Project Co-Chair’s Remarks

Delivered at the official opening by the Chief Justice of Queensland of "In freedom's cause - the Queensland legal profession and the great war" centenary exhibition and book launch

QE II Law Courts, Brisbane

The Honourable Justice Logan RFD18 February 2016

A Judge of the Federal Court of Australia & Deputy President, Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal

RTF version - 251 KB

One hundred years ago this month, an Australian adolescent, Claverhouse Young, enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. His given name recalls an area of Scotland near Dundee. He was known as "Claver".

Claver was aged 18. He had completed his senior year, then known as 6th Form, at the Brisbane Grammar School the previous December. He intended to follow his brothers Rupert and Douglas into the legal profession. Rupert and another brother, Walter were already members of the AIF and had served at Gallipoli.

After initial training in Australia, Claver embarked in May 1916 with the third draft of reinforcements for the 49th Battalion. On his arrival in England for further training, he was transferred to the 42nd Battalion. In December 1916, he deployed for service with the British Expeditionary Force in France and Flanders as a reinforcement for the 42nd Battalion.

Over the course of 1917, Claver was wounded three times: two scalp wounds in action and then, in December, a nasty shrapnel wound to his thigh during a raid by German "Gotha" bombers on a rear area where his battalion was then stationed. These were in addition to separate hospitalisations for mumps and influenza.

Claver made slow but steady progress convalescing from his thigh wound in hospitals in England. By mid-June 1918, he had recovered and re-deployed to France for further service with the 42nd Battalion. He fought with that battalion at the famous Australian victory at Le Hamel on 4 July 1918 but was killed the following day, probably by what we would now call "friendly fire". He had recently turned 21. Private Claverhouse Young is buried in the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery at Villers Bretonneux.

Claver Young is at one end of a spectrum of service in the Great War by members and prospective members of the Queensland legal profession commemorated by this Queensland Supreme Court Library Committee project.

A little further along the spectrum is Alfred ("Fred") Dean, who was admitted as a solicitor in August 1915. Fred also enlisted one hundred years ago this month. He was killed in action in January 1918 in Flanders when a German trench mortar round destroyed an outpost in a line manned by the 25th Battalion. He was 25. Sergeant Dean is buried in the Underhill Farm war cemetery in Belgium. It is his handsome, youthful, haunting face on the project poster and book cover.

Neither Claver nor Fred was married.

At the other end of the spectrum are married men such as Hereward Humfry Henchman, who interrupted a thriving practice at the Queensland Bar and family life to enlist in 1916, at age 41 years, as a Private. Lieutenant Henchman as he became would survive the war, conduct a Royal Commission in relation to War Service Housing for the Commonwealth Government in 1923 and join the Supreme Court bench in 1929.

Another who gave up an established practice to serve was the married Ipswich solicitor, Harry Victor Foote Gibbs. He enlisted on 28 September 1917. His son, also called Harry but known to his family and friends as "Bill" to distinguish him from his father, was then 3 months old. Gibbs served as a Gunner with the AIF in France in 1918. He, too, survived the war. He lived long enough to see his son, Harry join the bench of the Queensland Supreme Court in 1961. That son, the Right Honourable Sir Harry Gibbs as he became, would later serve on the High Court, latterly as Chief Justice.

The memory of the life, service and sacrifice of each of these men and many other members and prospective members of the Queensland legal profession is perpetuated and honoured by the Library Committee's project being officially opened this evening by our State's Chief Justice, who is the daughter of a veteran of the First World War.

As the centenary of that war approached and recalling some work which I had undertaken a decade ago in relation the service in the Second World War of members and prospective members of the Bar, John McKenna QC, Chairman of the Library's History and Publications Committee and I had some informal discussions about how the involvement of the profession in that conflict might be commemorated. A proposal was put to Justice Fraser, Chairman of the governing Library Committee. It was embraced by Justice Fraser and his committee and warmly endorsed by our present Governor in his then capacity as Chief Justice of Queensland, as it has been by his successors as Chief Justice.

