‘Thrice is he armed that hath his quarrel just.’
– William Shakespeare
Dan Weeks had enjoyed a lifetime of adventure by the time he arrived in Australia. It was his plan to settle into a quieter life; but the world had other ideas…
Born in the district of Poplar in London’s East End on 21 January 1871, Daniel Robert Weeks was the second eldest child of William Seymour Weeks and his Irish wife, Ellen “Nellie” Gallagher. Although there seems to have been some mystery surrounding the family with reference to his father’s actual name being Robert Daniel Geary and some stating that Nellie’s maiden surname may have been Hamilton.
Little is known of Dan’s early years. When he was born, his father was working as a labourer on the docks and they lived in Little James Street, Poplar. Details of his education remain elusive at this stage – Poplar was a particularly poor area of London with little opportunity for scholastic advancement. However, the government elementary schools of the time provided children with a good standard of education. There was also the George Green’s School in the district, which provided a Grammar School education for promising students. Certainly, Dan Weeks received more than a rudimentary education – he was both literate and articulate, and his handwriting was particularly neat and well formed, with a flourishing signature.
As the Weeks family grew, the need to move to larger premises became necessary, and in1881 they were living in Burdett Place.
According to sources regarding Dan’s early life, he did spend a period of time at sea as a boy. It is possible that he joined the Royal Navy upon leaving school, the earliest age for this service being 14-years.
By 1891, the family had moved to Argyle Road in West Ham and during the early months of that year, Dan was working as a general labourer. But this was to be a pivotal year for Dan – he joined the British Army as a private with the Royal Fusiliers and began what was to be a lifelong association with the military.
Dan immediately embarked for India and service with the British Raj. For twelve years, he moved between a succession of army bases all over the country, including Quetta, Hyderabad, Sindh, Karachi, Mhow, Nasirabad, and, what was then, Burma (in British India).
After he successfully passed the Meiktila School of Musketry, Dan was posted first to Calcutta and then to Dum Dum in the country’s northeast. Perceived Russian ambitions in the east prompted a British expedition to Tibet in December 1903. Effectively an invasion by British Indian forces, the mission was to ‘establish diplomatic relations and resolve the dispute over the border between Tibet and Sikkim,’ which had long been a flash point for troops in the region. Dan Weeks served with the Native Field Hospital throughout the campaign, which concluded in September 1904. He was awarded the King’s Medal and “Gyantse” clasp for his service.
His time in the East was concluded with postings to Lebong and Darjeeling in West Bengal, before he returned to England.
Soon after arriving home, Dan married Priscilla Elizabeth Sole. A dark-haired beauty, she was just 19 when the wedding was celebrated at one of the churches near the Royal Victoria Dock on 12 March 1905. Dan looked particularly dashing in his red-coated uniform, carrying his busby under his arm.
Dan’s first posting in England was to Parkhurst on the Isle of Wight, the base for the 4th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment). He and Priscilla began their married life together in what is one of the prettiest parts of the British Isles. It was there that their first child, Daniel Robert, was born. He arrived on 8 November 1905, in the coastal town of Yarmouth.
A second son, Ernest Edward, was born at Parkhurst on 25 May 1907, followed by a third, John Herbert, at Yarmouth on 1 July 1908. Dan was then transferred to Dublin during 1910, and it was there that he and Priscilla welcomed their fourth son, Francis Leslie, on 30 August.
Returning to England, Dan was appointed as an instructor at the Royal Fusiliers’ Depot at Hounslow. He had reached the rank of colour sergeant, and been awarded a long service medal for 18-years with the regiment.
After 21-years of continuous service in the British Army, Dan was formally discharged on 7 November 1912. His papers were endorsed with two simple words, “exemplary conduct.”
Whilst the paperwork was being processed, Dan, Priscilla and their boys, Dan, Ern, Jack and Frank were already on their way to a new life in Australia. They had boarded the SS Paparoa at London on 15 October – along with over 660 other new settlers bound for the Australian States. The voyage took them via Cape Town in South Africa and lasted just short of seven weeks before the Paparoa pulled into the Port Melbourne Town Pier on 2 December.
