ANZAC Centenary 2014-2018: Sharing Victoria's Stories
  • The Ibuki – Exhibition display available

    February 22, 2017

    Ibuki for web

    Ibuki banners available for display

    A free, simple to install exhibition display outlining the story of the Japanese battle cruiser Ibuki is available from the Veterans Branch, Department of Premier and Cabinet.

    Four pop-up banners tell the story of the Japanese escort Ibuki on the First Convoy of troopships from Australia to the Middle East in 1914. Japan’s role on the side of the allies in World War One is often forgotten, but the exhibition brings to light the history of the Ibuki’s involvement, and includes photographic images of the Ibuki, her crew and other convoy escorts on that historic journey.

    The exhibition display is available at no cost to organisations, such as libraries, historical societies, schools and ex-service organisations and may be of particular interest to schools or organisations offering Japanese language, history and culture courses. The display text is in both English and Japanese.

    Borrowing organisations are asked to arrange pickup and return of the exhibition display to the Department of Premier and Cabinet in East Melbourne. Bookings for the exhibition display can be made by emailing or phoning (03) 9651 2023.

    The banners are 2 metres high and 1 metre wide and installation instructions are included. Two of the four banners join together to form the central part of the display (see image above). A flyer is also available which includes sources for further information.

    The Ibuki – A4 Flyer PDF

  • New WWI roadshow for Primary school students

    July 19, 2016

    Messenger Dogs banner imageProudly brought to you by the Victorian Government as part of the Anzac Centenary, the new Primary school roadshow Messenger Dogs – Tales of WWI will take students on a journey through our 100-year-old history.

    Meet the fourth division ‘Messenger Dogs’ Nell, Trick and Bullet and see WWI through their eyes. Their tales are of courage, determination, endurance and mateship on the frontline working  alongside the Australian Imperial Force. Responsible for carrying messages from the front line back to headquarters their stories sometimes go unrecognised – but to those who served over a hundred years ago, and even those who serve today, dogs play an important role and not just as loyal companions.

    Learn more and book this FREE show


  • The Game of their Lives

    July 5, 2016

    ALMOST a century ago, some of Victoria’s finest footballers took time out from their military training to take part in a unique demonstration of the game they loved.

    The match was dubbed the Pioneer Exhibition Game, and it was played at London’s Queens Club, a venue now known for its tennis competitions. Back then though it was the scene for what was regarded at the first international match of Australian Rules football.

    The Game of Their Lives book coverYet for all its novelty, there has been precious little time spent on how the game came to be played, who were the guiding lights behind the match and just how important sport, and particularly football, was to the men in uniform. Now, for the first time, the story can be told.

    It began with three men – an Australian general, an Olympic swimmer and a Richmond footballer. Together, they created the match that would draw more than 5000 people to the Queens Club, many of them Diggers who had found a way to get leave to see footy for the first time since they had left home.

    The idea for the game came from Richmond ruckman Hughie James, who was serving with the 3rd Pioneers. The plan was hatched one cool evening when the Diggers were undergoing training in England, before leaving for the Western Front. Once legendary Australian general Sir John Monash heard the idea he instantly backed it. Monash had always believed in the power of sport to boost morale and keep soldiers fit for war. His 3rd Division, which included James’ Pioneers, was cooling its heels in England. There needed to be something to concentrate the minds of his men while they waited for the signal to cross the Channel.

    Monash turned to Olympic swimmer Frank Beaurepaire, who was attached to the YMCA in England, to organise the match. Beaurepaire was well-known to Monash: he had delivered a number of recreations for Monash’s troops, including boxing tournaments, a cinema behind the lines, and even a musical troupe. But this game would prove a lasting legacy.

    The teams were drawn from the 3rd Division and what was called the Training Units, which was a selection of the soldiers who delivered training to the rest of the AIF at Salisbury. Together, the teams represented every football state, and included some extraordinarily talented men who had forsaken footy for their national duty – South Melbourne’s Bruce Sloss and Carl Willis, St Kilda’s Percy Jory, Collingwood’s Dan Minogue, Richmond’s James and Geelong’s Billy Orchard were among them.

    The match was held on October 28, 1916, the same day as the first conscription referendum took place in Australia. The rich irony behind this coincidence was that sportsmen – and particularly footballers – were subjected to a loud campaign to give up playing and enlist.

    Just how bitter and divisive that campaign became has been one of hidden stories of World War I.  Footballers were reviled in some quarters because they took money to play. Spectators who paid to watch them were damned for supporting the game. But for those footballers who went to war – and those who played in the Exhibition match – nothing would be the same again.

    For the full story behind the Pioneer Exhibition match, see The Game of Their Lives by Nick Richardson, published by Macmillan, RRP $34.99, available now.



  • 5000 Poppies Project wows London

    May 27, 2016

    With the assistance of the Victorian government, the highly successful community Anzac Centenary project, 5000 Poppies, has arrived in London and is proving a huge hit with all who have seen it , including the Royal Family.

  • British Imperial Reservists Database

    May 10, 2016

    The Veterans Branch of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, Victoria, through a grant from the United Kingdom Government, commissioned Archaeological and Heritage Management Solutions Pty Ltd (AHMS) to research and compile a database of British Imperial Reservists (IRs) who were recalled to the British Expeditionary Forces in World War One (WWI). This research was primarily focussed on those Reservists who sailed from Melbourne, Victoria on the HMAT Miltiades as part of the first convoy (Convoy 1) of troops leaving Australia in October 1914.

