The war had been over for two months, but Private Harry McVey paid a high price – 25 days’ pay – as punishment for an unauthorised holiday, going absent without leave for a week in England in January 1919.
It was perhaps the most remarkable event of his overseas service, as the war was entering its last weeks by the time Harry arrived in London on September 27, 1918.
Born in Falkirk Scotland, Harry had grown up in Australia and enlisted in the AIF in May, 1918, two months after his 21st birthday. His younger brother, George McVey, then not even 18 years old, had famously enlisted two years earlier but had been removed from the troopship just as it was about to leave Brisbane.
Harry, after travelling by train from Brisbane, left Australia from Sydney on the Borda on July 17, 1918.
He spent two days in the ship’s hospital while at sea with tonsillitis and, after arriving in London proceeded to Fovant in Wiltshire, to train for battles he would never fight.
Harry was initially allocated to the reinforcements of the 26th Battalion and then the 9th Battalion, but the war ended while he was at Fovant and in late January, 1919, Harry was transferred to the 2nd Australian Field Bakery.
He left for France via Southampton on January 28, but seven weeks later was transferred back to the 9th Battalion.
In late May, Harry returned to England and on July 23 embarked on the Suevic for return to Australia. He was discharged from the Army shortly after arriving home on September 10, after 14 months’ service.