Dan had initially planned to take up land as a farmer, however, it quickly became obvious that his military experience and skills provided a far better avenue to a stable future for his young family. He secured a position in the permanent forces as an acting-staff sergeant-major with headquarters of the 14th Brigade in March 1913. Just a month later he was transferred to the 70th Infantry Regiment in Ballarat.
Their first Ballarat home was at 5 Blair Street in Golden Point. And it wasn’t long before Dan Weeks became a familiar face at the Orderly Room and the Drill Hall in Curtis Street. As a member of the instructional staff, Dan was to oversee the training of the newest round of compulsory recruits under the new system introduced in 1912.
Trouble had been fomenting for months in Europe, fed by a festering hatred that went back generations, before war was declared in 1914. No doubt, Dan Weeks could see what was coming, so it was unlikely that he was surprised when the Australian Government pledged their support for “Mother England.” His role from the outset was a most important one – as a regimental sergeant-major, he was ultimately responsible for the training of the troops in his charge.
Orders were received on 5 August that the 70th Infantry Regiment was to deploy immediately for Queenscliff for coastal defence, and the 71st Infantry Regiment was to proceed to Broadmeadows Camp.
The formal call for volunteers for an Australian expeditionary force brought forth an immediate response from the men and women of Australia – and it wasn’t long before a fine selection of recruits were training in camps all around the country. Dan Weeks was one of the earliest to answer that call – he enlisted at Broadmeadows on 17 August 1914, and was assigned, with his professional rank, to the 8th Infantry Battalion.
The significance of his rank and position in the newly raised unit was reflected by his regimental number: 1. Of course, Dan’s extensive experience in the military was invaluable in such a fledgling force. But he was still required to pass the stringent medical examination. At 42-years and 6-months of age, he was considered old by standards of the early 20th Century. He was just 5-feet 6½-inches tall, weighed 158-pounds and could expand his chest to 38-inches. His eyes were quite a penetrating blue and his once dark brown hair was rapidly turning grey, whilst his fresh complexion appeared to indicate good health and overall fitness.
Intriguingly, he had tattoos on both his forearms, but the nature of the marks was not divulged, leaving you to wonder if this was possibly a reminder of his time at sea…
On 2 September 1914, 275 Ballarat men who were all members of the 8th Battalion returned home to say their last farewells. Enormous crowds lined the streets and cheered as the men, led by the band of the 70th AIR, marched through from the station to the Town Hall. The men were then entertained to dinner by the Mayors of Ballarat and Ballarat East, before being released to spend time with family and friends. Dan Weeks attended a special farewell at the Sebastopol Masonic Lodge following the banquet at the Town Hall. In responding to the ‘heartiness of the welcome,’ Dan thanked all those present, and went on to pay a high tribute to the lads of 70th and 71st Battalions at Queenscliff.
‘…It was a pleasure to instruct the men, who showed the greatest respect for the officer in charge…’ He fully believed that the Australians would give ‘a splendid account of themselves if ever they got to the front, as they paid every attention to their training.’
The men all returned by train to Broadmeadows that night, fully anticipating an early embarkation date. However, further delays kept them in camp for another seven weeks. This was a fortunate scenario for Dan and Priscilla Weeks as they were expecting the imminent arrival of their fifth child. George Victor Weeks was born at Ballarat on 10 September 1914 – a small measure of hope on the eve of war. On Friday 25 September, a spectacular parade rolled through the streets of Melbourne.
‘…Under lowering skies, and with a cold rain falling at intervals, Victoria’s quota of the Australian Imperial Expeditionary Force of 20,000 mounted men and infantry marched through Melbourne on Friday morning. Thousands of citizens of all degrees thronged the line of march. The spectacle, viewed from different points, was picturesque and thrilling. Every window and doorway from which a sight of the march could be obtained was crowded with people. The cheering was loud and continuous. The Union Jack, the Australian Flag, and in not a few cases the French, Belgian, and Russian Flags were in evidence. Handkerchiefs in thousands were waved at the troops. Every now and then the bugles rang out, and excited the eager spectators to renewed enthusiasm…’
An effective “tail” to the parade was provided by the 8th Battalion led by Ballarat’s much-loved officer, Colonel William Bolton. Finally, on 19 October 1914, the men of the 8th Battalion – 32 Officers and 978 “other ranks” – left Broadmeadows by train bound for Port Melbourne. They embarked later the same day onboard HMAT Benalla.
