Research on soldier settlement has to be set within the wider history of emigration and immigration. This book examines two parallel but complementary themes: the settlement of British soldiers in the overseas or 'white' dominions, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa, between 1915 and 1930. One must place soldier settlement within the larger context of imperial migration prior to 1914 in order to elicit the changes in attitude and policy which occurred after the armistice. The book discusses the changes to Anglo-dominion relations that were consequent upon the incorporation of British ex-service personnel into several overseas soldier settlement programmes, and unravels the responses of the dominion governments to such programmes. For instance, Canadians and Australians complained about the number of ex-imperials who arrived physically unfit and unable to undertake employment of any kind. The First World War made the British government to commit itself to a free passage scheme for its ex-service personnel between 1914 and 1922. The efforts of men such as L. S. Amery who attempted to establish a landed imperial yeomanry overseas is described. Anglicisation was revived in South Africa after the second Anglo-Boer War, and politicisation of the country's soldier settlement was an integral part of the larger debate on British immigration to South Africa. The Australian experience of resettling ex-servicemen on the land after World War I came at a great social and financial cost, and New Zealand's disappointing results demonstrated the nation's vulnerability to outside economic factors.
Post-war imperial migration was not regarded as a major issue by the Imperial government until the summer of 1916, but thereafter its close association with post-war reconstruction made it an increasingly important matter. The pressure for positive state intervention in the resettlement, rehabilitation and retraining of British ex-servicemen, including a state-aided free-passage scheme to the dominions, came from two sources. Sustained unemployment among British ex-servicemen provided the impetus for the extension of the ex-servicemen's free-passage scheme. The Dominions Royal Commission (DRC) supported the establishment of special machinery to assist ex-servicemen to select, purchase and settle on land in the overseas dominions. The reaction and response of the dominions to the free-passage scheme varied. The antagonism between the two white communities in South Africa made the emigration issue extremely sensitive and politically divisive.
This introduction presents an overview of key concepts discussed in this book. The book explores in greater detail the issue of soldier settlement. It examines two parallel but complementary themes: the settlement of British soldiers in the overseas or 'white' dominions between 1915 and 1930. The war galvanised the British government into committing itself to a large-scale free passage scheme for its ex-service personnel between 1914 and 1922. The book focuses on the resettlement of British ex-servicemen overseas in the post-World War I era. The internal tensions and debates within the higher echelons of the respective bureaucracies and the changes in attitude and policy formulation that resulted have attracted equally sparse attention. The book addresses the issues and reveals how soldier settlement became a vehicle for a new era in empire co-operation and economic development.
This chapter focuses on to the colonial and imperial soldier settlement programmes in Canada and South Africa prior to 1914, since their experiences provide the most numerous and detailed accounts of soldier settlement policy. The seigneurial system provided a systematic approach to colonisation in New France along feudal guidelines imposed from Versailles. In the years prior to the War of 1812 a large number of Americans, other than Loyalists, migrated north and settled in southern Ontario. The increasing interest in the welfare of the ex-soldier, army pensioner and reservist evident in Britain between 1900 and 1914 stemmed from the experience of the second Anglo-Boer War. The Naval and Military Emigration League (NMEL), founded in November 1909, was the only British emigration society which dealt exclusively with former military personnel. The general aim of the NMEL was to furnish ex-servicemen with information about employment and settlement opportunities in the dominions.
The outbreak of First World War effectively ended imperial migration for the next five years. Post-war imperial migration was not regarded as a major issue by the imperial government until the summer of 1916, but thereafter its close association with post-war reconstruction made it an increasingly important matter. Moreover, the failure of the British government to launch a successful domestic colonisation scheme had a direct bearing on the implementation of the empire migration project. The period between 1919 and 1922 proved to be a crucial one for constructive imperialists throughout the empire. The task of assisting ex-servicemen was a completely separate matter, according to Leo Amery when he first took office in January. Amery's immediate aim was to frame a new emigration bill which would enhance imperial unity, contribute to the economic well being of the empire and offset the fiasco of Long's ill-conceived 1918 Emigration Bill.
