Returned & Services League (RSL)


Hobart headquarters of the RSSAILA, 1926 (W.L. Crowther library, SLT)

The Returned & Services League (RSL) in Tasmania began as soldiers returned from the First World War, to represent their interests, and to create a space where they could meet with those who 'understood'. It originated in the amalgamation in 1916 of the Australian Imperial Soldiers' League of Launceston and the Hobart Returned Soldiers' Association (RSA). The new RSA voted to affiliate with the League in August 1916, and sent delegates to the first Federal Congress in Brisbane in September, joining representatives from Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. The Hobart branch building of the RSL was officially opened in December 1918. Administratively, the Tasmanian branch of the RSL has followed the model adopted nationally, and since 1921, the general structure of the RSL has been stable. Sub-branches in local communities are controlled by the state branch (ANZAC House in Hobart), and the state branch sends delegates to the National Congress.

The Tasmanian branch of the RSL has enjoyed modest membership, with peaks in 1919 (about 7000 members) and 1946 (12,935 members), in line with national trends. An RSL Women's Auxiliary was established in 1949 and continues to this day. The branch has also produced its own publication, On Service, which began around 1942, endured a substantial hiatus, and is now in publication again. From 14 sub-branches in 1918, in 2003 the Tasmanian branch of the RSL boasted 58 sub-branches, and over 8000 members. The RSL maintains an active presence in the community through its advocacy of returned and servicemen's issues, and in Anzac Day and commemorative ceremonies.

Further reading: G Kristianson, The politics of patriotism, Canberra, 1966; P Sekuless & J Rees, Lest we forget, Sydney, 1986; L Broinowski (ed), Tasmania's war record 19141918, Hobart, 1921.

Andrew Richardson