The Song of the New Guard

A couple of months ago, I wrote briefly about the New Guard, a right-wing paramilitary movement that sprung into being in Australia during the Great Depression.

Since that time, I have been in Australia conducting research for my PhD. And since the New Guard features in my work, i’ve spent a good deal of time looking at the material left behind by its leaders and members. At this point, i’m sure many of you are stifling a yawn, and wondering “what’s so exciting about dusty old papers and pamphlets?” Well, lots, if you’re a history geek like me… but history ‘aint all paperwork, you know.

Take the following New Guard cartoon, for example, which speaks volumes on the guardsmen’s adherence to orthodox economics and its attitude towards Labor Premier Jack Lang:

Note Lang’s priestly raiment – the New Guard often portrayed him as a false prophet of the working class

  

Or how about the colourful armbands worn by New Guardsmen to denote their locality and rank – two of which are located in the Mitchell library of New South Wales:

The armband of a Five Dock locality member (left) and the locality commander (right)

  

But perhaps the most exciting historical remnant i’ve come across recently is the sheet music for the New Guard’s anthem. This anthem would have been sung before meetings and rallies of the New Guard, including the Monster Rally in February 1932 attended by over 3000 guardsmen. Using a little elbow grease and some handy freeware music editing software, I managed to reproduce the anthem in all its cheesy glory. So, played out loud for the first time in almost eighty years, here it is – “The Song of the New Guard” by Sydney Calland and Celene Hooper:

  

So you see, history isn’t all paperwork. It’s something you can see, something you can hear, something you can touch – in short, it’s a veritable wonderland for the imagination. And what may seem like a cheesy little ditty today would have, in its time, been a powerful marker of imperial patriotism and loyalty. Imagine, if you will,  three thousand fervent guardsmen thundering songs about God, King and Country off the walls of the Sydney Town Hall. Understand the drawing power of such displays, and one can go a long way towards truly understanding the motives of historical figures.

  

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3 thoughts on “The Song of the New Guard

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  1. Hi
    I am fascinated by this “Song of the New Guard”
    I am researching my family tree and discovered that Celene Hooper is related to me on my Grandmothers side I have not been able to discover much about her until this came up Do you know if she was involved with the New Guard or just wrote the anthem I do know they were entertainers
    Thank you for reading this comment
    Jane Saccomani

  2. Hi Jane,

    I’m glad you liked my post! Bringing that song back from the mists of time was one of my favourite historical exercises 🙂

    I’m afraid I don’t know if Celene Hooper was involved in the New Guard or not. However, I suspect that her work for the movement was strictly professional. A quick search of historical newspapers on trove (http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/home) indicates that she was a well regarded and sought after musician in the late twenties/early thirties who worked with Sydney Calland quite often. Hiring them to write the anthem may have been just one of many ways that the New Guard tried to show off its class credentials.

    If you want to know more about the New Guard, I have written the following post about them: https://matthewleecunningham.com/2011/05/09/the-revolution-that-wasnt/

    Regards
    Matthew

  3. Reblogged this on Test Patterns and commented:
    I’ve been chasing down a few family lines recently – and was a little surprised to find there were more artistes in the family. Celene Hooper (born Selina Hooper Hudson) is/was my 1st cousin 3R. Imagine my surprise and delight when this blog post turned up as a result of my Google search. I had already established through TROVE that the sheet music was in the hands of the National Library but to find that someone had brought it to life, was a little added bonus! Thank you Matthew,

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