SOLDIERS ON STRIKE
There is a small chip in the wall outside platform 1 that is what’s left of a little-known event that occurred at Central Station in 1916.
On Valentine’s Day in 1916 Australia was fighting in WWI and many army volunteers were stationed at training camps across the country. At 9am at a camp near Liverpool, it was announced that all recruits would have to “put in an hour and a half’s extra parade each day”.
About 5,000 recruits refused. In protest they marched into Liverpool where they took over pubs, drank them dry and proceeded to damage buildings. They then stormed Liverpool train station before boarding trains heading to the city. By this point their numbers had swollen to 15,000.
Once in the city, the soldiers rioted through the streets, damaging more buildings and targeted anyone with a foreign sounding name. At Central Station, where much of the violence took place, armed military police arrived to restore peace. They clashed with the soldiers and gunshots were exchanged. Sadly, one soldier, Private Ernest William Keefe, was killed with 8 others injured. This clash ended most of the violence aside from a few soldiers who continued to cause problems throughout the night.
The riot contributed to the introduction of lockout laws forcing pubs to close at 6pm, hence the creation of “the 6 o’clock swill”
IMAGE CREDIT: Personal collection