The Benalla made its way across the Southern Ocean, joining up with the First Contingent as it formed off Albany. A Ballarat boy, who was a member of the 8th Battalion, wrote the following letter on 24 October.
‘…At last the dream of all the troops has been, released, and we are on board ship. The first to leave camp were the Light Horse, who rode out soon after midnight on Saturday, the tramp of the horses arousing those still sleeping, telling them that the first of Victoria’s quotas were on their way to embark.
At 5 o’clock on Sunday morning the bugles of the 6th and 7th Battalions sounded the reveille. At 8 o’clock the men were on the parade ground, and soon after moved off, headed by their regimental bands. Cheers rent the air as they marched past the lines of the 8th Battalion, and out through the paddocks on their way to the station. They were followed at 1 o’clock by the Army Medical Corps, who were given a rousing send-off by their comrades still in camp.
The camp seemed to be deserted on Sunday afternoon; more than one-half of the men had gone, and visitors were very few, and the men of the 8th were eagerly waiting for Monday morning to come. The camp was astir at daybreak, and by 9 o’clock the first four companies of the 8th were entrained, the others following at 9.30.
On arrival in Melbourne the trains were run on to the Port Melbourne pier, where our boat was berthed. Once on board, no time was lost in getting away. At 2 p.m. moorings were cast off and being towed out some distance by the tug Racer our course was set for the Heads.
At 5 o’clock we sighted Queenscliff, and passed through the Rip a few minutes after 6. The weather was beautifully calm, and there were very few cases of sickness that night. Coming on deck on Tuesday morning, the 20th, Cape Nelson could be seen on our starboard bow. At 10 o’clock the Cape was lost to view far astern, and we had seen the last bit of Victorian soil for some time to come.
The men are being well looked after onboard. The meals are good. For breakfast we have porridge and fried or stewed meat, for dinner, soup, roast or boiled meat, generally two kinds of vegetables, and pudding, and for tea, bread, butter, jam, and plenty of cheese. The evenings are spent on the promenade deck, where boxing and wrestling matches are held, cards, draughts, and chess also help to while away the evenings. The band practices every night, and ‘buck sets’ are all the go with the men, who may be seen swinging each other round the deck to the music of ‘What’s the Matter With Father?'” and other popular melodies.
All on board have been vaccinated since we left port, and the doctor has been kept busy, having over 1000 men to do. We have a representative of the Y.M.C.A. on board, and the men have been supplied with plenty of reading and writing material.
On Friday morning a vessel was sighted right ahead, and as we drew near, she was found to be the ——, with the A.M.C. on board. We soon overtook her, and by Friday night she was following far astern. Any change like this is welcomed by the men, and when a whale or a shoal of porpoises is seen a general rush is made to the side of the vessel. We have three hours and a half work every day, from 9.30 till 11 a.m. and from 2 p.m. till 4 p.m. The rest of the time is spent laying about the decks reading and chatting.
To see the men together one would not think that they were off to the front, such a light-hearted and boisterous crowd are they, and, judging by the 8th Battalion, the men of the 1st A.E. F. are going to the front in the right spirit…’
The voyage to Egypt, punctuated by visits to exotic Colombo and Aden, and the heart-stopping chase of the German cruiser Emden by the HMAS Sydney, eventually reached its conclusion when the Benalla docked at Suez on 6 December.
Countless letters flowed back to Ballarat describing the experiences of the “land of sand,” but the charm quickly waned as the men began to chafe for action. Even the excitement of a Turkish incursion on the Suez Canal on 4 February 1915 was short-lived – they had withdrawn by the time the 7th and 8th Battalions arrived on the scene.
Finally, at 12-midnight on 5 April, the 8th Battalion left Cairo for Alexandria to begin their journey to join the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force for the proposed attack on Turkey. The men boarded the transport Clan MacGillivray and were soon underway.
The 8th Battalion landed at ANZAC Cove in the early hours of 25 April 1915 – and they were soon to earn the painful honour of their illustrious colour patch: blood and bandages.