An ad hoc committee was formed to deliver the project, co-chaired by McKenna QC and me. Membership of that committee has comprised members of the staff of both the Queensland Supreme Court Library and the Federal Court's Queensland District Registry Library and volunteer members of the profession, most of the latter also having served in the Australian Defence Force. Support and encouragement for the committee's work by the Library Committee and the Supreme Court Librarian, Mr David Bratchford has been unstinting.

The project presently comprises the following in relation to those members and prospective members of the profession whose war service we have been able to identify:

  • a display in the Sir Harry Gibbs Legal Heritage Centre;
  • a publication, available for purchase this evening, for which the Governor has written the Forward, which contains members' biographies and covering narratives placing their service in the context of the course of the war and about events on the Home Front;
  • a virtual exhibition, accessible via the Sir Harry Gibbs Legal Heritage Centre website.

A second stage of the project will see the placement in some regional courthouses of banners recalling the service of local enlistees.

You will also find in the display and in the biographies in the book details of nursing and volunteer community service undertaken during the course of the war by the wives, sisters and mothers of the servicemen. No history would have been complete without this.

The delivered project is the result of well-nigh three years of volunteers marrying project tasks with the demands of practice and the Bench and of the curatorial and research skills of the modern librarian.

Special mention should be made of the following in respect of their participation in the project. From the Queensland Supreme Court Library, Helen Jeffcoat, the former Deputy Librarian, did much good work in the formative stages of the project, work continued by the Library's Curator, Exhibitions and Public Programs, Linda Phillips and its Heritage and Education Programs Manager, Alice-Anne Boylan with the able assistance of Maria Quirk, Britt Ousten and Miriam Moss. From the Federal Court Library, Joanna Fear, Manager, Library & Information Services (Qld), has been a project stalwart, assisted by her sometime Assistant Librarian, Sandy Liddle. Thomas Bradley QC, Ethan Edwards, Joanna Fear, Dominic Katter, Sandy Liddle, Kieran McCarthy, Maria Quirk, Scott Seefeld, Jens Streit, San Joe Tan, David Thomae, Mark Williams, Keith Wylie and I have undertaken research and authored biographies. John Gallagher QC gave most helpful suggestions, based on his deep knowledge of the Queensland legal profession, as well as in relation to the format of the publication. In particular, without his participation, we may well not have become aware of the distinguished war service of the former Law Clerk and later long-serving Queensland Supreme Court Librarian, Captain George Henry Smith MC.

The project committee is also much indebted to Mr Tony Cuneen, educator, historian and member of the Forbes Society of NSW for his contribution of a chapter, "The Home Front", which gives insights into the experience in Queensland and in its legal community in particular of the First World War.

Captain Adele Catts, Museum Manager, Army Museum South Queensland at Victoria Barracks, Brisbane gave generously of her time and experience to the project sub-committee.

The project has also much benefited from the recollections of members of the families of some of the men whose service is recalled in this publication and the related loan of memorabilia, medals and photos.

Thanks are also due to the Queensland University's Fryer Library, the Brisbane Grammar School and Nudgee College for access to archival collections. Why those schools? One hundred years ago, secondary education was far from pervasive in Queensland. It was not until 1921 that Brisbane State High School, then known as the Brisbane Normal School, opened its doors. Before then, secondary education was delivered by grammar schools or by schools established by a church, to which a student could proceed either by obtaining a State scholarship or by payment of fees. This explains why in those days so many of the members and prospective members of a learned profession went to the schools mentioned.

The generosity of the Commonwealth Government, via the Department of Veteran's Affairs and those firms and private individuals who have donated funds to the Library Committee to assist with the bringing to fruition of the project must also be gratefully acknowledged. Donations by the way will still be gratefully accepted.

