A CHELSEA MEMOIR PROJECT
Without remembrance...the living activities of action,
speech and thought would lose their reality
at the end of each process and disappear
as though they had never been.
WE WILL REMEMBER THEM
In 1916, a regular contributor to The Seaside News, the local paper of the bayside resort of Chelsea in the state of Victoria, ventured the thought that the grandchildren of the ANZAC warriors might one day want to retell both their lives and many “deeds of dauntless valor”.
The ANZAC Centenary commemorative artwork, the 50 minute film, COBBER’S REFLECTIONS - A CHELSEA MEMOIR, and the book Goodbye Cobber: We Did Our Best, are each part of THE COBBER’S REFLECTIONS - A CHELSEA MEMOIR PROJECT. The Victorian Veterans Council Grants – Anzac Centenary Community Grants program funded the project’s production costs. Julie Gross McAdam PhD volunteered her professional and academic skills when she wrote, produced and directed the project’s content.
About the author and project director
Dr Julie Gross McAdam is the granddaughter of a soldier from Victoria who saw action on the Somme and at Passchendaele and somehow survived. Julie holds a PhD research degree from Victoria University and is the author and director of the internationally respected MAC.ART Program (www.macart.com.au).
About the project
The COBBER’S REFLECTIONS - A CHELSEA MEMOIR PROJECT tells the story of the life and times of men from Chelsea and district who answered the call to Empire and volunteered to serve in the Australian Imperial Forces. Fifty-nine men from Chelsea made the supreme sacrifice during the Dardanelles campaign in 1915, and on the Western Front between 1916 and 1918.
Dr Gross McAdam commenced this Great War commemorative undertaking with a production grant from the Victorian Veterans Council, Anzac Centenary Community Grant fund. Julie began by filming an interview with Margaret Diggerson - a local historian from the Chelsea and District Historical Society who authored of a book titled, The Fallen from Chelsea and Carrum: Those who Served and Died in World War 1. This interview offered a fascinating insight into the life and times of the men from Chelsea who enlisted one hundred years ago.
After mining the Chelsea and District Historical Society archives, Dr Gross McAdam then began researching the on-line official war records, through the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. She also read a number of histories and first hand accounts of the conflict. To this resource Julie carefully selected relevant poems, letters and newspaper stories from contemporary issues of The Seaside News and added nearly two hundred photos to illustrate the text of the book and the film.
The sad stories of the women at home in Chelsea are not forgotten. The great sorrow that enveloped the Australian nation from 1915 could be summed up in three simple words, Gallipoli, Pozieres and Passchendaele. As the casualty list mounted the women of Chelsea courageously resigned themselves to the death of their husbands, sons, brothers and sweethearts. Their poems and letters provide insight into how a typical village in Victoria during the Great War came to terms with the terrible loss and sadness.
About the book
Armed with a wealth of local content, photos and research materials drawn from the Australian War Memorial and Imperial War Museum archives, Dr Gross McAdam began the task of writing, not only a unique piece of Chelsea’s history, but also, the creation of something of a snapshot of the life and times of the Australian and Allied soldiers who served at Gallipoli, and in the trenches of the Western Front.
The book title Goodbye Cobber: We Did Our Best, is taken from an edited poem by ‘Touchstone’, first published in the London Daily Mail, in 1916. The poem describes the sadness survivors felt on leaving behind the sacred graves of fathers and brothers on the Dardanelles.
Goodbye, Cobber! We did our best.
And leaving you is hard to bear;
I could envy you your rest,
Under your little cross up there.
What did we gain the long months through,
For such a price as you have paid.
And thousands more who fell like you,
The gallant boys who came and stayed.
Goodbye, Cobber, while the Turkish shells
Fall harmless on our vacant lines.
From hills that barred the Dardenelles
It seems to me a glory shines.
Goodbye Cobber: We Did Our Best, is published in a fully illustrated, 132-page e-book format. It is accompanied by a digital audio book version of the abridged text narrated by Dr Gross McAdam.
One pre-publication reviewer has stated that: “The names of those who served and lost their lives are no longer ‘words on wood’. What a precious gift to give the Chelsea community”.
The commemorative artwork
Painted by Dr Gross McAdam the large commemorative project artwork is a portrait of Lance Corporal Victor Marocco (1881-1918). The work is based on a photograph taken of Victor Marocco in about 1917. In the background a field of commemorative poppies rise above the Chelsea shoreline.
