Jack and friend, Northern Beach, Rabaul


Frankston in the 1930s

The Approaching War


War is Declared



New Guinea 1941

Not Home for Christmas

The Garrison Sacrificed

Chocos and Real Soldiers



After 1946

The Futility of Hindsight


Return to Lost Lives

Choco Jack
by Jenny Evans


Momentum for the war gathered pace. The call to arms of January 1940 was an appeal to a local community where many children had left school with only a primary school education and a drain called Old Faithful ran its noisome way through town.

All male inhabitants of Australia who are British subjects and were on November 30 1939 unmarried or widowers without children and have attained or will attain the age of 21 years during the year ended June 30 1940 are required to report.

The men congregated at the Drill Hall on Thursday, January the 11th, 1940, A to L from 9am and M to Z in the afternoon from 1.30pm.

By 1940 Doris had both her brother Roy, who lived in Noble Park, and her brother-in-law George who lived with his mother and father in Frankston, in the army. Roy the adventurer, and an extremely lucky man, set forth on his travels to the other side of the world. He found himself on Salisbury Plain in England and served in Tobruk and in Palestine. George sent some photos, survived his war, and remained unmarried and almost inarticulate for the remainder of his life.

Despite the momentous dislocation to individuals which war preparations like this made, for many people life went on. When Frankston traders held their annual picnic at Cowes in the last week of January there was a public holiday. Thursday had been the traditional half holiday, with trading on Saturday afternoon and night. There was some talk about Saturday afternoon closing. Modern householders, used to spending whole days on domestic duties, had begun to yearn for things like gas wash coppers and leisure and convenience at a time when the world was just about to be torn apart.

Decent folk were trying to do their best. After a special dinner at the Soldiers Hall, the locals sang and danced, and inscribed wallets were presented to those going overseas. At the picture theatre, special buses brought in an audience for community singing. White feathers were sent to some men in Seaford but it was generally not considered a sporting thing to do.

On the other hand, Mr Holland, a Frankston man, complained that reserved occupations were a joke. Equality of sacrifice was a phrase glibly said but impossible to guarantee. Those workers who were sent off to war were the ones who sacrificed most.

In April, a meeting at the Soldiers Hall outraged some people. It was said that Communists had been allowed to use the hall. R.M. Crawford gave an address on 'Colonies and Empire'; G Peel M.A. spoke on 'India in Ferment'; and E Foxcroft described 'Australia's Colonial People'.

Charity carnivals became patriotic affairs, with football and physical culture displays and a licensed booth. This was the way to get people together. Monster recruiting rallies were the psychological weapon to break an individual's resistance and a little alcohol might fire him up. A permanent recruiting booth was installed, with an officer in attendance each day, even on Sunday, and a medical officer in attendance to save the long trip to Melbourne.

On June 20 1940, the Win The War Rally in the Mechanics Hall was not well attended. It was true that two hundred local men had come forward, and forty at the kiosk, but, as Major General Grimwade said, in a population of more than six thousand, 'we should get at least another couple of hundred soldiers or more.' An appeal to dispel the apathy of young men was made by Major Sutton.

The Standard instituted a Good News column about the war. Everyone knew that Singapore was 'almost impregnable.'

At a second farewell at the Wattle Palais in July 1940, 'a splendid spirit of gaiety prevailed.' At the Troops Physical Training Display at Frankston Park, young men threw themselves into mass drill, wrestling, boxing, punch pad display, athletics, tug of war and cross country running.

A call up of Universal Service Trainees commenced on August 12. People were assured that the Wirraway planes turned out at Fishermen's Bend were 'a huge success.'

A third farewell was announced in August 1940.

On Monday September 16, Prime Minister Menzies came to Frankston and spoke, at the Plaza Theatre, on behalf of the local federal candidate, Lieutenant Colonel R.S. Ryan. The chairman of the meeting was Major-General Grimwade. The editor noted that Menzies' adroitness with hecklers overcame Ryan's poor performance. A large advertisement proclaimed 'Back the Government and That's Backing Churchill' to emphasise where loyalty should lie. The other candidate, Mann, urged that business be restricted to 4% profit.

When the federal election was held in September 1940 five states endorsed the return of the Menzies government. New South Wales did not. 'There was still apparent in Australia a good deal of uncertainty as to the way in which the war was likely to develop and the kind of war effort that Australia could best make.'

In October the Empire Cafe opened in Young Street for late suppers and all night grills.

Recruiting continued though it was pointed out that soldiers did not get free travel passes and had to beg rides home to Frankston. The A.L.P. candidate had made much of the fact that the soldier got five shillings a day while some people in reserved occupations got up to £10 a week and that some men had to train with sticks instead of rifles. By December it was reported in the paper that payment for each child of a soldier had been increased to one and sixpence a day.

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