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Thursday, 5 May 1921

Senator ELLIOTT (Victoria) .- "When I was speaking previously,^ I was dealing with the principle of saluting the flag, which raised the question of saluting senior officers generally. I suggested that many of the complaints made against Australian soldiers arose from the fact that our men, busy Avith other things, did not- think of saluting. The practice of saluting had not been ingrained in them as it had .been in the British Army. Having observed that if the senior officer raised his arm and commenced" to salute, our men would respond immediately, I suggested the adoption of this practice, and a humorous incident occurred when it first came into vogue. Just after the First Division had made that splendid attack on the Menin-road, and wis being relieved by the Second Division, my brigade was waiting for its turn to go in. General Birdwood, who was. then generally known as "Rainbow Bill," on account of the number of ribbons he wore on his chest, was watching the First Division coming out, and was saluting in accordance with the new system which had been adopted. Of course the boys responded but I overheard my cook, who was watching, say to a mate, " Cripes, Bill, the boys must have done well. 'Rainbow Bill', is saluting every Aussie he meets."

Senator Fosterhas drawn attention to some of the amazing charges that can be brought up under the Army Act. They are_ not very often strictly justifiable under that measure, but when there is any doubt on the point, the custom of the Service is brought into play, and cannot be knocked out unless an appeal is made to a civil Court. Flogging was even brought in as a custom of the Service. The case is cited of a colonel who inflicted a punishment of 500 lashes and ' who, when sued, claimed the protection of the custom of the Service. After an exhaustive examination of the evidence, the civil Court came to the conclusion that he had gone even beyond that custom, which did not permit him to inflict a punishment of more than fifty lashes. It took an Act of Parliament to wipe out that evil custom which Had grown up. Senator Foster will find that the well known rule in British regiments about " dumb insolence " is justified by the custom of the Service. During the South

African war I was given a commission in the British Army, and for a time was attached to the Coldstream Guards. In1 that regiment junior officers must undergo training by the sergeant-majors, and these officers instructed me very minutely in all the little tricks and customs of the Service. The Guards are extraordinarily smart in answering an order, and they explained to' me how the unfortunate recruit is trained in this respect. . If a sergeant-major, walking about, sees -a recruit cutting \ip tobacco to put in his pipe he calls him to 3o something, and if the man pauses to put the tobacco into his pipe before obeying the call, he is charged with "hesitating to obey an order " and is severely- punished. He must drop everything at once and dash to answer the call. This is not imagination on my part. As a prospective subaltern in the British Army, I paid close atten tion to all these customs, about which a very efficient sergeant-major gave me minute instructions. A favorite method of quieting an obstreperous mau who is drunk and very abusive is to gag him with his own socks. All these punishments can be justified, if not under the Army Act, then under the custom and traditions of the British Service. If we, as it is proposed by this Bill, deliberately import the British Army Act bodily into our Act, we shall also bring into our Service all the customs and traditions of the British Army Service however bad, and we shall have only ourselves to blame.

For my part, I feel so strongly on this matter, and in view of the fact that in a few years my son will be serving, that, if this is done, I shall be prepared to help Senator Gardiner in opposing compulsory service.

Senator Bolton - Hear, hear! I will help you in that.. ,

Senator ELLIOTT - One never knows where he is with the British Army Act. It catches him like a boomerang. I told honorable senators the other day of what occurred when 'General Hobbs ordered me to occupy a village which I found to be in the occupation of people who had no business to be there. If I Sad not. obeyed my orders to occupy the place, and, in consequence, my men had not got the rest they needed, and if I had not been ready to march into the fight, I would have been court martialed for having disobeyed orders. I referred the matter to my general, and he did not cancel my orders in any way. Therefore, after waiting half a day, I proceeded to carry them out to the best of my ability by telling the officer in command of the troops in possession of the village plainly that he must get out, otherwise I would march him out and put my men in. I was " strafed " for doing that', although General Hobbs admits that I had great provocation.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It seems to be that all the provocation waa not on the one side.

Senator ELLIOTT - I had definite orders to do a certain thing, and if I had not carried them out I was liable to be court martialed and disgraced, or imprisoned.

I thought I knew all the tricks that might be played under the Army Act, but Senator Drake-BTockman showed me how it was worked. Senator Pearce was very insistent that there was a regulation preventing an cfficer being superseded in a regiment withrut being given an opportunity to object. I raised the case of Captain Jacka, and Senator DrakeBrockman, in replying to what I said, showed that Captain Jacka had never been superseded in his regiment, because the matter was dealt with in a different way. A senior officer from outside the regiment was brought in and put over his head. I should say that that was even more effective than supersession to break a man's heart. If Captain Jacka were an extremely popular officer with his battalim, as he certainly was, the introduction of an outsider, and his appointment over Captain Jacka's head, would punish the whole battalion. Senator Drake-Brockman has explained that that was the sort of thing that was done.

