Chapter 4: Leaders and Men
THE army which had now entered upon its final campaigns, and whose leadership and equipment were the subject of such keen debate at home, was at this time, in many respects, at the peak of its efficiency. More than two years earlier it had established a tactical superiority over the Japanese, and since then it had gained in skill and confidence, and, in particular, in the art of living healthily and cheerfully in tropical bush. Its experience included warfare in many kinds of terrain and climate, and in Africa, Europe, Asia and the South Seas. Its system of training schools was comprehensive and their methods severe. There were 40 schools of various kinds for officers and NCOs, and from 1942 to 1945 96,000 courses of one kind or another, varying from four months to a few weeks, had been completed (some individuals doing more than one course). The LHQ Schools ranged from the Officer Cadet Training Unit through which, by August 1945, 7,887 had passed, the Staff School (to produce 1,007), the School of Artillery (14,212) and the Guerilla Warfare School (3,792), to the Cooking and Catering School (3,740), School of Military Law (205), School of Movement and Transport (382) and so on. The training of new recruits, described in an earlier volume, was long and exacting, culminating for young infantrymen in a jungle training course at Canungra in south Queensland so rigorous that life at the front, except for the moments of danger, was often reckoned less trying. The Canungra School was now turning out 4,000 reinforcements a month.
A majority of the senior field commanders were citizen officers. The Commander-in-Chief was a soldier by profession, as were his two chiefs of staff and the commander of the First Army, General Sturdee. The two corps commanders – Generals Morshead and Savige – were citizen soldiers. Each had left Australia in 1940 as a brigadier in the 6th Division. Of the commanders of the six divisions of the striking force four were or had been regulars; all six had served as young officers in 1914-18; the oldest, Wootten, was 51, the youngest, Stevens, 48. Among the twenty-one commanders of infantry or armoured brigades at 1st January 1945 only four had served in the earlier war. The youngest, Sandover,1 was 34; only two were regulars. Nine had gone overseas in 1940 as battalion commanders. The extent to which the corps that had served in the Middle East, and particularly the division first formed, had inherited the command of the army as a whole was illustrated by the fact that all but one brigade commander had served in the Middle East, and 13 of the 21 had sailed with the 6th Division (then of 12 battalions).
The same trend was evident in the appointment of commanding officers. Of the 59 infantry battalions (on 1st January), 31 were commanded by
officers who had gone overseas with the 6th Division or its early reinforcements and only five by officers who had served neither in the Middle East nor with the 8th Division.2 Only two infantry COs – T. J. Daly and J. L. A. Kelly – were regular soldiers.
It was certain that in an army with a relatively small regular officer corps-450 strong in 1945, not including quartermasters and officers of some small specialist corps – and one with so strong a citizen-soldier tradition a majority of the commands would be held by non-regulars. At this stage, however, there was no great shortage of non-regulars qualified to fill staff appointments at least up to the divisional level, and there were good reasons for making an effort to ensure that the post-war regular officer corps contained a due proportion of men who had commanded troops in the field. In the event the Chifley Government’s epochal decision soon after the war to establish a small regular army, as distinct from a cadre of regulars within a basically citizen army, led to the appointment to the regular army of a big contingent of regimental officers trained in the AIF with a consequent large increase in the proportion of regular officers with long regimental service in the field.3
The senior general staff and administrative officers on Army and Corps staffs were mostly regulars, but years of active service and strenuous study at the staff schools had brought forward a strong team of non-professional staff officers, so that on 1st January 1945 the GSO1s in each AIF division and nearly all GSO2s of divisions or brigade majors were citizen soldiers.4 Unfortunately, this did not mean that a corresponding number of regular officers were freed from staff appointments and were gaining regimental experience. Of the Staff Corps officers commissioned from 1940 to October 1944 and thus mostly aged 20 to 24 just half were already in staff appointments.
Some senior soldiers, both regular and citizen, considered that this was unfortunate from the point of view both of the young officers concerned and of the future of the army generally. In the 9th Division in 1942 and 1943 General Morshead had tried to correct the tendency but without great success. Throughout the army numbers of those young staff officers who had so far had little or no regimental service in the field were striving for transfers to combat units and were willing to drop a step in their wartime rank in order to join the battalion or regiment from which they had been seconded.
