Andy’s “Blighty wound” did not end his military service, though it did keep him out of action for almost a year. He was hospitalised in England from 2 August to 18 September 1916, then marched into Command Depot No.2, Weymouth. Command Depots were convalescent homes for men who no longer required hospitalization but were not yet fit to rejoin their unit. Command Depot No.2 housed those men not expected to be fit for duty within six months. Rehabilitation and training at No. 2 Depot was to harden up recovering soldiers and prepare them for a return to active service. According to the Weymouth Anzacs website, “While the general training in the new unit concentrated on toughening-up, the individual training a soldier received was governed by medical inspections under which he was categorized weekly according to fitness.”
A family story says that Andy had tea King George V. This may be a reference to the celebrations at Windsor Great Park, held by the King’s permission, on 14 October 1916.
Andy was finally ready to return to duty in March 1917. On 23 March – exactly 8 months after the taking of Pozieres – Andy was transferred on strength to the 70th Battalion, to be temporary Regimental Sergeant Major at Wareham. He must have been thankful not to return to the front, but disappointed that he wasn’t on his way home.
On 11 June 1917 Jane Duncan wrote to Victoria Barracks
I am now writing to you to thank you on my receiving the Warrant Papers of my husband & I am returning you the required slip. Hope same reaches you safely. In my husband’s last letter he said he had been made R.S. Major in charge of the 70th Battalion which they were forming over there in France (somewhere). Of course he has gained his positions well & had some very narrow escapes. Would you mind letting me know if Warrant Officer’s duties are dangerous & also what address do I use, the Warrant Officer address or the Regimental Sergt. Major. When convenient for you to do so & still continue to send any further particular concerning him direct to me until further notice.
So thanking you once again for your kindness.
Mrs E.J. Duncan
From May to July 1917 Andy was on command at Officer School of Instruction, Chelsea Barracks, then at the No.3 School of Instruction for Infantry Officers, Candahar Barracks, Tidworth, until September 1917. He would have been involved in training Australian troops in musketry and trench warfare.
In mid-September Andy received notice that he would proceed overseas and rejoin his unit in France.
While in England Andy bought himself a silver fob watch and had his initials engraved on it. Probably after receiving his posting to France Andy mailed the watch home to Jane for safekeeping. As he wrapped the watch to post, he must have wondered about his chances of seeing Jane and the watch again.
NAA: B2455, DUNCAN, AS. National Archives of Australia.
Featured image: View from Worgret Hill looking towards the timber buildings of Wareham Camp. Australian War Memorial collection A03246