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Thursday, 24 September 1942
Page: 911

Mr CALWELL - I desire now to refer to the case of V.X.16532, Gunner J. C. Cox, who was recently brought back to Australia from the Middle East because of certain incidents that happened there. Gunner Cox joined the Army on the 27 th May, 1940, and was attached as orderly room clerk at 2/4 Australian Field Regiment. On the 21st January, 1941, he was transferred to the Australian Army Service Corps, Rehovoth, where he performed the duties of orderly room clerk, and did postal work, as well as being in charge of stationery, and commercial and military filing. He held the rank of acting sergeant, and was associated with the keeping of the war diary. He remained in that position until his arrest, upon instruction from Colonel Gee, on the 14th November, 1941, at 1920 hours, when he was placed under the escort of Sergeant Muirhead. At 1945 hours, Colonel Gee arrived, and called him to the entrance to the tent where, in the presence of Sergeant

Muirhead, he used the following expressions to Cox: "You dirty Jew jackal"; " you dirty skunk " ; " you snake in the grass ". He then instructed Sergeant Muirhead to collect all Cox's gear, and take it to the office, where Cox stood to attention for over one and a half hours, while Sergeant Muirhead searched through his kit. The sergeant found a bunch of letters from Australia, which had been passed by the censor, and read them all, as well as Cox's diary. Cox was then taken into the office and further examined in connexion with a letter which he had sent to Mr. Holden, M.L.A., who occupied an important position in connexion with canteen services in Australia. In this letter, he disclosed to Mr. Holden the true position regarding the canteen services in the Middle East, and it was because of what was stated in that letter that the honorable and gallant Colonel Gee used the language complained of. 'Cox was told to take off his -.tripes as they were not required any longer. During the cross-examination, lie was asked whether he had a police record. As a matter of fact, he had not. On the 15th November, at 1000 hours, he was charged with conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline, and with having evaded the censorship, after which he was placed in the detention barracks at Rehovoth. On the 12th December, 1941, he was transferred to Beyrouth on a truck. On the 13th December, Major Farrell informed him that he was under open arrest, that he would be confined to barracks at the conclusion of work each day, and that he was being sent out to a canteen at Dimas. He remained at Dimas until the 5th January, 1942, when he was transferred to the Tripoli bulk store for duty. On the 6th February, 1942, instructions were received for him to return to Beyrouth immediately. As things turned out, it was fortunate for him that he did not leave immediately. He left Beyrouth at 1700 hours on the 7th of February, 1942, and arrived at Rehovoth at 0330 hours on the morning of the 8th February, 1942. He was instructed by Lieutenant O'Connor that he would be going to S.T.R. immediately, and left in the charge of Sergeant Evans at 1000 hours. Lieutenant O'Connor stated that it would be possible for him to join the unit at a later date. The times and dates are significant because of an attempt which he claims was made to frame him on a charge of bank robbery, so that any evidence which he might give regarding the canteens service would be discredited. On the 9th February, 1942, he was questioned by a representative of the S.I.B. as to his movements since Saturday, the 7th February, 1942, and he gave the necessary information. A few days later, he was called again and further questioned, and gave the same information as before. He was then told in confidence that he had been accurately described as the person who had committed a robbery at Kilo 89 canteen at 1130 hours on the 8th February, 1942. After his movements had been checked, it was found that he had been 100 miles away from the scene of the robbery at the time it happened. The officer said that he was sure Cox had been framed, and asked whether he could think who would have framed him. He said that he could not think of any one, but told him of the trouble he was in over the canteens. Sergeant Glenn, of the military police at Gaza, who was at Rehovoth when Cox was in safe custody, had told him that he took the details, and was satisfied to arrest and charge him on what he had been told. Naturally, Cox was very upset about the whole matter. On the 21st February, 1942, Cox was transferred to A.T.R, from S.T.R. On the 8 th March, 1942, he was called to the orderly room at 1000 hours and was charged with having sent military information to Mr. Holden, M.L.A., on or about the 14th November, 1941, and was for the second time remanded for court martial. During a period of four and a half months, he had not heard anything in regard to the previous charge. During that time, he had been reduced from the rank of acting sergeant, had served 27 days in safe custody, had been under open arrest, and was confined to barracks for three and a half months, during which time he had suffered much indignity, as well as being insulted by his superior officer. The only reason he can assign for this treatment is that he was in possession of definite information in regard to the canteens service, and was, therefore, a marked man. He appealed to his commanding officer on the 27 th March, 1942, to have his case investigated. The following are some of the things which he saw going on in the canteens, contrary to instructions : -

1.   Sale of 5-in-l tooth paste, Colonel Gee's product.

2.   Military property being sold to civilians.

3.   Military property being sold to civilians at a price allowingthem to profit at the expense of the public of Australia.

4.   Instructions and regulations disregarded with regard to Local Purchasing Boards.

5.   Civilians permitted to do purchasing of canteen goods.

6.   Non-commissioned officers permitted to do purchasing of canteen goods, as non-members of the board and not as officers.

7.   Mishandling of canteen goods and affairs in various areas.

8.   Granting of orders to civilians for £A32,000 without official canteen order numbers, &c. and contrary to instructions regarding same.

He claims that, because he knew that this was going on, he felt that it was his duty to take action. Although technically he may be said to have committed a military offence, no moral wrong could attach to what he did, seeing that he acted in the interests of the Australian Imperial Force. At all times, he claims, he tried to carry out his duties to the best of his ability, and he had a clean record for the 23 months of his service, apart from this incident. He bad tried to get back to Australia for several months, and finally arrived here just as the canteens inquiry had finished. He claims that if his evidence had been given before that inquiry, notion would have been taken against some of those who escaped censure. He also claims that there were worse breaches of the regulations in the Middle East than there were in Australia; but, as matters relating to Australian canteens are sub judice, I do not propose to refer to them any further. I ask the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) to inquire into this matter with a view to clearing the character of Gunner Cox if the facts are as he states. I particularly ask that the papers connected with the court martial be looked into by the Minister personally, and that he take some action to see that the finding of the court martial is promulgated. Many months have passed since he was court martialled, but the court's finding has not yet been announced. It is the duty of the Minister to investigate such cases and to take appropriate action immediately.

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