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Thursday, 20 May 1915

Senator PEARCE - The reply is in the form of a long statement, and is as follows : - On 7th inst., Senator Millen, in moving the adjournment of this House, referred to some statements which have been circulated regarding the disposal of Red Cross material forwarded to Rabaul. The charges were, briefly, that Private Campbell was in the company of another member of the Expeditionary Force to

Rabaul, who purchased two suits of pyjamas, containing notes from Red Cross workers in Sydney, at the dry canteen there. The report was denied by the Administrator, Colonel Holmes, who stated that Private Campbell was writing to the Sun newspaper, informing it that the pyjamas in question were privately purchased from another member of the Force. The Sun, however, stated that it had not received a letter from Private Campbell, and, further, that the latter denied writing such a letter. Campbell further stated that he was paraded before the officer commanding the troops, LieutenantColonel W. W. Russell Watson, in regard to the original report, and as a punishment he was sent away at a few hours' notice as ship's guard to outlying islands. On his return from this duty, he stated that he personally purchased the pyjamas at the dry canteen, which did not have Red Cross tickets on them, but they were labelled " O.S.M.," which he took to be the initials of a Red Cross worker. A final statement is that the profits of the canteen did not go to the soldiers. The matter was referred to a Court of Inquiry in Sydney, composed of the following officers: -

Colonel G. Ramaciotti, O.C. 11th Infantry Brigade;

Lt.-Commander J. O.. Graham, R.N. ;

Major H.G. Edwards, Sydney University Scouts.

The Court took evidence on oath, and reported on 13th inst. as follows: -

The Court find:- 1. That the statement made by Private R. B. Campbell in his letter to his mother is untrue. 2. That Campbell admitted to Colonel Watson and Captain Lane, in the presence of Warrant Officer Inglis, that the statement in question was untrue. 3. That this admission was reduced into writing, in duplicate, and signed by Campbell. 4. That one copy, or part, was sent to the Administrator by the O.C. troops, and copy forwarded by the Administrator to the Hon. the Minister of Defence. 5. That the second copy, or part, was addressed and posted by Captain Lane personally by the express order of the O.C. troops to the editor of the Sun. 6. That the sole punishment awarded to Campbell was a reprimand by O.C. troops. 7. That the marks " O.S.M.," alleged to have been found on the pyjamas alleged' to have been purchased by Campbell himself at the dry canteen were marks indicating sizes commonly in trade use. . The Court are of the opinion that Private R. B. Campbell is of weak character, and does not appear to realize either the seriousness of his statements, or his position.

The papers have been laid on the table of the Library for the information of honorable senators; but I desire to add that the Red Cross Society in Sydney has advised that the names alleged to have been inserted in the garments do not tally with any of the workers for the society in the districts mentioned, and that Private Campbell must be mistaken. The pyjamas sold at the dry canteen were manufactured and supplied by George Hird and Company, of Sydney, who state that the letters " O.S.M." mean " outside men's size." The editor of the Sun stated that he had no evidence in support or rebuttal of the charges. The profits of the canteen amounted to £420 for the whole period, of which £150 went to the Men's Sports Club, and £270 to the Belgian Fund. Private Campbell was sent on the Meklong to outlying islands, because he was one of those who had volunteered for extended service, and he was selected for this work, in the ordinary way of duty, by a subaltern, Lieutenant R. H. Norman.

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