A special month’s furlough for Australian troops who had enlisted in 1914 was first proposed by the Australian Government in September 1917. However the request for leave was not supported by General Birdwood and the British Government for operational and logistical reasons, so the Australian Government did not pursue the proposal.
After further pressure from Prime Minister Billy Hughes in 1918, in September the War Office agreed to grant two months’ special furlough in Australia to the "originals" or “1914 men”. With travel time, it was anticipated that these men would be away from the front for five to six months.
There were estimated to be around 7,000 survivors of the first Australian contingent who had left Australia in 1914. The first men to commence Anzac leave arrived back in Australia in time for Christmas.
The decision to grant Anzac leave caused Lieutenant General Monash to accelerate the disbandment and amalgamation of the remaining Australian battalions on the Western Front.
After Armistice, this leave was extended to those who had enlisted in the first half of 1915, ensuring they would be the first soldiers repatriated to Australia. About 40,000 convalescents returned to Australia at the same time under medical control.
- C.E.W. Bean, The Australian Imperial Force in France during the Allied Offensive, 1918, vol 6, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1942, pp. 937 and 1060
- Australian War Memorial 3DRL/3376 9/3e, Lord William Riddell Birdwood, Leave for Australian troops (Anzac Leave)
- AWM25 449/4, Leave arrangements for 1914 personnel. Furlough for AIF, 1918, 1913 – 1920.