Topic: BatzA - Liverpool
The Battle of Central Station, New South Wales, 14 February 1916
Stanley Letter, 24 August 1915
The following letter was written by Brigadier General John Stanley, Quartermaster General on the Military Board in response to the findings of Mr Justice Rich's Inquiry regarding the Liverpool Camp in July 1915.
ROYAL COMMISSIONERS REPORT - LIVERPOOL CAMP.
Re above, the following remarks are submitted:-
In framing regulations for the governance of Camps of Training and prescribing scales of equipment, clothing, food and necessaries for Commonwealth troops , the Minister must accept some definite and recognized guiding principle, therefore the Imperial rules in this connection, designed and amended from time to time by a succession of officers with years of experience as to what is suitable and essential, have been adopted as a general guide.
Liberal increases to the Imperial Scale have been made in almost every direction with a view to increasing the comfort and well-being of the troops, and it would now be difficult to determine as to how far the Minister might be warranted in making any essential departures from the general lines upon which the Service Regulations have been enacted.
The British soldier in England is clothed, equipped, housed, fed, and cared for, strictly on the "hard and fast" set out in "Imperial Clothing, Equipment and Allowance Regulations for the Army"; and the Australian soldier after leaving these shores will be similarly dealt with.
In every detail the Australian soldier is better clothed, better fed, better paid, and better cared for than any troops, as far as it is known, in the world. Although some proportion of the soldiers in camp in Australia might miss many comforts to which they have been accustomed in their own homes yet the overwhelming majority are well satisfied with the conditions that obtain, and nearly all improve in health and condition after a few weeks of camp life.
It would almost appear that the Commissioner in framing his report had contemplated that Australia was a country possessed of unlimited resources in highly trained officers, men and material and that therefore very large bodies of troops could continue to be trained over indefinite periods.
Dealing with the various charges sereatim -
1. Clothing. etc.That certain shortages of dungarees, underclothing and overcoats for recruits existed at the camp during the month of June is probably correct, but this was apparently due to faulty administration by the District Staff, as instructions concerning a full issue being made to all men on joining were given by the Central Administration months before-hand.
2. BeddingIt is stated in the report that "when the huts were first occupied the bedding only consisted of three blankets and a waterproof sheet, straw being sometimes not supplied, and bed-ticks for making the straw into mattresses were only supplied in June". In this connection it must be explained that all Australian allowances for the equipment of camps for the Expeditionary Forces are founded on the scales authorised for the regular troops in the British Army. The War Office scale for bedding for the army does not authorise the issue of any straw when waterproof sheets are supplied, unless the circumstances are very exceptional; and where wooden floors are available straw only is issued. Therefore in a less rigorous climate, Australian soldiers are much more comfortably cared for than in the British service. The Commonwealth issue is three blankets per man; British two.It is understood that during one short period there was a temporary shortage of straw, none being available in the district. No report that a shortage existed was made to the Central Administration, otherwise steps could have been taken to make good deficiencies. Palliasses, which are not articles of authorised equipment, and for the supply of which the Department could not therefore accept actual responsibility, have been issued wherever they could be made available. Centralization, had it existed, could however, have overcome all bedding difficulties.
3. Rifles.Even if as is alleged it was found that there were insufficient rifles for instructional purposes, this is a question which, in my opinion, might well have been left alone under the existing conditions concerning stocks and output of rifles. Definite instructions were, however, issued in April last as follows and full issues should have been made accordingly:-Men enrolled in the A.I.F. at depots should commence training with arms within 14 days of joining. For this some arms are necessary. By 4th, week of training every man should have his own rifle and be doing musketry. Commandants are responsible that this course is followed.
Pending the supply of latest pattern rifles to the Militia all Rifles, short, M.L.E., Mk. I and M.L.E. (long) will be issued to Light Horse and Infantry for training purposes.
Furthermore it should be brought to notice that the Rifle, short, M.L.E., Mk, I, referred to so disparagingly is actually of a later pattern than that with which the British Territorial troops are armed and fighting.
As to the pronouncement "It was also proved that some of the rifles from Lithgow had become defective in certain parts" the Commissioner may be assured that it would have been a perfectly simple task for him to prove similar disabilities in a sufficient number of rifles of any other make.
4. Ammunition for training purposes etc.If, as stated, it was admitted that there was lack of dummy ammunition such deficiency could have easily have been remedied locally or if necessary by application to Central Administration.
5. CentralizationThe Commissioner's views concerning centralization are somewhat confusing - even bewildering.
Primarily it is stated "no doubt the system in substance does prevail" as evidenced by one instance wherein Doctor Schlinck said it took a month to get financial authority to erect shelter sheds (this allegation has not so far as is known ever been investigated or proved).
