What if Jack Lang had not been dismissed?

Fear not, there would be a bloody revolution here before we would allow that criminal lunatic Lang in N.S.W. and his following to have their way.

—Herbert Brookes to the British Consul-General in the United States.

The Lang years highlight the clash of two ideologies, socialism and fascism. In the middle of this clash was the New South Wales Constitution.

But what might have happened had Game the NSW Governor not dismissed Lang, the NSW Premier? Andrew Moore investigates the possibility….

By Andrew Moore. 

J.T. Lang
On 14 June 1932 the headlines of the Northern, Daily Leader shrieked: 'Retreat from Moscow. Crushing Defeat of Lang Army'. The military analogy seems misplaced. But behind the veneer of constitutionality — the considered actions of an impartial adjudicator,
Sir Philip Game, leading to the dismissal of the Lang government on 13 May 1932 and to its electoral demise on 11 June—lay a rich tapestry of intrigue, together with military and paramilitary initiatives. Horace Nock later maintained: 'Never in Australia's history had any of her States approached so closely to bloodshed and revolution'. Referring to the dismissal, H.E. Manning, Attorney-General in the incoming Stevens-Bruxner government, suggested: 'If . . Lang had remained in power another twenty four hours our State would have been involved in revolution'.

This article looks at the accuracy of Nock and Manning's pronouncements. Were they simply being melodramatic and resorting to hyperbole? How close was civil war in New South Wales? If a conflagration had broken out what form would it have taken?

The summer of 1931-32 was appallingly hot. Clergymen and their congregations in western New South Wales prayed for relief as the mercury soared to 115 degrees (Fahrenheit) in towns such as White Cliffs, Condobolin and Wilcannia. For some the weather seemed to presage a descent into the fires of Hades for which the 'mad mullah' premier and his atheistic doctrines were largely responsible. While the New Guard conducted its abortive publicity stunt at Cobar, fears mounted about a plan of deliberate incendiarism being conducted 'along WWI Iines'. The Old Guard issued a bulletin suggesting: 'Rumours are to heard of an attempt to be made later in the season to place country people out of action temporarily by series of fires, etc. Extra precautions against fires is [sic] suggested. Any such outbreaks may serve as a general warning.'

In response special fire patrols were raised and a burgeoning of interest in the raising or updating of country bush fire brigades took place across New South Wales. In areas where European agriculture had been conducted for eighty years ad hoc arrangements were replaced with systematic quasi-military organisations. Members of the Old Guard were prime movers behind these developments.

The heat affected calm, reasonable judgment. People like Sir Henry Braddon were at their wits' end. 'If only lightning would strike the brute [i.e. Lang] — and obliterate him from the stage he so dangerously stalks', Braddon declared in private correspondence Even the most moderate of the paramilitary organisations, the Old Guard, was swayed into believing that Lang's pronouncement at the Sydney Eight Hour Day dinner in October 1931 that 'the revolution has come' meant that 'all private property, enterprise and freedom of thought and action would soon be abolished'. Fear rapidly displaced any semblance of balanced judgment. Dalgety's representatives were advised to carry revolvers and refrain from hailing taxis, particularly around Pyrmont, lest they be waylaid by radicals.

There were, nevertheless, two rather contradictory ideas circulating about the future of the Lang government. Apart from the sense of frustration and unalloyed fear for the future which Braddon expressed, by January 1932 others felt that the Lang government was living on borrowed time. Perhaps there was even a measure of confidence that the nightmare would surely end soon and this might have reflected some inside knowledge about the events which would precipitate the premier's demise. In early 1932 Philip Goldfinch, for instance, was taking bets from members of the Union Club that all their troubles would soon be over.

On the other hand there was no absolute guarantee that the wayward premier's chaotic path could be arrested until everything in the capitalist china shop was broken. Indeed the sudden dismissal of the Lang government could in itself trigger civil commotion to which the Old Guard must respond. As this chapter will show, the premier's rhetoric and those of his supporters became ever more tempestuous and his actions leading up to his dismissal have no parallel in Australian history. The reality was that Lang was simply fighting for the survival of his government using very unorthodox means, but it was not outlandish for members of the Old Guard and the New Guard to interpret his actions as being dangerously radical. To such people the age of Cronos seemed to be returning.

The Lang government had two ways of ensuring its survival. The first was by making some headway with an obstructive Legislative Council, specifically by arranging the Council's destruction through swamping it with additional Labor appointments. This strategy had been set in motion shortly after the 1930 elections and focused upon the repeal of a clause the Bavin government had inserted into the New South Wales constitution which provided that no bill for abolition of the Legislative Council could be presented for Royal Assent without a prior referendum taking place. Lang had ignored this stipulation, thereby precipitating a complicated and protracted series of legal maneuvers collectively known as the Trethowan case. The former 1917 'farmers' army' commandant, A.K. Trethowan, and another member of the Legislative Council were granted an injunction restraining its president, Sir John Peden, from presenting Lang's bills for abolishing the Council without a prior referendum. This led to drawn-out legal disputation contested in the Supreme Court of New South Wales, the High Court of Australia and the Privy Council in London, with Trethowan and a growing entourage of ruling-class interests responsible for the injunction on one side, the Lang government On the other. Between January and May 1932 paramilitary as well as legal luminaries awaited the outcome of the Privy Council appeal with bated breath. At an Old Guard conference in Sydney in April 1932 it was agreed that 'the Upper House decision is the crux of the present situation. If the verdict is in favour of the Premier he might impose taxation which will be sufficient for him to carry on, but it is conceded that if the decision is against him we [i.e. the Old Guard] may be called into action 'at once'. Ultimately, even though the Privy Council decision did go against Lang it proved to be irrelevant to the Old Guard, for it was not handed down until 31 May 1932, two weeks after the premier had been dismissed.

The second straw to which Lang clung proved to be central to the problem of maintaining 'law and order' in New South Wales. It broadly concerned the continuation of the Lang Plan's repudiation of interest payments to British bondholders, the Commonwealth government's legislative response and the resulting impasse between the two governments. Yet as far as Lang was concerned this strategy served to tighten rather than loosen the hangman's noose. And its associated twists and turns determined both the terrain and the chronology of a possible civil war. For that reason it warrants detailed exposition.

On 29 January 1932 Lang announced that New South Wales would be £0.5 million short of interest commitments of £0.959 million. Under the Financial Agreement, 1928, embodied in Section 105A added to the Commonwealth constitution in 1929, New South Wales was obliged to pay interest due to overseas bondholders through the Commonwealth government. In the event of a State's default the Commonwealth Loan Council was committed to the payment of outstanding moneys. In April 1931 the Scullin government had allowed Lang to foist his debts on to the Loan Council.

But the glorious restoration of 19 December 1931 had brought to power a UAP government led by J.A. Lyons and comprised of a significant number of Old Guard and League of National Security leaders, such as Aubrey Abbott (Gwydir), Horace Nock (Riverina), Walter McNicoll (Werriwa) and E.H. Harrison (Bendigo). In New South Wales the conservative forces had conducted the election campaign as though Lang, and not Scullin, was the prime minister and clearly regarded their victory as the lesser component of a two-tiered approach towards the restoration of normalcy. On 22 December 1931 the future premier, B.S.B. Stevens, wrote to Abbott in affectionate, enthusiastic tones:

My dear Aubrey,
We shall have to concentrate now on getting J.T. Lang out of the way. If we can succeed in that we shall give Australia a chance.

After seeking constitutional and legal advice and invoking the cause of the future of Australian credit abroad, the Lyons government set out to destroy the New South Wales government.

On 18 February 1932, after waiting two weeks before meeting the outstanding interest, the Commonwealth introduced in Federal Parliament the infamous garnishee bill, known as the 'Bruce Grab Act' in State ALP circles but more formally entitled the Financial Agreements Enforcement Act. The main provision of this Act enabled the Commonwealth to recover moneys from a defaulting State's revenue.

It was quickly apparent that the legislation would instigate amazing scenes. On 11 March 1932 the Act received final approval from both the Senate and House of Representatives. Lang responded by withdrawing over £1.0 million from two private banks, impounding it in the State Treasury and announcing that he would contest the Act's validity before the High Court. The Labor Daily warned the Commonwealth government that 'civil war was the logical outcome of its mad purpose'. On 6 April 1932 the High Court announced its decision that the enforcement legislation was valid. The following day the Labor Daily again aptly expressed the feelings of the Labor community, calling the decision 'A license for War' and adding, 'the war is on. Labor takes up the challenge'.

As share prices rose in leaps and bounds on the Sydney Stock Exchange, Lyons moved in for the kill. On 7 April he issued a proclamation directing all taxpayers to pay income tax to the Commonwealth Bank. Lang announced that he would appeal and on 8 April caused the doors of the State Treasury to be dramatically locked and barred, thereby preventing the Commonwealth from perusing official records.

The atmosphere became increasingly tense. As cables from New Zealand brought news of serious rioting in Auckland the Commonwealth instigated far-reaching amendments to the enforcement legislation, requiring the attachment of further State revenues to federal coffers. The State income tax commissioner was given until 12 May 1932 to hand over all assessment notices. On 21 April the High Court announced the reasons for its decision and the next day denied Lang's right of appeal to the Privy Council.

The State's finances seemed to be on the verge of collapse. Child endowment cheques and other pensions were not honoured. Ominous announcements were made to the effect that all State services may soon have to cease. The salaries of State public service employees were one matter, but the implications of the non-payment of unemployment relief or police wages greatly concerned those who believed in maintaining 'law and order'. Minor panics had already occurred in some centres when food relief orders had been delayed.' As a last desperate measure to put the State's finances back on to an even keel Lang rushed through a bill imposing a 10 per cent capital levy on all mortgages. This legislation, the Mortgages Taxation Bill, was 'hardly conceivable' to the business community. Lady David collapsed and was consigned to bed when the bill passed through the Upper House.' The office of Minter Simpson & Co. worked overtime bringing clients up to date. It also drafted a petition to Governor Game on behalf of AML&F, Dalgety's, New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Australian Estates & Mortgage Co. Ltd as well as the ES&A and Union Banks imploring him to reserve his assent on the grounds that it would 'impose great hardship upon our shareholders and would result immediately in a state of financial chaos' in New South Wales. Coded telegrams were sent to Melbourne and London after a hurried conference between these parties in the offices of AML&F to reiterate the substance of the petition. But despite the swiftness of its passage, the bill failed to save the Lang government. The Commonwealth government passed legislation to nullify it. Of course Lang may have expected this and could have been hoping, as the Sydney office of New Zealand Loan and Mercantile suggested, to achieve 'something that will serve the purpose for "window dressing" that will appeal to mob psychology'.

On 10 May 1932 the premier issued a circular to all government officials aimed at ensuring that State public moneys were withheld from the Commonwealth, its directives instructed State employees to disobey the terms of Lyons's earlier proclamations. Governor Game learnt of the circular on 12 May 1932. On 13 May, just ten days after he had proclaimed at Narromine 'it is the duty of the people and not of the State Governor to find a way out of the trouble,' the governor issued Lang with his marching orders on the grounds that the premier had issued and refused to withdraw a circular which contravened Commonwealth law. But, as was obvious at the time, there was more involved than one 'illegal' circular and Lang's subsequent obstinacy.

Before the dismissal, while the legal wrangling continued and the two governments exchanged vitriolic letters and telegrams, there was a growing assumption that a recourse to violence would settle the political impasse.

The respective law enforcement and security agencies of State and Commonwealth governments were shaping up to each other as foes. Their normally amicable relations soured. In July 1931 the Defence Department had authorised the handing over of a large number of steel helmets and 10 000 cartridges to the New South Wales police. Archival evidence suggests that in early 1932 Commonwealth authorities were concerned that their bullets might be returned, with interest, by medium of a rifle barrel.

In March 1932 Military Intelligence first detected the cooling of relations with the New South Wales police and with W.J. MacKay in particular. Immediately after the dramatic scenes at the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge on 19 March a Naval Intelligence officer had reason to interview MacKay but found that he was 'definitely hostile and refused to render any assistance'. The Commonwealth authorities were appalled. Nervous high-level correspondence passed between Brigadier Heritage at Paddington, Chief of General Staff Major General J.H. Bruche, the chief of naval staff and Sir George Pearce, minister for defence, with regard to 'the possibility of conflict between the Commonwealth and the State'. On 6 April 1932 Military Intelligence remained concerned about the 'extremely delicate' relations between State and Commonwealth which had brought about a situation that was 'potentially very dangerous.'

MacKay had made an instant decision to support the Lang government, which he had previously treated rather shabbily. The premier's emphatic stand left him little option. Careerist motives no doubt also influenced Mackay's new-found, unqualified loyalty to the State government. These bore fruit on 30 March 1932 when Mackay was appointed acting metropolitan superintendent. Rothbury was forgiven but not forgotten.

The army, navy and air force came perilously close to implementing their 'Internal Security Scheme' without a request for assistance from the State government. Some of its measures had already been carried out. In May 1932 arrangements were made for naval personnel to be stationed and armed outside various government buildings including the GPO and Commonwealth Bank in Martin Place, the studios of 2BL and numerous city and suburban telephone exchanges. Troop movements were uncomfortably obvious. All leave was stopped. Special arrangements were made for securing arms and ammunition by storing locks and bolts in the vaults of the Commonwealth Bank head office and branches. Tanks were observed rumbling through the back streets of Randwick. In April 1932 a direct telephone link was installed between Victoria Barracks, Garden Island and Customs House where the IB had its offices to facilitate emergency communications. In early May 1932 residents of Richmond noticed a hive of activity at the RAAF aerodrome, in particular the fitting out of a number of motor lorries with barbed wire and machine guns. The commanding officer at the Richmond RAAF base, Wing Commander W.D. Bostock, told his men that a recent conference of senior service commanders had heard representatives of the prime minister express concern 'about how the NSW Police Force might act in the event of an eyeball to eyeball confrontation between Commonwealth and State'. It had been agreed that the services should be ready to adopt a police role. At the cost of £2500 per month Sir George Pearce wanted an additional navy destroyer to be held in reserve in the vicinity of Sydney to 'constitute an effective way of dealing with any emergency that may arise'.

Draft instructions were being prepared for the declaration of martial law. The adjutant-general had prepared a submission calling for the imposition of martial law on 9 May 1932. Major General Bruche had compiled a similar memo for the attorney general's department. On 12 May, Pearce placed the matter before the acting attorney-general, A.J. McLachlan. On the same day Bruche left Melbourne for Sydney 'on department business' that conceivably entailed supervision of the mobilisation of the armed forces.

There was, however, to be no military junta. Interestingly, there seems to have been more than a modicum of suspicion among the senior naval staff that their army counterparts might have been up to no good. But Bruche was a minion, not an independent actor. It does not even seem likely that military personnel would have been used in any direct connection with the garnishee bill. Nevertheless, in the emotionally charged atmosphere of May 1932 any deployment of military personnel in 'defensive' measures, principally in safeguarding Commonwealth property, would still have been distinctly provocative as well as constitutionally unjustified, for clearly the State government was unlikely to make any request for assistance. And the implications of implementing martial law in this situation were quite profound. The police force may not have been inclined to submit passively to military control. The labour movement may not have reacted favourably to the suspension of civil liberties. A show of force by the military authorities was not out of the question.

There was a perverse circularity to the various initiatives and responses instigated by Commonwealth and State authorities. In reality Lang had no intention of attacking the Commonwealth government but events assumed a momentum of their own. A common reaction to fear is aggression, so the situation became even more delicate. Even though Lyons was the principal aggressor, throughout the crisis Lang set new yardsticks for demagoguery. Labor gatherings thundered defiance. Senator 'Digger' Dunn declaimed, 'If it is fight they want we will give it to them'. Labor supporters wrote to Lang assuring him of their support 'to the last ditch'. Lang's retaliatory measures were far from half-hearted. Apart from engaging unemployed members of the Timberworkers' Union to guard the State Treasury, the premier was in the process of recruiting a force of special constables, an event which his political opponents would later see as a vindication of their own 'defensive' measures and proof positive that Lang was indeed orchestrating 'a ruthless militaristic attempt at Sovietism'. Special forms had been printed and efforts made to enrol members of the State public service in a force of 25 000.

More than anything else, this piece of intelligence sent shivers of horror down the spines of all conservatives, particularly those connected with the Commonwealth government. Longfield Lloyd made a special trip to Canberra on the night of 21 April 1932 to show a copy of one of the forms to Major Jones. Combined with the announcement that the ALA was reforming its ranks, huffs and puffs from the WDC and the Constitutional Guard and the unanimous pledging of physical support by union and labour organisations, the owning class's worst nightmare—the fear that any force of special constables raised by a radical State Labor government would be used for revolutionary rather than counter revolutionary purposes— seemed to be realising itself. Frederic Hinton considered that there was 'every possibility of Lang quickly putting us under a labour dictatorship with thousands of his supporters sworn in as specials and armed'.

The New South Wales police were to form an important bulwark in Lang's defence against the 'Federal bushrangers'. An internal reorganisation facilitated MacKay's promotion and ensured that the no-nonsense strong-arm man was in a position of considerable authority. One rather unreliable source, Liberty, reported that senior police officers were summoned to headquarters and asked to sign a declaration that they were prepared to defend the government of New South Wales against possible federal aggression or else resign from the force. Even this extreme claim does not strain credulity for the New Guard was not without contacts within the police department. Throughout April 1932 large squads of police drilled in the early morning at suburban parks and ovals. The climax of the political message Lang was expressing occurred on 29 April when a parade of 1500 policemen filed through the streets of Sydney. The Labor Daily on 30 April displayed a most uncharacteristic pride and regard for the police force, describing this event as the march of 'The Army of Democracy and Decency'. Conservative journals rushed to remind police officers that their first loyalty was to the King and not to an elected government. Major Combes of Military Intelligence observed the march with the critical eye of a confident adversary, caustically remarking: 'The march past was carried out in eights and the standard of drill was not very high. The Staff work was faulty, especially at the saluting base.'

