Our Soldier Boys

Published by The Garland Collection on


‘Nothing is too good
for our Soldiers.’

I am writing with feelings of anger and sadness.
I was coming this morning [ Wednesday, 15 October 1919 ] from Rosemount Hospital in a tram, when turning a corner in the city, I saw stepping off the pavement a man in civilian clothes wearing a returned soldiers’ badge; he had one boot and sock off, was flourishing a spare pair of trousers in his hand, and was much the worse for liquor.
He did not see the tram coming and bumped into it; fortunately for him I caught him and whirled him away from danger.
A respectable man in front of me turned round to me and said, “The drink again.”
Now I don’t quite agree with that and I therefore replied, “You could stand plenty of liquor but that boy, after what he has been through, cannot stand half a glass.”
Later on I learnt that the boy was picked up by the police, incapable of taking care of himself.
A civilian, bearing a well-known name in Queensland, was with this boy and for his own purposes had encouraged him to drink, yet in such cases the blame is put upon the soldier, or upon militarism, when the blame lies elsewhere and probably with the civilian.
Such incidents as this, all too frequent, need our charitable judgement on the soldier and also demand reparation from us.
There ought not to be more than an occasional drunken soldier seen and there would not be if there were a wholesome public opinion.
Will people, instead of pointing at the returned soldier for drinking too much, create a wholesome public opinion against offering him liquor, remembering that, after the Hell he has been in, he is not able to stand liquor as those can who remained at home?
Some reparation can be made by offering such counter-attractions that the returned soldier will seek them instead of less desirable places.
Temperance speeches are not much use in this instance, but institutions such as ours and kindred institutions are the best way of dealing with the problem.
Let anyone who sees a returned soldier the worse for drink not reproach, but pity him, and send a donation to our funds as an acknowledgement of personal responsibility for his care.
The shell-shock soldier is often not responsible for his actions, those who give him drink make him worse.
All soldiers are not suffering from shell-shock, but all are suffering from their war experience and need to be helped upwards, not pushed down or out, or pointed to with a pharisaical superiority as worse than anyone else.
ARMISTICE DAY.– In Brisbane we are observing Armistice Day (11 November) by a celebration of the Holy Eucharist in the War Chapel at 10 a.m., when I look for a good attendance of members of the Society [ the Soldiers’ Church of England Help Society ] and also of soldiers and friends.
We ought at least to give thanks to God on that day, and remember those who made it possible for us to celebrate such an event.
It will be of interest to our friends to know that the Union Jack, which was used as the pall for Australians who died at the base camp in Egypt, is now the cover of the altar in the War Chapel.
In the evening we are having a social and dance in the Centennial Hall, which will be open to all returned soldiers.
I hope that in the country there will be some similar observance of Armistice Day, and if there has not been a formal welcome in any parish to the returned soldiers, this would make a good opportunity.
We have all sorts of clubs outside the Church welcoming the returned soldiers; the Church which gave the largest proportion of men from Australia ought not to be behind any organisation in the welcome home.

  • Anzac Club, Charlotte Street, Brisbane, opening 1915.
  • Anzac Club Home, Charlotte Street, Brisbane (board and Lodging), opened 1919.
  • Coolangatta Rest House, Tweed Heads (Board and Lodging), opened 1918.
  • Toowoomba Rest Rooms, opened 1915.

Donations may be earmarked for these institutions, or given to or General Society Funds. They can be addressed to me or the Treasurer, Box 47, GPO Brisbane.

David J. Garland

Brisbane, 15th Oct., 1919.

– from pages 229 and 231 of the 1 November 1919 issue of “The Church Chronicle” (Diocese of Brisbane)
For returned First AIF men such as London-born Saddler Sergeant Henry Alfred Testro (No. 3026, late of the 4th Section, 1st Divisional Ammunition Column and afterwards of 23 Malcolm Street, Hawthorne, in Brisbane), the Soldiers’ Church of England Help Society collected funds and provided places of refreshment, light and peace in the form of hostels, games rooms, reading and recreation spaces, as well as fellowship and support. This photo was published on page 25 of the 23 February 1918 edition of “The Queenslander” Pictorial Supplement, and depicts Sgt Testro with his wife, Florence Testro, and seven of their children. He died on 10 February 1959, at the age of 79.