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After the war ... the returning troops

THE following article was published in the Warracknabeal Herald on January 31, 1919.

Appeal for sympathy and support.

At McCombe’s Hall on Thursday, during the presentation of the war picture, under the auspices of the Soldiers and Sailor’s Imperial League, Mr G. P. Taylor, ex-recruiting officer delivered an address.

He said that many kindnesses and generous hospitality had been extended to the boys by the people of Warracknabeal district, and he hoped that similar kindnesses and generosity would be shown to the returned and those returning, and the dependents of the fallen, not for a week or a month, or a year, but for all time.

All had read of the famous charge of the Light Brigade. The names of these men were honoured throughout the world, and yet we read of the last of them dying of starvation.

It was for the people of Australia – those whose privilege it had been to live in a free, peaceful and prosperous country for over four years, while their boys fought and died on the fields of France – to see that not one man who had served his country should have the same ending as the last of the Light Brigade.

Many people might think that now that the war had been won their work was finished, but, unfortunately he had to remind them that it was only just beginning.

There were dark days ahead of us yet.

Three hundred thousand men, many of them wounded, maimed, and blind, with their dependents, were about to begin the battle of life, and often to live was a much harder thing than to die.

Amongst returned soldiers now there were a large number of unemployed, and he (the speaker) failed to see how, under existing conditions, the close on 200,000 were to be absorbed.

True, unemployed could obtain sustenance, but what was sustenance at best?

Just an existence, a poor recompense for all that the boys had suffered.

Besides, though, perhaps not intended, the Digger, when receiving sustenance felt it was doled out as charity.

That was not what the boys wanted.

They wished to work.

Almost every returned man had visions of seeing Australia one of the greatest nations in the world, and he wanted to play his part at home, as well as abroad, in making it so.

The Returned Sailors and Soldier’s Imperial League had no sympathy with extremists.

They wished to exercise a restraining influence on all turbulent spirits, and to help the government in every way to deal with this problem, but what they did wish to see above all was the whole of

Australia shouldering this burden, for unless they did so the government must fail, and the people must take the consequences.

Mr Taylor also asked that they should show more tolerance towards returned men, remembering what they had gone through.

The league had purchased a building in Melbourne, which will be one of the finest clubrooms in Australia, and they wish to see in every town throughout Victoria a building which would be a worthy memorial to the men who had fallen and of use to the returned.

Many people seemed to drift apart and that in a few years these buildings would not be required, but that was not possible.

The boys stuck together on the other side.

Between them there is a bond of blood and just as they stuck together on the side of battle, so will they do in Australia.

It is true that eventually the boys will die, but then there will be another generation to take their place.

The aim of the returned soldiers was to make the league like the Veteran’s Club in Canada.

It hoped that the sons of the returned soldiers would, through the club rooms, imbibe the traditions of the AIF, so that if ever Australia should have need for defenders, men would spring to the colours, and, remembering the deeds of their fathers, worthily uphold the tradition of the army.

In conclusion, Mr Taylor appealed to all to remember for all time Anzac, France and Palestine, and be true to the men who in Australia’s darkest hour were true to them.

The speaker was introduced  by Mr C. A. Taylor, president of the local branch of the Soldier’s Association.