Lack of regimental experience reduced not only their general qualifications but their value as staff officers. One citizen soldier who had served
on the staff, and later had commanded battalions and brigades in action, wrote after the war:
As the AIF increased in size from a small expeditionary force to one of many divisions both abroad and in Australia, with expansion and establishment of larger headquarters, ancillary formations, etc., there came an urgent need for skilled staff officers. In the main these officers had to be drawn from existing units. Most of them were civilians in peacetime with no previous staff training. Once again COs and higher commanders played fair and made available some of their most promising young officers as students to the Staff College at Haifa and later at Duntroon. In every case the successful graduate was lost to the unit.
From my personal experience I found this type of staff officer, in general, extremely capable, flexible in mind, logical and reasoned in approach, with the added invaluable advantage of having had a good grounding in regimental duties and often experience in command of troops in operations. Unfortunately these essential qualities were not always apparent – partly through lack of opportunity and experience – in the regular staff officer of similar age and rank. Because of this deficiency his approach to his duties was often either timid and uncertain or overbearing and patronising.
In 1944 a committee comprising Major-Generals Vasey and Robertson and Brigadier Combes5 was appointed by General Blamey to make recommendations on the future organisation and curriculum of the Royal Military College, Duntroon, to meet post-war needs. One recommendation was that graduates entering the permanent army should be appointed regimental officers of permanent units and that they should serve normally for four years before being eligible for secondment to staff or extra-regimental employment; and that, as far as practicable, an officer below the rank of Lieut-colonel should not be employed wholly on the staff but should be returned periodically to regimental duty.
The committee recommended also that the name of the Australian Staff Corps be changed to “Australian Command and Staff Corps”.
In a large-scale war all armies must be officered largely by nonprofessional officers, at least in the junior ranks, and some friction is likely to occur between the two groups. In the Australian Army a blunder had been made in 1920 when the regular officer corps had been labelled the “Staff Corps”. It was easy to infer from this title that in war the regulars would fill the staff posts and the citizen soldiers would do the fighting. As mentioned earlier in this history the regulars were naturally disgruntled by the slowness of promotion in their own corps and the rapid promotion of citizen officers between the wars, and by the fact that few commands were given to regulars in the 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th Divisions at the outset. (At one stage this injustice was largely rectified when a high proportion of commands in the 1st Armoured Division was given to regulars, but the division was disbanded without having seen action.)
The war provided an opportunity of reducing the isolation of the regular officer corps but, instead, short-sighted administration tended to make it more than ever a “Staff Corps” engaged in instructional and staff work within an army which, from brigade level downwards, was led almost
entirely by citizen officers. However, when the six-year war ended, the Staff Corps contained a large number of officers in their early and middle twenties who had seen much hard service with fighting units in action.
Observation of the relations between regular and citizen officers in both the British and the Australian Armies suggests that those relations might have been greatly improved if the regulars, from the beginning of their training, had been taught two axioms: first that in a total war citizen officers are bound to comprise the great majority and one of the main tasks of the regular is to ensure that this expansion of the officer corps is accomplished smoothly and efficiently; second, that the keen and intelligent citizen officer often brings to his military job valuable civilian experience and after a few years of war may equal the regular in military knowledge and ability.
The dispersal of officers from the corps of three divisions that had served in the Middle East throughout an army that had once been four times as large as that force and even now was more than twice as large (leaving out of account the populous base and training organisations) had entailed the loss to the veteran units of most of their junior leaders of 1941 and 1942, but in each there was still a cadre of specially durable “originals” among the officers and in the ranks. For example, in a battalion of the 6th Division in action east of Aitape, of the 36 officers who had helped to form this battalion in 1939 one was now commanding a division, 3 were commanding brigades, 3 commanding battalions, and 7 were first-grade or second-grade staff officers. Eight had been killed in action, 6 taken prisoner, and the others were widely distributed. There remained with the battalion only two of the original officers, and a sprinkling of original other ranks. Sixteen of its present officers had joined after its return from New Guinea to Australia in 1943. But, although the battalion itself had not been in action since early in 1943, in the previous years it had fought in Africa, Europe and New Guinea, and it now contained also a few veterans transferred from units with different histories, so that in it were men whose experience included service in England in 1940, in Libya in January 1941, in Greece, in Tobruk, on New Britain in 1942, in the early fighting round Kokoda, the subsequent advance through the Owen Stanleys and the long, costly fight at Buna, Gona and Sanananda. Probably only five or six of the subalterns had not been in action before. In this as in other units the tendency was to promote to commissioned rank tried sergeants aged about 25 or more: in four classes graduating from OCTUs in the last half of 1944 40 per cent were aged 28 or over. Thus the new officers coming from the Officer Cadet Training Units were generally considerably older than the regulars of 19 or 20 arriving in smaller numbers from the Royal Military College, Duntroon.
