Picture of the Month

RHSV-BL141_War Relief Fund-Collage

How We Raised the First Hundred Thousand Melbourne, Lothian Book Publishing, 1917

left >cover illustration, Harold Herbert, artist
right upper > ‘From the Depot to the Railway Station’ (p5);
right lower > ‘Children’s Gifts Ready for Transport to Egypt’ (p7)
[RHSV Collection – BL141]

How We Raised The First Hundred Thousand, a booklet published in 1917, records and expresses appreciation for the patriotic energy and drive which Victorian teachers and children exhibited in raising £100,000 ($200,000) during the first two years of the World War I for ‘comforts’ (war relief) for Australian troops. Profits from the sale of the booklet (at 3 pence per copy) were paid into the Education Department’s War Relief Fund.

At 32 pages the booklet is illustrated with examples of activities and objects associated with the students’ endeavours. Its cover was designed by Harold Herbert (1891–1945). It shows two kneeling industrious students – a girl on the left, knitting; a boy to her right, with a hammer. Gilbert M. Wallace authored the publication. At this time he was a sub-editor of the Education Department’s publications. (Appointed in June 1913 as sub-editor of the School Paper, he succeeded Charles R. Long as its editor in 1925. Wallace had involvement in the Melbourne Literary Club (later the Australian Literature Society / Australian Institute of the Arts & Literature), editing its publication Birth : a little journal of Australian poetry in 1917. Wallace retired from the Education Department in 1934 and published Australia at Work in 1936. He was also the author of Notable Deeds of Famous Men and Women.)


‘In 1914, most Australians were indifferent to the affairs of Europe’ wrote A. G. L. Shaw in The Story of Australia. (London, Faber and Faber, 1954, p 218) The people were taken by surprise. In due course patriotic fervour blossomed and Andrew Fisher, later to become Prime Minister, was quoted as saying ‘ . . . to help defend the Empire to the last man and shilling.’

Within the first month of the war, the Victorian Minister for Public Instruction authorised ‘ . . . the raising of a patriotic fund from State school teachers, pupils, parents and friends’. A mass meeting of teachers was held at Melbourne Town Hall. The patriotic fund had two aims: i) to provide comforts such as special clothing; sick-room aids; hospital appliances; and ii) to establish a fund to support ‘broken men’, war widows and orphans.

Soon all of Victoria’s schools were involved: ‘Everywhere the click of knitting needles and the clink of pennies in the collection box’. The Montague Street School in South Melbourne was used as a central depot. Clothing companies ‘cut-out’ garments free of charge, which were then ‘made up’ by the schools all over the State. Items such as Crimean shirts (a collarless flannel shirt), invalid shirts and Nightingales (a type of bed jacket) were assembled according to Defence Department requirements.

Schools made crutches, splints and bed-rests ‘by the thousand’. Rabbit skins were collected to make waistcoats ‘for shivering soldiers’. Money was raised to establish wards at Caulfield Hospital for convalescing soldiers, with local schools keeping the wards supplied with ‘edible goodies’. (Wards 1–14 bore the name ‘Victorian State Schools Children’s Wards.) The League of Young Gardeners was established and thousands of small plots of land were allocated for children to grow vegetables, the produce of which raised £25,000. Another group was The Young Workers Patriotic Guild, whence older children undertook odd-jobs at a £1 a time. By 1916, £149,000 had been raised for the Fund and 35,000 articles of comfort made.


With the war ended The Argus reported the Fund was being closed (10 December 1919) and that the final figure collected being just over £432,000 – most of the money being earned by school children ‘out of hours’. Frank Tate, Victoria’s Director of Education said ‘Surely the great amount of unselfish action liberated by the movement will produce a permanent result in character.’


For a contemporary comment see The Argus, February 7,1917, p12 : http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article1595380

The Australian Red Cross in the Great War – an exhibition at RHSV, closes 12 December 2014 : http://www.historyvictoria.org.au/

The Artist – Harold Herbert : see http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/herbert-harold-brocklebank-6647

Victorian Education Department personalities – Frank Tate (1864–1939), Director of Education : http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/tate-frank-8748

Charles R. Long, Education Department Editor (and stalwart member and contributor to the Historical Society of Victoria) : J. Alex. Alan, ‘The Late Mr C. R. Long’, Victorian Historical Magazine, Vol 21, June 1945, pp 47-48; L. J. Blake (editor), Vision and Realisation : a centenary history of State education in Victoria, Melbourne, Education Department of Victoria, 1973, Vol 1 pp 1317-1318

Gilbert M. Wallace : details of Wallace’s contribution have been taken from various references in L. J. Blake (editor), Vision and Realisation : a centenary history of State education in Victoria, Melbourne, Education Department of Victoria, 1973, Vol 1