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Page history last edited by Lenore Frost 3 years, 1 month ago

Volunteers of Essendon and Flemington, 1914-1918



Cheer-up Brigade, Ascot Vale


by Lenore Frost




Members of the Cheer up Brigade beside the Darge Studio building. The brigade was a patriotic group of women who visited AIF camps at Broadmeadows, Maribyrnong, Domain and Ascot Vale. They served afternoon tea to soldiers on Sundays, and had an autograph book of soldiers signatures.  c September 1917.  Darge Photographic Company. AWM  DAX1828


The notion of a Cheer-up Society began in South Australia in 1915 where it did a variety of work in fund-raising, providing lunches for returning soldiers and manning a booth near the train station in Adelaide.  In Melbourne the idea of a Cheer-up Brigade was conceived as a children's movement, where groups of children undertook to entertain soldiers.  This morphed into providing afternoon teas, but it quickly became apparent that the adults had to step in when the demand for teas went beyond what children could supply in an ad hoc setting.   Soon women were organising to provide regular high teas for soldiers in camps near them.  Formal organisations started up around the camp at Royal Park and Broadmeadows, and soon the Maribyrnong camp also required some attention.  The celebration of second year anniversaries in September 1917 shows that this form of patriotic work began operation in September 1915.  It was not until September 1917 that a group was formed to provide services to the Showgrounds and Ascot Vale Isolation Camps.  The formation of the Ascot Vale Branch was organised by the already active Royal Park and Maribyrnong Cheer-up Brigades, and it seems likely that those two groups had already been involved in providing teas for the soldiers in those camps.  By 1917 they needed an organisation of their own, and at this time Mrs W T Osborne stepped up to take on the leadership of the group.


Mary Isabel Osborne was the wife of William Thomas Osborne, a State School teacher.   In 1905 Osborne had been teaching at Yea, but by 1909 the family had moved to the house in Francis St, Ascot Vale which became their home for the duration of the war.  The Osborne's second son, H T (Pat) Osborne, enlisted in 1915.  'Mrs W T Osborne' was mentioned from time to time in the papers doing Red Cross work, but it may have been no co-incidence that she took on a heavier workload working with soldiers at the end of 1916 when the family learnt that Pat had received a shocking injury and had lost a leg.  He had been a keen sportsman before the war, and was a notable golf and tennis player, but Pat took a firmly cheerful view of the matter, and in time returned to golf on his prosthetic leg.





During Easter week, Mrs. Collins (representing Broadmeadows), Mrs. McLean

(Royal Park), and Mrs. Adam, Maribyrnong branches of the "Cheer-up Brigade,"

established a branch at the Isolation Camp, Ascot Vale, and placed Mrs. W. T. 

OsborneFrancis street, Ascot Vale, as matron in charge, assisted by Mrs. Shields, Mrs. McCreary and Misses Reid, Lee and Venman.


"Every Saturday, at 5 p.m., every man in camp, whether sick or on duty,

receives the following tea: -For the hospital wards -jelly, 2 slices cream

sandwich, 1 rainbow, 1 Swiss roll, 1 diamond sponge (special diet). Men

in camp-Each 1 hot meat pie. 1 slice Vic. sandwich, 2 pasties, 2 buttered 

scones, 1 cake, tea, milk and sugar. The average strength of the camp is

150 men. Cost of tea, 6d per man.


Every house surrounding the camp has adopted a soldier for Saturday

tea, and is guaranteeing it every week till the war ends. No less than the

following permanent donations (150 in number, and sundries, bringing

it up to 180 in three weeks) have been received, and anyone wishing 

to do likewise may leave donations either at the Isolation Camp, in

charge of guard at gate, or Mrs. McCreary, Puckle st.; Mrs. Guest, baker,

Railway Crescent, Ascot Vale; or Mrs. W. T. Osborne. "Corneville." 19

Francis street. Ascot Vale. 


The following list of permanent donations at 6d per week or in goods

has been  received and collected by Mrs. Osborne and her assistants :

Mesdames Lynch, G. Allen, Crellin, Sutcliffe. Guest, Ferguson, Lyons, Gray

Taylor, Lascelles, Smith, Wright, Bate, Fewster, Bryant, Longstaff, 

Goodfellow, Scobie, Scobie, Lee, Hanna, Osborne, Hexter, Sproston, Hickenbotham, Shields, Kavanagh, Curtis, Burton, Mackie, Hinds, Moreton

Davies, Pratt, Christie, Wood, Jordan, Brown, McEwen, Welch, McDougall,

Phillips, Ivers, Hawker Burn, Cox, Cox, J. Nixon, Townsend, F. Howell, 

F. Howell, Warren, Venman, Hayes, McGann, McSweeney, Vaff, Dowling, Wright, McDonald, Borough, D. E. Smith, Davey, Bryan, Nicholls, Beat,