They suffered heavily on that first day – a total of 212 casualties, with 40 men killed. Twelve officers were listed amongst the casualties, four were killed in action and more would succumb to their wounds in coming days. As a result of the dramatic loss of officers, Dan Weeks was commissioned in the Field. He was appointed to the rank of second-lieutenant on 28 April.
On 5 May, the 8th Battalion was relieved from the trenches by the 7th Battalion, and immediately embarked on the destroyer Bulldog for the planned landing at Cape Helles and joint attack on Achi Baba. According to the records available, Dan Weeks was hit in the left shoulder by a bullet from a Turkish sniper shortly after arriving at Cape Helles on 6 May. There appears to be some error in the entries, however, as on 9 May (after Captain Alf Possingham was killed in action), Dan was named as Adjutant to the 8th Battalion.
Also, after being transferred to the transport Southland, which had been hastily converted into a hospital ship, Dan did not reach Alexandria until 15 May – a trip which normally took only five days. The discrepancies seem to indicate that Dan was wounded sometime after being promoted to adjutant – possibly the 10 May, although he maintained he was wounded on 7 May.
Dan was admitted to the No19 British General (Deaconess) Hospital in Alexandria. An operation was ordered to attempt to extract the bullet, but it was unsuccessful and it remained in his shoulder.
Writing to Priscilla from the Deaconess’ Hospital, Dan said, ‘…It was a glorious scrap, and I would not have missed it for anything…’ He added the news that he had been promoted to a lieutenancy after the initial fighting, and that he had also met some of his old regiment, the 7th Royal Fusiliers (with which he served in the Tibet) – tragically, of the 700 that went into action only 75 mustered for the roll-call.
In a letter to his ‘old office comrade’, Staff Sergeant-Major Tom Ryan, Dan said, ‘…I suppose by now you have heard of the glorious doings of our troops, and already have the casualty lists. Well, one of our friends, the Turks, managed to get me alright. He put a round of ammunition through my left shoulder, which went in between the shoulder blade and the chest wall. I went under an operation to have the bullet extracted (sounds like drawing a tooth), but after having been under chloroform for an hour, and cutting my shoulder open in two places, the doctors decided to let the thing stop where it is. I’m afraid my arm will be stiff for a long time as the bullet made a hole in the bone, but did not break it—rather good bone, don’t you think?
Well, Tom, I feel very proud of our boys, and the way they carried out the jobs they have been given, and am not only proud of them but of all the troops employed. No other troops in the world would have faced the hail of shell, machine-gun, rifle-fire and bombs in the manner in which our troops did. I would like to mention a few well-known names, but cannot owing to censorship.
I got my smack after twelve days’ hand battling. I have plenty of good company in my ward. I got a commission as lieutenant after the first scrap. Best regards to all the boys…’
The damage to Dan’s shoulder was significant – the deltoid muscle had contracted and was partially paralysed, causing a marked disability of movement. The bullet showed up on an x-ray near the head of humerus. When a second operation still failed to locate the bullet, a Medical Board decided that he was to be invalided home to Australia.
He embarked from Suez on 5 July onboard HMAT Ballarat as part of a “sick convoy.” On reaching Melbourne on 6 August, Dan was taken to the No5 Australian General Hospital in St Kilda Road for a further Medical Board. The Board concluded that he should remain at the hospital under observation. A further operation was considered, but, in the meantime, they were to continue with massage to try and improve movement.
Before any further treatment was undertaken, Dan was given leave to visit his family in Ballarat. He returned home on Saturday 7 August, where he was greeting by ‘a large number of friends awaiting his arrival.’ They were all pleased to see him looking so well – especially as ‘some cruel dealer in canards had pictured him as minus a leg or an arm…’
According to Dan, he was preparing for a third operation, because he hoped to return to the Front ‘at an early date.’
On 9 Aug 1915, Dan Weeks, along with Lieutenant-Colonel Bolton, Lieutenant Norman Dalton and Private John Kinniburgh were given a Civic Welcome at the Town Hall.
Returning to the No5 AGH, the third operation was performed on Dan’s shoulder, but it, too, was ultimately unsuccessful, and it was concluded that the bullet was going to remain where it was.
