Britfest – A Brief History


The British Australian Community has successfully hosted many events that have showcased the contribution of British Isles culture to modern Australia.

Many of these, such as our annual series Britfests in Frankston, the bayside suburb of Melbourne with the highest percentage of residents of British stock in the entire State of Victoria, have been solidly promoted, receiving statewide and national publicity.

Live entertainment representing Australia’s heritage in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, both traditional and modern, has been featured. This includes music, food, drink, costume, modern science and technology, and our hallowed British folkways.

We always make every effort to ensure that our events are family-friendly. Young couples with babies are as welcome as older people bringing along their grandchildren for a great family excursion.

BritFest 2000 featured all-day free entertainment on stage including Morris Dancing, folk dancing, folk singing, pipe band, City of Frankston Brass Band, address by the Lord Mayor, plus over 40 stalls, a range of other entertainments, military displays, historical re-enactments, Punch & Judy and other children’s entertainments, plus 12 British beers on sale in the clubrooms.



Concerts and other Cultural Events

The British Australian Community has held several concerts and other cultural events in our clubrooms at ESU House. If you would like to suggest a future concert, please contact us. We are always happy to promote British-oriented products, services, hobbies or activities that promote interest in British Isles culture, and our unique Australian development of many of the best aspects of that culture.


Activities involving other organisations

We are always willing to co-operate with other organisations in hosting activities that highlight our superb cultural heritage. If you have suggestions for alternative functions that would showcase the achievements of our community, you should contact us. Our facilities are available to be shared by any genuine organisation that does not conflict with our values.


If you’d like the British Australian Community to host a cultural event, please get in touch with us here.

BriFest 2016:


More photos of previous BritFest events:


Here is an old newspaper article about one of the Britfests that were held down in Frankston in the 1990s.

Britfest newspaper




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New Britannia

The rise and decline of Anglo-Australia

This is a free preview of New Britannia, a book by Alan James

© Alan James, 2013

Robert Hughes was a leading international art critic, born in Australia in 1938. As a critic he was noted for both his original vision and his elegant style. His social commentary, however, was sometimes far more a product of his generation than were his writings on art.

In 1993 Hughes reminisced about his early education, and in doing so he expressed an attitude to Australia’s British heritage that is now held by most Australian intellectuals of about his own age. He wrote:

‘One of the more disagreeable moments of my education was having to stand up and speak extempore in Latin for four minutes, before other schoolboys and our Jesuit teacher, on Horace’s famous tag, Coelum non animam mutant qui trans mare currunt – “those who cross the sea change the sky above them, but not their souls.” I resented this, not only because my Latin was poor, but because the idea struck me as wrong – the utterance of a self-satisfied Roman, impervious to the rest of the world. Hegemonic Horace.

‘But most Australians were on his side. The motto of Sydney University expressed contentment with the colonial bind, Sidere mans eadem mutato, another version of Horace’s imperial thought – “the same mind under changed skies.”

‘Our education would prepare us to be little Englishmen and Englishwomen, though with nasal accents. We would not be accepted as such by the English themselves, we were not up to that. No poem written by an Australian was going to make its way into the anthologies of English verse – our national fate was to read those anthologies, never to contribute to them. It seemed natural to us that our head of state, with constitutional power to depose any democratically elected Australian prime minister, should be a young English-woman who lived 14,000 miles away. What native-born Australian could possibly be as worth looking up to as this Queen? Our Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, last of the true Australian imperialists, said we were “the Queen’s men,” “British to the boot-heels.” When asked what his dream of felicity would be on leaving politics, he unhesitatingly replied, “A book-lined cottage in Kent.”

‘In those days we had a small, 95 percent white, Anglo-Irish society, in whose public schools you could learn Latin but not Italian, ancient but not modern Greek. What we learned of the world in school came through the great tradition (and I use the word without irony) of English letters and English history. We were taught little Australian history. Of the world’s great religions other than Christianity – Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam – we were as perfectly ignorant as a row of cats looking at a TV set; or would have been, if Australia had had television in 1955, which, luckily, it did not. I didn’t meet a Jew until I got to University, and you can imagine the line the Jesuits took on the Spanish Inquisition and the policies of Ferdinand and Isabella. I didn’t even know what an Episcopalian was. Not until my late teens did I have a conversation with an Australian Aborigine, and it was short. There were no Aboriginal students, let alone teachers, at Sydney University. The original colonists of Australia – whose ancestors had walked and paddled there, across the string of islands that lay between “our” continent and Asia, around 30,000 B.C. – were completely unknown to us city whites, and their history and culture fell into a box marked “anthropology,” meaning the study of exotics with whom one had nothing in common, and whose culture had nothing of value to contribute to ours. Thinking so was our subliminal way of warding off the suspicion that ours had contributed nothing but misery and death to theirs.’ 1

Hughes succeeded here in capturing not just the thoughts, shallow as they are, of the most influential strand within his generation. He also expressed perfectly the sneering tone and the smug self-satisfaction with which this elite dismisses its own caricatured version of the British – and mostly English – origin of Australia’s traditional culture.

Robert Hughes was a writer of international distinction. He was the art critic of Time magazine from moving to America in 1970 until his death in 2012. Yet there is nothing in this brief extract from him that hasn’t been expressed over and over again (and often better) by lesser-known opinion-formers – by journalists, academics, politicians, teachers, and other members of the new elites. Hughes’ achievement in this extract was to have drawn together in four short paragraphs most of the Anglophobic touchstones that allow members of the Anglophobia lobby in Australia to identify one another.

These people are like the obsessed fans of some film or TV show who endlessly quote to each other the same treasured lines, and who seem to find that these lines grow more portentous the more often they are repeated. Theirs is a cult-like activity, in three ways. First, the boundaries between the in-group and the out-group are clearly drawn. Second, members of the in-group constantly reinforce each other as the sole bearers of sweetness, light and “progress”, with certain key phrases functioning like Masonic handshakes. Third, the world beyond the cult is portrayed as – at one and the same time – comical to the point of derision; ignorant, vicious and evil; bigoted and stupid; and so dangerous that the enlightened brethren must be ever vigilant lest they be overwhelmed by the vastly greater number of comical, vicious and bigoted fools outside their cult.

On that last point, at least, members of the currently dominant Anglophobic elite in Australia are partially correct. The majority of the population resents the social views of people like Robert Hughes. As it was in his own schooldays, so it is now; most Australians are still on the side of Horace, not Hughes.

The problem is that although the majority of Australians (who have probably given very little thought to either Horace or Hughes) are opposed to the cult of Anglophobia, the Australian majority has been marginalised. These Australians have been dispossessed and deliberately excluded from nearly all venues of cultural discussion – from academia to talk-back radio, from broadsheet newspapers to tabloids, from directing films to discussing current affairs in the school staff-room, from mainstream cultural organisations to internet newsgroups. As we shall see, to speak up for Horace and against Hughes in any of those forums can lead to a wide range of negative sanctions – beginning with social ostracism.

This book will examine the rise, decline, and possible conclusion of the series of social and cultural experiments that constituted Anglo-Australia. Before doing so, however, it may be interesting to return to the Robert Hughes extract with which we began, and to ask a simple question: How would those people who are excluded from participation in, and criticism of, the currently dominant intellectual fashion in Australia respond to Hughes, if they were able to do so?

To start with, they would possibly feel envious that Hughes had the good fortune to attend a school where Latin was even taught. In the 1950s most Australian children attended government schools staffed by teachers who generally would not be qualified to set foot in a classroom today. Latin appeared on the curriculum of only a handful of very selective schools. Hughes’ whingeing about his “poor Latin” is, of course, a form of blatant snobbery, since few students of his era could aspire to any Latin at all.

Second, ordinary Australians would immediately sense something false in Hughes’ quarrel with Horace. After all, although Hughes did not live in Australia for four decades, he still called himself an Australian, which rather bears out Horace’s line, “Those who cross the seas change the sky above them, but not their souls”.

As to the petulant sneer about “little Englishmen and Englishwomen”, some would ask why he chose the adjective “little”. Why not “diaspora Englishmen”, or “bronzed Englishmen” or even just “better Englishmen”? After all, these expressions, and many other similarly positive ones, had been used for over a century to convey the traditional self-image of Anglo-Australians.

“Nasal accents”? Once again, Hughes is parading his own generation’s unexamined and rather dated class-consciousness. The majority of Australians today feel no sense of inferiority on account of their accents, “nasal” or otherwise, just as few people from the varying regions of England are ashamed of their own local and time-sanctioned way of speaking.

Most of the Australian majority probably wouldn’t know or care whether Australian poems appear in anthologies of English verse. A few would know – as did Hughes himself – that Australian poets have always gained recognition in Britain, starting with Adam Lindsay Gordon (1833-70), whose bust can be viewed in Westminster Abbey. Henry Lawson also gained some recognition at the turn of the twentieth century; poets like Kenneth Slessor, Robert Fitzgerald and Judith Wright certainly did so in the middle of that century; and Les Murray does so today. Even a fictitious Australian poet, “Ern Malley”, a spoof on Dylan Thomas and his followers, caused more than ripples in the poetic circles of England in the 1940s. In 1965 A. D. Hope won the Arts Council of Great Britain Award for Literature. As The Concise Cambridge History of English Literature 2 affirms, “By the nineteen sixties, this [Australian] literature was being studied, not only in Britain, but in many other countries.”

It is true that Australia’s constitution sets aside “reserve powers” that can be exercised, in the case of national emergencies, by our Governor General – who is nominally the Queen’s representative. No British monarch has ever exercised these powers, and presumably none ever would. At a Federal level they have been used only once in Australia’s history. In 1975 they were invoked to resolve a serious constitutional crisis – by a Governor General who was born in the working-class suburb of Balmain in Sydney, Australia. And according to the Queen’s private secretary at that time, the Queen was not only not consulted by the Governor General, but she would probably have disapproved of his action. 3 So much for Hughes’ cheap quip about the Queen being “Our head of state, with constitutional power to dismiss any democratically elected Australian prime minister …”

The thrust of Robert Hughes’ rhetoric should be obvious by now. He selectively used half-truths to disparage Australia’s British heritage. Sadly, half-truths can be more damaging than outright lies. At least lies are more easily exposed.

Another example of Hughes’ half-truths comes in his statement that during his school days “we had a small, 95 percent white, Anglo-Irish society”. Yes, Australians were probably “95 percent white” at that time, but it is hard to see how their society could be called “Anglo-Irish”. The phrase suggests that something like half of the white population came from Ireland. This is wrong. For instance, according to Australian government statistics, in 1961, the year before Hughes dropped out of Sydney University, 718,345 Australians had been born in the UK while 37,057 had been born in Ireland. (As we shall see later, these figures require further analysis, but they are not untypical of any of the official census years since 1861.) The overwhelming majority of the British-born in 1961, 556,478, were from England. The Irish-born equalled just over 6.6% of the English-born at the time Hughes was discussing – and, significantly, they amounted to less than 28% of the Scottish-born.

There is little point in continuing to analyse most of Hughes’ remaining sneers against Australia’s British heritage. They tend to follow the same pattern.

But one interesting statement – which goes to the heart of Hughes’ credibility – is his claim that: “There were no Aboriginal students, let alone teachers, at Sydney University”. Actually, there were. The late Charles Perkins, a very well-known Aboriginal activist, was born in 1936, two years before Robert Hughes. Perkins graduated from Sydney University in 1966. (It is interesting to note that Perkins, the Aborigine, graduated in 1966. Hughes, the drop-out, gained his first degree, an honorary Doctor of Letters, from Melbourne University in 1995.)

Clearly, Hughes’ recollections of his schooldays and of his time at Sydney University have been warped by a political agenda. Had he wished to meet an Australian Aborigine at Sydney he could have sought out Perkins – but it seems he chose not to; and he falsely implies that the predominantly Anglo-Australia that existed in his undergraduate days deliberately excluded Aborigines, when clearly it didn’t.

Like most of the elitists dominating public debate in Australia, it is obvious that Robert Hughes preferred an Anglophobic agenda to a factual account of Australia’s traditional culture.

A national culture that was once extremely proud of its mainly English origins has degenerated to the point that ordinary Australians dare not or cannot speak up for their Anglo-Saxon heritage. That is one theme of this short book. The political and intellectual ramifications of the current marginalisation of traditional Australian values forms another.

Finally, it will be interesting to look at the besieged self-identity of Anglo-Australians. They still make up, by far, the largest single component in the Australian population. How they react to the psychological assault being waged against them will determine whether Australia is still culturally recognisable in a generation or two. Although perhaps few people outside Australia would notice the passing of its traditional cultural identity, the same forces that are threatening to destroy it are operating in all the nations founded mainly by Anglo-Saxons – not least in America, and in England itself. Australia can therefore be seen as a microcosm in which social trends threatening the cultural core of all the “English-speaking nations” are perhaps most easily studied.

On the surface, traditional Anglo-Australia appears to be lost. Whether that must be so is one theme of this book. What the result will mean for Anglo-Australians is another. But perhaps the main theme, threaded between the lines, is what lessons “Anglos” around the world can learn from Australia’s cultural experiment.

This study is therefore dedicated to all people of Anglo-Saxon and related origin, wherever they may live.

1. Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America, Robert Hughes, Oxford University Press, 1993

2. The Concise Cambridge History of English Literature, George Sampson, Cambridge University Press, 1972

3. “Queen did not approve dismissal of Whitlam”, by Paul Kelly, The Weekend Australian, 10-11 March 2001, p. 1

To read the rest of this book, click here

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Gallipoli – the facts behind the Myths

By Dr Geoffrey Partington

The Aim

The losses on the Western Front in the early months of war in 1914 and 1915 were far higher than each warring nation had anticipated. After early German advances in Flanders, a virtually stationary Western Front ran from the English Channel to the Alps and thousands of lives were required for advances measured in yards. An alternative way of waging war against Germany and Austria-Hungary seemed highly desirable to the Allies, especially since it seemed likely that other states would enter the fray, Greece and Italy to join the Allies and Turkey and Bulgaria the Central Powers. The ‘Young Turk’ leaders in Constantinople decided to ally with Germany. They opened the Dardanelles to German warships, which bombed Russian Black Sea ports before the formal Turkish declaration of war. In this context the Dardanelles, or Gallipoli, campaign was conceived. Its leading advocate, Winston Churchill, then first Lord of the Admiralty, was convinced that the Dardanelles Straits could be forced, Constantinople captured, Turkey knocked out of the war, Greece and Italy encouraged to enter on the Allied side, and aid given to the hard-pressed Russian and Serbian forces.

Formation of ANZAC

Before 1914, all major political parties in Australia supported military training for young men. Labor leaders such as Billy Hughes, born in London, and John Christian Watson, of Scottish descent but born on board ship in Valparaiso Harbour, Chile, were ardent supporters of the Australian National Defence League. In his recent Soldier Boy: The True Story of Jim Martin the Youngest Anzac, Anthony Hill explains how young Jim was imbued at school with pride in being part of the British Empire and was keen to join the military training scheme for boys of twelve and above. Jim enlisted at 14, giving a false age, and had not reached his fifteenth birthday when he died of typhoid fever in a hospital ship off Gallipoli in October, 1915.

When war broke out, the Labor leader, Scotland-born Andrew Fisher, supporting the England-born Liberal Prime Minister, Joseph Cook, declared that Australia would stand beside the mother country to help and defend her to the last man and the last shilling. About 40 per cent of all Australian males aged between 18 and 45 voluntarily enlisted to serve in the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF), that is about 417 000 men, of whom about 60 000 died in all campaigns and another 160 000 were wounded or maimed. At least a quarter of the Australian volunteers were born in Great Britain and Ireland, Robert Rhodes James’s estimate being 35 per cent. About 98 per cent of the rest were of British or Irish origin. The immigration rate from the United Kingdom was exceptionally high between 1910 and 1914. ‘Simpson’ – ‘the man with the donkey’ was John Simpson Kirkpatrick, a recent Geordie emigrant.

‘Rule Britannia’, ‘Soldiers of the Queen’ and ‘Sons of the Sea’ were sung at recruiting offices in Adelaide and Sydney, Wellington and Christchurch, as loudly as in Birmingham or Glasgow. In 1914 and 1915 there was little difference between the volunteer rate in Australia of Protestants and Roman Catholics of Irish descent, but the number of Irish volunteers fell sharply after the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin and after Cardinal Mannix, Archbishop of Melbourne, took a leading part in opposing conscription in the referenda of 1916 and 1917.

In 1915 almost all Anzac troops considered themselves part of a wider British people and wanted to be regarded as British, not only as Australians or New Zealanders. When Australian units were photographed in Egypt they usually chose themselves to wear the standard British pith helmet. Most Anzac units landing at Anzac Cove wore British-issue caps, but when after the war George Lambert was commissioned to paint that scene he was instructed to show them with slouch hats.

The Australian forces soon made themselves distinctive. One example of Australian ingenuity was Lance-Corporal Beech’s periscope rifle invention which enabled gunners to fire without putting their heads above the trenches. Two British generals, Walker and Birdwood, made important contributions to Anzac successes but their role was played down by Charles Bean and some other Australian historians in order to elevate the role of Monash, an excellent planner but an indifferent commander in the field. Birdwood and Walker tightened discipline among the Australians without alienating them or reducing their aggressive spirit.

