22nd Battalion: 1919

22nd-battalionRepatriation - E0435024th May 1919: The last days of the 22nd Battalion in Belgium passed pleasantly during the fine weather of May. The hospitality of the citizens of Marcinelle never waned towards the men and many happy and lasting friendships were formed. On the 24th May the final quota (No.57) consisting of 2 Officers and 71 Other Ranks left for England and to begin their return to Australia, and in so doing the 22nd Battalion ceased to function in the field.

18th May 1919: Quota No.55 consisting of  1 Sergeant and 22 Other Ranks left the Battalion for their return to Australia.

14th May 1919: The 22nd Battalion along with other remnants of the AIF still in Belgium attended the Corps Commanders parade at Chatelet on the outskirts of Charleroi (see AIF Events Archive 1919).

10th May 1919: Quota No.50 consisting of 6 Officers and 112 Other Ranks left Marcinelle to begin their return to Australia. 22nd Battalion Commanding Officer Lt-Col ARL Wiltshire proceeded in command of this Quota, also accompanied by 21 members of the Regimental Band.

1st May 1919: As with the previous month, leave was granted liberally to Brussels and other cities in the region, and many of the men availed themselves of the opportunity of visiting these places.

20th Apr 1919: Quota No.38 consisting of 4 Officers and 27 Other Ranks left Marcinelle for England and to begin their return to Australia.

castalia_46313th Apr 1919: With the repatriation of the soldiers back to Australia now in full swing, probably the largest single contingent of the 22nd Battalion to sail home together left Devonport on the SS ‘Castalia’ (picture right). For many it was the chance to renew old aquaintances as can be seen with half of the thirteen men of the 5th Reinforcements that left Melbourne on the RMS ‘Osterley’ in September 1915 but had subsequently been transferred to other Units such as the Pioneers in early 1916. For the duration of the voyage Lieut. Harricks, MC, was the Battalion Adjutant, and photographs taken during the six week journey from his personal collection can be found in his story ‘My War: 1915 -1919’ written and compiled by Jennie Marshall. Meanwhile in Belgium Quota No.33 consisting of 1 Officer and 3 Other Ranks left Marcinelle to begin their return to Australia.

Maison du Peuple7th Apr 1919: Quota No.28 consisting of 7 Officers and 89 Other Ranks, mainly men who had left Australia in the early months of 1916, left Marcinelle to begin their return to Australia.

4th Apr 1919: A Regimental Dinner was held at the Maison du Peuple (photograph above right) Marcinelle as the final social event of the 22nd Battalion abroad and acted as a farewell to the men proceeding home on the next quota. The dinner was very successful, speeches were given and songs rendered, and the gathering was exemplary of the spirit and camaraderie that existed in the battalion between all ranks.

1st Apr 1919: During the month of April the 22nd Battalion remained billeted in Marcinelle. The men were comfortable, living amongst the civilians, while they waited for their turn for demobilization. Leave was granted freely to Brussels, Zeebrugge, Ostend and other neighbouring places. Educational classes and lectures were held regularly while teachers were available, and trips to industrial works around Charleroi were made. The strength of the Battalion at the start of the month was 23 Officers and 382 Other Ranks.

29th March 1919: A lecture was held in the Brigade cinema hall on ‘Australia’s new responsibilities in the Pacific’.

2015-03-21 11.31.28.jpg20th March 1919: The lecture held this day was entitled ‘Facilities offered in Australia for returned soldiers’.

18th March 1919: The second and third of the Regimental Colours were dipped in the Rhine at the Hohenzollern Bridge Cologne by Lieut H Smith, MC, MM and Lieut E Thewlis, MC. [Photograph right of the 22nd Battalion Colours in the Crypt of the Melbourne Shrine of Remembrance]

3rd March 1919: The Foden Lorry was allocated to the Battalion, and during the day all blankets were fumigated.

1st March 1919: For the month of March, when for the most part excellent weather prevailed, the 36 Officers and 414 Other Ranks had plenty of time on their hands with rifle and kit inspections in the morning and lectures Charleroi - H15645arranged by the educational branch. Visits were arranged to various industrial institutions in the Charleroi area. Films were shown nightly in the 6th Brigade cinema, as well as several dances arranged in the local hall attended by the men and the local mademoiselles, with the music performed by the Battalion band (photograph of men outside the YMCA Club, Charleroi). Through the month 14 Officers and 24 Other Ranks would be Struck off Strength as they returned to Australia, either in small groups or sometimes individually, with no large quota allocation this month.

