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Anzac Memories: Living with the Legend [New Edition]

CHAPTER 4

THE RETURN OF THE SOLDIERS

In his war histories Charles Bean concluded that ‘the AIF on its return merged quickly and quietly into the general population’, and that the repatriation of the diggers was on the whole a great success. General Monash directed an elaborate demobilisation scheme that successfully completed the massive task of shipping several hundred thousand soldiers back to Australia before the end of 1919. Federal government pension schemes, which had been developed as part of the recruiting campaign during the war, were comparatively well-planned and generous, and disability pensions were more liberal than those of most other combatant nations. There were schemes for vocational training, assistance to ex-servicemen wanting to set up in business, and soldier settlement on the land. Ex-servicemen were to be granted preference in public employment, and private employers were encouraged to follow the government’s example. Returned men were offered special terms for the purchase of War Service Homes, and received, on top of any deferred pay they had owing to them, an interest-bearing bond or ‘gratuity’ of one shilling and sixpence for every day they had served between embarkation and peace. With the exceptions of the schemes to set up ex-servicemen in small business or on the land, these measures were, according to repatriation histories, relatively successful.1

Yet the memories of working-class ex-servicemen show that for many of them the battles of peacetime were as hard as any they had fought during the war. How a man fared in this postwar battle depended on how badly he had been affected by the war, how well placed he was for employment, and the degree of support he received from family and friends. The nature and success of a soldier’s repatriation experience would, in turn, shape his relationship to ex-service organisations and Anzac commemoration, his identity as a returned man, and his memory of the war.

Oral testimony is an invaluable source for uncovering the diverse personal experiences of repatriation. Some of my interviewees were puzzled by questions about this period of their lives. In comparison with the war, the postwar years had rarely been the focus of prior questioning and conversation, or of recognition through representation in books and films. Old diggers usually talked more readily about their war experiences, which they assumed to be of primary historical significance. Yet once my questions had got the men talking about their postwar lives, most opened up about what was a time of great personal upheaval, and in which significant personal experiences — the return, finding a job, joining an ex-servicemen’s organisation — were clearly sign-posted in memory. Indeed, because these postwar experiences had not been the subject of regular interest and articulation, stories of that period often seemed more fresh and less influenced by public accounts than veterans’ war stories.

Coming home

Australian soldiers waited in Europe for up to a year after the Armistice. Transport boats were in short supply, and Australian civil authorities deliberately spaced out shipping to reduce the social and economic disruption that would be caused by a sudden influx of returned men. Veterans recall a period of relative ease based in London or with the army of occupation. According to James McNair, ‘when the war ended it was a big relief’:

Well I was in London for ten months. We did nothing but running around after the … See, we had to wait that time before we could come home. We didn’t have the shipping … No, the only thing — how soon can I get back home?2

Like many soldiers in other units of the British army who were awaiting demobilisation, the Australians were impatient and even unruly in this period, and their indiscipline was a cause of official concern. In England, Non-Military Employment schemes were established ostensibly to assist the soldiers’ transition back into an Australian workforce, but they were also intended to mitigate discontent. On the troop-ships overcrowding, bad food and inadequate entertainment sometimes worsened the soldiers’ mood. Angela Thirkell recalls that on the trip to Australia with her new AIF officer husband in 1919, the diggers were riotous and virtually uncontrollable throughout the voyage.3

Perhaps because of the confusion in these transitional months between army and civilian life, most Great War veterans recall very clearly the exhilaration of home-coming, which was celebrated in emotional family reunions and official ‘Welcome Home’ ceremonies. James McNair describes ‘the nicest view I ever saw’:

I can still see it vividly in my mind. We’re coming one evening, in the Indian Ocean, to Fremantle Harbour … it was Saturday afternoon, because the pubs were open, and there was lots of girls — I couldn’t see their faces but there were all their lovely frocks and so on — striped frocks. Australians! Home at last! Finest sight I ever saw.

