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Reproduced courtesy of Shaun Griffin

Diary of Sergeant Thomas Henry Stafford

Date: c 1913
Overall (Closed): 332 x 217 x 25 mm
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Barnardos
Object Copyright: © Shaun Griffin
Classification:Books and journals
Object Name: Diary
Object No: 00046176
Related Place:Tilbury, Melbourne,

User Terms

    This diary belonged to Sergeant Thomas Henry Stafford, who supervised the emigration of 292 boys from England to Australia in 1913. It contains daily entries documenting the journey from Tilbury to Melbourne on the Tyser liner TSS HAWKES BAY. The diary provides a valuable record of the voyage from London to Melbourne and contains insightful observations about the boys, many of whom were prone to ‘filthy language’.
    SignificanceSergeant Thomas Henry Stafford's diary provides an invaluable record of the emigration of 292 British boys from England to Australia on TSS HAWKES BAY in 1913, and provides insight into the beginnings of assisted child migration schemes. These schemes reflected Australia's broader immigration policies in the early 20th century, namely the government's desire to bolster the population with 'good British stock' and the building of a White Australia.
    HistorySergeant Thomas Henry Stafford records in his 1913 diary that he served in the British Army for 14 years and 126 days. He then transferred to the Army Reserve and was employed at the Royal Arsenal Woolwich for seven years. Stafford worked for the next seven years at London County Council, before being appointed as superintendent to almost 300 lads emigrating from England to Australia. He sailed with the boys from London on TSS HAWKES BAY on 1 July 1913.

    In Australia Stafford was employed by the Victorian government for some time, before securing a job at the Colonial Ammunition Works, which he held until the outbreak of World War I. He joined the 7th Battalion of the Australian Imperial Force on 7 August 1914, and was at both the landing at Gallipoli and the eventual evacuation. Stafford won his promotion at Lone Pine, and writes he was 'going strong' in France until Brigadier General Elliot sent him for a rest to England. During this time he had a nervous breakdown, and as a consequence was sent back to Australia as medically unfit after 1,350 days service.

    Stafford was the first superintendent appointed by the government of Victoria to supervise the emigration of boys from British orphanages, homes and reformatories to undertake rural employment in Australia. Following this first party of 292 boys, he was to 'organise for a further 3,000 boys under W Sedgwick' - an English philanthropist and advocate of juvenile emigration from Great Britain.

    Stafford's diary entry on 1 July 1913 describes the 'splendid sea like a mill pond' as TSS HAWKES BAY departed Tilbury at 6 o'clock. HAWKES BAY was built by Workman, Clark & Co, Belfast for the Tyser Line, and launched on 27 September 1912. She made her maiden voyage from London to Sydney in January 1913.

    Stafford's diary is an invaluable record of the voyage from London to Melbourne, with entries ranging from the personal ('wrote 2 letters one for wife and children' on 1 July) to the mundane ('gave books out to boys'; 'threading the needle and sharpening lead pencils for girls and boys' on 2 July), from daily technical details such as mileage, speed, latitude and longitude, to information about other passengers ('feeling my way about ship introducing myself to the officers on board'; 'Maytron [sic] Mrs Edmunds in charge of British girls bound for Melbourne' on 2 July).

    Most important are Stafford's records of the activities which kept the party of 292 boys entertained during the 41-day voyage - running drills on deck, parades, inspections after breakfast, games, concerts, dances, church services, photography sessions, pillow fights, and a sports program including sack races, cock fights, three-legged races, egg and spoon races, tug of war and blindfolded boxing.

    Stafford's diary also contains insightful observations about the boys in his care, many of whom are prone to 'filthy language.' On 11 and 12 July Stafford notes that complaints have been lodged by other passengers about the boys' conduct and language. He writes he is 'feeling tired out' with eight cases of children with measles on board, adding 'I don't think anyone will be allowed to land at Cape Town.' However, when HAWKES BAY arrived at Cape Town on 21 July, officials visited the ship and 'past [sic] alright,' and the lads went ashore at 10.30.

    The visit at Cape Town was the only stop on the voyage, before HAWKES BAY arrived in Melbourne on 11 August 1913. On 12 August The Argus reports on the large number of immigrants that had arrived:

    'One of those busy scenes which are occasionally presented at the wharfside in connection with our immigration scheme was provided yesterday by the arrival of the Tyser liner HAWKES BAY from Great Britain with 938 new settlers - men, women and children - on board.

    'Some unfavourable comments were heard on the vessel as to the conduct of the contingent of British lads on board, but upon being interrogated on the subject the vessel's officers either evaded the question with a smile or openly declined to express an opinion. Their manner, however, conveyed the impression that the behaviour of some of the large contingent of lads was not all that could be desired, one officer stating that, while he himself preferred to say nothing, the matter had been brought under the notice of the immigration authorities here. In discussing the subject a passenger said that, while some of the lads were rather noisy at times, especially in the direction of 'sing-songs,' their general conduct was no more boisterous than might have been expected from a lot of healthy lads, though perhaps other people might take a different view upon the point.

    'Employment was obtained for some of the farm labourers and boys after their arrival yesterday, but the immigration officials do not expect to place all the newcomers until the end of this week. The contingent which landed yesterday is the largest which has been brought to Victoria this year. It included 67 farm labourers, who represent 101 persons, and 290 lads. In consequence of the lack of accommodation at the departmental building, the Presbyterian Hall, at the corner of Lonsdale and William streets, has been transferred temporarily into a labour bureau, and farmers who require assistance are asked to attend there. It is proposed to distribute the domestic servants among employers today. Situations will be obtained for 65 girls.'

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