut. Pickett in charge, visited Wonthaggi on Friday and Saturday, the result being about £5000. The tank came on to Lang Lang on Saturday evening, when there was a large, attendance of the public, and addresses were delivered from the tank. The aims and objects of the loan were fully and clearly explained.

Cr. W.H. Greaves, in introducing the tank, and those in charge, mentioned that Lang Lang was honoured by being the first town in the shire to be visited by the tank, and he trusted they would respond in a way that would maintain the high prestige that surrounded Lang Lang for the part she was taking in this great war, and also in a way that would be acceptable to the promoters of the tank campaign. He then introduced Lieut. Pickett who in a versatile manner put before those present the reason why Australians should subscribe to the war loan, and not go outside their country to borrow money, the capital and interest of which when repaid went, right out of their land. 

In response a sum of £3310 was subscribed, the chief contributors being : — Mrs A. M'Millan, £500; Mr A. M'Millan.£500; D.M'Millan, £500; H.Lawrence, £300; Mrs A. Baker £300; W.C. Greaves £200 A. Glasscock £250; F. Cougle, T. M'Aleese, W. Cole. Mrs Alloway, W. Greaves, jun. £100 each. Mrs Prowd £50; Miss Sylvia Alloway, £50; Miss Lucy Greaves, £50, R. Grant £50 E. N. Wiseman. £.20; Mrs Duff, Mrs Bruce, H. Dainty, and S. Baptise £10 each.

In the evening Kooweerup was visited, and there was a small attendance at the local hall, where Lieut. Pickett delivered an address. Business started off with a sum of £100 by an unknown applicant, and the total amount offered during the evening came to £630, including four amounts of £100, one of £50, £30, and the balance being principally in £10 bonds. It was hardly a representative meeting of Kooweerup, and we understand that more is being applied for. On Monday afternoon the tank went on to Cranbourne, where £3800 was secured. (8).

The Koo Wee Rup Sun, had this summary of the Tank Tour in their November 6, 1918 edition and clearly felt the organisation of the tour could have been better -
Cranbourne Shire's Quota - Seventh War Loan (£27,000) has not been reached, and it is difficult or impossible to find out how much the shire has contributed. The tour of the tank through this territory was not distinguished by any remarkable organising, as most of the district was left untouched. Only three centres were visited, Lang Lang, Kooweerup and Cranbourne. At the former place the sum of £3310 was reached; at Kooweerup, £630, and Cranbourne, £3800. The London Bank at Kooweerup has received applications for £3660, which, added to the £630, is £4290. This makes a total of £12,030, but it is quite safe to say that a good deal more has been subscribed. Many people in Cranbourne Shire have applied for bonds in Melbourne, which, of course, are not credited to this shire. (9).

The last sentence of this article sums up for us the success of the War Loan appeal and the role the Tank Tour played in raising the money - The splendid result of the war loan, which is indeed a real Victory loan, over £44,000,000 having been reached, has done away with any idea of compulsion (10).

I was at the Public Records Office of Victoria with my research colleague, Isaac Hermann, looking at the Alberton Correspondence files (read the result of this here)  and so it was only by chance that we came across the references to the Seventh War Loan Tank Tour, it was a very serendipitous find. Thank you, Isaac, for the digital images of the War Loan material.

Trove List
I have created a list of newspaper articles on the War Loan Tank Tour on Trove. You can access it here

(1) The Argus, January 30, 1918 see here.
(2) The Herald, April 15, 1918, see here.
(3) The Argus on April 17, 1918, see here.
(4) Pakenham Gazette, September 20, 1918, see here.
(5) Pakenham Gazette, September 20, 1918, see here.
(6) Bunyip and Garfield Express September 20, 1918
(7) Koo Wee Rup Sun, September 25, 1918, see here.
(8) Koo Wee Rup Sun, October 9 1918, see here.
(9) Koo Wee Rup Sun, November 6, 1918, see here.
(10) Koo Wee Rup Sun, November 6, 1918, see here.