Sydney was not the only city to be gripped by a siege mentality. As part of their concern about 'the possibility of conflict between the Commonwealth and the State' in May 1932 the IB and military authorities believed that an attack on Canberra was possible, perhaps even imminent. In their view its isolation and proximity to Sydney, as well as its small number of regular police, made it vulnerable. Sinister motives were attached to local newspaper reports that 'the Sydney Canberra road is unusually heavy with unemployed heading towards this district', even though the unemployed involved were doubtless only looking for work. Accordingly, in view of 'the possibilities of local disorder' steps were taken to ensure that the nation's capital was safe from Lang's Goulburn Street 'gangsters'. At the personal request of the prime minister, whose equilibrium was no doubt disturbed by a number of death threats and who spent the period of crisis on the verge of a nervous breakdown,33 the Canberra and Bungendore troops of the 7th Light Horse were detailed to attend an eight-day camp on the outskirts of Canberra, giving the impression that they were engaged in routine exercises but they were in fact on constant alert lest their services be required to defend Parliament House and Commonwealth administrative offices.

In addition, Major Jones, in his dual capacity as director of the IB and Commonwealth/FCT police commissioner, organised a force of 200 peace officers to swell the ranks of the local constabulary. Scientists employed by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, public servants, former Duntroon Royal Military College personnel, footballers and cricketers, all enrolled. The Defence Department assigned a cache of revolvers and a large quantity of ammunition. The Victorian Police department provided 75 wooden batons. A Lewis machine gun was earmarked for the use of Duntroon graduates. Complicated arrangements were set in place to ensure that other government officials, first the secretary of the Prime Minister's Department and after him the solicitor-general, could stand in for Jones, the linchpin of Lyons's peace officers, should he be absent, wounded or killed in battle. If the militia forces were mobilised they were ordered to confer with Jones or one of his deputies and then protect Parliament House and government administrative offices as their 'first object'. If any 'intruders' had gained access to these buildings the troops were to 'take action forthwith to eject them'.

The fear that the rustic charm of the bush capital was in imminent danger of despoilment by angry Lang Planners or the unemployed is one of the more unlikely propositions of a paranoid era. But in May 1932 Lyons, Jones, Heritage, Pearce and Bruche could all hear the ungodly clatter of machine guns echoing through the valley of the Molonglo. At all times Major Jones reportedly carried a 'portable swearing-in-set with Bible and everything complete, so he could do a little legal swearing when the moment was propitious'. A spirited, if brief, exchange took place in the House of Representatives on 11 May 1932 when the Labor MHR for Hindmarsh, N. Makin, attacked Lyons's 'alarmist's tactics' regarding the formation of the Canberra peace officers. Lyons stressed the propriety of 'justin-case', 'action after the event might be too late' logic which underpinned all counter-revolutionary organisation. Aubrey Abbott was silent but his political mentor, Victor Thompson, commented: 'I have received letters from good types of men in my own electorate, asking that if a special police force is to be appointed at Canberra their claim should be considered.' Even though those responsible for Canberra's 'defence' hoped that their arrangements made 'the people at Canberra . . . more easy in their minds', the city was in a state of panic. On the day before Lang was dismissed pandemonium broke out in one store at Civic Centre when customers mistook a vehicle flying a red flag, containing General Higgins, leader of the Salvation Army, for the arrival of the Red Army. In common with the military's preparations to implement their 'Internal Security Scheme' in Sydney, or for that matter Lang's organising of special constables, the 'defensive' arrangements to cope with possible civil commotion in Canberra added to, rather than diminished the volatility of the political situation in general. Emotions, once aroused, cannot easily be placated; 'armies', once assembled and primed up to 'fight the good fight', are difficult to disperse.

The Lyons government was a formidable representative of capital, but it was only one of four avenging horsemen at Lang's apocalypse. An analysis of the actions of the other three, in ascending order of importance, the new-states movements, the New Guard and the Old Guard, illuminates further the extent of agitation and intrigue which occurred in the early months of 1932 and underscores the degree to which such maneuvering and the unstable political situation which accompanied and resulted from it, was the expression of class interests. Examination of the activities of these organisations, in particular the group collaborating with the Commonwealth government, leads us towards a new understanding of the events of 13 May 1932.


In the financial stringencies facing the Lang government the leaders of the amalgamated country separatist movements comprising the United Country Movement (UCM) perceived the creation of a situation whereby their aims seemed realisable.

There was enthusiasm rather than disappointment in Charles Hardy's admonition to an audience at Scone in early April 1932:

I believe that in the next few days you are going to face the greatest crisis in the State . . . there may be a time when an attempt is made to prostitute the Constitution and if that day comes I will stand outside the law and stand for the preservation of the Commonwealth . . . I know we may have to endanger our own personal liberty in the next few days.

As was suggested in Chapter 2, the Riverina Movement's hopes for altering the equation of government lay with the collapse of the Lang government. This now seemed imminent. In late April 1932, Earle Page vividly enunciated the short-term hopes for the future of the new states movements when he stated: 'the present paralysis would end in chaos and anarchy and the countrymen would be forced to take the lead themselves by creating their own governments which would obey the Federal law and constitution, protect the people, help the workless and defy the rebel elements in the community.'

On 6 May 1932 an official press release stressed that provisional councils were ready to assume control of government and administration. All concerned had been warned. 'Whatever may happen in the city', the statement counselled, 'there will be r.o revolution in the country districts, and there will be no chaos.

These utterances were not idle boasts. The impudence of the demands and actions of the UCM was considerable. On 8 April 1932 a meeting of the UCM executive in Sydney telegraphed Lyons demanding a referendum that would permit the '. . . immediate reconstruction of the state of New South Wales into smaller federal units'. The respectable Country Party politicians were uncharacteristically militant and proceeded to set out 'in great detail' a course of action should the Commonwealth decline their demand. Local conventions at Armidale, Wagga and Dubbo would appoint provisional governments which would seek recognition from the Commonwealth, organise a referendum for the ratification of a State constitution and assume the functions of administration pending the election of a provisional legislature. In calling for an immediate 'blitzkrieg' the then Senator Hardy was 'theatrical'. Michael Bruxner, who sat beside B.S.B. Stevens after the June elections as the newly elected premier assured the propertied classes in a radio message, 'you can go to bed now, for the country is safe', was, at this 8 April meeting, 'bellicose'.

Ultimately a call for moderation was successful and the UCM executive resolved to delay the implementation of this plan until Lang committed one more 'overt act'. Senator Dunn later argued that Hardy had transformed the countryside into an 'armed camp' and exposed further details of Hardy's plans which suggested he 'had a complete organisation, military and administrative', with drivers ready to rush proclamations to 400 rural centres, a twelve-man emergency parliament waiting in the wings and a military organisation capable of defending leaders from arrest.

Whether or not Dunn's allegations possessed any substance this section of the rural rebellion halted when Page visited Melbourne to inform Lyons of the secession proposals. The harassed prime minister advanced a step closer to his impending breakdown, told Page that secession would only intensify the conflict surrounding him and warned that if the UCM proceeded without his consent the Commonwealth government might be impelled to act against the movement.


While Hardy and his associates were turning the countryside into an 'armed camp' the New Guard was also flexing its muscles. On 13 February 1932, 700 New Guardsmen drilled at Belmore. Several reporters from the World who attempted to take photographs were assaulted. Four days later the New Guard conducted a major transport exercise at Lansdowne Bridge and, at Coffs Harbour on the same day, thirteen New Guardsmen were arrested after violently disrupting a meeting addressed by Alderman Donald Grant. On 26 February 1932 unemployed meetings were broken up in Newtown and Bankstown, a parade was held in Lakemba and meetings were conducted in Rose Bay, Double Bay, Woollahra and Bondi as part of a 'general mobilisation'. Throughout February 1932 there were zone inspections of between 300 and 1500 men held every Saturday. In all, twenty large gatherings took place including another Town Hall 'Monster Rally' on 18 February at which all present raised their right arm in a fascist salute while taking a solemn oath of allegiance to the New Guard and its determination to crush communism. On 19 March 1932 Captain Francis de Groot staged his dubious display of horsemanship and was promptly escorted to Darlinghurst Reception Centre. Charged with offensive behaviour, his trial at the Central Police Court in Liverpool Street on 1 April 1932 provoked a violent encounter between the police and members of the New Guard's elite Mobile Unit. On 21 April 1932 there was further military drilling at Killara and, at around 2.00 am on 6 May 1932, 'Jock' Garden was bashed at his home in Maroubra by eight members of the Fascist Legion, a secretive inner group within the New Guard whose members wore Ku Klux Klan-style hoods and gowns. The Anzac Rifle Range near Liverpool army camp saw New Guardsmen drilling and practising baton charges on 8 May 1932. Three days later secret drilling took place at Beecroft and in the vicinity of Tom Ugly's bridge. Between January and May 1932 the tenor of pronouncements by leading New Guardsmen became increasingly extreme. 'The time is finished for talk',

Campbell thundered at Chatswood on 3 March. At St Ives on 20 February he declared:

Every New Guardsman should be prepared to come out if called upon with very short notice carrying 24 hours food supply, and it is anticipated that your services will be required before the end of the month. There is a very dirty job to be carried out. If you fellows were armed a few redcoats or a few bluecoats would not stop us. I must emphasise the necessity of the New Guard in force, for if we fail we are in a mess.

The New Guard's mounting pugnacity is also evident in instructions Campbell issued for 'Street fighting'on 2 May 1932. These included directives for marching in formation, rifle carriage ('bayonets fixed') and advice about 'the clearance of strongly held buildings' where revolvers, rifles, tear gas and grenades were to be employed, depending upon the level of resistance encountered. At the same time headquarters sent out a questionnaire to elicit the opinion of every New Guardsman about the lengths to which the organisation should go 'to achieve its object'.

Campbell declared: 'I only want fighters, who, should the emergency arise, will be prepared to smite or be smitten.

While some of the evidence may have been exaggerated, or perhaps even fabricated by the New South Wales police, there is a solid body of testimony confirming that Campbell had plans to dissolve parliament and end the Lang regime. Some of the methods he contemplated were merely naive. Others may have been more seditious. Campbell considered that a week's organised, peaceful civil disobedience might persuade the governor to act. If properly executed, the concentration of several thousand New Guardsmen in the vicinity of Parliament House could conceivably embroil and isolate police officers in a large thronging crowd. In this case they would be unable to prevent members of the Lang government from being turned out into the street—unless they drew their firearms and fired 'indiscriminately upon, say 20,000 citizens of normally good repute'. The New Guard also prepared a mammoth petition to dispatch to King George V imploring him to 'cause the dissolution of the present Legislative Assembly of New South Wales so that the Electors may decide the question of dealing with Disloyalists and Communists'. Campbell had talked of leading a procession of 100 000 men down Macquarie Street to deliver the petition. Governor Game tried to stall the presentation by at least six weeks, pleading other engagements, but finally, on 11 March 1932, after much correspondence between Lloyd and Jones on the subject, and with a number of policemen hidden in a garage—the inference being that Campbell was likely to run amok at any moment—the governor tensely accepted the petition from a twelve-man deputation and then abruptly dismissed them.

Evidence drawn from archival, oral and manuscript sources suggests that the New Guard was also considering mounting a coup d'etat and incarcerating the State Cabinet in either disused hulks moored off Kuringai Chase or in Berrima gaol. The evidence, however, must be carefully weighed up, for some of it cannot be taken at face value. For instance Detective Constable Alford's assertion that on 3 March 1932 the Council of Action of the New Guard had intended to 'set up a dictatorship' after throwing 'armed battalions of New Guardsmen across the lines of approach to Sydney', cutting off the electric light from Bunnerong power station, and then under the cover of darkness overthrowing Parliament and seizing all government departments, is certainly one of the most damning pieces of evidence against the New Guard. Yet while Alford's statement was delivered under oath and one would surely not expect a policeman to mislead deliberately under any conditions, some of the circumstances of its exposition warrant elaboration. Alford's allegations were made five days after the change in government. By this time the police, and Alford's superiors, W.J. MacKay in particular, were increasingly in the position of needing to justify their stern countermeasures against the New Guard. The incoming Stevens-Bruxner government was far less impressed with MacKay's apparent antifascism than Lang and Gosling had been. Amidst rumours that he had allowed his prosecution of the New Guard to deter his surveillance of communists there was innuendo that MacKay might be asked to stand down. For their part the police wished to sustain the momentum behind their 'seditious conspiracy' case against the New Guard but on this issue the incoming administration was already showing signs of wavering. Detective Constable Alford, therefore, could be forgiven for displaying a certain amount of inventiveness, but he was an outstanding detective and there was, without doubt, a kernel of truth in his allegations

Similar reservations must be applied to other sections of the evidence attesting to the New Guard's plans to use Berrima gaol as a detention centre for the State Cabinet. Much of the archival evidence supporting this claim is especially lurid and complete to the finest detail. Material in a hitherto unused Premier's Department file suggests that two of Campbell's most trusted confidants had been directed to proceed to Berrima to produce a plan of the gaol and assess its suitability as a prison and garrison by noting all approaches, means of defence and suitable places for mounting machine guns. The lessee of the gaol, this file suggests, was enrolled as a member of the New Guard and helped prepare a summary of the position of dark cells, the numbers which could be accommodated and suitable places for cookhouses, officers' quarters, latrines and water supply. It even appears that a Berrima grazier offered the services of his plane and that Campbell made it clear that if Lang or any other prisoners tried to escape they should be shot. One of the more comic opera touches to this file is the suggestion that there was a New Guardsman disguised as a swaggie continuously stationed in the grounds of Lang's farm at Ebenezer with a motor cycle dispatch rider standing by at Cattai. All, it seems, lay in readiness. But is this evidence to be believed?

The provenance of this information must be examined. Much of it is drawn from the sworn statement of one Herbert Symonds Poynton and was again important to the police for the part it could have played in their 'seditious conspiracy' case against the New Guard.

Poynton is a mysterious figure. A labourer residing in Newtown, he claimed to have joined the New Guard in July 1931 because he was 'against the communist party activities, and the New Guard claimed to be against revolution'. Initially attached to New Guard intelligence Poynton's first duty was to draw plans of unemployed camps on the South Coast. He was then assigned to act as a personal bodyguard to Colonel Campbell, riding around with him late at night between New Guard meetings, a position which, Poynton claimed, meant that he had access to the New Guard leader in his more reflective and, by implication, sincere moments.

About three days before the opening of the Harbour Bridge Campbell allegedly said to Poynton:

'Do you think it possible for the New Guard to kidnap Lang and several others? . . . [I]t is only a matter of finding good men to do the job and it will be done immediately.'

Following this conversation Poynton reputedly took charge of organising the kidnapping attempt and accordingly it took shape as has already been outlined. Poynton told police that Campbell was well pleased with his labours and assured him that the kidnapping would take place shortly.

On 12 May 1932 Poynton unburdened himself to Detective Constable Delaney, later a police commissioner of some notoriety, at CIB headquarters. As befitted a document that would potentially play a central part in the police prosecution of the New Guard, Poynton's statement was carefully examined and the most juicy titbits, including the proposition that at one stage Inspector MacKay was also on the kidnapping list, marked and annotated.

Exactly what led Herbert Poynton to CIB headquarters must clearly be a matter for debate. He claimed to have become disenchanted with the New Guard. He said he persisted with the kidnapping plot so that, if it took place, he would be able to protect the premier. In the forbidding atmosphere of a police interrogation room he was unlikely to have claimed otherwise. Poynton also maintained that he stayed a member of the New Guard so that if it did become a revolutionary organisation 'in the interests of the State and law and order someone should know their movements'.

This does not ring true and several constructions could be placed on his evidence. One is that he was simply one of those unbalanced souls who regularly appear in police stations to confess to imaginary crimes. But his role as Campbell's bodyguard and intelligence agent can be confirmed by other testimony, so it seems that, at least in part, his story was genuine. Another possibility is that Poynton was a paid police informer and agent. This is certainly how Campbell interpreted his role. Poynton is recognisable as the unnamed ' "eye" for police H.Q.' to whom Campbell refers in The Rallying Point. Campbell opines that this 'lad . . . both helpful and obliging—a kind of Puss-in-Boots' would accompany him as a volunteer escort and suggests that Norman Plomley, the New Guard's chief of intelligence, would deliberately feed Poynton information that was 'really spicy to take back to his masters'. Why Plomley should court disaster in this way is open to conjecture but there is another explanation for Poynton's behaviour: he might have been working as a spy within the New Guard, not for the police, but for Jack Lang.

This might throw light on why a worker from the inner city joined the New Guard in the first place. It could also explain how material from Poynton's statement of 12 May came to be in the possession of JA ('Stabber Jack') Beasley, one of Lang's Supporters in Federal Parliament, who read extracts from it in the House on 13 May 1932. And Poynton does seem to have had left-wing sympathies. Many years later his behaviour as a union representative on a construction site at Liverpool brought him to the attention of the intelligence services and on 10 August 1950 his presence in a courtroom where the publisher of Tribune was being charged with writing seditious words was also noted by an intelligence agent. Yet Poynton also seems to have been rather erratic. In the course of attempting to discover Poynton's whereabouts in the Second World War in order to make him pay for his volumes of Dr Bean's war history, the intelligence services tracked him to Kempsey where it was suggested, he was claiming to be a secret service agent. The New South Wales deputy director of security noted 'this is not correct.' The mystery of Poynton's allegiances will probably never be solved. For our purposes it is simply worth noting that the results of his sleuthing within and on behalf of the New Guard were decidedly amateurish and that his testimony must be treated with caution.