I can cite he case of a Polish Jew who could not speak English, and who, in the three months during which he was attached to that battalion, never by any chance went near the front line. Whenever an action was imminent he developed synovitis, and his unfortunate adjutant, Captain Wa-nliss, one of the best officers we had, a nephew of Sir William Irvine, and a man who was dux of my own college in Ballarat, and later dux of the Hawkesbury College in New South Wales, and who in his first action gained the D.S.O. and was recommended for the V.C., had to do the work of tha unfortunate illiterate, who could not write his own orders. Captain Wanliss had to be. working all day in his dug-out, and then had to go into the front line at night.

SenatorFoster. - Was the Polish Jew a master of strategy ?

Senator ELLIOTT - God knows what he was, but in two months he never learned to spell Jacka's name.

Senator Cox - What was the rank of this man ?

Senator ELLIOTT - He was a major, and was put in command of the battalion though he could not speak English. I do not know where he came from originally, but the position became so bad at last that headquarters could not stand him and fired him home. Then there was a man named Smith, a permanent officer of the Forces here. He went over with the 3rd Division. General Monash tried him in two places, as a brigade-major and as a battalion commander, and he had to be kicked out of both. When General Birdwood intervened in the affairs of the 14th Battalion, after Bullecourt, he insisted on this mau taking command of the 14th Battalion over Captain Jacka's head. He had joined with him a man named Thompson, who was also an utter " dud." This will show what may be done under the Army Act At Polygon Wood, where Jacka distinguished himself, to cite' the official account, "by the most magnificent bravery," this man Smith disappeared for two days, and during three days Captain Jacka ran the whole show. The colonel, in disappearing, took his telephone instruments with him, and Jacka had to beg, borrow or steal telephone instruments, make a new headquarters, and continue the action.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Was this the Polish Jew?

Senator ELLIOTT - No, the Polish Jew had been got rid of by this time. This was a permanent officer, who was subsequently duly whitewashed, and holds a good command here in Austrafia.

Senator Cox - Of what rank was he?

Senator ELLIOTT - He wasa colonel. I told honorable senators that I had not fully investigate 1 Jacka's case, but I have since done so, and I am prepared to lay before the Senate statutory declarations on the subject if the Minister for Defence will promise to institute an action for perjury agains the man who makes them in order to clear up the matter and to give the public an opportunity to learn the real facts of the case.

Senator Pearce - I should be busy for the next fifty years if I followed up all these tarradiddles.

Senator ELLIOTT - I have a letter here from a lieutenant-colonel, who is also a distinguished lawyer. He writes -

I read with great sympathy and appreciation your remarks in the Senate yesterday. The defence of the Minister that if he were to inquire into your case he must do so in hundreds of others only aggravates the position and justifies your action. There are hundreds of these cases of injustice. There is nothing which so destroys an organization as a sense of injustice and resentment against the wrong use of power. In Egypt I was appointed, president of a court martial. Divisional instructions contained a wrong charge, and the prosecutor was also appointed Judge-Advocate.

That is to say, the man who was prosecuting had at the same time to advise the Court as to the law. My correspondent continues -

I objected, and dismissed the charge. This was the work of Lord Massereene, of the English staff; and subsequently Colonel Linton and I were paraded before him, and rebuked, and informed that we were there to follow orders, and not to administer law or justice.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - And that is the Army Act ?

Senator ELLIOTT - That is the Army Act.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - It is only a letter from some fellow who is abusing everybody.

Senator ELLIOTT - But those things go on, and there is no control over them.

Senator Rowell - Give the Committee the name of the writer.

Senator ELLIOTT - I do not intend to give the name.

SenatorRowell. - The honorable senator ought to do so.

Senator ELLIOTT - I do not think that would be fair. Senator Eairbairn tripped me in the same, way the other day.

Senator RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Any man, and especially a colonel, who writes such a letter should be prepared, if necessary, to substantiate what he says.

Senator ELLIOTT - I was put in a false position the other day. My cousin, Admiral Henry Tottenham, was on

Admiral Jellicoe's staff, and commanded a squadron at the Battle of Jutland. Tn consequence of a change of tactics being introduced, Admiral Beatty took over command, and he made a clean sweep of all the staff officers.

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Bakhap - I draw the honorable senator's attention to the fact that the time allowed him under the Standing Orders has expired.

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