After a night in Fremantle the boat headed for Melbourne:

We anchored just off Gellibrand Lighthouse. ‘Oh, there’s the synagogue over St Kilda. Oh, there’s the Exhibition.’ Picking out all the sights, you know. Got off the boat, put on my gear. We were going to do a trip around the … conquering heroes coming home you see. Well, anyway, we got down to the end of the Pier. ‘Oh, there’s a car.’ Me mater, the old man and a friend, and the sister and the brother. ‘Oh!’ They stopped the car and I got off, and then straight to the discharge place. Went to one man, another, the Doctor. I said, ‘How’s the ticker?’ he says, ‘Okay’. The dentist: ‘Want any teeth?’ I said, ‘No, I want to get out!’ I was home at 11 o’clock […]

My brother said to me in the car, he said, ‘Have you got your speech ready?’ I said, ‘What for?’ ‘Oh,’ he said ‘you’ll see’. Well, when we got home there’s a great big marquee […] My cousins, I didn’t know them. They had to introduce themselves. They came from everywhere […] I dunno what I said. I must have been a bit flustered […]

In the afternoon went up to Brunswick, the State School there, Albert Street, and voted. The 13th of December 1919. My name was still on the roll after four years.4

Rehabilitation and the Repat

Exhilaration was often short-lived, and was overshadowed by the pressing problems of rehabilitation. Men who had served in the trenches were often physically unfit when they arrived home. Some, like Jack Glew, recall that they were ‘as good as gold’, but most of the men I interviewed (a selective sample who were well enough to survive into old age) had been wounded or gassed during the war. Several of them were in and out of hospitals after they came home, and many suffered recurring medical problems.5

Though Australian disability pensions were comparatively liberal, it was not easy to get a pension. The diggers’ troubles began at the medical examination upon discharge, as Jack Flannery recalls:

They asked you how you was. You’d say ‘Good-oh’. You’d get discharged ‘A-l’. All you thought about, there was 999 out of a 1000 ’14–’18 diggers, all they thought about was getting out of the army, back into civilian life.6

In the excitement and confusion of return many men did not realise the future significance of that medical code. When an old wound or war-related illness flared up, the ‘A-l’ on the form made it very difficult to prove that the condition was ‘war-related’, and the unfortunate veteran often forfeited the right to a disability pension or subsidised medical treatment. The inaccuracy of health records was exacerbated by the failure of the AIF medical service to obtain individual medical history sheets held by the War Office. Many ex-servicemen struggled with ‘bloody red tape’ over pensions; they complained that their rights had not been explained properly at the outset, and that a veteran had to be missing obvious pieces of his body to receive a disability pension. The government department that administered war pensions was nick-named ‘The Cyanide Gang’ because of the rejection and ‘sudden death’ of claims.7

Not all aspects of repatriation policy were regarded so negatively. Some men did receive the disability pensions they deserved, and many made good use of their gratuity. It provided the capital for a deposit that enabled them to purchase a house, taking advantage of special terms offered to ex-servicemen for War Service Homes, and thus allowed them to achieve an ideal that otherwise would not have been possible for many years, if at all. Stan D’Altera recalls that his gratuity of £120 ‘was a fortune then’, and that he and his brother used it as a deposit on a house in Yarraville, where they had spent their childhood in rented poverty.8

However other returned diggers, who were struggling to get a job, let alone a house, were forced to use the gratuity as credit for a loan, or sold it to contractors who extracted a percentage from the value of the gratuity. They recall a thriving black market for gratuity bonds, which were easily converted into food or drink by unemployed, down-and-out ex-servicemen; about half the bonds were cashed immediately. Out in the bush Sid Norris sold his gratuity just to stay alive: ‘that went like anything else. Because there was times there was no work and it was a very rough time up around Cairns, I’m going to tell you, after the war too’.9

The Repat became a target for veteran’s grievances, at the time and in memory. Perhaps inevitably, many diggers were embittered by the false economy of sacrifice; the scanty rewards of repatriation did not match their wartime sacrifices or the rhetoric about how Anzac heroes would be treated after the war. Bill Bridgeman recalls starkly that ‘they were finished with you and you were finished’. Some returned men accepted this state of affairs as inevitable and got on with the job of survival, while others fought to get a better deal. Fred Farrall remembers that there were often violent clashes at the Sydney Repatriation Department offices, and that iron bars were installed to protect the staff. Many veterans joined an organisation of returned servicemen in the hope that it would represent their claims, but some became contemptuous of token gestures of recognition and began to reconsider their attitudes to war service. Stan D’Altera recollects that diggers who complained were called ‘hoodlums’, and he was so angry that he used his war medals as fishing sinkers.10

