Doubling the AIF

Early in 1916, those in command of the AIF had serious planning to do. The successful enlistment campaigns had generated thousands of new recruits, and these men were arriving in Egypt at the same time as those returning from the Dardanelles. The decision was made that the existing battalions would all be split, with half the experienced personnel joining new battalions. Efforts were made to ensure the geographical makeup of the battalions was maintained – so those from South Australia continued to serve together. Thus, over the coming months, the 10th Infantry Battalion would be split to form the 50th, and the 27th to form the 48th etc.

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Churchill-Smith, James

James Churchill-Smith enlisted in May 1915, in Adelaide. He was born in October 1894, and was educated at Norwood Public School before going to the School of Mines. He was initially assigned to the 10th Infantry Battalion before joining the 50th, when the AIF was doubled in February 1916.

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50th Battalion

The 50th Battalion was raised in Egypt on 26 February 1916 as part of the "doubling" of the AIF. Approximately half of its recruits were veterans from the 10th Battalion, and the other half, fresh reinforcements from Australia. Reflecting the composition of the 10th, the 50th was predominantly composed of men from South Australia. The battalion became part of the 13th Brigade of the 4th Australian Division and was dubbed "Hurcombe's Hungry Half Hundred", after its first CO, Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Hurcombe. (information courtesy of the Australian War Memorial)

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Avery, Louis Willyama

Louis Willyama Avery was born on July 15, 1891, and moved to Adelaide from Broken Hill for his education. He attended St Peter’s College and later the SA School of Mines, where he studied Engineering. He was working in Broken Hill when war was declared, and he decided to enlist for service in August 1914. He was a member of the 3rd Field Engineers, A.I.F, 1st Australian Division, 3rd Brigade, and landed at Gallipoli on 25 April, 1915. Later in the war he fought in Europe, being awarded a Military Medal in 1917. Following his time in the Dardanelles, Avery was hospitalised suffering from typhoid fever, and letters from his father to military administration show how difficult it was for families in Australia to find out information about the health of soldiers overseas.

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South Australian Red Cross Information Bureau

The South Australian Information Bureau was formally established in December 1915 and opened its doors for business on 6 January 1916 in the newly built Verco Buildings on North Terrace. South Australians were invited to write or call at the Bureau, open to the public between 2.30 and 5pm. The Red Cross networks provided opportunities for desperate relatives to inquire after loved ones. When an inquiry was received, either by letter or personal visit, a card was opened ‘and carefully filed in packet form under an index also noted on the cards. This packet would contain a complete record of every step taken, and all information obtained relative to the particular soldier. As information was received, it was forwarded to the enquirer. All the work was undertaken by volunteers. The Bureau operated thanks to the efforts of solicitors (all male, except for one – Mrs Napier) and a team of women, who undertook clerical duties. With the mornings full with the vast array of administrative and organisational tasks undertaken by Bureau volunteers, personal interviews with concerned inquirers were held each afternoon with legal representatives. The archives of the South Australian Red Cross Information Bureau are held by the State Library of South Australia, and can be accessed online: https://sarcib.ww1.collections.slsa.sa.gov.au/

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Cheer-Up Society

The South Australian Cheer-Up Society was founded by Alexandrina Seager. Its object was to support the soldiers as well as to bring them into contact with the 'highest type of womanhood'. They visited the soldiers at camp before they embarked for the trenches and provided them with supper, concerts and conversation.

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Seager, Alexandrine

In business before the war, Mrs Alexandrine Seager had the administrative and organisational skill required for running the Cheer Up Society, which she founded in, after visiting Morphettville camp to see her son in the Australian Imperial Force in November 1914. With the support of the editor of Adelaide newspaper, The Register, she appealed to South Australian women to join the Society, which aimed to provide 'general comfort, welfare, and entertainment' for soldiers. Initially, they visited camps, arranged entertainments, such as concerts and sent comforts to the front. As the wounded began returning from Gallipoli, they provided comfort and care. From 1915 they were based in a large tent behind the Adelaide Railway Station, which was replaced by the Cheer-Up Hut in nearby Elder Park (opened on 14 November, 1915). The Society had eighty country branches, and a key aspect of their fundraising was the annual Violet Day Appeal (first held on 2 July 1915). She was also instrumental in the foundation of the South Australian Returned Soldiers’ Association. For further information, visit History SA's online resource, Adelaidia

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Cavell, Edith

Nurse Edith Cavell was nursing in Belgium when the war broke out. The hospital she had been working in was converted into a Red Cross hospital for wounded soldiers of all nationalities. Many of the captured Allied soldiers who were treated at Berkendael subsequently succeeded in escaping - with Cavell's active assistance - to neutral Holland. Cavell was arrested on 5 August 1915 by local German authorities and charged with having personally aided in the escape of some 200 such soldiers. Kept in solitary confinement for nine weeks the Germans successfully extracted a confession from Cavell which formed the basis of her trial. The sentence was carried out on 12 October 1915.

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The Advertiser was founded in 1858. Between 1893 and 1929,Sir John Langdon Bonython was its sole proprietor. He also held the post of editor for 45 years, and under his direction the Advertiser became a prominent Australian daily newspaper. It appealed to the growing middle class and was proudly South Australian, although Bonython was determined that its coverage should be as complete as possible. The newspaper prospered, partly thanks to the prominence given to small advertisements. Bonython had been an advocate for Federation, and promoted the cause through his newspaper. Indeed, he represented South Australia in the Federal Parliament for several years from 1901 as a Protectionist. Bonython was also a noted philanthropist, giving significant sums of money to educational institutions, and to the needy during hard times. He also gave a large sum of money towards the completion of Parliament House in Adelaide.

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Cooper, Ethel

Caroline Ethel Cooper (1871-1961) was something of an eccentric – for starters, she had a pet crocodile called Cheops which she kept in her apartment, and lived a very independent lifestyle. A proficient musician, she formed her own Women’s Orchestra in Adelaide before the outbreak of the war. A regular visitor to Germany, she was living in Leipzig when the war broke out. She remained in Germany for the duration of the war, writing a letter each week to her sister Emmie in Adelaide. Although these letters could not be posted during the war, the first 52 were smuggled to Switzerland and posted from Interlaken and the remainder were hidden and sent from England in 1918. Although her premises were often raided by police and she was forbidden from leaving several times during the war, she was not detained and had a pass that stated her presence was ‘agreeable to the military authorities’. She returned to Adelaide for a few years after the war, but returned to Europe where she participated in relief work. She settled in Adelaide in 1936, with her then-widowed sister.

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I ANZAC Corps was formed in Egypt in February 1916 as part of the expansion of the Australian Imperial Force and the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. Along with II ANZAC Corps, it replaced the original Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.

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