Monthly Archives: December 2017

149. R J Trigg

TRIGG Robert John 2429
29 B  DoW 29/12/17

Robert John Trigg was 25 yo when he enlisted on 21/8/15. He was a farmer who, with another brother, – Joel William Trigg – farmed approximately 180 acres at Alberton West. At the time of the enlistment, both parents – James Frederick Trigg and Jessie Trigg (nee Cuppage) – were dead. The father had been one of the original directors of the local co-operative store set up in Yarram in 1911.

The next-of-kin was given as his brother, Joel William Trigg. There was a sister, Mary Trigg who was much younger. There was also another brother, Arthur Thomas Trigg. Unlike his siblings, this brother – Arthur – did not appear on the electoral roll. Nor did his name appear in the rate book. Yet in Robert’s will he is specifically referred to as a farmer of West Alberton. Apparently, Robert as the oldest brother enlisted while the 2 younger brothers continued to work the farm, and it is possible that Arthur returned to the district specifically to help in this pursuit.

Robert Trigg appears on the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor and his name is also on the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial. His name also appears on the memorial for the local ANA branch and the Methodist Circuit. On the information form for the (National) Roll of Honour his brother gave Yarram as the location with which he was ‘chiefly connected’. Before he enlisted, he was the secretary of the Gelliondale Rifle Club and was very involved in local sports associations.

He completed his initial medical in Yarram with Dr Crooks (30/7/15). He was single and gave his religion as Methodist. He had been born in Warrnambool. He enlisted as reinforcements for 29 Battalion.

His unit left Melbourne on 14/3/16 and he spent some time in the Middle East before reaching England in late July 1916. At this point he was attached to 8 Training Battalion and began to receive short-term promotions. He spent some time in the School of Instruction in early 1917 and also served on the headquarters staff of 8 Training Brigade. The appointments in England meant that he did not leave to join his unit in France until early 1917. By the time he did join the battalion (17/3/17) he held the rank of corporal. He was again detached to join the headquarters staff of 8 Infantry Brigade in June 1917 for 2 months and when he returned to 29 Battalion he held the rank of sergeant.

Sergeant Trigg was wounded in action on 22/10/17. The wound was described as ‘G.S.W. Knee, Arm & Chest’. He passed from ambulance train to field casualty centres and thence to hospital in England (1st Eastern General Hospital Cambridge) which he reached on 29/10/17.

Sergeant Trigg died from his wounds on 29/12/17, two months to the day after being admitted to hospital in Cambridge. It appears that his family was not formally advised of his condition until 21/11/17. At that time they received advice that he was ‘suffering from gun shot wound knee and forearm’ and that his condition was ‘severe’. There was another cable on the 28/11/17 advising that he was ‘now dangerously ill’. Then on 7/12/17 the advice by another cable was that he was ‘progressing favourably’ and again on 13/12/17 the advice was ‘still progressing favourably’. Then just over 2 weeks later, on 4/1/18, without any further advice, the family received the cable informing them of their brother’s death. The family was also asked to give permission for a post mortem.

The post mortem had been conducted on 31/12/17. It found,
Thin man: right leg amputated – upper third of femur. Clots from recent haemorrhage in stump. Femoral artery tied. Pus in hip joint’.

The post mortem gave the cause of death as, GSW left knee. Septicaemia Secondary Haemorrhage.
There is an apparent contradiction here in that the initial wound was consistently described as GSW left knee while the post mortem refers to the right leg having been amputated.

The war diary for 29 Battalion gives some background to the action in which Sergeant Trigg was wounded. The battalion had been quartered in the Ypres area following the action at Polygon Wood in late September when it had suffered some 350 casualties. On the afternoon of the 21 October it had moved from near Ypres to the front line to relieve 54 Battalion. This was in the front line east of Molenaarelsthoek. 29 Battalion remained in the line until the evening of 25/10/17 when it, in turn, was relieved by 57 Battalion.

Sgt Trigg was wounded the day after his battalion moved into the line but the diary does not record casualty figures for any of the six days in the line. However, it does record, in detail, the ferocity of the enemy shelling of the line. In the 6 day period there were no fewer than 44 separate reports of enemy shelling, and on the 22/10 – the day Sgt Trigg was wounded – there were 9 individual reports of shelling. It is also clear that much of the enemy barrage consisted of high explosive shrapnel shells and, given that the first report of his wounds referred to knee, arm and chest, it is more likely that Sgt Trigg was hit by shrapnel than rifle or machine gun fire, as recorded in his file.

