As the Third Battle of Ypres consumed young Queensland soldiers across the dreadful months of August and September 1917, at home in Queensland life went on. In Brisbane, the annual Exhibition marked the calendar in August, and visitors, livestock and produce converged from all over the state.
While thousands of people flocked to the Exhibition Grounds in Bowen Hills and meandered their way through regional exhibits, fruit and vegetable displays and trade stalls, the main arena was alive with show jumping, sheep shearing and livestock judging. Crowds pressed forwards to watch the daily parades.
Unfortunately, the war was never very far away. On Saturday 11 August, the Brisbane Courier reported that:
‘The Returned Soldiers’ and Patriots’ National League has arranged to have a tent in the Exhibition Grounds next week to serve as an information and rallying point for returned soldiers from the country who may be visiting the Exhibition. The tent will be on Machinery Hill, near the dining-room’.
A small article in the Brisbane Courier, 14 August 2017 also stated:
‘The State Recruiting Committee advises that more recruiting meetings than usual will be held this week, and for the purpose of thoroughly working the city all the recruiting organisers from surrounding districts have been called in to the metropolis. A recruiting and enlisting depot has been established on the Exhibition Grounds by arrangement with the secretary of the National Association, and a doctor will be in attendance each day. Every night, at the G.P.O., pictures will be screened, and a recruiting rally will be held each evening in the “Allies’ Fair.”‘
Another article, in the Brisbane Courier, Tuesday 21 August 1917 reported that the ‘staff of the State Recruiting Committee were busy during the whole of the Show week at the Exhibition. On enquiring of Sergeant Busby as to the total number of recruits obtained on the ground he stated that 14 volunteers came forward in response to the call’.
This recently digitised panorama of the main show arena, Exhibition Ground, Brisbane, during the 1917 Show can be found in the 7325 Haig Photographs 1890-1971:
Robyn Hamilton – QANZAC100 Content Curator, State Library of Queensland