The AIF began disembarking in Alexandria, Egypt on 3 December 1914. From here it was a five hour train ride to Cairo, then marched to their camp. The Australian Infantry camp was located at Mena, near the pyramids of Giza. Six days a week they were drilled – marching through the sand, digging and attacking trenches and it was here that they were formed into the ANZAC Corps, with the New Zealand forces. Major-General William Birdwood, a 49-year old British officer was given command of the corps.
Broken Hill is an isolated mining city on the Barrier Highway in far west New South Wales (NSW), just over 500 km from Adelaide. It is closer to South Australia’s capital city than Sydney, NSW’s state capital. When silver-lead-zinc ore was first discovered at Broken Hill in 1883, the town developed rapidly over the next decade with the establishment of Broken Hill Propriety, then and now (as BHP Billiton), the world’s largest mining company.
The outbreak of the Great War in 1914 saw the closure of several of Broken Hills’ mines due to the suspension of German contracts. The resulting unemployment of many miners led to an incentive to join the A.I.F. when the call for volunteers came. The first transports of newly enlisted men left for Adelaide on 16 August 1914, less than two weeks after war was declared. The second contingent left a week later and it was reported that ‘the troops marched through the streets headed by a band, and were sent away by a large and enthusiastic crowd’ (The Register, Saturday 22 August 1914). By the end of August, 400 volunteers had been accepted from Broken Hill. 4,000 men eventually volunteered from the Broken Hill region during the First World War.
On 23 August 1915 the Adelaide City Council accepted a proposal by the Wattle Day League to establish a grove of wattle trees to commemorate the landing of Australian troops at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915.
The ‘war memorial plantation’ was designed by Adelaide builder and prominent League member, Walter Torode. His design included a 3.65m high granite obelisk, to be positioned in the middle of the plantation.
The obelisk was relocated to its current site in 1940.
For further information, visit http://adelaidia.sa.gov.au/things/dardanelles-memorial
Australia did not have all the infrastructure required for the war, and some camps for enlisting soldiers were set up at racecourses. Morphettville Camp was one such camp, where soldiers trained and were housed before being deployed overseas.
The land was donated by Richard MacDonnell Hawker (1865-1930), well-known sportsman and pastoralist of Bungaree Station near Clare. He was also the owner of Morphettville Stud Farm, about 80 acres of land alongside the Morphettville Racecourse. Following the outbreak of war, Hawker made ‘a splendidly patriotic offer to the military authorities … for the free use of encampment of the expeditionary force… ‘(The Register, 13 August 1914).
The Suez Canal is a constructed waterway linking the Mediterranean and Red Sea. It opened in 1869, creating a convenient naval passage between Europe and South Asia. The canal was important to its then British controllers, who no longer needed to travel around Africa to reach their colonies; this had a significant impact upon world trade and colonisation.
As a strategic naval route used during the First World War, the Suez Canal came under heavy attacks from Ottoman forces. However, the Turks were unsuccessful in their attempts to seize the Canal, which remained under some degree of British control until the 1950s. It is now operated by the Egyptian run Suez Canal Authority.
Torrens Island Internment Camp opened on 9 October 1914. Hundreds of men – ‘enemy aliens’ – were interned on Torrens Island, in the Port River estuary near Adelaide. Sailors taken off enemy ships, foreign nationals living in South Australia, and even some naturalised British subjects found themselves behind barbed wire. Wartime censorship meant people outside knew next to nothing about internment or life in the camp.
Initially life in the Camp was uncomfortable, but not harsh. However, a new commanding officer was appointed in early 1915, and treatment of the internees became more brutal. An investigation into conditions resulted in the camp being closed in August 1915, with many internees being released, while others were transferred to a camp at Holsworthy in new South Wales.