Remembering Our School’s Involvement in the First World War (1914 – 1918)

This article covers how students, staff and Board members of The Victorian Deaf and Dumb Institution (as it was known then) were involved in the war effort.

Some staff said goodbye to the students to enlist. They fought bravely and we know that at least one staff member, turned soldier, never returned.

Second Lieutenant George Leopold Sanders Trotman

We found service records of George Leopold Sanders Trotman through the Australian War Memorial’s online search facility. George left the school to enlist on 18 January 1916 and embarked from Melbourne on the HMAT Nestor A71 on 2 October 1916. He served in the 7th Australian Infantry Battalion as Second Lieutenant. George was killed in action in the Nieppe Forest in France on 17 April 1918. He was in A Company and in the supply line for the 3rd Platoon when he was mortally wounded in No Man’s Land. Eye witness Private Bowes, said “A shell burst just over his head. He was hit in three places and was immediately bound up and carried down to a dressing station but died on the way. He was quite numbed by the shock and did not suffer at all, being only semi-conscious.” George was just 26 years old. He was from Albert Park but he was buried with military honours at Hazebrouck Military Cemetery in France – a long way from home.

Those soldiers who did return would never have been the same again.

Students made “comforts for the soldiers at the front” using their fantastic sewing and knitting skills. Many of those students would have had brothers, fathers and uncles in the war. Even though they were just children, they must have wanted to do everything they could to help.

Thank you to our wonderful volunteer historian Teresa Bennet who provides archiving, research and curation support of our historic collection. For those history buffs amongst us, Theresa has gathered all the details she could about our involvement in the First World War.

There were some aspects of this history we hope to learn more about, including the experiences of others who enlisted. And in the list of articles forwarded to the front in 1915, the Headmaster noted ‘6 nightingales’. Do you have any idea what he could have been referring to?

The following excerpts are taken from:

‘The Victorian Deaf and Dumb Institution and the Victorian School for Deaf Children 1860-1960’ by J.H.Burchett (1962).

(Note: Burchett refers to ‘Rabbi’ Danglow, however, in the minutes he’s referred to as ‘Rev’ Danglow.)

1914       War declared!

On August the 14th, a Minute reads “The Board expressed its gratification that there had been a patriotic demonstration that afternoon in the grounds of the Institution when scholars gathered round the flagstaff and after a patriotic address by Doctor Watkin, interpreted by Mr. Cook, two of the scholars had hoisted the ensign and the scholars gave three cheers”.

The Board expressed its thanks to Matron, lady teachers and girls for their enthusiastic work in the making of socks, shirts and handkerchiefs for the soldiers.

1915       The Rev. A.R. Stephenson, a member of the Board received word of the loss of his son on active service.

1917       Rabbi Danglow asked for leave of absence to go overseas on war work.

1918       News of the death whilst on active service of Lieut. G.L.Trotman, a former member of staff, was received.

1919       Rabbi Danglow returned from overseas.

A Peace Picnic was held at Diamond Creek on the 14th October

Excerpts from the 1915 Annual Report

  • At 30th June 1914, just before the start of WW1 there were 103 pupils at VDDI.
  • ‘We are pleased to state that the Staff and Pupils of the Institution have been doing what little they are able to assist the Patriotic movements. In addition to the large number of articles made and sent in to the State Schools’ Patriotic league (referred to in the Head Master’s Report on another page), 75 flannel shirts were made and sent to the Town Hall, Melbourne, and a sum of £48 has been contributed to the Red Cross and Belgian Relief Funds during the past five months…..’
  • 111 students at June 1915
  • In the Headmaster’s report:
  • ‘Help for the Soldiers. I am pleased to be able to report that, in spite of their afflictions, our pupils, assisted by their teachers, have been able to do their share in helping in the movement for providing comforts for the soldiers at the front. Since the beginning of the war the following articles have been forwarded from this Institution to the State Schools’ Patriotic League, and duly acknowledged:-
    • 465 Handkerchiefs.
    • 6 Nightingales
    • 12 Pairs of Gauntlet Gloves.
    • 101 Pairs of Socks.
    • 34 Pairs of Mittens.
    • 102 Grooming Kit Bags.
    • 12 Crimean Shirts’

From the 1916 Annual report

  • At 30/6/16 there were 98 pupils
  • In the Headmaster’s report:
    • ‘Red Cross. During the past year the girls, assisted by their teachers, have worked unceasingly in making useful articles for our soldiers at the front. Since the date of my last Report the following articles have been forwarded from this Institution towards this very worthy object:-
      • 280 pairs of socks,
      • 4 pairs of mittens,
      • 41 Crimean shirts,
      • 30 hospital bags,
      • 30 face washers,
      • 1000 envelopes, – paper,
      • 79 pillow slips.

The amount contributed by the teaching staff to the State School Patriotic League since the outbreak of the war now amounts to £58/15/9.’

From the 1917 Annual report:

  • A need for new accommodation has been highlighted in all the annual reports and here is expressed the desire to erect new schoolrooms as early as practicable, they state: ‘No steps, however, can be taken to proceed with the work during the continuance of this dreadful war, but any surplus funds should be set aside…….’
  • From the Headmaster’s report:
    • ‘Red Cross Work. I am glad to be able to report that there has been no abatement in our efforts to assist in the good work of raising funds and providing comforts for our soldiers at the front. The amount of work done for the State School Patriotic League, from 1st July, 1916 to 30th June, 1917 is as follows:-
      • 6 Cushions
      • 36 Shirts
      • 9 Face Washers
      • 109 Pairs of Socks.
      • 237 Handkerchiefs.

