Solidarity Forever

Chapter Eleven


There were soldier riots and unemployed demonstrations after the war, in 1919.

On July 15 an unemployed demonstration of 2000 men and women marched from the Trades Hall, with the intention of sending a deputation in to see Premier Lawson. Batons were freely used by twelve mounted and forty foot police.


On July 21st there were wild scenes, returned soldiers held a meeting at the Atheneum and 2000 marched to the Treasury Gardens. They streamed in all doors of Parliament, and one man threw a heavy silver inkstand at the Premier and scored a bulls-eye. The Premier had to be helped from the room. The men were protesting at the killing of a returned man, James O'Connor, of Madeline Street, Carlton. At the Peace celebrations soldiers had rushed the armoury at the barracks for guns and ammunition after some of their number had been arrested. Guards with guns fired into the crowd and O'Connor was fatally hit.

The men demanded the dismissal of a well-hated Senior Constable Scanlon. Scanlon was the scourge of the anti-conscription fighters and by now had transferred his hate to the returned men. It took the soldiers to move him. He was charged with using objectionable language and relieved of street duty. The evidence was that he shouted "You are one of those khaki bastards who have been looking for trouble all day . . . Knock those khaki lot down first."

A deputation to Premier Lawson demanded—

1. That an instruction be issued that no policeman be allowed to use a baton in dealing with soldiers.

2. Senior Const. Scanlon be dismissed.

3. That the soldiers arrested in the street disturbances on Saturday and Sunday nights be released.

4. That the fines imposed in connection with these disturbances be remitted.

It was claimed the soldiers left the House with cut glass decanters, marble statues and private papers.

No action was taken by the authorities against the men.


Tom Edwards, a striker, was killed by a shot fired from the Premier's launch during a Lumpers' strike. Fifty men were injured, including 26 police. Most of the men were returned soldiers. Likewise a number of the police who laid into them with fixed bayonets were returned men.

The whole of Fremantle closed down for the funeral and Premier Hal Pateshall Colebatch had to resign. Western Australia had three Premiers in a month and someone wrote, satirically, that the slogan is "Produce, produce, produce" and they were doing this with the production of Premiers. The ships SS Khyber, Wandilla, Benalla and Shropshire with soldiers coming home were near the wharf. Colebatch and a number of invited guests boarded a launch and came down the river towards the wharf.

The Premier apparently regarded the assault as something of a social occasion. A champagne picnic lunch was provided on board. Automobiles with "club-men rather jaded from a long and moist Saturday night" and ladies sped to the scene of the "fun" They met a cordon of lumpers. Lumpers were on bridges picketing, as the launch came down the river. Men, women and children, were hurrying along every road that led to the waterfront and they were armed with boulders, lumps of iron and road metal. The authorities had arranged that a private launch stand by, the Captain quickly retreated when he saw what was happening. Boys and women played an important part.

The battle on the wharf was so intense that the Police Commissioner addressed union leader McCallum saying, "For God's sake do something to keep your men back."

The Sunday morning demonstration ended with the carrying away of the wounded, but a fresh demonstration took place in the afternoon. 5000 citizens headed by 200 returned soldiers marched to the wharf at 5 p.m., raided the pickup station and threw barricades into the river.

As the crowd did this a troopship arrived in the harbour. Her decks were lined with troops. News of what was happening was semaphored to the troops, and they in return expressed their willingness to come ashore and take a hand.

The returned men virtually took over the town after the first attack. Next morning a meeting of 400 returned soldiers in Fremantle decided unanimously "that this meeting of returned soldiers viewed with alarm and disgust the act of the Government in using armed force in Fremantle, and pledge ourselves to resist any such future act of the Government."

Six police were assaulted by returned men on the Monday following the attack on the lumpers, and two other police were assaulted during the week. Returned men raided a police station. A number of nationalists were set upon by the soldiers, and the Mayor of Subiaco was forced to seek safety in flight. The executive of the Returned Soldiers Association in Perth called a meeting which broke up in disorder. Returned men marched down the streets of Fremantle requesting hotels and restaurants to refuse to serve police. Standing Orders were suspended at the weekly meeting of the Returned Soldiers' Association in Perth, and a motion, "That the Association endorsed the action of the returned soldier lumpers in their resistance to the demands made upon them by the Government, and will assist them in every way" moved by Mr. Maloney (East Perth delegate) was ruled out of order. Similar motions were rejected.

Meetings of support for the lumpers, were held throughout Western Australia.

At a meeting of 1000, a Mr. Corboy moved a motion supporting the returned soldier lumpers and said he had marks on his body of wounds, doing a job of which no workers should have been guilty, and that was fighting for the capitalist rulers of the world. They were now, after five years' insanity only just beginning to get their senses back.

The Leader of the Opposition, P. Collier MLA, together with John Curtin, addressed a mass meeting at Boulder.