It should be emphasised that the reliability or otherwise of Poynton's testimony does not dismiss the proposition that the New Guard was intending to kidnap the premier and, as Lang later wrote, install 'a quasi-military dictatorship with the High Command of the New Guard supplying the strong right arm of government'. The already-cited buildup of New Guard drilling between January and May 1932, the growing militancy of Campbell's invective, graphic references in internal New Guard documents to 'street-fighting techniques 'by combatants who would 'smite or be smitten', all of these suggest that Campbell really did believe that the 'time [had] finished for talk'. Longfield Lloyd's spies also informed him that the New Guard had plans to kidnap the premier, though it was also represented to him that the New Guard's Council of Action had formally abandoned the plan on the night of 15 March 1932. Of course Lloyd's spies could have been no more reliable than Poynton, but Lloyd, unlike MacKay and Alford, had no need to manufacture evidence. There is a further reference to another kidnapping attempt on 18 March when at a meeting at the flat of one of the leaders of the Fascist Legion where plans were made to kidnap Lang, strip him of his clothing and take him to the bridge-opening ceremony dressed as a beggar. On that momentous day Cinesound Newsreel seems to have had inside information, or they were extremely fortunate in having the only press cameramen positioned such that de Groot's moment of triumph could be photographed. The manager of Cinesound Newsreel also stationed a camera crew outside Lang's house in Auburn where he thought the New Guard 'might try to bottle him up'. Lang knew of these plans, though he ignored his brother-in-law's advice that the New Guard was going to kill him. Longfield Lloyd was very concerned about the machinations of another New Guard inner group, the 'Bulldog Drummond' shock troops, numbering 4000, who ostensibly had access to seventeen machine guns, 300 000 rounds of ammunition and 500 rifles. In addition members of the Fascist Legion had reportedly filed through a window at Long Bay gaol to facilitate ready access to the gaol armory and acquired a duplicate set of keys to the New South Wales police arms store. Even Eric Campbell considered the leader of the Fascist Legion, John Dynon, excessively militant and according to one British diplomatic report their planned coup was called off only at the last moment when Dynon lost his nerve and reported the matter to Old Guard headquarters. The reminiscences of two senior New Guardsmen, A.G. Farleigh and Reg Cox, also support the view that sections of the New Guard were prepared to revolt.

Farleigh told Keith Amos:

Of course they were prepared to fight. I think they actually met on one particular occasion with that object in view— for war. I don't know what stopped that. They were going to take over the whole business—there was nothing to stop them. They had worked up to the point where they were prepared to use the bayonet.

Cox, a member of the Council of Action, recollected:

It got to the stage—it worked from the demonstration in Macquarie Street; whether it would be of any use—where we were prepared to revolt. We were prepared, literally, we were definitely prepared for civil war. I was one of fourteen men who discussed the matter—whether we should or not. I can assure you honestly it was touch and go at that particular moment of stress.

On balance it seems fair to conclude that the New Guard was about to fulfill its fascist potential but if Eric Campbell came perilously close to staging a fascist putsch in New South Wales the various splinter groups within the New Guard, especially the Fascist Legion, came even closer.

All of this paints Campbell as a sinister figure. In his defence it could be said that he had unleashed forces he did not perfectly understand. While he knew of the existence of groups like the Fascist Legion he was not responsible for their excesses. On the other hand this might be too generous. Campbell's increasingly provocative behaviour may have been designed to instigate a violent response from Labor supporters which might have provided that necessary modicum of justification for the New Guard to mobilise. One police informant suggested that the New Guard did not expect their petition to be successful, but when the anticipated unfavourable response was received they would call the Mobile Unit together, seize Parliament House and the government's administrative offices, claiming that all other 'constitutional' avenues had been exhausted.

Campbell's main problem was that of keeping faith with various intemperate threats of impending action. He was in an invidious position. Campbell and other senior New Guardsmen were not, as Longfield Lloyd put it, devoid of misgiving 'but forced as a matter of honour to accede to drastic proposals lest they be adjudged weak and hesitant'. The main purpose of de Groot's tape-slashing mission at the bridge opening was to save Campbell from losing face, for the New Guard leader had vowed that the premier would not open the bridge. And behind the bragging and bravado all the New Guard's weaknesses had become more pronounced. The movement's growing desire to mount a fascist putsch did not necessarily mean that this would succeed.

The New Guard was racked by internal suspicion and intrigue and riddled with informers and spies. This was especially evident in the sequel to the assault on Garden. For amidst the welter of allegations and counter allegations about whether the New Guard, Lang's supporters or the police were responsible— arising largely from R.W.D. Weaver's statement in the Legislative Assembly on 11 May 1932 that the police agent Captain Warneford had orchestrated a criminal 'frame-up'— a bizarre and rather sad story emerged about the Fascist Legion. Organised such that each of its 49 members adopted the title of a playing card (queens being omitted for obvious reasons), this group was largely synonymous with disaffected localities in Randwick, Centennial Park and Darlinghurst. Its chief purpose was to spy on suspected disloyal sections of the New Guard and to keep watch on Norman Plomley's 'official' New Guard intelligence which it believed was conducted in a 'lax manner'. It was a case, as Truth excitedly pointed out on 15 May 1932, of 'Spies to spy on spies'. This situation became even more complicated when Plomley engaged one of his own men to spy on the Fascist Legion, when members of the inner group spied on each other and when Plomley's man encountered Herbert Poynton spying on both the Fascist Legion and New Guard intelligence. Apart from the atmosphere of chronic, deep-seated mistrust which it illustrated, the incident created a stampede of resignations at a particularly crucial time. It was the death knell of the New Guard.

In April 1932 Campbell dissolved both the executive and general councils of the New Guard on the arguably correct premise that they contributed to the movement's administrative unwieldiness. But many New Guardsmen were ready to fear the worst and attacked Campbell's increasingly dictatorial attitude through the pages of New Guard.

At the same time Tom Walsh, the former unionist and communist, resigned from the New Guard after the Jewish furrier Samuel Biber proclaimed that the movement was and must be accepted as fascist. It became increasingly obvious that only a very small proportion of New Guardsmen would follow Campbell if he decided to act against the police. Some sections were still talking wistfully about an amalgamation with the Old Guard, 'the country movements which . . . are even stronger than we are'.

In February 1932 W.J. MacKay had warned a rather skeptical Francis de Groot that 500 policemen, armed if necessary with bombs and howitzers, could easily stop ten times that many New Guardsmen from ensconcing themselves in Parliament House.74 What became known in New Guard circles as the 'Liverpool Street police riot' suggests that MacKay's boast was not overstating the case. The incident illustrates the physical impotence of the New Guard when its military striking power was a most crucial consideration.

On 1 April 1932, the day of de Groot's trial at Central Police Court, Aubrey Abbott 'happened' to be in Sydney and at the Imperial Service Club.

De Groot being under police escort, after disrupting the Sydney Harbour Bridge opening
[Courtesy of News Ltd Photolibrary]

He had earlier discussed with Campbell both the New Guard's plans to kidnap Lang and its proposal for dealing with the police if they offered any resistance.

Campbell had told him that the New Guard's numerical superiority would enable them to 'quietly shoulder' the police away. Abbott had counselled: 'Eric . . . I know the police force very well, and let me tell you that five or even ten of your men won't shoulder one policeman away if he doesn't want to be shouldered.'

Across the bar on the morning of the trial Abbott noticed Campbell and a number of other leading New Guardsmen priming themselves for the battle. Abbott felt 'there would be some fun and followed them'. Meanwhile, at Central Police Station, MacKay was urging an assembly of policemen, including the iron-fisted Ray 'Blizzard' Blissett, to 'go out and belt their bloody heads off'. Thus instructed, 300 policemen proceeded to do just that, effecting twelve arrests, ripping off armbands and generally teaching the New Guard's finest a stern lesson in the verities of state violence. Abbott observed their tactics (either grabbing an offender's tie, twisting it sharply and sending him breathlessly on his way, or dog-trotting him into a side street after doubling the offender's coat across his arms such that 'he is as helpless as a trussed fowl') with much amusement and interest. The Old Guard leader then hurried back to the Imperial Service Club 'to see the warriors return': 'They came in, hot and ruffled, complaining bitterly of their treatment. I tried to remind Eric of the time when he told me of his plan and how, if the police interfered, they would be quietly shouldered away. He was not interested.'

In a similar vein the day after this police action Philip Goldfinch chanced upon the secretary of his local UAP branch who exhibited the appearance of being involved in a serious accident. When asked how he sustained his injuries the man gruffly replied, 'No more New Guard for me'.

On 7 May 1932 another incident occurred which would have extinguished any hopes Campbell might have entertained about support from other quarters. On that night he and Francis de Groot attended a smoke social at Liverpool army camp. They had been invited by Major Robert Lee, the field brigade commander of the 36th Field Battery. Campbell and de Groot, the latter dressed in his customary dapper fashion, 'a white waistcoat and a black bow tie', were doubtless looking forward to a convivial evening of hearty military camaraderie. They were to be sorely disappointed. Campbell asked to deliver a short speech to the 'other ranks' and Lee acquiesced. Accounts differ about the exact contents of the speech but it would seem that he said nothing more substantial than: 'I am glad to again be in amongst troops, it reminds me of the old wartime days, and I am glad to see the same old A.I.F. spirit still prevails, and I am sure . . . whether you are commanded by us or anyone else you will be as loyal now as you were then.'

The speech was coolly received. There were 'raspberries' and 'offensive remarks'. 'Get fucked', repeatedly yelled one dissenting voice. It was suggested, 'we ought to dump them in the river'. Late into the night the men stood around in angry groups. The next morning Lee was forced to apologise for issuing the invitation.

The matter did not stop there. Just a few days before a physical clash between Commonwealth and State forces seemed imminent, the police were naturally concerned about any suggestion of potential collaboration between their enemies.

Lee's divisional commander, Brigadier A.J. Mills, asked him to show cause why his commission should not be recalled. Lee protested that no New Guard propaganda had been disseminated and he spared no effort in apologising for any 'unpleasantness' he had caused. Nevertheless, Lee neglected to mention that he was the locality head of the Ryde New Guard. He was stripped of his command and transferred to the reserve of officers. This decision was upheld shortly afterwards by the Military Board and, some time after, by a court of inquiry. Lee had a right to feel hard done by. Campbell's comments were extremely restrained. A long and otherwise unblemished military career was brought to an end by a relatively minor indiscretion.

Lee had offended certain partialities prevalent in military ruling circles. It is not entirely surprising that the court of inquiry proved unresponsive to Lee's protestations that he had been treated in an excessively harsh fashion. It was presided over by Major General Rosenthal. Nor was this the only venue where Old Guard-New Guard tensions would be manifested.

In summary, with a rapidly declining membership, internal dissension that had become largely institutionalised, physically inept and isolated by the unrelenting hostility displayed by both the Commonwealth and State authorities, in May 1932 the New Guard was largely a spent force. Its plans, both extreme and moderate, were laid outside the drama surrounding the Financial Agreements Enforcement Act. On the day of the High Court decision Campbell offered Lyons the services of 'any number of thoroughly trustworthy reputable men' but was refused. There was some suggestion that the New Guard planned to use the confusion caused by a clash between Commonwealth and State forces to stage their coup, but viewed in the context of the events of January to May 1932, the movement's significance was merely to complicate the intricate mosaic of conflicting forces which could have resulted in civil disorder.

Even if the New Guard's rhetoric did not imply a corresponding ability to upset parliamentary democracy and while the new states movements were, at the last moment, put firmly in their place like errant schoolboys, both movements clearly disrupted 'peace, order and good government'. But the full implications of the Commonwealth government's assault on Lang, together with an appreciation of just how close civil war was at this time, rests with an understanding of the activity of the Old Guard in the period leading up to the dismissal.

As the secret army's lineage would suggest and as archival evidence strongly supports, the Lyons government was in league with the Old Guard. Scullin's demise meant the return to office of many of the architects of the secret army contingency plan. John Latham, that political doyen of the intelligence community, became attorney-general. Sir George Pearce, with whom Herbert Brookes had worked on the Australian Protective League proposals in 1918, became minister for defence. Major Harold Jones became responsible to these old friends. After briefly assessing the merits of the New Guard, it was a case of business as usual. The secret organisation could emerge from the twilight of legality.

The major structural connection between the Old Guard and the Commonwealth government was through the Attorney General's Department. As was suggested in Chapter 1, the Old Guard's legislative sanction was the Peace Officers Act of 1925. Members of the Old Guard were to mobilise bearing an authority headed 'Commonwealth of Australia. Peace Officers Act of 1925. Oath of Allegiance'. Jack Scott could now liaise closely with Longfield Lloyd who, in Sydney, would have been primarily responsible for the swearing in of peace officers and on at least one occasion Lloyd sought advice from Scott when a hoaxer claimed to be organising troops on behalf of the Commonwealth authorities. Responsible to Latham and not Brennan, Jones could now tell the truth. Writing three months after the disbandment of the Old Guard, when much of the threat of civil disorder had dissipated, Jones assured Latham: 'There is no need for any further organisation in New South Wales as the one in readiness early this year can again be brought into operation at short notice should the situation demand it.'

Jones's letter also explains how the Commonwealth viewed its citizens' auxiliary and illuminates one of the reasons why it objected so strongly to the New Guard. In castigating the actions of a particular warrant officer who had associated himself with Campbell, Jones stressed: 'It is actions like those of Downey that brings Commonwealth Administration under very adverse criticism and makes for misunderstandings with those loyal and highly influential citizens upon whom we have to rely in emergency, and at times the position becomes very embarrassing to those upon whom responsibility is vested.'

It seems likely that relations between the IB and the Old Guard were fully restored in the wake of an incident which involved the Bathurst solicitor, Colonel R.H. Browning. On 6 February 1932 Colonel C.G.N. Miles, the director of military training at army headquarters in Melbourne, was in Bathurst in the course of conducting an inspection tour of New South Wales. Browning buttonholed Miles and told him that during a recent visit to Sydney he had received certain rather disturbing intelligence about the New Guard. Campbell and the New Guard, Browning claimed, 'were making preparations for a sudden stroke, in the nature of a coup d'etat, against the Lang government . . . in the immediate future'. Even more alarmingly Campbell evidently believed that as soon as 'the actual coup was accomplished' the Old Guard's rural battalions would rally behind his banner.

The day before Miles had conversed with Frederic Hinton in Canowindra. Hinton 'spoke bitterly against Campbell and all the activities of the New Guard'. So Campbell's deluded belief that he could count on the support of the Old Guard would not have been taken too seriously by the military or the IB. Nevertheless, when apprised of the episode by Colonel Lavarack, Major Jones realised it was clearly time to consider 'the extent of support' the Old Guard could offer 'to the Commonwealth as an adjunct to a Peace Force' if 'supposing for argument's sake the relationship between the State Government and the Commonwealth became strained'. Thus he sought advice from Longfield Lloyd.

Lloyd's reply unreservedly recommended using the urban and rural divisions of the Old Guard. The organisation was, he suggested, 'perfectly suitable for the support of the Governmental arm . . . unconditionally available' and while containing 'the best elements in the community ... has no internal ambitions, seeking only service in the highest degree'. If he had not already done so this exchange of correspondence provided sufficient justification for the IB man in Sydney to pay Jack Scott or Philip Goldfinch a formal visit to finalise arrangements about the Old Guard's use 'as an adjunct to a Peace Force'.

The Old Guard was also linked to the Defence Department. Since the 'Internal Security Scheme' was an expression of the collective wisdom of generals like White, Chauvel, Monash, Lloyd, Heane, Bennett and Rosenthal, it was hardly surprising that senior military men knew where 'loyal and highly influential citizens' could be found if necessary. As was suggested in Chapter 2, two junior staff officers were present at an early meeting of the Old Guard. Brigadier Heritage attended the regular Thursday-night gatherings in Aubrey Abbott's Darling Point flat. There would have been few army officers who disagreed with Major Combes's assessment of the Old Guard as 'most unlikely to cause trouble of any kind. In emergency it would be very useful in shortening the time necessary to raise special constables'.

The militia forces were an important connection between the military and paramilitary. At first Brigadier Heritage had been reluctant to employ the militia in the 'Internal Security Scheme', fearing that 'cases could easily arise where a Militia Formation Commander might not see eye to eye with the District Base Commandant, or where a Militia Formation Commander might by reason of his civil avocation or sympathies, not be in a position to take action'. Combes was able to assure Heritage that his fears were unwarranted. He knew that the militia regiments, particularly the country light horse troops, were full of members whose 'civil avocation' and 'sympathies' would not impede participation in the 'Internal Security Scheme'. In most cases these units were identical with Old Guard branches. Frederic Hinton, for instance, was the commanding officer of the 6th Light Horse. The troop commanders of his units at Parkes and Millthorpe were branch heads of the Old Guard in those towns. Lieutenant Colonel Jack Davies was in charge of the 16th Light Horse. From individual troopers to the highest echelons of command at Victoria Barracks—the commander of the Ist Cavalry Division before his death in September 1931 was General George Macarthur Onslow—members of the militia entertained dual but mutually compatible allegiances. Macarthur Onslow, surrounded by a bevy of staff officers, regularly attended camps and bivouacs, addressing civic receptions upon the theme of 'it is human nature to fight—mankind more or less likes war! and Australia must be prepared!'. The general previewed scenes which, in May 1932, could easily have become familiar to the working people of Sydney. A march-past by the 6th Light Horse in the main street of Orange would, no doubt, have been just as stirring a spectacle in Darling Street, Balmain, or King Street, Newtown, even if its purpose was more to do with politics and less with pageantry.

A newspaper report gives us a sense of what might have been:

With an inspiring sound of martial music the column advanced, first coming the Brigade Band, a picturesque sight with their coloured pugeries [sic], waistbelts and glittering instruments and the black cock's feathers flaunted from their hatbands. Then came Colonel Hinton, Commanding Officer, and the regiment marched in splendid order behind him. Each officer saluted with a graceful sweep of the sword and the sabre squadron, carrying swords at the slope followed by the machine-gun squadron, came behind. Each squadron was perfectly turned out and the sight was an inspiring one.

