Returned men like John ‘Jack’ Kinder Archer learned their skills on the job when they took up land at Pikedale Soldiers’ Settlement north-west of Stanthorpe on Queensland’s Granite Belt.
Neighbour and fellow returned soldier Ted Lomas recalled Jack’s arrival at Amiens to take up his 127-acre block: He was pushing a bicycle and I often wondered since, how he pushed it all the way from Stanthorpe, because it was piled high with all sorts of gear necessary to start a home in the bush. There were blankets, a tent, clothes, food, tools, cooking utensils and tinware for eating from.
The blocks were allocated by ballot and each man was granted a mortgage for £625 regardless of the acreage or value of the land. The loan was to cover the costs of clearing the land, establishing a home, acquiring farming equipment and the planting of their crops – it was insufficient for their needs.
The trees on Jack’s block and his labour were his only available resources and he constructed a rudimentary shelter before his wife Nellie joined him. Ingenuity and make-do were necessary and examples of his resourcefulness can be seen in his furniture and various implements in the Stanthorpe museum.
Nearly 40,000 returned men obtained land under various soldier settlement schemes across the country. In Queensland the Government contributed £100,000 to the Pikedale Soldiers’ Settlement and rail access to the settlement. The now disused line had sidings named for Western Front battles – Fleurbaix, Pozières, Bullecourt, Passchendaele, Bapaume, Messines and Amiens – names familiar to the recently returned soldiers. A training farm was established in 1918 to give basic instruction in orchard management to the soldier settlers – with varying degrees of success.
Despite a supportive and tight-knit community many settlers walked off their land. Of the 700 men who settled under the Pikedale scheme by 1922 less than 400 remained. For some, the farms were too small to be sustainable, heavily timbered and poorly drained; their occupiers under resourced, without the necessary skills and at times hampered by poor markets.
By the Second World War, only twenty-five of the settlers remained. Amongst them was Jack Archer, whose name regularly appeared in newspapers as a prize winning apple grower at Amiens.
Service file of Private John Kinder Archer, Army Service Corps:
Soldier Settlers of the Granite Belt: The Pikedale Soldier’s Settlement Scheme, Lorene Long, Toowomba, 2014.
The Cost of War: Australians Return, Stephen Garton, Melbourne, 1996.
Stanthorpe and District Historical Museum
Phone: 07 46811711
Mail: PO Box 327, Stanthorpe Qld 4380
Amiens (Qld) History Association