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Thursday, 14 February 2008
The Battle of Central Station, New South Wales, 14 February 1916, Ashford Letter, 15 February 1916
Topic: BatzA - Liverpool

Australian Battles 

The Battle of Central Station, New South Wales, 14 February 1916

Ashford Letter, 15 February 1916

 

Ashford Letter, 15 February 1916

 

The following was written by 1868 Private Henry George Ashford of the 59th Battalion, 3rd Reinforcement. He wanted to tell his story of the strike and riot which was at variance to that reported in the press. Later on Ashford embarked from Melbourne, Victoria, on board HMAT A17 Port Lincoln on 4 May 1916 and served in France where he was transferred to the 57th Battalion. Ashford was Killed in Action at Gueudecourt, France, 23 November 1916 while relieving a firing line trench.

 

Casula Camp
February 15th 1915

My Dear Aunt

I received your welcome letter the other day, and I must apologise for not answering it before now, but I was in Sydney over Saturday + Sunday + Monday. I expect you have heard about the riot in Sydney. It now is written about. It was a bad enough last night, but a mob have gone in tonight from Casula and I think that there will be a lot of mischief done tonight. The worst of these riots is that all the soldiers in the camp are blamed for what a few hundred of drunken roughs do. I expect that you all think that the soldiers down here are a rotten mob, bet there a some of as fine + fellows here as you could find in any part of the world. The soldiers do not get a fair deal, anyhow. The civilians and papers and all are dead against them. We went out on strike yesterday for our rights, + just because a few hundred played up in the city + a few of them got shot, the papers seem to think that all the camp are rotters. So as you will know that we are not as bad as the papers would have a person think, I will tell you how the riot started + all about it. We drill 7½ hours a day, + the General McKay want us to drill 9 hours, + he wants to stop all leave. We were willing enough to work the extra hours, but we were not going to have our leave stopped, so at breakfast time yesterday morning a mass meeting was formed + we decided not to drill under the new regulations. It says in the paper that we were told that if we liked to go back to our lines + drill, everything would be made right again, but no such offer was made. About six thousand Casula men lined up and marched over to Liverpool. When Liverpool saw Casula out, they turned out too. No satisfactory arrangements could be made with the OC of Liverpool Camp, + the officers advised us to go to Sydney + see Colonel General McKay. About ten thousand boarded the trains + went to Sydney. When we got to Sydney the whole mob lined up and we marched through George St + Pitt St + all through the main places. The march could not have been more orderly + better behaved if we had had all the spare officers in Australia with us. McKay refused to see us and then the crowd dispersed. Most came straight back to Casula + Liverpool. When we went to Sydney a thousand or so men could not get on the train at Liverpool, + it was that mob that did the damage at Liverpool. After they were drunk, they went on to Sydney + it was them that made all the disturbances. What first started the rough part of the business, though, was the way that the police carried on. A lot of soldiers were marching along quietly + the police charged them with revolvers + batons. They are the most cold blooded men ever I saw. A returned soldier with  his head all bandaged  up and his arm in a sling was walking along down a street with his girl, + a policeman came up behind him + hit him on the head with his baton and knocked the soldier our. Was it any wonder that the mob rushed that policeman. The only pity is that he was not knocked about the same way as he knocked the soldier. The mounted police were riding down women and children. They did not care who they ran over. It was an awful thing, but there is one thing I can say, and that is that none of the latter chaps were in any of the smashing up part of the row. If a person believes all he reads in the papers he will only hear one side of the affair because everyone seems to be against the soldiers + all the camp is blamed for what a few hundred drunken roughs did. Will you please thank Uncle Frank for thinking of sending me a mattress, but tell him that it would be absolutely impossible to have one in our tent. There are ten of us sleeping in our little tent + a mattress would take up so much room that there would be none left for the other chaps. You must excuse my writing, please, Aunt Fanny, but its pretty hard to write when everyone is shoving the table about. Hoping this finds you all quite well. I remain, your sincere nephew,

George Ashford

War Diaries and Letters

All War Diaries and letters cited on this site should be read in conjunction with the Australian Light Horse Studies Centre, War Diaries and Letters, Site Transcription Policy which may be accessed at:

Australian Light Horse Studies Centre, War Diaries and Letters, Site Transcription Policy 

 

 

Further Reading:

The Battle of Central Station, New South Wales, 14 February 1916

The Battle of Central Station, New South Wales, 14 February 1916, Roll of Honour

Australian Battles

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

 


Citation: The Battle of Central Station, New South Wales, 14 February 1916, Ashford Letter, 15 February 1916

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Friday, 6 May 2011 7:22 AM EADT

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