As Dan continued to convalesce, he undertook a number of community activities – all with a military bent. On Saturday 16 October, when the Royal South Street Society held its Highland Day, with Senior Cadet and Bugle Band contests, Dan Weeks assisted in the judging of both sections. The band contest, the reward being a silver challenge cup and (valued at 10-guineas), was won by the bugle band of Ballarat’s 71st Battalion.
Then, on 25 November, he was one of a group of people responsible for the forming of a military cricket club at the Ballarat Showgrounds Camp. He was named as one of the vice-presidents of the committee.
By 7 December, Dan had improved considerably. There was still a slight limitation to his shoulder abduction, otherwise all movements were good and it was confirmed that he would return to light duties. He was transferred to camp in Melbourne on 8 January 1916.
The launch of a new recruiting campaign in Ballarat on 20 January, resulted in a spectacular display. All the men already in the Showgrounds Camp, headed by the military band under bandmaster Percy Code, and commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Bolton, the camp commandant, marched through the streets of Ballarat to the Alfred Hall. A dozen returned men were included in the ranks – amongst their number was Dan Weeks, who shouldered the King’s Colours during the procession.
From that time, other than a period of illness in late February that saw him admitted to the Camp Hospital, Dan acted as adjutant of the Ballarat Camp. He had also been able to oversee a move for Priscilla and the boys to a new area of Ballarat – 632 Doveton Street north in Soldiers Hill.
Returning to the Front continued to be a priority for Dan. On 25 July 1916, he attested for a second time. His long wait came to an end on 11 September 1916, when he finally boarded the troopship Themistocles with the 19th allocation of reinforcements destined for the 8th Battalion. When Dan rejoined his old unit at Mametz Wood on 26 October, he was one of a number of returning officers – including Ballarat’s Eddie Kerby and Norm Dalton.
Ultimately, it was not the best time for Dan to serve in the trenches of the Western Front – winter was fast approaching, but no-one was prepared for the bitterly cold conditions they faced that year. For many the cold was more sapping on morale than actual shellfire. Dan immediately felt the effect on his damaged shoulder, but his professionalism kept him focussed.
He was rewarded for his work when he was promoted to lieutenant on 10 January 1917.
Writing to Priscilla, Dan conveyed just how much the men appreciated the efforts made on the home front – but, he also showed the miserable conditions they faced every day.
‘…You ask about the Australian Comforts’ Fund. Well, it is the most wonderful institution we have out here. During the winter months they had huts behind the firing line, where, the poor worn out chaps, coming out of the trenches, could always get a hot drink day or night, and you can imagine what that meant to us, wet, cold, hungry, dirty, and miserable. You ask if we ever get any of the socks and shirts you splendid women are making for us. Yes, we do, and thank you all very much for them. What happens is this – each division has baths in the rest camps, and the clothing is sent there. Each battalion goes into the trenches for a certain number of days; the men get frightfully dirty and verminous, then go back into rest areas; they are then marched; to the baths, strip off their filthy clothes; have a hot bath and put on clean clothes, so that they are all new men again after the wash and good ‘tucker.’
In addition to this there is always a supply of dry socks so that the men can take off their boots, dry and rub their feet, and put on fresh socks. The A.C.F. also supplies tobacco, soups and other food comforts for the men in the trenches, so you can rest assured that your good work is appreciated by all ranks. Another good institution is the Y.M.C.A. who were right in line with support headquarters, and whose work has been splendid…’
Dan also wrote to Sebastopol councillor, Henry Clark, a friend from the Masonic Lodge. He wrote that he had ‘a very rough time during the winter months,’ but he was pleased to say that the boys were ‘giving the Huns more than they expected…Our infantry are a splendid body of men and doing great work.’
‘…So far, I have escaped without a scratch, but I would like to have a spell away from it for a while. I had not seen anything of Harry (Henry Clark’s son, who was serving with the 14th Battalion), but of course the battalions of different brigades were scarcely ever together…’
At the time of writing this letter, the 8th Battalion was on the site of one of the old battlefields, and, according to Dan, ‘the sights would make one’s heart ache. Where once stood a peaceful, thriving village nothing now remained but a few bricks, and the only living things are ourselves and the awful rats, which have grown to an enormous size…’
After six months in the trenches, Dan’s health began to deteriorate, and he reported sick to the 47th Casualty Clearing Station on 17 April 1917 suffering with generalised debility. He was discharged to duty five days later.
