Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor, Gentleman, Apothecary, Ploughboy, Thief . . .
Army, Navy, Medicine, Law, Church, Nobility, Nothing at all. By Barry Craig
Britain declared war on Germany on 4 August 1914 and on 12 August, an Australian naval force entered Blanche Bay and disabled the German telephone services at Rabaul and Herbertshöhe. Recruitment for the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force began immediately and officers and men of the AN&MEF arrived in Blanche Bay on 11 September to capture the Bitapaka wireless station about 25 km south-east of Rabaul, and to occupy German New Guinea (Fig.1).
The Germans surrendered to the AN&MEF on 21 September. The German district administrative centres were quickly occupied (Fig. 2): Madang on 24 September, Kavieng on 17 October, Manus (Lorengau) on 19 November and Kieta on 9 December (Gash & Whittaker 1975:181). A caretaker administration was set up, with military officers appointed as District Officers for each of these centres, including Herbertshöhe (Kokopo) near Rabaul. Other administrative centres and patrol posts were occupied progressively.
Who were the men who volunteered for the invasion of German New Guinea? There was an enthusiastic response to the recruitment drive. A sample of the Embarkation Roll, 3rd Battalion of the Naval and Military Force, Special Tropical Corps, indicates the wide range of occupations of the men who enlisted (Fig. 3). They may with a little imagination be matched to the careers cited in the Mother Goose children’s ditty.
Of particular interest are the seven men who subsequently donated or sold collections of artefacts to the South Australian Museum, highlighted in red in the following table. Five of these – Davies, Hunter, Mostyn and the Ogilvy brothers – departed Sydney on 28 November 1914 bound for Rabaul aboard the SS Eastern; Davies was from Victoria and the others from South Australia. Cummins from Queensland embarked in January 1917 and Magarey from South Australia in May 1918.
What is notable about all these men is that they were aged in their 30s and 40s; for two pages of the Nominal Role of 66 enlistments for the ‘Special Tropical Corps’, the average age was 37 years. They were not the youths and young men of later enlistments whose lives were cut short at Gallipoli and in the trenches in France. Some of them had previously served in the Boer Wars in South Africa.
In subsequent issues of the OAS Journal, I will discuss these men and their collections in the South Australian Museum.
Gash, N. and J. Whittaker. 1975. A Pictorial History of New Guinea. Brisbane: Jacaranda Press. There were at least four others I won’t mention here.