The Queen in Tasmania

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

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
rosettes.”

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”.

Australia Day January 26TH. Let’s keep it.

The Liberal Premier of Tasmania, Jeremy Rockliff, has recently called for a change of date for Australia Day. He believes the current date, January 26th, is “divisive”.  Yet isn’t what he suggests, divisive? A push for new date is now promoted by various municipalities without any reference to those who live within their boundaries.  If mayors and aldermen are so convinced, the best way to show that they reflect the majority’s Will, is a simple municipal referendum.

There are very good and historic reasons why January 26th was chosen and should remain as Australia Day. To discount that particular date, shows a lack of historical understanding, and also a lack of appreciation of those who sacrificed so much.  Aboriginal senator, Jacinta Nampjina Price, in an address to the Australia Day Council, January 24th, 2022, said, “Like the rest of the world our history is complex, our land is neither black nor white as portrayed by those who cherry pick to push their own ideological agenda.

“We celebrate on January 26th to mark the beginning on what we now call Australia”

Jacinta and others such as Warren Mundine recognise both heritages and to me that is a far more sensible approach. Indeed they can have the best of both worlds.  Warren Mundine is on record as pleading to an end to the “’disgraceful debate over Australia which is dividing the nation”.

He went on to say, “It irritates me that every time it comes up in every year, the same old people come out and argue the same old cases, trying to divide the country when we should be trying to work together”. (16th January 2018)

Those aborigines in remote communities have more to be concerned about than a change of date, which will not help them in the least.

It is not uncommon throughout the world for a national day to be held on the anniversary of settlement. Led by Captain Arthur Phillip, half English and half German, the settlement at Port Jackson took place January 26th, 1788. Phillip was a good man and an able administrator. He described the harbour of Port Jackson as one of the finest harbours in the world.  It was not where he had originally landed. Eight days earlier, he had done so at Botany Bay, but finding it unsuitable and discovering a far more acceptable site he moved the settlement where he and those who accompanied him landed January 26th.  For the first number of years, it was a raw, harsh society, but gradually it improved and finally the scourge of convict transportation ceased. Most of the descendants of convicts became amazing citizens of our country and added to the success of it.

It is easy to criticise our early settlers by claiming they exploited the land, culled the native wildlife, and introduced non-native animals and flora.  Yet how else could it have been?  Forests had to be cleared for building and for the production of food.  Stock had to be introduce which eventually, as with sheep, provided incredible wealth for the nation.

There are those who believe the new day for Australia should be January 1st, (1901) when Australia was federated.  Yet without the beginning on January 26th and the aftermath of progress there would no nation of Australia.

Politicians do not necessarily represent the electorate, yet there appears to be this opinion that once in a position of influence they have the right to thrust their point of view on the rest of us. Polling and research show that only a minority of Australians support changing the date. As for the day itself there is no day on the calendar that is more unifying for Australians than 26th January.  This marks the day we all started the journey to build on the great egalitarians, liberal democracy with the many freedoms, (although often abused by governments as we have recently witnessed) opportunities and law and order that go with it.

To my way of thinking bringing up issues such as changing the date for Australia Day is a diversion.  We saw this in New Zealand of late when the National Prime Minister, John Keys, pushed for a new flag.  New Zealand was facing and still is, like Tasmania, growing problems. John Keys gambled and was quickly voted out of office.  I am not sure how Mr Rockliff’s proposal will help solve our State’s many problems such as our growing debt of billions, health services concerns, inflation, the escalating cost of petrol and energy with our young people unable to buy their first house, let alone able to rent.  I have now seen in Hobart, what I thought I never would, people living in the streets and now am told tents are appearing at Kangaroo Bay.  Mr Rockcliff, how is your proposal going to help our fellow Tasmanians?