What of the “militia” battalions – many of them now veterans of long campaigns – with their different history? As has been pointed out, a majority of the commanders of these battalions had been drawn from AIF units. Among the majors and captains of a militia battalion there might be one or two young AIF majors or captains, and one or two
officers, fairly senior in their ranks, who had been too old to be commissioned in the AIF; the remainder were generally somewhat younger than their opposite numbers in the AIF As a rule they had been commissioned in their battalions in 1940 as youths of 19 or 20, and promoted since. The general view of the officers now leading militia battalions seems to have been that there was little difference between the men of their old units and their new ones, but that the old AIF units contained a higher proportion of forceful leaders both in the ranks and among the officers, and there was probably a greater dash and aggressiveness in the AIF units.
In the militia units the men also tended to be younger than in the AIF. This, added to their generally briefer battle experience, caused them, as a group, to be less “browned off” than the veterans in 1945. Many of the men of the 6th Division round Aitape and in the Torricellis had now had about enough of campaigning, but to most of the younger men in II Corps on Bougainville the campaign of 1945 was to be their most telling experience, and they were anxious to prove themselves.
The political and military leaders had long been worried by the existence within their army of two contingents – the volunteer and veteran AIF on the one hand, and the part-volunteer and part-conscript, and less experienced, militia on the other. They had taken measures to erase the differences between the two. One distinction that remained was that the Australian conscript might not be sent north of the equator – a frontier that possessed no military significance. He might die in Dutch New Guinea but not in American Luzon, in Portuguese Timor but not in British Borneo. In any reshaping of the army the military leaders had to take this peculiar political compromise into account.6
Measures to bring both AIF and militia to a common standard included sending reinforcements forward to all units from a common pool, except that all non-volunteers went to militia units. In addition lieutenants graduating from the Officer Cadet Training Unit were not as a rule sent back to their own units but were allotted the first appointment that fell vacant. The sweeping manner in which this policy was carried out was deplored by AIF unit commanders.7 They did not grudge the loss of some of their capable young leaders to the militia, where they could pass on their experience and possibly gain more rapid promotion, but many objected to a policy that made it virtually a rule that a veteran NCO when graduated from the OCTU would not rejoin his own unit. In the first AIF the opposite policy – generally to return a newly-commissioned officer to his old unit – had been considered a main factor in producing an outstanding fighting force. On the other hand, anything less than a rule to which very few exceptions were permitted8 would probably not
have achieved the very desirable result of ensuring that the subalterns joining both AIF and militia units were of even quality. The strength which the young AIF leaders were contributing to the militia will become evident to those who watch the biographical footnotes in the chapters concerning Bougainville and notice how often outstanding company and platoon leaders were men drawn from the veteran divisions. It may be argued, too, that in this sixth year of war it was preferable for men with long service as NCOs to begin their life as officers in a new unit, no matter how welcome they would have been in their old one.
On the other hand the fact that AIF units were regarded as being senior and superior to militia ones was not concealed. For example, promising commanding officers who had led militia battalions for a year or more were transferred to AIF battalions as though such a transfer were a promotion.9 This was a slight that could not fail to be felt by the members of the militia unit concerned. In January 1945 one brigadier on Bougainville wrote a vigorous protest when such a transfer was ordered on the eve of battle, but without effect.
