Enemy Subjects

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Aggression towards the enemy was paramount to the war effort. Propaganda that personified the Germans as ghastly ‘huns,’ was widely circulated. The people of Camden were invited to attend public lectures about the war and Australia’s involvement. One such discussion was given by Colonel Macarthur Onslow at the Camden School of Arts on the 4th of December 1914. Here, topics such as German and Austrian hostility were raised. Atrocity stories of ‘brave little Belgium,’ were perpetuated by the conservative British media and made their way to Australia. The community was also persuaded not to trust German or Austrian people or their exported goods. An article was printed in The Campbelltown Herald in September 1915 entitled ‘Death to German Trade.’ It warned citizens not to purchase German or Austrian goods, as it would place profit into the hands of the enemy. It even goes a step further, proclaiming:

“shells and bullets, now being used by the Germans in killing or maiming our Australian soldiers, is being partly defrayed by the money you and I spend in purchasing [these good.]”

The article went on to state, that Mr Ian W. Tyerman, who ran the pharmacy, would no longer stock any German goods. The public was therefore advised to buy British and Australian substituted products, such as Australian-made ‘Soporal’ instead of German manufactured ‘Lysol.’ This distrust of Germany and Austria was not limited to products.

The 1914 War Precautions Act made it compulsory for all aliens to register with the local police and swear loyalty to the British Empire. In 1916, the term ‘enemy subject’ also encompassed people who were born in Australia but had German ancestry. As a result, many people throughout the country came under suspicion even if they were supportive of Australia’s involvement in the war. These people ran the risk of being interned, lose their employment or home. There were internment camps as close as Holsworthy. Consequently, due to negative public opinion, many Macarthur families were treated badly. Alderman George Kershler, whose son and nephew served in the AIF during the war, often received negative comments from his colleagues due to his German ancestry.