Old Guard (Australia)

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Old Guard
Formation 1930 (1930)
Extinction 1952 (1952)
Type Secret
Purpose Counterrevolutionary
Region served

The Old Guard was an Australian anti-communist organisation which was started in 1930,[1] although its exact origins are disputed. At least one historian has claimed that it existed as early as 1917.[2] It has been described as a paramilitary, quasi-official, vigilante, counterrevolutionary, anti-communist organisation. The Old Guard had a similar purpose and composition to the National Guard of the United States.[3] It had legal sanction under the Peace Officers Act 1925.[4]

The group was primarily concerned with the social conditions arising from the Great Depression, and the actions of the New South Wales government led by Jack Lang.[5] Neither the Old Guard, nor its offshoot, the New Guard, supported the Australia First Movement. In response to rumours that fires would be started by agitators, the Old Guard was a driving force behind the more effective organisation of country bush fire brigades in New South Wales.[4] As the threat of communism waned the Old Guard had little to do. It was dissolved sometime in the 1950s.[2]


The group was sworn to absolute secrecy regarding membership, and was divided into cells so that its leadership would be hard to identify. Media reports on the group in the 1930s were scarce, and information about it has been obscured by the destruction of its own records.[2]


The New Guard split from the group in 1931.[1] Eric Campbell wanted a more visible organisation than the secretive Old Guard.[6] The New Guard was less of a military force than the Old Guard, which opposed the split because it was fearful of communists exploiting the division.[3] Both groups had devised plans to neutralise each other should it be needed.[4]


At the height of its popularity, the Old Guard in Australia had a membership of around 30,000.[1] Members were loyalists and idealists devoted to the British Empire and ready to act pre-emptively to prevent a socialist revolution in Australia. Old Guard leaders were wealthy Protestant Anglo-Australians.[2] Membership in rural New South Wales, and ties to the New South Wales police force, were strong.[2]

At the federal level the Old Guard had its closest ties to the Attorney-General's Department and the Department of Defence.[4]

Like many former officers of the Australian Army George Wootten joined the Old Guard.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Blamires, Cyprian; Paul Jackson (2006). World Fascism: A Historical Encyclopedia, Volume 1. ABC-CLIO. p. 66. ISBN 1576079406. Retrieved 9 August 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Knightley, Phillip (2001). Australia: A Biography of a Nation. Random House. pp. 142–144. ISBN 0099772914. Retrieved 10 August 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Hirst, John (2009). Sense and Nonsense in Australian History. Black Inc. pp. 239, 242. ISBN 0977594939. Retrieved 10 August 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c d "What if Jack Lang had not been dismissed?". Issues: New South Wales Constitution and Government. NSW Public Schools. Retrieved 10 August 2013. 
  5. ^ Keith Amos. Campbell, Eric (1893–1970). Australian Dictionary of Biography. National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. Retrieved 10 August 2013.
  6. ^ Manning, Clark (1993). History of Australia. Melbourne University Publish. p. 534. ISBN 0522845231. Retrieved 10 August 2013. 
  7. ^ A. J. Hill. Wootten, Sir George Frederick (1893–1970). Australian Dictionary of Biography. National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. Retrieved 10 August 2013.

Further reading[edit]