As Sgt Trigg died in hospital in England there was a formal military funeral and he was buried in the Cambridge Borough Cemetery. In fact, extensive details of the funeral were relayed to the family back in Australia. The following letter was sent to the brother as next-of-kin from Base Records in Melbourne on 15/5/18:

The deceased soldier was accorded a full Military Funeral. The coffin of good polished elm with brass fittings, was draped with the Union Jack Flag. Firing Party and Bugler were supplied by No. 5 O.C.B. Australian Cadets stationed at Cambridge. Pallbearers were supplied by the R.A.M.C. 1st Eastern General Hospital, Cambridge. Several beautiful wreaths were placed on the coffin by friends. Prior to the internment a service was held in the Hospital Chapel. Miss Stephen (Friend) Australian Red Cross, Newnham College, Cambridge, was present at the funeral.
The grave will be turfed and an oak cross will be erected by the A.I.F. London.
Administrative Headquarters, A.I.F. London, were represented at the funeral.

Presumably, Miss Stephen supported him in hospital in her Red Cross role.

A death notice appeared in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 9/1/18. Just over a week later on 9/1/18 a detailed tribute appeared in the same paper. In part, it noted:

He [Robert J Trigg] will be remembered as secretary of the Gelliondale Rifle Club and West Alberton Sports Club, and in other ways was a useful resident of that district. He followed the occupation of a farmer, and when the call came left his two brothers on the farm to go to the front in defence of his country.

Then on 18/1/18 the paper published a letter which had been written by Sgt Trigg on 3/11/17, about one month before he died. The letter had been written from hospital and it was addressed to the newspaper itself. Sgt Trigg explained that he had been wounded … in the knee, arm and face. But he was confident that he was … progressing as well as possible, but don’t think I will be much use for some time, as my knee got a good crack. He described the conditions on the front line as … simply hell pure and simple. He also noted that they … got all objectives and gave Fritz a good hiding. He ended up with the season’s greetings:

Xmas is very nearly on us again, and will be over ere you get this, so although perhaps a little late, I will wish you and all Gippsland friends a Merry Xmas and bright and prosperous New Year.

Sgt Trigg’s personal effects were returned later in November 1918. Interestingly, the list of effects was far more extensive than for others who were killed in the field. Presumably this was because Sgt Trigg spent 2 months in hospital before he died.

1 wallet (containing: – Letters, 2 Keys, Heather, Coins, 1 Lanyard, 4 Australian penny stamps, Post cards, Photos, 1 Wounded stripe), 2 writing pads, 1 mirror, 1 Note Case, 2 Handkerchiefs, 1 Wrist Watch (damaged) 1 cover & strap, 2 Pipes, 1 Hair Brush, 1 Cigarette case, 1 Fountain pen, 1 Pr Nail Clippers, Badges, 1 Match box cover, 1 Comb, 1 Disc & medallion, Pencils, 1 Shaving brush, Shaving Soap, 1 Razor, 1 Pr Braces, 1 Pr Sox, 1 Balaclava, 1 Stationery Wallet.

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

National Archives file for TRIGG Robert John 2429
Roll of Honour: Robert John Trigg
First World War Embarkation Roll: Robert John Trigg

O’Callaghan G (Comp) 2006, Clonmel to Federation: Guide to people in the Port Albert area 1841-1901, Vol 3, The Alberton Project

 

148. Returned Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Imperial League (of Australia), local branch

The local branch of the Returned Sailor’s and Soldiers’ Imperial League (of Australia)  – RSSILA – was formed in Yarram at a meeting on 22/6/17. The meeting was reported in detail in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 27/6/17.

By that point in 1917, the estimate was that approximately 30 local men had returned from the fighting. At the meeting there were 10 present and a further 5 apologies. Of the 10 who were present that night, half (5) were not from the local area. They were returned soldiers who had come to the Shire of Alberton after their discharge.  Presumably they had come seeking work, given the acute (farm) labour shortage in the area. The presence of these early ‘outsiders’ was to be a pointer to all the other returned service men who would come to the Shire after the War when the soldier settlement scheme commenced. This movement of ex-service men into the district would have further implications for the very notion of ‘local’.

