War Memoir of Robert Ellwood

Ellwood: It wasn’t long before the campaign itself weeded out those that weren’t suitable, and that was a very very small percentage, very very small.

Turnbull: How did it weed them out?

Just unsuitability. I can remember we had an adjutant and he was a Duntroon man and going over on the boat, of course we had a lot of time to fill in, like night time and lectures were being held and I can remember on one occasion this fellow giving us a lecture, speaking about action and fighting and all the rest and risking his life. He said something about ‘You’ll all be frightened or you all won’t understand what it is like when you get into action, but watch me and follow me and I’ll show you how to do it sort of business, you know what I mean – I’m the soldier, watch me. He was one of the first to become a casualty, not through wounds. He was weeded out and that is the way that all the others would have gone too. They were just not suitable, they just didn’t have what it takes.

I can remember one tale that went around. They were boarding people for overseas and there was one chap not for overseas, for home, and there was one chap who was paraded through the medical examination and he was declared unfit for service , the day came when they were given their marching, transport orders you know and the medical board was sitting there and handing them out to those that were not the discharge but the leave well the return to Australia and ah this chap were was deaf, who was going home because of deafness and unfit for further employment he got his not his discharge papers but his transport papers and was on his way to the door probably with a feeling of pleasure and happiness in his heart or something else and one of the doctors for some reason probably the idea was well thought out but oh he said “Excuse me, so and so that’s got to be signed yet”. And this fellow stopped at the door and turned around and went back again. I mean that was a tale. And evidently those things only they have a foundation. They are not thought up for the purpose. They have a foundation somewhere, so its quite possible to happen and that sort of thing did happen not a great lot of it, as I say we had the inflicted…the man who always professed he was sick and was a nuisance on sick parade, when we were out of the lines but generally speaking no there were a good sound solid lot and any reinforcements that came there they were soon weeded out.

And what it takes, well, I often wonder. When I come to think of those hundreds that were lying between the two trenches with every state of decomposition – fine young fellows – what made them go there and go through that and eventually give their lives. The only thing I can see it was very definitely a love of their country of their peoples and of their families and of their ancestry and a few other things. I can’t see any other reason. They could have left, they could have been weeded out and escaped like some others did, you follow, you follow? They could have escaped but they didn’t, they stayed there. It wasn’t because of the association, not only that, there was a certain amount, a great feeling of friendship and mateship, but it wasn’t that, it was something deeper than that. I’ve know the old terms, I’ve heard them about the first contingent, that they were all people who were running away from women that they had put in the family way and disgruntled husbands – all this sort of business. I’ve heard all that, I’ve been through all that. It wasn’t that at all, there was something very very noble. Now I’m not speaking personally, I’m speaking of what I saw and what I think. I’m not speaking of myself at all, but they were a very very noble type of fellow, and I’m sincere when I say that.