The amount contributed by the teach staff during the year…£34 15 0  Raised by special effort on Flower Day…£18 0 8 ½ Total £52 15 8 ½

Total amount contributed to the Patriotic Funds since the beginning of the war £113 12 8 ½’

From the 1918 Annual report

  • There were 95 students at the 30th June 1918
  • From the Headmaster’s report:
    • ‘War Work. This branch of our work has been continued through the year with undiminished zeal. In spite of sickness, our Scholars have responded cheerfully to every demand that has been made on them in this trying period of National Necessity and Peril. The results of our united efforts are as follow:-
      • Flower Day Effort £29  0  0
      • War Certificates and Stamps   41 10  0
      • Contributions in Cash     7 17  6
      • Sale of Anzac Medals     5 17  6
    • Comforts for Soldiers.
      • 25 Shirts
      • 5 Cushions,
      • 94 Pairs of Socks,
      • 38 Handkerchiefs,
      • 54 Pillow Cases.
      • Total 216 Monetary value, £36/4/6.’

From the 1919 Annual report

  • There were 93 pupils at the 30th June 1919
  • From the Headmasters’ report:
  • ‘To our collection of wall decorations……(1) A Certificate of Honor awarded to our school by the Education Department for Red Cross work, and services rendered in connection with the Sale of War Certificates…’
  • ‘War Work and Honor Book. In concluding this report on the work of the past year, I should like once more to place upon record the commendable spirit with which the staff and pupils of this Institution have worked in connection with the War Relief Fund, and in taking part in all movements to assist the gallant men who enlisted to fight for us.

The War Certificate awarded to this School has already been referred to, and we venture to hope that it will remain for all time a much prized testimony of the loyalty and self sacrifice exhibited by the deaf children of this State, in the great struggle for freedom and righteousness.’

In the Minutes dated Sept 7 1914:

  • Flannel Shirts …for the Expeditionary Force. Dr Watkin reported that he had authorised the expenditure of £10 for flannel & cut muslin. Much were made into 166 flannel shirts & three dress khaki coloured handkerchiefs for the (soldiers) leaving Victoria for the war.

These have been sent to the Lady Mayoress and have been acknowledged.

The action by Dr Watkin was heartily approved by the Board

  • Thanks to Miss Marvel, the Lady Teachers and Senior girls. The thanks of the Board were given to Miss Marvel, the Lady Teachers and the Senior girls, for the enthusiastic way in which they had shown their loyalty in the work of making flannel shirts and pocket handkerchiefs for the soldiers gone from Victoria, to fight for the Empire.

In the Minutes dated 8th February, 1915:

  • Carpentry instructor leaves. The Superintendent reported that E. Cutcliffe, the Carpentry Instructor & Sportsmaster had left the service of the Institution without giving any notice, having enlisted…….’

In the Minutes dated 6th September 1915:

  • Commonwealth War Loan. Mr T. M Stewart reported that he had made application for £1500 of the C/Wealth War Loan in his own name and that when the Institution funds for taking up same were available at the end of October, the Stock could be transferred to the Institution.

In the Minutes dated 14th December, 1915:

  • To sanction the seal of the institution being affixed to the transfer of the Commonwealth Government Inscribed Stock for £1500 from Mr T.M.Stewart to the Institution.

It was moved by Rev. Dr Watkin, seconded by Rev. J. Danglow and carried. “ That the Board of Management at its meeting, this day the 14th December 1915 authorises Mr John Kinnear Smith, Honorary Treasurer and Rev. Edwin Iredale Watkin DD (?) of the Board of Management of this Institution to seal and sign the Transfer of Fifteen hundred pounds (£1500) Commonwealth Government Inscribed Stocks from Mr. Thomas Muirson Stewart to the Victorian Deaf and Dumb Institution Incorporated and requests the Registrar of Commonwealth Government Inscribed Stock to register the Fifteen hundred pounds (£1500) Inscribed Stocks in the name of the Institution. The Board of Management further directs that the Interest on the said £1500 Inscribed Stock is to be paid into The Union Bank of Australia, Melbourne, to the credit of the Victorian Deaf and Dumb Institution Account until further notice.

In the Minutes dated 9th October, 1916:

  • Letter of Condolence On the motion of Mr Love, seconded by Mr Colville, it was resolved to send a letter to Rev. A.R.Stephenson expressing the Board’s deep sympathy with himself and family in the death of his son while away fighting for the Empire.

In the Minutes dated 12th March, 1917:

  • J. Danglow A letter was received from Rev. J. Danglow tendering his resignation as a member of the Board on account of his work as a Censor in connection with the war. It was unanimously resolved to request Mr Danglow to withdraw the resignation and he was granted leave of absence until the conclusion of the war.

In the Minutes dated 8th April, 1918:

  • Investment It was moved by Mr E O’Donnell and seconded by Mr R A Edmanson that:-
    • The sum of £240 balance in hand on account of Endowments to be invested in Commonwealth of Australia 6th War Loan 1927 5% Inscribed Stock also:-
    • That a further sum of £500 out of Reserve Building Fund be invested in Commonwealth of Australia 6th War Loan 1927 5% Treasury Bonds.

In the Minutes dated 13th May 1918:

  • Rev J Danglow The Secretary read a letter which had been received from the Rev J Danglow advising that he is proceeding to England and that he will be engaged on War Work.
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