Australasian Gazette: Returned Anzacs
This segment from an Australasian Gazette newsreel shows returned Anzacs marching through Melbourne streets as part of the 'Fill-the-Gap’ recruitment drive. A marching band leads a parade of returned Anzac servicemen holding placards that say 'Wanted – A man to fill this gap’. A replica tank motors down the street followed by trams and floats with returned servicemen, while the crowd looks on. Summary by Elizabeth Taggart-Speers.
This black-and-white silent newsreel opens with a title card that says 'Returned Anzacs Make 'Fill-the-Gap’ Appeal in march through the City’. This introduces the newsreel and explains that the parade is part of the recruitment drive for men to enlist in the armed forces.
The exact date of this footage is unknown, though the march may have taken place during the latter half of the First World War. It was possibly in support of the 1916 or 1917 referendum campaigns to introduce conscription.
Notes by Elizabeth Taggart-Speers
This silent, black-and-white clip shows returned Australian First World War soldiers parading through the streets of Melbourne. The placards indicate that the march was an appeal for more recruits to join the Army and it may been in support of the 1916 referendum campaign. The parade comprises marching bands, soldiers in various styles of uniforms, civilians, military hardware and a number of floats including a replica tank and a British bulldog straddled by a young man in a sailor’s uniform. Many of the marchers are carrying placards reading 'WANTED / A MAN TO FILL THIS GAP’. Spectators, standing three to four people deep, line the route. The footage from an Australasian Gazette newsreel opens with a title card and includes eight shots that cover the parade from different vantage points.
Educational value points
- The clip shows that towards the end of the First World War additional recruitment was necessary to reinforce Australian troops on the Western Front in Europe. In July 1916 at Fromelles, France, Australian casualties numbered 5,533 in 24 hours. By the end of 1916 about 40,000 Australians had been killed or wounded on the Western Front. In all, more than 60,000 Australians lost their lives during the First World War and casualties numbered around 155,000. These losses and the economic costs of the War, which had an adverse effect on the home front, contributed to a decline in voluntary enlistment numbers. The referendums of 1916 and 1917 on the introduction of conscription for overseas service were defeated.
- The types of recruiting appeals used during the First World War are shown in this clip. Recruiting drives were based on appeals to patriotism, allegiance to the Empire and mateship. Recruiting practices were often emotive, including the use of posters depicting patriotic tableaux by well-known artists such as Norman Lindsay (1879–1969), who also contributed highly emotive political cartoons to The Bulletin.
- The clip features a replica tank, perhaps with the view of attracting attention to the parade. It was an oversized replica of a new piece of military technology that was being used in the European theatre of war. In reality the early versions were of limited use because of their propensity to get bogged or stranded in trenches. They were very dangerous to operate, unreliable and vulnerable to enemy artillery.
- Varying levels of support for the cause in the latter stages of the First World War may be suggested in the clip. The carnival-like aspects of the parade seems at odds with the reality that Australia had suffered huge losses on the battlefields. There seemed to have been no substantial victories and the economic costs of the War continued to hurt many at home.
- Some of the traumatic effects of War on returned Anzacs are evident in the clip. Some soldiers wave and smile for the camera while others remain stony-faced. Once war wounds had been excluded as a reason for discharge from the services, emotional disorders were responsible for one-third of all discharges by the end of the First World War. Symptoms ranged from uncontrollable diarrhoea to unrelenting anxiety, facial spasms, stomach cramps, loss of sight, terrifying nightmares, insomnia and an inability to eat.
Education notes provided by The Learning Federation and Education Services Australia