Gippsland Battle Plane

There was an appeal published in many local papers in 1918 to help Australia purchase 'Victory' Battleplanes (1). Each Australian was asked to subscribe one pound and this would finance 370 planes. The idea was formulated by Mr C. Alma Baker, Honorary Organiser of the Australian and Malayan Air Squadrons Funds and it was published in many papers in May and June 1918. This report appeared in the Lang Lang Guardian (2). It has been edited, you can see the original, here.

There can be no two opinions as to the great military value of aircraft in this war. Every operation is governed by them, and so greatly does the British Government appreciate public support of this arm that they have given permission to Whitehead Aircraft Ltd., England, to appeal to the public of Great Britain for funds to build battleplanes for the front.

No doubt there are many Australians who would like to give substantial subscriptions to battleplanes, but cannot afford to do so. Under my "One Pound Victory Battleplane Appeal" everyone has the opportunity of helping, and I earnestly appeal to one million Australian non-combatants to send one pound each to the honorary treasurer of the "Australian Air Squadrons Fund," Mr. F. E. Bryant, manager of the Union Bank of Australia, Pitt St., Sydney, for the credit of the "Australian Victory Battleplane Fund" to help create a fleet of 370 battleplanes.

Battleplanes presented out of the fund will bear the Australian consecutive number, and title "Victory" Battleplane No. 1 to 370 as the £2700 for each battleplane is cabled to the War Office.

This special "One Pound Victory Battleplane Appeal" need not debar those desiring to subscribe more, or families, firms, corporations, unions, and other bodies from grouping contributions, nor interfere with those wishing to give battleplanes outright, bearing desired names.

When peace is declared—who will dictate the terms?—the people of Australia, if they will, can materially help to make it a victorious peace by sending battleplanes to smash the enemy in France. If Germany is victorious, "Australia for the Australians" will be meaningless words, and free Australia of to-day will cease to exist.

Why should non-combatants let only the eligible men of Australia defend Australia and the Empire? It is the first duty of every loyal subject to do their utmost to bring this war to an early and victorious conclusion, and non-combatants cannot in any better way help to do this, than by subscribing to battleplanes. A battleplane is equal to at least 2000 men, and every pound put into one is worth a man's life. Battleplanes presented will be fighting in France within twelve weeks from the time the money is cabled to the War Office.

I again most earnestly appeal to every loyal Australian who can spare one pound to subscribe without delay to enable the 370 "Victory" Battleplanes — 23 air squadrons — a mighty fighting force—to help shatter for ever the Kaiser's schemes for world domination. Will you make one of the million to send one pound? Your battleplane, once presented, lives on; the War Office upkeeps, repairs, and replaces it, if destroyed, with original name.

My appeal to the people of Australia has the approval of the Imperial Government, and the sanction of the Federal and State Governments of Australia. All donations are to be sent to Mr. F. E. Bryant, manager, Union Bank of Australia, Sydney, and not to me personally.
Honorary Organiser Australian and
Malayan Air Squadrons Funds

Mr Baker's appeal neatly sums up the what the Battleplane scheme was. So, how did everyone react? If you were wealthy enough then you handed over a cheque straight away. This is what Mrs Sidney Kidman did, according to a report. Mrs Kidman (nee Isabel Wright) was the wife of the wealthy pastoralist, who himself had given money for a  battleplane in 1916 (3).

 Letterhead from the Shire of Alberton for their subscription list for the Battleplane.
Public Records Office of Victoria - Shire of Alberton, General Correspondence Files
VPRS 17453/ P1 unit 16, item 377-383 (1); 384-386
Photo: Isaac Hermann

In Gippsland, they decided to raise money  collectively and purchase a plane to be called 'The Gippsland' -  Before the conference of the Gippsland Boroughs' and Shires' Development Association concluded, delegates decided on concerted action to give new expression to the loyalty of Gippsland. On the motion of Cr. Henderson (Rosedale), it was decided that funds should be raised to present a battle plane to the Imperial Government. It was estimated that a sum of £2700 would be required. The proposal is that the executive of the association shall circularise municipalities in the province regarding contributions (4). 

