AUSTRALIAN SOLDIERS' CORRESPONDENCE LEAGUE
Miss Jeannie Jobson, a senior member of the staff at Ballarat Agricultural High School (now Ballarat High School), formed the League in November 1915. Her objective was to send letters to various units of the Australian Imperial Force and to War Hospitals. Membership was described as 'very large' and 'embracing every state' in Australia.
Jeannie Jobson was President. Other office bearers were Treasurer Miss McAdam, and Hon Secretaries Miss R A Yorke and Miss Treweneck.
Jeannie Jobson's correspondence started in May 1915 after the news of the landing and events at Gallipoli were published. Her first letter to Malta led to sixty replies on the one day. The original letter was sought and found to be published in the London newspaper, The Times. Another celebrated letter, written for Christmas 1917, was published as a leaflet for broader circulation. Rosalie Triolo in "Our Schools and the War", Australian Scholarly, Melbourne (2012), remarked that Jeannie's correspondence retained the initial exuberance of the early period of the War, despite the knowledge of the suffering. Some of the published sentiment was presumed to encourage the enlistment of men from the Education Department of Victoria.
A CHEERING LETTER TO THE AUSTRALIAN TROOPS AT THE FRONT
"Verona" 120 Lyons St, Ballarat, 12 May 1915
DEAR AUSTRALIAN BOYS,
I don't know which of you will read this letter; I don't care, for you are all alike, dear and precious to every Australian at home. Every Australian woman's heart this week is thrilling with pride, with exultation, and while her eyes fill with tears, she springs up, as I did when the story was finished, and says:- "Thank God I am an Australian!" Boys, you have honoured our land; you, the novices, the untrained, the untaught in war's grim school, have done the deeds of veterans! O, how we honor you! How we glory in your matchless bravery, in your yet more wonderful fortitude, which the war correspondent says was evinced so marvellously as your boatloads of wounded …
… cheered and waved amid their pain as you rowed back to the vessels. What gave you the courage for that heroic dash to the ridge, boys? British grit, Australians' nerve and determination to do or die; a bit of primeval man's love of a big fight against heavy odds. God's help, too, surely, Who accompanied you through a veritable valley of the shadow of death. Dear lads, I think you deed was one of the most heroic ever sung in romance or told in epic, from Homer's time downward; no deed in history excels it. You have indeed made history, and written your names indelibly on the glorious roll of fame. Just after the war broke out last year I lost two brothers from illness within a fortnight of each other, but I just said, "Oh, if they had only died fighting for their country!" May you be spared, however to live and fight for your country. I teach in Ballarat Agricultural High School. You boys – for you are all boys (ah, so young to do such deeds of valor) – may know some of our students, for many are at the front who have passed through our school. That terrible onrush of the 25th April, of which, as yet, we know too little, has already cost us the loss of two of our boys, and is responsible for at least two being wounded. It has been our sad duty to fly our school flag half mast for Lieutenant S R Close and Lieutenant Arthur Curwen-Walker. When I bade "good-bye" to the latter I said:- "Arthur, have you no fear of what you may be called on to face at the front – no thought of death?" "No," he said quietly. (Arthur never talked much, and never about himself.) "I just think of going straight ahead, …
… and don't think at all of what might happen."
That's the way, boys, is it not? As our school motto says, "Duty Always," and I think you have lived up to that, whatever school was honored by your attendance. When I asked Lieutenant Curwen-Walker if his mother felt his going away much, he replied:- "Well, if she does, she does not let me see it." That is the way his mother is bearing up to-day, and many another mother throughout Australia.
Dear boys, I'm sure you will feel a little rewarded for your deeds of prowess if you know how the whole Commonwealth, nay, the whole Empire, is stirred by them, and every Sunday now we are singing the following lines, after "God Save the King," in church and Sunday School;-
God save our splendid men, Send them safe home again,
God save our men.
Keep them victorious, Patient and chivalrous, They are so dear to us,
God save our men.
What can I say further? With God the ultimate issue rests. We can only leave you in His hands. Ask Him to soothe your pain, heal your bodies, recoup your lost strength, give you grace and help, that, as Grenville's sailors said, "You may live to fight again, and to strike another blow."
And oh boys, if you are restored to health and strength, and if you get into the firing line again, shun all that is cruel and treacherous …
… and devilish. Leave those tricks to the Turks and Germans. If the Briton is to be defeated, let one thing never be lost by him – his stainless name, his absolute honor. But we will win – God can never bless infamy. Right will prevail, and we shall live to see it. Good-night boys. God have you, living or dying, in His keeping. If any one of you would like to send me a penciled note or card, I'll answer it to time by return. – Your countrywoman.
Arbuckle, Weddell & Fawkner, Print.. Melbourne
See the printed booklet in the IMAGE GALLERY