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Friday, 21 May 1915

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - It is with both a sense of personal loss and a recognition of national loss that I rise to second the motion. In the early days of the war, which broke upon us with such dramatic suddenness, I was naturally brought into very close and constant touch with the deceased and gallant officer. ,1 do not know of any testimony which could be adduced as to the recognition of his capacity and worth so striking as that unanimity which was evinced by all sections of the community when his appointment was announced. Parliamentary circles, the public and the press equally approved of the appointment, because, I believe, they recognised that Major-General Bridges was the one man for that particular and serious responsibility. . May I remind honorable senators as to what that responsibility was? Up to that time no Australian officer had been called upon to lead or to handle anything but an insignificant number of troops- possibly 2,000 or 3,000, or at the outside 4,000 or 5,000 troops were the most that had ever been placed together under the command of an individual officer in Australia. Suddenly Major-General Bridges was called upon to organize for the grim realities of war a Force much larger than ever he had had previously an opportunity of handling, even in the mimic battlefields on our training grounds, and we know how he discharged that duty. From the beginning to the end, during my official association with him, he proved himself as tireless as he was resourceful, as thorough in matters of detail as he was wide-visioned in larger ones. From the beginning to the endbe displayed a tenacity of purpose which enabled himself and the Department to overcome difficulties as numerous as they were varied. There were no precedents to guide and much to extemporize. It was largely due to the resourcefulness and enterprise of Major-General Bridges, and may I say his thorough and loving care of the soldiers under him, that the Force was organized as well as it was when it left Australia. In these days, momentous as they are, our minds are naturally swayed between two sets of conflicting feelings. At one moment we are elated with pride at the unflinching heroism of our soldiers; at the next moment we are depressed with grief at the loss of the valiant fallen. I am sure that the keen regret which Major-General Bridges must have experienced, when he knew that recovery was hopeless, was due not so much to the fact that he had surrendered his life for his country's good as to the knowledge that the leadership of the machine he had striven so strenuously to fashion was to pass to other hands, that he was not to be allowed to complete the good work he had so excellently and well commenced. This motion very rightly makes reference to those whose sorrow is greater than our own. As the Minister of Defence has stated, no words of ours could do much to soothe the crushed and broken hearts of the immediate relatives of the deceased General. But we may hope that even in a home so depressed and stricken as that must be today our words will carry some small measure of comfort. In future years, when ' time has done something to relieve much of the present suffering, this motion passed by the National Parliament in recognition of the valuable services to his country rendered by the husband and father will no doubt be treasured as some slight recompense for the sense of loss which must now be endured.

Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable senators standing in their places.

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