Right down to the finest administrative detail the Old Guard was linked with the military. As part of the 'Internal Security Scheme's' use of militia troops the quartermaster-general at Victoria Barracks was to make certain plans for the arrival of a large number of country light horse troops in Sydney. Specifically he was '[t]o arrange with Secretary, Royal Agricultural Society for accommodation for extra horses in the Royal Agricultural Society's Ground, Sydney'. The proximity of the barracks and the showground meant this was a commonsense arrangement, and the RAS entertained other close links with the Defence Department, but only the most innocent minded could overlook the happy coincidence of G.C. Somerville's official position, Old Guard allegiances and military commitments. The RAS accommodation facilities would have been severely stretched. The Old Guard's rural troops were also to have been housed at the 'RAS Ground and buildings . . . if Governmental areas not considered suitable'. On 2 February 1932 there was a significant change in the command of the 2nd Division. Major General Gordon Bennett called at Government House to relinquish formally his command. With him was his replacement—Major General Charles Rosenthal. As the tempest surrounding the garnishee bill gathered momentum the veteran of the King and Empire Alliance and the Sydney Domain vigilante episode was back in the saddle.

It becomes increasingly difficult to disentangle the Old Guard from the Defence Department. Many members of the light horse troops would hardly have known on whose authority—the Defence Department's or the Old Guard's—they were proceeding to Sydney. Nor was it entirely clear what their respective functions would have been.

The exact procedure by which the Commonwealth proposed to collect State moneys and income tax documents was kept a 'close secret'. It was asserted that the Commonwealth treasurer would 'authorise' the New South Wales commissioner of taxation to act on his behalf. What the Commonwealth would do if the State commissioner declined to be 'authorised' was not made clear. Roger Trudwell observed: 'No one seems to know just what machinery the Federal Government will use to collect the money owing, but it is generally believed that should the State Government undertake to resist the Federal officers, a situation might arise that would be exceedingly dangerous.'

The lieutenant governor of Tasmania, Sir Herbert Nicholls, remarked on the day after the handing down of the High Court decision that the enforcement legislation 'might lead to war'. This seems an extreme assessment but, if carried to its logical conclusion, the legislation necessarily dictated the use of a disciplinary force to subdue those inconvenienced by a disruption in State government services. This was one area where the Old Guard would have been useful and, even though the Commonwealth announced it had made arrangements to take over unemployment relief from the State government, there was bound to be a delay.

But the Commonwealth authorities may have been planning to go one step further. One possibility is that they intended to storm the State Government Treasury to seize, at the very least, taxation documents. Even though this was in direct conflict with the Old Guard's more established function as a counterrevolutionary buffer than an enforcer of government policy it can be argued that the Commonwealth intended to use the secret army in this capacity. Evidence supporting this argument can be gathered from a number of sources.

The tone and content of editorial pronouncements in Victor Thompson's Northern Daily Leader provoke thought. Because of Thompson's prominence in the Lyons-Page government and status as a confidant of Earle Page, these may be considered an accurate barometer of sentiments being bandied about in leading Commonwealth/UAP and UCP circles. On 14 April 1932 the paper featured a lengthy editorial focusing on the constitutional position of the Commonwealth peace officers. The substance of its argument was that the Commonwealth did have the right to enrol loyal citizens to 'invade' New South Wales but not to use the military in that capacity.

The Commonwealth 'invasion' plan is also supported by the reminiscences of L.S. Jackson, the senior Commonwealth taxation official in Sydney in 1932. Published in the Sydrley Mornirzg Herald on 12 August 1970, Jackson's reflections may, however, seem outlandish, and some comment about their reliability is therefore obligatory. For, according to Jackson, at 9.00 am on Saturday 30 April 1932 he, Longfield Lloyd and George Watson, Commonwealth deputy crown solicitor, were summoned to a meeting with the Commonwealth assistant treasurer' Senator Walter Massy-Greene, at his private office in Bridge Street. Jackson recalled that Massy-Greene passed on a Cabinet decision that the Commonwealth officials were to 'break into, forcibly if necessary,' the State Taxation Office at 10.30 am on the following Monday, 2 May 1932, and take all income tax returns to the vacant premises of the Government Savings Bank. The deputy crown solicitor was instructed to draft a letter informing Commissioner Childs of this proposal. The letter would also request police protection. Arrangements had been made for the Post Office to provide enough vans to transport the documents.

Jackson recalled that all three men expressed strong objections to the plan. He remembered complaining to Massy-Greene that the senator had underestimated the time it would take to complete the operation. Massy-Greene also seemed to forget the opposition which doubtless would be forthcoming when the ragtag army of clerks, spies and accountants burst through the locked doors—assuming that this w as possible—or the interference the premier's hefty muscle men would offer in the long-drawn-out process of transferring records to the Post Office vans, which could be upturned or set alight.

According to Jackson, Longfield Lloyd expanded on Jackson's misgivings. He outlined the activities of 'Lang's thugs', the surveillance the IB had been conducting of Labor supporters drilling every morning in Paddington Park and the likelihood that he, Jackson, and other members of their respective staffs would be risking their lives by entering the State Taxation Office. Lloyd explained that he had been trying to acquire two gallons of tear gas from army stores to lob through the windows of the State offices, thus bringing the timberworkers out into the street. This had not been possible. Without such an advantage Lloyd feared that their adversaries would rout any interlopers. At the very least this would entail 'ignominy' and rather than risk that he would resign.

None of this, Jackson suggested, persuaded Massy-Greene that the 'invasion' plan was unwise. In November 1931 the senator had confided in Herbert Brookes, 'any steps which in their final result promise the possibility of Lang's removal from office would be justified'. It seems that he was determined to carry out the plan in some shape or form, suggesting that the use of cranes would shorten the time necessary to bring the income tax returns down into the street. Lloyd countered that the police would remove the cranes on the grounds that they obstructed traffic. He also suggested, according to Jackson, that if trouble did break out 'it would be necessary to swear in probably 500 Peace Officers overnight to take charge of certain sections of Sydney'. Lloyd also admitted that he knew that 'there were sufficient men readily available'. But the expense, he argued, would be prohibitive. To raise and sustain such a force would cost between £500 000 and £700 000. Lloyd pointed out that his tear gas scheme had been vetoed merely because it,would have cost £50.

Watson, Jackson later wrote, made the obvious point Lloyd hinted at but which Massy-Greene seemingly ignored. The police commissioner could hardly be relied upon. Childs was sure to inform Lang of the intended Warwick Building break in. Members of the police force would not assist Commonwealth taxation officials. And it was not constitutionally justifiable for the armed forces to be used unless in response to a request from the State government which, in this case, would never eventuate.

This issue was central. If Lang's timberworkers were arrested by the Commonwealth peace officers would a State government court convict them? Would a State government gaol detain them? The Commonwealth would need to duplicate these facilities. Lloyd, Jackson and Watson pleaded that Cabinet should reconsider and temporarily suspend the plan. Not only was it unwieldy, it also invited violence and the 'uncontrollable mass hysteria' which had manifested itself in Melbourne in 1923 and in Auckland a few weeks before.

Jackson claimed that Massy-Greene remained unconvinced. The three Commonwealth public servants repaired to the crown solicitor's office where Watson drafted a letter to Childs. He also telephoned the police commissioner and asked for a personal interview. Childs was suspicious of the urgency of the request. Watson explained that it was preferable that the matter be discussed discreetly and in private, but when he, Lloyd and Jackson called at police headquarters they found that Childs's door was locked and guarded by a burly policeman who gruffly protested that the commissioner could not be contacted until Monday. The Commonwealth officials then returned to Bridge Street to inform Massy-Greene of this untoward development. But, in the interim, the senator's attitude had softened. Jackson felt that he had been in touch with Lyons and other members of Cabinet. Massy-Greene agreed that the plan for their Monday morning raid should be abandoned, and on that rather anticlimactic note Jackson concluded his unlikely story.

In 1933 the British representative, Ernest Crutchley, recalled the confused and tense political situation in New South Wales before 13 May 1932 and admitted that his Whitehall superiors might think he-had been overindulging in 'American films'. Was this, then, Jackson's problem? To what extent can Jackson's reminiscences, compiled thirty-eight years after the event, be relied upon?

It must be admitted that there is a distinct absence of corroborating evidence. For instance the starting point for Jackson's story was an alleged Cabinet decision that the Warwick Building break-in should take place on 2 May 1932. Among the archival record of Cabinet decisions there is no support for this claim. In fact Cabinet minutes suggest that the overriding concerns of Commonwealth government ministers in early 1932 were mundane issues like ministerial access to motor vehicles, the stabilisation of Easter holidays or the issue of travelling privileges to wives of members of Commonwealth parliament. Sensitive topics like the amendment of the Crimes Act to deal with the Communist Party were naturally raised at a Cabinet level but no more elaboration is provided than that the matter was 'discussed'.

The Financial Agreements Enforcement Act makes several fleeting appearances in Cabinet minutes. On 15 January 1932, under the heading of finance, the prime minister 'outlined the position of the Commonwealth and the States, and read a letter from the Directors of the Commonwealth Bank emphasising the seriousness of the position' in New South Wales. A week later the 'position' of New South Wales was again 'discussed'. On 15 February John Latham outlined the garnishee bill whose provisions 'were generally approved'. On 3 May 1932 when Cabinet should surely have been totally preoccupied with their only just rescinded plans to storm the New South Wales State Treasury, the Financial Agreements Enforcement Act was 'discussed', but only so that 'certain proposed amendments' could be agreed upon. This happened also on 10 May. On 28 April, in the Cabinet meeting immediately before the alleged break-in, the main issue apparently concerning ministers of the crown, accompanied by voluminous correspondence, was proposed staff reductions at the Commonwealth Artificial Limb Factory in Melbourne.

A clear issue of the credibility of various evidence arises. Are we to believe the exotic reminiscences of LS Jackson or is the written record, impressively solemn and sober, far more reliable? Is Jackson's story to be dismissed simply because it cannot be substantiated from the archival record? Indeed some other Commonwealth records pertaining to the enforcement legislation are equally silent in terms of documenting anything quite as irregular as the scheme Jackson outlined.

Clearly, this is a difficult matter to resolve. Before, however, Jackson's story can be dismissed it is appropriate to consider the circumstances which prompted the retired public servant, then residing in Adelaide, to venture into print. In 1970 J.T. Lang published The Turbulent Years and extracts from it appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald. The series seems to have generated considerable public interest and subsequent comments. Some were moved to correct Lang's version of events; Lang at this stage was persona non grata in Labor circles, so the New South Wales ALP secretary suggested that 'as history, his book is junk'. Others volunteered their reminiscences seemingly because they felt that the events were all a long time ago and because they felt they had an interesting story to tell.

Arguably these were Jackson's reasons for recording his part in 'the high passions . . . and humour', as he put it, of the Lang era. His respectful references to 'Sir Walter'—Massy Greene—together with his description of Lang's supporters as 'thugs', suggest that he was no embittered left-wing ideologue distorting the historical record so as to support long-held political convictions. And while his reminiscences could be seen as enhancing a version of events that had himself at the centre of a group of public servants who restrained a hysterical politician whose actions, if implemented, could have caused a 'serious bloody revolution', it would be unfair to imply that Jackson was simply big-noting himself in this way. Jackson's story has much to commend it. His recall of detail and the sequence of events is impressively accurate, and indeed much better than J.T. Lang's. Small points such as Longfield Lloyd's boyish enthusiasm for using tear gas ring true.

Here we are dealing with problems of evidence referred to in the introduction to this book. On balance Jackson's account seems as credible or more credible than the Cabinet minutes, which, if interpreted literally, would have researchers believing that at this time staffing arrangements at the Commonwealth Artificial Limb Factory were the main priority of the Lyons government. As other sections of the archival record confirm (for instance, IB, Military and Naval Intelligence documents), this was simply not so. The main preoccupation of the Commonwealth government was to destroy the rebel administration in New South Wales. Nevertheless, some points which Jackson makes warrant correction. If the Commonwealth government was going to use its trump card, if it was going to carry the enforcement legislation to its logical conclusion, something like the Massy-Greene break-in scheme was needed. For if the New South Wales police and taxation authorities remained loyal to their masters and declined to act upon instructions from the Commonwealth the enforcement legislation would have remained ineffectual had it not been complemented by something like the plan Jackson described. So Jackson was mistaken when he told Massy-Greene that the break-in was unnecessary because the Commonwealth financial measures were 'breaking' Lang. The New South Wales premier in fact was displaying great resilience, bobbing and weaving like a boxer in a tight contest, embattled certainly but by no means on the ropes. Jackson also recalled that the 500 peace officers Massy-Greene's scheme called for 'would be members of the "New Guard" so-called'. This is an example of the customary confusion between the New Guard and the Old Guard. Through Jack Scott Longfield Lloyd knew precisely where he could obtain the services of 500 'loyal and highly influential citizens' to act as peace officers. The intelligence officer was also aware that the Old Guard's 'financial resources [were] practically unlimited'. Given the penny-pinching attitude of the Commonwealth that alone would have made it attractive.

It can be argued that the Old Guard had become a tool of the Commonwealth government and that less and less it had a life of its own. In January 1932 Frederic Hinton toured the outlying stretches of his secret army empire as far as Bourke addressing meetings and exhorting all to preparedness. Two of the four eventualities, which in early 1932 the Old Guard considered would precipitate its mobilisation, bear a close resemblance to political events connected with the Financial Agreements Enforcement Act. In the Old Guard's estimation a general disturbance by 'hostiles' would be caused,

(a) By a change in political control and a consequent variation in the trend of legislation.

(b) By any other alteration, real or imaginary, in the 'standard of living'.

(c) By any financial stringency which would reduce the funds available for distribution as a dole or other government subsidy for the unemployed.

(d) By the injudicious and provocative action of any section of the community.

A possible 'financial stringency' could clearly arise from the Commonwealth's garnishee bill which would certainly result in 'alteration . . . in the "standard of living'. The last of these possibilities referred to the Old Guard's determination to deal with, if need be, the New Guard. Two members of the Old Guard's southern division attended a New Guard General Council meeting on 18 January 1932 to acknowledge circumspectly that Campbell 'had done everything possible to effect a co-ordination, but in view of the difference in the policy of Secrecy and Publicity, the coordination will never be effected'. They asked Campbell to leave the country districts alone. Campbell, of course, ignored the request. Relations between the two organisations became even more strained than they had been at Cootamundra. Realising that the Old Guard would resist any forcible attempt at the seizure of power, New Guardsmen had actually been assigned to 'deal with' leading members of the Old Guard.

Nor had the secret organisation forgotten its traditional enemies. The Auckland riots on 15 April 1932 provided concrete evidence of what the 'hostiles' could do when they put their mind to it. The Northern Daily Leader on 18 April was particularly quick to recognise their import. The riots revealed the 'camouflage of tradition to be exceedingly thin'. Rioting would be much worse in Sydney as 'no city in the Commonwealth has been so saturated with Communistic propaganda or various forms of extremist teachings, all designed to fill the mob with disrespect for law and order and hatred of those who possess any kind of wealth'. As usual the paper also had an Old Guard message to disseminate, cautioning that it was 'good citizenship' for private individuals to wait for an appeal from the formally constituted authorities before intervening in the 'unhappy business'.
The Sydney correspondent of the Argus also had some extremely interesting comments to make about the implications of the Auckland riots. He regarded them as vindicating precautions taken by the 'promoters of the New Guard and another similar organisation'.

Even ten days later it was reported:

The riots in Auckland continue to be discussed by businessmen in Sydney. They ask what would happen in Sydney if something similar occurred? . . . George street, Pitt street, Castlereagh street, Elizabeth street, Hunter street and King street would provide a field far beyond the power of the police to cover. King's Cross and King street, Newtown; Oxford street, Paddington, Parramatta road, Leichbardt; and other busy shopping areas, would probably be defenseless . . . the Lord Mayor (Alderman Walder) may issue a statement shortly, concerning precautionary measures.

Wherever one turned there was cause for concern. On 19 April 1932 a Private Redpath was 'molested' on his way from Victoria Barracks by five 'communists' who wanted to know where arms were stored. An echo of that infamous 1919 exhortation reappeared in eally May 1932 when it came to the notice of the IB and Naval Intelligence that a resolution had been passed at Newcastle Trades Hall Council that 'ships' companies of H.M.A. Squadron should be asked not to take up arms against their class.

In March 1932 Frederic Hinton, Albert Reid and one other (probably Donald Cameron) conferred with Prime Minister Lyons in Canberra. Precisely what was said or agreed upon at this meeting is not known, but general impressions of amity and a growing alliance can be deduced from the implementation of the Peace Officers Act to defend Canberra in May and by the coordination of the Old Guard's preparations with the developing rift between the Commonwealth and State governments.

On 26 February 1932, a week after the introduction of the enforcement legislation, the Old Guard applied the finishing touches to its plans for a select corps of 10 000, ironically titled 'F Special Force', to be led, since Macarthur Onslow had died, by Brigadier General James Heane and Philip Goldfinch. Organisational and administrative details were intricately planned.

