Remembrance Day

Reg. A. Watson

It was more than a hundred years ago that our Tasmanian ANZACS came home. Home to Tasmania away from the hell of war. Home to recover and home to start their life again. It was hard to do.

What name should we give our particular Tasmanian ANZAC?  Johnny is a good name, but his name varied as did his background and personality.  And why did he go in the first place?  No doubt there were various reasons….Patriotism?  Duty and obligation?  Social Pressure?  A chance of adventure?  Perhaps escaping from some problem that existed for him?

Whatever reason he left the security of his home and went to war.  We tend to think that most of our ANZAC chaps were from the rural areas of Tasmania, but even in 1914 as is now, most lived in the cities, Hobart, Launceston, Burnie and Devonport. Their occupations were tram, bus and train drivers, bank clerks, sales assistants, factory workers, tradesmen and on a broader scale, farm labourers, fisherman, forest workers and deck hands.  Officers were mainly professional people, clergymen, accountants, vets, chemists, doctors, and lawyers.

Johnny was young, not much more than a boy. He stood five feet eight inches tall.  He had just begun shaving but his complexion was still fresh, but that would change. Perhaps he was one of the eleven who enlisted from Melton Mowbray in the Midlands.  Or one of the sixty who enlisted from Gormanston or one of the eleven to enlist from Old Beach.

We can visualise Johnny on that fateful morning when he was to leave, packing his bag and maybe his dad was well off enough to own a car and take him to the train station.  Before leaving he said goodbye to his family by hugging mum who had tears in her eyes, a manly handshake from dad, a kiss from his sisters and a handshake from his brothers, who were in awe of him. Mum wondered what the war had to do with ‘us’ while dad was proud of his son, now in uniform. Dad said he was brave which they also said at the community hall last night when the locals put on a supper to wish him God Speed and best wishes.  There he said goodbye to his ‘girl’. Would they even see each other again? Yes, dad said he was “brave” but deep down he felt a foreboding, a longing in not wanting to really go.  But he had signed, he was now in uniform, made his commitments and now he was to leave.  Training would be first at Claremont then to be shipped to war. Funny though he did not feel brave, but he believed he was going to do what was expected of him.

Off he goes and sails the Indian Ocean to his destination.  The transport ship was overcrowded and the trip was long.  They spent their time in exercising, smoking, playing cards, gambling, boxing and in shooting practice.  The meals were reasonable, but theft was rife. The officers had cabins and ate their meals separately.  There were numerous cases of insubordination, of sickness, fighting and even one bloke jumped overboard never to be seen again.

Finally he was taken off the ship to undergo further training.  Then to the battle zone where the real tests were to be experienced.  Perhaps our Johnny first went to Gallipoli where he took ill with dysentery and after recovering was wounded in the shoulder by shrapnel.  He was taken to one of the hospital ships where he met remarkable Tasmanian Matron, Elizabeth (Liz) Orr who had, after the war, a break down because of her service to our men.

If Johnny survived Gallipoli he would be sent to the Western Front and if he thought he saw the worse horror of war, he would see much more in France and Belgium.  There perhaps he saw General John Gellibrand, Tasmania’s most decorated soldier;  a brave, humane man who clashed with General Monash over the unnecessary casualties that were being caused.

The eucalyptus and the alluring paddocks of Tasmania were replaced for Johnny by mud holes so deep you could drown in them and a landscape because of incessant bombardments, similar to what the moon’s landscape must look like..  Men’s wounds and suffering would torment him in monstrous dreams for the rest of his life. He was to write home expressing his thoughts, but never letting them know the true story.  After all, they would worry and he would not want that.

Yet somehow he survived it all…sick several times, wounded twice.  On occasions he visited while on leave Paris as he did Old Blighty (England) and London.  He had relatives in London so when there he looked them up they gave him a mighty reception.  As an Australian he was a hero.

Then November 11th 1918 it was all over and to Tasmania Johnny would go. He did return to his home, but he felt a stranger to his parents and the boy they sent away now came back as a man and they were painfully aware he had suffered and saw much.

He was one of the lucky ones.  Near 3000 Tasmanians died in the war and with a ratio of 1:3 nearly 9000 were wounded.  All returned emotionally and psychologically effected.  Johnny had repaired from his wounds, but many of his comrades came back without legs or arms, or both.  Some came back with parts of their faces missing.  Many coughed uncontrollably because of the gas attacks. Some were so bad mentally they were sent to the Derwent Valley Asylum to spend the rest of their days there.

