Mothers and maidens praise new bureau

A “coy maiden desires to send a cable to Egypt” to a “friend” arriving in the Suez at the start of the war.

She prefers not to give her suitor’s name but wants to know the exact date his ship arrives.

The maiden is told, at the newly formed Information Bureau in Brisbane, to jump on a tram and go to the Barracks where she is assured of getting his details.

New love is thus allowed to blossom. Well, as much as a world war will allow.

INFORMATION BUREAU. (1915, October 14). The Brisbane Courier, p. 10

INFORMATION BUREAU. (1915, October 14). The Brisbane Courier, p. 10

The Information Bureau was set up in Brisbane in October 1915 by a group of lawyers, including the then Attorney-General T.J. Ryan, to help those in “sorrow and trouble” find information on loved ones serving abroad.

Queensland Premier T. J. Ryan in a studio portrait taken in London

Queensland Premier T. J. Ryan in a studio portrait taken in London

The very first Red Cross Journal (Queensland division) from December 1915 talked us through the purpose of the bureau.

“The primary object of the Bureau is to obtain information and disseminate information relating to sick, wounded, missing, and fallen soldiers; but every effort is made to supply information on other matters, in order that relatives and friends may not have to go elsewhere.”

Red Cross Journal, December 1916

Red Cross Journal, December 1916

It was hoped news delivered by the bureau would be more helpful and sensitive than a “bare, official statement sent from military headquarters”.

Cables were sent at a reduced, standard, rate or the costs entirely defrayed by the Red Cross.

Queen Street Brisbane ca. 1915, John Oxley Library, SLQ, Image: APA-039-01-0001

Queen Street Brisbane ca. 1915, John Oxley Library, SLQ, Image: APA-039-01-0001

Four months later the same journal reported “the work of the bureau had undoubtedly given considerable comfort to the relatives of soldiers” and “those who have unjustly tried to shirk the (cable) charge in our six months of existence can be counted on one hand”.

Aside from coy maidens, the bureau, funded by members of the state’s legal fraternity, also helped comfort many mothers desperate to hear their sons were safe and well.

A Mother's Prayer, The Queenslander, 21 October 1914, p. 21

A Mother's Prayer, The Queenslander, 21 October 1914, p. 21

“One good soul proudly produces photographs of four sons at the front, and goes away comforted when it is explained that she need not worry although one has been reported sick, as further news would have been sent, if he were not recovering,” the journal reported.

Casualty lists, supplied by the Censor, were indexed by the bureau and inquiries about the sick and wounded were made through agents of the Australian Red Cross in Cairo, and “elsewhere in the East”, as well as the High Commissioner’s Office in London, the journal said.

“Two things stand out plain, one is the sincere gratitude for any assistance, however slight, and the other is the noble fortitude displayed in distressful and apparently hopeless cases.”

Photograph of a mother and child used on the front cover of The Queenslander Christmas supplement in 1915

Photograph of a mother and child used on the front cover of The Queenslander Christmas supplement in 1915

In a letter to the bureau, one mother wrote:

“I feel I must write to thank you for the beautiful work you are beginning to-day. May the ways be straight for you, when you make enquiries about our wounded and missing boys! The hearts of the women turn to you in deep gratitude. My eldest has given up his life for the Empire, in far away Gallipoli. My other two sons are in camp training to follow in his footsteps. So I know what anxiety means. May God’s rich blessing be on each one of you in this great and glorious work you have undertaken. This is the heartfelt prayer of a grateful mother.”

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