Tasmanians at war

The date for ANZAC Day, April 25th, was chosen because it was the day of landing at Gallipoli in 1915.  The day has been honoured ever since, now an incredible 107 years ago. Tasmania’s contribution to the war effort of WWI was massive from what was then a small society. 181 Tasmanians lost their life at Gallipoli.  They rest in the various cemeteries located in Turkey.  Many Tasmanians saw action on the first day of landing, such as Harry Hodgman who lost his life .They served with the 12th AIF Battalion (Bn) of which more than half were from Tasmania. 

Tasmanians were also strong in representation in the 15th Bn, which held the infamous Quinn’s Post and Pope’s Hill.  Both endured the accuracy of the Turkish guns.  Tasmanians served too, with the 26th Bn and the 9th Battery Field Artillery.

The 3rd Light Horse, with their mounts left behind in Egypt, was used as reinforcements three weeks after the landing to join the 15th Bn at Pope’s Hill.

Gallipoli veterans wore the small letter “a” on their colour patch.

Nearly twenty thousand Australians were wounded at Gallipoli with 8, 300 dying.  Many died at a later date as a result of their wounds and are buried elsewhere.

In round figures, 60,000 Australians died during the war, and (again) in round figures this includes 3,000 Tasmanians.  Dating from April 1915 until November 1918, I calculate approximately 7-8 Tasmanian young men died every three days at the front. This is not counting the wounded or sick. Each day the local newspapers would carry their names.  One can only imagine the stress and grief of the families at home. It is an incredible statistic; a tragic one.  Such figures would not be acceptable in this modern era.

WWI, however, was not the first occasion Tasmanians have been involved in wars and have lost their lives. The first war that Tasmanians served, 158 of them, was the one in New Zealand, 1863-64. I have not been able to find any fatalities among those who left, although I suspect there were one or more. The first recorded Tasmanian to die in battle that I have researched was Arthur Dobson who died 25th March 1879 during the Zulu War.  Other Tasmanians served. Then in the Sudan, artillery man James Robertson died 31st May 1885.

Between 1899-1902 Tasmanians served in South Africa during the 2nd Anglo-Boer War. I have found and documented 42 of our sons who lost their life in that far away land. In comparison to WWI of course that may not sound a lot, but putting it in perspective, our recently involvement in Afghanistan, 41 Australian soldiers died over a 13 year period – 41 too many I agree and we must take into account eight times as many veterans have committed suicide since returning.  Something is dreadfully wrong here. Tasmanian, Corporal Cameron Steward Baird was awarded a Victoria Cross (VC) for his services in Afghanistan.  Sadly he was killed in action June 22, 2013.

Two VCs were awarded to Tasmanians during the South African War, eleven in WWI and one in WWII that being Teddy Sheean which was awarded, 12th August 2020 many years after his action.  He was our first naval man to receive the honour.

The conclusion of WWII in 1945 did not see the end of our involvement in war.  We have noted that Tasmanians served with great distinction in Afghanistan with the death of Baird who had served also in East Timor and Iraq. There were Tasmanians serving in the Korean War, The Malaysian Campaign (which really was a war) and the Indonesian Confrontation and in every conflict Tasmanians died.

Then there was the most controversial war of all, Vietnam where a number of Tasmanians died. One of the very few who lost their lives serving with the Royal Australian Air Force was a Tasmanian, Ronald Betts. There is a lovely memorial to Tasmanian Vietnam fatalities at ANZAC Park, Lindisfarne.

ANZAC Day then is a time when we rightly remember all those fallen, all those who returned wounded, at time with horrific wounds which lingered until they passed away. We remember all who served in every theatre of war. This includes the deserts of North Africa, the terrain of South Africa, the jungles of Asia, the Pacific region and of Vietnam, the hell of the western front and Gallipoli. Many experienced the bitter cold of Korea. Our naval personnel served on every ocean of the world and our airmen over the skies of Europe, Asia, the Pacific, and North Africa. On ANZAC Day we also reflect on those at home who worked diligently to support our fighting men and of course we remember our nurses who served with valour throughout the war where-ever our military served.