Yes Johnny was lucky.  He eventually married his ‘girl’ and had a family; only to see his son join once again for another war. More Banker’s wars.

The Service and Legacy of Her Majesty the Queen

With the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, we witnessed history.  For most here today, all we have known is The Queen!  Suddenly to realise that she is no longer with us comes as a bit of a shock even though of course she had been frail for some time.

It was Winston Churchill, her first ever Prime Minister, who said that she will be the founder of a second Elizabethan era.  Having reigned for seventy years, the era has become exactly that. She was, when alive, the only Head of State world-wide, to have worn a Second World War uniform, serving in that conflict when only a girl. She was, naturally, of that previous generation to take the matters of obligation, service, and duty to heart.  She believed in those old, but honoured virtues. During her reign there were many times of extraordinary stress, family scandals and disappointments. The year 1992 she described as annus horribilus – meaning a horrible year.  Who of us cannot forget an elderly lady suffering alone when inspecting the aftermath of the burning of her beloved Windsor Castle on the 20th November 1992. And then there was the funeral of her husband of 74 years in April 2021, sitting alone because of necessity in Westminster Abby.  How sad and how cruel it was. She did it without complaint. In her oath taken 2nd June 1953 she pledged, “The things which I have here before promised, I will perform and keep.  So help me God.” And what did she promise in her Coronation Oath?  Among many things, was to serve the people and “to maintain the Law of God and the true profession of the Gospel”.  She took her oath seriously.  As a dedicated Christian her title of “Defender of the Faith”” meant to her more than just mere words. It was a promise.

William Shakespeare from his “Twelve Night” said “some are born great, some achieve greatness and others have greatness thrust upon them”. The Queen had greatness thrust upon her.

What dramatically intervened in her life was the Constitutional crises involving Edward the Prince of Wales and Mrs Wallis Simpson. The affair ended in controversy when Edward, the king, abdicated in 1936. This meant that his younger brother George had the throne forced on him, a role he had not preferred to have inherited.

The King did not enjoy good health and underwent an operation and afterwards appeared though weak, fitter. His illness, however, continued and it was obvious he was dying of cancer. At this time Princess Elizabeth and the Duke had two young children, Charles and Anne. For a number of months the King prevailed. On the 31st January 1951 the King waved goodbye to his daughter and son-in-law from the London Airport. They were off on a tour of East Africa.  In the small hours of 6th February 1952 the King died.

The young couple were enjoying a stay at a hunting lodge, a wedding present from the inhabitants of Kenya, when the news of the death of her father, was received. She had planned to move on to Australia and New Zealand, but she immediately drafted apologies herself. One vital chore she had, as now monarch, was to declare as Queen, how she would be known. Her full name is Elizabeth Alexandra May.  Her title would now be Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of the United Kingdom, and Northern Ireland.

The Queen developed a delightful sense of humour and surely it was needed in times of difficultly. This is in contrast to King Philip II of Spain, as recorded by historians, who laughed but twice in his life.  I am not sure when he did so, but I do not think it was because of the Armada. That was during the reign of another Elizabeth.  Who can forget of recent times Her Majesty’s afternoon tea with Paddington Bear or her entrance to the London Olympics with James Bond in 2012 descending to the arena from a helicopter.

She recognised a higher power which gave her humbleness.  One is reminded of a young Queen Victoria. When attending a performance of Handel’s Messiah, she was informed that she was not obliged to stand when the Hallelujah Chorus was sung.  When The King of Kings was being performed, Queen Victoria rose from her seat and stood head bowed during the rest of the chorus.

When the term “Queen” was used world-wide all knew to which Queen it was referred, even though there are other queens in the world. Her passing had not just affected her loyal subjects in Great Britain and the Commonwealth, but throughout the world.

I have never seen such pouring out of grief or seen such huge respect given to one person and may I suggest we will never see the same ever again. Oh, how much more can be said of this amazing woman?