Delivery of the project would not have been made possible without the superb databases of the National Archives both for First World War service records and, via its "Trove" database, for contemporary newspapers. The Australian War Memorial's Collections, People and Unit History databases have been invaluable adjuncts. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission's database has also been helpful. That each of these databases is freely available for searching is a great public benefit.

We made a deliberate decision only to include in the project those who had embarked for duty overseas. It was these servicemen who faced the greatest prospect of incapacity or death in the discharge of their duty. A number of other members and prospective members of the profession undertook military duty in Australia only.

Identifying the chosen group has not been easy. Neither branch of the profession kept a record of war service. In the smaller profession of the day it was well known who had served. Further, the collective bond for that service was not membership of the profession but the intense loyalty to one's old battalion or regiment.

We initially compared the names on the admission rolls for solicitors and the Bar with Embarkation Rolls. This yielded some results but neither the overall numbers nor the number of fatal casualties was consistent with what we would have expected from overall Australian enlistments. The inadequacy of that initial exercise was exposed in a confronting way by noticing in the Brisbane Courier, when researching one member of the profession, another report about a person who had sought deferment of articles of clerkship so as to enlist. That person, Captain Hubert Selwyn-Smith, was killed in action at the Battle of Messines in June 1917, leading his company of the 49th Battalion.

Not to include prospective members would have given a most incomplete picture of the impact of the war on the profession.

The research was correspondingly widened to look to articles of clerkship registered in the Supreme Court. At some time over the last century, Barristers Board records of students at law during and prior to the First World War were lost. Law Almanacs were consulted, giving the names of Judge's Associates. Further study of embarkation rolls gave uncertain clues. A civilian occupation shown as "Clerk" on enlistment might in fact be an Articled Law Clerk or a Law Clerk; "public servant" might be a Clerk of the Court or Justice Department clerk, "Student" might be a law student and so on.

The end result, inevitably, is a feeling that our list is not comprehensive. I was reminded of that last month when reading the United Service Club's newsletter. That made reference to a Law Clerk, Major Sydney Robertson, killed at the landing at Gallipoli. He was not on our list. On checking his enlistment form, I noticed that, as completed, he had left his civilian occupation blank and that the occupation, "Law Clerk" had been added to the form at some later stage in pencil. The advantage of the project's online component is that it will be possible there to include a biography of him and any others like him.

Also recalled by the project are those whose experience of war affected them to the extent that they felt unable to continue pre-war practice or legal studies. The brilliant junior barrister and pioneer Queensland aviator, Major Thomas McLeod OBE exemplifies the former and the promising, pre-war Law Clerk, Private Jack Walshe the latter.

As you have heard from Justice Fraser, later in these proceedings, the names of each member or prospective member of the profession whom we have been able to identify, and who was killed or died of wounds in the Great War, will be read out.

Finally, why the title, "In Freedom's Cause?"

That was inspired by these observations made by Charles Bean, sometime barrister and Australia's Official War Historian for The Great War, writing in the immediate aftermath of another world war and its first use of nuclear weapons:

By what adjustments freedom, as known to the liberal world today, will be maintained under the new basis of human relationships, it is too early yet to foresee. But whatever the means still available to men for forcing their will upon others, these lessons of history will still be fundamental - that only in conditions ensuring freedom of thought and communication can mankind progress; and that such freedom can be maintained only by the qualities by which from Grecian times it has been won - by such qualities as our own people managed to preserve through the first 126 peaceful years of their existence - the readiness at any time to die for freedom, if necessary, and the virility to struggle for it.[1]

A century ago, those this project honours displayed just such a readiness and virility. They did not regard membership of the legal profession, or an aspiration to join that profession, as conferring any special exemption from service in freedom's cause. For these reasons, it has been such a privilege for me and the other members of the committee to be associated with this project.

[1] C E W Bean, ANZAC to Amiens, 5th edition, AWM, Canberra, 1968, pp 538-539.

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