“And In this crisis the Government calls upon all loyalists, all who value their liberty and privileges as Australian citizens, to stand by it.” Sydney Morning Herald, 25 August 1917

Medals were issued to loyalists who remained at work throughout the strike.

“Loyalists”, “Strike-breakers”, “Scabs”, “Blacklegs”—all of these names were used to describe railway workers and volunteers who remained loyal to NSW Railways and continued to work through the Great Strike of 1917—the choice of name depending on the allegiance of the speaker.

“The ghost of 1917 was very much alive for fifty or so years after the events of 1917 and the 1917 strike, much of it, was played out in the Eveleigh workshop areas…” Brian Dunnett, former Eveleigh worker

For most Eveleigh workers, whether to strike or continue working was not a simple decision to be made lightly. Strikers could risk the very livelihood of themselves and their families, as for many, going without pay for an unknown period of time presented a real threat to a family’s future food and housing. 

Schoolboy volunteers shown in this picture washing a locomotive during the 1917 Strike, were part of the volunteer workforce called upon to fill the roles left vacant by striking workers.

“Probably a lot of people who came back to work, instead of staying out, maybe they were starving a bit more than the others, when they came back to work, they were frowned upon.” Keith Johnson, former Eveleigh worker

In an effort to break the strike and alleviate the supply and transport shortages caused by the strike, the NSW government called for volunteers to fill the jobs of the striking men. Many of these volunteers travelled to Sydney from across regional NSW and were housed in makeshift camps at places like Taronga Zoo, Dawes Point, and the SCG (disparagingly named by strikers as the ‘Scabs Collecting Ground’). The volunteer force at Eveleigh included hundreds of teenage schoolboys from some of Sydney’s elite private boys schools: Newington, Sydney Grammar, and Shore.

Loyalist tram clerical staff workers at Eveleigh during the 1917 Great Strike.


Ellmoos, L. 2018 “Great Strike of 1917”, Dictionary of Sydney, https://dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/great_strike_of_1917, accessed 28 April 2021. 

1917 'THE GREAT STRIKE.', The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), 25 August, p. 10. , viewed 20 May 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15756471