The Birdwood Visit

Published by Peter Collins on

ABOVE: This photo was taken of members of the Brisbane official reception party for General Birdwood (including the Mayor of Brisbane, Alderman James Francis Maxwell, at the centre of shot, in mayoral robes). From the State Library of Queensland Collection. Negative number: 142549.

Parliamentary Banquet.
Talk About Neutrality.
Fine Tribute to Queenslanders.

GENERAL Sir William Birdwood was entertained at a State banquet at Parliament House last night.
The dining room was resplendent with bunting and the entrances fringed with greenery, and the word “Greeting” suspended across the room, faced the guest of honour.

The Acting Premier (Hon. J.A. Fihelly) [ John Arthur Fihelly ] had on his right the Lieutenant-Governor (Hon. W. Lennon) [ William Lennon ], and on his left the guest of the evening, the famous general.

Prominent amongst those present were the Home Secretary (Hon. W. McCormack) [ William McCormack ] , the Minister for Agriculture (Hon. W.N. Gillies) [ William Neil Gillies ], the Speaker (Hon. W. Bertram) [ William Bertram ], the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. W.J. Vowles) [ William John Vowles ], Ald. J. McMaster (representing the Mayor of Brisbane) [ James McMaster ], Ald. A. Faulkner (Mayor of South Brisbane) [ Alfred Faulkner ], the Hon. Dr. Taylor, M.L.C. [ William Frederick Taylor ], the military commandant (Brigadier-General Irving) [ Godfrey George Howy Irving ], and the naval commandant (Captain Curtis) [ George Arthur Hamilton Curtis ], igadier-General J.H. Cannan [ James Harold Cannan ].

Many members of both Houses of Parliament were present. The loyal toast was enthusiastically honoured.

THE LIEUTENANT-GOVERNOR.

The Speaker (Hon. W. Bertram), in proposing the toast of “His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor”, said that he regarded the Lieutenant-Governor as being specially qualified to carry out the important duties of his exalted office with credit to himself and satisfaction to the people. (Applause.)

Mr. Bertram described Mr. Lennon’s career, and said that that gentleman’s experience gave him unequalled opportunities of acquiring a first-hand knowledge of the requirements of Queensland and its people.

The Lieutenant-Governor was a man, keen and observant and of sound judgment with an unbounded faith in the future of our great Stale. (Applause.)

The position of Governor of Queensland had been occupied by men of eminence in various walks of life.

Those men had filled the position with credit to themselves and to the State.

He ventured to say that the present occupant of the position would worthily uphold it. (Hear, hear.)

He was paying the Lieutenant-Governor no higher compliment than he deserved.

His Excellency had done excellently since he took office. He believed that the time would come when those who had criticised his appointment would yet acclaim that he had worthily upheld the position.
The Lieutenant-Governor was particularly fortunate in having in his good wife a ladylike woman who had endeared herself to everyone with whom she had been associated.

He sincerely wished His Excellency and Mrs. Lennon happiness health, and success at Government House. (Loud applause.)

The Lieutenant-Governor, in responding, said that he was taken a great deal by surprise in being called on to speak.

Mr. Lennon referred to his occupancy of the Speakership, and said that it was the nicest job, he ever had in his life. It was taken from him. He did not seek to leave it.

He thought everyone knew that. He was particularly happy in the position.

Fate ordained that he should not remain there. He was called to what was considered a higher office.

He was called there. He did not go there. Having been called, of course, he went. (Laughter.)

Many were called: few chosen. He was one of the chosen. (Laughter.)

He was pleased to say that His Majesty was graciously pleased to appoint him Lieutenant-Governor.

He appreciated most keenly the commission he held, calling upon him to assume the position, and upon them to render due obedience to him. (Laughter.)

He sincerely hoped that they would remember and render obedience accordingly.

In the past he had been inclined to indulge in fortiter in re. In his exalted position he chose to adopt suaviter in modo. (Laughter.)

The Lieutenant-Governor sketched his career, and said that he had endeavoured to live an honest life.

He had driven a baker’s cart, had managed a bank, and had engaged in commercial pursuits. He had brought up a large family.

