History Lives: Peace and Billy Hughes

THE Bendigo Advertiser recorded many events connected with peace after World War I, a war that cost Australia more than 60,000 killed and many thousands more wounded. 

The following reports from the Bendigo Advertiser are an indication of those times. 

In Bendigo in 1919, the official celebration of peace was held on July 19. 

The Mayor, Mr Dunstan, presided in the Upper Reserve (QEO), with addresses from Sir John Quick, Colonel Adams and Chaplain-Colonel Crookston. 

At the close, the returned soldiers and their relatives were entertained at afternoon tea. In the same month, Captain Dyett, a Bendigo returned soldier, was elected president of the Returned Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Imperial League of Australia. Later that year, on September 1, the Bendigo Advertiser reported: “The Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia and Federal Member for Bendigo, William Morris Hughes, was accorded a magnificent welcome. 

“An enormous crowd gathered at the Bendigo railway station and lined the streets and a liberal display of flags was a further indication of the warmth of the reception accorded to the representative of the electorate in the Commonwealth Parliament. 

“The Mayor and other dignitaries formed the reception committee and the journey to the Town Hall was a triumphal procession. St Paul’s bells chimed ‘Home Sweet Home’ and Flight Lieutenant Huxley in his powerful aeroplane showered Peace Loan propaganda on the enthusiastic crowds. The welcome of the soldiers was especially hearty and they carried Mr Hughes shoulder high to his car, and again from it to the Town Hall.”

 After the welcome speech from the Mayor of Bendigo (Mr Curnow), the Prime Minister, Mr Hughes, spoke. 

The following are some excerpts from his reply: “I have come amongst you after an absence of 16 months and the welcome I have received filled me with great pleasure… since then we have had great victory, and after victory peace, and after that the salvation of Australia. (Cheers) For all these things the men have fought to win, and they have fought to win the liberty we prize, and the safety of the banner which they fought for – the banner of a White Australia… These boys fought to keep Australia white and clean. 

“I was one of those who asked you to reinforce the men who were working, not eight hours a day, but double and even treble shifts in a veritable hell. There were people who said that men were not needed, and that the danger did not exist. If their advice had been taken, you would have been in chains today and would stand where Germany stands.”

Later that night the Prime Minister made a similar speech at a “monster meeting” at the Royal Princess’s Theatre. He said, “We are today a free Australia, a safe Australia, a White Australia”, to cheers from the audience.

Red Ribbon Re-enactment

Wednesday, August 27, at 11am in Rosalind Park.

Wear a red ribbon and join students and representatives from the Bendigo Historical Society and Forest Creek Monster Meeting and enjoy the free sausage sizzle supplied by the Bendigo South Rotary Club.

Bendigo Historical Society all-day bus excursion

To Heathcote and Costerfield on  Saturday, September 13.

Bus leaves from All Seasons at 9am and returns at 4pm. Cost $20 includes a visit to Heathcote Historical Museum and afternoon tea at Costerfield. For more information, phone 5435 3635.

Bendigo Historical Society tours

Shamrock Hotel every Sunday at 2pm. Cost $10 includes cake and coffee. Book at the Shamrock on 5443 0333.

Specimen Cottage (178-80 Hargreaves Street) every Tuesday at 11am. Cost $5 includes morning tea.

Visit the Bendigo Historical Society website at www.bendigohistory.com

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