If a returned digger had some chance of receiving a pension and medical treatment for a war wound, he had almost no chance of getting any official support for psychological damage. There was a staggering incidence of mental disorder among returned diggers. According to Bill Williams, ‘we were all rather confused in some way, we didn’t exactly know where we were’. Williams was himself stricken by grief for a mate who had died, and tortured by guilt about killing people; Ern Morton was one of many who suffered terrible nightmares for years. The men I interviewed survived the emotional traumas of war and the return to civilian life, yet they all have vivid stories about soldier friends who were not so lucky, who went crazy, became derelict drunks or killed themselves.11

The home front

Psychological problems were partly the after-effects of trench warfare, but they were also caused by the difficulty of readjusting to peacetime society, and by the gap between each digger’s experiences and the image of the Anzac hero. As soon as they arrived home, ex-servicemen lost the security of army life and the everyday support network of their digger mates. Instead they faced an uncertain future in a society that had been radically transformed, and that did not find it easy to comprehend or cope with the material and emotional needs of ex-servicemen.

Some of the men I interviewed had very positive experiences of their return to domestic life. Alf Stabb brought an English war bride back to Australia, and Ted McKenzie married a woman who had sent him socks during the war. These and other men tried ‘to put the war behind them’ and focused on raising and supporting a family. Others, like Jack Glew, recall that ‘it was like heaven’ to be looked after like a lord by parents in the comfort of home. Yet there were many who struggled to cope with the transition from army to domestic life. Young men who had enlisted as teenagers had particular problems. At war, boys had become men and grown independent of family life. That independence was not always so easy to handle without the security of the army, which had provided food, clothing and accommodation, as well as friendship and regular employment. Fred Farrall felt like ‘an abandoned pet’ after he disembarked in Sydney.12

Single ex-servicemen who returned to their parents’ homes often found it difficult to settle into family routines and relationships after the itinerant lifestyle of the army. Stan D’Altera recalls that ‘many of the younger ones of us, you know, we still had the wanderlust, you know. I used to go off all over the place, you know, New South Wales, South Australia’. The rules and habits of the AIF were vastly different from those of the family at home. Wartime codes of appropriate masculine behaviour — the male comradeship of drinking, swearing, gambling and womanising — did not conform to civilian prescriptions for domestic manhood. Alf Stabb (who lived with his parents and sisters while waiting for his war bride to arrive from England) recalls that ‘you had to watch yourself because you didn’t care much about what language you used when you were in the army. You had to smarten up’. Stan D’Altera remembers that when he went to visit a digger mate in Adelaide the man’s mother would not let him in the house because she feared, correctly, that Stan would encourage her son to miss work and go out on a drinking binge.13

Families found it difficult to cope with men who were used to years of rough living in the army. They also found it difficult to understand how and why their men had changed. Censored letters and news reports had done little to inform civilians about the experiences of the men at the front, and when the soldiers came home it was difficult for them to communicate the nature and effects of their experience. Some ex-servicemen enjoyed eager audiences for their stories — Jack Glew recalls that he got ‘sick and tired of telling it day after day’ — but more often war stories were hard to tell and equally hard to listen to. As A. J. McGillivray remembers:

[…] quite a few people didn’t quite believe what we said and from then on, unless we were amongst our own servicemen and that, many things were never related to others because of their attitude […] And when you come to think of it later on it was quite understandable that they would be hard to … hard to believe.14

Diggers became selective about what they would say about the war and who they would talk to. Jack Flannery found that civilian ideas about war were so different from soldiers’ memories that he could only relate ‘what good times we had when we was on leave or something’. He recalls that ‘a lot of diggers, they won’t tell you nothing, they’d have to be terribly drunk to plug the gap’. On the whole, civilians rarely asked Jack about the war, and those who did were sometimes hostile because of jealousy or because they thought the soldiers were ‘bloody murderers’. Tensions between ex-servicemen and their families, and with civilians in general, were thus exacerbated by mutual incomprehension, and returned men found it easier to retreat to the familiar camaraderie of their digger mates.15

In some cases the diggers’ sexual behaviour had also been altered by the freedoms and frustrations of the war, although men were affected in different ways depending on their wartime experience and postwar domestic context. Stan D’Altera blames his bachelorhood on physical disability and awkwardness caused by the war; in contrast E. L. Cuddeford recalls that he ‘went for women more’ when he came home. Men who had been married before they enlisted coped with — and caused — particular stress. Many couples were happily reunited, but affections were easily blurred by years of separation, and uncertainty or jealousy caused terrible anguish. One married officer on Ern Morton’s home-coming ship suicided because — along with one in seven Australians discharged from the army — he had venereal disease. Charles Bowden was the only man I interviewed who was married when he left Australia; the inevitable age bias of my interview sample produced a disproportionate number of young, single recruits. Bowden recalls that he felt very guilty about leaving his wife and young son, and concerned about her prospects as a woman alone. He says that he stayed out of the brothels in France because he was married, but that he was upset because his wife was an infrequent correspondent due to her resentment of his enlistment. Home-coming was not easy for Charles Bowden and his wife, and in our interview he still did not want to discuss that period of his life.16

