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Wednesday, 12 November 1941

Senator AMOUR (New South Wales) , - I wish to refer briefly to a speech which I delivered in the Senate >n the 26th June last, which has given rise to some comment. I feel that I owe an explanation to a number of officers of the 18th Battalion, who served in the last war. During my speech on that occasion I clearly stated the reasons that prompted me to refer to this matter. I met a number of officers at the Dubbo Military Camp. They had been there for twelve months training a division preparatory to going overseas. They had done the necessary training with the men, including bivouac and long route marches, and like the men they were very fit. They had served in the last war. They stayed with the Army and had obtained commissions. They complained very bitterly to me that whilst the boys whom they had trained went to the war, including a number of those who had served with them in the last war, they themselves were denied the privilege of going overseas as soldiers. Like many other diggers they felt that they were physically fit and should have been given an opportunity to go along with the boys they had trained. I said that the officers who took them away and who had just come fresh from Duntroon had not been with the men during their training. They said that they prayed for the men but not for the officers. During a speech which lasted an hour and a half I said that I had had experience in the 18th Battalion where the colonel, the battalion major, another major and several subalterns had been cashiered for cowardice. I uttered those words. Apparently it was not a charge that was " put over " the last Australian Imperial Force. I would say that probably the military system considered that they lacked judgment; that they were inexperienced and could not size up a difficult situation. However, as the term was known among the diggers, they knew that when a fellow was discharged from the Army whilst the battalion was on service he had "gone up " for cowardice. I do not want that to go abroad because I understand that a battalion had approximately 26 officers, and as, 1 believe, the 18th Battalion was wiped out four times I assume that it had at least 100 officers. I knew many of them. I do not feel that I should mention some names and not mention all of them. But I knew officers in that battalion who were game and whom nothing could stop. I should not like them to think that the seven subalterns to whom I referred included any of them. Consequently I am bound to withdraw the word cowardice ".

Senator Collett - And apologize.

Senator AMOUR - I do not intend to apologize.

Senator Collett - The honorable senator was not present?

Senator AMOUR - I was not present all the time. I went to the war when I was fifteen years of age and was returned to Australia owing to a gunshot wound when I was seventeen years of age. I left Australia in 1915 and came back in 1917. I was not at the war all the time. I have already told honorable senators that I spent a long time overseas. I spent my sixteenth birthday in France. I have nothing in my military record to be ashamed of.

Senator Collett - The honorable senator should be ashamed of some of the statements he has made.

Senator AMOUR - I am not ashamed of any of my statements. Somebody supplied an article which was published in Smith's Weekly on the 18th November last from which I take the following extracts : -


Australiahas been shocked by the recent statements of Senator Amour, claiming that nine officers of the 18th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force, including Colonel Chapman, Major McDonald, Lieutenant Pritchard, and six other lieutenants, had been cashiered for cowardice and sent home to Australia in disgrace.

Captain John O'Donnell, an officer of the 18th, has written this answer to the Senator, claiming that the allegations are " cruel lies "- " First officer mentioned by the Senator, who shelters under Parliamentary privilege, is the late Lieutenant-Colonel A. E. Chapman, V.D., who was the original battalion commander. " Lieutenant-Colonel Chapman saw service in the South African War and commanded the 24th Infantry Regiment, Australian Military Forces, prior to being appointed to command the 18th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force, early in 1915. " He remained in command of the battalion during the action which lasted from August 22 to 29, 1915, and which is described in an official account published on Gallipoli underdate September 3 in the following terms: -

This gallant action adds 400 more acres of Turkish territory to the country occupied by ANZAC.The fighting during these operations was almost entirely hand-to-hand and of a very severe nature."

I am sad to say that that action was admitted by everybody to be a blunder. Many Australians lost their lives in it; and we lost the 400 acres. The article continues - " Official records show that of 750 members of the unit engaged in the action on August 22 there were 382 casualties, of whom one-half were killed. By August 29 there were very few of the battalion left, and it was withdrawn from the line to reserve. " Lieutenant-Colonel Chapman left the unit when it was withdrawn to reserve and subsequently returned to Australia, where he was allowed to resign his appointment on December 14, 1915. "He was subsequently issued with the 1914-15 Star, General Service and Victory medals, ample proof that he was not cashiered."

Lieutenant-Colonel Chapman was allowed to resign. Because he was allowed to resign and because he was issued with certain medals I am bound to say that I cannot substantiate my statement, because I do not know what the decision of the Military Board of that time was. It appears that the board was prepared to give those medals to anybody at all. I do not want to labour the matter. However, I emphasize that many of the officers of that battalion were never in doubt. They were gallant men, like the members of the battalion who did a good job. I repeat that I cast no aspersion whatever on them. I cast no aspersion on Pritchard. He was a game man. He should never have been sent toFrance. He had been seriously wounded and his nerves were shattered. For that reason I do not think that Pritchard was a. coward. He was unable to go on and there was nothing against him for that. That is how I feel about it. I am not concerned about Chapman. I have seen men shot and wounded and have spent many nights attending to them. When I thought of that, and of the gallant men who went overseas, I felt very sad about them. I would never have mentioned the matter in ordinary circumstances. It just crossed my mind when I was thinking of the diggers of the last war who could be serving in this war, and who want to go to this war but have been denied that right and privilege. I hope that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) will take steps to ensure that those men who served in the last war and who to-day enjoy health and strength and prove themselves to be physically fit by continuous training in military camps will have a chance to go to this war. I want nothing more than that. I believe that such men would be an inspiration to our younger soldiers under them and would command their respect because of the confidence which they would create in view of their previous experience under fire. That is my contention regarding the matter. If 1 have offended some officers of the battalion who feel that I have cast some aspersion on them I shall withdraw my statement. I do not want to offend anybody, but I am not at all in sympathy with Chapman.

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