On Monday 28th of September I came across a Sacred Kingfisher at Corrimal, near a creek, not far from the railway station. It was the first time I had ever seen a kingfisher in that area. As you can imagine it was for me a marvelous sighting.
On Wednesday 30th of September I went on a trip with Andrew Wood that turned out to be a real adventure. There was car trouble, roads under repair and smoke from an automobile that had been on fire. We spend some time in the town of Helensburgh where I was entertained by the antics of Sparrows and Wattlebirds. We eventually ended up at Dharawal National Park where I came across a friendly skink and two Wattlebirds having a deep and meaningful with one another.
In Australia small press publications such as The Mentor and Masque Noir abounded in the 1990s. For many up and coming writers and artists it was a time of exploration in the areas of Crime, Horror and Science Fiction. Art by Australian artists such as Steve Carter could be found in The Mentor. The editor Ron Clarke had visited Russia and had come back with what was then new insights on the Science Fiction that was evolving in that part of the world. Artists such as the American known as GAK contributed to Masque Noir and the now late Australian Science Fiction and Horror writer Don Boyd was a favorite.
During my stay in New Zealand I had a very pleasant time at Miranda Shorebird Centre, main north island. If you like to see lots of wild birds it is the place for you. Strangely enough, New Zealand birds are nowhere near as noisy as Australian wildlife. The accommodation at the centre was a hell of a lot better than I experienced at Auckland. I look forward to someday being able to go back to New Zealand.
On 4th August 1914, Britain declared war on Germany. Since we were time part of the greater British Empire, Australia soon followed. It was supposed to be a short engagement running possibly six months. Instead it was thoroughly bloody and ran for four years.
Australians at home sent postcards to their loved ones involved in the conflict featuring images like the above kookaburra wearing an airman’s cap. This card reprint comes from Coles. I made a donation of two dollars to the Australian Defence Force Assistance Trust to obtain it. Well worth it I say.
How does a World War come about? In 1914 there were a number of alliances in place across Europe to avoid conflict. Sadly those alliances actually made war inevitable.
Max Hastings in Catastrophe Europe Goes to War (2013) takes us through the steps that lead to what he sees as the great catastrophe of a past age. There were the Germans hemmed in by other nations and producing more steel than their old rival the French. Germans, most of all, wanted to be more of a colonial power.
There was also an arms race going on principally between Britain and Germany. The British, because of the number of their Dreadnought class battleships, ruled the seas but the Germans were catching up. The submarine was not as yet seen as much of a threat to this superiority of the British but, once World War One got going that soon changed. The Germans had the better submarines and in this the British would have to play catch-up.
In 1914 Airplanes were not thought of as being very useful in either peace or war. They were flimsy and underpowered. Sending up manned balloons was the way to observe the enemy from on high. It had been done during the American Civil War and was still seen as the way to go. Regardless there were aircraft put into action in 1914 and, by 1918, airplanes were advanced enough to definitely make a difference in battles being waged on the ground.
By 1914 Wilhelm the 2nd of Germany was anxious to expand his empire. He had felt for a long time that he and his people had been regarded as second rate by his cousins in England and in Russia and their people. When he was young he had holidayed in England with Queen Victoria. It has been said that she understood him best and could calm him. An inferiority complex followed him and Germany into war. Meanwhile Austria-Hungary was falling apart and it was felt that war might improve fortunes that had recently been reversed.
In England unions were upsetting the middle and upper classes. A good bloodying of the working classes might then be in fine order. A six month war could do that. Then there was the Irish question. What was to be done? Home rule was on the cards but that was causing tremors in parliament. Perhaps home rule could now be delayed until a more appropriate time. All women in Britain getting the vote, even though they had it in Australia and New Zealand and other parts of the British Empire, could also be put on hold.
It was not at all clear what Britain’s role should be at the beginning of World War One. Many thought the only role it could and should play would be a naval one. The army on hand in Britain was tiny by comparison to what the French and the Germans had at the time. Hence when war did break only a small expeditionary force could be sent over to aid the French against the Germans.
The Germans tromping through Belgium to get at the French had made for great propaganda against the Germans. Throughout Britain men signed up to fight. Pals battalions were formed from lads working in factories, etc. In the ensuing years whole towns worth of young men would perish.
In Australia there was mixed feelings about the war. There were some Irish Australians that did join up but there were Irish Australians that saw the war as a war between England and Germany and therefore none of their business. There were two referendums on the issue of conscription. Both were defeated.
My grandfather fought in this war in the Australian Light Horse. He never talked about his experiences in France. Many of those who did return from the fighting found they could only do so to their surviving mates. The horror belonged to them and them alone.