New officers were appointed and recruits sent forward to a unit regardless of whether they came from the State in which it had originally been raised. These practices made life easier for the staff but were widely deplored in the units themselves. Sentiment apart, they imposed practical handicaps. For example, if men of a Queensland battalion were given leave from Atherton and all were Queenslanders they would return from leave more or less at the same time, but if there were West Australians in the unit they would not return until weeks later with consequent disruption of training. Officers who had been transferred to a unit raised in another State said that it was a disadvantage to have relatively little in common with the men of the new unit. (On the other hand some members of regiments that from the time of their formation had contained quotas from several States often considered that it did them good to mix with men from many parts of Australia.) A unit association, supported by wives and mothers in the unit’s home State, tended to grow weaker as the proportion of men from that State decreased. This not only tended to lessen the quantity of comforts that the association sent forward but reduced the chances that a wife would be able to join an association where she would meet and exchange news with wives of other men in her husband’s unit.
The degree to which units were losing their territorial character is illustrated by the fact that, for example, of 125 men killed or wounded in the 31st/51st (Queensland) Battalion in January and February, 65 were Queenslanders, 24 New South Welshmen, 14 Victorians, and the remainder from the smaller States. (The army numbers of all but eighteen contained “X”, indicating that they had volunteered for service in the AIF.)
A proportion of the men of the militia were now taking a perverse pride in not volunteering.
The term “Chocko” has been changed from a term of opprobrium to a title to be proud of, like the “Rats of Tobruk” or the “Old Contemptibles” (wrote a diarist in 1945). The men call each other “Chocko” as they might say “Mate” or “Digger”. They are determined to remain “Chockos” just to show that here was one matter on which the army couldn’t order them about. Not even the Commander-in-Chief could make them volunteer and they were going to revel in this freedom.
A reason why some chose not to volunteer was that there was a widespread (and, as it turned out, a very erroneous) belief that the “Chockos” would be sent home as soon as the war ended but that “X numbers” might be retained for garrison duties. It was generally agreed that, as a rule, in mixed units the volunteers were the better soldiers.10
In some veteran AIF units the feeling of self-sufficiency that had been born in the Middle East had now developed into an unhappy sense of isolation and neglect. Two or three years overseas, several arduous campaigns, and the multitude of individual problems and frustrations that such a life bred, had combined to convince many that Australia was a “bludgers’ paradise”, that Australians at home (their own wives and families excepted) were enjoying an easy and profitable time, and cared too little about the war in general and the army in particular, and that the politicians were up to no good.
The fact that even when resting or re-training in Australia most of the fighting soldiers lived on the remote Atherton Tableland, with rare and brief visits south on leave, increased the feeling of isolation. More and more, when he was on leave, the soldier tended not to stay at home and forget the army, but to seek out comrades in arms with whom to talk about old adventures or (grimly congenial topic) the rapid promotion and good pay being won in a manpower-starved country by civilian contemporaries. Some of the soldier’s hard feelings towards civilians at this time
were probably due to his own sense of frustration during the long periods of re-training and waiting. For example, in October 1944, one brigade of the 6th Division had not been in action since Crete in May 1941, and the other brigades had been out of battle for eighteen months or more; the 7th and 9th Divisions were in the middle of their longest periods of inaction since 1941.11
For most of the men who had in 1941 eagerly joined the armoured division – it was to be a corps d’élite, they believed – the succeeding years had been disappointing. Some armoured units had been disbanded, others were idle in Queensland. Thousands of highly-trained men of the armoured corps had succeeded in “getting a guernsey” by transferring to any units that would take them out of Australia – many went to the army water transport companies. Indeed 1944 and 1945 were years of anti-climax for a big proportion of the men who had enlisted in the first two years of the war. By early 1944 the “second world war” had lasted longer than the first; the Americans had now taken the lead in the South-West Pacific; the Australians were in the background.12
Another source of the soldier’s resentment towards the civilian world were the sordid conditions of travel, and the often poor quarters and the
delays on the long journey from New Guinea or Atherton to his home when he went on leave. The camps of fighting formations, when they were resting or re-training in Australia or New Guinea, had become increasingly neat and comfortable, ceremonial had become more elaborate, and standards of dress more exacting. Gardens were planted, roads and paths improved, club rooms built, sports grounds cleared, comfortable furniture cunningly contrived from the most unpromising material. But the soldier’s home leave opened with a long and wearisome journey in a crowded train, with meals at railway stations where no eating utensils were provided and the bar was often deliberately closed just before the train arrived. There were delays at uncomfortable leave and transit depots. At the end of the journey hours were sometimes wasted while the man on leave went through formalities that seemed to him unnecessary – and certainly could have been completed in a fraction of the time in the orderly room of his own highly-efficient unit.