Some Australian troops considered British regiments stuck too much to regulations when encamped, whereas some British troops thought Australian regiments made bad conditions worse by lack of attention to routine. Birdwood admitted to Lord Kitchener, Secretary of State for War, that, although ‘my men are A1 in attack’, they are ‘curiously callow, and negligent, and the only thing I fear is a really heavy night attack … as I cannot get the men to bestir themselves and hurry up to repulse an attack at once’. The Australians were usually distinguished by boldness in attack, the British by discipline in retreat. The New Zealanders were widely thought, not just by themselves, to possess both Australian and British virtues in warfare. Perhaps the most remarkable individual achievement of the campaign was that of Lieut-Commander Bemard Freyberg, awarded the DSO for swimming naked in an ice-cold sea for two miles to light flares on the coast at Bulair. Freyberg later gained the VC in France and became Governor-General of New Zealand, among other distinctions. The epitome of Australian guts was Albert Jacka, who killed seven Turks in a single engagement and was awarded the VC.

The Naval Campaign

The directive that ‘The Admiralty should prepare for a naval expedition in February to bombard and take the Gallipoli peninsula with Constantinople as its objective’ was later derided by opponents of the plan, but it came close to success. Reports recovered later from the Turkish staff revealed that on 19 March nearly all the Turkish ammunition was expended and that ‘A naval attack executed with rapidity and vigour might have been successful.’ The Gallipoli campaign proved more than once that often a small group, even one person, may make a great difference to mighty issues. The mines of a single Turkish mine-layer had a powerful effect on the naval battle, more perhaps than shells from all the Turkish guns. British minesweepers, manned by civilian crews, refused to continue to clear the mines whilst under Turkish shell-fire, and that proved a crucial failure. After the sinking of HMS Irresistible and the French ship Bouvet and severe damage to the French ships Gaulois, Suffren and Charlemagne and to HMS Inflexible, Agamemnon, Lord Nelson, Albion, Admiral Carden called off the attempt to enter the Straits. Carden feared that his ships could not deal with the Turkish guns until the mines were cleared, but that the mines could not be cleared so long as the Turkish guns were intact. Under Carden or his replacement, Admiral de Robeck, the Allied fleets never tried to force an entry into the Sea of Marmara, even when thousands of troops were fighting on the Gallipoli Peninsula.

When ships’ gunners could get a sight of Turkish positions, they were generally accurate and effective, with the result that few Turkish officers would risk an advance across ground vulnerable to their fire. Inevitably, there were some instances of ‘friendly fire’, the most devastating being when a New Zealand battalion close to breaking through the Turkish lines was shelled from a British warship and forced to retreat to better cover, but overall the ships ensured that the army’s artillery, often seriously short of ammunition, was able to compete with Turkish fire. However, a significant reason for Allied failure during the land fighting of 1915 was poor co-ordination between the British Army and Royal Navy, although co-ordination between General Sir Ian Hamilton and his subordinate military commanders was not much better. Especially weakening was division at the very head of the Royal Navy. The aged Admiral ‘Jackie’ Fisher returned to the Admiralty as First Sea Lord at the invitation of the responsible minister, Winston Churchill, who believed that Fisher still had ‘fire in his belly’. Fisher initially supported the Dardanelles concept but soon became its fiercest critic at the very time strong support was needed for it to have a real chance of success.

Warships were very vulnerable to submarine attack in 1915, when depth-charges had not yet been invented. The sinking of HMS Triumph and Majestic by the German U21 under Lieut. Commander Hersing forced the withdrawal of the largest British and French battleships from the Eastern Mediterranean, with demoralising effect on some of the troops. On the other hand The Australian AE2 torpedoed Turkish gunboats well inside the Narrows before it was itself destroyed. British submarines under Lieutenant Commanders Nasmith, Boyle and Stocks did substantial damage to Turkish ships in the Straits, creating panic in Constantinople.

The Turkish Forces

Few of the Allied troops had previous experience of modern warfare, but many of the Turks were battle-hardened. They had not performed with much distinction in the recent Balkan Wars, but then they had been fighting to retain provinces with huge non-Turkish majorities. At Gallipoli the Turks felt they were defending their homeland, especially when they learned that Constantinople would come under Russian rule after a Turkish defeat. Allied troops soon realised the stupidity of HQ propaganda about low Turkish morale and lack of equipment. Although medical organisation was even worse on the Turkish than on the Allied side, most Turkish troops fought with great courage, even when required to attack well-defended positions without cover, as at the Nek in May and Helles in December, just before the Allies withdrew from the peninsula. Their successful defence of their lines at Krithia in May was significant in the final outcome of the campaign. Mustapha Kemal ended the Gallipoli Campaign as Turkey’s greatest war hero, with little tribute being paid to the able overall strategist, the German General Liman von Sanders. Kemal was responsible for some of the bloodiest Turkish losses and, had the Allies prevailed, might well have been denounced for unnecessary deaths, since the Turks had only to hold on to their hill positions to win the campaign, whereas the Allies had to attack in order to justify the entire venture. On the other hand Kemal rallied his troops successfully when the Anzacs nearly broke through soon after their first landings and in later crises.

Early in the campaign many Anzacs believed the Turks practised vile atrocities on prisoners, but later experience suggested that many disfigured corpses had suffered from shrapnel rather than bayoneting after capture, although two British officers were bayoneted in cold blood after surrender at Suvla in August. After the truce at Lone Pine in May, during which the Turks were able to pick up their over 10 000 casualties, Turks and Allied troops regarded each other much more as decent human beings. However, Turkish treatment of prisoners of war was worse than treatment by Germans, French, British or even Russian captors. The chilling account provided by Greg Kerr in his Lost Anzacs is a salutary corrective to the Turkish monument at ANZAC Cove, ‘depicting a Turkish soldier fondly cradling a wounded Australian’, as Rhodes James put it in his Gallipoli. Turkish troops were often threatened with immediate execution if they withdrew and with officers such as Kemal that was no idle threat. On the Allied side General Hunter-Weston recommended the MC to a young subaltern who summarily executed three men for alleged cowardice.

Whilst the Gallipoli campaign was being waged, the ‘Young Turk’ government launched an horrific attack on Armenian civilians, some of whom were suspected of supporting the Allied cause. The Turkish massacre of the Armenians was only exceeded during the century by the Nazi holocaust of Jews and the mass killings ordered by Stalin. Of two million Armenians in Turkey in 1914, Alan Moorehead’s estimate was that ‘three quarters of a million were dead or dying by the time the frantic rage of their tormentors had exhausted itself’ by 1916.

The early fighting

The British commanders in Egypt as well as on the Western Front were reluctant to give the swift backing to the Gallipoli enterprise essential for maximum chances of success. There was abysmal lack of co-ordination between the French and British forces, and between the British naval and military staffs, although things were little better in this respect between German and Turkish officers on the other side. One key difference, however, was that General Sir Ian Hamilton was reluctant to interfere with the immediate commanders in the field, who in their turn were often uncertain about his overall strategic intent, whereas von Sanders forced his decisions on subordinates. Several British officers were brought out of retirement in 1914: the most able were usually used on the Western Front and some appointments to commands at Gallipoli, such as Sir John Stopford, proved disastrous.

Some British operations were carried out skilfully and successfully, such as the organisation of supplies from Egypt, but there was considerable muddle and confusion in the landings. Landing gear, medical supplies, water carriers, and much besides, were all available in the vicinity but rarely where and when most needed. A popular joke among the troops linked Imbros, Mudros and Chaos, the first two being the islands serving as supply bases. Lines of Communication were weak and there was resentment among the troops at reports of creature comforts for the HQ staff at Mudros. Hamilton was for some weeks mainly on HMS Queen Elizabeth and in poor contact with shore operations.

In the first wave of landings in April, 1915, British troops under Hunter-Weston were responsible for landings at Cape Helles, the southern tip of the Peninsula. The core was the regular 29th Division, supported by battalions of recent volunteers. Some landings, such as that at W Beach, met ferocious Turkish gunfire. As the Lancashire Fusiliers tried to reach the beach they lost six officers (including the commanding officer and his next-in-command soon afterwards) and 183 men killed, four officers and 279 men wounded, and 61 men missing, out of 950 who started out. Six VCs, 2 DS0s, 2 MCs and one DCM were awarded at W beach on 25 April. The Dublin Fusiliers, Munster Fusiliers and Hampshire Regiment suffered heavy losses, too, at V Beach under heavy Turkish fire, many being killed as they tried to disembark from the River Clyde.

At X beach the Royal Fusiliers met little Turkish resistance, nor did the South Wales Borderers at S beach, or the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, South Wales Borderers and Plymouth Battalion of Marines at Y beach. Unfortunately, Hunter-Weston thought his task was to land the troops successfully and failed to order immediate progress inland. Thus the Turks had ample opportunity to reinforce their positions, and the belated Allied penetration inland was bitterly contested. At ‘Y Beach’ there was uncertainly whether Lt-Col Koe of the Scottish Borderers or Lt-Col Matthews of the Marines was in command, with the result that no one was effectively in charge. After Koe and many other officers had been killed, some troops panicked and sought evacuation on the boats, even as new troops were being landed and the Turks were retreating because of losses under naval fire.

The Allied dilemma was that energetic attack was the only way of securing victory, and assaults on defended heights immensely bloody, but early aggression might have ensured that the Turks did not occupy positions from which they later dealt out severe punishment. Morale varied greatly from unit to unit. The Border Regiment broke and ran when charged by the Turks on 28 April, whereas the Royal Fusiliers and Royal Scots successfully repelled a similar attack on 1 May. In June the Manchesters, Lancashire Territorials and Worcesters broke through nearly to Krithia, which would have forced a massive Turkish retreat, but Hunter-Weston reinforced the stationary Royal Naval Division, not the advancing units. Hunter-Weston. a martinet who was strangely enough very popular with his men, collapsed in July, leaving behind an army utterly exhausted and incapable of further offensive action. Indian and British losses at Gully Spur on 28 June were even higher than anything at Anzac, but Turkish losses were higher still and the Turks on Helles were close to breaking point.

The landings at Anzac Cove in April were a mile north of those intended. Whether strong currents were to blame, errors by Lieut. Commander Waterlow, the British naval officer directing the landings, or even a late change of plan by Generals Birdwood and Throsby, remains uncertain to this date. Yet the initial landings were successful, since the Turks did not expect them, and two parties of Australian troops under Captains Lalor and Tullock fought their way inland. Lalor was a scion of an old English military family, who had deserted from the Royal Navy, fought in revolutionary wars in South America and then sailed to Australia to enlist in its army. Lalor ordered his men to dig in on hill Baby 700 but they were reported by a scout sent to check on their progress to be ‘smoking and eating as if on a picnic’, one soon interrupted by a murderous Turkish counter-assault. The Australians then counter-attacked up the hill against massive odds and Lalor, wielding an old family sword, was killed with many of his men. An hour’s picnicking exacted a heavy price. Nearly all the Anzac units were handicapped by razor-sharp cliffs and deep ravines, unsuspected since they landed at the wrong beaches and had the wrong maps. They also faced the most able and determined Turkish commander in Kemal.

The main effort of the French troops was on the Asian shore of the Dardanelles, where they captured the fort at Kum Kale previously badly hit by British warships. Turkish troops who went through the motions of surrendering killed the French officer accepting the surrender, following which French troops executed eight Turkish prisoners. The French commanders had problems with their Senegalese regiments, which sometimes fought hard and sometimes surrendered under little pressure. Hamilton had great difficulty in preventing the French commander, General D’Amade, from ordering total evacuation. Some of the French generals, such as General Bailoud, proved very inadequate, but great courage was shown by most of the French forces. At Helles their attack on Kereves Spur, heroic but unavailing, greatly impressed allies and enemies.

The heavy Anzac losses led the Divisional Commanders, Major-General Godley of the New Zealanders and Scottish emigrant Major General Bridges of the Australians, to recommend that Anzac Beach be evacuated. Hamilton instead urged them to dig in, which they did and so ensured that the campaign became immortalised in Australian and New Zealand history. The Australian approach was embodied in Colonel Braund, whose defence of Russell’s Top, overlooking the main landings, probably saved the situation. Braund was accused by New Zealand Colonel Malone of having ‘no defensive position, no plan, nothing but a murderous notion that the only thing to do was to plunge troops out of the neck of the ridge into the jungle beyond’. Braund was soon afterwards shot by an Anzac sentry whose challenge he did not hear. Malone nearly shared the same fate and several Allied troops died in that way. Within a week of the landings the Anzacs suffered 6 554 casualties, including 1 252 dead. The opposing Turks, so their own officers estimated, suffered 14 000 casualties, the majority killed. British Marine reinforcements sent to support the Anzacs were described by General Birdwood on their arrival as ‘nearly useless … special children of Winston Churchill, immature boys with no proper training’, but they proved him wrong and won Anzac respect by scaling and re-capturing Dead Man’s Ridge on the night of 2-3 May after the Australians had been forced to retreat. Within a few days of the Anzac Cove landings, the situation there was relatively quiet, so that Hamilton moved some ANZAC troops south to join in what he hoped would be a critical attack, The Australians lost over a thousand men during an advance of under 600 yards up the steep Krithia Spur on 8 May when their courage made them deeply admired among the Allied troops who had not been at their side at Anzac Cove.

Quite apart from bullets and shells, lice and flies, together with poor food and water shortages, contributed to acute dysentery – the Gallipoli Trots, which affected three out of four Allied troops. Dental disease also became acute. Australians suffered severely from these scourges, partly because they were generally less rigorous in hygiene routine than the British or New Zealanders and partly because they bathed frequently in the contaminated sea. The British, held by the Australians to keep their towels dry, may have benefited for once from aversion to water. On the positive side, British aircraft under Commander Samson, whilst not inflicting a great deal of actual damage, were feared by the Turks and greatly encouraged the Allied troops.

The later fighting

The best Allied military plan at Gallipoli was devised by Lt-Col Skeen, a scholarly Scottish migrant who lectured at Quetta Staff College before the war. It revolved on the capture of Sari Bair Ridge and Chanuk Bair, the heart of the Turkish position. The plan was partially adopted by Hamilton in August: Australians under Walker were to attack the Turkish lines at Lone Pine, whilst the New Zealanders tried to outflank the Turks to the north. At the same time, British and French troops further south at Helles were to attack once more the strong Turkish positions at Krithia and Achi Baba, and other British troops were to land at Suvla Bay north of Anzac Cove.

Execution of the plan was delayed, partly because of the worst accident in the history of railways in Britain, when at Gretna Green on their way south 210 officers and men of the Royal Scots were killed and 224 injured. The attempted break-out from Anzac Cove was planned well, but aerial photographs proved very misleading, since they failed to show a timber cover protecting the Turkish trenches or a steep gully interrupting any advance. In bloody and confused fighting Turks sometimes killed Turks and Australians killed Australians. The Australians came close to a complete breakthrough but were finally overwhelmed with the loss of over 2000 men, the Turks suffering 7000 casualties, in the bloodiest single encounter during the whole campaign. The New Zealanders, Wellington Mounted Rifles and the Auckland Regiment, supported by Gurkhas, Wiltshires and South Wales Borderers, made rapid early progress towards the key point of Sari Bair. Much of their good work was undone by the New Zealand commander, Brig-General Johnson, who ordered a halt until the Canterbury Battalion, which had lost its way, arrived. The New Zealanders’ best scout, Major Overton, was killed during the advance. The Gurkhas broke through their opposing positions and the Turks were nearly encircled, but Johnson’s lack of determination gave the Turks time to reinforce their positions. Johnson’s failure was costly for the Australian 3rd Light Horse, who had to charge the Turkish trenches at The Nek. Furthermore, the Welch Fusiliers, protecting the Light Horse flank, were forced by Turkish bombs back down the hill they were trying to climb. The Light Horse lost 372 out of 600 officers and men from Turkish fire within minutes. The New Zealanders, Welsh Fusiliers and Gloucesters fared no better: only 70 out of 760 New Zealanders survived unwounded, the 8th Welsh Fusiliers lost 17 officers and 400 men, and the 7th Gloucesters lost every officer and sergeant and over 350 other men. The Turks, too, suffered heavily in these battles, but Kemal threw all his reserves into the biggest assault of the campaign on 10 August at Chanuk Bair and The Pinnacle against the Allied front trenches in the Anzac section. None of the British troops, mainly Wiltshires, survived the assault.

The British, French and Indian troops at Helles did their part in the August plan, but lost heavily in assaults on strong Turkish positions. The key weakness was the Suvla Bay landings. Blame lies mainly on Hamilton, who surrounded his plans in an air of secrecy: Turkish spies knew more of his plans than did his own commanders in the field, let alone his junior officers. Hamilton fatally changed the initial instructions to Stopford to read: ‘your primary objective will be to secure Suvla Bay as a base for all the forces operating in the northern zone …. If it is possible, without prejudice to the attainment of your primary objective, to gain possession of these hills at an early period of your attack, it will greatly facilitate the capture and retention of Hill 305′. The original plan was justified if surprise was achieved and rapid advance took place to occupy the ridges overlooking the bay, but Stopford felt he had done great deeds if his forces simply managed a successful landing.