His final action with the 8th Battalion came at the Hindenburg Line to the right of Bullecourt on 7 May. They came out of the line after just three days.
On 13 May, Dan was sent to England to undertake a role with the AIF Depts. He was seconded for duty with the 2nd Training Battalion at Durrington on 20 June.
It was becoming increasingly apparent that Dan’s health was causing major concern. A medical report of 8 September, outlined that he was complaining of being short of breath and was suffering ‘general lassitude.’ He was unable to undertake strenuous exercise, and was suffering from ongoing pain in his damaged shoulder that made it impossible for him to make full use of his left arm and hand.
Dan was ‘anxious to continue his duties as Training Adjutant to the 2nd Training Battalion,’ and his commanding officer wanted to keep his ‘very capable officer’ because he would be ‘very hard to replace.’ But to the examining doctor, there was a very real concern that his ‘patient is unlikely to withstand another severe winter.’
A Medical Board convened on 11 September concluded that Dan was only fit for home service and was permanently unfit for general duties at the Front. His posting to AIF Depots in the United Kingdom was then made permanent. He was posted to No3 Camp Details at Parkhouse on 26 October before being transferred to No2 Command Depot at Weymouth on 11 November.
The effects on Dan’s mental health became apparent when he wrote the following letter to the Commandant of the No2 CD on 9 December 1917.
‘…Sir, I hereby apply to be returned to Australia for duty or discharge for the following reasons: I am PUG [permanently unfit general] Service & during the last seven months my eyes have been giving me trouble, the specialist’s report is not satisfactory & I desire to see my wife & children before anything serious happens. I have served with the AIF since 17th August 1914 & I am forty six years of age, & have a wife & five children dependent on me for support…’
An eye-test on 24 December confirmed that Dan had developed marked deterioration in both eyes. On Christmas Day he was examined by a doctor, who detected asthma (although his chest was clear) and noted that, although was ‘doing duty as company officer’ he was ‘not enthusiastic about his work as he is anxious to get back to Australia.’
Although Dan was formally boarded as permanently unfit to resume general service, there was still pressure to keep him in England. A letter from AIF Headquarters, London, written on 5 January 1918, stated ‘…I am to inform you that if the abovenamed Officer is suitably employed on Home Service and thus releasing an “A” class officer for services overseas, his application for return to Australia cannot be approved. If Lieut Weeks is not so employed, arrangements may be made with Administrative Headquarters AIF for him to be invalided to Australia…’
The reply confirmed that his medical condition was preventing him being ‘utilised satisfactorily’ and he could not be ‘profitably employed on Home Service duty in the AIF Depots in UK.’ Within days of this decision, Dan was given the news that he was to return home to his family in Ballarat. On 31 January 1918 he embarked onboard RMS Osterley.
After landing in Melbourne on 13 April, Dan was immediately assessed by the medical team at the No11 Australian General Hospital at Caulfield. Whilst his shoulder movement was considered ‘almost perfect,’ it was noted that he experienced ‘a good deal of pain…especially in damp weather.’ It was noted that he had symptoms of general arterio-sclerosis and his lungs were ‘emphysematous.’ His ability to earn a living was effectively reduced by half. But he was home.
On Saturday 4 May 1918, Dan was one of about 250 returned men who were entertained to dinner at the Town Hall by the citizens of Ballarat. A public welcome was then held at the Alfred Hall. The men, headed by the Ballarat City Municipal Band, paraded at the close of dinner and then marched down Sturt Street to the Alfred Hall. The building was crowded with an audience that was estimated to be 2,500. Dan was one of those called on to respond to the welcome addresses.
Although Dan’s appointment with the AIF was officially terminated on 30 May 1918, he soon became involved in numerous activities that would aid both the war effort and the lives of those who returned from the war. He did many presentations, including speaking at the Town and City Mission Girls’ Club on “War Topics,” and the Protestant Federation on “Sights and sounds gathered with our troops.” He also publicly supported an appeal for a fund organised by ‘The Girls Who Stayed at Home’ for the building of cottages for incapacitated soldiers.
