New Guard Movement, 1931–35 – Fact sheet 183
The New Guard
The New Guard was formed in Sydney in February 1931. Its membership application form said that the movement stood for: unswerving loyalty to the Throne; all for the British Empire; sane and honourable government throughout Australia; suppression of any disloyal and immoral elements in government, industrial and social circles; abolition of machine politics; and maintenance of the full liberty of the individual.
The movement appealed to conservative returned servicemen who were strongly anti-Communist and deeply suspicious of the Labor Premier of New South Wales, Jack Lang, and his political and economic response to the Great Depression.
Eric Campbell (1893–1970), the New Guard's leader and a World War I veteran, gave the movement a quasi-military organisation – with divisional commanders, zone commanders and a chief commander. Members were placed into three classes based on their physical fitness and technical abilities.
At its height, the New Guard had a membership of over 50,000. The movement was almost exclusively based in New South Wales, with its heaviest concentration of support in Sydney. After the dismissal of the Lang government on 13 May 1932 and its subsequent defeat at the polls, and with an improving economy, the New Guard lost much of its momentum.
Despite efforts by Campbell and others to identify a wider sphere of activities that might sustain the movement, none met with long-term success. In his book The New Road (Briton Publications, Sydney, 1934), Campbell also attempted to define a political role for those who supported the concept of a New Guard.
Records relating to the New Guard held by the National Archives
The National Archives holds a number of significant records relating to the New Guard and some of its prominent members. These are held in Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney. They include security investigations into the New Guard, copies of and reports about New Guard publications, and records concerning allegations that in 1931 and 1932 there were links between the New Guard and the Defence Department. Details of these records are provided below.