Importantly, with several significant exceptions, the group of men who formed the local branch of RSSILA were younger and from a different socio-economic profile than the members of the existing committees that had supported the War effort from 1914. This ‘new guard’ was a generation separate from the ‘old guard’ and, as has been shown previously, they were predominantly from the rural working class, with also a concentration of sons from family farms. The old guard, on the other hand, represented the social and economic elite of the community. The generation and class differences were at least in part responsible for the tension that was to arise between the 2 groups. It was a tension that was to continue well after the War.

There were 3 significant exceptions to this observation, and all 3 people involved were elected to key leadership positions in the local RSSILA branch. Dr Rutter was older than most – 35 yo – when he enlisted in May 1915 and he was married. His professional status as one of the local doctors was also atypical and more in line with the old guard. He was elected at the inaugural meeting as president. William Newland was also older – 34 yo when he enlisted in August 1914 – and also married. Further he had fought for several years in the Boer War. Additionally, he had been the local recruiting sergeant and had worked closely with many of the old guard. Newland was elected as secretary. The third exception, elected as treasurer and vice president, was Eric Thomas Benson. Benson was to become the most public spokesperson for the newly formed branch. It was Benson who had convened the inaugural meeting. Yet he was an outsider. He had been born at Warrnambool and enlisted from there. He had been repatriated to Australia from Gallipoli at the end of 1915 and discharged on medical grounds – ‘neurasthenia’ and ‘shell concussion’ – in May 1916. His service record notes that he was cited for ‘conspicuous gallantry’ on Gallipoli. He arrived in Yarram in late 1916 as the bank manager for the State Savings Bank and remained in the district until the early 1920s. He had worked as a (bank) clerk prior to enlistment. Presumably his war service had helped with his promotion in the bank. Benson had enlisted at 21 yo and was nearly 15 years younger than both Rutter and Newland and much closer in age to the generation of returning men. Even though he was, relatively young, his occupation – bank manager – naturally aligned him with the old guard. Yet, initially at least, Benson was the most outspoken critic of the old guard.

At the first meeting, Newland gave the rationale for the RSSILA. He was reported as stating:

There was a lot of men coming back who would not be in as sound a position as when they went, and no other association existed that had the welfare of the soldiers at heart, although many people had individually.

Newland’s focus was clearly on those who had been wounded or were suffering other disabilities or sickness and who had been discharged on medical grounds.

Benson’s comments on the other hand appeared to look beyond the immediate concern for those medically discharged. He was flagging the broader issue of repatriation for all. This was now a major issue, and the idea – and even ideal – of the soldiers settling on the land was gaining much attention:

There were a lot of men coming back, and it was the duty of those who had returned to help them, and see that they got a fair deal. Repatriation was receiving attention from the State and Federal Governments, and when the scheme had been completed and a man applied for land the local branch of the league could help him.

Both Newland and Benson were asserting that it was the primary, if not exclusive, right – and responsibility – of the returned soldiers to care for and represent themselves, assisted by both Government and the broader community.

Newland was also reported as making the following defence of the league’s activities:

Mr Newland strongly condemned any idea that the league was going to to foster idleness. Members were supposed to help themselves, and if they could not do so they would be assisted by the league.

Presumably, this sort of reassurance was required in a community that had a strong history of self-help and reliance, as well as an entrenched fear of organised labour and unionism. There could be no suggestion that help was going to those undeserving of it or that the league could be a front for union or socialist agitation.

Immediately after the local branch was established, either Newland or Benson – or both – began to appear as speakers at the functions organised by the Soldiers’ Farewell and Welcome Committee. In the report of the farewell for Privates Dennison and Jones published in the local paper on 11/7/17, about 3 weeks after the local branch was formed, Rev. Tamagno was reported as praising the new body. He also used the development as an opportunity to continue his criticism of the local community over its general lack of support for the War effort.

Referring to the Returned Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Association, he [Tamagno] said he was pleased to see representatives [Newland and Benson] present. The value of such an association was recognised, because of the hundreds and hundreds who have returned and are returning to this land. It seemed to him that not enough was being done for these men in our midst, so the men had to do it themselves. It showed the dilateriness and absolute neglect of district residents in not recognising the worth of these fellows. He asked the children [school children from Yarram SS attending the farewell] when they grew up, to do their part for the men who, voluntarily, fought for them and their country.