Many of the British troops landed on August 6 at Suvla Bay were inexperienced and had never undertaken a night landing before. Many suffered severe reactions after cholera inoculations. Some landings took place significant distances from the intended points, so that the troops were faced with landmarks they did not recognise. One battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers lost 60 per cent of its officers and 20 per cent of its rank and file between the night landing and the following noon. However, at other landing points there was little resistance and 20 000 men were put safely ashore. Had they advanced resolutely inland, they might have captured with relatively few casualties the positions at. Kiretch Tepe and Tekke Tepe. Instead for a day and a half several units loafed around the beach waiting for instructions and unaware that the heavy fighting a few miles to the south could only succeed if they attacked the Turkish positions quickly and vigorously. An East Yorkshire officer and signaller climbed to the top of Tekke Topi and reported it unoccupied, but the message never reached Hamilton or any senior commanders. The troops at Suvla Bay were short of water and were soon blisteringly hot, but staying on the beaches did not help them or the other Allied forces. The positions they should have attacked were soon occupied by Turkish gunners who rained down fire on the Suvla beaches. The East Yorkshires were shot to pieces from heights they themselves could well have occupied. A few days later, Hamilton and General de Lisle, who replaced the demoralised Stopford, decided on a further major attack at Suvla across the Salt Lake which forced the Turks to bring in their last reserves, but British losses were over 5000 and no significant advance was made. The last realistic chance to occupy the Gallipoli Peninsula was gone.

The Withdrawal

Hamilton’s replacement, Sir Charles Monro, did not take long to decide that the Gallipoli positions could not be held, let alone extended to threaten the Straits and Constantinople, without massive injections of men, artillery and ships which were not going to be made available. Unfairly blamed by Churchill for limp capitulation, Monro took the decision which enabled the remaining Allied troops to fight another day, which many did on the Western Front and Middle East.

As winter set in, instead of flies and sunstroke, the troops suffered from frostbite and extreme cold. At Suvla there were over 12 000 cases of frostbite and exposure, nearly 3000 at Anzac Cove and 1000 at Helles. One junior officer found 30 Worcesters frozen to death in a single trench. Heavy seas made supplies harder to land and any withdrawal more difficult week by week. Those for staying on argued that bad conditions at sea meant that losses in trying to withdraw might well be as high as a third of the troops. In the event, the withdrawal from Gallipoli was perhaps the most successful part of the expedition. Monro ordered withdrawal first from the Suvla and Anzac positions, both of which were under heavy Turkish counter-attack. Between 14 and 18 December 80 000 men, together with most of their guns and stores, were shipped out without the Turks being aware that a withdrawal was taking place. The Helles withdrawal took place only after one of the most ferocious Turkish assaults of the campaign. Von Sanders did not want the Allied troops to escape without loss as at Anzac and Suvla, but his assault against the British 13th Division holding Gully Spur was met with tremendous resistance: the Turkish losses were never revealed. 164 British casualties were the price of ensuring the complete withdrawal of over 35 000 men from Helles. Nearly 4 000 horses and mules were shipped out as well. The French battleship Suffren managed to sink a large Allied transport ship, but fortunately before it had been filled with departing soldiers.

Can Gallipoli be Justified?

The Turkish command was lax in record keeping and the official Turkish figures of 86 692 killed and 164 617 wounded or missing are likely to be a significant under-estimate. Rhodes James suggested that Turkish total losses were about 300 000. Estimates of the British and Dominion losses lie between 198 000 and 215 000, with something like 46 000 dead. Hell’s Foundation by Geoffrey Moorhouse, describes most movingly the effects of the campaign on Bury, the depot town of the Lancashire Fusiliers. Losses in Kitchener’s ‘New Army’ affected particular towns very badly, since many workmates and school friends enlisted together in ‘pals’ or ‘chums’ units and often died together as well. The Australian dead were about 7 600 and the wounded and missing about 18 500, the New Zealanders about 2 450 dead and 5 150 dead and missing. French casualties were probably about 50 000. These were dreadful losses compared with British campaigns during the previous century, although relatively light compared with the slaughter on the western and eastern fronts in Europe.

The British Royal Commissions which reported in 1917 and 1918 described the operations as ill-conceived and ineptly executed, with thousands of lives needlessly squandered. This view was held, too, by A. P. Herbert, General Sir William Robertson and, in Australia, Charles Bean. Churchill led opposition to this view, especially in The World Crisis, and other efforts to rehabilitate Gallipoli were made by Hamilton, Admiral Roger Keyes, John Masefield and Ernest Raymond. Their view gained some backing when it became known that at two or three times in the early exchanges, the Turkish forces were close to retreat and defeat. ‘Optimists’ still hold that with more energy in mine-sweeping the Allied fleet could have passed into the Sea of Marmara before the landings took place. ‘History’ seldom makes a final decision on such matters.

Alan Moorehead, referring to the ‘constantly repeated belief that posterity would never forget’ exploits such as those at Gallipoli, asked in 1956, ‘who in this generation has ever heard of Lancashire Landing or the third battle of Krithia? He answered, ‘Even as names they have almost vanished out of memory’. Now the ‘almost’ can be omitted so far as the Tommies and French and Indian troops are concerned. Perhaps because Australia and New Zealand have less of a burden of history to carry, Gallipoli is still remembered in the Antipodes. This is as it should be, but there can be no just cause for any Australian or New Zealander to denigrate the sacrifices of British and other Allied lives in the common cause.


Distorted propaganda is usually at its height during wars but corrected in later years. In the case of Gallipoli the opposite occurred. The official Australian war historian, Charles Bean, was reluctant to hint that Australians were ever less than heroic, and in the interests of maintaining good relationships with Australia, Cecil Aspinall-Oglander, the official British war historian, toned down even implied criticisms of any Australian action. As Rhodes James observed, the result of massaging the truth was an ‘Australian mythology that Gallipoli was an Australian triumph thrown away by incompetent British commanders’. Far worse distortions disfigure the Peter Weir film Gallipoli, which seeks to contrast cowardly and idle British troops with ANZAC heroes. Some British troops did bathe and drink tea at Suvla Bay whilst horrific fighting was taking place a few miles to the south, but others were as fully engaged in that conflict as New Zealanders and Australians. Rhodes James noted that the ‘suicidal assault’ of the Australian Light Horse at The Nek on 7 August 1915 ‘had nothing to do with the British landing at Suvla, but was intended to help the New Zealanders, as the film’s military advisers knew’. However, ‘the principal Australian sponsor of the film wanted an anti-British ending, and got it’, with ‘the deliberately inaccurate final scenes’ of the film, a potent source of Australian republican sentiments. Few Australians realise that ‘the British, French and Indian causalities were far greater than those of the Anzacs, and that the British bore the brunt of the fighting – and the losses.’

Far from covering up British errors, British historians exposed them at every level, from Kitchener, Churchill, Fisher and Hamilton down. The indecisiveness of the naval commanders , the muddle at Imbros, the incapacity of Sir Frederick Stopford, and every other British failing, were laid bare to the world. This is as it should be, if anyone is to benefit from past errors, but in 2001 British people, no more or less than Australians and New Zealanders, can take pride in heroic deeds at Gallipoli, as indeed can French, Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi people. We should not allow latter-day propagandists to sow seeds of unwarranted resentment between peoples whose ancestors fought with great courage in a common cause.

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Information for prospective British migrants to Australia

The British Australian Community is not a registered immigration agent, and we therefore can offer only the most general advice to intending migrants. A great deal of information, however, is available from other websites. On this page we list, under appropriate subheadings, other sites that should be useful to prospective migrants of British stock.

The BAC is not responsible for the contents of any of these sites, and we recommend that readers exercise due discretion in dealing with these or any other sources of information. However, we think that the information available from the sites below should be more than enough for you to decide for yourself whether you need an immigration agent or not.


The rules regarding immigration change frequently. For the current situation check out the extremely comprehensive and official site of the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship

For almost all the other official information that you could ever want about Australia, click here.

For a quick overview of Australia, plus all sorts of fascinating details, check out the Lonely Planet guide.

Australian States and Territories

All Australian state and territory governments have their own websites, which often contain a wealth of detail about the region. Pick the area that interests you, and make full use of the huge amount of information available.

Australian Capital Territory

New South Wales

Northern Territory


South Australia



Western Australia

For regional cities or towns, do a word search using a suitable search engine.

Real Estate, Banking and Investment

Housing affordability in Australia is among the worst in the world. You can learn a good deal from the website of the Housing Industry Australia Ltd, which is the peak building industry body.

More information is available from the Commonwealth Bank, which is the largest lender of home mortgages in Australia.

For photos of houses that are currently for sale in your target suburb or town, as well as estimates of prices, click here.

As far as general banking and investment are concerned, the Commonwealth Bank has a handy site here.

The Australian Tax Office has a very helpful site concerning taxation matters.

UK Expats

The peak body in Australia for UK expatriates is the British Australian Community. For more information, click here.

Australian Universities

Many Australian universities are world-class. Access their sites from here.

Primary and Secondary Schools

Australia has government-run schools that are almost free, and non-government schools that were originally denominational (and sometimes still are). The latter vary from being quite cheap to very expensive. Some government-run schools achieve very good academic outcomes, but on average the more expensive of the non-government schools tend to outperform on academic measurements. Many schools have their own websites. Do a word search using a suitable search engine.


Your entry point for information about sport in Australia is here.

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Literary Award

This Award is for an 800 word essay on the theme of the positive influence of British Heritage and Culture in Australia. The prize is $1,000. The closing date is the 1st of April 2020 and the winner will be announced at Britfest 2020.


Please print off this entry form, complete the details required, and sign the declaration below.








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1. The British Australian Community Literary Prize is open to all Australian citizens or permanent residents of Australia.

2. The Prize will be awarded to an original, unpublished essay not exceeding 800 words, on the theme of the positive heritage of British culture in Australia.

3. Entries will not be under offer to any publication, or offered for publication, until the adjudication is finalized and the winner is notified.

4. The Prize will normally be awarded to a single winner, but up to three additional entries may be commended. The winner will be notified personally, and announced on the BAC website in early November. The essay will be published on this website and in any other relevant BAC publication.

5. Entrants may submit no more than two essays for consideration.

6. Each single entry must be accompanied by a non-refundable fee of $10.00 for administration expenses. Personal cheques, bank cheques, postal/money orders should be made payable to the British Australian Community.

7. As a copy of the Entry Form can be kept for tax purposes, receipts will not be issued unless requested.

8. If sent by post, entries should be typed, one side only, on A4 paper. Entries are assessed in their original submitted versions only. No subsequent editorial amendment or resubmission is permitted.

9. Personal details should not appear on any manuscript, to ensure discretion and fair-dealing in the adjudication process. Please supply full details as required on the separate Entry Form.

10. Do not submit original manuscripts. Please submit copies only as entries will not be returned.

11. The British Australian Community accepts no liability for loss or damage of manuscripts.

12. The decision of the BAC’s adjudication panel is final. No subsequent correspondence will be entered into.

13. The judging panel does not provide feedback or critical comment on individual entries, except at its discretion.

14. The judges reserve the right not to confer the Prize in any given year.

15. The value of the Prize will be AUS $1,000, until further notice.

The competition closes on the 1st of April and the results will be officially announced at Britfest 2020.


2012 winning entry “From Everything to Nothing” by Saxon Smith, South Australia With unstrained appreciation of the pervasiveness of British culture in Australia, Saxon Smith approaches his topic with youthful vigour but also youthful playfulness. These are what enable him to open out the limited contextual space in which he begins until it is large enough to encompass a challenge for his entire generation.

2012 commended: “The English Ale: An Annual Celebration of the English Folk Arts in South Australia” by Bronwyn Lloyd, South Australia Bronwyn Lloyd successfully conveys a poetic engagement with the enduring mysteries of our intangible but resonant English cultural heritage.

2012 commended: “English Tower Bells and Change Ringing” by Warne Wilson, Queensland Each of Warne Wilson’s paragraphs is a charming miniature of one aspect of our culture, localised as much in the bells of our small country churches as in our great city cathedrals.

2012 commended: “Positive Aspects of British Heritage” by Peter H. Edwards Peter H. Edwards bravely affirms the restraining influence of British culture on a raw frontier society. His sincerity on the issue of British settler relations with Aborigines is undeniable, and a challenge to those who prefer the weak option of a black armband.

From Everything to Nothing:
The Positive Heritage of British Culture in Australia

by Saxon Smith

It is relatively easy to answer the question: what is the positive heritage of British culture in Australia. The short answer is: everything; that is, everything valuable, cherished, noble and worthy of preservation. British culture and traditions provide the sociocultural infrastructure and backbone to the Australian nation.

Here are some examples. The Australian legal system is derived from Britain, and although appeals from the High Court of Australia to Her Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council can no longer be made, because of the passing of the Australia Act 1986 in both the Australian and British parliaments, the foundation of Australian law is distinctively British. Our High Court in Sue v Hill (1999) held that Britain is a foreign power, within the meaning of section 44(i) of the Australian constitution, but the common law system and its modus operandi, is British.

The nation’s language, as much as the Asianist crowd may hate it, is English. English is the international language of science and technology. The major scientific journals, be they physics or medicine, are English language journals. Despite lip service about our Asian destiny that erupts from the orifices of ageing ex-prime ministers like bubbling toxic gas, English is also the language of world and Asian business. Learn an Asian language? I’ll learn one when Paul Keating and Mal (look up my name in a dictionary) Fraser learn two.

Our clothes are British in origin, not Asian, and even the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejab, wears a Western (i.e. British) suit, but rebels by wearing no tie. Our clothes are not those of the Australian Aborigine, however metaphysically enlightened and ecologically sensitive their culture may be, at least according to the sacred canons of politically correct secondary schooling.

What about sport and Australian culture? Australian Rules football may or may not have a British origin or connection, but cricket is English in origin, and nothing stirs up the blood of Australian cricket lovers like an Ashes match against England. To beat England is something of an eternal ritual of passage for Australia. But it is all good fun and an excuse to pour down our throats copious quantities of beer, a drink which was brought to Australia from the motherland. We drink our beer ice cold whilst the British like theirs warm, which may have something to do with the climate.

At Federation Australia ethno-racially was about 97 percent Anglo-Celtic, although there are debates about what exactly a “Celt” is. Let’s say 97 percent British. After World War II, Arthur Caldwell, Labour Minister for Immigration, and a blueprint for future politicians such as Paul Keating, scared the population with the cry of “populate or perish.” The idea here was that Australia needed a big population to deal with the coming threat of Asia, a taste of which was delivered by Japan in World War II. Thus while other countries learnt from World War II and understood the power of nuclear weaponry, Australia’s power elites developed a cargo cult mentality towards immigration. This became a new religion, which has spawned doctrines such as multiculturalism and Asianisation. The vast intake of non-British people since about 1947 has made us into, the elites say, a more exciting and rich culture. The metaphors used by them to describe this all are based on food, and the guzzling class love their rich fatty ethnic food and wine.

The food issue illustrates the deracination and deconstruction of the British people and culture which has occurred in recent decades. For example, media cook Jamie Oliver in his TV special, Great Britain: The West Country, travels through Britain to discover the dishes of his home country. But he starts the episode by saying that he doesn’t even know what it means to speak of British cooking because classic British dishes all come, according to him, from other countries. Thus, Oliver investigates the migrants who have the real dishes and culture and goes to Bristol to cook with a Jamaican chef. The subtext here is that the only real people in Britain are migrants and the native white people do not have a culture worth talking about. The same theme is pushed in a vast array of books and media.

People of Britain, including Australia, are being deracinated and dispossessed, by their own cultural elite. This may be the first time in history that this has happened without an outright invasion occurring, but then again maybe the invasion has been a quiet one and has already happened. British culture has given Australia everything worthwhile, but we now stand in danger of losing it all and ourselves as well. My generation, or that which is not brain-dead or brain-washed, will have to fight this or perish.

© Saxon Smith

2013 winning entry: “An older lady’s reflections (on an under recognised aspect) regarding the positive heritage of British culture in Australia“ by Llewella Jenkins, Queensland. Llewella Jenkins sheds a late-afternoon light on an almost forgotten ceremony. This celebration of a ritual that once helped bind together the world-wide British diaspora derives its charm from an understated certainty that small things matter.

An older lady’s reflections (on an under recognised aspect)
regarding the positive heritage of British culture in Australia

by Llewella Jenkins

What is it that has a civilising effect, is quietly reassuring and is quintessentially British? It has to be the traditional afternoon tea! As a young Aussie living in England I remember being a waitress at Fuller’s Tea Shop.

I wore a royal blue long sleeved uniform and a white apron with red polka dots.

It was my first job and I worked after school, at weekends and bank holidays to supplement my pocket money. I can still remember the heavy feeling of a pocket filled with threepenny bits and sixpences, my tips from serving old ladies their tea and cake … toast and cream cakes. It is hard to believe that I am now as old as they were, and with grand-daughters of my own serving fast food in an even faster world.