Interviews with old soldiers reveal the awkwardness and pain of the domestic no man’s land between army and civilian life. They only hint at the suffering and dogged survival of the women and children who had to live with war-scarred ex-servicemen. Other sources have begun to complete this side of the story. The national divorce rate doubled between the censuses of 1911 and 1921, and women brought the majority of the petitions for divorce for the first time. Local courts were crowded with cases against disturbed returned men who had gone berserk, or veterans being sued for maintenance of pre-war brides they refused to support, or children for whom they denied paternity. Testimony from women provides more personal detail. One Melbourne woman I interviewed in 1982 was a young girl when her father returned from the war. Unable to settle into a job and resentful of the independence his wife had developed in his absence, he retreated to the association of returned cobbers. Her mother forbad the children from entering the lounge room where the men drank, smoked and played cards, and the girls were terrified of the returned men who were ‘very sexual’. The eldest sister aborted the child of a soldier when she was twelve, and within a few years the father left his wife and children.17

Historian Judith Allen summarises the impact of the return of the soldiers upon Australian women:

The interpersonal brunt both of the First World War and of the inadequacies of public provision for this population of disturbed young men fell disproportionately on Australian women. Women’s bodies and minds absorbed much of the shock, pain and craziness unleashed by the war experience.18

There was considerable public concern about desertion and physical abuse of women by veterans, though, as Allen shows, support for women victims declined and returned servicemen tended to receive judicial sympathy because of their wartime status and the acknowledged difficulties of rehabilitation.

A land fit for heroes?

Of greater public concern, and a further source of tension between ex-servicemen and civilian Australians, was veteran unemployment. For the majority of diggers, finding and keeping a job was the most urgent and worrying problem of home-coming. Stan D’Altera recalls that ‘my main worry was whether I could get a job, because we’d learned that there was much unemployment in Australia, like in, among the working class anyhow’.19

One group of diggers who had few problems were those who had managed, often because of clerical training, to get a job out of the line during the war. Percy Bird, James McNair and Leslie David had all been posted to AIF clerical work in France or England; railwayman Charles Bowden had served in an AIF train-driving unit. These men had a relatively easy war — as Leslie David recalls, ‘it was mainly a pleasant experience for me’ — and were generally unscathed by the emotional and physical traumas of the trenches. They benefited from wartime opportunities to travel and broaden their horizons, and gained invaluable work experience; Leslie David and Charles Bowden were both sent to Pitman’s College in London. When they returned to Australia they were highly employable, and in some cases the war proved to be an invaluable stepping stone to a successful career.20

Other diggers were fortunate to have worked for public service institutions like the railways or the Post Office, which kept their jobs or apprenticeships open for them until they returned. Soldiers from well-off families could sometimes return to their studies or to the family farm or firm, and some enjoyed professional support networks which may have been enhanced by contacts made in the officers’ mess. For example, my grandfather Hector Thomson returned to a property within the family estate. My other grandfather, John Rogers, did not find it easy to get work as an industrial chemist when he finished his studies after the war, but he was helped by glowing references from senior AIF staff officers. In contrast, the majority of Australian soldiers who had been workers in primary or secondary industry before the war faced hard times. In a recession that peaked in 1921 and in the Depression of the 1930s, these men were caught between the economic pincers of a rapidly increasing labour force competing for diminishing jobs.21

Ex-servicemen were not well-placed in the competition for work. Youths who had enlisted before they could learn a trade, and who had gained no employable skills at war, were perhaps worst off. Ern Morton was in that position. He had to survive on casual work out in the bush when he first got home, and recalls thinking that no trade meant no future. Men who had worked in a trade before the war found they had lost vital skills and promotion opportunities. Other men who got a job found that they just could not settle down, or were not well enough for regular employment. Percy Fogarty went through eleven different jobs when he first came home because he couldn’t settle and ‘kept getting crook’ with pneumonia, and Stan D’Altera remembers that he lost his ambition to be a skilled metal worker, partly because he couldn’t get a job in his trade, and partly because he had ‘the wanderlust’. Men who had hoped to make a new start after the wasted years of war were often cruelly disappointed as they struggled to find work when they first came home, and then, if they did gain steady employment, lost it again in the 1930s. The unemployed digger became a potent symbol of the failure of the promise that the Anzacs would return to a land fit for heroes.22