Later at the same gathering, a soldier was welcomed home and this time Sergeant Newland spoke. The criticism of the ‘gentlemen’ who had farewelled the local soldiers was very evident:

Sergeant Newland spoke on behalf of the local branch of the Returned Sailors’ and Soldiers’ League (sic). He remembered when the first send off was given to men from Yarram and district, a few gentlemen spoke about the brave soldiers, and said what would be done for them when they returned. But what had been done? He offended a man yesterday because he told him there was too much talk and not enough doing. There is a lot to be done for the men, and there would be trouble if it is not done. They had formed a league to battle for their interests, and apologised to none. Organisation was needed, and he felt sure of the help and sympathy of all in the district.

There was an even more striking example of the antipathy between the old and new guard. It occurred at a farewell to 3 local men in early October. The function was of course organised by the Soldiers’ Farewell and Welcome Committee. On the day, Councillor Barlow was in the chair. Benson’s comments were direct and accusatory in tone and, presumably, Barlow himself  – see Post 147 – was the target:

Mr. Benson, of the local branch of the Returned Soldiers’ League (sic), said it had been determined to have a representative of the league present at these gatherings. They recognised the call for men was never greater and he was glad to see lads going forward to take the places of others in the trenches. This district had done wonderfully well, seeing that over 800 had gone, but the sacrifice should be more equal. There were those who stayed at home, hiding behind mother and father. There were some in families of men who take a leading part in public meetings remaining at home. He wished the boys a safe return.

The fault lines were clear: the new guard was accusing the old of not honoring commitments to the men who volunteered; and, worse, it was calling into question the very patriotic integrity of its members. And sitting behind such claims was the conviction that the only genuine voice for the returning soldiers resided with the RSSILA.

Notwithstanding such thinly veiled antagonism between the 2 bodies – the Soldiers’ Farewell and Welcome Committee and the local branch of the RSSILA – they continued to work together. It appears that the issue of repatriation was greater than their dispute. In late July 1917, they held a joint meeting to discuss a common approach to repatriation. This joint meeting  took place on 9/8/17 and was reported in the local paper on 10/8/17. Once again Benson’s comments, as reported in the local paper on 1/8/17, were very pointed:

Mr. Benson said that in Yarram they had a good organisation for sending off the local lads with a cheery good-bye, and also in welcoming home the returned men, but unfortunately the good work stopped there.

The discussion that followed looked at models – the most favoured one was that of the local recruiting committee – for the creation of a committee to promote repatriation in the local community. The meeting agreed to send a joint deputation to the Shire Council … urging immediate action in the formation of a local committee to deal with repatriation of district soldiers.

For its part, Council recognised the need for an organised approach to repatriation but it wanted more details on what the Federal program was to involve. Council was also reluctant to delegate its powers. Interestingly, it had not had difficulty in delegating power to the local recruiting committee. It appears however that by this point – late 1917 – Council appreciated that repatriation was to involve some form of a land settlement scheme and it was certainly reluctant to hand over local powers in the area of land management.

As events turned out, the local repatriation committee was not formed until April 1918, and by that point the very public animosity between the various groups had dissipated. The initial tension between the old and new guard had been accommodated, principally, it appears, through the efforts of Benson. Effectively, Benson shifted in his local politics to align himself more with the old guard. However, even if the public dispute had softened, major underlying tensions continued. They would continue through to at least the 1920s.

In summary, it is clear that by the end of 1917 the politics surrounding the repatriation of the AIF was definitely starting to divide the local community.Traditionally, as we have seen throughout this blog, the old guard of the district had promoted recruitment, organised farewells and welcomes, issued shire medallions, supported the Yes vote in the conscription referenda, promoted anti-German sentiment and the exposure of German sympathisers, supported fund-raising and other activities, put on special commemorative and memorial services, and some of them had even supported temperance as part of the overall War effort. One of their constant complaints was the rest of the community, or at least many in the local community, did not share their sense of Imperial Loyalty and commitment to the War effort. From late 1917 there was another voice and another source of division. The new guard were younger and from a different class background. They had no traditional place in the local politics of the community. Some of them were literally ‘outsiders’ who were new to the district. Many were recovering from serious wounds and poor health. Most faced uncertain futures in terms of employment and a ‘normal’ life. However, they held the status of returned Anzacs and they shared an exclusive sense of ‘mateship’. Unlike their elders who spoke about the War, they had had direct, first-hand and terrible experience of it. They demanded the right to be heard.

