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Thursday, 21 April 1921

Senator COX (New South Wales) . - I have listened very patiently to a lot of harrowing details concerning the way in which courts martial were conducted during the recent war. The Australian Imperial Force had a good deal of experience of these tribunals, and, as time passed, and we found that all our senior officers and officers with experience were being shot out, young men had to be appointed in their places who were probably not familiar with the procedure adopted by courts martial. Arrangements were therefore made whereby every officer who was granted a commission was to be trained in that procedure. I say, without fear of contradiction, that every member of the mounted portion of the Australian Imperial Force who was tried by court martial received a fair deal. We were most particular about having officers thoroughly instructed in the ways of courts martial. Upon top of that we had the Judge Advocate-General, who renewed the proceedings of all these courts martial, and who, whenever he found anything in favour of the prisoner, always gave him the benefit of it. It is wrong for any honorable senator to throw dirty water upon these officers. I recognise that we had to make officers on the field because we had not sufficient trained men in Australia, and because it was impossible for any nation to foresee the number of officers that would be required during the war. Thus it came about that men who were troopers or noncommissioned ' officers to-day were lieutenants to-morrow. Upon Gallipoli our losses were so great that we could not send these men away in order that they might secure the necessary training, but they were men who had landed on the Peninsula, and who had been thoroughly trained in Egypt before they went there. The first Force which landed on Gallipoli was as thoroughly trained as it was possible for them to be, and so also were the officers who accompanied them. They were a fine:fighting machine. The casualties suffered were tremendous, and we had not sufficient trained men in reserve to £11 the gaps thus created. But the men who took the "places of the fallen had been trained as troopers and noncommissioned officers. As soon as the opportunity occurred, these men were sent to schools of instruction in order that they might be fitted for the commissions which they held, and which included the conduct of courts martial. It is part of an officer's duty to understand that. It is absolutely wrong to decry our own officers. It is admitted that our men were well cared for, and that they received fair and honest treatment. We must remember that all the men who went away from here were not angels. Let me give the other side of the picture. I remember having a man under my command who deliberately told an officer on board ship that he would not go on shore at Gallipoli. He was taken ashore, and he then said that he would not go into the front line.

Senator Fairbairn - Did you shoot him?

Senator COX - The honorable senator ought to know what is the law of this country. An Australian cannot be shot for refusing to enter the front line. If a man were shot for such an offence there would be a big row about it. This particular fellow was tried by court martial. His regiment happened to be in the front line, and he had to go pretty close to that line in order to have the court martial constituted. The divisional commander afterwards told me that he had received a pretty severe sentence, and that I ought to give him a chance. I replied, " I will not have him. Do what you like with him." The man was then given certain work to do at Anzac Cove. Evidently he had made up his mind that he would not fight and that he would not work. While he was down in the front line and was being nursed by this divisional general, one of the latter's staff officers while walking past this man was set upon by him and received a terrible doing. The offender was further court martialled, and as a result was sent off Gallipoli. Yet that man had the temerity to come along the other day and ask me to assist him in obtaining his gratuity.

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