Sharing afternoon tea gives us an opportunity to socialize, sate hunger, gossip and sort out life’s problems. Through the inheritance of this custom it is also a reminder perhaps, from across the world, of what seems in retrospect, a kinder, slower and more gentle time.

We have either Charles II’s wife. Catherine of Borganza or Anna Maria Russell, Duchess of Bedford, to thank for introducing afternoon snacks to tide us over until the evening meal. The formal afternoon tea ritual has since remained virtually unchanged since popularised in the 1840’s.

Nowadays it may involve use of the finest flower be-decked china, a three tiered cake stand complete with tasty morsels, silver pot and spoons and a small vase of pretty flowers all set out on a snowy white cloth. The food should start off with small warm savouries, a selection of ribbon sandwiches, scones, jam and clotted cream … then if you have room … bite sized delicious cakes! Tea from a pot and may I suggest an upsize, to a glass of champagne for the indulgent: now that’s a High Tea! A Palm Court string quartet playing discreetly in the background can only enhance a feeling of well-being.

Once, I crossed the world to Brook Street, Mayfair. Believing as I do, that a wicked witch swapped me at birth, I felt obliged to regain my rightful place, however briefly, for just such an experience at Claridges. I’d been shopping at Harrods with my sister, and High Tea seemed an appropriate decadent finale to our overseas trip. So the Teddy I had just bought sat with us in his own chair. I still remember the Art Decor interior, massive marble columns, the black and white chequered floor, the elegance and sheer beauty of our surroundings. Our waitress had noted we were Australian so brought out the pastry chef, creator of the mouthwatering treats. He came from Sydney! Our visit had been spontaneous but I see on the Claridges’ website bookings now must be made months in advance for this experience.

At the other extreme I have also been fortunate enough to travel across the harsh Australian outback where mile after red dusty mile creates a thirst for a different afternoon tea ritual: a smoko ‘bushman style’. (First boil your billy over an open fire, gumleaf optional, throw in a handful of tea leaves then swing it aloft for a couple of rotations.) Sit under the shade of the nearest tree, if you can find one, then watch the sun go down.

Whilst I gain immense aesthetic pleasure from my cup, plate and saucer collection, supplemented by discoveries from op shops and garage sales, I now find I am running out of room to create effective displays. Precious china overflows from the mirror-backed cabinet, trails down the passage on shelves and will soon reach the bathroom. The nearly best drawer in the kitchen stores some use-able pieces that won’t cause me too much distress in the likely event of being accidentally smashed by my heavy handed husband.

I enjoy preparing afternoon tea for my daughters, usually to celebrate their birthday. I have been known to prepare a special treat just for myself as I did to celebrate the Royal Wedding. High Tea for one, in front of the telly, dressed in my nightgown, with pearls and flower corsage. I didn’t want to miss a moment.

These days tea has become quite trendy with shops dedicated to selling hundreds of blends from around the world. I’m even branching out myself with herbal infusions and a newly acquired taste for aromatic and spicy chai. But nothing will ever beat a British cuppa!

© Llewella Jenkins

2014 saw two joint-winners: “A beacon of light in a sea of darkness“ by Jake Breheny, of Victoria, and “Reflections of British influence on Australian Literature” by Bridgett Leslie of Queensland. Highly commended was “British Heritage and the British People: Going, Going, Gone?” by J. Smith, of Adelaide.

A Beacon of Light in a Sea of Darkness

by Jake Breheny

“Men and women of Australia … we are at war with Japan. This is the gravest hour of our history. We Australians have imperishable traditions. We shall maintain them. We shall vindicate them. We shall hold this country and keep it as a citadel for the British-speaking race and as a place where civilisation will persist.”

— John Curtin

The hardest of rocks and tallest of mountains will be slowly eroded by the ever increasing tides which seek to engulf it.

Australia has long stood as a solitary British mountain amidst ever-expansive Asian plains. It has proudly and boldly held steadfast as a ‘citadel’ not only for the ‘British-speaking race’, but for its Anglo-Celtic pioneers, settlers and inhabitants. At the heart of the mountain lies a metaphorical gem — the common blood and ancestry of the British people. It is this which gives life to an otherwise indiscernible pile of rock. It is this civilization which must persist.

Australia may not be at war with Japan, but its identity is once again fast approaching one of the gravest hours in its history and a similar call-to-arms is long overdue. We are awash with tides of disregard for the Anglo-Australian people and culture, whilst the undercurrent acts like a rip – seeking to drag this identity deep down into the darkness, from which it may never resurface.

In order to plead for the preservation and reinvigoration of the British-Australian identity, one must first explore what constitutes Australian identity, for one often hears the cry from disingenuous Anglophobes that ‘Australia has no culture’. At its core, Australian culture and identity is Anglo-Celtic, and is not merely a subscription identity in which hordes of people from a myriad of creeds can sign up to through mere documentation. It is inexplicably intertwined with Britain, yet is peculiarly distinct. It is undeniably British, but has also taken on a character of its own not separate from Britishness.

At the outset of the Australian Nation, 1901, the architects of the constitution sought to enshrine the British-Australian identity. The preamble of the Constitution declares forthrightly, under the blessing of Almighty God, that colonies of Australia shall make a pact to form an indissoluble entity “Under the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland”. These Australian pioneers could not have envisioned Australia’s current free-fall from the British motherland. Australia was to inherit many and close to all beautiful facets of Britain: her parliamentary customs and traditions, her common law, her language, her gentlemanly and chivalrous virtues, her religion, her vigour for cultural preservation, and most importantly her people. This serves a dualistic function: it is the intricate backbone of the Australian ethno-cultural conscience, providing a British framework upon which everything Australian has been built, whilst simultaneously becoming the Anglo-Celtic ‘soul’ of the nation, pervading every facet of Australian life. Without this, Australia would transform into a soulless husk wandering the land of identity without a map.

There exists a major challenge to British-Australian identity. Many find that the idiosyncrasies of Australian cultural identity are difficult to reconcile with “Britishness”. The ANZAC Legend presents itself as perhaps the most obvious. It is a pillar of Australiana, the fire from which Australia was forged. Many point to the apparent disdain held by the venerated digger for British command during the First and Second World Wars as the personification of Australia’s departure from Britishness. However, upon a close analysis, this is not absolutely irreconcilable with a British-Australian ethno-cultural conscience. Like a younger brother scorned, Australian soldiers yearned for and craved approval from their British compatriots. John Monash further propounded this sentiment, proudly declaring that “the people of England…are beginning to realize that the Australians are some of the best troops in the whole Empire…’ These sentiments are not those of next-door-neighbours-come-vicious-nemeses as one would see in the Balkans, or North East Asia.

Australians and Britons are kin. They share a motherland, yet one is a much more recent arrival into this world. We are of the same flesh and blood, sharing similar memories and histories. Like siblings, our fate is intertwined with one another. Just as a boy may feel a burning desire to prove his mettle to an older, more decorated brother, coupled with a feeling of an absence of adequate appreciation, there simultaneously exists a bond which cannot be destroyed by mere ambition and sibling-rivalry. It is this which determines that Australia’s history is not mutually exclusive from an overarching British-Australian one.

Like a lighthouse beacon shining in a sea of darkness, so Australia has stood as a welcome sight for all Britons in the South Seas of Asia and Oceania. Whilst the seas may be rising around us and our kin, one can hope that through affirmations of our British roots the tide shall be turned and the heart of the Australian mountain shall live on, allowing its beacon to shine brighter than ever before.

Reflections of British influence on Australian Literature

by Bridgett Leslie

When I was first introduced to Bridget Jones, she resonated with me. Like her, I was a shelved, single, thirty-something, living in a small apartment in London, with a group of equally single friends drifting hesitantly along. We laughed and cried with each other through the pages as I discovered how alike our middle class mannerisms were. Such is the power of story. One dives into the mind and body of a character and is transported through imagination into another world. Experiences with characters are real. We feel what they feel and speak as they do. The power of British story through the centuries has maintained a profound impact on Australian literary audiences.

Since I788, Australians have allowed British English to mentor the Australian English language. The richness of language is often an inward investment that allows human beings to communicate anything they imagine. Language gives expressions to intangible thought and makes the wealth of literature possible. In the eighteenth and nineteenth century, British literary ideologies heavily flooded Australian audiences and book markets. British literature reflects evolving British identity. Upon this rock, Australia started its literary world.

Australians have long enjoyed the depth of British literature through classics such as the Bronte Sisters, Charles Dicken even J .K. Rowlings in recent times. These authors are wordsmiths who entice emotion and action. The best of British literature can reduce you to a tearful mess or encourage you to belly-grabbing laughter. Good literature can make you travel. You roam as you wish through the Yorkshire moors with Emily Bronte. She takes you through one man’s yearning for the love he should never have. Charles Dickens entices you to rich philosophical heights through his journey with an orphaned boy, Oliver Twist. The reader is implored to mystic adventure through The Lord of the Rings with Tolkien. All of this is done through the genius of literature. Lest we forget Shakespeare who wooed us to romantic themes and A.A. Milne whose imagination brought Winnie the Pooh to life for children.

Whilst Australian literary tradition began with links to British literature, evolution occurred over time, weaving in domestic themes such as mateship, Aboriginality and democracy. Australia started off as a literature immigration movement and integrated cultural nationalism over time. Award winning Australian authors such as Rolf Boldrewood showed obvious British literature influences in novels such as Robbery under Arms. The excellence of Australian literature has its initial roots in a parent tree that has never ceased to produce good fruit in literary excellence.

Having a firm literary foundation on which to build meant that Australia could establish a publishing industry and launch the works of promising Australian writers. Publishing houses such as Penguin Australia and Random House now serve the literary community with various literary flavours. It is interesting to note that even the Australian publishing industry has its roots in Britain. In the early l800’s Australia used to produce finished product of stories and texts in book form in Britain. Gradual reliance on British printing presses stopped between World War One and Two. Of course, commercial British interest maintained its presence in a booming Australian market. Present day, Australia maintains a differentiated industry, with a structured existence of distinctive fields.

There is also another noble, humanitarian aspect to British influence on Australian literature. British women fought to become literate in emerging modernistic times, creating a ripple effect on Commonwealth countries. In the years leading up to the First World War, the British militant campaign attracted Australian Women to its feminist revolution. Australian suffragettes learnt from the experiences of the British Suffrage movement and did what they could to effect changes.1 Vida Goldstein, a famous Australian Suffragette, became involved in the ways of her British sisterhood. Together with her fellow feminist fighters she distributed pamphlets outlining their grievances as well as their campaign. She was also deeply involved in helping her British sisterhood advance. Through literacy, suffragettes Worked towards the improvement of child health as well as becoming economically empowered members of society. Today, Australian women enjoy the benefits of the combined fight. We are much further than we were because of their bravery.

Whenever we consider British history, we have to consider its ruling influence on Commonwealth nations such as Australia. British influence on Australian literature is obvious and lasting. Britain has acted as teacher to Australia. A good teacher gives the student a foundation and instructs the student on expansion thereof. Australia’s growing and influential literary world proves that Britain has been a good teacher. Though accents divide us, our similarities in literature unite us. Now that’s a very good foundation for a literary friendship. In the spirit of mateship, let us continue to influence each other’s literary works with positive influence.

Australian Suffragettes, Retrieved from http:/ / about-australia/australian-story/austn-suffragettes


2015 saw the return to a single prize-winner, Tasmania’s Bryan of Blidworth. The judges commended Bryan’s engagement with the smaller, everyday continuities of British culture that link us back to the days of the Anglo-Saxon hall – which of course is the centrepiece of our earliest literature, such as Beowulf.

The positive heritage of British culture in Australia

by Bryan of Blidworth

I’m a first generation Australian; my father is English, from Nottinghamshire and he came to Australia as a post-war (WW2) 10 pound POM. I lived in the U.K. for a few years as a young adult exploring the world, before returning to Australia.

When I think of the positive heritage of British Culture, I think of the less tangible, but all important cultural traits that I, and many others whose cultural roots are British, share in common. These are age-old customs, traditions and character strengths, traits you can count on when you meet a Britisher, and it’s instantly recognisable: strong and comforting.

When you meet someone for the first time, and you get a solid, strong handshake, looking someone in the eye, it’s a sign of respect, the start of a social bond. Hand-shakes, as a cultural act, are an inherently British form of expression, hailing from our Celtic, Anglo-Saxon and Norse forebears. The Norse sealed bargains with a hand shake, as we still do. When we shake hands, we “shake-on-it”, seal a bargain, give our word as our bond. Amongst the Scots, the expression of genuine friendship is to clasp the hand and embrace the friend, saying, ‘There’s my heart, there’s my hand’. It’s an expression of mutual respect, loyalty, steadfastness. It’s an instant mutual recognition that you can trust this person, you know where you stand.

An increasingly disappearing, but nonetheless important, legacy of our British heritage, is the pub. When you’re in such a place, you are among friends. It’s an extension of the lounge room at home; it harks back to the Anglo-Saxon hall. It’s a place of community, where the social fabric is unpicked and rewoven. Where news, views, stories are exchanged, and one of the few strongest places where British culture can thrive.

Pubs have been polluted by gambling, pokies, keno, big screens and artificial, rip-off commercialism and ugly paraphernalia. A good pub relies on the quality of its food, music, and ale, to bring the community into a safe place. This is the village pub; you see it still in rural Australia, and in some out of the way corners of our cities. It’s the communal trophy cabinet, where grandad’s name is on a darts trophy, where games hailing from Anglo-Saxon times, like skittles, and bait-the-bull, chess and draughts are still played. It’s a repository of local culture, where everyone can tell you who caught the fish mounted on the wall, or who won the quiz last week. It’s a place where the age old British hospitality to strangers and travellers is still offered and gratefully received.

In the short space I have left to spare, I also want to write about the positive heritage of the British in Australia, when it comes to mend-and-make do, and to carry on with a stiff upper lip.

The hipsters of 10 minutes ago try to tell us to recycle, as if it’s a new idea. Every generation of working English families has inherited the skills and ideas and practices of ‘re-use, re-purpose, recycle’, from the generation before. From the experience of living through lean times, through many ‘home fronts’, of depressions and world wars, back to before the industrial revolution, before mass production and cheap imports, the English are past-masters at the art of looking after what you have, and making, re-using, re-recycling everything else. There is a continuity here that I experience every day. My veggie garden and chook pen is no different from the ‘Dig for Victory’ garden of my grandparents and great grandparents. (My great grandfather lost his fore-arm fighting at the Somme in WW1, and had a wooden hand and a mechanical jaw so he could still dig his garden with a spade!) I’d go even further, and say that tradition of Australian men having a shed in the backyard, where things are mended, made and fixed, comes from our British heritage, from the tenacity and ingenuity of the English to make, it, mend it, get on with the job and do it well. The things we make and do are a reflection of our people. We are decent, good quality, purposeful, inventive, reliable, honest, resilient and made to last. May the heritage of the English continue in Australia for generations to come.


The judges for 2016 commended Tasmania’s Heidi Townsend on her atmospheric evocation of the transforming effects of British settlement on the landscape of her region. They felt this depiction was firmly within the English pastoral tradition without being in any way over-drawn.

From Acorns to Oaks

by Heidi Townsend

In late autumn the air here has a distinctive chill. The hedgerows are heavy with hawthorn berries, the apple trees are losing their leaves. Around me there are fields of pasture, slowly recovering from the heat of summer, becoming green once again.

Ayrshire cows graze nearby, one of the many British cattle breeds in Australia, brought here generations ago by a settler who wished for the cows of his homeland. Down the road we sometimes see Scottish Highland cattle with their shaggy coats and aurochs-like horns, Herefords in small herds raised for beef, Dexters from Ireland and the unmistakable black Angus, growing fat on large fields of grass, the favourite beef breed of many Australians. The animals here are indistinguishable from their ancestors in the British Isles because of the care taken by our ancestors to keep the breeds true to type, as a memory of the animals of home, of the regional idiosyncrasies of the old country that many now take for granted. The Wessex saddleback pig is easily found here, but is now extinct in Britain.

Driving down the road there are English oak trees, strong and silent, which must be over two hundred years old, for this is an old part of the country, where the first British settlers arrived, acorns in hand, to plant these oaks. The earliest settlers may never have seen the shade of these trees, but their children, grandchildren, and many generations ahead can now look up at these trees and remember. To see them standing, proud and strong, brings me to reflect on the courage of those first settlers, who arrived in a harsh, unknown landscape, separated from their homeland by great distance, a long and dangerous sea voyage behind them.

Great tracts of land were claimed. Humble cottages quickly built. Wells were dug and water was hauled from the rivers – the lifeblood of the harsh summers to sustain life in the animals, bringing life to the first seeds sown and the first crops grown. Lessons were learnt about how to adapt our agricultural traditions to a different climate and different soils. Isolated farms, separated by vast distances from others would have to provide for themselves. There was no choice but to endure.