In August 1942 the Australian Army, 476,000 strong, had included 14 divisions or their equivalent (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 1st Armoured, 1st Motor, 2nd Motor and Northern Territory Force). That is, it then required about 34,000 men to maintain a division in the field. In August 1945, when there were six divisions and an armoured brigade, it required some 60,000 men to maintain a division in the field. These figures illustrate the way in which, in this as in other armies, the “tail” of the army tended to grow – a development which, as mentioned earlier, was troubling the Australian Ministers in 1945. In 1942 the men in infantry, cavalry and armour in the Australian Army totalled 137,236, in August 1945 they totalled only 62,097; in 1942 the ordnance corps, on the other hand, totalled 29,079, whereas in 1945 ordnance and its offshoot, the electrical and mechanical engineers, totalled 42,835. In the same period, the artillery had decreased to about half its former strength, but the engineers, signals and the medical corps had remained at about the same strength, though in a smaller army, and a number of ancillary services had been created or enlarged.
For example, in the last six months of 1944 52 officers were promoted to the substantive rank of Lieut-colonel: of these only five were infantrymen, two were engineers, and the other arms were not represented. The remaining 45 were in various of the ancillary services.
Similarly in the fourth quarter of 1944 the numbers of lieutenants appointed to various corps were:
|Provost and Military Prisons||9|
At this stage the following separate corps existed in addition to those named above, each with its own officers’ list:
War Graves Service
Printing and Stationery Service
Veterinary Corps Women’s Army Service
In the period covered in this volume members of the Australian Women’s Army Service began to serve in New Guinea. As early as 8th September 1943 Blamey had informed the Government that plans had been made to send 200 AWAS to New Guinea to relieve signalmen at New Guinea Force headquarters and the Moresby base. Nurses and AAMWS (Australian Army Medical Women’s Service) were already serving in these areas. Blamey had just learnt that, in 1941, when the AWAS was formed, the War Cabinet directed that none of its members be sent abroad without Cabinet approval. He asked that permission be given. The War Cabinet, however, reaffirmed that AWAS should not go overseas without its permission and asked whether men were not available. At length the War Cabinet on 15th November 1944 approved of the posting of AWAS for service in New Guinea provided they volunteered for such service, that they were between the ages of 21 and 35 (40 for officers), and (a curious compromise) that the number of postings did not exceed 500.
In General Blamey’s plan an increasingly important role was to be given to native battalions. Indeed, beside the two Australian armies – AIF and militia – a small New Guinea army was now growing up. In October 1944 there were two native battalions – the veteran Papuan Infantry, which had first seen action in 1942, and the 1st New Guinea Battalion, formed in April and May 1944. In October Blamey decided to group these native battalions into a Pacific Islands Regiment, and decided also that a second New Guinea battalion should be raised, and a depot battalion formed. In the event a third New Guinea battalion was constituted in March, and in May the formation of a fourth was ordered. These went most of the way towards replacing the Australian battalions disbanded in the last year of the war.
The New Guinea natives had long since proved that they made splendid troops for bush warfare. They quickly mastered their weapons, being instructed by sight and touch rather than by words; formal drill delighted them – ritual played an important part in their everyday life and military ritual was therefore accepted as being right and proper. They could move in the bush with such stealth and alertness that the risk of being outwitted by Japanese was slight. Their casualties were always relatively low: in
about three years of fighting a total of 85 native infantrymen were killed in action and 201 wounded.13
The new regiment was attracting enterprising officers and NCOs, some with civil experience in New Guinea but most with none. The commanding officers were men who had proved themselves outstanding infantry leaders: T. F. B. MacAdie from the 2/7th Independent Company, for example, Murchison14 from the 2/3rd Battalion, J. S. Jones from the 2/6th, and C. W. Macfarlane from the 2/7th and 37th/52nd.