Rallying points around the coastal basin at Windsor, Emu Plains and Warwick Farrn were decided upon. Low-flying aeroplanes emitting piercing siren blasts would sound the call to arms. Radio stations would broadcast coded warning signals and information bulletins. Batons were to have been issued. Air and rail facilities had been reconnoitered. In the main, private cars and trucks, bearing appropriate identification on front and rear mudguards, would transport Heane's raiders to the city. All bridges and other strategic points on road routes were guarded. Each man was required to supply 'a plate, knife, fork and spoon, and mug, also shaving kit, tooth brush, towel, soap, boot cleaning gear, change of underclothing, overcoat, spare boots and socks' and to bring one day's rations, after which 'F Special Force' would assume complete responsibility. Arrangements identical to those applying to AIF and Ist Division standing orders were brought to fruition to cater for dress, reporting of casualties, billeting, discipline, medical examinations, feet inspections and sanitation. Even leisure facilities (a 'wet' and 'dry' canteen to be supplied by the Red Cross, a recreation room, 'Recreational Ground, Draughts, Chess, and Playing Cards') had been planned. In the twinkling of an eye the appearance of Sydney would have been transformed by the arrival of an armada of upright limousines bearing the bush army: 10 000 Old Guardsmen wearing armbands, tin hats, blue patrol jackets and grey flannel trousers. The majority would have been employed in duties consonant with the appreciation set out on 26 February 1932, a smaller elite corps of 500 with the exotic scheme Massy-Greene and his cabinet colleagues were probably developing.

At 2.00 pm on 10 March 1932, after the discussions with Lyons and the day before the garnishee bill returned from the Senate and House of Representatives, the Old Guard held a major conference at Mudgee. Goldfinch left the city lights behind to instruct an earnest gathering of men from all parts of the State that their services would shortly be required by the Commonwealth. Administrative and organisational matters were clarified and expanded upon. Ironically, on the same day in nearby Gulgong, a demented French returned soldier, hallucinating that the Germans and Turks were mounting an advance, was arrested after parading through the streets in the nude. Madness was certainly in the air. A Callan Park internee wrote to Sir Philip Game to inform him that his status as an imperial pensioner, 'compels Me to, in the event of any Emergency assist to Maintain Law and Order'.

From mid-March it was rumoured that a special government gazette which would bring the Peace Officers Act into operation was in type. Increasingly the threat posed by the Commonwealth peace officers—and not the danger of a New Guard coup d'état as is widely believed—was Lang's principal concern and the cause of his decision to reorganise the police force. In one speech on 15 March 1932 the premier warned: 'If the Commonwealth peace officers attempt to usurp the functions of the New South Wales police force they will find themselves in the same position as any other person or body who attempts to usurp the duties or the functions of the Government of New South Wales.'

Immediately before the opening of the Harbour Bridge on 19 March 1932 the Old Guard was also preparing to send detachments of men to Sydney. A meeting on 11 March in Molong partly followed up the deliberations of the Mudgee meeting the day before vis-à-vis the organisation's relationship with Lyons's enforcement legislation. A policeman reported: 'All expenses have been guaranteed. So far as they can- gather the expenses are being guaranteed by the Federal Government'. As well, the Molong meeting showed the Old Guard's preparedness to deal with the New Guard and any trouble Campbell might start at the bridge-opening ceremony. It was suggested that 'feeling is very bitter against the New Guard' and that when Campbell had been fined for using insulting words he was 'looking for trouble, and had found it, and deserved it'.

The gala occasion at the bridge opening manifested many Old Guard-New Guard tensions. The committee organising the celebrations was largely dominated by senior Old Guardsmen such as Sir Samuel Hordern and G.C. Somerville. They doubtless did not want Campbell to spoil their historic moment. But there was a strange scene at the Imperial Service Club on the night de Groot had slashed the opening ribbon. Many senior members of the Old Guard's western division were appalled at de Groot's action, believing that it was extremely provocative. According to one oral source they sat at one corner of the bar sipping at their beer in a restrained fashion. In marked contrast Donald Cameron, who led the South African War contingent across the bridge in the opening ceremony, big Jack Davies and other members of the northern division were in high spirits, saluting de Groot's 'pluck' with a gusto and enthusiasm which not only threatened their sobriety but also caused one member of Hinton's staff to wonder whether Cameron and Davies had been negotiating with Campbell without the western division's knowledge.

It was becoming increasingly obvious that there was another organisation, distinct from the New Guard, waiting in the wings. On I April 1932 Truth published a characteristically alarmist article headlined 'City Fears the Worst. Labor Army Forming. Secret Citizens Phalanx: Towards Riots'.

The article, however, contained an uncharacteristic germ of truth:

In public there is much marshalling of legal queues: in private there is manufacture of weapons of war . . . The ordinary citizen may be forgiven if he feels that life has become a dreadful nightmare . . . In Parliament, in the public halls, in the streets, in every nook and corner vigilant [sic] speeches charged with dreadful bitterness are being worked from lukewarm concern to a white heat of passionate partisanship which will justify the most outrageous recklessness. Vast numbers of ordinary good citizens are being gradually inebriated with the deadly fumes of insane elation. There are glances 'of hatred that stab and rain no cry of murder'. The trumpet of contention fills the State like a raging hurricane . . . Captains of industry in their clubs swap notion as to possible blood letting and resignedly say, 'It must come'.

The article referred to the New Guard but made it clear that most of its judgments centred on the existence of a 'later [sic] and more powerful citizens' body which has been pledged in secrecy and which outnumbers the New Guard'.

On 6 April 1932, the dav of the announcement of the High Court decision, the Old Guard was in a state of ferment. When, on that day, Brigadier General McNicoll informed his son, 'the decision of the High Court has just come through and I am off to Sydney by car with Bert Woods very soon', it can be safely assumed that it was not a shopping expedition he had in mind. Two days earlier an imperial reservist living in Rose Bay reported to police that he had received a visit on the night of 3 April from one of the city's most prominent barristers, who had instructed him to hold himself in readiness to appear as a Commonwealth peace officer in an emergency expected within the next ten days. He had also been shown a list of names of other Rose Bay residents who had been, or were about to be, similarly approached. MacKay set the bloodhounds on the trail but found that both the barrister and his commanding officer, a solicitor who was both a personal and business associate of John Latham, were uncooperative. The Labor Daily got wind of the police investigations and on 6 April, summoning up reserves of hysteria, proclaimed: 'Secret Force to Dragoon N. South Wales . . . Sinister and alarming in its significance was a report circulated [and] broadcast through the city yesterday that recruiting agents were busy enrolling volunteers in a secret force to assist the Commonwealth Government in an attempt to dragoon New South Wales'.

The Labor Daily was not alone in its concern. It doubtless reflected the apprehensions of the Lang government. W.J. MacKay also had cause for alarm. For the dislocation in Commonwealth-State relations entailed a severing of the ties between the New South Wales police and the Old Guard. In November 1932 it would be possible for MacKay to welcome Scott, Goldfinch and Somerville to the principal table at the annual CIB dinner but in April it seemed he might be opposing his dinner guests at the barricades. Thus MacKay commissioned the only full-scale police report of the Old Guard's activity. For a time, according to oral testimony, police stopped motor vehicles proceeding eastwards over the Blue Mountains to check their luggage compartments for arms and ammunition. The police march through the city on 29 April—usually interpreted as an attempt to intimidate Campbell and the New Guard— was, in reality, directed at the metropolitan division of the Old Guard. MacKay knew where his former allies were to be found so he personally directed the march past the buildings where they worked and the institutions where they were having lunch—the Stock Exchange, Civic Club, Union Club, Imperial Service Club, as well as the offices of CSR, pastoral companies, insurance firms and banks. If MacKay had wanted to intimidate the New Guard a simple march past their headquarters would have sufficed. Local police in country towns harassed members of the Old Guard, checking for unlicensed revolvers.

For its part the Old Guard also became wary of 'the Army of Democracy and Decency'. Hinton instructed his men to reply to any police interrogation that 'they do not belong to the New Guard but that on any other aspect of the question they had nothing whatever to say'. At least one section of the Old Guard was prepared to arrest and detain police officers had they remained faithful to the Lang government. On 30 April Hinton's last despatch to his supporters warned: 'It is not desired to issue any scare warnings at all, but the position is so grave that it looks as if very serious consequences will follow the full adoption of the powers of the Commonwealth under recently passed legislation.

The weekend of 30 April to 2 May 1932 was particularly nerve-racking. On Saturday, as Hinton tapped away at his typewriter in Canowindra preparing his final bulletin, in Sydney the discussions between Lloyd, Watson and Jackson were probably taking place in Massy-Greene's Bridge Street office about the Monday morning break-in. And the intervening Sunday was May Day. It would be just like the untrustworthy workers to seize upon a rather confused situation to make their own history. Hence a large detachment of the Old Guard protected shop windows in the city.

The breakdown in cooperation between the police and the Old Guard was one problem tempering the secret army's striking power. Another was the death of Sir Adrian Knox in April 1932 which perhaps caused the abandonment of the emergency parliament arrangements. But, unlike the New Guard, the Old Guard was broadly assured of support from both its membership and a powerful instrumentality of the state—the Commonwealth armed forces. MacKay may have been able to wreak havoc in a brief encounter with the New Guard but he would have needed many of Lang's special constables to resist the combined Commonwealth-Old Guard onslaught, especially in any extended battle.

Many Old Guardsmen were champing at the bit. After a meeting addressed by 'Jock' Garden in Parkes on 30 April 1932, a prominent local accountant was arrested and charged with possession of an unlicensed revolver. Despite the fact the revolver was fully loaded and the accountant had openly boasted that he intended to shoot Garden, in his subsequent trial the presiding magistrate was swayed by the accountant's defence that his threats were only jocular'.

No one else in the Old Guard was inclined to be 'jocular'. Between 30 April and 12 May, the date set for the handing over of all State income tax returns, it seemed inevitable that the long march of the Old Guard would soon begin. Oral testimony suggests that many were itching to depart. Throughout the backblocks of New South Wales serious men sat listening to crackling wireless receivers or craned their heads skywards for a glimpse of an aeroplane. Philip Goldfinch carried an increasingly dog-eared document around in his pocket appointing him chief of the Commonwealth peace officers.

On 11 and 12 May as the Peace Officers Act was being implemented in Canberra, the Old Guard came within a hair' s breadth of mobilisation. At Cowra a large number of women and children had been moved to a house in hilly country at Bumbaldry so that they would be safe with their menfolk away in Sydney. At Newcastle C.A.K. Cohen was swearing in Old Guardsmen as peace officers, including a young engineer who subsequently became a minister for defence in the Vietnam War years. Outside Customs House at Circular Quay on 13 May 1932 a growing number of Old Guardsmen including Victor Windeyer, a solicitor who later represented the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) at the Petrov Royal Commission, steadily congregated. Some carried bibles as they awaited Longfield Lloyd and the deputy attorney-general, A.J. McLachlan, to appear from the Commonwealth offices to swear them in as peace officers. In the northern division seven branches were mobilised and ready for action though confusion arose when a number of branch heads did not respond and as a result 'disappointment and dissatisfaction [was] expressed amongst some section members that they were not given the opportunity to show their loyalty to the cause'. Cameron nevertheless described the response as 'gratifying', especially considering that in the rush it had been necessary to ask volunteers to enlist 'on faith' as word had not come through about the official 'promulgation' of the movement by the Commonwealth. Unconcerned by this, on Gunnedah railway station 400 men stood waiting for a train that would take them to Sydney. Then news arrived of the dismissal.

The timely intervention of the King's representative meant that New South Wales missed out on the staining of the wattle. Two points should be emphasised. First, the battle lines of the potential warfare were unorthodox. The Communist Party was not about to start a revolution. The workers were not on the brink of rebellion. The unemployed were not planning to revolt. Premier Lang was not working towards 'socialism in our time'. The problem with 'law and order' was of a right-wing rather than left-wing origin. So why indeed had the Old Guard been mobilised? Was it simply a mistake?

Despite the silence of one section of the archival record the conclusion reached by the present author is that the Commonwealth government had resolved to end the tenure of the New South Wales government and that it had, in the final resort, resolved to do so by using force. A small section of the Old Guard was to have been deployed as strongarm men who would have, at the behest of the prime minister, stormed the State Taxation Office. Had this 'invasion' plan proceeded it would have been necessary to bring in the broader Old Guard organisation to subdue the many thousands of Labor supporters who would have been outraged by this provocative act.

Most Old Guard members would have been only very dimly aware of the complexities of the enforcement legislation. For them the issue was very simple. Lang was a socialist tiger. The premier had gone off the rails. He needed to be stopped. Contemplating his armband that proclaimed 'Commonwealth Peace Officer', the average Old Guard member, the wheat farmer from Trundle, the auctioneer from Wellington, the grazier from Yass, had no reason to doubt the propriety or wisdom of the mission upon which he was about to embark. The prime minister, after all, represented the highest authority in the land. So ironically, while much of the Depression period was underscored by the apprehension that social upheaval might start from the garrets of Newtown or Woolloomooloo, the real threat to 'law and order' emanated from Australia's most respectable address: 'The Lodge', Canberra.

Secondly and finally, it should be stressed that Nock and Manning's pronouncements cited at the beginning of this chapter were quite accurate. Civil strife really was quite close. Emotions ran very high. Tempers on all sides of the political spectrum were extremely frayed. There were a myriad of possibilities. What might have happened, for instance, if communications within the Old Guard had broken down further and detachments of the rural secret army had arrived in Sydney, prepared, in their estimation, to defend essential services? Their welcome would hardly have been a warm one from all sections of the community. Or, what might have happened if the hotheads within the New Guard had finally decided that Parliament House was theirs for the taking? What might have occurred if for good and proper reasons Major General Bruche had resolved to escalate the military commitment in Sydney? Or for that matter what if one of the Labor groups had acted provocatively? While each of these possibilities could have resulted in small isolated disturbances there was the distinct probability that any violence would have snowballed in an alarming fashion. The breaking of alliances—principally between the Old Guard and the police—created added uncertainty. But just when the scene seerr.ed set for an altercation that would have made the violence at Rothbury look insignificant, the governor intervened and the threat of civil disorder was averted. Just as it should be recalled that the Old Guard was prepared to swing into action if a 'change in political control' should create 'variation in the trend of legislation', it is likely that Game's timely intervention was related to the imminent breakdown of 'law and order'. The following chapter explores this possibility.


You should go to The Union Club to hear yourself discussed.
—disgruntled conservative to Sir Philip Game.

When Air Vice-Marshall Sir Philip Woolcott Game accepted appointment as governor of New South Wales, he could hardly have anticipated the turmoil which would become his daily responsibility. Educated at Charterhouse school and the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, Game had enjoyed a long and distinguished military career. He had served British imperialism faithfully in Africa, India and Ireland. When he retired in 1929 at fifty-three, he was inclined to seek a less taxing colonial appointment. Through the patronage of Lord Trenchard he left the calm of his Somerset retreat, bound for Port Jackson, and arrived there on 29 May 1930 to much public acclaim.

In many respects the new governor was an unusual figure to represent British interests in New South Wales. The product of an English liberal background, his bearing was not that of the British Raj. He was also uncommonly assiduous. Game read widely about the political struggles which preceded his governorship, in particular about Lang's earlier disagreements with his predecessor, Sir Dudley le Chair. He was thoroughly acquainted with the 1925 rift in Commonwealth-State relations which had caused S.M. Bruce to introduce the Peace Officers Act. But he was not equipped to deal with the intricacies of constitutional law. That hardly differentiated him from most other governors and for most periods of office it would hardly have mattered. But these were not ordinary times; as events transpired Game's lack of legal training would prove to be a shortcoming.

Nor was the governor likely to transcend the allegiances of his class. A close friend of Sir Otto Niemeyer, Game departed with the warning of General Birdwood ringing in his ears. '[Y]ou are bound to have difficult times before you, as, with Labour Governments, there must always be difficulties', the general had counselled in January 1930. Birdwood's advice was prophetic though for a few months Philip Game was able to set aside any such doubts and enjoy the pleasures of Sydney society. An agreeable man, he quickly developed friendships among Sydney's grandees; in both a professional and social sense Game established a warm respect for the then premier, T.R. Bavin, and considered the electorate 'utterly mad' for rejecting him in October 1930.

Perhaps because of the comparison with Sir John Kerr, Game is remembered as a paragon of constitutional rectitude and political impartiality. Yet to sustain this view a degree of amnesia concerning the early months of the governor's dealings with J.T. Lang is required. There his proverbial straight bat is less evident. The governor not only 'demurred' when, on 5 November 1930, Lang requested the appointment of additional legislative councillors; six days later he considered dismissing the Lang government. He did not do so because 'it did not seem a practicable step in view of so very recent an election, and of the fact that Supply had not yet been granted'. On 16 November 1930 both Game and Sir Henry Braddon spoke to Roger Trudwell about an impending financial crash. In March 1931, when confronted with another request for additional legislative councillors, Game asked for Lang's resignation. Again he relented. On 26 March 1931 Game wrote to the premier asking for his forgiveness. Nevertheless, on 28 March 1931, he was still privately considering the 'moral' and 'Imperial' grounds for terminating Lang's commission. He remained concerned about the danger of civil disorder and recognised that he might have to stretch his constitutional powers 'to, if not beyond the breaking point'. In London Leo Amery was agitating for a dismissal and throughout 1931 the governor of South Australia, Sir Alexander Hore-Ruthven, proffered similar advice to Game. The testy Hore-Ruthven considered that 'when all this scum is out of the way confidence will be restored & we shall go ahead'. Nevertheless Game became rather more sensitive to lrow easy it would be to jeopardise the position of the Crown by bringing about an election in which the main issue was the right of the Labor Party to govern without interference from the representative of the British 'Money Power', for that, as he well knew, was how Labor would depict the contest.

The governor also became rather more sympathetic to the political problems of the 'Big Fella'. A peculiar form of grudging respect emerged between the roughhouse premier and the British gentleman. Lang, after all, had a popular mandate and he clearly inspired devotion among his constituents. Game was conscious of the social distance between Government House and the world of work, and he tried to take this bias into account when it seemed that everyone in his acquaintance detested the premier. But, more than that, not only did Lang display courtesy and good manners, close contact with the premier proved to be reassuring. Lang's publicity was misleading. He clearly was not 'Greater than Lenin'. Philip Game came to be one of the few non-Labor folk who realised the truth about the muchmaligned premier. He clearly was not a radical; his 'repudiation' of interest payments was not the thin end of a socialist wedge. An astute individual, Game may even have sensed how uncomfortable Lang was in his socialist clothes, for little— and not one of the premier's awkward attempts at ingratiation— escaped him.

