Sunday History Photo / SA

Submitted: Sunday, Jan 02, 2011 at 07:37
ThreadID: 83373 Views:5111 Replies:5 FollowUps:2
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A group of Australian women who served as Cheer-Up Girls during wartime did their best to cheer up the lives of thousands of returning soldiers, volunteering their time to support the war effort. They gathered in Cheer-Up Huts to feed the soldiers, dance, chat, and provide badly needed female company. It was a defining moment for some of the women part of the strong sense of community that pulled the nation together during war-time and it has led to life-long friendship.

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The South Australian Cheer-Up Society was founded by Alexandrina Seager. Its object was to support the soldiers in the First and Second World Wars as well as to bring them into contact with the ’highest type of womanhood’. During world war one they visited the soldiers at camp before they embarked for the trenches and provided them with supper, concerts and conversation. In the Second World War, they started a Cheer Up Hut near the Adelaide Railway Station that had a hostel and a canteen for every day use and social functions. The hut was financed by donations from several charitable organizations including the Country Women’s Association. The society was publicly acknowledged as indicative of women’s capacity, support and patriotism.

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Alexandrine Seager, was born on 10 November 1870 at Ballarat, Victoria, On 16 June 1891 she married Clarendon James Seager, a 34-year-old former British cavalry officer and insurance agent; they settled in Adelaide in 1908. With six young children, in 1909 Alexandra started a prosperous city business, the Scholastic Agency, which supplied governesses and servants to country people; it developed her entrepreneurial and organizational ability.
In November 1914, after visiting Morphettville camp to see her son in the Australian Imperial Force, Mrs Seager appealed to South Australian women to support the war. Endorsed by (Sir) William Sowden, the Register's editor, she formed the Cheer-Up Society to provide 'general comfort, welfare, and entertainment' for soldiers. As organizer and secretary Mrs Seager deployed courage and tact in assembling women helpers of high moral character, most with relations serving overseas. They visited army camps and hospitals, befriended lonely recruits, arranged luncheons, concerts and spirited farewells; they sent comforts to the front, welcomed the wounded from Gallipoli, and encouraged recruiting and fund-raising. From 1915 the society offered refreshment and recreation to soldiers in a large tent behind the Adelaide Railway Station. This was replaced by the Cheer-Up Hut in nearby Elder Park (opened on 14 November) in which over 200,000 servicemen enjoyed cheap meals and free entertainment provided by helpers in gleaming, long white uniforms.
With three sons now in the A.I.F. and her husband a recruiting officer, Alexandra Seager felt duty bound 'to make life brighter for the gallant men'. Besides recruiting lady volunteers, she co-ordinated the society's eighty country branches and its fund-raising, including the annual Violet Day Appeal (first held on 2 July 1915) which became a local remembrance day for the fallen. After the hut opened she worked full time with the movement, receiving a small stipend. Despite losing her youngest son George at Gallipoli, she spent long days at the hut and wrote stirring war verses which were published in pamphlets in 1915 and 1918 and sung at the front lines.
A petite, sweet-faced woman with blue eyes and great vivacity, Seager was loved by Australian servicemen; many of the young saw her as a mother. Her almost moralistic concern for their well-being led her at the end of 1915 to call the foundation meeting of the South Australian Returned Soldiers' Association; their first grant was £50 from Cheer-Up funds. Its first vice-president, she resigned in 1919 in favour of an ex-serviceman.

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After 1920 the society closed, Mrs Seager returning to her business; in the Depression she provided meals from a room behind the Cheer-Up Hut. Weakened by arthritis, she retired with her husband to their sons' soldier-settler property on Kangaroo Island, where she wrote poetry and learned Italian. The Cheer-Up Society revived on a grander scale in 1939; Mrs Seager took no part in it. Predeceased by her husband, she died at Kingscote on 12 March 1950 and was buried in the cemetery there with Anglican rites; three daughters and two sons survived her. The Cheer-Up Society disbanded in 1964.
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Reply By: Member Bushy 04(VIC) - Sunday, Jan 02, 2011 at 08:55

Sunday, Jan 02, 2011 at 08:55
Brilliant Doug, makes you think of those serving o/sea's at present..
Those ladies did more for the soldiers than the average person even realises.
You have young men heading into danger with the real possibility to get killed, they were scared, worried and lonely then along came these ladies who they could write to, talk to, and who had high moral standards. They provided a mother figure to those who needed it.

Being ex army thanks.

AnswerID: 440422

Reply By: Skippype - Sunday, Jan 02, 2011 at 09:00

Sunday, Jan 02, 2011 at 09:00
Wonderful read,
Thanks Doug
AnswerID: 440424

Reply By: cycadcenter - Sunday, Jan 02, 2011 at 10:20

Sunday, Jan 02, 2011 at 10:20
Any chance that EO could organise Doug's Sunday posts to a Blog or similar, certainly they are some of the best reading on the site.


AnswerID: 440430

Reply By: B1B2 - Sunday, Jan 02, 2011 at 11:31

Sunday, Jan 02, 2011 at 11:31
G'day Doug,

Very interesting article again Doug, you certainly come out with some gems I have never heard of. and it was on such a huge scale.

Happy New Year to you and all at EO.

AnswerID: 440439

Reply By: Member - eric m (WA) - Sunday, Jan 02, 2011 at 11:36

Sunday, Jan 02, 2011 at 11:36
great story old mate. every one needs a bit of cheer up now an then. thanks for yours and all the best for the new year
catch up soon eric & vicky
AnswerID: 440441

Follow Up By: Member - T N (Qld) - Sunday, Jan 02, 2011 at 16:12

Sunday, Jan 02, 2011 at 16:12
Well done Doug, it remines me of Every mans, they would turn up every where!
even in the bush, bit like the salvos it mean't a lot to the diggers.
FollowupID: 712359

Follow Up By: Member - Duke (TAS) - Sunday, Jan 02, 2011 at 21:50

Sunday, Jan 02, 2011 at 21:50
Another top article Doug. As TN(QLD) said, Simular to Everymans they would turn up in the least expected places. On Operations in Vietnam or Exercises back in Aust. God bless em all. Duke
FollowupID: 712427

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