Dictionary of Sydney

The Dictionary of Sydney was archived in 2021.

Mrs Elsie Collimore remembers scenes from the Liverpool soldiers' riot of 1916, interviewed in 1986

Mrs Elsie Collimore was born in 1906 and was interviewed in 1986 for the 'Looking Back at Liverpool: An Oral History of the Liverpool Region 1900 to 1960' project. Here she remembers scenes from Liverpool during World War I, including the now famous soldiers' riot of 1916.

ELSIE: It was always a military town here and there was always soldiers.

INTERVIEWER: Do you remember anything about World War I?

ELSIE: Yes. I remember going down to get the Evening News . I think I was about seven or eight. And it had big black letters across the paper: 'England at War', and I remember running home, we lived in Northumberland Street, to tell my mother because I heard a man read it out. And that was the beginning of it all. There were soldiers, their camp was across where STC [Standard Telephones and Cables is [was]. It was all tents. There was no other camp around. I think there was a camp at Casula because I remember there was a riot. We were going to school one day, and when the kids heard the train, and the trains always used to blow 'Cock a Doodle Doo' when the troops were going away. And of course we heard all this noise and everyone ran to the station and when we got over there, there were soldiers hanging onto the train and they were in the engine, oh great old to-do. So we didn't know what was happening; it was a riot. The soldiers from the two camps had met and took control of the place. Shops were all closed and there was military police everywhere and anyone that had robbed them [the soldiers] or cheated them, they got even. They broke the windows of the shops and filled all the kit bags with pickles and whatever was in the windows. Then when we got down the street all the shops were closed and the military police were walking up and down and they only allowed about five people at a time in the shops.

INTERVIEWER: What was the general feeling like during the war?

ELSIE: Oh well of course there was no wireless or anything to hear, you had to all – there'd be a crowd down outside the paper shop of an evening waiting for the paper to come in because that was the only way you had any news. There was no wireless or TV to tell you anything.

Contributed By
(Excerpt from interview with Mrs Elsie Collimore from 'Looking back at Liverpool : an oral history of the Liverpool region 1900-1960' conducted in 1986 by Liverpool City Council, editor and project co-ordinator Catherine Johnson ; researchers Angela Imbrosciano, Verica Miiosavijevic, Kathleen Smith)