The various retraining and employment schemes for ex-servicemen were better on paper than in practice. In Commonwealth vocational schemes the government shared the payment of an ex-serviceman’s wages with an employer while the man was being trained and settling into work. Albie Linton benefited from this scheme. When he was discharged from hospital he learnt sheet metal work at Footscray Technical College and got a job on the strength of the training. But Stan D’Altera and Ern Morton could not stick at their training course in Geelong, and other diggers recall that the courses were badly organised, that there was often not enough work for the trainees, and that employers were not interested in keeping the returned men on after the government wage-subsidy ended.23

The plans to establish ex-servicemen as self-employed businessmen or small-holders were even less successful. Bill Langham ‘scrubbed’ the idea of establishing his own taxi service because the level of capital support was inadequate. Land settlement schemes were very popular and many veterans were granted small blocks of land on special terms. A. J. McGillivray, who had worked on the land before the war, started a dairy farm on a soldier settler’s block in Gippsland, and prospered after ‘a dreadful period’ of battling to get established between 1921 and 1928. The majority of soldier settlers lost that battle because they lacked experience or were not physically fit enough for farming, and because they were often given poor land and did not have the financial capital or good weather to make it work.24

Preference for returned servicemen in employment (by which means a job applicant who was a returned serviceman would be granted preference over other candidates if all other factors were equal) was a central plank of repatriation policy. Commonwealth and State governments legislated for preference in public service employment, and many local councils and some private employers followed suit. Most returned men supported the policy when they first came home. They had made great personal sacrifices during the war and now they desperately needed assistance. Stan D’Altera recalls that preference was necessary because ‘the returned soldier had given away opportunities for promotion in their job [and] missed getting money to buy a house and all those sort of things’. The policy undoubtedly benefited some ex-servicemen. Ern Morton, sick of dead-end jobs, applied for a permanent position as a meter reader with Coburg Council. At first unsuccessful, he got the job after the local soldiers’ club and the associations of Fathers and Mothers of Ex-servicemen protested against the appointment of a man who had not served in the forces.25

Nevertheless it was notoriously difficult to prove that ‘all other factors’ were equal, and easy for a potential employer to claim, sometimes with justification, that a soldier applicant could not do the job as well as another candidate. Private employers were particularly ambivalent about taking on ex-servicemen. Some respected their wartime promises about returned heroes and were sympathetic about the special needs of returned men. Others took advantage of the government subsidy for ex-servicemen trainees. But the requirements of business usually came first, and employers were loathe to demote or replace men and women who had proved to be good workers during the war. Bill Langham recalls:

[…] fellows that I knew, I said, ‘Did you get your old job back?’ They said ‘No […] Jack Smith’s got my job’. [The boss said], ‘He’s been there since you went away. He didn’t go away to war, he stayed there. But he’s done such a good job, well I can’t very well sack him now’.26

Nor were employers keen to take on unfit, ill-trained or undisciplined returned men who did not settle easily into work rules and routines. Stan D’Altera and Percy Fogarty recall removing their ‘Returned from Active Service’ badge before a job interview so that prospective employers would not think that they were unskilled or unreliable. Employers were also loathe to pay the higher rates given to ex-servicemen, which took into account their years of military service. Stan D’Altera returned to his apprenticeship as a fitter and turner after he finally settled down, but when he turned twenty-one and asked to be paid a full salary the boss refused, saying that he should work as an improver at the lower wage for all the time he had missed from his trade:

I told him to stick his job, and walked out of the factory immediately […] What angered me, on his advertising pamphlet, you know, that he sent farmers and that, he had a copy of the Honour Roll there, in colour. That would be to entice them to buy his goods. My name was on the top of it, you know, in coloured lead. That’s where his patriotism was — to himself.27

The material needs of ex-servicemen and the rhetoric about their special status inevitably collided with the needs of business and of other workers. Whether it was the wartime worker or the ex-soldier who got the job, promotion or pay rise, this competition caused tension between returned men and employers, and between ex-servicemen and other workers.28

