With repatriation now starting to take place instructions were issued regarding pay allowances, leave etc during and after return to Australia. At 10.15 am all available officers and men paraded in the square to bid goodbye to the 1 Officer and 73 Other Ranks of the 1915 personnel marching out for return to Australia. From 1pm A & B and C & D Companies were amalgamated and for the 34 Officers and 501 Other Ranks that remained administered as Nos 1 & 2 companies respectively.
Christmas Day and Holy Communion was celebrated at 9am. During the week two large barns were placed at the disposal of the Battalion by the Marie of the village in which the companies in turn held their Christmas dinners. According to the Battalion diary ‘the dinners were all that the men could desire and went a long way to stop their complaints about the bad weather!’ For the officers twenty ‘Mademoiselles of Gourdinne’ acted as waitresses for the event.
At 10am HRH The Prince of Wales presented medals to men of the 6th Brigade at Nalinnes in attendance with Lieut-Gen Sir JJ Talbot Hobbs. One Officer and 50 Other Ranks from ‘B’ Company were detailed to attend the parade and for the 22nd Battalion. Eleven men were selected to receive their medals, including RSM Cadwell, CSM Carter, and the two most decorated men from the 5th/22nd, Sgt Strachan, DCM, MM and Sgt Batton, DCM, MM + Bar. Christmas Eve also saw the start of the drafts for home, and a small party of its married original members said an emotional farewell to their old Battalion. On this and each subsequent occasion the Battalion Band played ‘Auld Lang Syne’ and the Colonel shook hands with each man and wished him ‘bon voyage’.
Leaving Barbencon at 8.30am the 22nd Battalion arrived at Gourdinne just to the south of Charleroi at 1.15pm where they found the billets to be comfortable and good. The Battalion would stay in this small Belgium town for the foreseeable future as the AIF prepared the men for repatriation and return to Australia.
His Majesty King George V visited the Australian Corps area. The troops of the 1st & 4th Australian Divisions lined the road entering the town of Avesnes and the troops of the 2nd and 5th Australian Divisions were drawn up in fields along the road leading from Avesnes to Landrecies. Divisional and Brigade Commanders were presented to the King at different places en route.
Lieut.-General Monash wrote his ‘Farewell Order’ to the troops of the Australian Corps thanking all the men for their splendid and loyal support of the past six months. The letter laid out the importance of the next few months, to prepare the men for their return home by re-training and acquiring the new skills required to help in the building and development of the Australian nation. Monash knew too how important it was to keep the men, desperate to get home after years away, occupied and motivated while the repatriation process ground along.
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.