First World War troopship and unit newspapers

Recently digitised by the Library, these publications -  written, edited and printed by the troops themselves -  provide fascinating insight into the culture of Australian and New Zealand units serving on the Western Front and the Middle East.

Articles published highlight the day to day cares and routines of the ordinary serviceman. There is much poetry – sentimental verse, along with examples of black humour, prose, photographs and drawings. Soldier illustrations often consisted of caricatures of military culture, enemy forces, or the political situation. All the articles and artwork were created whilst in trenches, at military bases and on the troopships – either heading to war, or on the way home in 1918 and 1919. Writing, illustrating and editing these publications was a good way to reduce boredom or the tension of military life. 

One of the most well-known Australian publications was The Rising Sun, produced 'In the field, France by the Anzac Press, 1916-1917'. This title was amalgamated into Aussie in 1918 and was 'the most resilient of the magazines on the Western Front, surviving several moves and a near-miss from a German bomb'*. Many unit or troopship newspapers had irregular or short publication runs, sometimes producing just one or two editions due to the uncertain conditions of wartime. Producers of these titles needed ready access to a printing press, paper and enough publishable material. Articles and other content was checked by a censor before publication.

The Kia ora coo-ee was produced by and for Australian and New Zealand troops serving throughout the Middle East during the First World War. It was published monthly and comprised articles, poetry, drawings and news articles written by the troops. It was printed in Cairo, with ten issues published, from March to December 1918. This was one of the longest and most regular publications amongst these troop newspapers due to there being a secure base in Cairo to publish issues with a commercial printing establishment, along with professional staff who had backgrounds in journalism. The publication successfully generated advertising revenue and made a profit. The editor, Seargent C. Barrett, AIF, had worked on the staff of The Melbourne Herald before the war, and Trooper M. E. Lyons, NZEF was one of the sub-editors on The Christchurch Sun.

Many units in the AIF, however obscure, produced their own newsletters or journals, usually with witty names. Troopship journals or newspapers were also produced on the long return voyage to Australia, usually, these were named after the troopship.

Some examples of unit newspapers held by the Library, all recently digitised, include;

The Rising Sun

Aussie: the Australian soldiers' magazine

Honk: the voice of the Benzine Lancers - commenced aboard the Troopship Ceramic as a forum for all the troops aboard on arrival in France, published by the Australian Ammunition Park for the 5th Corps Ammunition Parks.

The grenade: a weekly explosion, produced by the Australian Field Engineers, 7th Field Unit (1915)

The Cacolet: journal of the Australian Camel Field Ambulance

Ye chatte: the official organ of the 3rd Australian Field Ambulance

The Port Hacking cough

The Bill-Jim: a paper for Bill-Jims, published at sea aboard the Troopship Balmoral Castle

Ghutz / First Australian Field Ambulance, [France]

Barambah: Sept-Oct 1918: souvenir of the voyage. Pasted in is a type-script letter by one of the editors which states that this was the last transport to leave Melbourne with troops for the War of 1914-1919. There was an epidemic of flu on board and a list of casualties is included.

The Codford wheeze: with which is incorporated The Wiltshire wangler, The Wylye wail, The Salisbury swinger, Codford England: No. 3 N.Z. General Hospital, 1918

The Flotilla echo: (with which is incorporated the Kookooburra buzz), published aboard His Majesty's Australian Torpedo Boat Destroyer no. 79 the "Yarra". ‘Humour, stories and war news for the sailors of the flotilla which consisted of the Swan, Torrens, Huon, Yarra, Warrego and Parramatta’.

Strewth: a journal devoted to truth and wisdom

 

 

The Library also holds several original, bound soldiers’ journals which contain, hand-drawn illustrations, watercolours and hand-written verse and prose.

Port Hacking Cough, edited by G. P. Sherringham, by S. Shaw, F. W. Thompson and L. G. Taylor

Oh Pip, or Observation Post, edited by George Colville.

References:

*Kent, David. Introduction to The Kia ora coo-ee: the magazine for the ANZACs in the Middle East, 1918, Victoria, University of Wellington, http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-ReiKaOr-t1-front1-d4.html, accessed 31/07/2018

Elise Edmonds, Senior Curator, Research and Discovery

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