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Saturday, 28 June 2008
The Australian Imperial Force, 3rd Echelon, Letter by WO Vickery Regarding Amalgamation of Records Sections, 27 October 1917
Topic: AIF - HQ - 3rd Echelon

The Australian Imperial Force

3rd Echelon

Letter by WO Vickery Regarding Amalgamation of Records Sections, 27 October 1917


Page 1


The letter reads:

To Lieutenant Colonel D Fulton

Commandant, AIF Headquarters, Egypt.


In compliance with your instructions I herewith submit a report on the work of 3rd Echelon, General Headquarters, which is to be transferred to AIF Headquarters, Cairo, in the near future.

I have not submitted a report to you before as this had already been done by the Deputy Assistant Adjutant General, AIF, earlier in the week.

Since Lieutenant Jarman's return to Cairo, I, together with Staff Sergeant Long and Stevenson, have continued to avail myself of the opportunity to familiarize myself with all branches of the 3rd Echelon work which will immediately effect us.

The same courtesy and assistance is still being extended us by Colonel Scudmore, his officers and men, as was the case during Lieutenant Jarman's visit.

During the first day or two, I was inclined to think, how little there was that would not affect the AIF, but the more one sees, the more work there appears to be, but at the most it is nothing  very much and I can see nothing that is going to present to us any serious difficulties.

I have gone thoroughly into the work of "A", "B" and Reinforcement Branches of 3rd Echelon, and I have also seen our Australian Records Section Central Registry and Transit Branch and had the systems in vogue at the two latter branches fully explained to me by Warrant Officer Boyle, he having had considerable experience in Registries, having been in charge of the Central Registry in the Public Health Department in Sydney.

I would respectfully suggest that this Warrant Officer should supervise the combined Central Registry and transit department on the amalgamation of the two offices at Cairo, in addition to whatever duties he is called on to perform under the new regime.

In view of the information I have been able to gather regarding the work done at 3rd Echelon and Australian Records Section, and knowing exactly what work has been done in the past at AIF Headquarters, I have after consultation with the Chief Clerk of the Australian Records Section, compiled a list (which is attached) showing the various subjects classified and allotted to the various sub-sections, which I respectfully submit for your consideration.

It will be noted that many of the subjects mentioned on the 3rd Echelon List (copy of which is also attached) do not appear on my list, as many of these subjects are now being dealt with by the Deputy Assistant Adjutant General at AIF Headquarters, Cairo, such as:- Commissions, discharges, transfers, leave, furlough, promotions etc.

I have spend half a day in with each of the Superintending Clerks of the "A", "B", and Reinforcement Branches respectively and have seen and noted the method in which they conduct their correspondence with the various formations and departments and I have further noted all their inward correspondence.

Both inward and out-ward correspondence in each of the three branches is considerable and it will also form a great part of our extra work after the move is effected.

I am attaching to this letter a brief comment on the work of the three branches of 3rd Echelon, which together with list before referred to, may better convey to you my opinion of the duties we are taking over.


Page 2


The letter continues:

To date no representative of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force have reported to the "Metropole" in order to take over the work pertaining to the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, but the Officer Commanding, New Zealand Records Section, Lieutenant McKenzie, (who by the way seems hostile towards the move) has informed me that he is expecting two clerks for this duty to report to him immediately.

I am taking it for granted that Lieutenant Jarman has informed you regarding the fittings and typewriting machines, and if they are going to cause no delay, I consider that so far as 3rd Echelon work is concerned, we could confidently move at any time now, but naturally that should be after the New Zealand Representatives have mustered their work (which should only take 3 or 4 days) and after the first batch of casualties come through, that is of course providing they will be received in the next few days.

In short the position is that as soon as you decide on the date the "shift" is to take place, I can undertake that we can transfer the work, and carry it on satisfactorily, with a minimum of inconvenience to all concerned, and I am of the opinion that the Australian Records Section could move within 48 hours, providing they have been already advised to prepare for same at short notice.

I must admit that I cannot now see where "a big economy in men" is going to be made and my ideas in that respect were evidently wrong at the time the arguments were submitted in order to have the amalgamation brought about, though of course since that time additional work has been taken in hand and more is about to be taken up, such as Wills, Historical Records (possibly), etc, but I do now, more than ever, consider that the move will tend towards greater efficiency being obtained even though a small increase in staff will be necessary.

From what I can gather I think that the authorities here are not desirous of the move being put into effect in the immediate future, but I consider that in the interests of the AIF, I should remain here as well as the two Staff Sergeants who are to by mind both most suitable for the duties at present allotted to them.

May I please be advised if it is your intention and the intention of Colonel Chaytor that after the move, the Sections in Cairo are to be known as Anzac or Australian and New Zealand Sections respectively. I ask this as Lieutenant McKenzie leads me to understand that they (The New Zealanders) are to be situated at Kaar el Nil and we at our own Headquarters and that we are going to work as the Anzac 3rd Echelon. There would appear to be strong argument in favour of each force working entirely independently, but my query is raised only because the information would possibly be useful to me in making arrangements regarding details.

In conclusion, may I further suggest that a cablegram be despatched to "Adminaust" London, asking that all attestation papers for AIF personnel serving in Egypt, be immediately forwarded to AIF Headquarters, Cairo.

Yours Obediently

817 Warrant Officer Allan Kingston Vickery


The above letter is written by 817 Warrant Officer Allan Kingston Vickery and sent to Lieutenant Colonel Fulton, the Commandant of AIF Headquarters, Cairo in Egypt, dated 27 October 1917. This letter is in the form of a report outlining the processes required to ensure the smooth transfer of 3rd Echelon functions to AIF Headquarters over the next few weeks

The letter is illuminating on all the aspects that operate within a bureaucracy such as this. Petty jealousies and a turf war is explained in an understated manner when Vickery describes the problems with the New Zealand head of records, Lieutenant McKenzie, and his expressed hostility to any such move. Vickery indicates in a subtle manner that it would be in the interests of bureaucratic harmony to sever NZ records from those of Australia.

The other issue  raised is the purpose for the move. Stated bluntly, it was to release men for other duties. Vickery makes it clear that he thought that this was an illusion and the new work loads required additional personnel which was sold as an increase in efficiency, an ironical and bureaucratic juxtaposition of ideas if ever there was one. However, Vickery is quite content with the additional staff under his charge as the flow of paper work appears to have increased.

It is self evident that Vickery has had a long career in clerical work, especially in a large office environment. His report indicates a wealth of experience as well as a keen understanding of internal political processes. Fulton appears to be his mentor and guardian within AIF Headquarters.


Acknowledgement: Thanks are given to Steve Becker for additional identifying information.

See: Australian Light Horse Studies Centre, AIF War Diaries of the Great War, Site Transcription Policy


Further Reading:

AIF Headquarters, 3rd Echelon


Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: The Australian Imperial Force, 3rd Echelon, Letter by WO Vickery Regarding Amalgamation of Records Sections, 27 October 1917

Posted by Project Leader at 2:13 PM EADT
Updated: Monday, 23 August 2010 9:37 AM EADT

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