1916 The growing toll

By the middle of 1916 all three rowing clubs had sent almost all their young men to the Front. Essentially there were only the veterans and young boys left. By October 1916 for example seventy one men had enlisted from Wendouree Rowing Club alone. Ballarat City Rowing Club was in the hands of a caretaker committee and was basically shut down for the next two years. There were no regattas, only Colac held its annual regatta on New Year’s Day 1916, however no City crews attended.

While Ballarat Regatta was cancelled it was decided to hold a gigantic Aquatic Carnival with 18 events including a duck hunt, tub races, decorated boats, bands etc. The proceeds of course were to go to the Patriotic Fund. It was held on the 25th of November and was reported as one of the most brilliant spectacles ever seen on Lake Wendouree being both picturesque and novel. The day was sunny and bright with a strong breeze blowing that did cause some casualties among the decorated boats. Around 6000 spectators lined the shores. Ballarat City Rowing Club was foremost in the organising committee with A. A. O’Dea the treasurer and Jas. Tulloch also assisting. There were receipts of about 900 pounds for the day!

 The only controversy for the day caused inadvertently by Ballarat City men when Fred and T. Luke decided to stage a boxing contest on a raft as part of the entertainment. In order to bring a dint of realism to the affair they had a quantity of red ochre inside their ‘gloves’, which were actually towels. The two fought out their fake bout but horrified some of the crowd with the copious amounts of blood that was flowing!

In October 1916 there was a visit from lady rowers from the Original Rowing Club in Adelide. The stroke was a Miss Kitty Sullivan who along with her companion was in Ballarat competing in various elocutionary sections at South Street. Ballarat Rowing Club hosted the young ladies and loaned them a four to row in. The veterans present to watch the fair sex launch onto the Lake considered it to be a good exhibition of “oarsmanship”. Kitty showed especially good form rowing smartly and cleanly with plenty of power.

One of the first members to pay the supreme sacrifice was Ernest Morshead. He had won his Maiden fours at the Barwon Regatta in 1913. He enlisted in 1915 and was killed at the Battle of Fromelles in July 1916. He was just 23.

 Ernest Davey Morshead was born in Ballarat East. He attended the Ballarat School of Mines where he studied Manual Arts in 1914. The Morshead family ran a mens’ clothing store at 5 Bridge Street, Ballarat.

Ernest Morshead (1319) enlisted on 27 July 1915.  His enlist papers stated he was a 22 year old High School Master. He listed his mother, Mary Elizabeth Morshead, as his next of kin. He died of wounds in the field in France, on 20 July 1916.This day is remembered at the Battle of Fromelles. During this battle the 5th Australian Division suffered 5,533 casualties, the 61st British Division suffered 1,547. The German casualties were little more than 1,000. The attack was a complete failure and had no impact whatsoever upon the progress of the Somme offensive. The Australians suffered what is believed to be the greatest loss by a single division in 24 hours during the entire First World War.

On 01 August 1916 Ernest Morshead, a member of the 29th Battalion, was buried at Eaton Hall Military Cemetery, 4 miles from Armentieres.

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