Old roads were formed, winding along the countryside. We can drive along them today and look upon the poplars, oaks and elms lining them. Sometimes we’ll pass by an old bridge, constructed by hand out of large stones, built to endure, superior to any bridge built today not only in strength but in appearance. We have an atmosphere of old Australia on these roads, of the best qualities of the British people brought to a new land, to forge ahead, to build something from nothing, to form something of their own in a vast wilderness.

Separated from the British Isles by many wild seas, detached from all lifelines and supplies there, the settlers fought against the odds to put down roots in this new land. Thousands of hawthorn hedges were laid, carefully tended, to form dense stands, protecting the stock from furious winds, and the crops from marauding animals, establishing boundaries between the new homeland and the wild lands beyond. These early settlers have a great strength we can all look up to and aspire to.

This strength continued as we suffered through all manner of strife over the years, through wars and the loss of many of our best. There was nothing we could do but forge ahead, and approach the unknown future with the same courage our ancestors had in the past, for their blood flows in our veins, their memories in our hearts.

Many of the settlers did not arrive of their own free will. Rather than dwelling on the tragedy involved, they got on with their lives, forged ahead, made this land their own. A kind of meritocracy emerged in some places, and those with the will to succeed were rewarded. Many Australians are descended from these convicts. Maybe it’s our tradition of the stiff upper lip, maybe it’s our common sense, but we don’t wail and whine about the tragedies of our ancestors, we forge ahead, their courage alive in our veins.

Autumn leaves and acorns drop from the old oak trees, the leaves cover the earth, decomposing to bring new life to the tree. Some acorns will grow into new trees, and in the distant future maybe they too will be great oaks to be revered. These oaks and their yearly cycle can be seen as a symbol of our British heritage. Planted as acorns in a distant land, against all odds, they continue to endure and inspire.

May their cycle continue. May new oaks spring from these great trees, to forge ahead in this land, with health, vigour, and ancestral strength in their roots.


2017’s winning entry is “Time for Pride (Again)” by Jade Hawkins of Geelong, Victoria. Jade’s encapsulation of the unity, vigour and optimism of the international Anglo-Celtic diaspora during the Victorian era is remarkable, given the tight word-limit of the BAC Award.

Time for Pride (Again)

by Jade Hawkins

Some of us are old enough to have had grandparents who were alive when the British Empire was at its peak. Back then it covered a fifth of the world’s land and embraced a quarter of the earth’s population.

British subjects, including Australians, New Zealanders and Canadians, were then protected by the most daunting naval fleet of the time, and were able to travel almost anywhere without “let or hindrance”.

On those sad occasions when war could not be avoided, the overwhelming power of the imperial navy often allowed conflict to be resolved with a minimum of suffering. For instance, the shortest war in recorded history took place on the 27th of August 1896, between Britain and Zanzibar. The British fleet under Rear-Admiral Rawson ordered the local Sultan to quit his palace and surrender. When he failed to obey, the fleet opened fire at 9.02 am. Just 38 minutes later, at 9.40 am, the war was over.

Military might was not the only reason for Britons, wherever they lived. to be proud. The Victorian era saw the flourishing of an astounding range of British genius in almost every field of human endeavour.

Many of the great statesmen of the period are still honoured by place- and street-names, so that it is difficult to travel in any English-speaking country without being reminded of Lords Melbourne, Palmerston, Beaconsfield, Russell, Salisbury or Gladstone. The deeds of these men may be largely forgotten today, but they were giants compared with the heads of state of modern English-speaking nations.

Literature also flourished during the reign of Queen Victoria. A list of great Victorian poets would only begin with Tennyson, Arnold, the Brownings, Swinburne, Hopkins, Housman and Kipling. Equally, among prose writers, there are few readers today who haven’t been touched by Darwin, Dickens, Thackeray, Carlyle, Ruskin, Bronte, Eliot or Hardy.

The visual arts of the Victorian period are only now coming to be appreciated again after decades of official neglect. Fairness to the sheer quantity and diversity of talent would make any list of outstanding painters and sculptors too long for the space available here.

Inventors, scientists, and engineers abounded, people whose pioneering achievements the world relies on today. Without the discoveries of Michael Faraday, Lord Kelvin, William Crookes, or Graham Bell, to name a few, our lives would be so much poorer.

It was a glittering period, larger than life, and yet constantly seeking improvement. For instance. while there were inequalities and injustices, many of the subsequent reform movements gained their strongest impetus about a hundred years ago. The Colonies and Dominions shared fully in the adventure of the time. All citizens of the Empire seemed to be marching forward together, and the centre didn’t always lead the way. Women, for instance, first received the vote in New Zealand.

The more backward regions under British administration also benefited from being part of the Empire. Even India enjoyed great progress due to internal peace and new roads, railways, canals, sanitation systems and so on.

Despite prejudice against this period during much of the 20th century, it should come as no surprise that when Queen Victoria proceeded in state to St Paul’s Cathedral for her Diamond Jubilee, she was escorted by the Premiers of all the chief colonies, and a magnificent array of British, Indian and Colonial troops. As Queen of a united people, her Jubilee was celebrated with unbounded joy throughout at least the Anglo-Celtic parts of the Empire.

Flash forward to 1996, when English writer Peter Hitchens compared the British today to a hospital patient with amnesia, having “suffered a collective blow on the head which has wiped out our understanding of who we are and what we are for.” He warned that “Unless we swiftly find a cure, then we will be adrift in a world only too ready to take advantage of our weakness.” 1 His answer was to cultivate a deeper knowledge of and pride in our past.

The malaise diagnosed by Hitchens seems to be common to English-speaking peoples, whether we live in the UK, Canada Australia, New Zealand, or even the US. Perhaps it is time for all people of British Isles origin, wherever we were born, to take a flesh look at the Victorian period – when we were united, proud, innovative, knew where we had come from and where we were heading, and gave so much to the rest of the world.

l. Peter Hitchens, ‘Why are we so ashamed of our glorious past?’ The international Express, 26/6/96


In 2018 the judges decided to reward two entries and thus there are two joint winners. We were impressed by Kate Downham’s pioneering exploration of the need for wilderness in the British soul. Equally, Ulf emphasises the proclivity of British people to create thriving societies in harsh and hostile environments. These differing views are complimentary, like the two sides of a coin.

The Need for Wilderness in British and Australian Tradition

by Kate Downham

Long before the days of high speed travel, satellite imagery and internet communication, the British Isles consisted mostly of small villages surrounded by wild lands, mystery, and the potential of danger. The concept of innangard and útangard were a strong part of Anglo-Saxon spiritual tradition and ethics, where the family farm or the village would be the physical innangard centre of their lives. Outside this innangard was the unknown, the mysterious ‘other’ that in a later period became the focus of many folk songs involving tinkers, gypsies, highwaymen, and wanderers.

These romantic visions of the outside world continued into the age of exploration. Stories emerged from the mysterious land in the south of the world, of black swans, hopping animals with pouches, and other strange creatures. Visions were related of endless spaces and dreamlike landscapes from the twisting branches of the eucalypt, the red soils of the arid inland, joyful wattle flowers, fertile rainforests, and beautiful beaches. Folk songs continued, warning any wrongdoers that they would end up in Van Diemen’s Land, far away from their friends and families.

With the urbanisation of England, as the old farm and cottage based economies began to be replaced by factories and globalisation, the healthy and varied lives of past workers were replaced by drudgery, becoming interchangeable cogs in factory machines. Life in the distant colonies, with fresh air and a wealth of opportunities, began to have enough appeal for many to leave their homelands in search of a healthier life.

Cities began to emerge in Australia, and with this came the yearning once again for mysterious lands beyond. When Banjo Patterson wrote of his ‘dingy little office’ in the ‘dusty, dirty city’ it could be any city in the world, but the semi-wild lands where Clancy of the Overflow is shearing and droving are uniquely Australian, where the Anglo soul is free to live outdoors once again.

In the early novels of Henry Williamson’s A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight  the character of Richard Maddison often regrets not having moved to Australia when he had the chance. His London life of mundane office work, polluted air and commuting on congested trains is contrasted with the appeal of farm work in Australia, where there was the opportunity for those in overpopulated Britain to return to the land once more.

Film Australia’s Life in Australia documentaries made to entice ‘ten pound poms’ to move to Australia in the 1960s depict a healthy Anglo society with work in familiar industries balanced by natural light, space, outdoor activities, relaxed lives and friendly faces. To watch these documentaries now can bring on a melancholy mood, as this idyllic Australia from fifty years ago seems to no longer exist. The average Australian on the street no longer appears to be the healthy and friendly face of the 1960s videos, but more akin to Banjo Patterson’s ‘pallid faces’ that ‘shoulder one another in their rush and nervous haste’.

‘Clancy of the Overflow’ was first published in 1889, but the description of the city reads as though it could have been written today. Could it be that ‘their eager eyes and greedy, and their stunted forms and weedy, For townsfolk have no time to grow, they have no time to waste’ has simply been what always happens when anyone become polluted with city air and the values of the merchants? Or is it only some of us who appreciate the bushland and countryside?

Later in Henry Williamson’s A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight Phillip Maddison, the son of Richard Maddison is given the chance to move to Australia. He imagines what it would be like to be in a strange land without the English wildlife and English soil and chooses to stay in England. For those of us who have grown up in Australia, the Antipodean flora and fauna has become familiar and homely, the wattle blooms and subtle changing hues of the forest throughout the year stir joy in the heart. The lively birdsongs are now familiar, yet the wild lands beyond may still bring to mind the forests of long ago, the mysterious ‘other’ that inspired many sentiments in folk songs.

In Tasmania it is possible to walk for an entire month without seeing any other person or sign of civilisation. Even in England, before the motorways began to weave their way through almost every part of the land, the wild lands beyond the village would only last so long before a new village was encountered. Australia might well give us the wild lands that British folk need for a revival of songs and art forms. An American writer once said ‘Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread’. Could it be that with the destruction of the wilderness, as politicians from all sides prize growth and money above all else, that something we deeply need and have travelled over oceans to find is being destroyed?

Australia: a British Legacy, a British Jewel

By Ulf

 In  1606 the Dutch ship Duyfken was the first recorded landing of Europeans on the Australian continent and island. This event would change the course of the continent’s history. Although Willem Janszoon, the captain of the Duyfken, only explored Western Australia, it would lead the way for the most important event in Australian history, the landing of the British in Sydney some 170 years later. This event which would shape the very destiny of Australia, born from the hardest of necessities and injustices in the British Isles, would result in a Nation-state unlike any other. Australia, although inhabited by Aborigines for supposedly anywhere between 40 thousand and 80 thousand years, had produced no homogeneous, unified, or productive societies. It wasn’t until James Cook landed in what is now known as Botany Bay in 1770 on the ship Endeavour that the fate of the Great Australian nation and people would begin to form. In this essay I will discuss the positive impacts of British culture on Australia and Australians.

The course of this nation would have been significantly different if the Dutch had decided to colonise this land mass. Instead, dissuaded by the harsh and unforgiving landscape that presented them in Western Australia, they decided it was too difficult and therefore not worth the trouble. However, given that the British empire was in desperate need for space for its overflowing prisons – and the inability for Great Britain to send their convicts to the Americas due to the American War of Independence – there was no other British option than the Great Island in the south. The combination of necessity and British stoicism led to the establishment of a colony in Australia. That same stoicism would shape the very psyche of Australians.

The tenacity that we are known for is a product of the British disposition. The Australian temperament, although moulded by the environment, is indistinguishable from that of the British.  It is this same temperament that has allowed the first British Australians to survive and even flourish in such a harsh environment as Australia. This is evident in the historical record. Faced with the long journey home, and lacking even a basic appreciation for opportunity, the Dutch decided to leave. The British saw the harsh landscape, knew it would be difficult, but persevered with tenacity and stoicism and seized on the potential opportunity and risk of settling Australia. The result is that Australia became a nation known the world around for not only its natural beauty but its thriving and high-function society.

The British – among other things such as innovation and technological excellence – are civilisation builders. The British empire at its height was one of the largest empires the world has known. But its military might wasn’t the truly amazing element of this great empire. It was its ability to engineer societies in places that previously had either no society or merely primitive civilisations. This notion is more important than is initially realised until analysed further. The idea that a people predisposed to building thriving societies in harsh environments, when some are not is an indicator of the type of values and morals that a people are made of. Not only morals, but the very fabric of their genetics.

Why are the British diaspora spread around the world and responsible for creating stable, productive societies while others are not? It is a question of genetics. The British pursuit for innovation is a result of their biological make up.

Australians cannot be removed from this, as we share the same genetics. Our culture, customs, food, language are all products of our genetic attachment to the British peoples. Our desire to strive through adversity as much as the above listed elements is linked to this common ancestry: a shared blood which In turn influences our perceptions, our goals, values and ethics and inevitably the outcome that we desire for our people.

The Great Australian nation could not have been if it were not for a Great Empire, the British Empire. But the Empire existed because a people acted with the same purpose towards a common goal. A product of this shared commonality, of which blood plays a pivotal role, is Australia. Through inconceivable hardship our pioneers endured and persisted and built what is arguably one of the most successful societies today, all of which only took 200 years to produce. This feat is a testament to those people, their values, their mentality and their ancestry; an ancestry I belong to, a nation I call home. That nation is Australia; that nation is the sum achievement of my people; that is a British legacy, a British jewel.


Posted in Featured


The British impact on Aussie music
© R. Furlan, 2012

The Swinging Sixties and British Musical DNA

swinging sixties

The Swinging Sixties was a British cultural phenomenon – influencing fashion, dance, art and, most significantly, music. The sounds were vibrant, creative, compelling. This creative musical source emanated from a combination of the harmonies and lyrics of the Beatles, the guttural throb of the Rolling Stones and the Animals, the blues wail of the Yardbirds and the pop beat of the Pacemakers. At its peak, the Swinging Sixties British sound comprised a creative cacophony that surged in an unstoppable musical wave.

The impact of this British upsurge on Australian music was immediate and profound. It inspired many recent young British migrants in Australia to form their own bands and play vibrant music. While the music was imbued with a British beat, the singers and groups were often themselves literally imbued with a British heartbeat.

Young British migrants formed groups like The Bee Gees, the Phantoms, the Easybeats, the Loved Ones, the Purple Hearts, the Twilights, the Master’s Apprentices; the Aztecs, AC/DC and Cold Chisel, launching themselves like a tidal wave onto Australian and international music shores. British born singers like Frank Ifield, Olivia Newton-John, John Farnham, Jon English, Mike Brady, Billy Thorpe and Jimmy Barnes first emerged in Australia and many experienced international success. Collectively, these singers and groups defined Australian music.

While the Australian music scene did have an appreciation of American music, there were fewer adaptations of American musical style by Australian bands. Australia had no bands or songs that imitated the Byrds or the Doors. Most Australian bands comprised either British-born singers or were fundamentally influenced by the more powerfully creative elements of British music.

This led to British born singers and groups developing a musical style that defined Australian popular music. From the most popular Australian song (the EasybeatsFriday on My Mind) to the most popular musical ‘anthems’ (Men at Work’s Down Under and Mike Brady’s Up There Cazaly) to the defining exposition of Australia’s most revered national song (Eric Bogles’ Waltzing Matilda, sung as a dirge), British born artists created the bedrock of Australian music.

Where did it all begin?

Skiffling to the Beat

Quarry Men

It started with skiffle.

The music was basic, easy to play and, best of all, the instruments were cheap and accessible. These factors were critical in encouraging the formation of musical groups.

The original skiffle groups developed in Britain in the 1950s. A typical group had a core of three performers – one playing acoustic guitar; another playing a tea-chest bass and a third playing a household washboard. Later, drums and banjos were introduced, providing a more polished sound and backing beat.

The music was a contemporary derivation of folk, with a rhythmic beat, original lyrics and a singing guitarist. As skiffle evolved, it became known as beat music.

Lonnie Donegan and Tommy Steele were two of the best known skiffle singers of that period. The Glasgow-born Donegan’s musical roots were in jazz. Donegan’s signature hit, My Old Man’s A Dustman, was a typical skiffle tune, adapted from the much cruder and ruder Liverpudlian song, My Old Man’s A Fireman on the Elder-Dempster Line.

It’s been estimated that there were upwards of five thousand skiffle groups in Britain in the late 1950s. The Quarrymen, eventually to transform into the Beatles, were one such group, playing at the Cavern Club, the cellar venue in Liverpool’s Mathew St near Albert Dock, where they garnered an impressive local fan club.

Then came the Merseybeat explosion.


Scousers on the River

Dusty Springfield

The Mersey River is Liverpool’s heartland, the journey’s end of Liverpool’s vibrant port. Sailors brought the latest American and European record releases to a city of eager kids who had just started to explore skiffle and beat music. This spurred a creative musical surge in the port city. Within a few years, skiffle had morphed into rhythm and blues and a unique sound was beginning to emerge – the Merseybeat.

Enhancing the beat sounds of their music, the Beatles popularised a songwriting technique based on their life experiences. Many of these songs were tinged with the rosy reflections of their Liverpool upbringing. Strawberry Fields, actually the location of a Salvation Army orphanage in Liverpool, was John Lennon’s ode to his Liverpool childhood. The B-side of this single, Penny Lane, was McCartney’s ode to his Liverpool childhood.

