Anzac Reception Committee

Barely a week after the home leave for the original Anzacs had been announced, the Minister for Defence, Senator Pearce sanctioned the appointment of a special committee to take charge of arrangements for a fitting welcome for the returning men.1

Local authorities were encouraged to make their own local arrangements and Mrs Suffolk, Honorary Secretary of the Port Melbourne Women’s Welcome Home Committee (WWC) wasted little time in contacting the Minister announcing the intention of the members to give the men a “right royal welcome”.2

In Port, the Mayor, Cr Richard H Gill called a meeting (right) to form the Anzac Reception Committee to make arrangements to “officially welcome and entertain the Anzacs and Returned Soldiers residing in the Town”.3

History shows that the business of that meeting was delayed because news of the armistice reached Port Melbourne not long before the meeting was due to start.

In what must have been a most joyous occasion, the meeting did go ahead. At the meeting, the various societies and institutions in Port Melbourne were represented by 50 ladies and gentlemen. The Mayor announced that whatever arrangements were agreed upon would be carried out under the guidance of the Town Clerk, Mr A V Heath. After consultation with Mr Heath he proposed that all returning Anzacs and already returned Anzacs residing in the town be invited to a banquet, social and dance at the Town Hall with their parents, sisters, married men with their wives and unmarried men with their sweethearts. The Mayor indicated that the day the soldiers arrived they would be taken from the piers straight to the Exhibition Buildings where they would be welcomed by the State authorities. The local celebrations would be held some time after that. Mrs E F Russell moved that the ladies present form themselves into a committee to work, under the direction of the Town Clerk, to prepare the feast at the entertainment.4

As usual, Mrs Suffolk of the WWC was quickly into action by placing a Special Notice (left) in the Standard newspaper calling for returned soliders and sailors from Port Melbourne to send their details to her as soon as possible.5

By the following week a date had been determined for the reception, Thursday 5 Dec 1918. A civic reception would be held at the Town Hall in the afternoon with the returned Anzacs and other returned men residing in Port Melbourne would be guests of honour of the municipality. Invitations would also be extended to leading citizens. Entertainment would be provided by a party of talented artists and light refreshments would be prepared and served by the ladies committee under the direction of the Mayoress.

In the evening the soldiers would be entertained at a smoke night in the Town Hall at which the council would again present a party of highly talented artists. Council hoped to “have the services of a number of gentlemen to assist in the distribution of the delicacies that will go to provide the creature comforts of the festivity.”. It was expected 300-400 returned soldies and sailors would attend the evening.6

A notice in the Standard on 23 Nov 19187 and again on the 30 Nov 19188 from the Mayor requested returned soldiers and sailors to call at the Town Clerk’s office for invitation cards.

The 30 Nov 1918 edition of the Standard newspaper carried more information. The reception would be at 3pm and the ‘smoke concert’ would be at 8pm. Each local returned soldiers and sailors could receive a ticket to the reception for himself and an additional ticket to admit a friend to the balcony to observe the occasion.

Attendance at the smoke night would consist almost entirely of the Mayor and councillors and the returned soldiers and sailors. Programmes that will be souvenirs of these notable functions will be distributed.9

The Town Clerk sought and received permission from the military authorities for the returned soldiers to wear their uniforms to the local celebrations.10

The first contingent of returned soldiers arrived at Port Melbourne on Saturday 23 Nov 1918. [Read more…]

The reception and ‘smoke concert’ for local returned soldiers and sailors took place at the Port Melbourne Town Hall on Thursday 5 Dec 1918. [Read more…]

References:

1 1918 ‘ORGANISING A WELCOME.’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 26 September, p. 8. , viewed 12 Nov 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article155139614

2 1918 ‘TO WELCOME THE ANZACS.’, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 1 October, p. 4. , viewed 12 Nov 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article1433926

3 1918 ‘Advertising’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 9 November, p. 2. , viewed 13 Nov 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article88369583

4 1918 ‘RECEPTION TO ANZACS.’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 16 November, p. 3. , viewed 13 Nov 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article88368413

5 1918 ‘Advertising’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 16 November, p. 2. , viewed 13 Nov 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article88368406

6 1918 ‘TO ENTERTAIN ANZACS.’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 23 November, p. 2. , viewed 13 Nov 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article88368564

7 1918 ‘Advertising’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 23 November, p. 2. , viewed 13 Nov 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article88368566

8 1918 ‘MUNICIPAL.’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 30 November, p. 2. , viewed 13 Nov 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article88368490

9 1918 ‘Next Thursday’s Reception.’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 30 November, p. 2. , viewed 13 Nov 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article88368512

101918 ‘Soldiers May Wear Khaki.’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 30 November, p. 3. , viewed 13 Nov 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article88368516

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