At this stage the burden of war was weighing heavily on the New Guinea native – more heavily, man for man, than on the general run of Australian citizens. At the end of 1944 35,387 natives were working as labourers under contract to the forces, the Pacific Islands Regiment would eventually reach a total of 4,700 (of whom perhaps 700 would be Australians), and the Royal Papuan Constabulary had a strength of 2,560 natives.15 Thousands more were employed as guerrillas and locally-recruited carriers. At the peak perhaps 55,000 were serving from a people who, before the war, had been believed to number fewer than 1,000,000; and at this time natives in the thickly-settled areas of eastern New Britain and eastern Bougainville were still under Japanese control and out of reach of the Australian recruiting officer. Angau (the Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit) had placed limits on the percentage of men that might be recruited in an area, and none under 18 might be sent into action. Nevertheless the loss of able-bodied men to these peasant communities, where all food-growing was done with primitive hand tools, caused grave hardships, particularly in areas where houses and gardens had been destroyed as the battle swept over them.
An anthropologist and a district officer, who at this time were assessing war damage suffered by natives, estimated that in the many villages that they had recently visited half the males were absent on military or labour service, and the women, children and older males who remained were gravely underfed as a result of the loss of able-bodied workers. In such communities the absence of even 5 per cent of the men may have ill effects. The birth-rate had fallen, with the result that a shortage of workers was likely in future years.
During the war the Australian Army made increasing efforts to educate the troops in non-military subjects and to keep them informed about what was going on in the world.
An Australian Army Education scheme, inspired by a similar Canadian project, had been undertaken in the AIF in France and England from May 1918 onwards, and later in the Middle East. The historian of the First AIF, Dr C. E. W. Bean, has written that “no part of the AIF’s war effort more richly repaid the nation”;16 and it was Bean who, on 6th September 1939, wrote to the Minister for the Army pointing out the disabilities the First AIF’s scheme had suffered through its late start and urging that immediate steps be taken to provide for the physical and mental recreation of the troops. Nothing effective was done at that stage to provide an education scheme, but Bean persisted, other people and organisations became interested, and, in December 1940, the Adjutant-General, Major-General Stantke,17 in consultation with the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney, Professor R. S. Wallace18 (who had been an officer in the First AIF’s education service), Dr Madgwick19 and Mr Conlon,20 also of Sydney University, produced a detailed plan. The War Cabinet approved the scheme on 5th March 1941. A few days earlier Madgwick had been appointed to Army Headquarters with the rank of Lieut-colonel to administer the scheme, which “began operating seriously in June 1941”.21
The education service of the First AIF differed in two important respects from the new service. Its officers were inevitably drawn mainly from fighting units whereas the officers of the new service came largely from outside the army; and the first batches of officers of the first service, before beginning work, attended schools at which principles and methods were thrashed out. Perhaps some of the early difficulties which the AES of 1941–1946 has recorded would have been smaller if it had been possible to develop it to a larger extent from within the army. As it was
Education officers found that they spent a great deal of their time [in 1941–42] converting those who were openly hostile, instilling enthusiasm into the apathetic, and, by example, demonstrating that the Education Service was not something devised by the Government, or the Army, to keep men quiet or convert them to some political dogma.22
The enthusiasm and hard work of the officers and men of the service, however, overcame prejudice and apathy, and this vast experiment in adult education achieved great results. At its peak in October 1945 the service contained 210 officers and 753 other ranks. Up to that time it had been responsible for some 141,000 lectures to aggregate attendances of
8,898,000. It had shown 32,000 film programs (not including the “entertainment” films which were shown by the separate Amenities Service) and provided 31,000 musical recitals. It had enrolled 64,000 students for correspondence courses, and 280 discussion groups and 888 craft groups were at work. By the end of 1945 it had circulated 620,000 books.
The cease-fire in 1945, as in 1918, naturally led to an increase in the opportunities of the service, particularly in the islands. In the First Army area three “Formation Colleges” were soon at work. In II Corps, for example, soldiers wishing to concentrate on education were freed from other duty for 20 hours a week except in certain units, and by September on Bougainville the custom was to devote each morning to education. At the Torokina Rehabilitation Training Centre there was a full-time staff of 36 and, at the peak, 1,700 students, and “the atmosphere of study and industry ... had to be experienced to be believed”.