Sunday, the 4th May, 1919, became known as "Bloody Sunday" in Western Australia. The One Big Union Herald asserted Edwards' funeral was "probably the most remarkable funeral of its kind in Australia." The whole of work in Fremantle stopped. The population was 25,000 and 7,000 attended the funeral in a procession a mile long, with four in a row. The flag at the Town Hall and other prominent buildings was flown at half mast. Trams ceased and trains stopped throughout the whole State for three minutes at 3 o'clock.

Edwards had worked on the goldfields as a fireman on the Golden Horseshoe mine. He was married and had four children.

The coffin, draped with "Labor's colours, blue and white" (Kalgoorlie Miner) stood in the Trades Hall from noon till 3 p.m. Workers on the wharves suspended work. The funeral procession was headed by the Fremantle Band, leading members of the Parliamentary Labor Party and all leading unionists.

The sentiment was expressed that it was hoped never such another funeral would take place in Western Australia.


Soldier riots here were directed against the Russians. There were a large number of Russians with a club in South Brisbane. During the war and after, it was illegal to fly the red flag. In Brisbane it was decided to carry the red flag in a demonstration, on March 23rd, 1919.

The march started quietly enough from the Trades Hall and the demonstrators had a permit to march. Although according to reports Russians were in the van, it was an ordinary Australian demonstration. Suddenly red flags were unfurled. When they reached the Domain they found a line of foot police and four mounted men in front of the gates which had been closed. A man (later claimed to be Norman Jeffrey) climbed a tree and began addressing the people. When it became evident that other speakers would follow, the police allowed them into the Domain.

That night a meeting was to be held at William Street, North Quay at 7.30 and as the word of the red flag display spread like wildfire 4000 to 5000 people assembled there, and a large proportion were returned soldiers. The speakers' box was seized and thrown over the bridge into the river, accompanied by the remark, "If you try that on again, you'll go over too" to a would-be speaker. A crowd of mainly returned soldiers, estimated at 500 then marched to the Russian Club headquarters in Merivale Street, South Brisbane, shouting "Down with the Bolsheviks."

The van of the march broke into a run when nearing the club rooms, but halted some twenty or thirty yards from it when three shots were fired from the club-rooms. It was later claimed two were warning shots and the third whistled over the heads of the crowd. Most ran but some stood their ground and twenty to thirty police held them back. A policeman told them he had spoken with the Russians and said there were fifty to sixty in the rooms and all were armed. They claimed they were entitled to protect their property and they said they would fight to a finish. Eventually the soldiers dispersed. The following day there was an "anti-Russian demonstration" and clash with police. Nineteen people (fourteen Police, four Returned Soldiers and one civilian) were bayoneted, bludgeoned or shot.

The injured included Mr. Urquhart, the Commissioner of Police, and Mr. Archdall, Chief Police Magistrate.

A huge Australian flag was unfurled and a speaker said, "Who let you down at the war?", "What are we going to do with this mob who let us down on the Eastern Front? We are going to put them right out of Australia and their sympathisers are going with them. The whole crowd of them will have to be wiped out."

The crowd were told by a police spokesman that Intelligence Officers had raided the Russian rooms that morning, and that some would be prosecuted. A number of shop windows had been smashed around that quarter.

Next day Mr. Theodore, the acting Premier said the incident was most unfortunate. The press raved saying "the cowardly foreign element had gone from their houses, left their property to be protected by the very police that they had wilfully insulted on the previous day". It was claimed that the "red flag demo." was made up of IWW-ites, Sinn Feiners, Socialists and Russians.

An anti-Bolshevik Society was formed and demonstrations of up to 20,000 occurred almost daily for two or three weeks. The pubs were actually made to close at 2 p.m. one day because of the situation. It was demanded that Russians be sacked from jobs and that they be deported. A huge demonstration took place outside the Standard newspaper office, because it was considered to be not strong enough against the Russians. A public apology was demanded, windows smashed and a man who kept his hat on during the singing of the National Anthem was rushed, hit and forced to sing "God Save the King." The anthem was sung repeatedly at all demonstrations and finally one of the organisers suggested it should be dropped because it resulted in too many fights.

A huge mass stood in the rain at Albert Square one night and Sergt. H. Buchanan said: "The question was who was going to govern Australia—the Australians or those dirty greasy Russians? The imported element before very long, if not deported, was going back to its Maker." They were called "the scum and sore of Society", "a cancer".

Meantime back in Melbourne the President of the Returned Soldiers & Sailors' Imperial League of Australia, Col. W. H. Bolton said: "I regret to learn that amongst the rabble that formed the procession (i.e. Red Flag Demo.) were a few men wearing the returned soldiers' badge." "Bolshevism must be stamped out," Col. Bolton continued, "and must be dealt with as a German spy would be if he was discovered behind the Australian trenches."

Rallies of returned men were held in many Queensland towns including Ipswich and Toowoomba.

A demonstration to Parliament was directed against Theodore who would not come out in a way to suit the soldiers: he was the subject of continuous attack along with the Standard. The Trades and Labor Council took a good stand. It supported the Russians and condemned brutality and savage sentences meted out, and the A.W.U. in Rockhampton carried a resolution against the soldiers. Theodore commented that he supported their sentiments. An M.L.A., E. N. Free was target of great abuse because he was a speaker on the momentous Sunday.