Three of his sons went to the war. (Applause.)

It was the first time he had referred to the fact. His son-in-law and three or four of his nephews also went.

He loved Queensland and the Queensland sun. Its people were a reflection of the sun. They kept up their spirits. (Applause.)

He thanked Mr. Bertram sincerely for the manner in which he had referred to him.

He hoped that whatever position he held, he would acquit himself at least as a man.

He would go down, rather than be a traitor or double-dealer or than clamber over the necks of other people.

They would forgive him, he felt sure, for the exhibition of it slight measure of heat on that occasion.

His appointment had not been very warmly endorsed by the Press of Brisbane.

The Press had seen fit to criticise him in a variety of ways, he had never complained, and did not then.

A man who knew himself, and that his character and record would bear investigation, could afford to disregard absolutely, not only the criticism of the Press, but the criticism of everybody.

In conclusion, Mr. Lennon said that he had had the honour and privilege, during the last few days of being the almost-constant companion of their guest, and he had enjoyed the time immensely.

He remembered vividly General Birdwood’s war performances for our benefit.

Our men had gone to fight for King and Empire. (Applause.)

All credit was due to General Birdwood for the great skill he showed in handling the men.

When they called him “Birdie” that appealed to him (the Lieutenant-Governor) more than anything else.

He felt sure that General Birdwood would fly away with our hearts, and that they would remain with him forever afterwards. (Applause.)

MR. FIHELLY’S SPEECH.

Mr. Fihelly submitting “Our Distinguished Guest”, said that they were assembled to give a measure of welcome such as could be expected from the Queensland Parliament to the man and soldier who had been in charge of Australian troops during the period of the war.

It had been said that the Australian soldier lacked discipline.

He had been quite unaccustomed to war, but proved adaptable.

Just as the man in charge must have been an adaptable man to prove the efficiency of his operations.

We wanted efficiency; wanted it everywhere, and in whatever we did. (Hear, hear.)

He was sure that no British general, whether he came from English, Irish, Scottish or Welsh stock could have exercised more tact and diplomacy in handling our men than did their guest that night, who had so endeared himself to the men.

His (the General’s) visit to Australia was going to be a new education.

He would find in the worker a reflex of the soldier. The good soldier was not the bad working man. (General Birdwood: Hear, hear.)

he good soldier had to be fed with the best possible food, and given the best possible conditions.

So also must be the good working man, who had to rear, educate and equip his family for the battle of life. (Applause.)

Mr. Fihelly proceeded to refer to Mr. Lennon, and said his type was true, and it was found throughout Australia.

While he (Mr. Fihelly) was in charge of the Government he intended to deal with Mr. Lennon in a very gingerly fashion, because a man who had passed through such experience as had Mr. Lennon needed to be so dealt with.

The Acting Premier went on to say that he had met General Birdwood in London. He then had been surrounded with his young generals. The spirit was there amongst them.

Our Australian generals, in their business of war, were found to be quite as capable, as the Australian private in his hobby of war.

Most soldiers hoped that with the signing of the armistice wars would end. We had found that war was only commencing.

Europe, was not prepared to go along the lines laid down by the peace conference.

The United States and Canada at one time tolerating no standing armies wore prepared to become armed to the teeth. The United States forecast a navy bigger than the British navy.

We hoped as Australians that the brains and ability of the leaders of the army would be turned entirely towards peace.

“A DUBIOUS PURPOSE.”

“At one time,” proceeded Mr. Fihelly, “I stood strongly for Australia maintaining compulsory training.

“With the atmosphere of war round the world one would say, better be like Norway, Sweden, Dek, Switzerland and Spain than have our mothers and fathers bowed down at the loss of the flower of our manhood for mainly a dubious purpose. (“No, no.”)

“There is no better place to express opinions than amongst the people of the legislature.

“What harm can come of frankly uttering the sentiments held by any one man?”

Continuing, Mr. Fihelly said that, by all means, we should be ready for any hosts that might come with a lower standard of living and a lower system of morals.

There were races that might have designs on Australia. If they were to encroach they required to be considered.