Dan also resumed his pre-war position with the instructional staff of the 70th Infantry. In doing so, however, he was required to return to his former rank of sergeant-major, relinquishing his commission. This travesty of red tape did not go unnoticed in Ballarat – on 4 July 1918, the Ballarat Star ran the following editorial.
‘…Treatment of Returned Anzacs— One of the regulations of the Defence Department which gives rise to the most frequent caustic comment of the hide-bound methods of that, department is that providing that a man who by virtue of his merit and heroism, has risen from the ranks to a commission must revert to his former status in the permanent or citizen forces on his return to Australia.
It is grossly unfair to those who have risked life and health for their country, while others of their acquaintance in the snug security or the country rise to the higher grades of commission without having ventured beyond their front doors. Some of these “stay at homes” reap the advantages which should be shared by the plucky Anzacs.
A case in point is that of Lieut. Weeks, of this city. Formerly a sergeant-major in the permanent forces he enlisted, went through part of the Gallipoli campaign, was wounded, and invalided home. When he had recovered, he went to France to further serve his country, and has since returned again to Australia. By his own merit he gained a commission, but on his return to the Commonwealth he had to lose his rank.
This state of affairs existed until Warrant Officer McGrath intervened and made representations to the military authorities, with the result that Mr Weeks has been graciously allowed to consider himself an ‘honorary’ lieutenant.
So much for the promises which were made to every soldier that his efforts for his country would never be forgotten. In the meantime, Honorary-Lieutenant Weeks, a, man who has seen service in Gallipoli and France, can reconcile himself to take orders from men who have stepped over his head, and who have never seen a shot fired in anger…’
On 5 September, Dan was appointed as secretary to the Ballarat Repatriation Committee with a yearly salary of £208. He also resumed his membership with the Sebastopol branch of the Masonic Lodge; he would eventually hold the rank of Worshipful Master with the order.
At South Street, Dan was once again called on to partake in the judging of the Senior Cadets, being responsible for assessing the ‘squad drill with arms.’ And, when the French Mission, headed by General Paul Pau, visited Ballarat in early November, Dan was given the responsibility of organising the junior and senior cadets as part of the formal welcome.
When news of peace reached Ballarat, Dan featured in the amazing scenes of celebration. Under the headline, “Victory! Victory! Great War Ended!” the front page of the Ballarat Star described the amazing scenes on the streets of Ballarat following the news of the Armistice.
‘…THE NEWS IN BALLARAT JUBILANT DEMONSTRATIONS. GREAT REJOICINGS.
The news that the Allies’ armistice terms had been signed was received in Ballarat by the local newspapers at 8.15 p.m. last evening. When the information was posted outside the newspaper offices there were not many people in the streets, but the new« spread like wild-fire. All the places of amusement, which were well attended, immediately emptied of people, and cheers were vociferously given. The fire bells at the City and Ballarat brigades were the first to ring out the good news. Railway whistles were blown, and the City Hall bells chimed. People from all quarters of Ballarat flocked into the city, and the pent-up feelings of over four years of war and anxiety were relieved in a remarkable and unmistakable manner.
ln less than half an hour the principal streets were thronged with thousands of people, and the crowd increased as the hours passed by. The scenes which followed were of an unprecedented character. Bands played processions formed, patriotic songs were sung, crackers were exploded. and the people cheered until they were hoarse.
So great was the crowd in Sturt street, between Bridge street and the City Hall, that the trams were unable to proceed as far as the terminus at the shelter shed. Soon after the good news was received at the City Hall, the Union Jack and the Honour Flag were hoisted amidst loud cheering and great enthusiasm.
Led by the City Band, under the conductorship of Mr Percy Code, the people sang the Na-tional Anthem, “Rule Britannia,” “The Marseillaise,” and other patriotic songs.
The City Fire Brigade motor brake, gaily decorated, proceeded through the street tooting the joyous news. Soon afterwards the Caledonian Pipe Band made its appearance, and the bagpipes were played with a vigour and a vim that is seldom heard. Men, women, and children, carrying and waving flags and shouting exclamations of joy, formed into procession and moved up and down Sturt and Bridge streets.
