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Thursday, 28 April 1921

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (Western Australia) . - I am not sure that some of the things which I desire to say are altogether pertinent to the amendment: but since certain matters upon which I have a particular knowledge have been mentioned, I wish to make some allusion to them.

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Bakhap - If the honorable senator can connect his remarks in any reasonable way with the proposed new clause he will be at perfect liberty to make them.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - I think I can do that. In support of the amendment which has been submitted by my gallant and distinguished friend, Senator Elliott, an illustration has been drawn from the 'battle of Bullecourt which he has described as one of the greatest disasters in the war.. I happened to be in that battle, and his description of it may to a certain extent be justified, though other descriptions have been applied to it by very distinguished officers in the British Army. In that battle .1 was in command of the 16th Battalion, which was a portion of the 4th Brigade. The 14th Battalion, to which Deference has been made, was also a portion of that brigade. As a matter of fact, in this particular attack that battalion was on the left of my own. My battalion went into that action with a strength of 870 other ranks, and of twenty-three officers. We came out of it with a strength of three officers and eighty-seven of other ranks. I have very good cause, therefore, to remember moat of the incidents connected with that battle, which took place on the 11th April, 1917. It is true that the tanks and the Tanks Corps were so rottenly officered in those days' that they were a complete failure in that particular battle. It is true that a number of the officers in those tanks behaved in such a way as to call forth a very strong protest from Captain Jacka and other officers. When the operation was over, Captain Jacka, in his capacity as Intelligence Officer to his battalion, put in a report to his -Commanding Officer, Colonel Peck. Mv own Intelligence Officer, Captain Wadge, also put in a report which was upon very similar lines. These reports were pretty strong, and Colonel Perk and I' were engaged in drafting reports when we, received them. We did not follow the usual course of simply forwarding those intelligence reports to the higher authorities. The complaints and charges which they contained were so serious and far-reaching a character that we decided that it would not be a fair thing to allow two of our juniors to put their -names to them. Accordingly we drafted a report which we both signed. The .next day the Divisional Commander saw me, and said: " This is the strongest thing in the way of a military report that I have ever seen. I want you to consider most carefully should go forward or not. Can you substantiate everything that is in ' it, because if you cannot it may mean very serious consequences to you officers who signed it?" We stuck to our guns, and asked that it should be forwarded. Upon the day after we had withdrawn from the line at Bullecourt General Birdwood came down, saw the 14th Battalion and my own battalion, and addressed .them. He also delivered a message which he had received from, the Army Commander. The Army Commander's message stated that what was accomplished upon the occasion in question by the 4th Australian Brigade was the* most wonderful feat of arms in the history of the war. He finished up by congratulating the Tanks Corps upon their success. All the High Command at that time believed that the tanks had been a success, because a report had been sent in by the Senior Tanks Commander claiming that they had done everything that they had been ordered to do. As a result, all the members of the Senior Command thought that the tanks had been successful in doing what they were set to do. It was not until the reports written by Colonel Peck and myself were received by General Birdwood that he realized that the report which he had received from the Tank Corps was incorrect. He had not received our report at the time that he addressed the troops. I happen to know that General Birdwood put up the most strenuous opposition to this particular battle, both to the Army Commander and the General HeadQuarters.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Who was the Army Commander !

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