Unsurprisingly the conservative Anglo-Australians of Sydney and the bush were not at all pleased with Game's increasing propensity to accommodate the enemy. Fuelled by the growing conviction that Government House harboured a class traitor they began to apply pressure. The former King and Empire Alliance councillor and Shakespeare expert, Sir Mungo MacCa!lum wrote tracts for the Sydney Morning Herald reviewlng the arguments of Keith and Dicey about the constitutional powers of the governor. After due consideration, the eminent professor supported Dr Keith's view that the right of dismissal 'exists and may be exercised when in the opinion of a Governor, the situation demands it'. In addition a 'Citizens' Committee, whose organising secretary was the Old Guardsman Cyril Gunther, was established to compile a petition calling upon Game to take 'such steps as Your Excellency thinks proper to secure an appeal to the eiectors'. To achieve the same end leading citizens badgered the governor and his private secretary, Brigadier General A.T. Anderson, at vice-regal soirees or whenever the occasion presented itself. Philip Goldfinch was one of those who called at Anderson's private home in Turramurra to see if he could use his influence to make the governor 'see reason'."

An unholy trinity of white knights, Sir Mungo MacCallum Sir Norman Kater and Sir Adrian Knox, began to make nuisances of themselves at Government House and even practised the tactic of ostracising the reluctant umpire; in an impeccably dignified fashion Sir Adrian Knox cancelled an acceptance to a dinner party while implying that he meant no 'lack of courtesy' to the governor and Lady Game—it was just that he felt it was his duty to oppose publicly Game's acquiescence to additional Labor appointments to the Upper House. Knox did not see how, at some future date, he could be completely candid on that subject if he had accepted hospitality at Government House. It would put him in a 'false position'. This legalistic facade was quickly discarded when Game wrote a curt response. Knox replied that the governor has the 'victim of a cunning or unscrupulous politician who was done more than any other man . . . to drag the name of New South Wales into the dirt and degrade her political institutions'.

Quite understandably, such antics placed Governor Game under increasing pressure. Yet he had greater reserves of strength than to simply cave in to this banquet boycott. Nevertheless, by the end of 1931 he was exhausted. He had survived two major periods of controversy about appointments to the Legislative Council. The response to his decision in November 1931 to allow twenty-five additional Labor appointments was particularly acrimonious. The strain was beginning to tell.

Suffering from a series of migraine headaches, the governor retreated with his family to their summer house at Moss Vale for the Christmas break. Upon their return to Sydney there were some indications that the campaign of ostracism might be waning, but on New Year's Eve there was also a sign of how the governor's obdurate attitude might effect his personal safety. At around 2.00 am a lorry load of noisy revellers drove up the half-mile-long drive of Government House and into the stable yard. Lady Game felt that it was 'an organised affair by the New Guard'. Startled, the governor had cause to ponder the implications of the incident: it revealed how physically vulnerable he was. Then, with the initiation of events surrounding the garnishee bill, 'the wretched politics' began to hot up again.

Conservative historians have argued forcefully against any 'conspiratorial' dimension to the governor's decision to dismiss the Lang government. J.M. Ward, in particular, has given any suggestion of a 'right wing pressure' theory extremely short shrift. 'How easy', Professor Ward has suggested 'it is to argue that Game dismissed Lang, so as to gratify the banks, the insurance companies, the property owners and the stric moralists . . .,

It is true that many Labor journalists were inclined to exaggerate the machinations behind what they described as the 'Fascist Revolution in N.S.W.'. S.A. Rosa argued that the Council of Foreign Bondholders had tyrannously decided to punish Lang. To the Labor Daily on 27 May 1932 it was simple cause and effect: 'At 4 p.m. representatives of the Union Bank and other overseas moneylenders petitioned the Governor . . . and at 6 p.m. the Governor dismissed the Government from office.'

Obviously, such conspiracy theories oversimplify the finer points of a highly complicated sequence of events. In many respects, the measured arguments of J.M. Ward are valid: Lang's relatively meek acceptance of the dismissal, his recognition that his political position was deteriorating rapidly, his growing distaste for socialist politics and mounting federal ambitions, must be accepted as ingredients in the events of 13 May 1932. The primacy of such considerations, however, remains debatable.

In many areas where one might expect to find smoke-filled rooms filled with plotters from Threadneedle, Collins and Pitt Streets, the evidence suggests otherwise. At any time during the constitutional crisis of January-May 1932 the Bank of New South Wales could have brought disaster to the State government by refusing to honour its cheques being presented for cash. But this did not happen. Alfred Davidson was not acting the part of a Machiavellian conspirator. He was reluctant to pressure Game into withdrawing l.ang's commission. He had earlier sent a telegram to the London office of the Bank of New South Wales suggesting that '[s]uch proposals if pressed give Lang good election cry dictation by capitalists.' Though he considered that 'Lang policy is pure communism well considered probably directed from Moscow', Davidson preferred merely to await the disintegration of the ALP. Nevertheless, on 9 March 1932, representatives of the bank attended a summit conference in Canberra to discuss the Financial Agreements Enforcement Act with Senator Pearce, George Knowles (Garran's successor as Commonwealth solicitor-general), Sir William Harrison-Moore and A.J. McLachlan. The records of the Bank of New South Wales suggest that its senior officers were more puzzled by, than malevolently implicated in, the garnishee bill's tortuous disputations and there is no reason to dispute the accuracy of this archival reflection.

Similarly, A.S. Morrison's scholarly account of the Dominions Office correspondence largely testifies to the propriety observed by all the interested parties. Game had been growing increasingly restive about the constitutional crisis as a whole and his role in particular. Lang's actions contravened the Audit Act of 1902, and the governor had obtained confirmation from the auditor-general that this was the case. Sir Philip Street, the State Chief Justice, had advised him that it was ultimately for the governor to decide, in the absence of any other responsible adviser on the legality of Lang's circular instructing State government officials to desist from paying State government moneys into banks. Game did not wish to condone illegality by remaining inactive. Nor did he want to act precipitately.

On 23 April 1932 he appealed to the under-secretary of state for the Dominions Office in London:

Strong Press and public pressure has been brought to bear on me during the past fortnight to dismiss Ministers though the best responsible opinion expressed privately, but not publicly, disagrees. I feel it far better that the Commonwealth and State Governments should decide the quarrel without my intervention, but my hand may be forced by the issue of the legality of Ministers' actions . . .
I feel it quite clear I cannot dismiss Ministers because their action offends my own and other people's sense of public integrity, however much warrant there may be for this oplnion.
I am not so clear however, as to whether I can do so on the grounds of the illegality of administrative acts which do not require my signature, or whether by doing so I should usurp the functions of the Courts. I am reporting this information only and not for advice but should you wish to make any comments I shall of course be glad to receive them


A draft reply to the governor was prepared in London. It was carefully compiled to take the form of unofficial advice rather than 'advice or instructions'. In general, as to the issue of the governor condoning illegality, it was suggested that he should obtain the advice of his law officers. If advised that ministers were acting illegally, the governor could refuse to accede, but this would be a 'grave step' and '. . . unwise unless he was reasonably sure . . . he could obtain other Ministers capable of carrying on the Government'. In this particular situation, given that the matter could still be settled in the courts, the governor could effectively only restrain his ministers from taking action alleged to be illegal. If the legality of any action was settled by the judiciary and ministers continued to act illegally, the position would, 'of course, require further consideration'.

Morrison continues by noting that, as this cautious reply was being prepared, the premier and the governor were quarrelling about the separate issue of whether the former could carry out an illegal action in the interests of maintaining 'the essential services of the State' and whether he should resign if he could only do so by breaking the law. The Dominions Office report was never sent. At 5.00 pm, on 13 May 1932, Lang replied that he would not resign. Game responded by dismissing Lang and calling on B.S.B. Stevens to form a government.

It can be seen then that this account of official correspondence provides little indication of any untoward behaviour, though the constitutionality of Game's action remains open to debate. But one point deserves rescuing from the esotery of constitutional law. The popular view that the governor dismissed Lang because he had acted 'illegally' is quite erroneous. Despite Street's view, the legality of any action could only be decided upon by the courts. Game denied the judicial system the opportunity of passing judgement, even though on 23 April 1932 he admitted that this was an area which was unclear to him.

There are many threads left unwoven in the intricate tapestry of 'Black Friday'. The clarification of some areas must necessarily await the release of the private and confidential correspondence between Governor Game and George V as well as that between the governor-general, Sir Isaac Isaacs, and the King, the latter being 'of immense length'. It is clear, however, that J.M. Ward's argument that conservative forces were not instrumental in determining the governor's decision is oversimplified by his concentration upon the New Guard. Granted, Game did cGnsider Campbell a 'perfect nuisance' and the New Guard a 'potential danger', an 'irresponsible body' and 'a self-constituted body of anti-Langites of all classes who openly threaten unconstitutional action although protesting their extreme loyalty'. It is certainly true that, if anything, the New Guard's provocative and impudent behaviour strengthened Game's resolve to stay his hand. Finally, there was, of course, no direct causal connection between the New Guard's petition to the King and the dismissal even though some members of the New Guard assumed that there was and de Groot later reflected: 'I have never been able to credit Sir Philip himself for dismissing Mr Lang. I believe he was ordered to do so by the Dominions Office, the main reason for this could well . . . [have been] the Citizen's Petition of the New Guard.

At the very least, de Groot may have been half right. What follows is an attempt to stitch sorr.e missing threads into the conservative view of the dismissal. It is also an argument which ascribes causality to where it belongs—not with the premier and the reasons for his tame acquiescence, but with the relations between the domestic ruling class and the imperial authorities.
This is not to support any argument that the dismissal sprang from a knee-jerk reaction to 'right-wing pressure'. The most superficial reading of the Game papers suggests that such a view is demeaning of the governor's careful deliberations. Yet it must not be forgotten that he had already displayed a willingness to dismiss the Lang government in late 1930 and early 1931.


The leading officials of the Dominions Office were not always reluctant to intervene in the evolving New South Wales constitutional crisis. As early as December 1930 discussions had taken place between Sir Edward Harding, the permanent undersecretary of state for Dominion Affairs, and J.H. Thomas, secretary of state for Dominion Affairs, about the use of a particular piece of legislation, the Colonial Stock Act of 1900, to curb Lang's excesses. A relic of an earlier era in British imperialism, the act justified imperial intervention if it could be shown that the interests of holders of New South Wales Government Inscribed Stock were adversely affected. The form of intervention was not spelled out, but the act certainly makes the proposal of the British trade commissioner, R.W. Dalton, to form 'an expert and impartial Financial Commission from the United Kingdom' more explicable. The initiative was halted when Philip Snowden, chancellor of the exchequer, received legal advice that it would be difficult to establish a direct causal link between Lang's Upper House legislation and a deterioration of colonial stocks. Moreover it would be inexpedient to use the legislation if it created a furore that might jeopardise future use of the legislation in a more clear-cut case.

In early 1932 Sir Edward Harding and his colleagues had many causes for concern.
Apart from the rebellion in New South Wales, the 'Irish problem' again surfaced. In March the newly elected president of the Irish Free State, Eamon de Valera, announced that members of his Parliament would no longer declare an oath of allegiance to the King and that payment of land annuities due to the British government would cease. Nevertheless Harding continued to monitor the situation in New South Wales very closely and the Dominions Office engaged in considerable research. There are several hitherto ignored matters which arouse curiosity.

The first concerns the manouvring taking place in relation to the appointment of dormant commissions for the post of governor-general. These exist at all times and are designed to ensure that if the existing incumbent should be absent, incapacitated or killed, there is always a clearly understood and regularised chain of command among the State governors ready to take over. But after the departure of Sir Dudley le Chair and the Victorian governor, Lord Somers, there had been a long delay in arranging deputies for Sir Isaac Isaacs.

During the constitutional crisis the matter increasingly concerned both the Dominions Office and the Australian authorities. On 18 March 1932 a letter was sent from the Dominions Office to Ernest Crutchley's secretary suggesting that Major Keith Officer be consulted. On 30 April 1932 a reply was received to the effect that Officer had spoken with S.M. Bruce and that two dormant commissions, firstly to Sir Alexander HoreRuthven, governor of South Australia and secondly to Sir Philip Game, would shortly be issued. On 6 May 1932 Officer was again consulting various prominent personages about dormant commissions. On 12 May 1932 the matter was finalised. Sir Philip Game was issued with the senior dormant commission, Victoria's acting governor Sir William Irvine with the junior.

There may be nothing sinister in Game's 'promotion'. Yet the secrecy with which these otherwise mundane arrangements were carried out provokes thought. On 12 May 1932 Lyons cabled the secretary of state: 'In view of exceptional conditions now existing here Commonwealth Government would wish that the Commissions be not published at present time.' There were frequent references to the 'extreme urgency and secrecy' of the situation. Why the issue of dormant commissions became so urgent remains open to conjecture. Officially, the Commonwealth government regarded the matter as urgent because it did 'not wish to take any risks in view of Sir I. Isaacs' advanced age'. Isaacs's health was clearly a cause for some concern, and during the crisis the governor-general announced that he had cancelled all public engagements and was staying inside Government House 'owing to sudden and important affairs of State'. It is also possible that the last-minute issue of dormant commissions was related to the Commonwealth government's fears that Canberra was about to be invaded. Prime Minister Lyons had received a number of death threats, so it is possible that the Commonwealth was concerned that the governorgeneral's life was also in danger. In the final analysis, however the most significant implication is to consider what might have happened in the unlikely event that Isaacs had been killed or incapacitated. Philip Game would have been appointed acting governor-general. While this made a great deal of sense because when every minute counted he was the closest to Canberra, if the dismissal of the Lang government had triggered a more militant, adventurist response from Labor supporters and a sniper's bullet had killed Isaacs, the appointment of the political 'assassin', Game, to the position of governor-general and commander-in-chief of the armed forces would certainly not have improved the situation. It would have increased the likelihood of civil commotion.

Secondly, Commonwealth attorney-general John Latham's movements and actions also warrant consideration. In Europe to represent Australia at the Disarmament Conference in Geneva and as counsel for the Commonwealth in the Privy Council appeal, Latham was certainly in a position to influence the imperial authorities. On 22 April 1932 he spoke to Sir Edward Harding. He consulted the King shortly after. The Trethowan case was actually adjourned for a day so that Latham could visit Buckingham Palace. Before this interview Sir Clive Wigram, the King's private secretary, had asked the Dominions Office to provide notes on the Privy Council appeal and the Financial Agreements Enforcement Act. On 12 May 1932 Latham countersigned the document for the issuing of the two dormant commissions to Game and Irvine, after- close consultation with the Dominions Office and members of the Commonwealth government. Influenced by advice from the likes of Sir Edward Mitchell who suggested, on 2 February 1932, 'I think you can take steps that should get rid of Lang—or make him subservient', and disconcerting reports from solicitorgeneral George Knowles, Latham was unlikely to have refrained in his interviews with the King and Harding from mentioning the danger of imminent civil war and the desirability of ending the Lang tyranny. On 13 April 1932 he had been entertained privately by leading London businessmen who were concerned about their Australian investments and was able to 'speak freely and to tell us something of the present condition of affairs in Australia'. After news reached London of the dismissal Latham visited Sir Edward Harding's office to proffer his opinion that Game had acted quite properly, exercising a '"reserve power" in circumstances in which it was meant to be used'.

Thirdly, throughout the crisis the Dominions Office and British and United States security received reports from New South Wales of an impending communist insurrection, aided and abetted by the disturbed circumstances created by the rift in Commonwealth-State relations. One of their major sources of information was a member of the Commonwealth government, Major R.G. Casey. After returning to Australia in March 1931 Casey launched himself into a political career that took him into the milieu of the Old Guard. On 26 April 1931 Casey, Keith Officer and two prominent Sydney legal men, H.E. Manning and H.S. Nicholas, discussed their fears of serious rioting on May Day. Throughout 1931 Casey kept members of the Whitehall elite informed about 'the risk of social disturbance' in New South Wales, the Lang menace and the financial perils of Australia.

On 28 April 1932 Casey dined with Major Officer. Over dinner they discussed a plan for advising the Dominions Office of Lang's plans for socialism in New South Wales through Casey's former mentor, Sir Maurice Hankey31 Hankey was a close friend of Harding and 'collaborated with him constantly on Commonwealth affairs'. At this time Hankey was in Geneva at the Disarmament Conference where Latham, and more regularly, the Australian high commissioner, Sir Granville Ryrie, were also in attendance.

The import of Officer and Casey's plan cannot be determined from the Hankey papers, but the tone of Casey's continuing communication with Hankey, Harding and his assistant undersecretary, Sir Harry Batterbee became increasingly agitated. Before developments in the constitutional crisis of early 1932 Casey's advice to London had been fairly evenhanded.

In July 1931 he informed Hankey:

I cannot find it in me to comment adversely on Sir Philip Game's attitude, although many people condemn him for not taking a risk and making a wholehearted attempt to send Lang and his Government to the country. After all, he has had no constitutinal [sic] experience and he is up against a tight situation, in which, I have no doubt, the D.O. are unable to give him any clear-cut advice. His local technical advice is, I believe, conflicting. He is a gentleman, and Lang has no such disadvantage. He doubtless is obsessed by the necessity of not bringing about an election in which any question of the Crown versus the Labor Party could possibly be the issue. All this combined has stopped him from taking any definite action.

