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Monday, 5 June 1939

Mr GEORGE LAWSON (BRISBANE, QUEENSLAND) . - I bring to the notice of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) a statement which I have received from a reliable source with reference to the conditions at Enoggera camp during the recent training exercises there of the 15th/26th . Battalion, and I hope that the Minister will have immediate inquiries made in the interests of the members of the militia forces. I feel keenly on this matter, because I was one of those who, in Queensland, did all they could to stimulate recruiting so as to bring the number of militia up from 35,000 to 70,000. I cannot say, of my own knowledge, that the statements in this communication which I have received from a person holding a high position in Queensland are true, but they are sufficiently grave to warrant an inquiry. The following is an extract from it: -

Monday, the 8th May, dinner time brought about its first disillusionment when dry bread, a slice of corn beef and tea was the menu, and when pleas ofthe men were heard, butter (a very dear item, we were told) was brought on. The food for the rest of the camp was not that which a young soldier would sit down and enjoy in peace time.

The meat seemed to have had all the goodness boiled out of it. and, withthe exception of turnip and cabbage on a very few occasions, greens were noticed by their absence.

The general opinions of the men were that better meals would be obtained in gaol. The hygienic surroundings of the camp did not im press most of these healthy young men. Thecans of water for washing plates, cups and utensils were all thickly coated with grease when, several hundred men had washed their plates in them; it was impossible to have the utensils thoroughly cleansed. The conditions ofthe meals were such that a number of men bought their own food, which saved them from the sickness which a number of unfortunate men have to suffer in the form of dysentery. This disease first started on Sunday, the 14th May, and about 60 men were taken to base hospital and a steady stream of men was at the Resident Medical Officer's tent every day until the last camp. Out of twenty odd men in the hand, seven turned out to play the guard on. On Wednesday, the 17th, every mess orderly, permanent, was also stricken. Headquarterswing men were transferred to other companies' huts to make room for the sick men. A continuous stream of men was constantly going to the latrines, which certainly would be the breeding place of any malignant disease. Such places as the latrines, showers and washing facilities should be renewed without further delay. The mess tables were wiped with a rag which failed to take the grease off. A fire was situated close to the mess hall, from which soot, &c, kept blowing in on our meals while we were eating. This camp, which may have been successful, was a dismal failure. in the eyes of men and not until proper organization of feeding and cleaning arrangements is made will they succeed. The abovementioned facts are what I found at the camp, and can be vouched for by many in the 15th/20th Battalion.

That statement is borne out by several other members of the same battalion, and by sergeants of the Army Medical Corps. I attach no blame to the Minister, but if the charges are true, those responsible for such conditions should be taken to task.

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