The Municipalities were 'circularised' and given a fund-raising quota to meet and it seems that most of the Councils were keen - there are reports that Rosedale, Mirboo North, Morwell, Traralgon, Maffra and Sale all participated enthusiastically and fairly quickly raised their quota, in fact Bairnsdale raised their quota and had collected £600 beside for an additional plane (5).   And a Councillor from the Traralgon Shire Council meeting was so keen that he thought Gippsland should send two planes (6).  I have come across some of the quotas in newspaper reports: Alberton Shire - £212, Berwick Shire - £197, Maffra Shire -  £180, Warragul Shire - £156,  Rosedale Shire £156, Traralgon Shire £125 and Mirboo North Shire - £62.

There was not universal acceptance of this initiative. Some Shires refused to participate including Berwick, Sale and Warragul. The Shire of Cranbourne was not a member of the Gippsland Boroughs' and Shires' Development Association, so did not participate for this reason. The Dandenong Advertiser of June 6, 1918  said it was a patriotic idea and then went on with this futuristic and slightly cynical vision -
but what's the matter with applying it locally? What the farmer wants is, to get his produce to market with the least possible delay, end at the lowest possible cost; and if an aeroplane can carry a few tons of bombs, why can it not be turned to profitable use by conveying the same weight of merchandise to market? Country roads would then become a secondary consideration; railways might rust; rivers would be crossed with bridges, mountains would be surmounted with ease, and the land would flow with milk and honey. But stop--the suggestion, we're afraid, is useless. Government precedent is against it. The much-badgered P.M.G. has already declined to utilise aeroplanes for the conveyance of mails; and the cookies will no doubt consider that '"the time is not yet ripe" to take to the air. But some day there will be a battle royal between aeroplanes and waggons, and the planes will end. You bet! (7). 

Some rate payers were also unhappy about their Council spending money on Battle planes - as this reported conversation at the Traralgon Council meeting attests -
Cr. Pettit remarked that on coming to the meeting a lady said to him that she supposed the council would vote £125 for a battleplane, but she could not get a road to her place.
Cr. Pentland: Perhaps the Germans will make the road if the Allies lose the war.
Cr. Clarke: You can promise her a ride in the first battleplane. (8).

Some rate-payers of the Traralgon Shire objected to their Council donating to the Battleplane.
Gippsland Farmers' Journal July 5, 1918

However, the patriotic desire of the Councils and many individuals came to an end in early July 1918 when the Commonwealth Government vetoed the idea - In making this announcement, the Minister of Repatriation said that the noises prompting Mr. Baker's patriotic and sustained effort, were both recognised and appreciated by the Australian public, and also by the Imperial authorities. In a communication to the Commonwealth Government, the latter had indeed expressed themselves in terms of the highest appreciation. They had however pointed out that the British Government had placed all the orders which the aeroplane factories could execute; and consequently the donation from Australia, did not result in additional aircraft being built (9).

Battleplane project stopped.

What happened to the money that was already raised? The only report I could find was that the money collected at Maffra would be used to plant a Soldiers' Memorial Avenue (10)

I found out about the Gippsland Battleplane, by accident, when my friend and research colleague, Isaac Hermann, was looking for information on another topic, which was listed in the same catalogue record at the Public Records Office of Victoria as the Battleplane. The whole concept of the Battleplane sounded bit obscure, but interesting, so we ordered the file that it was contained in - Alberton Shire Correspondence - to see what it was about. The file included a few lists of people who had subscribed, two newspaper cuttings and a copy of the circular that was sent around from the Gippsland Boroughs' and Shires' Development Association. Thank you, Isaac.

Trove List
I have created a list on Trove of articles relating to the Gippsland Battleplane, you can access it here

(1) All the articles at the time used Battleplane as one word, not Battle Plane as two words as we seem to use it today, so I have used Battleplane throughout this post.
(2) Lang Lang Guardian, June 14, 1918, see here.
(3)  Every Week Bairnsdale, May 9, 1918, see here.
(4) The Age, May 25, 1918, see here.
(5) West Gippsland Gazette June 18, 1918, see here.
(6) Gippsland Farmers' Journal, June 7, 1918, see here.
(7) Dandenong Advertiser, June 6, 1918, see here.
(8) Gippsland Farmers' Journal July 5, 1918, see here.
(9) West Gippsland Gazette July 9, 1918, see here.
(10) Koo Wee Rup Sun July 24, 1918, see here.