Casey's relaxed attitude did not last. On 30 March 1932 he informed Hankey of the measures being taken by the Commonwealth government with the 'extreme and rather peculiar Financial Agreements Enforcement Act' to 'either stop his [Lang's] defaulting becoming a habit or to get our hands into the N.S.W. tax-payers' pockets so as to recoup the Commonwealth and to denude the State Treasury of funds so that he would be forced to throw in his hand'. In common with others in the social and political circles in which he mixed, Casey was becoming increasingly worried. Lang, he reported, 'exploits class feeling in the best way I have heard it done'. The Lang Labor group in Canberra were 'leather-lunged, street corner lowbrows'. And there are 'people here, and intelligent people too', Casey observed, 'who think that our present Social System is "going by the board". I do not think this, although I do not think it at all impossible that we may have an attempt at a "bust up"'

Despite this final caveat, Casey's advice was not reassuring. From the Dominions Office point of view it was just as well that throughout 1931 and 1932 its officials were well informed about the loyalist responses. For Casey also told Whitehall about 'an organisation being set up in N.S.W. to combat lawlessness' and later wrote in more expansive terms to J.H. Thomas about the formation of 'Citizens Leagues and allied altruistic Organisations' which 'have some likeness to the Nazi Movement in Germany.' Lord Somers also submitted a report about 'the development of and formation of a citizens' organisation to assist in maintaining law and order should the necessity arise' which was forwarded to Sir Vernon Kell, head of M15, from the Dominions Offices.

Sir Edward Harding's knowledge of political movements totally unknown to the majority of Australians was further embellished by R.W. Dalton and Ernest Crutchley. When in Sydney Crutchley frequently enjoyed the company of Philip Goldfinch and other Old Guard leaders so it is little wonder that he was so well informed. On 28 July 1931, two days after motoring with Goldfinch to the south coast and the day after dining with Sir Kelso and Lady King, Crutchley informed London:

The secret organisation referred to in my despatch of April 22nd to the Assistant Under Secretary of State has developed well. It numbers 5,000 in Sydney and 18,000 in Country and is working secretly with the Police. The so-called White Army which is anything but secret is a source of danger rather than safety.

If such intelligence did serve to calm Whitehall, this confidence was short-lived. In April 1932, irrespective of the fate of Casey and Officer's plans to inform London about Lang's socialist intentions, overseas intelligence and diplomatic agencies were receiving reports that a 'Red Army' had been formed in New Sotith Wales. This was the Sydney Morning Herald's version of Lang's special constables, published on 16 April 1932. When cabled across the world in secret cyphers this news may have been decisive in precipitating intervention.

There is evidence that the imperial authorities were rather keener on doing away with the truculent premier than was the governor. Members of the British elite were growing increasingly belligerent. There were oft-expressed rumours of an unholy concordat between Game and Lang. Suggestions that the premier had requested Game's appointment and that their personal relations were excessively amicable were whispered around the clubs of Pall Mall. The beknighted and the powerful were accosting each other in the street to discuss the 'proper' course of action for Governor Game to follow: dismissal.

The Dominions Office was far from being the most powerful department in the British civil service. Its undersecretary of state did not enjoy the sweeping powers of his counterpart in the India Office who could quite literally demand that the British viceroy do his bidding. Sir Edward Harding was a steady, calculating man with 'a rigid sense of duty and a ster n conscience', but it would have been difficult for him to have distanced himself from this unprecedented imperial interest in New South Wales politics. And if it was not in Harding's nature to overreact to alarmist reports the same could not be said of his senior assistant secretary, Batterbee. Known to Casey as 'Batters' and to his colleagues as the 'White Knight', a tall gaunt figure with a proclivity to wave his hands frantically at times of excitement, the historian of the Commonwealth Office has described Batterbee as a nervous man, fuelled by a 'sense of the dramatic, [a] sense of mystery and la1 temptation to exaggerate'. Batterbee was also on particularly congenial terms with the Royal Family and his visits to Buckingham Palace were so frequent that staff used to enquire, 'Oh dear! What can the matter be? Here comes old Harry Batterbee'.

It would be interesting to know how Batterbee represented the situation in New South Wales to the King. For the normally calm, untroubled routine of the Dominions Office was clearly upset by the sequence of events in the antipodes. There had even been some concern that Lang and A.C. Willis, the New South Wales agent-general in London, had managed to crack the secret cyphers between Government House and the Dominions Office. On 16 March 1932 the governor despatched the New Guard's petition to London. In an accompanying note Game suggested that he did not wish to comment on the petition except to say that the Lang government was elected constitutionally and 'has governed constitutionally'. To this final comment Sir Edward Harding added the notation, 'I don't think that Sir P. Game can have realised that this phrase goes rather far'. This seems to be part of a suggestion that the British authorities, the officials at the Dominions Office and others who regularly read the news from the antipodes, the King, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York, were searching for a pretext—even that provided by a dubious organisation like the New Guard—to sweep Lang from office. On 9 May 1932 Sir Clive Wigram, the King's private secretary, contacted Harding to inquire about the position with regard to the New Guard's petition. The testy South Australian governor, Hore-Ruthven, was forever sending despatches to London declaring that, 'Langism is only another name for Communism' and, on 12 April 1932, 'drastic situations require drastic remedies and when fighting a Lang the gloves must be off'.

So how was this constant stream of one-sided advice received and acted upon? Definitive assessment is impossible, for if there was an explicit command sent in writing from London to Sydney to dismiss Lang, that correspondence is not preserved in the Dominions Office records. On the other hand perhaps it would be naive to expect that it would have been preserved, for the issue is very sensitive.

Questions are easier to provide than answers. Why for instance, did the Dominions Office officials delay so long in responding to Game's request for advice of 23 April 1932. For if the governor had received the reply, that which argued that dismissal was a 'grave step' and 'unwise', he would almost certainly have refrained from withdrawing the premier's commission. Harding requested an exhaustive number of clarifications on minute, seemingly trivial points of detail. Why? Perhaps this simply reflected Harding's penchant for perfectionism and that he was 'congenitally incapable of accepting a draft without making some amendments of wording, if none of meaning'. On the other hand perhaps Harding was hoping that events would overtake the New South Wales governor and that the desired result (dismissal) would occur without the Dominions Office being drawn into the controversy.

On 12 May 1932 a memo circulating around the Dominions Office conceded that Game was 'not wrong' in supposing that it was not for the governor to 'judge between' the people and their duly chosen representatives, 'at any rate apart from the most exceptional circumstances'. That final qualification may be crucial. On 13 May 1932 Harding scribbled a further cryptic comment in the margin of this report, viz., 'I have explained in this sense to Sir P. Game'. So what did Harding understand by the 'most exceptional circumstances' and how did he communicate this to Game?

Again the records are silent in terms of providing categorical answers but replete with interesting possibilities. Even the handwriting of Harding's addendum seems uncharacteristically shaky. Was this the mark of a man beleaguered by many hours of concentration, awed by the gravity of the decision he had taken? Harding's marginal notation makes it clear that he explained the Dominions Office's view of the 'most exceptional circumstanceston 13 May 1932, so depending upon the means of transmission employed it may have been the last piece of advice Game received from London before confronting Lang.

Is it likely that the advice would have been despatched by post? It then took, on average, twenty-eight days for postal articles to pass between London and Sydney. Even a cable telegram, given the time needed for despatch, receipt, delivery and decoding, could have been too slow. In April 1930 the wireless telephone link had been opened between Britain and Australia. The telephone was used on other occasions to communicate urgent messages between Whitehall and Government House. The fine details of timing are unclear but it is conceivable (even if not definite) that, at some time on 13 May, the crackly wireless telephone carried a firm request from Harding to, if at all possible, bring the matter to a satisfactory conclusion. Lady Game had already indicated how her husband would react if this happened. Earlier she wrote to her mother, 'The great question in his [i.e. Game's] mind is now whether he shall dismiss Lang or not . .. They may tell him to do so from Home, and in that case he must.'

... in May 1932 civil commotion was imminent. If 'law and order' was to be maintained at all costs there were indeed valid reasons for dismissing the Lang government. Game was well acquainted with the problem of the 'serpent's brood' hatching before his very eyes. The Honourable Sir Langer Owen, a judge of the New South Wales Supreme Court, whose son was a member of the Old Guard, was only one of many who advised him, 'I fear that this unhappy State of ours is very close to revolution'. On 17 April 1932 Billy Hughes warned the governor that the decision of the Privy Council was all-important, for, [i]f Lang's appeal is upheld he can pull through without resort to ultra-constitutional methods. If it fails there is serious trouble ahead . . . The Auckland riots are a beacon light warning shipping out from a dangerous coast. As Your Excellency knows I do not believe Australia is likely to try the short and bloody way out of its troubles. But if the Conference agrees to a reduction of wages, the temper of the people will be ugly. And anything may happen.

Game was, as he put it, 'between the deep sea and the devil'. But even given the paucity of precedents, some issues were clear enough. On 15 April 1932 he agonised: 'What I am rather dreading is financial chaos. I don't see where the cash is coming from for more than a week or two longer in any case, and the position won't be any [more] serious if the Federal Government puts a receiver in our Treasury.'

Through the admonitions of Casey, Officer, Crutchley, Game and Hore-Ruthven, the officials of the Dominions Office had similar issues on their minds. Crutchley's role is particularly interesting In February 1932 the British representative returned to London for health reasons and to ponder his future career. This provided Whitehall with access to unique, inside information about the crisis in New South Wales. Crutchley was almost certainly the only person in London who could lay claim to having had long, heart-to-heart discussions with Sir Philip Game concerning the propriety of exercising his reserve powers. Crutchley was very sympathetic to the governor and found him 'extraordinarily unprejudiced' when they had discussed the matter, without resolution, on several occasions in 1931.

Upon his return to London the British representative was summoned to the palace. On 23 February 1932, the same day he spoke to the King, Crutchley lunched with Harding at his 'charming flat' in Chelsea. Six days later J.H. Thomas asked him a 'lot of elementary questions about Australia' and between visits to his physician, Crutchley was frequently at the Dominions Office talking to Harding, Batterbee and another important civil servant, Geoffrey Whiskard, whose country property he visited the week before the dismissal.

Yet Crutchley's role was not that of a determined advocate of imperial intervention. On 29 April 1932 he lunched with Sir Henry Galway, a veteran soldier and former governor of South Australia, and David Maughan, counsel for Trethowan in the Privy Council appeal. Crutchley found Maughan 'amusingly partisan like all Australians'. He was distinctly unimpressed with Maughan's view that Game's acquiescence to the latest Upper House appointments was 'criminal' and amazed how lightly both Maughan and Galway treated the possible consequences of Game dismissing Lang. In Crutchley's view this would only serve to rally support for the premier. At another lunch the British representative found himself defending Game to none other than General Birdwood. Emerging from this complex mosaic is an impression of Whitehall perceiving the New South Wales governor, quite correctly, as being swamped by the course of events. For when Crutchley recorded his conversations with Game, it was to emphasise the governor's troubled state, how 'worried' he was, how embattled and also it could be construed, how indecisive. Harding may have resoived to end the stalemate with the idea in mind that the governor would appreciate the trauma of decision-making being taken out of his hands; and in this respect he may have been quite right.

Upon his return to Australia, after consulting with his good friend Goldfinch and Major Jones, Ernest Crutchley compiled a remarkable report which clearly revealed the deleterious state of public affairs in New South Wales. In sum, from Harding's point of view, the information it contained surely constituted 'the most exceptional circumstances'.

Crutchley wrote:

I had lunch and a long talk with Game ranging over a variety of topics from Lady Angela onwards. We touched on the very thin time Game had during the Lang crisis but I found he had not a hard word to say about anyone. A more Christian-like attitude I cannot conceive because he was treated very badly.
Goldfinch, of whom I have written you more than once, made things easier for Game and was censured by his fellow members [of the Union Club] for letting them down. He offered to make bets with some of them that within a month they would be licking the Governor's boots, and as a matter of fact he drew money from several people on this account. The climax of this story occurred at Government House where Lady Game drew Goldfinch aside one day and told him with a twinkle in her eye that she had heard about his bets

There seems no doubt that Lang's dismissal took place at the psychological moment and that a very nasty outbreak was thereby prevented. My letters in 1931 told you about the New Guard on the one hand, and, on the other the Secret force organised on our Transport and Supply basis which I may refer to as X Force. The New Guard fulfilled my prophecy and became a source of acute trouble, in fact they had a considerable plot on foot at the time of opening of the Bridge. However, the Federal Deputy Attorney General went down to Sydney prepared to appoint, through the medium of X Force, 2,000 Commonwealth 'Peace Officers' to defend Commonwealth property. The New Guard got to hear of this and redoubled their efforts. They actually secured duplicate keys of Police Barracks and were prepared to raid for arms, although they would not have gained much as the bolts of the rifles were all concealed in bullion boxes in the vaults of the Commonwealth Bank masquerading as gold reserve! Then the leader of the 'Shock troops' got cold feet and gave the show away to X Force Headquarters. Had it not been for Lang's dismissal there would undoubtedly have been bloodshed eventually, The Commonwealth wanted a full enquiry, so did the State Government, but sane opinion in Sydney prevailed on the ground[s] that a disclosure of the plot would have had a very serious effect on public opinion. The New Guard would have been associated with the U.A.P., as indeed it has been in many quarters, and there would have been a tremendous reaction towards Langism. Lang was organising at this time a very large enrolment of special constables and all the basher gangs of Sydney were candidates. The Federal police got to know about it; their intelligence system seems to be quite good. I was shown a copy of one of the enrolment forms secretly printed but never used.

You probably know more about this business than I have told you here. If you don't you will probably think that I have been seeing American films, but all I have told you, and a lot more that I could tell you, is quite unassailable in its authority. I learned only this morning from the Chief of the Commonwealth Police that Eric Campbell, the head of the New Guard, had been an agent for Russian Oil Products and his chief of staff, one Brigadier-General Lloyd, was also mixed up with the Russian people. What there may be in this I don't know.

Throughout the constitutional crisis the imperial authorities were in contact with precisely the same people, Lyons and Latham in particular, who were giving consideration to unleashing the Old Guard. So doubtless Harding and Batterbee did not suspect Crutchley of overindulgence in American films, even if he could not resist reference to the perennial red herring of Campbell and Lloyd's business association with Russian Oil Products. Crutchley's report, however, raises many important issues. While it was compiled some months after the dismissal, it may be taken as indicative of the type of information available to the Dominions Office officials while they deliberated over the constitutional and legal issues associated with the crisis. Crutchley was almost certainly correct: the Dominions Office men probably did know 'more about this business'. If one of Crutchley's sources, Major Jones, communicated this information to British security (and it would have been remiss of him not to do so), the Dominions Office and the palace would have been swiftly informed. As well, Philip Goldfinch's confident wagering—effectively that Game would dismiss Lang—suggests an important point about the differing relationship between the vice-regal representative and the two conservative paramilitary organisations preparing, for different reasons, to attack the Lang government.

When the leaders of the New Guard delivered their petition to Government House they were abruptly dismissed. The leaders of the Old Guard, on the other hand, not only crossed the threshold, they stayed for dinner. Typical of the dinner table banter at Government House in early 1932 was the following exchange between Captain Aubrey Abbott and Governor Game. The latter was inclined to defend Lang and emphasise his redeeming qualities. The former was determined to set his host straight. Abbott warned that the premier was 'a dangerous and reckless man and I'm positive that before [long] he will cause you great concern'. Game and Abbott met again in 1947. Their thoughts returned quickly to the constitutional crisis of 1932. Game suggested that the 'serious way you talked kept coming back to me. Finally, I had to take the step I did. It was the only way The guest list at various vice-regal soirees, garden parties, bridge parties, balls, dinner parties and other official occasions, suggests that this was not the only time Game received such 'advice'. In March 1932 the governor even stayed at a somewhat reconciled Sir Adrian Knox's property at Bowral. At Rushcutters Bay on 10 February 1932 Game was among an audience watching the Australian tennis team led by Norman Brookes, Herbert Brookes's brother, take on the Japanese. Seated directly behind him in the area set aside for VIPs was Sir Henry Braddon.

Again, this is not to suggest that Game dismissed the Lang government simply because his dinner guests badgered him. The governor possessed great personal integrity. Had 'Sandy' Hore-Ruthven or Sir William Irvine, who, in August 1931 warned Melbourne Rotary of the 'sinister significance' of certain political occurrences and urged all those who believed in British civilisation to 'keep alert', been in Game's position, it can be reasonably assumed that the Lang government's term of office would have been much shorter. Nor does it imply that it was just 'right-wing pressure' in isolation, from the Old Guard alone, which caused the dismissal.

It is necessary to review the governor's position. He was in a state of 'constant anxiety'. After talking to Chief Justice Street in March 1932 he came to the rather tortuous conclusion 'that I should make a mistake, if I allowed myself to do anything which I think wrong, by fears of what may happen if I do what I think right'. His lack of experience in constitutional law was beginning to tell. From London Game may have been increasingly aware of a certain restiveness amongst his superiors who felt that the quality of mercy had become a trifle strained and who were, if not delivering specific ultimatums, showing every sign of searching for pretexts for the governor to intervene. He certainly knew that he had incurred the wrath of the King for allowing the premier to open the Harbour Bridge. In Sydney the pressure was building up to a crescendo. House guests such as Sir William Cullen, chancellor of Sydney University and a former lieutenant governor who had administered New South Wales on six occasions, were stretching vice-regal hospitality by keeping the governor up until 12.30 am on 8 May 1932 imploring and explaining why he should dismiss Lang. On another occasion Game and Brigadier General Anderson were publicly snubbed and humiliated in the Union Club. Consett Stephen, the club's president, refused to sit at the same table and like errant schoolboys the vice-regal duo were forced to sit at an empty table in another room. On 11 April 1932 Richard Windeyer and six other KCs tendered their 'memorandum' via Anderson suggesting that the governor was entitled to end the Lang tyranny.

