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Cheer-Up Hut at TPG Drill Hall for South Australia’s History Festival

Tuesday 24 May, 2016


Alan from Legion of Frontiersmen Legion Cadet Core, Australian Command, at the Cheer-Up Hut recording his story.

More than 300 visitors came down to the Anzac Centenary Cheer-Up Hut re-created inside the Drill Hall at the Torrens Parade Ground for this year’s History Festival.  Of these, twenty eight (28) visitors took up the challenge to record their Anzac story inside the specially created Cheer-Up Hut Recording Booth, operated by Illuminart on behalf of Veterans SA, as part of the state’s Anzac Centenary community engagement strategy.

Stories included those shared by 92 year olds, Laurel, Merodie, Mercia and Pat, who all had personal memories of their time in the Cheer-Up Hut, which they described as being located “just near where the Festival Centre now stands”. They each recalled the wonderful welcoming atmosphere of the hut which was always full of servicemen (army, navy and air force) who came to the hut to enjoy the company, food and entertainment the women supplied. This included the hut being “a wonderful place to read newspapers and to write letters”, “to sing around the piano” and “to rest and relax before heading off to the front again, or  to sit quietly and remember the close mates who didn’t make it home.” “They were all so grateful to have somewhere they could go and feel so welcomed”, Pat Hewish recalls. “We had dances in the evening and many, many dinners and get togethers with soldiers, sailors and airmen alike.  Despite the horrors and deprivations of the war, we made sure everyone had a wonderful time.”

The Cheer-Up Huts were a uniquely South Australian feature of World War 1 that were revitalised in World War 2. They relied upon female volunteers across South Australia’s regional and metropolitan communities, all of whom wanted to ‘do their bit’ on the home front for the war effort. At their peak, there were more than one hundred Cheer-Up Huts established along the railway lines throughout South Australia. The logistics of the Cheer-Up Huts were tremendously well organised with donations which included preserved jams and meats, blankets, soaps, etc, made by local businesses and farmers from the communities they were supporting all put to good use.

Forty members of the Adelaide branch of the Red Cross Society ventured into the hut on Friday 20 May to enjoy a program of entertainment that included talks, singalongs and poetry readings. Hosted by Vincent Burke, the program featured poems read by Bob Jarrad from his book “Slouch Hat Soldiers” along with cabaret dancer Phyl Skinner and pianist Barry Hall who accompanied the ladies as they sang along to “Lili Marlene”, “We’ll Meet Again” and “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary” amongst a great selection of other war time favourites.

Students from Meningie High and Findon High presented personal reflections on the Connecting Spirits Tour of Europe they undertook in 2015. The presentations included a short film and musical composition dedicated to the servicemen and servicewomen whose stories the students had researched, and whose graves they had visited on their trip.

Freshly baked biscuits, supplied throughout the weekend by the Country Women’s Association, were eagerly enjoyed as photos of precious memorabilia were captured and precious documents and photos scanned for upload into the state’s Anzac Centenary Time Capsule.

A Cheer-Up Hut is also open in Mount Pleasant at the Soldiers Memorial Hall throughout South Australia’s 2016 History Festival. The Anzac Centenary Cheer-Up Hut Recording Booth, will be incorporated into this display from Friday 27th May through to Monday 30th May inclusive.  The Mt Pleasant Cheer-Up Hut is being presented by the Mount Pleasant Progress Association with support from The Barossa Council, Red Cross Society and Country Women’s Association, working in collaboration with Veterans SA to engage as many South Australians in the Anzac Centenary during this important period of national reflection (2014-2018).

Contact Veterans SA on 08 8226 8543 to find out more, or email to find out how you can participate by recording your Anzac story for inclusion in the state’s Anzac Centenary Time Capsule project.

Book a 30 minute Anzac Story recording session inside the Cheer-Up Hut when you visit the Cheer-Up Hut here

Click on the link to Join the Cheer-Up Hut Club today.

Click on the link to view the Cheer-Up Hut Torrens Parade Ground Gallery

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