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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: August 2013

5 - The loosening bonds


In 1943 both the 9th Australian Division and the 50th (Northumbrian) Division experienced a critical year. Both had reached a peak of veteran confidence and efficiency in 1942. They passed this peak in 1943, and the curve of morale began a slow descent.

Both the 9th and the 50th returned home from the Middle East in 1943, the 9th in the spring and the 50th at the end of the year. Although coming home raised the men's spirits in the short term, it aggravated existing discipline and morale problems and created new ones. In Australia, the men of the 9th were now exposed to more temptations than in the Middle East, and it was easier to get at them. The men's attitude towards combat service also deteriorated once they came home. Colonel Hammer saw the process at work even in the stalwart 2/48th Battalion, reporting ‘an underlying feeling that the individual dreams of the day when he will transfer to a “soft job” on the L of C [lines of communication; i.e. the rear areas] and someone else can fight the war for him. He feels that the war should be won but that it should be done by some mysterious “other fellow”.’ Many of the 9th's veterans were unhappy with what they saw of wartime Australia, and they showed much hostility towards the militia, the American servicemen in Australia, and Australian civilians.