21st Nov 1918: Monash outlines AIF repatriation scheme

Lieut.-Gen. John Monash returned to Le Cateau and held what would be his last great conference of divisional and brigade commanders to launch his scheme of repatriation and industrial training for the troops preparing to return home. It was unlikely that Field Marshall Haig would release the troops under his command until February when the peace negotiations might end. It was expected that repatriation would take a year to complete so it became important that the troops understood that although the fighting had finished, they were now to be involved in the future development of Australia by acquiring the new skills and trades to take home. The priority for repatriation would be based upon i) length of service; ii) family responsibilities; and iii) assured employment. After the ‘Anzac’ contingent, the men that left in the first half of 1915 followed by those in the Australian convalescent bases in London, Monash put in place a quota system that was adopted by each division, with 1,000 men in each quota. In December and January nearly 20,000 men of the ‘Anzac’ and convalescents embarked from England. In May 1919 the last 10,000 men in France were brought to England where the camps on Salisbury Plain now held 70,000 men. At this stage Australian soldiers were marrying at 150 a week resulting in 15,000 new partners and children being carried to Australia in 1919.

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