WWI Red Cross charity bazaar, Sydney

WWI Red Cross charity bazaar, Sydney
Access fees

Filmed in Sydney during the First World War, this clip shows a Red Cross bazaar held in Martin Place to raise money for the troops at Gallipoli. The camera holds still on a sign which says ‘Red Cross Produce workers market for the war chest’ below which there is a woman selling bunches of flowers at a market stall. A woman sells a man a ribbon and he hands her over some money. Young women shake wooden donation boxes and smile for the camera. Summary by Poppy De Souza.

The sequences in this clip in which both troops and Red Cross volunteers ‘perform’ for the camera indicate this footage was possibly filmed for use in a newsreel. This would have raised public awareness of and financial support for the war effort.

In the sequence where a man buys a ribbon from a volunteer and then shakes her hand, after the transaction has taken place the man looks briefly to the camera and raises his hand as if to say ‘was that OK?’

As in this example, early actuality footage often contains a visual record of significant cultural or historical events, places or people, and even with patchy information as to the origins, the images themselves stand up to the tests of time. Parts of the footage indicate that it may have been used in a newsreel context, but this is not clear.

This archival footage is part of the Pearson Collection held at the NFSA. James (Jim) Pearson was a director working in the 1930s and 1940s who was also an avid film collector. Pearson himself worked as a laboratory technician, director, editor, camera operator and producer for Movietone, and later the British Ministry of Information’s Far Eastern Bureau. This footage is just one of many cans of film Pearson deposited with the National Film and Sound Archive and contains a vivid portrait of Australian troops around the beginning of the First World War.

With many archival titles deposited with, or donated to, the National Film and Sound Archive (especially from the earlier part of last century), there is often little or no information available as to the material’s provenance, origins, or context in which it was screened. Sometimes the little information there is relates to how the footage came into the National Collection, and this also forms part of the material’s history.

Notes by Poppy De Souza


Education notes

This silent black-and-white film clip shows a Red Cross charity bazaar in Martin Place in Sydney around 1915. Women are shown at a flower stall with a banner that reads 'REDCROSS PRODUCE WORKERS MARKET FOR THE WAR CHEST’, and a man hands a Red Cross volunteer a donation after she pins a ribbon on his lapel. A game involving coin throwing is shown and soldiers lightheartedly 'recruit’ a seemingly inebriated civilian. The final sequence shows a group of women rattling donation boxes while some soldiers try to get into the picture.

Educational value points

  • During the First World War the Australian Red Cross Society (ARCS) organised fundraising drives to fund hospital services and 'care’ parcels for sick and wounded soldiers serving overseas. These parcels included clothing, food, soap and other toiletries, cigarettes and games such as draughts or dominos. ARCS collected and spent more than £3.5 million, dispatched 395,695 food parcels and 36,339 clothing parcels, and sent medical supplies and equipment to Australia’s defence forces.
  • ARCS, which was initially a branch of the British Red Cross, was formed nine days after the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 by Lady Helen Munro-Ferguson, wife of the Governor-General, who felt that ARCS could help provide relief services to Australian troops. Six state divisions were formed, headed by the wives of the state governors, who toured the country to promote the Society and made appeals through the media and local organisations.
  • As Red Cross volunteers, thousands of Australian women made an enormous contribution to the War effort, and helped support Australian troops fighting overseas. In addition to fundraising, volunteers were mobilised to make clothing such as flannel shirts, cardigans, socks and gloves for care parcels. Red Cross volunteers were also involved in the repatriation of soldiers, while others trained as Voluntary Aid Detachments and provided a valuable auxiliary to civilian and military nursing services.
  • The use of the Union Jack in the fundraising activities is indicative of the strong ties between Australia and Britain in this period. While many Australians saw the First World War as an opportunity for the fledgling nation to prove itself, it was also a chance to demonstrate an ongoing allegiance to the 'mother country’. Until casualties began to mount, support for the War was widespread and about 300,000 Australian men joined up from a population of around 5 million.
  • The uniform worn by soldiers in the Australian Imperial Force during the First World War was khaki coloured and consisted of baggy woollen trousers and jacket with metal buttons, lace-up ankle-length boots, and puttees, which were strips of cloth wrapped from the ankle to the knee to prevent water and mud leaking into boots and breeches. Officers had peaked caps and soldiers wore soft caps or felt slouch hats with the side turned up and a Commonwealth (Rising Sun) badge.
  • Before 1929 films were silent and black and white, and because of the size and weight of the camera there was a tendency to use long static shots such as those in this clip, and few close-ups.
  • People in this clip appear to pose or perform for the camera and there is an air of light-heartedness about the occasion. There is humour in the way the soldiers 'measure up’ the man in civilian clothes and a couple of other soldiers can’t resist getting into the action as the cameraman films the women with donation boxes. However the footage may have been taken for use in a newsreel and to promote the work of the Red Cross.

Education notes provided by The Learning Federation and Education Services Australia