This blog is a companion to the Database of Volunteers of Essendon and Flemington

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Sergeant George of the Railways Unit

British light rail engine, as used on the Western Front      (AWM H01948)

In late 1916, at the request of the British government, Australia advertised for experienced men to join a new railway operations division.  By the end of January 1917, the Victorian section was filled by ‘a very fine body of men’ from the Victorian Railways. Among these  was thirty-two-year-old engine driver, Alfred George of 37 Hardiman Street, Kensington.

Rod Martin describes the experiences of Sergeant Alfred Thomas George in Number 2 Section, Australian Railways Operations Division.  

Peter Stanley in his book Bad Characters, talked of the AIF being civilians in uniform:  

"In broad terms the AIF resembled the factories, workshops or shearing sheds that many of its members had known in civilian life.  Privates were the workers; non-commissioned officers (NCOs) were foremen, gangers or overseers; officers were the proprietors, managers or supervisors.  Soldiers saw them in these terms....  Australian soldiers often applied their civilian principles to their military experience."  (p37)

 This applied particularly to the trades unionists among them, and the railway soldiers were probably among the most heavily unionised soldiers of the AIF.   This becomes apparent in Rod's story telling of the reactions of the Number 2 Railway Unit when faced with unacceptable directions from their officers.