Soldier settlement remained an important supplement to the dominion government's predominant and traditional role in settling and developing the agricultural resources of western Canada. The urgency with which Canadian politicians and civil servants viewed the problem of continuing rural depopulation, and the seriousness with which they viewed soldier settlement as a partial solution, was echoed by Henry Scammell. Rider Haggard's tour captured the public's imagination and turned what was simply a fact finding mission into a tremendous public relations victory for the Royal Colonial Institute (RCI) over an intransigent British government. The Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) took the opportunity of Haggard's visit to disclose its plans to provide agriculture farms on its extensive holdings in western Canada for returning veterans from Canada and Britain. Ontario became the first province to respond with a land settlement scheme for returned soldiers in February 1917.
Before 1914 Canada's national immigration policy was based on an economic strategy designed to develop its primary resource sector. The emphasis on agriculture and Ottawa's firm control over all aspects of immigration, colonisation and settlement ensured the pursuit of a consistent economic development policy. Dr A. M. Forbes argued that a policy of agricultural reconstruction based upon the resettlement of returning veterans would do more to stabilise Canadian society than any other reconstruction policy. The 1917 Act had restricted the soldiers' choice to dominion land in western Canada. In May 1919, Arthur Meighen introduced the new legislation which contained a number of changes to make the scheme more attractive and thus induce more men to settle. The appointment of Lieutenant-Colonel K. C. Bedson as the Soldier Settlement Board's (SSB's) overseas representative in February 1919 coincided with Sir Alfred Milner's reconstitution of the Oversea Settlement Committee (OSC).
The theme of anglicisation is a familiar one throughout late eighteenth and early nineteenth century British imperial history. Anglicisation was revived after the second Anglo-Boer War, motivated this time by the British government's attempt to foster white racial harmony and create a new rural order in South Africa. The politicisation of South African soldier settlement was not, however, centred on the conflict between the dominion government and veterans' organisations for participation in and control of post-war policy. Nationalist politicians saw the development of irrigation schemes as the country's salvation and the solution to the poor white problem. Throughout 1917 and 1918 the South African government remained resolute in its determination not to introduce special soldier settlement projects, state-aided migration programmes or participate in an imperial free passage scheme. The founding in 1920 of the 1820 Association marked a new chapter in British immigration to South Africa.
Land settlement had always been an integral part of the Australian experience and a necessary feature of state politics. During World War I a new legend and tradition emerged which not only paralleled the agrarian myth and the yeoman ideal but shared some of their salient features. The 'Anzac' legend or 'digger' tradition was created during the unsuccessful Gallipoli campaign. The cross-fertilisation of the outback, yeoman and Anzac traditions had important political implications during the post-war era. The most patriotic and 'British' of the dominions, New Zealand was the first dominion to initiate and enact soldier settlement legislation in October 1915. The immigration agreement of 1920 was a victory for Hughes in his battle with the states over control of immigration policy. Land settlement was a prominent feature of party politics in New Zealand, and after World War I was seen as an indispensable component of its reconstruction strategy.
In a survey of the British government's migration policy conducted in 1930, the Overseas Settlement Department concluded that assisted migration since World War I had been 'fostered largely for social and political reasons. Britain's free passage scheme for ex-service personnel provides another illustration of the gulf between imperial expectations and actual results. The underlying problem, was the neo-mercantilist rationale behind imperial soldier settlement. Economic factors aside, the failure to establish a landed imperial yeomanry was in part attributable to the growth of a 'sturdy' dominion nationalism. The depression of 1929-33 effectively ended assisted migration to the dominions. Throughout the 1930s and indeed during World War II, the political issues raised by imperial migration, particularly vis-a-vis the white dominions, remained central to British policy making. South Africa was a unique case because of the political sensitivity of both the immigration and land settlement issues.