Memories of Liverpool also provided visual artistic inspiration. The collage album cover of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band depicted the features of Liverpool comedian Tommy Handley, the figure in a cloth cap next to Marilyn Monroe and Albert Stubbins, the legendary Liverpool footballer. Liverpool ‘mod’ fashion was as well known and as imitated as Carnaby St fashion. And the renowned Scouse wit and humour abounded. As John Lennon acknowledged “We came out of Liverpool and we reflected our background”. With the Beatles, however, Liverpool was a launching point.

By contrast, the upbeat bouncing music of Gerry & the Pacemakers, Billy J Kramer with the conspiratorial Do You want to know a secret? and the Searchers, with the jangling twin guitars of Needles and Pins and When you walk into the Room, made Liverpool a musical destination.

Gerard Marsden formed the Mars Bars in the early 1960s. He thought the chocolate company of the same name would see fit to sponsor the group but his music mustn’t have been to their taste as the company forced the band to change its name. Under its new incarnation, Gerry & the Pacemakers produced a steady output of high-energy, likeable pop songs with a particular Scouse flavour – I like It; Ferry Cross the Mersey– as well as signature sentimental songs like Don’t let the sun catch you crying and You’ll never walk alone. The iconic You’ll never walk alone (1963) was later adopted by the Liverpool FC as the club anthem.

Another Liverpudlian singer, Cilla Black (born Priscilla White) recorded her biggest hit with Anyone who had a heart in 1964, another booming Mersey sound single. The first song Black recorded, however, was a McCartney penned ballad – Love of the Loved, the result of a friendship developed in the Cavern Club, where both Black and the Beatles sang in the 1961-1963 period.

The language of the Liverpool music scene became embedded in popular culture – Scouse terms such as “fab”, and “gear” for clothes, “grotty” for dirty/unappealing; “shag” for the proverbial; and “y’know” as a catch-all phrase infiltrated and permanently subverted the Queen’s English.

Cosmopolitan London produced the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, the Who, Cream; Manchester produced Herman’s Hermits; Newcastle produced The Animals and Belfast produced Them (Gloria) and the unique vocals of Van Morrison. None of these cities, however, fused musical and cultural attributes to the same extent as Liverpool.

It was inevitable that Liverpool groups and singers were also fashion trend-setters – from the Beatles’ hairstyles to the make-up of Dusty Springfield. It was also no coincidence that Lynne Randell, the Liverpool-born Australian singer, typified and popularised the desirable fashion look for Australian female teenagers.


Dedicated Followers of Fashion

Carnaby Street

Music spawned fashion in a broader cultural context – clothes; hairstyles; musical styles; innovations in eastern mysticism and the sexual/drug liberated atmosphere of swinging London.

The early sixties generation who were part of the burgeoning music scene in England were largely born in the mid to late 1940s. In parts of Britain, they were the first generation to experience the affluence of full employment and enjoyed relatively high earnings in localised economic booms (eg in London and Liverpool). The 1960s also provided an opportunity for young people to participate in an extended adolescence with greater scope for avenues of higher education. The permeation of mass media including TV, radio and music-oriented press publications provided the publicity and popularity that could generate a following and sustain a musical wave.

Discos and dance venues like the Mecca, the Hammersmith Palais, the Marquee, the Flamingo, the Ramjam and the Scene Club, where the Rolling Stones first played, became the haunts and breeding ground of beat music.

The era conspired with the youthful generation of music-influenced mods, attuned to creative innovations in fashion and in musical style. With the emergence of the Beatles and a myriad of groups, the Swinging Sixties took hold.

The 1960s were a decade of change & fashion styles. Britain emerged at that time as a musical crucible for the changing values and fashions of the age.

The Sixties celebrated youth (David Bailey’s fashion photos; Carnaby St clothes) and rebellion against authority and interest in revolution. The drab grey world of postwar Britain was being rapidly overwhelmed by fashion conscious youth wearing startling fashion colours and listening to exciting musical groups.

John Stephens, a Glaswegian who defined London fashion style, set up a clothes shop in Carnaby St. With blaring contemporary beat music, kaleidoscopic window displays and garment racks that spilled onto the outdoor pavement, fashion now ruled the streets. Shopping for clothes became a lifestyle experience and the King’s Road in Chelsea and London boutiques like Biba catered for a cashed-up young ‘mod’ crowd.

Although revolution was manifested not in London but in the 1968 Paris riots – “aux barricades! L’imagination au pouvoir!” – a revolutionary mood of rebellion infused British fashion and art and music. The period spawned an interest in the esoteric – ranging from eastern religions (Maharishi Yogi; Hare Krishna) to diverse and innovative musical forms (eg Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells; the use of sitars by the Beatles).

Only in Britain, however, and most importantly in the vibrant cities of London & Liverpool, was the expressive youthful spirit of the age fully embraced and enlivened in a cultural sense. Artists became icons and music became the preferred medium of the youth message.

The Mod Beat

The Who

The music was full of vitality (Gerry & the Pacemakers) and experimentation (eg the use of harmonica by Lennon in the Beatles’ Love me Do).

Sometimes the music had a hard edge, manifested most overtly in the Animals, the tough Tyneside group whose origins were in Newcastle’s Downbeat Club. The Animals’ Eric Burdon’s deep gravelly vocals wailed of lost youth in House of the Rising Sun (1964) and voiced the despair of dead-end futures in We Gotta Get out of this Place. The Rolling Stones played on these same themes with a more overt sexual accent in Satisfaction and a more nihilistic tone in Paint it Black.

The Who’s anthemic My Generation (1965) epitomised youthful energy, urgency and passion in musical form. The song made a virtue of Roger Daltrey’s stuttering speech impediment. Pete Townsend’s classic guitar feedback and Keith Moon’s frantic drumming created the chaotic environment that gave resonance to the refrain “Hope I die before I get old”.

The music had a mellower but nonetheless powerful sound. Dusty Springfield (Mary O’Brien), with her brother Tom, was originally a member of a folk-rock fusion band, the Springfields. Their song Silver Threads and Golden Needles was a big hit in 1964. Tom Springfield’s compositions were later to propel the Seekers to international prominence.

As a solo artist, Dusty rode the love-tragic railway with I only want to be with you (1964) and You Don’t have to say you love me (1966). She also represented the archetypal fashion icon of the period – heavily lacquered hairstyle; diaphanous silk gowns; Panda-style dark eye make-up. Although Dusty had a dramatic voice with natural power and range, she amplified her vocal attributes by recording her biggest hit in the stairwell of a seven-storey circular staircase to achieve a haunting echo effect.

When they launched themselves nationally in 1963 as the Beatles, the fab four transformed the British music scene. She Loves You, their debut single, sold over 1 million records. It boasted an energetic working class refrain (yeah yeah yeah) and its simple lyrics were part of everyday language. Twist and Shout, their EP release, with a rawer rock sound, sold over 250,000 copies. They spawned early imitators in Australia such as The Invaders, whose hit single She’s A Mod included the already famous “yeah yeah yeah” refrain.

The Beatles dominated the charts and were extremely adept at saturating the media with their music. BBC radio produced a 15 week program Pop Go the Beatles; ABC TV screened Lucky Stars, featuring the Beatles; Beat Monthly, a national music magazine, gave prominence to the Beatles and other Liverpool groups. With their Scouse humour and witty one-liners, the Beatles were a media publicity manager’s dream. While there was no commercial radio in the UK, with the exception of pirate radio stations like Radio Caroline and Radio Atlantic, the Beatles’ domination of the BBC airwaves provided unstoppable musical and popular momentum.

Previously, soloists with a backing band often singing American hits had dominated the music scene– eg Cliff Richard, backed by the Shadows. After the popularity of the Beatles and the emergence of groups as the new form of musical paradigm, soloists declined and groups began writing their own music and lyrics. This music was often self-composed, a collaborative effort and expressed characteristics of the group’s origins.

Pills & Spills

Look for the girl

The 60s also inaugurated the era of sexual liberation. Contraceptives were readily available; the Pill made sex safe for girls. If the mood was right, your luck was in. Importantly, the music established the mood.

The easy availability of drugs was also a feature of the times. “We were all pillheads” confessed The Who’s Roger Daltrey. Uppers or pep pills bred a hyped-up energy that made some people go “over the top”. Daltrey noted the effects on his colleagues: “We were probably the most aggressive group that’s ever happened in England.” The Who’s swirling arms and a swirling sound attested to this, with Peter Townsend’s shrill guitar soaring over the pounding backbeat of Keith Moon’s double-bass drumkit with its forest of clanging cymbals. The Who’s musical mayhem resulted in the staged destruction of instruments, as infamous as Keith Moon’s party trick of setting fire to hotel mattresses and launching these smouldering items from hotel windows into swimming pools or onto unsuspecting pedestrians below.

Drugs later saturated the psychedelic music scene. From Cream’s In A White Room and The Story of Brave Ulysses to the Beatles’ Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, the vibes were drug-soaked, hip and ultra-cool.

Surging Sounds in SummerLand

Bring out a Briton

These musical influences were to rapidly permeate the Australian cultural fabric and dominate popular music.

Song lyrics spread ideas and values. The predominance of the musical beat gave focus and profoundly influenced the emerging Aussie music scene.

While the British sound was influential in Australia, the contribution of British-born artists was seminal.

In the early 1960s, more than 1 million British migrants arrived in Australia – known as the land of perpetual summer – on “assisted passages”. Australia was undergoing reconstruction and was keen to attract working class migrants. Known as 10-Pound tourists, many families included young lads who had grown up in the nascent swinging period of the British music scene and whose influences gave rise to a unique version of Aussie music. This population also provided an enthusiastic base of fans who appreciated the music of the Beatles and the Stones and who supported local music that mined similar musical veins.

Any British migrants not sponsored by families or by employers were placed in migrant hostels, which were usually converted wartime bases and camps. Tragically, 25% of British people allocated to these hostels returned home. Those that remained, however, provided raw musical talent. What’s more, that nascent talent was young, energetic, creative and concentrated in specific locations – Elizabeth in Adelaide; Villawood in Sydney; Nunawading in Melbourne. They were to burst onto an Australian cultural environment that provided limitless opportunity.

The Beatles visit to Australia in 1964 sparked Beatlemania. In 1964, when they toured Australia, the Beatles were able to attract a crowd of 300,000 in Adelaide who lined the 10-mile route from the airport to Adelaide City to see them. Crowds of 250,000 greeted them in Melbourne.

At the time, the Beatles had an incredible 14 singles in the US top 100.

Their influence in Australia was both immediate and profound. The Beatles’ success and whirlwind tour of Australia in 1964 launched a massive upheaval in Aussie music. Groups composed often of British kids were influenced by the British beat and gave voice and energy to new anthems of rock that re-invigorated Aussie music.

Prior to the arrival of the Beatles, Melbourne dances featured music that comprised about 50% traditional jazz and 50% rock. After the Beatles’ visit, almost no dances featured jazz music. A new beat had taken over. Other British groups also toured Australia at that time, further embedding the British musical influence and inspiring imitators. 1964 onward saw a host of young British and Australian born singers, guitarists and drummers form bands to play the same style (some even tried to sound the same) as their idols. The best of these bands soared to the top of the Aussie music spire.

The British cultural music invasion took a firm hold of the Australian music public and alternatives were no longer desirable or possible.


Spicks and Specks – British-born Solo singers & Groups

Bee Gees

Before the 1960s, Slim Dusty, Johnny O’Keefe and Col Joye dominated popular music in Australia. Apart from the Wild One’s rock style, the music was relatively sedate, boring and predictable. As British-born artists began to emerge, things started to change. At first, the change was barely noticeable.

Then, a growing number of British-born singers started to put their stamp on Aussie music.

The attractive looks and palpably fresh youthfulness of many of these artists were made-to-order features for the emerging television market. While the initial hook was their looks, it was their singing style that generated excitement.

Frank Ifield, born in Coventry, migrated to Australia with his family while still a lad. Aged 21, he recorded Whiplash in 1957, a song about the 1851 goldrush. In 1962, his yodelling vocals launched I Remember You, which sold over 1 million records and was the first international hit by an Australian artist. He relocated to the UK on this wave of success and for several years, headlining the charts there. He was the first singer to achieve three consecutive number 1 hits in Britain with I Remember You, Lovesick Blues (1962) and Wayward Wind (1963). The arrival of the Beatles wave, however, overwhelmed traditional musical styles and gradually consigned his music to the cabaret circuit.

Bryan Davies at seventeen became the perennially smiling compere of the Bryan Davies TV show, featuring popular music. A teen idol, he headed the charts with Dream Girl in 1961. Influenced by the Beatles, his later songs included Night and Day and I’m Gonna Make you Cry.

Lynne Randell (Randall) from Liverpool was a Go!! Show TV regular and typified the Swinging London style in Oz. Allan Field, an English comedian, who compered the Beatles’s 1964 tour of Oz, hosted the Go!! Show, dedicated to pop music.

A curvy sixteen-year-old, Randell wore backless dresses, striped tops and bell-bottom pants, while dancing and singing Going out of My Head 1966 with gusto. She had dollybird looks, which earned her the admiring title of Australia’s ‘Miss Mod’. In a successful example of exporting coals to Newcastle, she performed at the legendary Cavern Club in her hometown Liverpool. She had a huge hit with Ciao Baby in 1967 and supported the US group The Monkees on their 1967 American tour, eventually settling in the US before returning to Melbourne and calling it a day.

Barry Stanton supported the wildest and best of the original Australian rock stars, Johnny O’Keefe, and was part of the tour that almost ended O’Keefe’s life when he crashed his Belvedere. Stanton appeared regularly on O’Keefe’s TV show Sing, Sing, Sing and his best known hit was Beggin’ on my Knees (1961). He was an early victim of the decline in popularity of solo singers.

Buddy England (Ian Kilgower) was another Go!! Show regular, belting out hits like There Goes My Baby 1966 and What a Wonderful World 1969. He later became the lead singer of the Mixtures and in the 1977 replaced Bruce Woodley in the Seekers.

Jon English was the lead vocalist with the Sebastian Hardie group, a Sydney suburban dance band in 1968. The band backed Johnny O’Keefe in 1969 before English launched a solo career in a range of stage musicals, most famously as Judas in the Australian production of Jesus Christ Superstar, which ran from 1972 to 1974. He also had several record hits with Hollywood Seven 1976 and Turn the Page 1975. He is still appearing in stage musicals including Gilbert & Sullivan.

The Bee Gees were primarily vocalists, whose harmonies dominated the songs. Born in Douglas on the Isle of Man, to Barbara, a singer, and Hughie, a band leader, Barry, Robin & Maurice Gibb emerged after a long musical grounding in Brisbane, where they had a regular singing gig at the Redcliffe Speedway. Originally the brothers sang skiffle in the style of Tommy Steele, later moving to a harmonic style to record Spicks & Specks in 1966, which first featured their marvellous melodies and vocal harmonies. Barry Gibb, the lead singer, specialised in writing love ballads with a heavy interplay of piano and horns and the backing sound of his brothers’ heartbreaking male harmonies.

Following their first Aussie hit, the Bee Gees travelled on the Fairsky to London. From being expatriate Britons in Australia, they returned to England in 1967, ironically to be managed by an expatriate Australian, Robert Stigwood. With the extensive falsetto range of the ferret-faced Robin, the Gibb brothers produced To Love Somebody in 1967, I’ve Got to Get a Message to You in 1968 and Lonely Days 1970.

The Gibb brothers must have enjoyed the sublime taste of whisky or porridge or both as Barry Gibb married Linda, a Miss Edinburgh of 1967 and Maurice Gibb married Lulu, a Scots-born British pop star in 1969. The Bee Gees proceeded to a successful International career in the 1970s following the popularity of their three-part harmony ‘disco” songs in the 1978 movie Saturday Night Fever (Stayin Alive and Night Fever).

Barry Gibb continued to write hit songs for other artists, including Islands in the Stream, a Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton duet that became the most successful country song ever recorded.

Judith Durham, a jazz singer, defined The Seekers with her pure soaring voice. With Keith Potger, the English-born bassist, the Seekers had a debut hit with Waltzing Matilda. After travelling to London via a world cruise on the Sitmar line, the Seekers found an ideal songwriter in Tom Springfield whose song I’ll Never Find Another You sold nearly 2 million records, followed by A World of Our Own in 1965. Other Springfield compositions The Carnival is Over 1965 and Georgy Girl 1967 maintained the group’s momentum in Britain. Their album Best of the Seekers supplanted the Beatles self-titled album (the white album) in 1968.

Olivia Newton-John was born into an academic family in Cambridge. Her music career began as a folk singer in Melbourne until she won first prize in a talent quest on Johnny O’Keefe’s Sing Sing Sing television show. The prize was a trip to England, where she appeared on BBC TV, eventually supporting Cliff Richard on tours of Europe. Her ballad style was appealing and very successful. In 1971, she released If Not For You and Banks of the Ohio from her self-titled debut album, produced by her fiancee and Shadows’ band member, Bruce Welch.

