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Between the Wars for ex Diggers

When the troops returned after the war the Government started a scheme called the Soldier's Resettlement Scheme. Some were taught 'new' trades like saddlery. Some were offered parcels of land, often reasonably poor land or land well away from points of commerce. In some cases a house was included. The above photo is of one such property. 

The house and land was not free, just bought with Government loan assistance. Some of the former Diggers made a go of it. Some didn't. Many Queensland Soldier's Settlement farms 'died' under the weight of the great Prickly Pear Invasion. With the world rushing towards the Great Depression many old Diggers found themselves out of work, out of luck and out on the wallaby track.

Here is how one bloke saw the situation;

The Bagman's Dream
  • Bodies for sale and no buyers
    • O, God, what have we done ?
    • Doomed to the endless treadmill
    • Under a blazing sun.
  • Humping a hateful burden
    • down a long unfriendly track
    • On a road that leads to nowhere
    • then to turn and hump it back.
  • Farmer and Mason and Digger
    • Miner and Parson and Clerk
    • Each of them only asking
    • for their right to live and work.
  • To think that this youngest country
    • This rich and smiling land
    • Has been sold like a slave to bondage
    • by the base Law Makers hand.
  • And her sons and daughters suffer
    • from East to Western Sea,
    • But the day is quickly coming
    • when they will, again, be free.
  • When we rise and rout the traitors
    • and smite them hip and thigh
    • and write EMANCIPATION
    • in blood, across the sky.
  • And reduce our wretched forums
    • To heaps of ash and stone,
    • And build a Legislature
    • strong enough to stand alone.
  • With WORK for all who want it
    • and payment for our toil.
    • The Parson to his pulpit,
    • The Farmer to his soil.
  • The Miner and the Digger,
    • Each will play his part
    • When we cut this growing rot spot
    • From out Australia's heart.
Click to enlarge
  • "805" Chas HARRIS, Tambo Qld 26 Aug 1930 
    • formerly 805 Sgt C F W Harris MM, 42nd Battalion AIF
  • Harris had been wiped out, commercially, in the Great Prickly Pear invasion which took over his farm near Chinchilla, Qld. He battled on, became a plumber, re-enlisted in WW2 (unsuccessfully due to Reserved Occupation status),  married in 1947and your humble webmaster is one of 2 sons. He died in 1960 aged 64.
  • For details of Prickly Pear Invasion
The Prickly Pear re-appeared in the story of the Australian Army in Viet Nam as shown in this picture of 7RAR

Between the Wars for the Army

wording from the ARMY History site

The years between the wars were difficult for the Australian Army. The public’s reactions to the immense cost of the War were exhaustion, apathy and stagnation, compounded by national economic problems.

The AIF was disbanded after the War but, in 1921, the Citizen Forces were reorganised on the same lines, adopting AIF unit titles, colour patches and, in due course, inheriting AIF battle honours. A structure of two cavalry and four infantry divisions, troops for local defence equating to a fifth division, with supporting corps and army troops was planned. However, in 1922, a reduction of the peacetime establishment to 37,000 meant that this goal was never achieved. Compulsory training was reduced to cover the populous areas only and, in 1922, annual training camps were cancelled due to lack of funds.

Strategic concerns regarding Japanese imperialist intentions were muted during the war years but resurfaced in the 1920s, despite the limitations placed on Japan by the 1921-22 Washington Naval Conference. These concerns contributed to Australia’s support for the establishment of a British naval base at Singapore. Australia’s own coastal defences remained little touched since Kitchener’s recommendations of 1910 and various later attempts to improve them had failed. In fact, little real improvement was achieved until the period 1934-37.

In the decade prior to 1929, opposition to compulsory training scheme began to grow and the Labour Party, elected on a policy which included the abolition of universal training, terminated the scheme in November 1929. Henceforth, Australia was to have an all-volunteer, primarily part-time 35,000 strong Army. The part-time element was renamed the militia. The Army's strength in fact fell within twelve months to 27,000. In 1931, even though Japan invaded Manchuria and international tension increased, unit strengths decreased even further.

In 1932, the newly-elected Government, due to severely restricted financial resources, initiated few defence improvements. While the defences of Darwin were strengthened, there was only very limited upgrading of the Army overall. Most equipment was surplus AIF stock and generally no modern equipment reached the hands of the militia until the outbreak of the Second World War II. Not until 1935 was any emphasis placed on defence improvement, when an increase in militia strength was authorised.

In March 1933, Japan withdrew from the League of Nations because of its disapproval of her attack on China. In October of that year, Germany also withdrew. By 1937 Italy had annexed Abyssinia and Hitler had repudiated the Versailles Treaty. The Rome-Berlin Axis had been established and civil war had broken out in Spain. Japan used the volatile situation in Europe to defy world opinion and continue her undeclared war on China.

While the strategic situation in Europe continued to decline, the improving economic situation in Australia allowed the continuation of a three-year programme of expenditure on defence instituted in 1937. With this, a recruiting campaign opened in 1938 had, by mid-1939, increased the militia strength from 35,000 to 80,000.

In June 1938, Lieutenant General E.K. Squires, a British officer, was appointed Inspector General of the Australian Military Forces. He recommended, in a report, that a small regular army of 7,500 organised as two brigades be formed, to bolster the militia in the event of war and to assist in its peacetime training. Early in 1939, the Government agreed in principle to this proposal, however following the death of Prime Minister Lyons in April, Mr R.G. Menzies, the new leader, cancelled this agreement. Menzies hoped that war might be avoided and was opposed to the permanent nature of the proposed new force. The size of the Permanent Army was increased by subterfuge through the raising of the Darwin Mobile Force (DMF). Due to the restrictions of the Defence, only artillery could be enlisted even though a significant portion of the 257 strong Force was trained to fight as infantry.



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