Australians on the Western Front: Supporting the nation at war and in peace

Australian households helped finance the First World War by subscribing 250 million pounds to seven War Loan Bond and three Peace Bond issues.

STAR POWER: The legendary Captain Albert Jacka VC, from Victoria was the face of recruitment campaigns and later, the 1919 Peace Bonds. Picture: AWM ARTV00784

STAR POWER: The legendary Captain Albert Jacka VC, from Victoria was the face of recruitment campaigns and later, the 1919 Peace Bonds. Picture: AWM ARTV00784

Managed by the fledgling Commonwealth Bank, the bonds gave returns of 4.5 to 6 per cent over terms ranging from five to 10 years.

A pamphlet encouraging participation in the Second War Bond in December 1915 was posted to every Australian with an income of more than 300 pounds.

Full-sized model tanks and signs urging ‘Turn Your Money Into Bullets’ were used in fundraising from Bundaberg to Fremantle. One in four households – 242,210 subscribers – purchased the seventh round of war bonds in 1918.

Post-war Peace Bonds were advertised as funding the building of war service homes and vocational training of returned soldiers.  The 1920 issue was launched with banners that read: ‘WE cried for men: THEY answered; WE cheered: THEY sailed away; WE slept in peace: THEY suffered; It’s OUR turn: WE MUST PAY!’

Each of the 10 bond issues exceeded its target and today would be worth approximately $22 billion. The Reserve Bank of Australia has a war bonds exhibition at its Sydney museum.

Another organisation that has commemorated the centenary of the First World War is Australia Post which has released special stamp series over the past five years.

Its predecessor, the Postmaster-General’s Department, charged one penny postage for each letter from Australia to soldiers abroad and one shilling - half the normal rate - for parcels of up to three pounds (1.34kg). Free postage applied to soldiers’ letters of up to four ounces (112 grams) that were stamped OAS (On Active Service).

The Australian Red Cross and the YMCA, gave critical support to soldiers during the war, while on leave in London, and in the months before they came home.

FOOTWORK: Baxter Boots employee Eddie Sivell in Goulburn with a pair of boots bound for the Australian Federation Guard. Picture: Michael Grealy

FOOTWORK: Baxter Boots employee Eddie Sivell in Goulburn with a pair of boots bound for the Australian Federation Guard. Picture: Michael Grealy

Founded in 1914 nine days after the war began, the Red Cross marked its own centenary of voluntary humanitarianism by gifting much of its archive and heritage collection to the University of Melbourne Archives.

Some companies that fitted out the Australian Imperial Force still retain an association with the military. The distinctive Akubra slouch hats remain part of the Defence Force uniform, manufactured from rabbit fur by the Keir family in Kempsey.

Baxter Boots, established in Goulburn in 1850, produced 400 pairs of boots a day for the troops. Tariff reductions ended local manufacturing in 2017, but the company still supplies imported boots to the Australian Federation Guard and the Royal Military College, Duntroon.

Each of the 10 bond issues exceeded its target ...