At 11pm Greenwich Mean Time (midnight in Berlin) on the 4 August 1914, the British ultimatum to the Germans to withdraw from Belgium expired and Britain declared war on Germany.
At the same time in Port Philip Bay, Victoria, 10:00am local time on the 5th August the German steamship SS Pfalz was attempting to leave the port. The ship was fired upon by the guns at Point Nepean Fort at the heads at Port Philip Bay.
The ship was seized by Australia and renamed the SS Boorara and served as a transport during The Great War. Further details on the SS Boorara, including a collection of photos, can be found at Coastal Defences of Colonial Victoria.
Ninety five years later the Australian Minister for Veterans’ Affairs The Hon Alan Griffin MP issued the following media release:
On 4 August 1914 German forces crossed the Belgian border and set in train an escalating conflict that would soon engulf Europe. Australia’s pledge of support to Britain ultimately cost some 60,000 lives in a war that lasted four years and affected almost every household in the country.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Alan Griffin said the 95th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War was an opportunity to reflect on the service and sacrifice of those who served in the ‘war to end all wars’.
“More than 416,000 Australians enlisted in the First World War and of those more than 60,000 lost their lives on the battlefields of the Western Front, Gallipoli, the Middle East, in the skies above many of these battlefields and at sea,” Mr Griffin said.
“Some 160,000 Australians returned home injured or ill and Australia’s repatriation system grew out of our duty of care to these men and women and to the families of those who did not return. We continue this duty of care today, supporting around 370 war widows of First World War servicemen.
“We are also ensuring our First World War veterans are commemorated through enduring tributes.
“The Australian Government is contributing $10 million over the next four years to establish a Western Front Interpretive Trail to better tell the story of Australian service in France and Belgium. The concept will tell Australia’s story to visitors of all nations right across the Front, by working with communities and with regional and national authorities to improve existing facilities or create additional ones on Australian battlefields.
“This is long overdue recognition of Australia’s contribution and by acting now we can improve interpretative sites as we move towards the centenary of our involvement in the First World War.
“Each year on Anzac Day thousands of Australians gather at Gallipoli and now in France to honour those who served in these locations, but also those who served in all of the other wars and conflicts since. Our commitment to commemorate their service remains strong,” the Minister said.
The Families and Friends of the First AIF thanks the Australian, UK and French governments for affording Australian and British soldiers buried in mass graves at Pheasant Wood by German soldiers following the Battle of Fromelles on 19/20 July 1916 dignified individual reburials in a new CWGC cemetery at Fromelles, and applauds the joint decision to DNA test the remains at exhumation and use every reasonable method to attempt identification of each soldier.