A big achievement of the service was to reduce the grave degree of illiteracy that existed in Australia. In 1943 the service gave publicity to a conclusion it had reached that 4 per cent of the men of the army were illiterate.23 The Director-General of Public Relations, Colonel Rasmussen, wrote to Colonel Madgwick on 19th July objecting to the publication of this estimate and pointing out that Tokyo radio had used it for propaganda purposes. He said that “the extremely critical attitude of the public toward the Army ... can only be encouraged by the publication of material of this kind”. Madgwick’s contention appears to have been the reasonable one that the discussion of educational standards in the army would encourage outside support for the Education Service; and it seems unlikely that the public would have blamed the army for the illiteracy of its recruits.
The AES was at times also in conflict with the Directorate of Public Relations concerning a weekly journal named Salt which the service published from September 1941 until April 1946. It was digest-size, and the number of its pages increased from 32 at the outset to 64 in June 1944. Its circulation ranged from 55,000 to 180,000. Among its aims were to give uncoloured information about current affairs, to provide a form in which servicemen might express their opinions, and to encourage creative expression by servicemen.
In 1942 Salt was subjected to much criticism and its future was discussed by the War Cabinet, which decided, on 31st August, that it was to be continued as a fortnightly, and an air force magazine was to be produced, both under the management of “an editor with journalistic experience, service in the present war, and a knowledge of the psychology of the troops”. A senior journalist, Massey Stanley,24 was appointed, and with Stanley as Managing Editor and Mungo MacCallum25 as Editor. Salt went from strength to strength. Stanley won support from the Press by circulating to it summaries and extracts of quotable material in each
forthcoming issue of Salt, and the War Cabinet agreed to an increase in the size of the journal to 64 pages.
The liberal policies of the group of newspapermen who were producing Salt led to conflict with the Director-General of Public Relations. From June 1943 Salt was made subject to censorship by the Director-General.
No statement of DGPR’s censorial jurisdiction was ever furnished in writing (says the War History of the AES), with the result that throughout its operation there was considerable difference of opinion between the [Managing] Editor and the DGPR. In July 1942 a reference to Low’s creation “Colonel Blimp” was deleted from an article on wartime cartoonists, on the ground that it stimulated “ideas which may be damaging to discipline”. In August a Cinesound newsreel of the production of a special election issue was banned, no reason being given. In September the word “bastard” was deleted from a brilliantly written contribution describing a conversation between two soldiers at an advanced dressing station in the heat of battle. In an effort to clarify the DGPR’s jurisdiction, the [Managing] Editor restored the word and it appeared in Salt. Subsequently paraded to the Adjutant-General, the [Managing] Editor submitted that the DGPR was exceeding his jurisdiction which was that his censorship was confined to security, and conformity with the C-in-C’s high policy; and that the residue of authority over Salt’s contents, including questions of taste and literary standards, remained with the Editor. He stated also that he did not agree with censorship powers being given to an officer hostile to Salt – i.e. DGPR; that DGPR had undertaken to write explanations of his deletions, but this had not always been done; and that the Editor had received no verbal or written instructions on the C-in-C’s wishes, or the “ethical standards” required. In printing the word “bastard” he had been guided by modern practice – concurrently, the British Minister for Information had condemned objections to it as “spinsterish squeamishness”; the RN sanctioned it in the semi-official documentary film “In Which We Serve”, the RAF in the documentary film “Alert” and the AMF in the book “New Guinea Diary”.
The Adjutant-General, however, instructed that in future all deletions by DGPR were to be observed.
In the following months, many deletions were made in Salt material, partly because no written policy was ever forthcoming for guidance; partly because many items which the Editor thought would obviously be acceptable, were not so; and partly because DGPR and the members of his staff to whom he frequently delegated this duty often appeared to think differently on what was or was not censorable. ...
In addition to imposing what would generally be called a political censorship, as indicated by the above examples, DGPR censored on grounds of artistic taste, deleting words and phrases from contributed verse of a high standard, and banning contributed drawings on grounds such as “the humour is too grim”. An example which subsequently became notorious was the rejection in toto of a series of brilliant sketches of soldiers under the shower, showing typical attitudes. None was indecent and all were facing away from the artist.
In addition to Salt the Education Service produced from April 1942 onwards what soon was entitled the Current Affairs Bulletin. It was published fortnightly, the distribution being one copy to each officer. This journal was intended to form the basis of talks to the troops on current affairs, and a Military Board Instruction of 15th March 1942 laid down that at least 30 minutes a week were to be spent on such work – not as an amenity but as a part of military training. The bulletins were edited by Dr Duncan,26 Director of Tutorial Classes in the University of Sydney.
