War is not only people in uniform in the armed services often serving far from their home. World War 1, often called The Great War, involved the whole of the community. People who were active in voluntary and paid employment have rarely been identified in previous accounts. This project attempts to change that perspective.
Robert Ludbrook, a Ballarat citizen, complained in July 1915 that notice was given only to the well-known men who had enlisted. He sought recognition for all, and in so doing implied that the context was to overlook the role of women and civilians. Two years later with the simultaneous interest of the Australian Natives Association and Lucas & Co, the latter’s employees were planting trees in Ballarat for each enlisted person. This became known as the Avenue of Honour.
The Great War started in a flourish of patriotism, that reviled in horror at the casualty lists that appeared regularly in the press. When this sparse information was accompanied by an account that linked this person with the community, one facet of community involvement was fused. The recognition by women that the enlisted personnel needed more comforts than were provided in the basic military kit resulted in voluntary work that was akin to a significant alternative industry which was not unlike running a warehouse. Goods were manufactured, collected and parcelled for despatch overseas. Support was also provided to the families of those who had enlisted.
Organisations operating under the umbrella of the Australian Comforts Fund were identified and names of members extracted. This also included Red Cross groups and officers. A number of other groups were uncovered, and the names of a number of men and children involved in those organisations were also found.
Some detail of the failed attempt to manufacture munitions in Ballarat is known. The discovery that the Defence Department had requisitioned the output of the Ballarat Woollen and Worsted Mills for more than two years showed that another group in Ballarat was involved in war production.