    In May 2016, UK Consul General Gareth Hoar met with Minister for Veterans John Eren to discuss the completed research, which was made possible through a UK Government grant to the Victorian Government.

    Learn more about the Miltiades research project.

    Minister for Veterans, John Eren and UK Consul General Gareth Hoar

  • Anzac Centenary House Plaques Trial

    March 22, 2016

    The Victorian Government is inviting Victorians living in homes once the residence of  World War I soldiers or nurses to purchase a commemorative plaque.

    Minister for Veterans John Eren announced on Friday 18 March 2016 a trial program that will connect today’s households with Victoria’s wartime legacy.

    The trial will be available to select households  in Williamstown, Hawthorn, Geelong and Ballarat. Selected households will be contacted directly and invited to participate.

    Many Victorians have a connection with World War I. More than 110,000 Victorians answered their nation’s call and enlisted in the war between 1914 and 1918. The rich legacy of our servicemen and women has been captured and preserved by historical writings, research programs and databases.

    The Victorian Government has identified 400 houses that were home to a World War I participant, and is now inviting current homeowners to purchase a plaque to commemorate their property’s place in our history. The plaques will cost $70.

    Our veterans deserve the greatest respect, and the Anzac Centenary House Plaque Trial Project is another fitting tribute to our servicemen and women.

    The Victorian Government will assess the success of the trial before deciding whether to roll it out across the state.

    If you want to check if a soldier or nurse lived in your home, in 1914-18, then visit the AIF Project, and search under your address. Make sure to tick the box to check on next of kin’s address too, as so many of those who enlisted were very young and still living in their parent’s home. The search results may also bring up others who lived in your street – make sure you share this information with your neighbours!

    Plaques at this stage will be restricted to the trial areas.

    However If you would like to register your interest to participate if the project is rolled out statewide, please email us at and we will keep your contact details for further information in the future.

  • Bringing Our Stories Home

    March 4, 2016

    The Victorian Government is pleased to support a six-part series Bringing Our Stories Home, through the Anzac Centenary Major Grants program.

    Produced by Open Channel, the series explores the untold stories of the First World War, focusing specifically on the impact felt at home in Australia, and the lasting effects of the war that shaped a nation. The series includes Economic Conscription, On the Margins, Putting a Brave Face On It, Six and Out, Doing out Bit and Every Night’s a Gala Night. The series will be released in 2016.

    Learn more

    Economic Conscription Every Nights a Gala Night On The Margins Putting A Brave Face On It

  • Stories of British Imperial Reservists – Issy Smith

    February 26, 2016

    Issy SmithIshroulch Shmeilowitz was born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1890. At the age of 11, for reasons unknown, Ishroulch stowed away on a ship bound for London. Just 3 years later, he joined the British army at the age of 14, and became a private in the Manchester Regiment. It was at this time that he adopted the pseudonym ‘Issy Smith’ at the request of the recruiting sergeant. After he completed his army training, Smith served in South Africa and India with the 1st Battalion of the Manchester Regiment.

    Having served eight years with the Regiment, Smith was discharged in 1912 and resided in London briefly before immigrating to Australia. Smith lived in Ascot Vale in Melbourne and took employment at the city gas company. Not having completed 12 years’ service, on his discharge, Smith was listed as a reservist, and at the outbreak of the war in 1914 was mobilised by the British army, sailing from Melbourne on the ‘Miltiades’ on the 21st of October 2014.

    The first Manchester Regiment sailed from India to France on 29 August 1914, arriving at the end of September and deployed to the front on the 26th of October. On re-joining his Regiment, Smith served at the battles of Givenchy, Neuve Chapelle and the ‘Second Battle of Ypres’.

    During a counter attack on the 26th of April 2015, Smith voluntarily moved towards the German lines in order to care for a severely wounded soldier, carrying him to safety while being exposed to gunfire. This act of bravery, and citation for bringing in a number of other wounded men on the day, resulted in Smith being awarded the Victoria Cross, the first Jewish soldier to receive the medal. Smith’s award for bravery at the expense of his own personal safety later granted Issy the unofficial title of ‘Our First VC’ at the Australian War Memorial.

    Issy was demobilised in 1919 and returned to London, where he married. Some 6 years later he returned to Australia with his wife and daughter and settled in the suburb of Moonee Ponds. Smith suffered consistent illnesses after his service, with medical records showing many visits to the hospital for respiratory complaints linked with the gassing sustained during battle. Smith died suddenly of coronary thrombosis in 1940 at the age of 50, leaving behind his wife Elsie, daughter Olive and son Maurice (pictured above wearing Issy’s medals). Issy Smith was buried in the Hebrew section of the Faulkner cemetery in Melbourne, with full military honours.

    Extract taken from HMAT Militiades Research Project Report – prepared for the Veterans Branch, Department of Premier and Cabinet by Archaeological & Heritage Management Solutions (AHMS). With thanks to the United Kingdom Government for their support of this project. Learn more about the project.

    Read Issy Smith’s full story and search the full British Imperial Reservist Database:

    British Imperial Reservists – Issy Smith Word 99kb

    British Imperial Reservists – Issy Smith PDF 103kb

    British Imperial Reservist Database

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