Sunday, April 24, 2011

Furore over Anzac Day radio appeal, 1945

Evening Post, 21 April 1945

In 1945, during the last months of World War II, the National Patriotic Fund Board had an idea.


"Tomorrow evening, Anzac Day, a combined radio and telephone appeal for patriotic funds, possibly the last such appeal that may have to be made, will be held on a Dominion-wide basis," says a statement issued by the National Patriotic Fund Board.

"When it is borne in mind that 8000 New Zealand prisoners of war are still awaiting release, their need for comforts and recreational facilities on repatriation should be obvious. It is worth remembering, too, that the expenditure of patriotic funds will be extremely heavy immediately following the cessation of hostilities with our men needing additional amenities during periods of inactivity. To cope with the expected rush, the whole of the Dominion's radio and telephone resources is being utilised, as well as the services of a large number of volunteers from post and telegraphic and radio station staffs.

“In all, 348 telephone exchanges will have a part to play in the appeal, and where attendance is not normally continuous staffs are giving up their own time to assist in maintaining a full coverage. In some of the larger centres it has been necessary to augment the departmental staff, and again there has been no lack of response, patriotic-spirited workers having come forward willing to do this work.

"Similarly, full use is being made of the broadcasting network. The Dominion has been split up into 17 zones for the purpose of acknowledging donations. Each of the broadcasting centres will report total district or zone contributions every hour to the Dominion headquarters in Wellington, and from there at intervals of approximately an hour the Dominion totals will be broadcast.

"Where there are manual exchanges subscribers will ring the exchange and ask for 'Patriotic,' which will be represented in the person of the postmaster and a special staff. In the areas where there are automatic exchanges the subscriber will dial the special number allocated to that area. Recorders will notify the subscriber from which radio station his contribution will be acknowledged.”

Evening Post 24 April 1945

And immediately, the Auckland RSA were up in arms.

"We feel that the sanctity of the commemoration, which is the very core of Anzac Day, and which the legislation of the country framed specifically to protect, will be grossly violated by the high pressure salesmanship involved in the proposed radio telephone appeal for patriotic funds which is planned for Wednesday evening," said Mr. A P Postlewaite, president of the Auckland RSA, this morning. The proposal, he said, was a wilful breach of the spirit of the Act, and the emotions of the community would be cruelly offended. Telegrams protesting against the proposed appeal were dispatched this morning to the Governor-General, the Acting Prime Minister, Minister of Broadcasting, and the Dominion headquarters of the RSA.
Evening Post 24 April 1945

The protest by the Auckland RSA against the holding of the radio-telephone appeal for patriotic funds on the evening of Anzac Day was commented upon today by the N.Z.R.S.A. Dominion vice-president, Mr. C O Bell, who stated that the National Patriotic Fund Board had approached the NZRSA Dominion executive committee last March regarding holding an appeal oh Anzac Night, and the NZRSA had informed the board that as far as it was concerned it had no objection, but that it could not speak for its affiliated branches.

A similar appeal had been made on Anzac Night, 1941, and no branch had protested. "If the appeal offends the susceptibilities of any branch," added Mr. Bell, “the question can be discussed at the annual NZRSA Dominion conference in June, but the most important duty at the present time is to get behind the appeal and so ensure that the funds required for comforts for our service men and women are obtained " Mr. Bell concluded by appealing to all branches of the NZRSA to lend full co-operation to the appeal.


During a discussion at the Wellington Metropolitan Committee's meeting yesterday afternoon on the propriety of holding the radio appeal on Anzac Night, the Mayor (Mr. Appleton), who is chairman of the committee, said that while there had been some criticism in Auckland of the proposal, as far as he was aware there had been none in Wellington. The Mayor of Lower Hutt (Mr. Andrews) said that as the appeal was to raise money for servicemen, he could see no objection to it on Anzac Night; indeed, he did not think that such an appeal, even on a Sunday night, would be out of place.

Although not satisfied that Anzac night is a suitable occasion for the radio telephone appeal for patriotic funds, the executive of the Dunedin RSA has learned that the appeal was approved by the Dominion executive, and is anxious that nothing should be done to prejudice the appeal, states a Press Association message. The president, Mr. Forsyth, commenting on the Auckland protest, said that the Dunedin branch executive, on hearing of the proposal, felt much as the Auckland branch did, but learning that the Dominion executive had given the appeal its support, had confined itself to a remit to the Dominion conference of the R.S.A. with a view to the prevention of such an appeal on Anzac night in future.

Evening Post 24 April 1945

The appeal ultimately netted £66,169 ($5,134,000 in today’s values, better than most of the later Telethons of the 1970s-1980s). But still the Auckland RSA were not happy with this use of the sacred day.

Strong views were expressed by many delegates to the New Zealand Returned Services' Association conference this morning on the question of Anzac Day observance before the conference adopted a remit from Auckland "that it be the established policy of the association that Anzac Day must not be used for any special monetary radio appeals."

Mr. A P Postlewaite (Auckland) said he did not think the expressed desire of the president, Mr. B J Jacobs, not to hold "inquests" on what had happened in the past, should be used as a cloak to protect the Dominion Executive Committee for sponsoring a radio appeal on Anzac night.

When the appeal was made in Auckland he had never heard "such rot” come over the air, said Mr. Postlewaite. The Auckland public had supported the local Returned Services Association's stand against the radio appeal and it was "a flop."

Mr. T G Taylor (Wellington) said the Wellington radio appeal had been supported by soldiers of this war on a battalion basis. Patriotic funds had benefited. Several delegates emphasised the need to retain the sacred nature of Anzac Day. Others considered it a suitable occasion to hold functions to benefit servicemen. An amendment by Mr. C L Podmore (Otahuhu), that no function for profit motive or monetary gain be held on Anzac Day, was lost. Mr. W D Young (Wanganui) said the amendment would go too far. Anzac night concerts in Wanganui were the best patronised function of the year, to the benefit of the Returned Services' Association.

Evening Post 21 June 1945

It seems an odd incident. The RSA sells man-made poppies before Anzac Day to raise funds for their own welfare purposes -- yet this appeal was for funds to aid soldiers and prisoners-of-war overseas, and it was at night, long after the parades, the memorial wreath-laying, etc. Surely it shouldn't have seemed so jarring to the RSA members at the time. 

Whether or not another such appeal was ever to be organised, following all the very vocal misgivings from the Auckland RSA, is of course moot – the war ended later that year. Today, of course, Anzac Day is effectively only 13 hours long, with businesses allowed to reopen from 1pm, and horse racing events and other entertainment staged. 

Probably today a similar appeal wouldn’t be seen as anything too untoward. But then again, it probably would be.

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