Schools Go to War
When war was declared on 4 August 1914, Victoria was awash with patriotic spirit. Issues of The School Paper were filled with letters from soldiers, patriotic poems, stories and reports on battles.
Victoria’s Director of Education, Frank Tate, established a War Relief Fund to provide comforts to soldiers, nurses and hospitals, and to support ‘broken men’, war widows and orphans. Soon, all of Victoria’s schools were involved in raising money, from knitting to selling rabbit skins. Teachers donated up to 2.5 per cent of their monthly salary.
By the end of the war, Victorian schools had raised a staggering £438,000 for the War Relief Fund, donated £35,000 worth of food to Victorian military hospitals and supplied 400,000 articles for distribution by the Australian Comforts Fund.
One of the greatest achievements was the rebuilding of the boys’ school at Villers-Bretonneux in northern France. As a memorial to the 1,200 Australian soldiers who died at Villers-Bretonneux, and as an act of solidarity with the French people, £12,500 raised by schoolchildren for the War Relief Fund was used.