Tootell, Steele, Pomeroy, Best, Allenger, McArthur, Notman, Cavell,

Mundy, Ryan, McCreary, Powell, C. Howell, Kervile, Purcell, Warren, Searby,

Cooper, Myer, Butler, Wilkinson, Lincoln, Dickson, Trevan, Kerr, Dilling,

Trueman, Lee, Aspinall, Sierakowski, Venman, Morris, Harrison, Walker,

Davis, Ellis, Pope, Frost, Parsons, Mudie, Edwards, Downes, Greive,

Humphreys, Larta, Bock, Matthews, Harper, Acton, H. Watson, Rolla, Adkins,

 Warland, Cameron, Balneaves, Worrall, Mathieson, Jordan, Hoff, Cole (Rothwell), Fincher, Bleach, Souter, Paterson, Fysh, Upton, Reed, McLeod,

Adam, Collins, McLaren, Pleydell, Graf, Muir, Frost, Adkins, Misses Logie,

Craig, Morton, Hickenbotham, Shields, Wakeham, F. Venman, Venman,

M. Shields, D. Guest, Omerod, Tait, Ruff, L. Reid. Potts, Adam, Lynch; 

Messrs. Roy Dosser, H. Peacock, Osborne, J. Ambler, Venman, Taylor,

L. Ambler, H. Venman. C. Howell, Shields, Shields, Carah, Meaney, Lording,

Dilling, Wensor, Barrett, C. Osborne, Soldier, Messrs. K. Mudie, Thomas,

Karlsan, Hazeldine. Total, 180. 


Should any donor's name be inadvertently omitted from this list, 

Mrs. Osborne would be pleased to be notified of same. Mrs. Osborne

 desires to especially thank Mr. and Mrs. Guest for their invaluable 

help and co-operation; also the proprietors of the "Gazette" for

their kindness in publishing this report; also Major Mitchell and staff

for their unfailing courtesy and assistance in every way. As the numbers

in camp are constantly increasing owing to colder weather, donations

of all kinds will be most thankfully received and gratefully

acknowledged. Mr. Thomas, Kent street, most handsomely started

the first tea with a donation of 5 gallons of milk and a liberal

concession for all future teas.


PATRIOTIC (1917, May 10). The Essendon Gazette and Keilor, Bulla and Broadmeadows

Reporter (Moonee Ponds, Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 3 (Morning). http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article74602492


THE CHEER-UP BRIGADE STAFF AT THE ISOLATION CAMP, ASCOT VALE, who celebrated the Second Anniversary of the Cheer-Ups by a Birthday Party on September 1.  Left to Right.—Miss Reid, Miss Venman, Mrs. Morris, Mrs. C. Shields' (vice-matron), Mrs. Osborne (hon. matron In charge), Mrs. McCreary, Mrs. Myer, Miss Dott, Mrs. Cooper, Miss Myer.  Picture by Winifred Goulter.

Table Talk, 13 Sep 1917 page 29.  THE CHEER-UP BRIGADE STAFF AT THE ISOLATION CAMP, ASCOT VALE, (1917, September 13). Table Talk (Melbourne, Vic. : 1885 - 1939), p. 29. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article146643604


The Cheer-Up Brigade at the isolation Camp, Ascot Vale.

The Cheer-Ups recently completed their first year at the camp. During the twelve months they have provided 10,000 single teas at a cost of £260. During the winter as many as 700 soldiers were given tea each Saturday. The Cheer-Ups have received praise from headquarters for their work. Left to right:—Miss F. Venman, Mrs. Cooper, Mrs. Osborne (hon. matron in charge), Mrs. C. Shields, (vice-matron), Mrs. Morris, Miss L. Reid, Mrs. Meyer.   [There are more names than faces !]

The Cheer-Up Brigade at the isolation Camp, Ascot Vale. (1918, April 18). Table Talk (Melbourne, Vic. : 1885 - 1939), p. 5.  http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article146646363



Portrait of soldiers at Cheer up Brigade Anniversary. c September 1917. Darge Photographic Company DAX1829


Voluntary war workers' record / compiled for the benefit of the Australian Comforts Fund, 1918, p 114. 





The Isolation Camp at Ascot Vale has been closed, and Mrs. W. T. Osborne, the

matron in charge of the "Cheer-up" Brigade there, has gone for a holiday to

Warburton, after 74 Saturdays at the camp.


A soldier named Rogers, of Francis street, Ascot Vale, picked up a "Table Talk"

mile from the German trenches in France, and sent it home to his mother.

It contained the photos of the Isolation "Cheer up" Brigade.


A sailor, who had not heard news for months, received a batch of weeklies, and

in it was a copy of the 'Table Talk," containing the same photo. He said it was

like a breath of dear old Australia and home to him.


A third case arose, namely, that of Cooper, who received a copy of the paper

in France, containing the photo of his mother, and sent it back to her. This

shows how well advertised the 'Cheer-up' Brigade is on the other side.


PATRIOTIC (1918, September 19). Flemington Spectator (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 1.

Retrieved June 10, 2019, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article92030497



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