About the film
To complete the commemorative project a 50-minute film spans the Great War years and includes a number of individual stories about soldiers from Chelsea. Ralph Vaughan Williams’ hauntingly beautiful Symphony No 3 - A Pastoral Symphony accompanies the images. Ralph Vaughan Williams began writing the musical score whilst serving in the trenches on the Western Front. He completed the symphony in 1922. The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra performs the symphony, conducted by Sir Bernard Handley.
THE PRODUCTION TEAM
Susannah Taylor of Susannah Taylor Made provided technical support for the typographical page layout for the book design and she also filmed the interviews with Margaret Diggerson and Katherine Strong. In the past Susannah has assisted Dr Gross McAdam on a number of MAC.ART projects including the Black Saturday Memorial artwork at Middle Kinglake Primary School in 2009.
Anthony McAdam, a former BBC broadcaster volunteered his time to narrate the film. As an Imperial historian and researcher, Anthony contributed invaluable historical insight and direction when he edited the text of the book.
Margaret Diggerson is a keen local historian who has lived in Chelsea since 1933. Margaret was inspired to write her book about the fallen soldiers from Chelsea and Carrum, after reading a Melbourne newspaper article commemorating the seventy-fifth anniversary of the end of the Great War. More recently, what particularly concerned Margaret was that for almost a century the names of the men from Chelsea who died in the Great War were little more than “words on wood”; names inscribed on honour rolls around the district. Margaret made it her mission to bring their stories to life. The film was an opportunity to record for posterity Margaret’s wonderful local knowledge.
Katherine Strong – the granddaughter of Lance Corporal Victor Marocco
Katherine Strong (nee Marocco) made a very significant contribution to the film and book by sharing stories about her grandfather Lance Corporal Victor Marocco, and photos from the Marocco family archives. Lance Corporal Victor Marocco enlisted in Chelsea and first saw action at Gallipoli where he contracted pneumonia and typhoid. After recuperating in Melbourne, Victor returned to active service on the Western Front. Victor Marocco died of wounds in August 1918, just weeks before the end of the Great War.
About the men who served
Chelsea was a small, quiet seaside village in 1914 when war was declared in Europe. Most of the four hundred men from Chelsea and the district who enlisted earned their living as market gardeners or dairy farmers. The 1911 census found that 96% of the Australian population was British, who overwhelmingly regarded themselves as overseas British. It is not surprising that the recruitment posters appealed to a strong sense of Australian nationalism as well as patriotism to England – the Mother country. Many young men volunteered because they thought a trip overseas, to a war that would be over by Christmas 1914, would be a “great adventure”. They could not have been more wrong.
THE PHOTO GALLERY
Due to the passage of time it was not possible to find images of all of the soldiers mentioned in the book and film. An exhaustive search revealed only sixteen images, one or two biographical studies and a small number of photos of gravestones. Dr Gross McAdam extends an invitation to anyone who may have an image or information about any of the soldiers from Chelsea, who died in the Great War, to contact Longbeach PLACE Inc. for inclusion in our commemorative photo gallery and historical archive.
In addition to Margaret Diggerson and Katherine Strong, Dr Julie Gross McAdam would like to acknowledge and thank the following people who assisted her in her endeavour to document the life and experiences of the men from Chelsea who fought and died during the Great War. The Victorian Veterans Council, Anzac Centenary Community Grant selection panel, former Chelsea MP Donna Bauer, and The Chelsea Historical Society. Lorna Stevenson and Tricia Mumme at Longbeach Place Inc. administered the project production grant. Anthony McAdam gave invaluable historical insight and direction. He volunteered his time to edit the book and narrate the film. Susannah Taylor provided her technical design production knowledge, skill and expertise on both the book and the camera pre-production of the film. The research was greatly assisted by the Australian War Memorial research unit, and the librarians of the City of Kingston libraries who permitted Dr Gross McAdam access to The Seaside News archives.
Dr Gross McAdam is deeply grateful to Estelle Chalker who very generously contributed a selection of her 2015 photos of the Western Front battlefields and cemeteries to the project. Dr Gross McAdam would also like to thank Lyn Loger for the loan of Private Arthur Lyon’s (Number 443), Army Service Corps training manuals. Finally, thanks are extended to the Elsternwick RSL for permission to photograph, the Australian First Pioneer Battalion’s 1916 memorial cross, from the Pozieres battlefield and other Great War artifacts.