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Cooee: America bars undesirables

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February 14, 2017

Irish-born Daniel Mannix appointed Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne: Mannix, by promoting Irish Home Rule and No to the Australian Conscription of 1917, would prove to be a deeply controversial appointment

This week, in 1917, crew from German submarine U-53 boarded USS Housatonic off the coast of Britain.

The ship was carrying wheat and soap.

The Germans first helped themselves to the soap, in short supply in Germany, and then torpedoed the Housatonic.

Ironically, the ship had been built as SS Pickhuben, a German passenger ship but had been interned in America at the outbreak of war.

In America, the pro-war parties were gaining support daily.

President Wilson remained reluctant for war.

However, this sinking led to the US breaking off diplomatic relations with Germany.

More than 500 ships, both neutral and Allied, were sunk in the first eight weeks of this renewed policy of unrestricted submarine warfare.

As a precaution, this week saw Britain introduce bread rationing.

Lord Devonport, the British Minister of Food Economy, begged his countrymen to avoid waste with food.

This week also saw the American Congress vote to override President Wilson’s veto of its Immigration Act, an act barring all those seen as undesirables from immigrating to the US.

Alcoholics, anarchists and Asians were just three of the many groups barred from immigration.

Afghanistan and the Arabian Peninsula were two of the geographical areas whose people could not immigrate to the US.

The Act also required those immigrating to pass literacy tests successfully.

In early 1917, the British Government asked Australia to raise a 6th Division to be sent to France.

The Division was raised, but Australian manpower shortages meant that it was never at full strength.

By September 1917, its units were disbanded and their personnel were used to make good some of the heavy losses that the first five Australian Divisions would suffer in the coming battles of 1917.

In Australia this week, Thomas Carr, Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne died.

Irish-born Daniel Mannix was his successor.

Mannix, by promoting Irish Home Rule and No to the Australian Conscription of 1917, would prove to be a deeply controversial appointment.

Even when the Vatican later attempted to silence him, it trod very carefully lest a schism result.

Meanwhile, at Benalla, the health officer reported to the council that there was nothing in the water or wheat at Goorambat that would have caused typhoid.

He therefore suggested a typhoid carrier had brought the disease into Goorambat.

A councillor complained that the health officer’s visit was perfunctory and that the samples that he had taken had been lost in transit to Melbourne.

The councillor asked how the health officer could substantiate his remarks.

The health officer attended the council meeting and made soothing remarks.

Nothing was resolved, but three people had died, a man, a woman and a child, and a third of Goorambat still had typhoid.

— John Barry, Anzac Commemorative Working Party. Coo-ee — Honouring our WWI Heroes

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