Australians’ confidence in the superiority of the British Empire. The Anzacs quickly acquired hero status – and their heroism was recognized in Anzac Day, which has been commemorated since on 25 April.
Logue was already aged thirty-four and had two sons, but nevertheless volunteered for military service. He was rejected on medical grounds: after he left school, he had fallen heavily while playing football and smashed his knee, which ended any serious sporting activities – or chance of serving in the army. ‘I joined a rifle club, but was obliged to give it up as I couldn’t march,’ he said in a newspaper interview which appeared during the war years. ‘I am afraid as a soldier I should lay up for a few weeks after the first long march, and would only be an unnecessary expense to my country.’
Although spared the horrors of Gallipoli, Logue nevertheless set out to do his bit for the war effort. He put his energies into organizing recitals, concerts and various amateur dramatic performances in Perth in aid of the Red Cross Fund, French Comfort Fund, the Belgian Relief Fund and other charities. The programmes were often a curious mixture of the deadly serious and the comic. During one performance by the Fremantle Quartette Party in July 1915, Logue began with what the reviewer described as a ‘graphically descriptive recital of “The Hell Gates of Soissons”, which deals dramatically with the glorious martyrdom of twelve men of the Royal Engineers in checking the German advance to Paris in September last’. Later he had his audience roaring with laughter at several ‘delightfully humorous trifles’. The reviews, as on this occasion, were invariably glowing and the houses full.
Logue had so far concentrated on elocution and drama, but he attempted to apply some of the knowledge of the voice that it had given him to help servicemen suffering speech disorders as a result of shell shock and gas attacks. He scored success with some – including those who had been told by hospitals that there was nothing that could be done for them. Logue’s achievements were documented in some detail in an article that appeared in the West Australian in July 1919, under the dramatic headline ‘The Dumb Speak’.
His first success appears to have been with Jack O’Dwyer, a former soldier from West Leederville, in the Perth suburbs. Earlier that year, Logue had been sitting on a train next to a soldier and watched, intrigued, as he leant forward to speak to two companions in a whisper. ‘Mr Logue thought the matter over, and just before he got to Fremantle he gave the soldier his card and asked him to call on him,’ the newspaper reported. O’Dwyer, it emerged, had been gassed at Ypres in August 1917 but had been told in London that he would never speak again. At Tidworth hospital on Salisbury Plain suggestive and hypnotic treatment was tried but failed. And so, on 10 March 1919, the unfortunate man had gone to see Logue.
Logue was convinced he could help. So far as he could tell, the gas had affected the throat, the roof of the mouth and the tonsils, but not the vocal cords – in which case there was hope. At this stage, though, it was only a theory. He had to put it into practice. After a week, Logue managed to get a vibration in O’Dwyer’s vocal cords and his patient was able to produce a clear and distinct ‘ah’. Logue continued, trying to show him how to form sounds, much in the same way as a parent would teach a child how to speak for the first time. Less than two months later, O’Dwyer was discharged, quite cured.
Logue described the treatment (which he made clear to the newspaper that he’d provided without charge) as ‘patient tuition in voice production combined with fostering the patient’s confidence in the result’ – the same mixture of the physical and psychological that was to prove a feature of his future work with the King. As such, it was in sharp contrast to rather more brutal methods,