I must add her connection to Tasmania. She first arrived here when only a young lady. She had accepted awesome responsibilities in February 1954 by visiting her realm of Tasmania which included the opening of the Tasmanian Parliament on the 22nd of that month.  She was accompanied by her husband the Duke of Edinburgh. She and Philip arrived Saturday 20th February 1954 on the royal yacht, Gothic and were received by a royal salute of 21 guns from the Queen’s Domain. The itinerary for the royal couple was relentless. First was the unveiling of the sesquicentenary memorial on the historic site of Hunter Island.  The memorial was erected to commemorate the foundation of Hobart under Colonel David Collins in February 1804.  Names of all those who arrived with him are carried on its reverse side and later included those who arrived with Lieutenant John Bowen RN at Risdon in September 1803. Then on the Monday it was the opening of Parliament followed by an investiture at Government House. Later it was a State-wide visit to many centres, flying from Tasmania on the 25th from Launceston airport for Melbourne. It was an exhausting programme and one wonders how a young lady endured it physically. She was an incredible woman.

Her Majesty visited our island State eight times, the last in the year 2000, visiting both Hobart and Launceston.

Her success lay in her ability to be apolitical, a talent she had during her reign. Her son, Charles, while being a Prince has spoken on various issues which have political overtones. For him to be a successful monarch, like his mother, he too will have to stay away from providing political opinions. This he has recognised, stating that being a King is a different role from that of a being a Prince.

Now her reign is over and it will be hard to follow. It will be a challenge to fill her very successful shoes.  We hope and give our blessing to the new king, Charles III.

So how can we sum up her reign?  Well, it was so pleasing that she enjoyed her platinum jubilee not long before her passing. She proved to be the longest reigning British Monarch, just one of the many records she broke. Her service is a reminder that the monarchy has endured and the monarchy stands at the apex of our system of constitutional law. Her reign prompted a new awareness for our young people, looking for stability and endurance. In any sense of a word, her time as monarch was an outstanding success.

As a monarch who believed most strongly that a higher Monarch reigned over her and that she was but a servant of the Most High, she gave her life to that knowledge.  May the Lord welcome her with those immortal words recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, “Well done thou good and faithful servant”. 

The Queen in Tasmania

With the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, it is well to remember her connection to

Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II during her 1963 Tasmanian tour at the steps of the Town Hall.
Sitting, Mayor Soundy

When she took the oath at her coronation on the 2nd of June 1953 became monarch of a
number of countries, plus Head of the Commonwealth and ruler of an existing empire. At
the time of her passing she was the Queen of 15 countries and the Head of a
Commonwealth consisting of 53 countries. She was a patron of 600 charities. There have
been enormous changes since 1953. On 9th September 2015 the Queen became Britain’s
longest serving monarch.

The Queen was the first child of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. She did not expect to
become monarch so soon, if ever. She was third in line, after her uncle, Edward, The Prince
of Wales and her father, the Duke of York. She and Philip married 20th November 1947 at
Westminster Abbey. The Duke died 9th April 2021, three months shy of his 100th birthday.
Who could forget the lonely figure, clad in black, mourning alone?

What dramatically intervened in her life was the Constitutional crises involving Edward the
Prince of Wales and Mrs Wallis Simpson. The affair ended in controversy when Edward, the
king, but not crowned, abdicated in 1936. This meant that his younger brother George had
the throne forced on him, a role he had not preferred to have inherited. It was Shakespeare
who said, “some have greatness thrust upon them”. The reluctant Prince, then known as
Albert, proved to be a great king.

The King did not enjoy good health and underwent an operation and afterwards appeared
though weak, fitter. His illness continued and it was obvious he was dying of cancer. At this
time Princess Elizabeth and the Duke had two young children, Charles and Anne. For a
number of months the King prevailed. On the 31st of January 29t 1951 the King waved goodbye
to his daughter and son-in-law from the London Airport. They were off to a tour of East
Africa. In the small hours of 6th February 1952, the King died.

The young couple were enjoying a stay at a hunting lodge, a wedding present from the
inhabitants of Kenya, when the news of the death of her father, was received. She had
planned to move on to Australia and New Zealand, but she immediately drafted apologies
herself. One vital chore she had, as now monarch, was to declare as Queen, how she would
be known. Her full name is Elizabeth Alexandra May. Her title would now be Elizabeth the
Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland.

Tasmania is a Constitutional Monarchy, based on the westministerial system of government.
Thus the Queen is our monarch. Tasmania’s Constitutional Act (1934) uses the term Crown
when referring to the executive branch of government. The Queen’s representative in
Tasmania is the Governor (The Australian Act 1986). The Governor is appointed by the
Queen on the advice of the Premier.