Let it, however, be for the moment assumed that centralization did exist (though it has been abundantly proved that Commandants of Districts have had an absolutely free band from the outset), surely there is only one remedy for, one alternative to, centralization, viz:- decentralization. Yet the Commissioner carefully refrains from recommending it.
What is wanted? Apparently centralization and decentralization are both equally undesirable.
It should, however, be made perfectly clear that any measure of centralization which may have existed at the time Sir Ian Hamilton submitted his report was absolutely abolished at the commencement of the War, and Commandants of Districts were given full powers to obtain all supplies by direct purchase without reference to Head-quarters.
It is not understood upon what evidence Mr. Justice Rich has found in his judgment that the faults he discovered were largely attributes to centralization in the Defence Department in Melbourne. Centralization in some kind must exist in Departments, business concerns, and Institutions of all descriptions. The Commissioner was definitely and conclusively informed that in so far as the Quartermaster General's Branch was concerned no centralization existed except a beneficent one, which enabled the Central Administration at Head-quarters to make provision by transferring supplies from one District to another where failure in deliveries by Contractors had brought about shortage.
By special war letter published on 6th August, 1914, Commandants were given authority to purchase any article of clothing, equipment, and general stores required for the Australian Imperial Force.
In consequence of certain revelations in connection with orders placed by Districts, this power was on the 16th April last curtailed to the extent that District Commandants were authorized to purchase any articles urgently required if time did not admit of reference to Head-quarters for approval. As illustrating the plenitude of these powers there has never been a single instance to date when the Commandant, New South Wales, has found it necessary to submit any such application to Head-quarters.
With regard to the evidence which it is stated clearly establishes that supplies of clothing, uniforms, overcoats and bedding were, particularly during the month of July, were wholly inadequate, such shortages had they existed to any extent could not in any way be attributable to the effects of centralization. On the 11th March last authority was given to all Districts to issue to troops, on the approach of Winter, one greatcoat and one cardigan jacket, in addition to the underclothing, etc. previously authorised.
On the same date District Commandants were informed that it had been represented that members of the Australian Imperial Force who had been drafted from Depots into units and reinforcements had been kept waiting, in some cases until a few days before embarkation, for their issue of uniform. Instructions were issued that such arrangements were to be made as would ensure that at least one complete outfit would be issued to members of the Australian Imperial Force as soon as they were definitely allotted to units or reinforcements.
Similarly with regard to the statement that recruits had sometimes to wait several weeks before being supplied with dungaree suits, overcoats, underclothing, cardigan jackets and proper bedding, any shortage must have been solely due to faulty District Administration particularly in regard to supply of overcoats, cardigan jackets and dungarees, which articles Head-quarters had definitely ordered should be issued to all troops on joining.
On the 12th. April last the Commandant, 2nd. Military District was instructed by lettergram that in view of the approach of winter and the need of a change of clothing, approval was given for the issue of a second dungaree suit to all members of the Australian Imperial Force not then issued with uniform. It was ascertained by the quartermaster General whilst in Sydney that no action had been taken in the 2nd. Military District to carry out the provisions of this lettergram.
It has been ascertained that on the 25th. June, the date on which the Senior Ordnance Officer reported that his stock of greatcoats would not admit of issues being made to Depot troops having in mind the requirements of the members of the Australian Imperial Force allotted to units, there were at Ordnance Stores, Sydney, over 6,000 greatcoats. Stocktaking sheets also show that on the 31st May last Ordnance stocks were not exhausted in any important article of clothing. On the date mentioned there were on hand in the principal items;- Greatcoats 3300, Dungarees 2160, Drawers 11200, Cardigan Jackets 870, Socks prs 14,870.
6. Lack of Initiative.It is difficult to follow the Commissioner in his conclusion that the system which prevailed before the War of referring a number of petty details to Head-quarters had the effect of paralysing the initiative of the officers. Surely all healthy and ordinarily intelligent human beings may reasonably be expected to recover from any form of mental paralysis in twelve months. To state that War Letter 81 failed in its object because the officers either shirked their responsibility or were incapable of successfully executing larger powers is a very grave indictment and it is for the Minister to consider whether the Commissioner should not be requested to be more definite concerning accusations against certain officers which only afford them the alternative of being branded either as shirkers of their official responsibilities or as being incompetent for their positions.
Brigadier General John Stanley,
Senator George F Pearce
See: Stanley Reply, 24 August 1915
John STANLEY Military Biography
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:
Further Reading:The Battle of Central Station, New South Wales, 14 February 1916, Roll of Honour
Citation: The Battle of Central Station, New South Wales, 14 February 1916, Stanley Letter, 24 August 1915