In part, people at the time would have experienced the division as a clash over narratives. From 1914, the old guard, made up of the community’s elders and senior citizens – its political elite – had emphasised the narrative of loyalty, duty and sacrifice. But their narrative was largely symbolic. They spoke from the position of authority and respectability and their direct, personal involvement was limited. From the end of 1917 there was a new group with a new narrative. This narrative was based on their direct and traumatic experiences at the War. Many carried their wounds – ‘badges of honour’ – to prove it. The central themes of the new narrative were suffering, fairness and recompense. The real issue from that point was how the different narratives could co-exist. As will become clear, the particular outcome in the Shire of Alberton was shaped by the dynamic of local politics.

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

147. Soldiers’ farewells and welcomes in the second half of 1917

In the second half of 1917, as reported in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative, there were 3 separate occasions when soldiers were farewelled and another 4 when they were welcomed home. There were a further 2 occasions when both farewells and welcomes were held together.  Overall, 13 men were farewelled and 9 welcomed home. With one exception – a farewell at Womerah for 3 locals in late July – all the farewells and welcomes were staged in Yarram.

The composition and work of the Soldiers’ Farewell and Welcome Committee continued as for the first half of 1917 (see Post 120).

At a committee meeting held on 26/7/17, and reported in the local paper on 1/8/17, the members reviewed their efforts and stated that they had either presented or sent overseas a total of 343 shire medallions, together with the accompanying card. At the same time, they pointed out that as … there are about 800 soldiers on service from this shire, they were keen to … hear from those who have not received the medallion and card. The major discrepancy between the number of medallions issued (approx. 350), the number of men said to have enlisted from the Shire of Alberton (800) and the number of names recorded on the Roll of Honor (446) will be explored in a future post.

The themes highlighted by those who spoke at the farewells continued unchanged. Heroism, duty, sacrifice and a sense of loyalty to both the Empire and the Nation continued to be stressed; as were the natural fighting qualities of the men and their determination to uphold the name of the Anzacs. The point was made constantly that these were men who now knew the dreadful realities of the War they were to face. If Rev. Tamagno or Raymond spoke they would inevitably emphasise the honesty and sobriety of the men and urge them to remain true to their Christian faith. The sacrifice of the parents was also stressed.

The themes employed for those welcomed home were similar. The men’s efforts in creating the glory of the Anzacs was a constant. Their bravery and heroism was without equal. Their wounds were proof of their honour. Speakers could only imagine the horrors they had had experienced. They had shielded those at home – and defended the sanctity of Australian women – from the evils of German militarism. They had gone as volunteers. Above all, their sacrifice had to be repaid.

As has been covered in previous posts, there was often tension at the farewells. Commonly, speakers were critical of the low number of locals who attended. They could not understand what they saw as people’s indifference. It was common practice for the head teacher of the Yarram State School  – E A Paige, a member of the committee – to bring senior students with him to swell the numbers.

Additionally, at both farewells and welcomes, speakers would regularly attack the ‘shirkers’ and ‘eligibles’ for refusing to do their duty. They also expressed grave fears that locals generally failed to understand how dire the overall War situation was and how critically important it was for reinforcements to reach the AIF. They urged women to play a more decisive role in supporting the War effort and, in particular, winning the support of men for conscription. And, with the second referendum on conscription imminent – the vote was held on 20/12/17 – speakers called passionately for the Yes vote so that, as they saw it, the ‘shame’ and ‘stain’ of the first vote could be removed.

While such tension at the farewells and welcomes had been evident for at least one year, there is evidence that in the second half of 1917 the underlying tension in the local community was worsening. Even the members of the Soldiers’ Farewell and Welcome Committee came under attack. Those who had been the most public advocates for the War were now being criticised.

B P Johnson, a committee member, was arguably the most prominent Imperial Loyalist in the entire local community. He spoke forcefully at public meetings in support of all aspects of the War effort, including, at that time, the second conscription referendum. But at the welcome home, in July 1917, for Private S G Jeffs, Johnson felt the need to defend himself from what he saw as malicious gossip. During the official welcome, Johnson noted that a friend had told him of comments that had been recently made about his son. The gist of the comments was that Johnson had used his influence to ensure that his son was kept away from the front. The brief background to the case was that the son – Cyril Johnson – had worked in the pay office for about 6 months from August 1916. He rejoined his unit, 6 Battalion, in France in April 1917.

