The 1930s and the New and Old Guard.

Emerging in the 1930s were a number of right wing political groups seeking to influence both the State and Federal governments. Two of these groups were the Old Guard and the New Guard with each having military associations.

The existence of the Old Guard as a formal group has been questioned but it does appear to have exerted influence especially from 1930. It was strongly anti-communist and expressed a devotion to the maintenance of law and order including support for the British Empire. People who identified with it tended to be ex-military and be of the senior ranks of the professions and business. Overall command was said to have been held by Brigadier James Heane who had an orchard in Beecroft and developed a number of properties in Wandeen Avenue. Sir William John Victor Windeyer, who had early connections with Beecroft and married in 1934 Margaret Moor Vicars from Cheltenham, is said to have taken command of a platoon of the Old Guard. [1]

The New Guard was formed at a meeting at the Imperial Service Club on 18 February 1931. Colonel Eric Campbell was elected President and 7 other ex-officers were appointed to the inaugural executive committee. Campbell had previously formed the White Guard, in 1925, from predominantly ex-servicemen interesting in opposing a shipping strike. [2] From experiences such as this he gained experience in rapidly gaining popular support. While holding similar objectives, and most coming from the Old Guard, this group sought to be more closely aligned with the fascist movement in Europe and to be more popular and overt in its activities. It argued for ‘full liberty’, opposition to part politics and ‘sane’ government. It sought to provide order in times of civil unrest. Members appear to have personal fire arms and this may be a reason behind a significant increase in pistol licences between 1928 and 1932 – from 9000 to 16,500. Col Campbell visited Europe and met with Oswald Mosely in England and Joachim von Ribbentrop in the Foreign Office in Berlin. They claimed to have a membership across Sydney in 1932 of some 60,000 at a time when the total population of Sydney was 1.5 million. Again, while largely middle class in membership it was also supported by right wing unions like the Railway Service Association.[3]

After the defeat of the Lang and the formation of the Stevens State governments, membership of the New Guard commenced a sharp decline. It did form a political party, “Centre Party” which fielded candidates in 5 seats in the 1935 State election. While the party was unsuccessful in all seats, Fergus Munro the candidate in Hornsby did get over 15% in that seat – which adjoined the seat covering Beecroft.

Its most notorious events were the ‘opening’ of the Sydney Harbour Bridge by Captain Francis de Groot on 19 March 1932 and an assault on the Secretary of the Trades and Labour Council on 6 May 1932.  Mr J S (Jock) Garden was Secretary and was also (at that time) an influential member of Premier J T Lang’s inner circle. He was assaulted in his home by 8 hooded men looking like the Klu Klux Klan. The Fascist Legion, a sub-group of the New Guard, claimed responsibility.[4]

From amongst Beecroft/Cheltenham residents identified members included Charles Robertson-Swan of Malton Road. Dr A C Holt and his wife attended the first Annual Ball of the New Guard in Blaxland Galleries, David Jones Elizabeth Street in 1932 and went on to become a member of the Executive Committee of the New Guard. He published articles in its newspaper “Liberty” such as one in 1932 called “British and Italian Peoples: a common father.” In October 1933 he wrote that the New Guard had gone into recess but could re-mobilise at short notice. Its role was to fight communism and close down socialist enterprises. It represented “the great middle class” under the slogan: Justice, Sincerity, Efficiency. He said that the organisation advocated for a system of government based on vocational representation allowing smaller State farmers to join with those across the country. “We are British first of all and want a British remedy. We have no desire to be extreme nor to develop a dictatorship unless it is absolutely necessary.” Later in 1934 Dr Holt upon his re-election to the Executive Committee was part of a group of 100 who stood and gave the fascist salute to Col Campbell. He said that the New Guard needed to form a ‘law and order brigade’ which could ‘push in the face every now and again.’ [5]

The police observed New Guard units drilling on a Sunday morning in Curtis’ paddock in West Pennant Hills. [6]

In 1947, at the time of the Chifley government’s move to nationalise banks an ‘Eastwood and District Citizen’s Freedom Movement’ met in the Eastwood Masonic Hall and was described by the police as being formed along the lines of the New Guard. [7]

 

1.         B DeBelle “Windeyer, Sir William John Victor (1900-1987)” Australian Dictionary of Biography Vol. 18 p.614; R Evans “A Menace to the Realm: the new guard and the NSW Police 1931-1932” History Australia Vol 5 No 3 pp1-20. For the Vicars family see under People on this website for M M Vicars parents Robert and Violet. Also see K Amos The New Guard Movement 1931-35 (Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1976) p 17 and the houses in Wandeen Avenue which are elsewhere on this website.

2.         K Amos The New Guard Movement 1931-35 (Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1976) p 11-12

3.         A Moore “The New Guard” Australian Society for the Study of Labour History 2003: access on www.alabourhistoryCanberra.org/2018/06/the-new-guard on 14 January 2021; P Mitchell “Australian Patriots: a study of the New Guard” Australian Economic History Review (1969) Vol 9 pp 156-178; A Moore “The New Guard and the Labour Movement 1931-1935” Labour History (2005) No 89 pp55-72; M Cunningham “Australian Fascism? A revisionist analysis of the ideology of the New Guard” Politics, Religion, History (2012) Vol 13 pp 375-393. K Amos The New Guard Movement 1931-35 (Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1976) p 47. While of fascist outlook the New Guard showed no signs of anti-Semitism: Amos, p 96

 

[4]        Sydney Morning Herald 10 May 1932. For other references to Klu Klux Klan hood and the New Guard see: K Amos The New Guard Movement 1931-35 (Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1976) pp 86-7

[5]        Sydney Morning Herald 7 October 1932 p 3; The Advertiser 16 October 1933 p 18; Sydney Morning Herald 7 February 1934 p 10; Liberty 15 March 1933; Liberty 15 December 1932 p 12.

[6]        K Amos The New Guard Movement 1931-35 (Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1976) p 48

[7]        K Amos The New Guard Movement 1931-35 (Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1976) p 132