Billy Hughes's Army
DESCRIPTION: "Why don't you join (x3) Billy Hughes's army? Six bob a week and nothing to eat, Great big boots and blisters on your feet, Why don't you join...."
EARLIEST DATE: 2003 (Davey/Seal)
KEYWORDS: soldier hardtimes
1915-1923 - William Hughes Prime Minister of Australia (see NOTES)
FOUND IN: Australia
REFERENCES (1 citation):
ADDITIONAL: Gwenda Beed Davey and Graham Seal, _A Guide to Australian Folklore_, Kangaroo Press, 2003, p. 177, "(Billy Hughes' Army)" (1 partial text)
NOTES: Bassett, p. 135, reports that William Morris Hughes (1862-1852) was born in London but moved to Australia in 1884, becoming a union official, being admitted to the bar in 1903, and serving in the House of Representatives from 1901 to 1952 (!). In that time, he represented Labor, National Labor, Nationalist, United Australia, and Liberal parties. He was expelled from THREE of those parties, mostly over conscription issues. He was Prime Minister from 1915 to 1923, and was responsible for trying and failing to pass conscription in World War I; hence this song. He also explicitly supported racism.
Learmont, p. 269, calls him one of Australia's "most colorful and controversial political personalities" and sas that he was a member of the New South Wales Parliament "in 1894, and of the Commonwealth Parliament from the first federal elections until his death. Hughes was small in stature, and in compensation for this as well as for the harsh conditions of his early life, he was hard, overbearing and arrogant. At the same time a brilliant political mind was accompanied by ready wit."
In 1916, he visited the Western Front of World War I, where he gained the name "The Little Digger."
Clark, p. 232, says that the first referendum on conscription was held October 28, 1916 (in other words, more than a year after the Gallipoli landings showed Australia just how deadly World War I would be); 52% of the electorate voted against it. Clark, p 234, says that the second referendum, December 20, 1917, had 54% vote against. I am frankly amazed that Hughes survived two such substantial rejections. - RBW
Last updated in version 4.1
- Jan Bassett, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Australian History, Oxford University Press, 1986
- Clark: Manning Clark, A Short History of Australia, Penguin, 1963; fourth edition, 1995
- Learmonth: Andrew and Nancy Learmonth, Encyclopedia of Australia, 2nd edition, Warne & Co, 1973
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