Charleroi 191928th February 1919: During the month the health and spirits of the men was good. Demobilisation was not rapid but the continuance of liberal leave and numerous excursions to towns and places of interest made the time pass quickly (photograph right of Charleroi). Owing to the inclemency of the weather football had to be discontinued and boxing and other sports took its place to keep the men trim and their minds engaged. Lectures on various subjects were delivered in the cinema hall. During the month Battalion educational classes were abandoned and replaced by Brigade classes.

23rd February 1919: Lieut-Col ARL Wiltshire, DSO, MC, assumed temporary command of the 6th Australian Infantry Brigade.

19th February 1919: Opportunities now became available for visiting Germany and the first of the Regimental Colours were sent up to Cologne to be dipped in the waters of the Rhine before being sent out to Australia.

Marcinelle - C0477512th February 1919: On what was a fine day, the 22nd Battalion marched via Somze to new billets at the Charleroi suburb of Marcinelle (photograph right). During this period practically the whole Battalion lived in private houses as guests of the civilian population where strong friendships were made, and as this was the first time since Egypt the Battalion was billeted close to a large city this was much appreciated by the men.

6th quota3rd February 1919: At 09:30am all officers and men assembled in Gourdinne square to bid farewell to the 1915 6th Quota draft returning to Australia. 1 Officer and 36 Other Ranks marched out with the draft. [photograph of the 22nd Battalion 6th Quota courtesy of Jennie Marshall and the Lieut Harricks, MC, collection]

1st February 1919: Very cold, and snow fell throughout the day. The draft for Australia paraded in the square for final inspection.

31st January 1919: The month of January was very quiet for the men of the Battalion. Full advantage was taken of what little fine weather there was to arrange inter-company football matches. The final match of the Brigade championship between the 22nd and 24th Battalions ended in a draw. During the afternoon 240 men were bathed and given a change of clothing.

27th January 1919: At 9.15am all available men were engaged in cleaning out a barn and preparing it as a concert hall.

24th January 1919: At 10.15am all available men assembled in the town square to bid farewell to the third 1915 draft returning to Australia. 1 Officer and 60 Other Ranks marched out with the draft, leaving 35 Officers and 447 Other Ranks.

23rd January 1919: At 9.30am all available men reported to the Town Major for fatigue work. At 10.30am the draft for Australia paraded in the square for final inspection.

Nalinnes21st January 1919: At 9.30am all available men proceeded to Nalinnes (photograph right) to attend a lecture on demobilization by Brigadier-General McNicol. The remainder of parades and training were cancelled to allow men to visit the Divisional Race Meeting at Bomeree.

19th January 1919: At 2.45pm the Battalion paraded in the square and received an address from the inhabitants of Gourdinne. The battalion band delivered a programme of music.

16th January 1919: After inspection all available men reported to Town Major for fatigue work

13th January 1919: Companies paraded for rifle inspection at 9am and for the remainder of the morning were at the disposal of company commanders for the completion of AIF Form 534. The draft for Australia paraded at 10.15am for final inspection. Instructions were issued regarding pay allowances, leave etc during and after return to Australia.

Gourdinne map.png3rd January 1919: Educational classes were held and during the afternoon 150 men made their way from Gourdinne to Nalinnes station where they bathed. [Map reproduced with persmission from the National Library of Scotland.] New Year Greetings were received from General Birdwood, Commanding Officer of the British Fifth Army and former Commander of the Australian Corps,  following his visit and parade at Nalinnes [photograph above right of the Square at Nalinnes where the parade took place].

2nd January 1919: Educational classes were held in the morning and afternoon. Included were courses on Book Keeping, Shorthand, Agriculture, English, Arithmetic, Geography and History. These courses were held Education - E04454regularly over the next couple of months as the troops began the process of retraining and developing skills for when they returned to Australia [photograph right showing example educational class].

1st January 1919: The 22nd Battalion saw in the New Year in the village of Gourdinne (click on link for map). In the morning the four companies paraded for inspection followed by physical exercises and games, rifle exercises and Platoon and Company Drill. In the afternoon ‘C’ Company defeated ‘B’ at Football and ‘A’ & ‘D’ Companies took part in  a boxing match.

Events Archive 1918

Published as ‘news’ 100 years on to the day, follow the 22nd Battalion on the project website and via Facebook and Twitter

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