1b In 1918 it was Billjim not Digger or Anzac

billjim1plugs42 bigger

Billjim – “one who’ll plug for two” – was the affectionate name the public had for Australian soldiers in World War I, especially the Light Horse. It became the natural  title of the Edward Dyson ditty of the era which captured perfectly this celebration of mateship.

Contrast Digger or Anzac, which were not near as popular and emotive as Billjim during WWI, they seem to be a terms developed decades later. Digger reinforces the ‘loser’ perception – soldiers on other fronts in a stalemate being forced to dig a hole and spend the war sitting underground with vermin and disease – because we weren’t allowed to have the epochal Damascus victory in our history. How different we could have developed as a Nation if we had been celebrating, being able to mix it with the best of them on the world stage, and win, every 1st October; instead of the spin put on a humiliating defeat every 25 April.
That the  average Australian, even ‘the ‘Bulletin’, throughout the War, referred to the Australian soldier as “Billjim” ‘ – is all confirmed in this 11 Feb. 1936 newspaper article uncovered in the National Archives –
http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/36072636 :

Billjim not Digger article 11 Feb 1936

Australian advertising pioneer, Bill McFerran (1890-1977) in discussing the requirement for greater patriotism in consumption, highlighted the need for a distinct national character for Australia using the only acceptable term of endearment, evening in advertising, specifically in relation to “a symbolic figure denoting progress …representing this young, virile country”:

A still further suggestion which is worthy of consideration by Advertising Men is to secure a typical Australian character … This, of course, is a matter which can only be decided upon over a period of years, but there is nothing like starting early and laying the foundations now with the object of securing something in a few years’ time. We have the Billjim type…
Ink, vol 6 no 10, April 1926, p 11 – as quoted by Robert Crawford in ‘A Slow Coming of Age: Advertising …in the Twentieth Century’.

In the National Archives is a song, “Brother Billjim”, published in 1919, written and composed by Jack Fewster (1893 – 1949) to raise public awareness about the plight of the returning Billjim. To get their attention he obviously used a title generally accepted:

More Billljim examples from newspaper articles and books in the National Archives http://trove.nla.gov.au/result?q=billjim :


…imbided the very spirit of…”Billjim” the typical Australia, which, unfortunately, very few of the public possess…his Australian individuality…in this holocaust the attributes …his dogged endurance and unfailing pluck enabled him to stick it out.

BILLJIM [Play opening] SMH 25 Oct. 1920

‘Billjim,’ which is the third on the list of plays brought out from London by Mr. Robert Courtneidge for presentation by the London Comedy Company, is to be produced tomorrow night at the Tivoli Theatre…


Billjim got some of his own back when he agreed, for a packet of fags, to write a sign to attract the custom of the boys for the cafe-keeper at Cairo. That day there appeared outside the establishment:

             THIS IS A _ _ _ _ OF A JOINT

The native was extremely proud of Bill’s handicraft – as evidenced by the great prominence he gave the sign…

FILLING BILLJIM’S PIPE – 11 Sep. 1917 [Tobacco company’s support]



AS TO BILLJIM – 21 Mar, 1917 (The Cumberland Argus – Parramatta)

WHAT does Mr. John Storey and his two henchmen, Mr. Lang and Mr. Garden, propose to do for Billjim when he returns? The anti-conscription cry will not help him very much. It may win a few seats here and there and provlde a decent living for three years for anti-Nationals. But what about Billjim? He will be coming home in thousands and tens of thousands directly. He will want work and land if he is still able to work.
 He will want help on a mighty big scale if he is incapacitated. What will Storey and Garden and Lang and their comrade Brookfield do for him? There is no doubt about Mr. Holman’s intentions towards Billjim. The National Party proposes practically to double tho pensions provided by the Federal Government. They are already setting aside large areas of land for the settlement of returned soldiers. They propose to help the soldier in clearing his land and preparing it for the plough and they will make liberal advances to keep Billjim going while he is pioneering his settlement. In this case the horse will not be allowed to starve, while the grass is growing. The National Government will find the money to keep things going while tho farm is becomlng self-supporting. It is proposed to go further and work these settlements on co-operative lines, the State finding plant and tools and horses and seed and so forth. Now, what have Storey and Lang and Garden and Brookfield to say to all this? Do they object? And if not, why go on with this stupid and useless policy of anti-everything? The National Government is going straight ahead with a sane and vigorous policy of repatriation. The wives and sisters of soldiers fighting at the front will readily see the advantage of supporting the National Government as against those who champion the men who will not fight.