Hoodlums, revolutionaries and genuine diggers

These nagging tensions, caused by competition for jobs and readjustment to work practices, also prompted ex-servicemen to play an important though ambiguous role in industrial action. Economic pressures, barely contained by insistence on loyalty ‘for the duration’, exploded in 1919. Trade unionists fought to regain conditions, pay and industrial power which they had lost during the war, whilst ex-servicemen struggled to find work. More strike days were lost in 1919 than in any year until the 1970s. Some diggers took the side of unionists; there was a large increase in union membership as the soldiers came home. Ex-servicemen were prominent in the 1919 Fremantle wharf strike, which was called by the union president (a returned man) to oppose preference for non-union labour. When the police attempted to disperse crowds of strikers, returned men armed with revolvers and homemade bombs used wartime tactical skills to repel them. In other places ex-servicemen were mobilised by employers to serve as strike-breaking workers or to put down strikes by violence. On the Melbourne waterfront, diggers joined the union and the strike-breakers in equal numbers and were pitted against each other in wild street fights. On the Western Australian goldfields, ex-servicemen fought alongside other miners against members of the Returned Soldiers’ Association.29

In postwar Australia the line between industrial violence and civil unrest was blurred, and the role of returned men in public disorder was a cause of great official concern. Australians struggled to comprehend the contradiction between their Anzac ideal and the uncomfortable presence of ex-servicemen. Whenever soldiers met there was, as historian Terry King records, ‘a scent of trouble, a whiff of impending mob violence, a vague sense of things being out of control’. The two most dramatic outbursts of soldier violence were the Red Flag riots in Brisbane in March 1919 and the Melbourne Peace Day riots in July of the same year, which was one of the most violent in White Australian history.30

To celebrate the proclamation of peace, 7000 returned soldiers and sailors marched through the city of Melbourne on Saturday, July 19. Though the parade was orderly, in the evening groups of ex-servicemen derailed trams and invaded city theatres. Police made a number of arrests and subsequently battled with soldiers who rushed the Town Hall to release their mates. On Sunday a group of fifty to sixty returned men, trying to reach the headquarters of the civil police, brawled with sentries at the gates of Victoria Barracks. They were bloodily subdued by mounted policemen. On Monday a crowd of mainly discharged ex-servicemen, variously estimated at between 2000 and 10 000, marched to the Treasury Gardens with a list of complaints about police harassment to present to Parliament. In anger and confusion a section of the crowd attacked and wounded the Premier in his office, and it was an hour before order was restored by 300 foot police and twenty mounted troopers. That night 6000 people lined Russell Street opposite the police station where the prisoners of the weekend were being held, until they too were cleared by a baton charge. The Melbourne press was horrified that the heroes of Gallipoli and Pozières could become a ‘howling, stone-throwing mob’, and blamed the evil influence of ‘hoodlums and revolutionaries’ while asserting that ‘genuine diggers’ could not have been involved in the fracas.31

Figure 12  This article written by Stan D’Altera for Smith’s Weekly (1 August 1931) conveys the feelings of a veteran about the different ethos of life in the AIF and Australian society.

In contrast, the ex-servicemen in Brisbane were mobilised before they could get into trouble. When red flags appeared at a local civil liberties march in March 1919, a massive loyalist force, including a large number of ex-servicemen, was organised within hours to attack Brisbane radicals and the expatriate Russian community. The following weeks of ‘white terror’ saw the formation and drilling of an ‘Army to Fight Bolshevism’, a prototype of subsequent loyalist paramilitaries which usually included a considerable number of ex-servicemen in their ranks.

This postwar turmoil was precipitated by the ending of wartime restraint and the return of the soldiers, who comprised almost half of the male population in their age group, and who were reshaping Australian domestic, industrial and political relationships. The potent role of ex-servicemen in this turmoil was, in turn, due to the diggers’ experience of social dislocation, and their determination to achieve due recompense for sacrifices at war and for the difficulties of return. Some ex-servicemen were motivated by overtly political concerns, but the needs and identities of returned men often cut across those of civilian society and created unexpected, contradictory political positions that confused and worried civilian activists of all persuasions. A new, postwar battle had begun, to win the allegiance of ex-servicemen, to define the ‘genuine digger’, and to control the legend of Anzac.

Anzac Memories: Living with the Legend [New Edition]

   by Alistair Thomson