The Queen first visited her Tasmania during a 1954 State visit with the then Governor being
Sir Ronald Cross and the Premier, Eric Reece. On Saturday the 20th of February 1954 the royal
yacht SS Gothic at 10:15am berthed at Prince’s wharf, Hobart. Interestingly the 20th
February was when Lt-Colonel David Collins, Royal Marines settled Sullivan’s Cove, later
Hobart, in 1804. It was a whirlwind visit of five days; besides Hobart, she and Prince Philip
visited many villages, towns and the city of Launceston. It included a reception at the
Hobart Town Hall where the royal couple was received by the Lord Mayor Sir Richard Harris
and Lady Harris. Her Majesty spoke feelingly of “The fellowship and understanding that
exists between Tasmania and the Mother Country”.

There was also a display by 22,000 children at North Hobart Oval, visits to civic centres, a
ball and Divine Service at St David’s Cathedral. How this young queen and her husband the
Duke of Edinburgh coped with the exhausting itinerary is admirable. They flew from Hobart
to Melbourne continuing their forty day extensive Australia, New Zealand and Pacific tour.
The Mercury Centenary Magazine (1954) reported “From the gracious capital to the
smallest hamlet of the hills, people were busy hanging flags, bunting, flowers, ferns and
coloured banners in a mass gesture of loyalty, affection and celebration that stole off with
the hearts of the most blasé and denied the time-worn claim that Tasmanians were
undemonstrative and staid.

“Hobart, itself was a city of lights and laughter. Launceston folk were building arches as
they painted the city. Burnie was its own beauty parlous. In Deloraine, Derby, Devonport
and all along the Tamar, business-as-usual was forgotten as the whole Northern populace
took time off to titivate their towns with a million bright streamers, golden crowns and royal

One of her important responsibilities while in Tasmania was to open Parliament on the 22nd
February. This is the only and last time a monarch has opened Tasmania’s parliament. On
her entry the ladies curtsied and the men bowed in homage to their Queen. This was
followed by the fanfare of six trumpeters posted in a recess off the Upper Hall and was
probably the first time (and last) a trumpet call had sounded with the parliament buildings.
The hour fixed for the opening ceremony was 12 o’clock.

It was also the first time a British Monarch has opened parliament in Australia. Tasmania’s
Parliament was obviously the first overseas parliament opened by Queen Elizabeth, her
father opening Parliaments previously in South Africa and Rhodesia.

Reg with the 1954 Tasmanian souvenir of the Queen’s opening of Parliament

Since 1952 there have been many milestones in her reign from being a princess to a
record-breaking monarch, milestones of which have been unprecedented.

The Queen was born 21st April 1926 and was christened 29th May of that year. She married
Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, 20th November 1947. She was but 26 years of age
when she became queen thus accepting enormous responsibility. The 6th February 2022
marked 70 years since she ascended to the throne. She became the first British Monarch to
mark their Platinuim Jubilee. The Queen has the record of being Britain’s longest serving
monarch surpassing her great, great, grandmother, Queen Victoria’s 63 year reign.

During Queen Elizabeth’s reign there have been 23 visits of British royalty to our island with
the Queen and Prince Philip returning 1963, 1970, 1977, 1981, 1988 and March 2000. The
Queen has visited Australia sixteen times usually on important milestones, anniversaries or
celebrations. Her late husband, His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, visited Tasmania
alone in 1967 and twice in 1973.

On her Diamond Jubilee in 2013 the Prince of Wales and the Duchess visited Tasmania on
her behalf during which time, the author met the Prince.

Her life had been lived out before the cameras. She has been the most memorial monarch
of the entire world. She took the throne while she had two young children, Charles and
Anne. The Queen’s long and impeccable reign deserves tribute. With her indomitable
character she has endured a life time of scrutiny. She had the support of her late husband
Philip who has been by her side all the way. On taking the throne, she said the job was for
life and rightly earning the affection of Tasmanians.

Was the past better than today?

People born post 1990 may think society has always been like it is, but having been born in the late 40s, I can compare what is to what was.  Over those seventy and more years, things have changed dramatically, some for the better naturally, but many not so.

What has been substantially erased is freedom especially of movement and expression.  Now we can be prosecuted just for expressing an opinion, publicly, online or even verbally. The cancel culture is alive and well. How did we get to such a stage?