In 1972, she issued a lilting version of George Harrison’s What Is Life? A ballad co-composed by Peter Allen, I Honestly Love You became a hit in the US in 1974 and she relocated to California, where she and Pat Carroll, her Australian singing partner in Britain, established a fashion chain, Koala Blue.

Newton-John’s greatest hits emerged from her role in the film Grease. You’re the One that I Want, written by John Farrar, previously of Melbourne band The Strangers and the British group, the Shadows, Hopelessly Devoted to You and Summer Nights were all international hits in 1978.

John (Johnny) Farnham was born in Dagenham, England. While some may proffer that the name of his birthplace characterised his style, he nonetheless had a string of hits in Australia the late sixties of which Sadie 1967, One 1969 and Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head 1969 are the most well remembered. Another victim of the declining solo singer popularity, he went from King of Pop to a cabaret/RSL venue circuit singer in the 1970s. He subsequently joined the Little River Band as lead singer following the departure of Glenn Shorrock in 1982. He revived his solo career in 1986 with the album Whispering Jack and the single You’re The Voice, a song co-composed by Chris Thompson of the Manfred Mann Earth Band and Keith Reid of Procul Harum. He had an international hit with the album Chain Reaction and the single Burn For You in 1990. His lasting legacy to the Aussie music industry, however, was the perpetual farewell tour (for absolutely last time ever…).

A Beat Like a Thunderclap

The Atlantics

The Atlantics, Sydney’s premier group in the early 1960s, were heavily influenced by the Shadows.

The Shadows were a predominantly instrumental British group (Apache), who also formed the backing band for Cliff Richard. The band’s leading lights were Hank Marvin (Brian Rankin, from Newcastle) and Bruce Welch (Bruce Cripps from Sussex). Bruce Welch later was engaged to Olivia Newton-John, whose early British records he produced. In the early 1970s, John Farrar joined the group. He was later to marry Pat Carroll, Olivia’s singing partner, and composed a number of Newton-John’s greatest hits. Hank Marvin eventually migrated to Australia in the 1980s, producing Aussie music from his new home in Newcastle, Australia.

The Atlantics’ duelling twanging guitars and thundering backbeats on Bombora and The Crusher (1963) from their Now It’s Stompin’ Time album became surf anthems. They pioneered many guitar techniques later made popular by Jimi Hendrix. The Atlantics popularised The Stomp dance style at Surf City in King’s Cross. An original Aussie dance style, the Stomp dominated the music scene for a brief 18-month period: the basic moves required two thumps with the right foot, two thumps with the left and a lot of leaping about with hands behind one’s back.

Colin Cook, born to British parents in the Indian sub-continent in Bangladesh, subsequently became the lead singer with the Thunderbirds. Peter Robinson was another British-born band member. The Thunderbirds was the first distinctive Australian rock and roll band. Cook, the lead singer, was an early teenage idol in Australia, crooning Crying Over You and Sea of Love and producing his biggest hit Heart in 1964. He returned to Britain in the late 1960s, performing in the stage musicals Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar.

Betty McQuade, the Scots-born singer, used the Thunderbirds as her backing band. As a solo performer, her most memorable hits were Midnight Bus, originally recorded in 1961 and re-recorded in 1965 and Blue Train in 1966. Angst-ridden slow blues tunes, however, proved to be a bus to nowhere as she didn’t trouble the music charts afterward.

Tony Worsley was the lead singer of the Fabulous Blue Jays, a Sydney group. Something’s Got a Hold on Me became their biggest hit although their lasting claim to fame was supporting the Kinks and Manfred Mann in their joint tour of Australia.

Derek Fitton formed Derek’s Accent in 1966 in Sydney. Comprising five teenage British migrants, the group played beat pop – Derek’s accent was musical as well as literal. Ain’t Got No Feeling was their one hit.

The Throb, a Sydney rhythm & blues band, mirrored the Easybeats in composition. John Bell & Denny Burgess were the British element. Their version of Fortune Teller was issued in Australia prior to the Rolling Stones single and did well. The Throb’s other hit was a rock version of the folk song Black is the colour (“of my true love’s hair”). Bassist Bob Daisley later played with Ozzy Osbourne of Black Sabbath fame.

An instrumental group also influenced by the Shadows, the Melbourne-based Phantoms created Stampede in 1962 and The Rumble in 1963. They comprised four young British boys from the Nunawading migrant hostel – Alan “Ollie” Fenton, Dave Lincoln, Gene Taylor and Pete Watson. Watson, from South London, recruited a new lead guitarist, a young Mike Brady, a fellow south Londoner from Croydon, who had settled at Fishermen’s Bend migrant hostel. The Phantoms established a national profile when they supported the Beatles during their 1964 tour of Australia.

Later, Mike Brady, Pete Watson and a fellow Brit, Danny Finley formed MPD Ltd, which had a meteoric rise and fall. Fuelled by appearances on the Go!! Show, Little Boy Sad 1965 became the group’s first hit. A popular band with an energetic stage show, MPD played in Yardbirds style. The group played one concert with the Easybeats and the Fabulous Blue Jays at Brisbane’s Festival Hall that famously ended in a complete riot, with female fans going berserk on stage. While the band produced a further hit with Lonely Boy in 1966, the group soon folded and Mike Brady went on to a successful solo career.

Mike Furber, the British lead singer of the Bowery Boys started the beat style in Melbourne with Just a Poor Boy in 1965 and You Stole My Love in 1966. His last successful single was the Vanda & Young penned I’m On Fire in 1969. After a period of national service, Furber tragically committed suicide.


Villawood Dreaming – Friday on My Mind

The Eastbeats

The Easybeats, formed at Villawood Migrant Hostel in the south-western area of Sydney in 1965, comprised an amalgam of British and Dutch musicians whose style later came to define Australian music.

The precocious fifteen-year-old lead singer was Stevie Wright from Leeds

The other Easybeats group members were George Young (Scotland); Gordon ‘Snowy’ Fleet, a drummer from Liverpool; and Johannes Vandenberg (Harry Vanda) and Dick Diamonde, two Dutch guitarists. Harry Vanda had before migrating to Australia played with a Dutch group strongly influenced by the Shadows. The Easybeats originally played at the Beatle Village club in Sydney.

Snowy Fleet, from the style capital Liverpool, dressed the band in the height of current Liverpudlian fashion, with the band wearing grouse matching suits. Snowy also proposed the band’s memorable Easybeats name.

The band featured a crescendo of ascending duelling guitars backed by a strong rhythm beat and the lilting but powerful voice of Wright.

The Wright/Young songwriting team spurred the group to fame with She’s So Fine (1966) and Sorry (1966). Vanda and Young collaborated for two of the epic songs of Aussie rock – Wedding Ring 1965 and Friday on My Mind (1966), recently voted the best Aussie song of the twentieth century. As Harry Vanda reminisced, Friday on My Mind was inspired by the bands’ common Villawood experiences: “Being hostel boys, that’s what you dream about all week – Friday”. The iconic Aussie single was – perhaps appropriately – recorded in the UK in the famous Abbey Road Studios. The song sold in excess of one million copies internationally and is the most recognisable song of the 1960s Aussie music scene.

The Easybeats supported the Rolling Stones on their European tour in late 1966 and in 1967, supported Gene Pitney on his US tour. The band produced two further small scale singles The Music Goes Round My Head and a rock number, Good Times in 1968 before eventually breaking up in 1969.

Stevie Wright went on to take the lead role in one of Australia’s most popular stage musicals, Jesus Christ Superstar, in 1971. As a solo artist, he sang the brilliant Evie Parts 1, 2 & 3 (1974). This Vanda/Young produced masterpiece comprised 11 minutes and 24 seconds of soaring vocals and ebullient instrumentals and was the longest single to feature on Australian record charts in a period when the traditional radio airtime for a song was between 3 and 4 minutes.

Vanda and Young also wrote and produced a string of hits for other Aussie recording artists, starting with Johnny Young’s song Step Back (1966) and ranging through to Stevie Wright’s Evie (1974). Under the stage-name ‘Flash and the Pan’, they also produced a pop hit Hey St Peter in 1977 followed by Down Among the Dead Men in 1978. Both songs were synthesisers driven, with spoken words backed by a shouted chorus.

The Groop had a Shadows-inspired beat and featured Peter Bruce, a former member of the skiffle-period British band, the Dave Clark Five. The Groop’s hits included I’m Satisfied 1966 and Woman You’re Breaking Me 1967. The band won Hoadley’s National Battle of the Sounds in 1967, winning the traditional ship cruise to London. While their sojourn was unsuccessful they returned to Australia in 1968 to record Such a Lovely Way in 1968, a tune heavily influenced by Beatles’ compositions.

Before the band wound up, The Groop provided the instrumental backing to Russell Morris’ psychedelic classic The Real Thing in 1969. This six-minute collage of sounds included an excerpt of one of Hitler’s speeches, counterpointing the Groop’s powerful instrumental sound. Two band members, Brian Cadd and Don Mudie later joined Glenn Shorrock, formerly of the Twilights, in Axiom.

Yonder She’s Walking!

The Loved Ones

1966 was the year of Revolver (Beatles) and Paint it Black (Rolling Stones). In the US, by contrast, it was the year of Good Vibrations (Beach Boys).

It was clear from the music popularly being played and listened to throughout Australia which musical influence held sway in the land down under.

In addition to groups with British-born singers or band members, British music was hugely influential in the Aussie music scene. The Missing Links (Wild About You 1965), an innovative although short-lived band, modelled themselves on The Who. Using powerful amplifiers and strong guitar feedback sounds, their performances also involved smashing guitars and drums on stage. In a bizarre innovation, they recorded one song backwards with the back-to-front title “H’Tuom Tuhs”. Amazingly, the song was popular although the lyrics were, understandably, indecipherable.

Melbourne and Sydney rapidly became the epicentres of the burgeoning music scene in Australia. Melbourne had discotheques like Sebastian’s in Spring St; the Thumpin’ Tum in Little LaTrobe St; the Biting Eye, Prince Albert’s, The Catcher in South Melbourne and an endless range of suburban dances. The Melbourne music scene attracted the best interstate bands – the Twilights and the Masters’ Apprentices from Adelaide; the Valentines from Perth; the Purple Hearts from Brisbane and Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs from Sydney.

A small coterie of avant-garde jazz players also appreciated the potential of the British sound and helped shape Australian rhythm and blues style.

Formed from the Red Onion Jazz Band and the Wild Cherries, The Loved Ones performed rhythm and blues with a rock direction. While an original sound, attributable to the unique musicianship of the group, the Beatles and the broader Merseybeat style unarguably influenced their sound.

The Loved Ones with the inimitable Gerry Humphreys, the eccentric lead singer with a magnificent jazz-infused voice, gave birth to unique expositions of Aussie music. Their biggest hit, The Loved One (1966), was a chord progression of vocals supported by intensifying organ and guitar. The song featured a unique double rhythm, cleverly established by handclapping which dominated the two-beat pattern, developing a strong atmosphere of excitement until the release of Gerry’s opening soaring blues-style yell: “Yonder she’s walking!”

The band’s album, Magic Box, is reputedly the only Aussie record of the 1960s to remain continuously in print. Everlovin’ Man (1966) and Sad Dark Eyes (1967) were the group’s other classic single releases. An EP, Blueberry Hill, was released in late 1966. Tragically, the band split after 18 months.

Gerry Humphreys went on to form Gerry & the Joy Band and produced a popular hit Rave On in 1972 followed by Ongo Bongo, a single that had Ross Wilson and Ross Hannaford of Daddy Cool playing in support. Humphreys compered the first Sunbury Festival in 1972, before returning to London in 1977, where he dropped out of the music scene for a decade.

INXS later recorded a version of The Loved One in 1982, re-released on their platinum-selling Kick album in 1988. Based on the re-emergence of popular acclaim for this musical style, Gerry & The Loved Ones briefly re-formed and toured Australia in 1988, producing a live album Live on Blueberry Hill in 1988. Gerry died in 2005, aged only 62.

Sex, Thugs, Rock n Roll

Billy Thorpe

The Purple Hearts, a name derived from the speed tablets (pep pills) preferred by the English mods of the sixties, comprised Brits Mick Hadley, lead singer, and Bob Dames, a bass player, who had first hand experience of the London blues scene, and Scots-born Fred Pickard. The band also featured a young Queenslander, John Baslington ‘Barry’ Lyde, later to become famous as Lobby Loyde. Another English guitarist Tony Cahill joined the group in 1966; he eventually replaced Snowy Fleet in the Easybeats line-up in 1968.

The Purple Hearts sang uncompromising rhythm and blues. Founded in Brisbane they initially relocated to Sydney before moving to the active Melbourne music scene in early 1966. Their first single in 1964 was Long Legged Baby; the B-side was Them’s Gloria. They enjoyed two further hits in 1966, Of Hopes and Dreams and Tombstones and Early in the Morning, before the band split in 1967.

Lobby joined the one-time jazz band, Wild Cherries in 1967 and produced experimental psychedelic music. In 1968, Loyde joined the Aztecs, performing heavy rock numbers. With Billy Thorpe also on guitar, the Aztecs established a reputation as the wildest rock band in Oz. Loyde later formed the Coloured Balls, a sharpie proto-skinhead band and joined Rose Tattoo in 1979. Known as the master of amplified guitar feedback, Loyde has been Australia’s most famous guitar hero for a generation of kids.

Ian McCausland, a Scots-born guitarist, played with Ray Hoff and the Offbeats, some of whose members later joined the Aztecs.

Manchester-born Billy Thorpe inaugurated the hands-behind the back dancing style, which mirrored the style of the English swinging beat singers. Like the fashionable Mods, the original Aztecs wore satin shirts, skin-tight striped pants and mops of long hair. Tony Barber from Norwich emigrated from Britain to Australia as a young man on the Fairstar and subsequently joined the Aztecs. Like many British migrants with musical inclinations, Barber maintained a strong link with English fashions, including musical developments. His brother in England sent him a copy of the Rolling Stones EP that included a cover of Poison Ivy. Barber re-arranged the song and it became the first hit single for the Aztecs.

In addition to Poison Ivy, the Aztecs had a huge hit with Over the Rainbow (1965), a mellower ballad piece that contrasted with their later heavier rock period that gave birth to CC Rider. The Aztecs played at Surf City in the Cross, which accommodated 3000 stomping music lovers and the band’s popularity led to Thorpe compering a pop music TV show, It’s All Happening in 1966. Thorpe’s book Sex, Thugs, Rock N Roll provides a worm’s eye view of the lifestyle and the music of this period in Sydney.

In a performance that attained legendary status, Thorpe and the Aztecs performed at the Bondi Lifesaving Club in Sydney. With the volume at full blast, the group performed their hits in the upstairs club lounge, which also featured a massive tropical fish tank. By the time the group had finished their set, all the fish had gone belly up in the tank, killed by the thumping vibrations of their amplifiers. In recognition of this performance, for a time the group became known as “Billy Killed the Fish” but the name never quite stuck. Moving into the realms of pub rock, the Aztecs performed in brick sheds filled to the rafters with screaming drunken fans (and nowhere near aquarium fish).

On the Australia Day weekend of 1972, at a farm near Diggers’ Rest, Billy Thorpe and the New Aztecs, strutting a hard rock line, headlined the Sunbury Rock Festival. They performed an 18 minute rendition of Ooh Poo Pa Doo during which, coining a slogan for his generation, Thorpie urged the crowd to ‘Suck more Piss’. Thorpie’s autobiographical song Most People I know (think that I’m Crazy) epitomised the evolution of the Aztec sound.

The Beatletown Push – Adelaide Bands of the 1960s

The Masters Apprentices

The working class northern Adelaide suburbs of Elizabeth and Salisbury were situated close to the car plants and industrial factories of Adelaide. Many British families settled there. It was no coincidence that Adelaide gave rise to a disproportionate number of great rock bands in the 1960s. Receptive to the British music trends, the young migrants of Adelaide possessed the same rhythm, the same sense of style and the same musical DNA as their swinging London brothers. The Master’s Apprentices, the Twilights, the Mixtures and Zoot all originated in Elizabeth. In homage to the British settlement and the crop of musical groups which that environment spawned, Elizabeth became known locally as Beatletown.

Heavily influenced by the musical style of the Beatles, the Zoot, with John D’Arcy on lead guitar, produced an appealing layered harder rock version of Eleanor Rigby. Their pink flouncy outfits, however, were an eyesore and an affront to good taste and they were overshadowed by the harder playing Master’s Apprentices, their hometown rivals.

Adelaide gave rise to the Master’s Apprentices, formerly the Mustangs, a Shadows-influenced instrumental band. Jim Keays, Scottish-born, formed the Masters at Salisbury Migrant Hostel with Colin Burgess, brother of Denny Burgess of the Throb. The group generated a string of hits starting with Undecided in 1967, a rocking classic written by guitarists Mick Bower and Rick Harrison and influenced by the Rolling Stones, Yardbirds and Animals blues-rock sound. Later came the psychedelic Living in a Child’s Dream in 1967, influenced by the Beatles’ Sergeant Peppers’ album and voted song of the year by the Aussie music bible, Go Set.

