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Saturday, 2 August 2014

Lest we forget...the other victims of war

I am old enough to recall a time when bus stops had a sign to say that those with TPI (Totally and Permanently Incapacitated) badges could go to the head of the queue.  These were the veterans, mainly of the Great War, who had been able to survive, in broken form. Those who died were victims, but so were those who were allowed to live, and this weekend, we are remembering some of that madness.

Back when I was young, there were lots of ladies who were "getting on" but still active, who were all "Miss". It took me many years to realise that these were the girls who became women in a man-drought caused by the Great War.

They were victims as well, but it didn't do to talk about them. In fact, I was hissed at once by my mother when I asked, as a four-year-old, why the two ladies in the room (both middle-aged teachers ) were both called "Miss Davies".

There were other war victims as well, like the civilians caught in the manoeuvring of great armies, the women raped, the elderly and children heedlessly slaughtered. And in Australia, aside from the single women left behind, the kids whose fathers returned, broken, were also victims.

I escaped the worst of that when my own father returned from the next stoush, more or less normal, but I know some horror stories of fathers who had gone — and remained — "troppo" in one of the World Wars, and I have seen what has happened to a few Vietnam returnees and their families.
The gate at Auschwitz, stating that
"Work makes you free".

Coming out of Auschwitz in 2003, I thought that well, maybe there was such a thing as a just war. A few days later, leaving Dresden, I wondered how I could have got it so wrong.

Basically, there were no winners, and few victims ever get anything for their troubles. This need not be the case for some other lesser casualties, who merely suffered nomenclatural injustice. There, at least, we can right a small and petty wrong.

By training, I am a botanist, and I tend to write a lot of history. Combining these, a recent book of mine dealt with the naturalists who came to Australia, their adventures, squabbles, scandals and discoveries. Every so often, I return to some aspects of it, because there is some unfinished business going on there.

This past week, my relaxation has been digging into the records for Ferdinand Bauer, an Austrian painter and passable botanist who visited Australia with Matthew Flinders in the early 1800s. Near Streaky Bay, Flinders put Ferdinand on the map when he added Cape Bauer to the chart.

By 1916, the pain of war was apparent to all, and beefy men of a certain age and choler, but with no disposition to risk their own pelts in conflict, were casting around to show the bally Hun what was what. The average vile Hun being far off, they turned to the Australian map, and thought, perhaps, of how the Saxe-Coburg-Gothas had become Windsors.
Holbrook'w sub, HMAS Otway.

So began a movement that saw Germanton in NSW named after Holbrook VC, a submarine commander (NOW you know why there's a sub on the Hume Highway between Gundagai and Albury!) The other states all piled in, but SA had the highest proportion of place names "of enemy origin" and Something Had To Be Done.

So it was that in November 1916, the South Australian government brought down the report of the committee appointed by the Government to make recommendations for the substitution of British or Australian aboriginal names for places in South Australia.

It is here: but the relevant paragraph reads "BAUER, CAPE, near Streaky Bay. - Named in 1802 by Matthew Flinders after Ferdinand Bauer, Austrian painter of natural history, who was on the Investigator. To be CAPE WONDOMA, the native name applied to a well in the locality."

Note that this wasn't the Aboriginal name given to the cape, just a local place name plucked at random and bestowed on a different location. There is no justice entailed in applying that Aboriginal name.

So I wondered if the change to Wondoma happened, and if it did, whether it lasted. Bauer was an Austrian, serving on a Royal Navy ship, so the change seemed a little discourteous. I knew that some other names in SA had reverted, so I went burrowing.

In October 1935, the SA government was preparing for a centenary, and reviewing the prospect of restoring some of the original names. I found this: (The Advertiser, Thursday 3 October 1935, p. 8.)
"Wondoma Or Cape Bauer? In the Assembly yesterday, Mr. Morphett (L.C.L.) asked whether the Government would consider changing the name of Wondoma, on the West Coast, to Cape Bauer, which it originally had been called. Cape Bauer, he said, had been named by Captain Matthew Flinders on February 5, 1802. as related in his journal, in honor of Ferdinand Bauer, who was a painter of natural history on the technical staff aboard the Investigator. Cape Bauer had also been associated with South Australia in connection with Eyre's first expedition.

"The Premier (Mr. Butler) said that the Government, in restoring German place names, desired that certain pages of the State's history should not be lost. The Government had reached a definite decision in regard to Klemzig. Hahndorf, Lobethal, and Hergott. Whether or not the system was to be extended was a matter for the Government to decide."
The following day, the same paper published this letter of outrage:
"RESTORATION OF GERMAN PLACE NAMES FLINDERS'S HONOR TO FERDINAND BAUER To The Editor Sir—Referring to your article, In Wednesday's issue of 'The Advertiser,' on the restoration of German place names, I regret to note that no request has been made in connection with Cape Bauer, now known as Cape Wondoma, and I submit that the S-A. branch of the Royal Geographical Society might very well take the matter up before the special legislation has been prepared. The name Bauer was given by Captain Matthew Flinders during the Voyage of the Investigator in 1802, the man thus honored being Ferdinand Bauer, an Austrian, not a German be it noted, who joined the Investigator as botanical draftsman to the celebrated botanist Brown.

"Flinders considered it a point of honor never to disturb a name bestowed by an original discoverer, and his naming: of Cape Leeuwin, Mounts Zeehan and Heemskirk, and Cape Keerweer, are eloquent of his desire to recognise in full the exploits of his predecessors on the Australian coast. He gave to the geographical features of the shores discovered by himself the names of people who had befriended him. the names of the gallant band who voyaged with him, and the names of places in his native county, Lincolnshire; but never was a place named after himself. He left to posterity the recognition of his performance, and it should devolve on posterity to see that his names are not disturbed.

"If the change back to Hahndorf, Hergott, Klemzig, and Lobethal is justified, as a Centenary gesture, how much more so is the restoration of a name given by the State's original discoverer—the man who gave to the continent around which he was the first to sail, the name Australia. I am Sir, &c., NORMAN FORD 70 Currie street, Adelaide." 

The outrage achieved nothing. If you enter "Cape Bauer" in Google Maps, the database is good enough to trigger "Do you mean Cape Wondoma, 5680?", but that is the only name it likes. Agree to Wondoma, or it shows you nothing.

To this day, Cape Bauer remains doggedly, chauvinistically Cape Wondoma, a monument to pettiness of people who have yet to notice that the war is over. There is one bit of good news: the road from Streaky Bay that goes around much of the coast is called Cape Bauer Road.

The centenary of this spiteful act is close. Will we do justice to a painter who never butchered a Belgian baby or did any of the other nasties attributed to the opposition in World War I. I plan to start jumping up and down.

How good was Ferdinand Bauer? See this: The Sunday Herald (Sydney), Sunday 27 August 1950, p. 2

Start campaigning now!

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