Supplied courtesy of the © Robinvale Sentinel
Australia’s part in the various modern wars has assumed almost legendary proportions and the returned servicemen have become objects of veneration and respect.
At the end of each of the wars, the Australian Government realized that it had an enormous responsibility to these men and it set out to restore the large number of ex-servicemen to civilian life.
During the First World War (1914-1918), the ex-servicemen and servicemen who had returned from Gallipoli and Europe, saw that they were in need of some form of organisation, to obtain the best possible conditions for them.
As early as 1915, various committees were formed in each of the states and in 1917 the “Returned Sailors’, Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia” was given official recognition. This body aimed to promote the welfare of all returned servicemen, and this aim has not wavered since its inception.
One object which comes within the scope of the RSL’s benevolent care is repatriation. The RSL seeks to maintain public recognition of ex-servicemen, obtain reasonable pensions for ex-servicemen or their relatives, wives or widows, ensure that returned servicemen are not neglected by the Government and to help any groups connected with welfare work for returned men and women.
Employment of ex-servicemen is also catered for by the placing of a full-time employment officer at the disposal of returned men. Work for the physically handicapped returned men also comes under this officer’s care.
The RSL also safe guards the housing position of returned men, by obtaining for them, loans at low interest rates and by obtaining houses for returned men.
Loan granting to ex-soldiers has been speeded up and single ex-servicewomen helped in obtaining a home of their own.
The returned men who farm for a living also have their conditions investigated and improved by the RSL.
Such matters as superphosphate distribution, water rights, share farming and farming widows have all been investigated by the Land Settlement Committee.
The returned servicemen who are in mental institutions or hospitals as a result of war injuries or experiences are also cared for by the RSL. These men are entertained and cared for by RSL members.
Hospital visits are arranged and hospitalized men are kept informed of RSL activities.
The RSL is interested in family welfare, the family Welfare Bureau deals with all kinds of family problems. Marital troubles, hire purchase, debts education and the care of the aged are all dealt with by this Bureau.
Children’s health camps are under the jurisdiction of a special group and many ex- servicemen’s children have been medically examined by this Bureau.
In all its activies, the RSL practises a zeal which it believes can never be excessive and it strives to make everyone aware of the problems faced by returned servicemen.
Through various publications and public appeals, an awareness of these problems has developed and this awareness is growing.
The RSL continues to persevere with its aim of providing the returned servicemen with a repatriation and welfare scheme second to none.
Jim Buchecker Form VI
Troopship, Somewhere at Sea,
21st December, 1915
How proud was I to be amongst the troops who on 25th April, by dawn light approach that narrow shore on Gallipolli which was to be our battle ground for eight months! How valiant and untamed were we!
Little did I realise before we fought our ways up and down those treacherous, mountainous hills and valleys, how many lives would be lost.
The constant noise of battle, the moans and groans of the wounded and dying and the gulping sobs of the very young were sounds which drummed in my ears.
Oh! if only the British Navy hadn’t warned the Turks of our coming, by bombarding the area for weeks before we landed. How different might have been that first night, when we held that little triangular piece of ground a mile and a half long by a mile deep of steep hills and valleys!
What luck we did hold that piece of dirt because it enclosed a little bay that we will all remember as Anzac Cove. It was so well protected by mountains, the enemy didn’t have a chance of firing into it. It also made a good spot for our ammunition, stores and army hospital.
Thank goodness the Turks didn’t have any of those new air machines I hear are being used in France.
The summer heat, dust, exploding guns in my ears all day and the constant thirst. But through it all, I can still see Simpson and his donkey gathering up the wounded with no thought of his own discomfort.
I’m glad I didn’t rip off the sleeves and trouser legs of my uniform as so many of my mates did in those first few weeks of blistering heat.
I’ll never forget seeing the men who, without winter clothes wrapped themselves in wet blankets and froze in the ice blasts of snow. Our useless guns and empty stomachs that rattled more than the ammunition we couldn’t use because of blizzards the worst known for forty years.
At least we’ve put it over the Turks this time. They didn’t realize we were evacuating men and guns in small groups each night. The last of us left last night, 20th December. How surprised they must have been when they found us all gone this morning.
April 25 will always be in my memory and those of the generations to come. After all, the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps have shown their fighting prowess and we’ve made a new name for ourselves — Anzac.
Wendy Godden Form 11B