After running second to the Groop in Hoadley’s National Battle of the Sounds in 1968, the Masters also received boat tickets to London. They eventually went to London in 1970 and they recorded the evocative Because I Love You as part of their Choice Cuts album in 1971 in one of Abbey Road’s studios while John Lennon was recording Working Class Hero in studio 1. Further hits included Turn Up Your Radio, still touted as an Aussie rock classic.

Keays went on to a successful solo career, releasing an album, Boy from the Stars in 1974. In a curious sidelight, Keays also sang on Monster Planet, an album produced by one of Australia’s few electronic bands, Cybotron in 1975.

The Twilights with Glenn Shorrock, another Elizabethan denizen, as lead singer produced eight pop hits, including Needle in a Haystack and Baby let me take you home. Sporting mod haircuts in imitation of the Small Faces, they tried to replicate the Beatles guitar sound, and came closest on Cathy Come Home. Shorrock later became lead singer of newly formed Axiom (Little Ray of Sunshine). Terry Britten, the group’s lead guitarist, later composed Devil Woman for Cliff Richard and What’s Love Got To do with It for Tina Turner.

The Twilights won the Hoadley’s Battle of the Sounds competition and went to London. Winning this competition was often the death-knell for the winning band. The winners won a trip to London but had to play on the Sitmar cruise ship; the bands received no support once they arrived and often found it impossible to get playing gigs or production support to make records. Most winning bands that did travel to London broke up soon after. The Twilights started the trend.

The Mixtures comprised Idris Jones as lead singer, who moved in and out of the group, interchanging lead vocals with fellow British singer, Buddy England. The Mixtures’ masterful pop of In the Summertime coincided with the 1970 radio ban by Australian radio stations of major labels and overseas records due to a royalty payment dispute. This allowed Aussie versions of overseas songs like In the Summertime to blossom. The memorable Pushbike Song – “Riding along on my pushbike, honey”- followed in 1971, which secured a top ten billing on the British music charts. Following this success the band travelled to London in 1971, releasing Captain Zero in 1972, before succumbing to the disease that befell most Aussie groups – failure and disillusion in London.

Barrie McAskill, the Scots-born singer, fronted the Levi Smith Clefs, a successful Adelaide dance band. The group’s first single, House of the Rising Sun in 1966 clearly displayed their musical influences. The group later produced a standout version of the Beatles’ classic We can work it out in 1970. When the Clefs folded, several band members formed Tully, a progressive rock band, which was the first Australian band to use a Moog synthesiser.

The Beatles had bequeathed an enduring musical legacy and the bands of Beatletown paid suitable homage to their muses.


Way out West – Groovers of the Heart

Wendy Saddington

The Valentines from Perth with the Scots-born Bon Scott and the English-born Vince Lovegrove as lead singers (My Old Man’s A Groovy Old Man) paid homage to the skiffle era with the title of the song recalling Lonnie Donegan’s My Old Man’s A Dustman. My Old Man’s A Groovy Old Man was written by Vanda & Young and was inspired by George Young’s old man. The Young patriarch must have been a real groover to father three kids in George (Easybeats) and Malcolm & Angus (AC/DC), whose careers contributed so seminally to Aussie music and whose musical trajectories spanned the golden age of Aussie rock music.

The Valentines acquired notoriety as the first Aussie band to be arrested for possession of marijuana. Bon Scott, who went on to front AC/DC, preferred multiple forms of excess and died of alcoholic poisoning after a drinking binge in 1980. AC/DC issued a tribute album Back in Black in memory of their late lamented larrikin lead singer.

The Perth band, the Dugites, boasted a keyboard player, British-born Bob Andrews, who had played with Graham Parker and the Rumour in the UK. The Dugites’ funky soul sound, supported by piercing keyboard rhythm, featured on In Your Car and No God, No Master.

Dave Hole, the acclaimed English-born blues guitarist, played a masterful slide guitar. He formed the Beaten Tracks in 1968, with Wendy Saddington as lead singer and Phil Manning on guitar. After some line-up changes, Beaten Tracks became Chain, Australia’s premier blues band whose classic gutsy blues hit Black & Blue took flight in 1971.


Ballads, Anthems & Glam-rock Dags

William Shakespeare - Glam Rock

Richard Clapton was an Aussie-born artist who adapted his name from those of his musical heroes – Keith Richards and Eric Clapton. Richard spent his formative musical years in Britain in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He emerged imbued with the musical spirit of the 1960s and produced the classic Girls on the Avenue in 1975 and Deep Water in 1978, ballads of timeless appeal and artistry.

Mike Brady, the Croydon-born former rocker with MPD Ltd, continued a successful songwriting career, creating the Aussie Rules anthems, Up there Cazaly in 1979 and That’s the Thing about Football in 1990.

In the 1970s Linda George produced the hit I’m not Mama’s Little Girl and then promptly faded from view.

The Moir Sisters, comprising three Scots-born sisters Jean, Margo & Lesley also had a one-hit wonder with the sweet and mildly suggestive Good Morning How Are You?

William Shakespeare (Johnny Caves) a glam-rock construct, in imitation of David Bowie and Garry Glitter, was the creation of Vanda & Young. Shakespeare, dressed in platform shoes and glitter costumes with Elizabethan styling, sang the Vanda & Young compositions, My Little Angel and Can’t Stop Myself from Loving You in 1974. My Little Angel was subsequently voted the daggiest song of its generation and Shakespeare ended his days headlining Dag Nights on the nostalgia circuit.

Dirty Deeds Down Under


AC/DC was headlined by Ronald “Bon” Scott, the tattooed larrikin lead singer previously with the Valentines & Fraternity. He joined Angus & Malcolm Young, the younger siblings of George Young (of Easybeats fame) who played guitars, and Englishman Cliff Williams. Brian Johnson, a Geordie, was recruited to replace Bon Scott following the lead singer’s death in 1980.

AC/DC’s original repertoire comprised cover versions of Beatles, Stones and Chuck Berry classics. They were quickly to develop their own powerful unique form of high energy Aussie rock and roll. In a unique musical genre crossover, the band took the rawness and rugged energetic playing of pub rock venues to a Countdown teen audience, establishing a phenomenally broad base of fans. Their stage antics included a schoolboy-uniformed Angus doing a gradual strip, climaxing in a full-rear nude view.

AC/DC’s hits included Baby Please Don’t Go (1975), the Young/Scott/Young composition High Voltage (1975), followed by TNT, Jailbreak and Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap in 1976. The group’s classic Long Way to the Top, produced by Harry Vanda and George Young in Sydney in 1976, was the first and possibly only Australian rock and roll record with a bagpipe solo (played by Bon Scott). The song became a legitimate and long-lasting anthem for Aussie rock.

After travelling to the UK in 1976, AC/DC toured in support of Black Sabbath, producing Let There Be Rock in 1977. Highway To Hell followed in 1979. Their album, Back in Black, a eulogy to the departed Bon Scott, featured You Shook Me All Night Long.


Stranded on a Distant Shore – Punks Vs Rockers in the 1970s

The Saints

With the decline in British migration, British born artists continued to feature albeit less prominently in Australian musical groups in the 1970s.

Chris Bailey, the Kenyan-born Belfast-raised lead singer of punk-new wave band, The Saints, sang his powerhouse snarling lyrics on (I’m) Stranded in 1976. Another English-born band member, Alasdair ‘Algy’ Ward joined the Saints in 1977, during their tour of Britain.

The band notoriously played at parties at their house in Petrie Terrace, Brisbane, dubbed Club 76. These sessions featured the song Erotic Neurotic that became a hit single in 1977. Who can forget – or more aptly who can remember- the prophetically titled classic EP release Paralytic Tonight, Dublin Tomorrow.

After an appearance singing this song on Countdown, the group was permanently banned from the program after Bailey commented derogatorily about the content and standard of the show.

McPhee, a Sydney group, included Terry Popple, the former drummer of the British blues band Tramline. The band produced a self-titled album in 1971, which featured Indian Rope Man, with a transcendent Hammond organ backed by driven drumming pyrotechnics.

Mick Rogers, the English-born lead singer of Bulldog, a blues-influenced band of the 1970s, later played guitar with Doug Parkinson’s In Focus, well known for their version of the Beatles’ Dear Prudence, released in 1969. Bass player Bob Dames, formerly with the Purple Hearts, also played in Bulldog. In the late 1970s, Rogers returned to London and joined Manfred Mann’s Earth Band.

Buster Brown, a pub band which headlined the Sunbury Festival in 1974, had Geordie Leach on bass. Angry Anderson, Buster Brown’s lead singer, later joined Rose Tattoo, one of Australia’s most successful hard rock pub bands. The Tatts’ self-titled debut album was produced by Vanda & Young and featured the aggressive rock of Bad Boy for Love.

Broderick Smith, vocalist and harmonica playing lead singer of the blues group Carson (Travelling South) played Sunbury in 1973. He formed the Adderley Smith Blues Band, later establishing the Dingoes (Way Out West), and the Broderick Smith Big Band. Smith also contributed lead vocals to the Tamam Shud song First Things First, which featured on the film soundtrack of legendary Aussie surf movie, Morning of the Earth in 1973. Smith supported Joe Cocker on the latter’s 1993 tour of Australia.

Mal Capewell, the British-born saxophonist with Carson, later played with Co Caine, eventually returning to Britain to play with Graham Bond’s Holy Magick.

Love is Everywhere

Graham Russell

British-born artists also contributed to the folk/bush music revival in Australia.

The Bushwackers, a traditional Aussie bush/folk band with electronic instrumentation, had Peter Farndon on bass who later joined the British new wave band the Pretenders in 1978. Roger Corbett, bass and vocals and Tony Hunt on fiddle were two other Brits who featured in other line-ups of this popular bush band which continued into the 1980s.

Eric Bogle, the Scots-born songwriter artist, produced the definitive version of Waltzing Matilda, singing emotively of the horrors of war.

British musicians and singers also produced a significant layer of teenybopper music in the 1970s.

Sherbet, a teenybopper band, comprised Englishman Clive Shakespeare on lead guitar. The original Sherbet lead singer, Dennis Laughlin, had run the Union Jack disco in Sydney. Shakespeare and fellow band member Garth Porter penned the group’s most popular hits Slipstream in 1974 and Summer Love in 1975.

John Paul Young, another Glaswegian, sang the melodic Yesterday’s Hero and Love is In the Air (1978), later to be revived and featured in the Aussie movie Ballroom Dancing.

Ted Mulry as a solo performer had hits with Falling In Love Again in 1971 and I Won’t Look Back in 1972. He formed the Ted Mulry Gang in 1975, from former members of Velvet Underground, a popular dance band in Newcastle, which had included Malcolm Young (later of AC/DC fame). Mulry’s big hit Jump In My Car (1975) featured 12 bar guitar riffs and tongue-in-cheek lyrics.

Air Supply, with the English-born Graham Russell as singer-songwriter produced a procession of love songs of which the most memorable was All Out Of Love in 1980. Russell was truly in love with the word “Love” as it featured prominently in most of the group’s song titles: Love and Other Bruises 1976; Lost In Love 1979; Young Love 1982. The group had substantial international success throughout the 1970s, particularly in America.

Hard Rock – The Screaming Meanies

Jimmy Barnes

The streets of Elizabeth once more resounded to the British beat in the 1970s, although this time the sound was meaner and more intense than ever before.

Cold Chisel was formed in Elizabeth, the British migrant suburb of Adelaide and headlined at the Largs Pier Hotel, a tough working-class pub, whose foundations the band’s thumping sounds regularly rocked. Band manager Rod Willis recalled one band gig: “I’d seen some pretty rough gigs in my time but nothing prepared me for this. It was f… scary. The place was packed with bikies and thugs (and) I was terrified. There were fights everywhere … I’d never seen such overindulgence in alcohol.” Barnes’ specialty of tossing half-full beer cans into the crowd further fuelled the atmosphere of potential riot at each gig.

Boosted by alcohol and speed, the powerful voice of lead singer Jimmy Barnes (James Swan) and drummer Steve Prestwich (a mod from Liverpool) produced a number of iconic Aussie rock songs of the 1970s and 1980s. Barnes was at his best belting out hits like Star Hotel 1980 and Khe Sanh 1978 and the bittersweet ballad about King’s Cross, Breakfast at Sweethearts in 1979.

After going solo, Barnes produced the unforgettable ode to his upbringing in Elizabeth, Working Class Man, in 1980.

John Swan the Glasgow-born older brother of Jimmy Barnes, was also from Elizabeth and formed his own band, the Hard Time Killing Floor in 1971. Swan replaced Bon Scott as lead singer in the rock band Fraternity and subsequently formed another band, called Swanee. His rock hit, The Road Keeps Moving Sideways, captured the sensation most people experience after a hard night’s rock and roll. Over a decade later, John Swan became the lead singer of the Party Boys, and had hits in 1987 with the heavy rhythmic rockers He’s Gonna Step on You Again, Hold Your head Up and a belting version of Them’s Gloria. Joe Walsh, the Eagles’ guitarist, later played with the Party Boys. The band supported AC/DC on their 1988 Australian tour. In 1989, the British blues legend Eric Burdon briefly became the band’s lead singer.

The Brewster brothers formed a key part of the Adelaide band The Angels in 1974. In an earlier guise, the band had appeared as the Moonshine Jug and String Band. The Angels produced the memorable singles Take a Long Line in 1978 and Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again. The latter, a Vanda/Young production, was originally released in 1976, with a more offensive version, with the predictably explicit answer to the chorus question, emerging in 1979. The band supported David Bowie on his Australian tour in 1978.

The Little River Band with Glenn Shorrock as lead singer achieved international success in 1977 with the album Diamantina Cocktail. Hit singles from that album included Help is On Its Way and Home in the Morning. Reminiscing followed in 1978.
Who Can It Be Now?

Bands of the 1980s & 1990s

The Cricketers Arms

The creativity of British-born singers and songwriters continued unabated in the 1980s.

British-born vocalist Grace Knight, was a singer with the Perth band Eurogliders, recording Without You in 1982 and later, in Britain, the national hit Heaven (Must Be There) in 1984. Knight transformed into a reputable and successful jazz singer, best known for her soundtrack recording of the TV mini-series, Come In Spinner in 1990 and her popular collaboration with Vince Jones, Stormy Weather in 1991.

Ambient band Dead Can Dance with Brendan Perry from Northern Ireland produced “world music”, including a fusion of Gaelic folk, Gregorian chants and Middle Eastern sounds. The band produced two well-received albums Serpent’s Egg and Aion, and had international acclaim with Into the Labyrinth, which sold 500,000 copies in 1993.

The symphonic rock of Aragon, featuring the Scot Les Dougan, drew its inspiration from UK bands like Genesis. Their album Don’t Bring the Rain (1988), while virtually ignored in Australia, was hailed by European and British underground music press as a masterpiece.

Men at Work featured Colin Hay, the Scots-born singer-songwriter. The band played at the Cricketers’ Arms Hotel, in Punt Rd, near the sacred turf of the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Men at Work’s greatest songs include Who Can it be Now? and the anthemic (I Come from the Land) Down Under with the eerily familiar themes of Vegemite sandwiches and men chundering. Down Under became the unofficial theme song of Alan Bond’s America’s Cup syndicate challenge and is still a ‘national pride’ song of note.

Men At Work’s debut album, Business As Usual, sold a staggering 10 million copies worldwide. The album secured bragging rights as the longest-running number one debut album in the US charts, shattering the Monkees previous record. Like the Beatles in the 1960s, Men At Work leveraged successfully off the fame and familiarity generated by MTV programs, which often featured the quirky antics of the band. Men At Work had further success with the Cargo album, released in 1983.

Colin Hay went on to produce a solo album Wayfaring Sons in 1990, drawing on his Scots Celtic folk roots.

The Church featured Steve Kilbey and Mart Wilson-Piper from Liverpool, performing jangle Byrds-style guitar riffs. They produced Too Fast for You, When you were Mine, and Under the Milky Way. The band toured the UK and its Starfish album sold over 600,000 copies in the USA. Kilbey had co-written Under the Milky Way (1988) with Karin Jansson, a Swedish artist, who established a band Curious (Yellow), named after the famous Swedish movie. Kilbey later also produced her band’s album in 1990. Steve Kilbey went on to produce albums for other singers, most notably Steve Cummings’ album, Falling Swinger, in 1994

Steve’s younger brother, Russell Kilbey, was the lead vocalist with the Crystal Set in the 1980s, producing She Spits Out Stars (1990). Russell later played with another brother, John Kilbey, in Warp 9 (Five days in a photon belt).

Savage Garden, with English-born Daniel Johns, joined Darren Hayes in a songwriting partnership in 1994 which resulted in international success with To the Moon and Back in 1996 and Truly Madly Deeply in 1997.


An Enduring Legacy


In popular music, every year brings new songs and temporary musical fads.

The music generated by those British-born musicians and singers and British-influenced bands of the 1960s however will retain appeal as classic masterpieces produced by an energetic, creative wave, propelled by the influence of swinging Britain.

These artists’ contributions have produced a lasting legacy – a pioneering Australian sound with an undeniable British intonation.

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