The soldiers claimed that the police were taking the part of the Bolsheviks.

Eleven people were arrested, not all of them were Russians. Each one, irrespective of defence was given six months, and two charged additionally with assault were given one month for the assault. Zuzenko was taken into custody of the military authorities as a preliminary to deportation. Alexander Ijusjenko, described as leader of the Russians was deported. All pleaded not guilty.

Monty Miller

Monty Miller, who gave character evidence for arrested unionist Norman Jeffrey. The inscription on the photo, from a few years later, reads "Yours for Industrial Freedom".

Norman Jeffrey, a wickerworker who was organising for the One Big Union League, and later for the Communist Party, admitted in Court that he supported the doctrine of industrial unionism, and said that although he spoke from the tree, he did not wave a red flag up there as alleged. Monty Miller gave evidence of his good character.

Jeffrey asked for an adjournment on the grounds of the inflamed state of the public mind and referred to the psychological state. Archdall, the Chief Magistrate said that this was "bordering on impudence."

Although his case lasted over three days he still got the six months. Guss Oranco said he was "proud to carry our glorious red flag and will do so whenever I wish." He recited verses and ended up "yours for the revolution".

E. N. Free M.L.A., as witness said he was proud of that day, proud of his Russian friends and of Zuzenko. Percival James used the defence that he had not waved a red flag, it was a red handkerchief. He asked for a definition of a red flag. Some official tried to look it up and announced it was not in the dictionary. James got six months.

Others sentenced were Herbert James Huggot, Hermann Bykoff, W. Elder, Edward Cahill, Jerry Cahill, Charles (or George) Taylor (or Taylour), Paul Leischmann, Ludwik Roslan and Steve Tolstoheoff.

Mr. P. Kreslin, secretary of the Russian Association said that over 1000 wanted to return to Russia but they were precluded from doing so by the Federal Government. He asked the leader of the Federal Labor opposition to send a cable to the British Labour Party with a view to having the plight of the Russians in Australia brought before the House of Commons, so that permission may be obtained for them to return to Russia.

On April 9th it was announced in the press that Federal Parliament had decided that a number of Russians would be deported and landed at Odessa, and that wives could go too.

Some Russians were kept in Darlinghurst gaol pending deportation. They protested at gaol conditions and their wives being left without any provision for their welfare. An appeal in support of them was signed by a number of prominent Russians in Sydney.


On Sunday, June 29th, 1919, police fired into an unarmed crowd of men, women and children. Seven men were wounded (one had three bullets inside him), and were taken to hospital.

A meatworkers' strike was in progress, on the issue of preference to unionists. Leaders, Carney and Kelly (returned soldiers) were arrested, and bail refused. It was in connection with these issues that the people were meeting. The day following the shooting a large crowd assembled, and a substantial section favoured the securing of arms. The Strike committee members opposed this and speakers said they believed they could win the strike without rioting. When J. Dash said, "If we went to the Court house or the gaol, what good could we do?", a returned soldier retorted "You are not the sort of man who went to the front!" The meeting broke up and some people raided hardware shops, seized all guns (approximately 200) and ammunition. The police fearing the armed men, then offered to allow bail to Carney and Kelly if the firearms were returned. The offer was ignored but one of the men was given bail, the other being apparently too ill to leave gaol.

The Queensland Government was Labor. It held a special Cabinet meeting and issued a Proclamation ordering the return of the firearms. All available police were despatched to Townsville via Charters Towers. The Proclamation was signed by T. J. Ryan, Premier and Attorney General, June 30, 1919. Two hundred police arrived per special train at Charters Towers and the railway workers held it up, resulting in the suspension of sixteen who were later disrated.

On July 6th a mass meeting of combined unions decided—"That we the unionists of Townsville, congratulate the railway workers of Charters Towers on refusing to convey the Labor Party's police to reinforce the police at Townsville, when we are standing for our rights as unionists in demanding preference to unionists at Alligator Creek and Ross River Meatworks."

The Strike Committee wired the Premier asking for an enquiry into the shooting and the reason bail was refused Carney and Kelly.

The Returned Sailors and Soldiers Labor League carried a resolution: "That we protest against the police firing into an unarmed crowd on Sunday night last and this meeting demands a public enquiry from the Minister of Justice."

The Australian Meat Industry Employees' Union repudiated Arbitration.

Six of the seven injured men were still in hospital. Carney (on bail) moved a "protest against the Hunnish police methods in searching houses in gun raids." The searching of houses for firearms caused a lot more hostility and it was claimed that men and boys charged with petty offences were brutally assaulted by the police whom it was hard to identify since they had ceased wearing their numbers.

When Kelly and Carney came before the Court the case was dismissed.

The book Solidarity Forever! is Copyright © the estate of Bertha Walker 1972.

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