The War had a lasting impact on the Caulfield and Moorabbin communities. More than 1,700 soldiers enlisted from the City of Caulfield and the northern part of the Shire of Moorabbin – the area now known as Glen Eira. More than 300 never came home. Many families grieved over lost loved ones, while others had to care for those who returned with the physical and mental scars of war.
The First World War also saw a significant rise in the role of Australian women supporting wartime activities. More than 2,000 nurses served overseas with the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS), while more than 400 cared for wounded servicemen in new Australian military hospitals [i].
In 1915, the government acquired a large, white house on Kooyong Road named Glen Eira, home of the Ricketson family. It was soon converted into the Number 11 Australian General Hospital, or No.11AGH. Once described as the ‘finest equipped institution in Australia’,[ii] it took its first patients from the base hospital on St Kilda Road in 1916. The house itself also played an important role, becoming home to hundreds of nurses.
Over the next three years waves of wounded men returned to Melbourne on hospital ships, from where the RACV drove them to Caulfield. The hospital got more wards as the numbers of wounded and sick increased. In his book My Brother Jack, author George Johnston remembered it looking like a ’swiftly developing city’. After the war the hospital continued to treat wounded soldiers as the Caulfield Repatriation Hospital. Thousands of soldiers travelled to Caulfield from across Victoria for treatment in the 1920s and 30s.
During the war the community rallied around the hospital, its wounded and those still serving abroad. Families supported returned soldiers, and Caulfield and Moorabbin Councils helped hold together a society disrupted by war. Institutions like the Red Cross, Returned Services League (RSL) and Legacy grew around the care and wellbeing of affected families. School children raised funds, made comforts or entertained the wounded. Regular meetings in Moorabbin and Caulfield collected donations of money, food, clothes and other goods to send abroad. In 1918 alone, the Moorabbin branch made 846 pairs of socks and 589 handkerchiefs.[iii]
As communities looked to express their grief and gratitude, public memorials soon began to fill the local landscape. You can read more about the range of public memorials in Glen Eira on our Monuments and sites page. These memorials continue to serve as a focus for commemorative ceremonies and events. Annual Anzac Day and Remembrance Day ceremonies still mark some of the most important days in Glen Eira’s commemorative calendar.
[i] Australian War Memorial website
[ii] The Argus, 24 April 1916.
[iii] 'Moorabbin', Seaside News, 23 March 1918, p.1.