1914 - 1915

Life interrupted: from civilian to soldier

State Library of New South Wales

Highlights from the State Library of New South Wales 2014 exhibition

Recruiting for war
Many Australians who enlisted early on in the war were keen for adventure, to fight for the British Empire, to do their bit. To enlist, you had to be at least 5 foot 6 inches with good teeth to be accepted. Early recruitment pamphlets emphasised travel opportunities and a trip to Europe would be the chance of a lifetime. Recruiters were looking for the best and the healthiest of those aged between 18 and 35. Anyone who had prior military experience was top of the list. As the war went on, recruitment standards became less strict. Men aged between 18 and 45 years and those over 5 ft 2 in were accepted. By April 1917 they were down to 5 ft.
Henry Charles Marshall
Henry Marshall was working as a professional photographer in Sydney when war was declared. He was one of the early enlistments. Henry captured his new life of soldiering through the camera lens of his Kodak ‘vest pocket’ camera. Marshall photographed his fellow soldiers of the 1st battalion, AIF boarding the troopship Afric from Sydney in October 1914.
Archie Barwick
Archie Barwick was working on a farm at Surveyors Creek in northern New South Wales when he decided to enlist in August 1914. He was worried that he may be rejected due to his height: he was only 5 foot 4 inches. He passed his medical exam and within days found himself in the military training camp at Kensington in Sydney. After several months of training, Archie was part of the 1st contingent of the AIF to leave Australia for war. They marched to Circular Quay and boarded ferries which delivered the men to the troopships anchored in Sydney Harbour.
'Our last glimpse of Sydney'
Archie Barwick wrote, 'Before we reached the wharfs a pretty big bunch of people had collected, and we had a job to get through them in places, they gave us all sorts of things, as we passed them and there were a few tearful scenes ... as we passed down the Harbour we could hear the cheers floating across the water to us and all the boats in the Harbour set their sirens going ... we could see the people still waving as we disappeared round the Heads, everyone was straining their eyes to get a last look at Sydney..''as we passed down the Harbour we could hear the cheers floating across the water to us and all the boats in the Harbour set their sirens going ... we could see the people still waving as we disappeared round the Heads, everyone was straining their eyes to get a last look at Sydney..'
'we could see the sea was pretty rough outside, and I for one did not like my chance for even then I was feeling a bit funny and I am sure I was turning yellowish, however I had not long to wait for I was soon feeding the fishes with a vengeance ... I am sure I did not care if the whole concern went to the bottom, shows you how selfish a man is don't it ... poor old Dukey was very crook, he was bad right up to Albany.. the only think he could keep down was biscuits soaked in water...'
Archie Barwick
'We slept in hammocks slung from hooks ... we used to have some fun, I can tell you of a night - rocking one anothers hammocks...'
Archie Barwick served at Gallipoli and on the Western Front, returning home to Australia in early 1919. During the war, he filled 16 volumes of diaries with wry, humorous and sometimes tragic observations.
Arrival in Egypt
After six weeks at sea, the Australian troops landed in Egypt and commenced training. It was all so interesting — being in a foreign country, exploring Cairo. They were soldier-tourists: training and marching through the Egyptian desert and visiting Cairo. They climbed the pyramids and rode camels. They visited mosques, museums and the Cairo zoo and frequented European-style cafes.

Photographer Henry Marshall features in this photograph. He is standing at the back, wearing the large medallion. He served at Gallipoli and died of wounds in June 1915 after being evacuated off the Peninsula

Official war correspondent, Charles Bean published a guide for Australian and New Zealand soldiers while in Cairo in early 1915. He dispensed advice on food safety, unsafe locales, museum opening times and currency conversions for troops.

'European residents live healthily in Egypt because they know the rules of health to be observed here and would not dream of doing many things which are done safely in England or Australia. Tourists on the other hand commonly fall dangerously ill simply through not knowing what things are unsafe to do.'

'As to drinks, the Cairo water supply is perfectly safe - if the glass itself has been washed in clean water ... tea therefore is safe if without milk; but coffee is safer because it is always taken with boiled milk.'

'Lastly Cairo has made itself a name in the world as a hot-bed of both gonorrhea and syphilis...'
Charles Bean
Life Interrupted: From civilian to soldier
Credits: Story

Curator: Elise Edmonds
Technical support: Chris Burns

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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