In 1915, the British Government began to feel the financial pressure of war and asked the Australian Government to finance its own share of the war effort.
In 1918, the Commonwealth Government launched its sixth campaign to sell war bonds, to be repaid with interest of five percent.
In Tasmania, a replica of the British armour plated tank was the chosen medium of advertising the war loan in the cities and country towns. It was also used as a travelling bank to receive deposits for the purchase of war bonds. It was a novel idea no other States had tried before.
The tank left Hobart on 20 March 1918 for its tour of the country districts, the furthest centre to be visited being Wynyard.
The tank arrived at Burnie late in the evening on 25 March 1918 and was escorted into town by a band and troops. People lined the streets for over a kilometre and children took delight when the tank began discharging its guns and spitting fire from its muzzles.
On the following day, Somerset was the first port of call of the tank on the way from Burnie to Wynyard. Somerset was not on the itinerary, but it was impossible to get past the schoolchildren’s blockade. Some distance along the road the tank was stopped twice for individual contributions.
All along the route, every homestead along the coastline carried flags on their garden fences, and there was just sufficient breeze coming across the ocean to keep them fluttering.
The war loan tank arrived at Wynyard late morning on the 26 March 1918, and welcomed by Warden Johnstone.
The tank commander was the first to take the podium on top of the tank to appeal to the crowd to contribute to the war effort. Then a parliamentarian renown for his eloquence, Joshua Thomas Whitsitt of Cooee, took the stand and exhorted to the crowd, the boys fighting in France must have “juice” and if they did not get “juice” they would go under as soon as his name was Whitsitt. The crowd erupted in cheers and surged forward to purchase their war bond.
Above is a picture that captures the moment and speaks volumes. In the foreground are three girls in lockstep and there’s a barefoot young lad in the centre of the picture. There’s a woman to the left pushing a four wheeled stroller and several identical vehicles parked in front of the post office, recently built in 1914. In the background is the St Brigid’s Church.
Little has changed on that section of Goldie Street except for the post office, which has since been rebuilt.
Over a million pounds was raised on this particular campaign, far exceeding all expectations. In less than a month, the tank covered over a thousand kilometres on rough roads without any major mishaps.
The seventh war loan opened in August 1918 was the last as the war ended in November 1918.
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