Not all in the past was honkey-dory.  Alcohol was a major problem, but I put this down to men returning from the war and them trying to adjust into civilian life. Now it is drugs, which quite frankly was not a problem when growing up in Tasmania. We never had to deal with the threat of terrorism or ethnic gangs roaming our streets.  Life was indeed simpler and many today may think boring, but one does not miss what one does not have.  I find in today’s society with all our gadgets, technology and materialism people are no happier, indeed I suggest less so.  Everyone seems stressed out.  We don’t relax anymore.  Each day is the same; crowds, heavy traffic and shopping.

In past years the weekend was something really to look forward to.  Saturday was for sports or entertainment.  Sundays was to have a break, to visit or be visited, have a picnic and if so desired rest in church. Now it is 24 hour sport.

Services were better in the past.  Having grown up in my early years without television I can remember our home being delivered bread from the baker, meat from the butcher, groceries from the local shop and milk in bottles with cream on top.  Postal service was twice a day and once on Saturday mornings.  By personal experience it can take up to ten days to get a letter delivered from Hobart to Sydney and visa versa.

In 1945 the war had finished and unlike many European countries Australia boomed. Work was coming out of one’s ears. I began working in 1967 and there were so many jobs to choose from.  My first job lasted three weeks.  It was not for me so I got another one within a week.  Whereas we once produced goods there is now nothing but show rooms importing goods.  White goods, cars, even pegs, matches and bottles were Australian made. The Zinc Works employed 2,500 men and Hobart buzzed waiting for their half year bonus and more so, the Christmas bonus. Hobart city was full of Tasmanian-owned shops, including department stores.  It had a uniqueness and charm, but it is now being turned into just another international city.

Churches gave the guidance society needed, but with their demise and their influence on the community, anything seems to go, much of it quite weird. And in those days there were but two sexes, male and female and not the 150 the BBC have told their staff. As said, life was simpler. Houses for young married couples were affordable. There was swearing, but not in front of women or children.  It was fun to be to the airport; now it is a nightmare. The police singly or as couples pounded the beat without wearing guns.

Local football, with Tasmania being regional, was huge. In the south it was not only covered by three local radio stations (or as we termed it wireless) 7ZR (ABC), 7HO and 7HT but within a couple of hours, the Saturday Evening Mercury carried pages of full reports on the games just played. The paper was delivered door to door by a boy with a tray selling lollies and chocolates as well.  Now of course children would not be allowed to walk the streets, but quite frankly, I cannot recall any report of a boy being mugged nor have his money stolen. And again, while attending primary and high school one was allowed to return for lunch, as mother was home.  One simply walked out from school without any need for permission and return at the suitable time.

There were funny things too.  When Springfield opened up and many Polish immigrants moved there, the area had no sewage.  It was serviced by the night cart.  I can vividly remember the night cart lorry racing down Derwent Park Road to dispose of its contents.

So what has improved over the years?  I’m not too sure.  Society has changed, but has it changed for the better? Technology has not provided an improvement. Technology is fine when it works. If computers are down, then the banking system, indeed the whole of society stops. It is very much a tender issue and open to sabotage.

I have to say the quality of the River Derwent has improved to what it was. It was terribly polluted when I was young.  However gone is the choice of transport.  Then we had four forms i.e. trolley buses, trams (which should never had been taken off) passenger rail and of course diesel buses.

When one phoned a business you got a real person on the other line not this press “one for”….and so forth. Politicians were respected, but at this juncture in time I have never seen such disillusionment in our leaders by the populace.

When television commenced in 1960 we had two channels, now we have dozens mostly of which produce nothing but piffle.

And education?  Well, learning the three rrrs was a priority. Social engineering was unknown. It was a much more stable and free society with everyone knowing what was expected of them.

We are now so divided on race, culture, religion, sexuality and of course politics.  True, there were always division when it came to politics, but the disunity has now spread to other sectors There was a divide back then between Catholics and Protestant, but it was mild.  In Tasmania it really did not matter at all.

That’s just for starters.  Perhaps it will make many reflect and others ponder.

The British Heritage of Tasmania

Tasmanian historian and author, Reg Watson, recently was awarded Life Membership to the British Australian Community for (to quote) “in recognition of his work representing the interests of British Australians over a span of more than five decades”.

The video shows the presentation which took place in Melbourne, June 2022 followed by Reg’s address, entitled “The British heritage of Tasmania”.