At the National Mutual Life Association buildings, a big flag, previously, prepared by Messrs Doepel and Chandler, bearing the inscription, “Peace, Thank God,” was unfurled, and will doubtless attract a considerable amount of attention to-day. Tin bands sprouted into existence, and continued their rejoicings with unabated energy until long after midnight.
The demonstrations revealed the almost in numerable quantity of kerosene tins to be found in Ballarat. These articles are supposed to be protected by the War Pre-cautions Act, but throughout the evening, the beat of the tins resounded far and wide.
About nine o’clock a gigantic, procession, headed by the City and Prout’s Band, and a lady on horseback, moved from Sturt street west to the centre of the city. The fire brigade brake, firemen carrying torches, returned soldiers (under Lieuts D. Weeks and Parrot), holding aloft the Union Jack, soldiers’ fathers and mothers carrying the flags of the Allies, took part in the procession, which was greeted with demonstrative applause by the ‘ thousands of people lining the streets.
Passing the Returned Soldiers’ Institute three vociferous cheers were given for the gallant Australian soldiers. Later the Junior Technical School students, the Boy Scouts and, other local Bugle Bands, demonstrated with the utmost enthusiasm. At frequent intervals the bells peeled the glad news, detonators were exploded, and guns were fired. Shortly after eleven o ‘clock a torchlight procession from the Ballarat Fire Brigade, which was followed by a huge concourse of people, moved from Bridge Street into the City.
The rejoicings continued until after the hour of twelve, by which time the crowd had considerably diminished. Throughout the whole of the celebrations good order was maintained, and the police, who were present in large numbers from all the outlying stations were not called upon to interfere or quell any riotous behaviour.
As might have been expected an important part in the evening victory celebrations was played by the staff of Lucas and Co. Within a quarter of an hour of the great news being received in Ballarat, over 400 of the girls had assembled at the works. The demonstration commenced with the singing of the Doxology, which was followed by a thanksgiving prayer offered up by Mr J. A. Wilkie. The National Anthem with the special verse “God save our splendid men,” was sung with deep feeling by the girls, followed by prolonged cheering, and the waving of the flags of the Allies.
The staff then formed into line outside the works, and singing patriotic choruses, marched to the Soldiers’ Institute, which has always found a place in the thoughts of the girls and has benefited materially by their patriotic efforts. On arrival there they were all invited on to the balcony, and led by Mr Haydn West, the fine choir of several hundred fresh, young voices, gave effective rendering to numerous patriotic songs, the large crowd which had assembled in the streets, and the returned soldiers joining heartily in the harmony.
The scene was indeed most impressive one and will linger long in the memories of those who were privileged to participate in it. After the demonstration at the Institute had concluded the girls formed into a line again and marched up Sturt street, marshalled by Miss Raworth on horseback. A halt was made outside the Hospital, where the inmates were serenaded. The members of Lucas’s staff will assemble to-day at the works at 11.15am, preparatory to marching in a body to Alexandra square, where they will be united in the Thanksgiving Service…’
The first year of peace gave Dan and Priscilla a special reason to celebrate – on 12 March 1919, they welcomed their last child and only daughter, Nellie Margaret.
On Sunday 25 April 1920, the ANZAC Day commemorations were held at the Alfred Hall. As part of the ‘demonstration,’ 99 returned men were presented with the “ANZAC Star” by Colonel William Bolton. Amongst their number was Daniel Weeks.
Although Dan was in receipt of a service pension from the Chelsea Pensioners, he continued to work as the Area Officer for Ballarat until his retirement on 24 January 1931. He and Priscilla then settled into a house in Doveton Street north, next to the Miller’s Arms Hotel, in Soldiers Hill.
In 1937, the family moved to a lovely solid brick home in Armstrong Street north. Sadly, Dan didn’t have long to enjoy the new home. He died at Ballarat on 1 November 1938. The following day a special service was held at St John’s Soldiers Hill, before Dan’s body was carried to the Ballarat New Cemetery for burial.
As was sadly all too common, the Second World War would exact a further price on the children of returned men and woman. Dan and Priscilla’s youngest son, George, was serving as a sergeant observer with 172 Squadron of the Royal Air Force when he was killed in action during operations over the Irish Sea on 14 November 1944.