Others warned repeatedly of impending civil commotion. Because of the rift in governmental relations, Lyons and McLachlan would not have risked informing Game fully about their plans for the Old Guard or the armed forces. To do so would have compromised Game or, rather worse, he might have told Lang. But in May 1932 the proximity of social unrest was obvious to even the most unobservant. Harding, or even Sir Isaac Isaacs who was observed at Government House 'scuttling up the staircase as if in hurried retreat' might have informed Game about the full extent of the Commonwealth's military and paramilitary preparations and the 'invasion' plan. Since the Red Cross was involved in the Old Guard's emergency operations the president of its New South Wales division—Lady Game—could have proffered useful wifely advice. Sir Philip Street may have been crucial in this context. In a despatch to London on 23 April 1932 Game had suggested'the Chief Justice . . . fears that the public may take violent action if the present condition is allowed to continue for long'. Street was well situated to comment authoritatively on any 'violent action' being contemplated by a section of the public—his nephew was Jack Scott.

In any case the governor apparently came to be fully aware of the imminent breakdown of 'law and order' through a member of his staff, though again this depends on the weight that may be attached to the reminiscences of L.S. Jackson. Jackson recalled that on Wednesday 11 May the governor's aide-de-camp, Charles Gifford, called at the offices of the Commonwealth crown solicitor. Gifford's mission was a delicate one. His intention was 'to obtain as much information as possible of the present situation between the two Governments'. He spoke to the same Commonwealth officials who had intended storming the State Taxation Office nine days earlier and who, through Longfield Lloyd, had been contemplating swearing in an elite corps of the Old Guard as peace officers. Gifford was no doubt rocked by the story L.S. Jackson and George Watson had to tell about their dealings with Senator Massy-Greene.

When relayed back to the governor this intelligence could easily have been the cause of an apparent change of heart. On 23 April Game had been reasonably confident that Chief Justice Street's prediction of impending violence would not eventuate and in his speech at Narromine on 3 May the governor had more or less stated that he would not intervene. In any case there can be no doubt that when he took pen to paper on 13 May 1932, after a last-minute surreptitious visit to the private home of a senior legal figure—presumably Street—Game's son circling the streets of Woollahra so that the governor's limousine would not betray his presence inside, Sir Philip Game knew exactly how volatile the situation really was. It was, as Crutchley suggested, the precise 'psychological moment'. Appreciative of the danger of civil commotion and realising that in his hands lay the means to ward off the unthinkable, Governor Game signed the Lang government's death warrant. How could any reasonable man in such a position, imbued with liberal ideals and an abhorrence of social discord have acted any differently? Game acted to preserve the long-term interests of 'peace, order and good government' and all which accrued from it.

A week after the dismissal he wrote:

But all the time the whole position was going from bad to worse. The scrap between Commonwealth and State had ... to develop into a bitter struggle. There was no improvement in employment and worse distress in sight and a feeling of complete unrest, uncertainty and lack of confidence . . . everywhere . . . they forced my hand.

Lang's behaviour after the dismissal can be explained in similar terms. He nurtured strong suspicions about the Old Guard, the military alert and the formation of the Common wealth peace officers. He went quietly because he wished to avoid bloodshed and because he realised that his supporters would be outgunned by the Commonwealth and its clandestine Supporters. During the morning of 13 May 1932 the State Government Treasury telegrammed A.C. Willis in London, ordering the shipment of 1000 reams of duty-stamp paper by the first available steamer.
The order almost certainly pertained to the implementation of the Mortgages Taxation Bill. This was not the mark of a government preparing for comfortable retirement in Opposition. It suggests that the legislation was genuinely cast as a last-ditch measure to put the State's finances in order—not as a provocative measure to force the governor to intervene. Until the very last, in quite a courageous fashion, the Lang government fought for its survival. Lang did not court his own dismissal. He merely stepped back from the precipice of armed struggle, behaving 'responsibly' so that a civil war which was not primarily of his making was averted.

The tension eases
Whatever the likelihood of such an outcome, the response to eighteen months of controversial Labor rule was neither the forcible seizure of power by a cabal of generals nor the armed insurrection of the bourgeoisie. On 13 May B.S.B. Stevens was sworn in as premier and arrangements made for an election to be held on 11 June.

Governor Game became the toast of the town. General Chauvel sent his congratulations: 'You probably hardly realise what relief it has given to the whole of Australia, and, if the Election goes all right you will have definitely saved the Country from disaster'. General White was, as usual, a cut above the rest, protesting, 'What a fickle thing public opinion is. A short while since . . . nothing was too bad for you. Now you are the one and only hero in Australia'. White also expressed his appreciation that the governor's intervention stemmed from 'intense thought and complete purity of motive'. Sir Joseph Carruthers apologised for his earlier 'impatience' but felt 'all's well that ends well'. Sir Langer Owen also expressed confidence in the governor's actions. He looked forward to a time after the elections when 'honour & fair play to all will come into their own and dishonour & class hatred will disappear'.

Between the dismissal and elections there was still much tension. Canon Arthur Garnsey confessed to being 'under an intense nervous strain until it is over. Meanwhile we . . . are trying not to think of it—and reading novels and Hosea and St Paul and St John and A. E. Taylor's Faith of a Moralist and H. M. Green's Book of Beauty'. On 20 May 1932 Governor Game reported: 'Outwardly all is quiet here but I suppose one cannot hope to get through this election without a great deal of heat, though I hope it will be confined to talk and pen and eschew gun pipes.'

The New Guard committed its ugliest deed only a few days after the dismissal. In the early hours of 15 May a contingent of New Guardsmen at Binnaway carried a market gardener and Labor supporter, William Thompson, from his bed. After dragging him to a secluded spot they branded the letters 'R.E.D.' into his forehead with nitrate of silver. A week later a policeman was assaulted after observing a New Guard parade at Pendle Hill. At the Empire Day New Guard reunion at the Sydney Town Hall on 25 May 1932 there was a near riot when the despised undercover agent, Captain Warneford, appeared amid a police contingent led by MacKay which boldly intruded upon the meeting hoping, no doubt, to start an altercation.

Five days after the dismissal Frederic Hinton paid a late evening visit to one of his branch heads. Several days later two Bathurst businessmen engaged in fisticuffs over whether it was proper for the 'New Guard' to be a secret society. The Old Guard was again confused with its progeny in an incident at Cowra on 6 June 1932 when an altercation ensued over attempts to carry a placard, declaring 'Lang is Right', beside a display representing 'Britannia' at the annual show. The judge of the procession attempted to wrest the placard away from its carrier, a young boy. The boy's father became incensed and jostled the judge yelling, 'You are a . . . fine specimen of a Boo Guard'. He was convicted of assault and indecent language.

It is interesting to note that on 28 May 1932 Prime Minister Lyons visited Game to discuss 'what to do if our friend [i.e. Lang] retums.' While the propriety of that visit is open to question, the problem did not arise.

The June 1932 elections, in common with those of December 1931, attested to an integral aspect of the Old Guard's political character. Many of its leading cadres sought election to parliament as either UAP or UCP candidates. Understandably, the campaign was conducted as though the fate of civilisation hung in the balance. Conservative propaganda warned that if Lang was voted back into office,

. . . he will take the vote as a meaning that he and his gang are no longer bound by the laws of the land; thus nobody will be able to oppose anything he does, and his dictatorship - will be complete. He will then be able to impose his will upon the people of N.S. Wales, without their having any say in the matter ever atter, as the next election day will be put off forever, as it is in Russia.

Further negotiations took place between conservative groups to'scotch the demon of disunity'. The UAP and the UCP joined forces. In some seats 'unity' candidates were proposed in preference to those formerly associated with either conservative party. The Graziers' Association established a United Advisory Council with a publicity committee, headed by M.H. and Ulrich Ellis, to lead the war of ideas and to act as a pool for funds drawn from both manufacturing and pastoral capital. Minter Simpson & Co. donated £3400, a large portion of which no doubt emanated from Goldfinch and CSR. In all £16 000 was raised for the propaganda offensive. Private citizens also made significant contributions. The managing directors of foreignowned firms like the Goodyear Tyre and Rubber Co. contacted Stevens stating that they looked forward to firm promises that their companies would be treated similarly to local manufacturers. Advertising firms solicited cheery messages from Stevens in anticipation of an election win, pointing out that this would be instrumental 'in re-establishing confidence' and freeing'the tremendous amount of money locked up during the Lang regime . . . for industry and general trading'.

The election campaign was conducted ruthlessly. Employees were coerced by the threat of dismissal. Propaganda was distributed in pay packets. The Sane Democracy League harangued voters with the proposition, 'Can I take a chance that I may vote for civil war?'—thereby offering the electorate a free choice between B.S.B. Stevens and chaos. The Daily Telegraph published a forged Zinoviev-style document two days before the election which was purportedly found in ALP rooms in State Parliament House claiming that the 'Lang Secret Service' had plans to carry out civil revolution within forty eight hours of re-election.

Radio listeners were advised by Major General Gordon Bennett:

'This is an election in which the people are asked to decide if they prefer honesty or dishonesty, confidence or chaos, a British democracy or a Moscow dictatorship. We are at the parting of the ways.'

R.G. Casey also cautioned that, if Lang was returned, 'nothing was surer than civil war. It was a case of, as it had been in December:
'Safety First! Australia Is In Great Peril. A Call is Given to her True Sons and Daughters to Save Her. Australia's Backbone is the Rural Population. Maintain the Backbone by voting Laborites and Communists Out of Power.' The New Guard provided transport to polling booths to voters 'other than Communists or Lang planners', particularly 'in hostile centres like Bankstown'.
Predictably, the Lang government was decimated, losing all of its rural seats except for those surrounding mining centres and retaining only twenty-four of the fifty-five seats it had won in 1930.

Many of the Old Guardsmen who had been preparing to come to Sydney on 13 May 1932 now arrived as members of parliament. Albert Reid convincingly defeated Clarrie Martin and a fellow UCP challenger to end his 'temporary absence' as the parliamentary representative for the constituents of Young. At least two of the three one-legged Great War veterans who successfully contested country seats, Gordon 'Dick' Wilkins (Bathurst) and George Wilson (Dubbo), were senior Old Guards. So were the new honourable members for Castlereagh, Mudgee, Namoi, Cootamundra and Orange.

Some Old Guardsmen were disappointed. E.L. Killen could not wrest the Cobar seat from the ALP sitting member, M.A. Davidson. Frederic Hinton conducted a vigorous campaign as the UCP candidate for Orange but was finally defeated by the UAP aspirant Alwyn Tonking, an Old Guard group head. According to the Canowindra Star on 14 June 1932 Hinton's defeat upset many already ensconced in Parliament House. 'Disappointment was generally expressed when the news came through on the Sunday morning of the turn of the tide', it reported. Of 'The Unknown Three' Donald Cameron was alone in not contesting a seat. Nevertheless he was a powerful force in conservative politics in the Upper Hunter and well connected in UAP circles in Sydney and Canberra.

All of this, together with Old Guardsmen like Nock, Abbott and McNicoll in Commonwealth Parliament, suggests that the rather oblique comment in an Old Guard bulletin, referring to the gratitude of 'those in public life who had looked to our Movement to help should the necessity have arisen', reflects a natural, if somewhat unpalatable, alliance between the counterrevolutionary organisation and the conservative political parties. From their most menial to their most exalted levels, from local branches, electorate councils to central council and party leaders, the UAP and UCP were tied, informally at least, to the Old Guard. Lieutenant Colonel Michael Bruxner was accused of being a member of the 'White Guard' on at least one occasion. His Light Horse credentials, trenchant anticommunism, the 'great liking' he had for Albert Reid and the fact that he regarded Frederic Hinton as his 'old friend', enhance Ulrich Ellis's confirmation that Bruxner 'favoured the Old Guard'. The UCP secretary, Lieutenant Colonel E.J. Munro, a former member of General Monash's staff and habitue of the Imperial Service Club who remained in contact with Military Intelligence in Sydney, was almost certainly similarly committed. Lang's passing reference to the Old Guard as being identical with the Nationalist Consultative Council, the sponsor organisation and fundraising body of the UAP, may not be as exaggerated as it seems at first glance. Among its members were the Producers' Advisory Council emergency parliamentarian, A.E. Heath, together with Telford Simpson (E.P. Simpson's son), Charles Lloyd Jones and F.N. Yarwood, a former councillor of the King and Empire Alliance. Goldfinch, Gillespie and the retailer Sydney Snow were the principal financial mainstays of the State UAP party machine.

After 11 June 1932, jubilation prevailed among the bourgeoisie. Stevens had 'just come in time to prevent the red flag from flying over Sydney'. It was possible to look to the future with restored optimism.

Goldsbrough Mort informed his Melbourne superiors,

'Some of the members of the Ministry are the personal friends of Mr Cudmore and myself, and we have the ready ear of authority in any representations we have to make.' Sir Mark Sheldon rejoiced: 'With clean, honest government and a determination to balance public expenditure, in a reasonable time there need be no fear for the future.'

A wave of buying broke on the stock exchanges in Sydney and Melbourne. Australian stocks rose meteorically in London. Real estate buying accelerated. Cash registers rang merrily, business prospects improved. Thanksgiving gatherings spoke of divine intervention as 'the people of New South Wales' welcomed their 'deliverance' from the tyranny of Lang. The sanctions that had added to the woes of the Lang government were lifted. Capital began flowing back into New South Wales. Employers considered reengaging labour. Town Hall meetings of the 'Back to Work' citizens' movement, supported by the Sydney Chamber of Commerce, echoed to strident calls for employers to take on 'as much extra labour as they possibly can and thereby help to rehabilitate our country and drive the nail still further into the coffin of Communism'. The Sydney Morning Herald on 23 July 1932 published a stirring photograph of three contented artisans painting the red-bricked Croydon bungalow of B.S.B. Stevens—the community-minded premier taking the lead in these humanitarian initiatives. The nightmare was over.

The end of the Labor government meant a review for its armed enemies. Campbell was adarnant that the New Guard should continue, but the Old Guard quickly slipped into recess. The passions so much to the fore earlier in 1932 rapidly became unreal and strangely mismatched to the restored calm of New South Wales politics. The de Groot episode would be re-enacted many times for humorous rather than political reasons. Perhaps the first was a quaint scene at the opening of a rough bridge over a creek at Cargo, a sleepy little hamlet in mountain country between Canowindra and Orange. The occasion was a scout camp in November 1932. Yet there was a strange sense of déja vu to this minor event. 'De Groot' was played by a young scout, Jack Crowe, whose father had been a prominent member of the Canowindra Old Guard. 'Lang' was played by Sir Philip Game. And among those who guffawed with laughter at young Crowe's antics was the proud scoutmaster, Frederic Hinton. In late July 1932 General Sir Brudenell White arrived in Sydney. Before he returned to Melbourne on 11 August, the Old Guard held its 'terminating' conference in Sydney.

A bulletin issued at this conference explained the reasons for discontinuing the organisation:

Your General Committee which includes Members from all country divisions has come to the conclusion that the danger which threatened this State has been temporarily relieved and there is no necessity to keep the Movement in continuous active readiness which incurs a great deal of voluntary work and cost. Your committee is in a position to know that the Movement has been a most valuable safeguard in the troubles that seem to be passed, for the time being at any rate, and it is also aware that those in public life who had looked to our Movement to help should the necessity have arisen (and it very nearly did) are extremely grateful to all those who did so much in building up the Organisation and those others who had joined and showed their readiness to answer the call. In addition there are thousands of private individuals who felt security in and gratitude for the services offered by our Members.

While accurate in one sense, the belief that the movement had been 'a most valuable safeguard . . . should the necessity have arisen' was part of the perverse logic of counterrevolutionary preparatioll. The Old Guard stayed secret so that its iopposite numbers' would not be alerted and, would, therefore, be less capable of dealing with their counteroffensive. At the same time, it was not only believed that the communists knew all about the secret army but also held that it was precisely this knowledge which had restrained them from staging their revolution This was more than a trifle self-congratulatory and inaccurate. It was also fundamentally circular. Nevertheless such flawed logic justified and sustained the intermittent vigilance of the counterrevolutionaries. Just as Hughes believed that the thing which had stopped a revolution in Brisbane in 1919 was the precautions he had taken of sending machine guns in piano cases, in April 1932 Major Beveridge, chief of staff of the New Guard, felt that 'if it were not for the 100,000 trained and disciplined men of the New Guard the "Reds" would have busted Sydney six months ago'. The quiescence of the greatly exaggerated bolshevik menace vindicated elaborate counterrevolutionary preparations which were, in themselves, potentially disruptive of 'law and order'. Members of the Old Guard were already beginning to rewrite history. The Old Guard's northern division issued a bulletin which informed members of the 'stand-down' and reminded them never to forget that things were dark during the Lang years.


Veiled references to a 'Higher Authority' which had taken 'determined steps' in the knowledge that it commanded the full support of the Old Guard thinly disguised the ambiguity of the organisation's position. While purporting to defend liberal democracy, talk of its 'watch dog' role suggests that the raison d'etre of the Old Guard embraced distrust of those same principles.

The Old Guard's leaders tidied up certain administrative loose ends. Outstanding accounts were settled, excess funds donated to charity and instructions were issued that all records, except those to be retained by 'D.H.W.', Frederic Hinton, were to be destroyed All personnel were informed of the secret army's termination and after a number of small social occasions, 'carried out on the same basis of non-publicity which has been such an important and successful feature of the organisation through its life', perhaps the most formidable vigilante force ever assembled in Australian history came to an apparently abrupt conclusion. But not without issuing some advice for the future. The final bulletin proclaimed:

A valuable brotherhood has been established, particularly amongst those who have had the responsibility of managing the policy and the details of the Movement and this brotherhood will not and cannot be destroyed, It will again be there actively if required, and it is hoped that our friends will remain steadily and silently ready to take their places in the Movement as they did before so that at short notice it might be 100% effective if called upon.

Many thanks to Associate Professor Andrew Moore for allowing the use of these chapters from his book.
References: "The People's Choice - Electoral Politics in 20th Century New South Wales." Ed. Michael Hogan and David Clune. Sydney, Parliament of New South Wales (University of Sydney) 2001