Such questions were engaging the attention of General Birdwood and Admiral Jellicoe, and must receive the consideration of all who were thinking out the future of Australia. (Applause.)

TALK OF REVOLUTION.

Mr. W.J. Vowles, in supporting the toast, assured General Birdwood that the Opposition represented an important section of the people, which was whole-heartedly behind him and the soldiers. (Applause.)

These days there was a lot of talk of revolution and of converting Queensland and Australia into a republic. And we heard a lot of talk of doing away with the military spirit.

Where was the security in that? What was the use of talking about no navy, no army?

We knew by the progress that had been made in the air, Japan could land sufficient troops in 24 hours to take Queensland. (A voice: “Rot!”)

We should he prepared and rely on the help of Great Britain to assist us. (Applause.)

Mr. Vowles proceeded to acclaim the guest of the evening in the warmest of terms. (Applause.)

The toast was enthusiastically honoured.

THE GENERAL’S SURVEY.

General Birdwood, on rising to respond, was cheered to the echo as “the soul of Anzac”.

He thanked, them all very much for the welcome, and expressed his pleasure at the fact that when he left these shores he would still retain his association and comradeship with his Australians, as he had been given honorary rank in the Australian military forces. (Applause.)

The General then at some length told of what Queensland battalions had done in war areas, and made references to the work of the senior officers.

He described how the 9th Battalion was the first to leave Queensland.

He could not say whether a Queenslander was the first to land on Gallipoli, but among the very first was the 9th Battalion. (Applause.)

If they suffered heavily in the landing, they more than held their own.

He traced the progress of this famous battalion in France.

The General had a special word of praise for General Robertson [ James Campbell Robertson ] (Toowoomba), and said in reference to Colonel Butler ( A.A.M.C.) [ Arthur Graham Butler ], that he knew of no man who took a greater interest in the actual fighting done by his regiment.

Colonel Wilder-Neligan [ Maurice Wilder-Neligan ], he said, was a man with the most wonderful resource he had come across.

Continuing his story, the general said that the 25th and 26th Battalions occupied the apex at Gallipoli.

That was a very trying point. If they could have got beyond that they might have got the straits. Subsequently at Pozieres these battalions suffered very heavily, owing to the thickness of the wire.

He touched on the Light Horse, which, he said, he had left in the very, very, fine charge of General Chauvel [ Henry George Chauvel ].

General Birdwood spoke of the epic advance on Damascus, which resulted in the destruction of two Turkish armies.

Of General Glasgow [ Thomas William Glasgow ] he could not speak too highly.

He was one of the best and most loyal officers that could be imagined, and he (General Birdwood) could only hope he would meet with equal success as a legislator.

The best he could say about General Glasgow was that “he is a man”. (Applause.)

He found that certain States “cornered” certain things. South Australia cornered medical dinners, while Queens-land seemed to have made its corner in generals.

Out of 53 generals, practically one-third came from Queensland.

As to General White, he could only say that he looked upon him as about the best staff officer in the British Army. (Applause.)

He was as staunch, loyal, brave, true, a wise officer, and a good friend.

General Birdwood specially mentioned the following officers as listed: Generals Chauvel [ Henry George Chauvel ], Sellheim [ Victor Conradsdorf Morisset Sellheim ], White [ Cyril Brudenell White ], Forsyth [ John Keatly Forsyth ], Cannan [ James Harold Cannan ], Coxen [ Walter Adams Coxen ], Foott [ Cecil Henry Foott ] , Brand [ Charles Henry Brand ], Grant [ William Grant ], Goddard [ Henry Arthur Goddard ], Dodds [ Thomas Henry Dodds ], Glasgow [ Thomas William Glasgow ], Robertson [ James Campbell Robertson ], Phillips [ Herbert Peter Phillips ], Wilson [ Lachlan Chisholm Wilson ] and Spencer-Browne [ Reginald Spencer Browne ], Paton [ John Paton ].

Infantry: Colonels Walsh, Mullen, Wilder-Neligan, Salisbury, McSharry, Dawson, Norrie, Davis, Ferguson, Travers, Currie, Toll, Davies, Freeman, Boarrd, Heron, Woolcook, Flintoff, Imlay, Denton, Lane, Quinn, Arrell, Christie, Midgley, Milne, O’Donnell, Ridley, Robinson, Wynter, Annand.

