Leave for the 1914 Men

I will have a trip before long, as all the 1914 men are to be given six months’ furlough to Australia. A few are to go each month – married men first.1

The Age newspaper of 13 May 1918 carried this extract from a letter received by residents of the Chiltern area from a soldier at the front. The item goes on to quote the Minister of Defence, Senator Pearce, who said he “only wished it were true”.

The Age the following day continued the story, reporting that the Defence authorities had received no information regarding the possibility of leave being granted to the original Anzacs. Despite the lack of official information, it has been asserted by men back from the front that 1914 men are being brought back to Australia on furlough. A recent correspondent to the newspaper says that “on the last transport which reached Australia there were no fewer than 30 or 40 unwounded and healthy men of the 1914 contingent who had been brought back to Australia on six months’ leave”. 2

This was all satisfactorily explained a couple of days later after the Minister of Defence received information from England. While the Government had been unable to arrange for the return en bloc of members of the Australian Imperial Force who had been serving since 1914, advantage is being taken of opportunities to select some of the men who have been away the longest for work on transports to Australia allowing them to visit with relatives.3

Further details appeared in The Argus on 31 May 1918. The Minister for Defence indicated that the Government had no notice that some original Anzacs were returning until they arrived in Australia. General Sir William Birdwood had arranged to utilise, when occasion offered, a limited number of such members on transports proceeding to Australia. The men would be given two months’ leave in Australia on full pay. Preference was given to men whose family affairs were causing hardship or distress to their families. Other circumstances being equal, preference was given to married men.4

Finally, the newspapers of Tuesday 17 Sep 1918 brought the magnificent news from the Minister for Defence that the Prime Minister, Mr Hughes, and the Minister for the Navy, who were in England for talks with the War Office, had strongly pressed for leave for the 1914 men with the result that “leave parties, comprising the original Anzacs, in considerable numbers would shortly be leaving for Australia. The first party would be approximately 800, and other batches would follow.5

Mr Hughes gave the news directly to Australian soldiers while visiting the Australian front and talking to a number of soldiers who had been in the Egypt and Gallipoli force since 1914.6

Even better news was reported in The Age the following day with the anticipation that a fair proportion of the 7,000 men who were to be given leave would arrive home in time for Christmas. The Minister for Defence stated that a fitting welcome would be afforded the returning Anzacs.7

References:

1 1918 ‘NEWS OF THE DAY. Rough Weather Conditions.’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 13 May, p. 4. , viewed 12 Nov 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article155090589

2 1918 ‘The Original Anzacs.’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 14 May, p. 4. , viewed 12 Nov 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article155093286

3 1918 ‘Leave for Anzacs.’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 16 May, p. 5. , viewed 12 Nov 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article155093699

4 1918 ‘NO LEAVE FOR ANZACS.’, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 31 May, p. 6. , viewed 12 Nov 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article1662916

5 1918 ‘Home Leave for Anzacs’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 17 September, p. 5. , viewed 12 Nov 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article155131208

6 1918 ‘LEAVE FOR ANZACS.’, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 17 September, p. 5. , viewed 12 Nov 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article1431618

7 1918 ‘LEAVE FOR ANZACS.’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 18 September, p. 6. , viewed 12 Nov 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article155141338

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