Maffra and District Historical Society

M&DHS operates the Maffra Sugar Beet Museum, part of the Local History Collection at the Maffra Library, and a Dairy Museum at the Robotic Dairy at Winnindoo.

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Location: Victoria, Australia

Monday, September 24, 2012

TROVE TUESDAY - Beet Seed and WWI

Trove Tuesday is when bloggers around Australia post stories pointing to the sorts of things they have found in newspapers on Trove. So here is one from Maffra for today.

At the start of WWI, Maffra had the only sugarbeet industry in the Southern Hemisphere (which is why we have a Sugarbeet Museum). The factory imported seed from Germany each year, and distributed it to the local growers.

The Declaration of War was announced in the Maffra Spectator of 6 August 1914.

Then, in the Maffra Spectator of 10 Aug 1914 apprehension began to rise as to the whereabout of the Lothringen from Germany, carrying the 100 bags of seed for the season's beet crops. Frantic cables were sent to a family member in California, in an attempt to source 75 bags of seed.

In the edition of 17 August, as the paper was being set up, the whereabouts of the ship were still unlcear, although a note was able to be inserted as it went to press that the ship had arrived. As all seed was grown in Germany, Russia and France, thoughts rapidly began to turn to producing local supplies. Elsewhere in the paper was the full story. The ship had steamed in through the heads two days before, with the captain having not heard that war had been declared, as there was no radio equipment aboard. It was promptly seized.

But at least the Beet Seed arrived for that season. Just in time.

A full account of the seizure appears in the Williamstown Advertiser of 22 August, very much in "Boy's Own" terms. An account of the seizure of one of the other ships appears below, HERE. The seized ships (there were at least three) were then formally seized through the Admiralty Court (not a court I had come across before), and sent off to Sydney. By 12 December it had been taken over by Burns, Philp and Co, and was loading cargo for Calcutta.


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