In the account published in the local paper on 20/7/17 Johnson, during the course of the welcome to Private Jeffs, defended both his son and himself. According to Johnson,

He [Johnson’s son] was ordered there [pay office] by a doctor on account of an injured arm, and getting tired of being amongst so many cold footers, he tried till he got across to the front. That man [the one making the claim] did not go himself, but he allowed other men’s sons to fight for him. It was bad enough to have a son away, without having nasty words thrown at us.

Cyril Johnson was killed in France on 14/5/18.

There were other examples of how members of the Soldiers’ Farewell and Welcome Committee came under attack and felt the need to defend themselves. At the welcome home to Private John Clark in November 1917, Benjamin Couston and Councillor Charles Barlow, both members of the committee, made public statements to counter personal attacks. As with Johnson, the comments were made in the course of the official welcome to Private Clark.

In fact, on the day, Couston gave the reply of thanks on behalf of Private Clark. But immediately after calling for support for the Government in the conscription referendum, he launched into a defence of his own position. As reported in the local paper (21/11/17), he drew attention to the fact that he had been sent a white feather:

He received by the post the other day a magnificent tribute to himself and his two sons in the form of a white feather (which he produced), which was no doubt the consequence of some remarks he had made a few days previously. He was willing to offer himself straight out if the individual who sent this feather would come forward and do likewise, and would also have his two sons do the same. (Applause). But as most people would know, he was not eligible. The ages of his two boys were 17 and 19 respectively. The latter was at present in a bank in New South Wales. Some years ago he had hurt himself whilst cycling, and had volunteered for the war on four different occasions, even pleading for a certificate of fitness, but he failed. The lad had told him the other day that he was giving himself a chance, and in two months would be in khaki. (Applause). The other boy was also anxious to enlist, and said he would do so when he was 18.

The younger boy – Kenneth Fletcher Couston – did enlist (3/1/18) in Yarram when he was 18 yo.

Benjamin Couston had arrived in Yarram in late 1916. He was the manager of the Bank of Victoria in the town. He sat as a JP in the local police court and was obviously a key local identity. From early 1917 he had been president of the Yarram Recruiting Committee. But, like Johnson, his integrity was being challenged.

The other committee member to defend himself that day was Councillor Charles Barlow. Barlow was another leading spokesperson for the Imperial Loyalists. He was a very public figure. In fact, on the day he chaired the welcome for Private Clark.

As indicated, at the welcome there were strong expressions of support for conscription. For Barlow at least, it appears, there was a strong personal commitment. The following remarks appeared in the account in the local paper. Barlow was speaking after Couston had mentioned his white feather:

The Chairman said that certain remarks had also been made about him, but fathers were not always their sons’ keepers. There was no man more strongly in favor of conscription than himself, although it might be said that he had sons who were not at the war. He prayed that the referendum would be carried, and then if he had eligible sons they would have to go.

Clearly some locals were beginning to question Barlow’s right to impress ideas of patriotism, sacrifice and duty on others.

From the start of the War the group of Imperial Loyalists, based principally in Yarram, had dominated the key committees – the ones actively and directly designed to support the War effort – and through this work they had controlled the official narrative. They represented the professional/ proprietorial/ managerial/ landed elite of the community and they were backed by the local churches – although Catholic support was qualified – and one of their number (A J Rossiter) was the editor of the influential local paper. However it appears that by the end of 1917 this group of leading citizens was being challenged, primarily on the basis of its moral authority.

Conceivably, this situation could be explained in terms of War-weariness. The endless calls for more effort, more reinforcements and the constant criticism of people’s lack of awareness and involvement as well as their indifference proved too much. The local community, which in reality had done and sacrificed so much, simply grew tired of being preached at by their ‘betters’ and rebelled, at least in part by attacking their integrity.

At the same time, there appears to have been at least one other dynamic involved. Essentially, another group emerged round this time  and this group – returned soldiers – directly challenged the right of the ‘elders’ of the local community to control the ongoing narrative of the War. In one sense it was a generational clash. It could also be described in terms of a clash between an ‘old’ and a ‘new guard’, where the latter was now demanding the right to be heard. There is no doubt that this new political force in the local community challenged the work and authority – and to some extent even the integrity – of the existing committees, especially the Soldiers’ Farewell and Welcome Committee.

The next post will look more closely at the establishment of  the local branch of the Returned Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Imperial League which was formed in Yarram at the end of June 1917.

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative