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Thursday, 1 August 1912

Senator PEARCE (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) (Minister for Defence) - I have received the reports which were called for. I shall read first the report of Major Osborne, who is Staff Officer, Garrison Artillery Services, 2nd Military District -

With reference to the statements made in the attached cuttings from the Sydney press, I spoke to Captain Robb, Commanding 3rd A.G.A,, Newcastle, on the telephone this morning. He states : - " The A.G.A. here, welcome the new organization, in which they come directly under the CO., R.A.G.A., 2nd Military District. Some twenty resignations will probably be sent in from the men of the 3rd A.G.A. chiefly because the men will not be able to afford the time for the extended length of the continuous training (seventeen days). Some dissatisfaction is expressed at the stringent regulations regarding smoking and use of alcoholic liquor."

The O.C. 5th A.G.A. (Captain Forsyth) in- formed me by telephone this morning that about eighty resignations had been received. He attributes these to the fact that at the regimental dinner of the A.G.A. great dissatisfaction was expressed by the men, after they had heard speeches on the subject, at the abolition of the Regimental Staff. He also gave, as further reasons for resignations, the increased length of the continuous training, restrictions on smoking, &c.

Captain Forsyth repotted in reference to forts not being available for A.G.A., that his commanddid not arrive at Middle Head until 4.30 p.m. They were unable to then obtain admission to the B.L. Mk. V. Battery; they proceeded to battery drill outside until 5 p.m., they then, owing to darkness having set in, dismissed for tea. After tea the men attended a lecture.

Major E.W. Warren, commanding the 6th A.G.A., reported by telephone this morning that he has received about forty resignations. He considers that the main reasons, in their order of importance for these resignations, are as follows -

(1)   Increased length of continuous training.

(2)   Fines for non-efficiency.

(3)   Restriction on smoking, &c.

(4)   Re-organization, doing away with Regimental Staff.

Major Warrenreports that no delay was occasioned in entering any of the forts at South Head.

Captain T. J. Lynch, I.S.O., A.G.A., who is in close touch with these corps, states that he does not think any of the dissatisfaction is caused by the abolition of the Regimental Staff, but that it is owing to the employers refusing to allow men away for seventeen days' training in addition to annual leave.

Owing to the continuous heavy rain, the forts were not opened up until the A.G.A. arrived. No delay occurred at South Head or George's Heights. At Middle Head, Master Gunner McClean (whose report is attached), was at Middle Head until 4.20 p.m. ; then, as none of the A.G.A. had arrived, it was then raining heavily and darkness was already setting in, he closed the fort and proceeded to George's Heights to be on the spot where the men were drilling. This was the only instance of delay. Lecture rooms were provided at both South and Middle Heads in event of wet weather.

It is impossible to yet say the total number of resignations, as the time laid down for handing them in does not expire until 31st instant.

No steps have been neglected in attending to all their wants, and great attention has been paid to all details of the administration of these corps.

The next report is from Master Gunner McClean, who was in charge of the fort where the delay occurred, to the staff captain -

In compliance with your orders, I submit the following statement of what happened in the Middle Head sub-district on Saturday, 27th instant, with reference to the delay in opening batteries : -

About 3.45 p.m. the A.G.A. arrived at George's Heights ; one detachment proceeded to the 6-in. B.L. Mk. VII. Battery, and were immediately admitted, another detachment proceeded to' the 6-in. B.L. Mk. V. Battery, which was opened as soon as the troops arrived.

As soon as the details had settled down to work I proceeded to Middle Head, and ascertained that no troops had arrived ; I waited till about 4.25 p.m. and, no one turning up, I had the fort locked up and keys of the battery placed in the office, as by this time it was getting dark, and no candles were available.

I then returned to George's Heights, reaching there about 4.45 p.m. About 4.50 p.m. I received a telephone message from Captain J. N. Shaw, R.A.G.A., that troops had arrived at Middle Head. I went to Middle Head and was informed that they did not require to enter the battery.

The reason for not keeping the batteries open was that orders had been received that they were to be kept closed till such time as the troops arrived, owing to the inclement state of the weather.

On arriving at Middle Head at about 5 p.m., I ascertained that no provision had been made by the A.G.A. to provide tea, and that if they had tea, no utensils were provided.

I reported the matter to Captain J. N. Shaw, R. A.G.A., and assisted him in making the best arrangements possible, he providing tea from the rations of the R. A.G.A., and detailing a gunner to prepare it, and provided messing utensils from the R. A.G.A. mess.

F; S.McClean, Warrant Officer.

There is also a return attached showing the establishment, the number of retirements, and the number remaining. The return is as follows: -


From several parts of the Commonwealth complaints have been received, not merely from the A.,G.A., but from other 'sections of the existing Militia Forces that they were required during the forthcoming year, to undergo the same amount of continuous camp training as are the compulsory trainees. It was represented by the officers in command of companies that if this condition were persisted in they feared that we should suffer a substantial loss of militia men, particularly in the Garrison Artillery and in the Engineers. I sent that statement to the Military Board more than a week ago, and yesterday I received its recommendation, which was to the effect that the existing period of continuous camp training should be retained so far as the Militia Forces are concerned. That is tosay, under the new regulations members of the Garrison Artillery would have been required to put in seventeen days continuous training in camp, whereas under the old order of things they had to serve only eight days. It has now been decided, on the recommendation of the Military Board, that the old order of things shall continue so far as the militia, are concerned, and that its members will be asked to do only the same number of days continuous training in camp this year as they were called upon to do last year.

Senator Millen - That is eight days.

Senator PEARCE - It varies with each arm of the service. The compulsory trainees will do the full number of days continuous camp training, and if any member of the Militia Forces chooses to serve for a similar period he will be allowed to do so. It is hoped that this rearrangement will meet many of the objections which have been raised. I am going to issue in structions that the resignations of these men are not to be accepted until the position has been made clear to them, so that they may have an opportunity of reconsidering their decision. The other causes for the resignations assigned in these reports are the rather stringent regulations regarding the prohibition of alcoholic liquors in camps of continuous training, and the prohibition in regard to cigarette # smoking. I understand, however, that these complaints are not nearly so general. But there have been some complaints that, under the law, the canteen has been abolished in camps of continuous training. That, I have no power to deal with. It is the law of the land and must be observed.

Senator Millen - The prohibition of the canteen in camps of continuous training does not cover the matter of smoking.

Senator PEARCE - No. The prohibition as regards smoking is against the use of cigarettes. The other cause of complaint, which affects only a section of those who have resigned in Sydney, is the re-organization of the commands in the various forts throughout the Commonwealth. Under the old system, there was a mixed command. We had the Permanent Forces and permanent officers, and the Militia Forces and the militia officers. It used to be the practice to have a fortress commander who was a militia officer. Lord1 Kitchener recommended that, as the guns were now of such a highly technical character, there should be two reliefs of permanent troops, and that the command of fortresses should, in all cases, be in the hands of permanent officers. That recommendation has been backed up from time to time by other permanent officers. It has been represented that, in case of war, any attack upon our forts would probably be in the nature of a surprise attack, and that, therefore, the officers in command should .reside close to them. More than a year ago, it was decided to give effect to that policy, and the position of fortress commander at our two important fortresses, that is to say at the Port Phillip and the Sydney fortresses, was abolished. The position of fortress commander involved the further principle of a regimental staff, and there was attached to each of these places an additional militia regimental staff. Following the abolition of the fortress commanders, it was decided to do away with the regimental staffs, as they were considered to be unnecessary. That alteration was carried out in Victoria some months ago without any complaint, except on the part of the officers concerned. It was then given effect to in Sydney; and I understand that some of the dissatisfaction there has been caused by the officers who were on the regimental staff, who objected to the change, and who managed to get a certain amount of support from the men in their company.

Senator McDougall - That is hardly a fair statement to make.

Senator PEARCE - That is the reason why a certain number of resignations have been forthcoming at the present juncture. I am of opinion - and I am fortified in that opinion by the reports of officers who have recently visited Sydney - that the alteration now being made in regard to the camps of continuous training will have the effect of preventing a number of resignations from being persevered in.

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