• BILLJIM’S SISTERS – 29 June 1917

BILLJIM’S BRIDE – 24 Aug. 1918 [marriages while on leave in the Blighty (England)]
BILLJIM IN LONDON – 4 April 1918

“Duglio” sends this spicy paragraph to the ‘Bulletin’: The other day a message came to our camp from Lady Pembroke, stating that she would be happy to entertain 75 Australian soldiers at a reception to be held at Wilton Park …We were also shown the spot on which Shakespeare played ‘As You Like it’… [Wilton is located west of London; Pembroke’s ancestor was Susan de Vere, Shakespeare’s daughter.]

ATTACK ON THE BILLJIM [London] 18 Apr. 1918

COMFORTS FUND – THE  “BILLJIM” RAFFLE [assisting returning Billjim] 20 Jul. 1918.

THE COO-EE CONTINGENT : Billjim as fighter, good chum and lover
Gladys Hain, Pub. 1917, London; Melbourne

• A HANDFUL OF AUSSEYS – C. Hampton Thorp, Pub. 1919, Uni. of California.
 It’s marvellous ‘ow a needle kin git lorst jus w’en yer wanta use it a Billjim would...


Billjim Ordered Shoot Horses newspaper 17 Dec 1918 b

The Billjim horses were called “Walers” because they were a special hardy breed from New South Wales; that could endure the desert conditions, and cover long distances fast. Obviously, Billjim and Waler were best mates, often going back years before the War. After all they’d been through together …Damascus could not have been taken without Waler. Then trickles down the order from some elites laid back somewhere having a cigar and brandy after a gourmet dinner, effectively, “Well, thanks very much Billjim and Waler for giving us the Middle East, in appreciation, you are to go out and shoot your best mate in the head; and everything you have achieved together is to be forgotten and credited to someone else — even in your own country nobody will even care what a Billjim and Waler is.”

The Billjim are the quintessential fair dinkum Australian. They encapsulate the true-blue Aussie spirit that we should be teaching our children to aspire to. First and foremost, is obviously ‘mateship’. And they were resourceful, no mucking around – get the job done. To the chagrin of the establishmen it was the uncouth Australians that pulled off the greatest prize in modern history, executed by the most successful cavalry in modern history. Thus, the Billjims, even at an international level, are the most successful group of Australians in our history as a nation. Yet no Australian today has ever heard of them. How long before a group of prominent fair dinkum Australian leaders embrace the Billjim, and the model they so effectively expound – 1plugs42?

Take a good look at the photo above. The Billjims camped outside of Damascus. Look at these guys, sure they look cocky because they are Winners. But they’re also volunteers, their farms and families back home are going to blazes. Here are these Australians, half-way around the world, not sightseeing, not an insignificant military unit, not diggers. Rather they are the ultimate spearheading force. Yet they will end up getting nothing, no credit, no movie, no ABC documentary, no iPhone computer game… Nothing.

Also note that a core theme of the Billjim plight, is the history and nature of the impostor motif. Qutie simply plagiarism – somebody taking the credit for someone else’s deeds. Who realy did what. Who or what culture was the prime mover. There are lots of euphemisms – ‘inspired by’, ‘borrowing’, ‘coopting’ – forgetting to mention the source, the prime mover. The first act of the successful plagiarists is to literally bury the original.

Recorded plagiarism dates back to the first great civilization of Sumer. Any knowledge of their deeds – invention of writing, The Gilgamesh Epic (complete with great flood story); the wheel – were buried in Iraq for thousands of years until they were unearthed in 1853 (ironically the same year Admiral Perry’s U.S. Black Ships ‘unearthed’ Japan).

Now, how’s this for a bit of a la Robert Graves White Goddess etymology detective work… considering the nickname of ‘James’ is ‘Jim’ and in Arabic ‘Gilgamesh’ appears as ‘Jiljamish’ which is the Babylonian / Akkadian name for the much older Sumerian (who were black, by the way, and the creators of the first great civilization from which the Greeks and Romans freely plagiarized) ‘Bilgames’ the cuneiform for which has been translated as “The ancestor who was a hero” …Billjim!

Billjim Book, pub. ‘1918

Billjim at Sea 30i

Souvenir “Billjim”, comrades all : a memento of the ever-changing life on board a modern transport journeying from the Southern Cross with troops for the help of England – edited by P.C. de Crespigny
Archived National Library of Australia:
Bib ID 514725
Format BookBook
Description [London? : s.n.], 1918.
32 p. : ill., ports ; 29 cm.
Collection RNB W.W.I series
Summary Stories, sketches and humor of the Australian and New Zealand troops aboard a troopship on their way to Europe during World War One.
Notes Souvenir committee : P.C. de Crespigny, editor; Leo Kelly, Hugh Maclean, J.E. Jeays, C.H. Ledward, W.R. Finlayson.Inscribed “To Harry Lawson from his pal Hugh Maclean …”
Google Books – Souvenir Billjim Comradeshttp://books.google.com.au/books/about/Souvenir_Billjim_Comrades_All.html?id=WhnTtgAACAAJ&redir_esc=y

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