After the war publication of the Current Affairs Bulletin was continued by the Department of Tutorial Classes, University of Sydney, and thus the wartime Education Service lived on not only in a peacetime Army Educational Corps (which in 1961 had 44 officers on its strength, 13 of whom were employed on public relations duties or newspaper production) but in a periodical widely used in the education of civilians both at school and afterwards.
The task of encouraging creative expression was performed also by the Australian War Memorial, which published each year from 1941 onwards a cloth-bound “Christmas book” written and lavishly illustrated by members of the army including the official war artists. From 1942 onwards it published also naval and air force “Christmas books”. The army books contained writings by such authors as Gunner Tom Ronan,27 Trooper Peter Pinney, Captain David McNicoll,28 Sergeant Lawson Glassop,29 Lieutenant Shawn O’Leary,30 Lieutenant Jon Cleary31 and other writers who were to become well known, or better known, after the war.
While the AES was helping to inform and educate the soldiers, the Directorate of Public Relations was performing a supplementary task by producing newspapers in the field. In the first volume of this series the prompt and successful establishment in Palestine of AIF News was described. In October 1941 a companion newspaper, Army News, was established in the Northern Territory, and in November 1942 Guinea Gold began publication in New Guinea. When the 9th Division returned from the Middle East the staff of AIF News came with it and established a newspaper named Table Tops on the Atherton Tableland, where it began publication on 23rd May 1943. Each of these newspapers continued until 1946.
From the outset General Blamey was resolved that the army newspapers should contain no editorial comment. The strength of this resolution was shown, for example, in November 1943, when Guinea Gold was a year old. Writing to General Morshead on the 16th of that month Blamey had mentioned a recent article in Guinea Gold that was “in the nature of an editorial dealing with pilfering”. “It was excellent and, I believe, timely, but it is contrary to my policy to use an Army newspaper for propaganda of any kind. In the first place, troops readily become suspicious of a paper if it contains ‘pills’; secondly, this paper is ... sent to America by a great many American soldiers; thirdly, I do not believe in allowing editors of Army papers to do anything that fashions the outlook of the troops – I
do not think they are the proper people to do it.” He had instructed, he concluded, that no editorial comments were to appear in army newspapers except where the GOC on the spot instructed otherwise.
It would have been wise to have given the Education Service responsibility for providing the army newspapers, confining Public Relations to field censorship, publicity (publications being channelled through the Department of Information) and care of war correspondents; and to have required the editors of army journals and newspapers to be their own censors – all of them seem to have been well qualified to bear this responsibility.
The Amenities Service was complementary to but entirely separate from Army Education. Its tasks included the coordination of the philanthropic organisations working within the army, provision of sports and other entertainment. Amenities officers had been appointed to the AIF when it was overseas, and in the SWPA. General Blamey was prompt in establishing a firmly-founded amenities service. On 3rd July 1942 he wrote to Mr Forde to say that, the actions in the Coral Sea and near Midway Island having removed at least temporarily the menace of immediate invasion, it became necessary for him to make plans to ensure that the considerable forces throughout Australia did not “go stale over a long period of training and preparation”. He had therefore established an Amenities Service with Colonel Cohen,32 formerly Red Cross Commissioner in the Middle East, as director. Blamey considered that the cost of amenities should be met, as in the Middle East, from the profits of the Canteens Service, “a vast cooperative business instituted for the benefit of the troops”, the profits of which had always been held to be the property of the troops. He explained to the Minister that it had been customary to return these profits to the troops either by allocation to regimental funds or by paying for entertainment. A “special amenities account” had been established in the Middle East and operated by a committee appointed by the GOC AIF. He recommended that, two-thirds of the AIF having returned to Australia, two-thirds of the £35,000 held in this account should be transferred to a Special Amenities Fund to be established in Australia and placed under the control of the Commander-in-Chief.
As a result the War Cabinet agreed to a proposal that 31 per cent of the turnover of the canteens should be distributed among unit trust funds; H per cent to special amenities, to be spent at the discretion of army or certain other formation commanders; and H per cent to the Special Amenities Fund to which would be added the money from the Middle East Fund and which would be distributed by the Commander-in-Chief.