Artillery: Colonels Allsop, Harris, Hughes, Mailer, McCartney.

Light Horse: Colonels Stodart, Bourne, Harris, Cameron, Parsons, Bailey, Foster, Generals Wilson and Grant.

A.A.M.C.: Colonels Dods, Butler, Dixon, Croll, Fraser, Hustable, Macartney, Marks, McLean, Sinle, Wooster, Sutton.

Members of other units were: Colonels Lavarack [ John Dudley Lavarack ], Hancock, Miles, Radford, Wieck, Stansfield, and Maunder.

Chaplains: Garland [ David John Garland ], Gordon, Green, Merrington, Mills, Osborn.

V.C.’s [ Victoria Crosses ]: Captain Cherry [ Percy Herbert Cherry ], Lieutenant Borella [ Albert Chalmers Borella ], Lieutenant Towner [ Edgar Thomas Towner ], Driver Dalziel [ Henry Dalziel ], Private Leak [ John Leak ], Budgen [ Patrick Joseph Bugden ], Lance-Corporal Gordon [ Bernard Sidney Gordon ].

The General went on to say that he believed Australia fully realised all she owed to her soldiers in that who was doing more for them than any other country.

Before passing, he must mention the glorious work done by the nurses and also by the tunnellers.

Speaking generally, he believed that those who came through the war were all the better for the experience.

While we were thinking of the soldiers, he hoped we would never forget The Fallen — the best and the bravest.

He wished he could tell them about them. Some men had absolutely charmed lives.

They led their men through time after time, and then perhaps were killed on the last day; or came right through. Others equally brave were killed in their first attack.

He knew of one case in which of 38 relations who went to the war, 37 came back; yet there was a terrible number of only sons killed. Australia had come into her nationhood.

She had put her colours right up to the top of the mast of the great nations. (Applause.)

General Birdwood contemptuously referred to the fact that where he was in one town not long ago he heard that small slips of paper had been shoved under doors.

On the slip was printed, “Thou shalt not kill”, “Returned soldiers are murderers.”

“Can you realise the mentality of the class of person who would do it?” asked the General.

“Murderers! Do you think those men went over there for the purpose of murdering the Germans? They went over for the purpose of making sacrifices for their country and children.

“The man who would make a statement of that kind is the very last man who would offer up his life for anybody. (Applause.)

“It must have been the work of a skunk. Australia did not enter the war to fight for her country.

“She came in because she realised we were fighting for right and justice.

“She realised she was fighting for the freedom of her country and people.”

“Only last week I was up in Bathurst,” added the General, “and Colonel Murphy [ George Francis Murphy ], who did so well in the war, and who was subsequently in charge of a ship taking repatriated Germans, told me that one of the men had a commission in his possession, appointing him German Governor of Australia. Remember with the Germans it it was vae victis — woe to the conquered.

“I am the very last man to wish for militarism. I am the very last person to go in for anything of that sort.

“I hate the idea of it. I am a democrat. But I join with you in the determination that Australia shall never be made a dumping ground for those who wish to use it to create strife and discord.” (Applause.)

With regard to what had been said of Holland and Spain and the positions of those countries in the war, he could only think what an appalling humiliation, he should have felt had he been a subject of those countries.

Their ships were sunk and their subjects slaughtered, and they could not raise a finger or Germany would have run over them.

He prayed God we should never be in such a position. (Applause.)

He knew perfectly well of the limitations of a country of 5,000,000, and realised the defence of the country was not represented by any class or government. It was a matter for the whole people. (Applause.)

We should determine to advance in such a way as our resources best enabled us to.

In conclusion, General Birdwood, referring to the League of Nations, said that he did not think it could do any harm.

It was our bounden duty to support it, until the time came when we could rely on it. (Applause.)

A vote of thanks to the Acting Premier was moved by the Hon. W.N. Gillies. Cheers were given for General Birdwood.

– from page 3 of “The Telegraph” (Brisbane) of 4 May 1920.