The story I am telling is not about me but, it is of my heritage and we should never lose our heritage!
My name is Barry William Thomas Stevenson, born 23rd February 1936 and I am my grandfather Thomas John Stevenson’s oldest living relative.
I was born 20 years after my grandfather’s death fighting for Australia in France during World War 1.
Naturally, I have no recollection of him except for a faded photograph depicting him as a Colour Sergeant wearing the dress uniform of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment with two Sudan War campaign medals. This, plus British and Australian Army official documentation of war service files in both armies.
When one hears the song; “We’re soldiers of the Queen my lads”, sung by a male choir in the closing of the credits in the film ‘Breaker Morant’, it conjures up images of triumphant British soldiers marching against, a soon to be defeated foe, on some foreign battlefield…
If war was only this romantic!
It was in the late 1890s that General Kitchener’s small British Expeditionary Force with Egyptian forces, collectively known as the ‘Army of the Nile’, waged war against the ‘Mardi’s Sudanese dervishes to recapture the city of Khartoum in Sudan.
The British forces were undermanned for the task allotted them, due to being deprived the necessary war materials for a protracted campaign. “After all, they are only fighting natives”, was the mantra back in faraway London.
The UK Government ignored the fact that the “natives” were not all brandishing swords and spears. They were, in the main, equipped with modern weapons of war, were fanatical followers of their religion and their leader, the Mardi. They campaigned on territory they knew and were numerically outnumbered the British Expeditionary Force by the odds of 5:1.
Fighting with what little they had the British and their ally overcame their shortages in men and equipment and fighting a foe in hostile country finally overcame the enemy. The British relieved Khartoum in 1898 following the big battle of Omdurman. It is interesting to note young Lieutenant Winston Churchill took part in this battle.
One of the British Army Units involved in the Sudan and fighting throughout many decisive engagements with great distinction, was the Royal Warwickshire Regiment.
Among the ranks who came through the battles of The Atbara and Omdurman unscathed, was a 22-year-old Ulsterman from Portadown, Northern Ireland. His name; Thomas John Stevenson, my Grandfather. How much is known about this brave soldier?
We know from records, he was born in Portadown, in the parish of Drumcree, County Armagh, Northern Ireland, on the 4th November 1873. He attended Portadown State School leaving at the age of 13. Upon leaving school, he became a tailor, his Father’s trade. A noble profession no doubt but, like all young men, he apparently craved for something more exciting.
This yearning for something different saw him volunteer for the Regular British Army on the 7th May 1894, at the age of 20. By today’s standards he would, probably at 5ft 5 & ¼ inches be regarded as short in stature but it must be remembered in the 1800’s the average height of an Englishman was 5ft 6 inches.
Thomas John Stevenson thus became an Infantryman in the 1st Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment a British Regular Army Unit. Snobs among the career conscious officer class, seeking quick promotions, labelled the Warwickshire’s an “unfashionable unit” and one to be avoided.
This jaundiced outlook would rebound as is evident at the end of WW2 in 1945, the highest ranked officer in the British Military had fought in the trenches on the Somme in WW1, as a middle ranking officer in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. His name, Ulster born, Field Marshal Lord Bernard Montgomery of El Alamein. “Monty” was obviously, not a snob!
Another in the same ‘ilk’ was Field Marshal Viscount William Slim of Burma fame who was commissioned in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment as a Second Lieutenant in 1914 and was badly wounded at Gallipoli. In the 1950s Slim was appointed Governor General of Australia.
One would confidently say that the Warwickshire’s have an impeccable record, second to none, when it came to turning out outstanding soldiers.
Besides Montgomery, it is an established historical fact that two thirds of the most highly ranked and successful British Military Commanders by the end of WW2 were Ulstermen (e.g.; Sir Harold Alexander and Sir Francis de Guingand etc.)
Now back to my story on my grandfather’s involvement in the Sudan War.
Between 1896 and 1898 British and Egyptian Forces took part in the Sudan Campaign. We know it today as the Sudan War but British politicians described the war as “The reconquest of the Sudan”. They reasoned that some countries like Italy, Germany, France and Belgium were expanding their African Colonies, which Sudan could be one, so the British should occupy it.
Two British Brigades took part in many decisive actions of which, my Grandfather’s Royal WR formed an integral Infantry component one Brigade.
At the conclusion of hostilities TJS was awarded the Queen’s Sudan Medal and the Khedive’s Sudan Medal with clasps “The Atbara” and “Khartoum”.
As he was now a battle hardened soldier, he decided to stay in the Army and make it his career. In 1900 he was promoted to Corporal. All told he served 13 and ½ years in the RWR. He was promoted to the rank of Sergeant on the 1st April 1902 It has long been said that Sergeants are the backbone of any Army.
Various posting saw him posted in Malta, Egypt, UK and 8 years in India. In 1904 when stationed in the UK he married my Grandmother Susan Jane Cooke in St Marks the Portadown Parish Church of Ireland.
Transferred back to India he took his new bride and was attached as a Sergeant to the Warwick’s Mounted Infantry on the North West Frontier. This was regarded as ‘bandit country’ and many ‘minor’ skirmishes took place. These operations occurred in part of India fronting the Afghanistan border. Following partition, this territory is now part of the republic of Pakistan sharing the common border with Afghanistan.
My Aunt Lily Esther and my Father William Robert were born in Quetta, Bengal Province, (India) in 1905 and 1907 respectively.
In 1908, whilst still in India TJS applied for discharge from the BA to migrate to Australia. A brother Robert William had migrated to Australia some years earlier and had done very well for himself as a pastoralist and licensee of the Exchange Hotel at Longreach Queensland. He sponsored my grandparent’s migration to Australia from India. The family of four departed Colombo on the RMS “Ophus” and arrived in Brisbane on the 24th February 1908.
Not much is known to me of my grandfather’s activities between 1908 and 1915 but he did father three more boys Victor George, Thomas John and Joseph Richard Edmund. It is said that he found it difficult to adjust to civilian life in Western Queensland, by way of reports I have received from others over the years.
In 1914 another war involving “Mother England” had broken out and on the 25th April 1915 troops of the 1st Division Australian Infantry Forces landed at Gallipoli in the Dardanelles. With casualty rates exceedingly high, the call went out to send a second Australian Division overseas.
Thomas John Stevenson would answer the call!
26th Battalion, 7th Brigade, 2nd Division, Australian Imperial Forces – Awarded; 1914-15 Star; the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
Whether through a sense of duty or patriotism, or both, TJS, now aged 40 and with a wife and 5 children enlisted in the AIF on the 12th May 1915 at Longreach, Queensland. On marching-in at Enoggera Army Camp (Brisbane Qld) he was given the Regimental number #87. He was now an original member of ‘A’ Company (Logan and Albert Company) 26th Battalion A.I.F.
Of the four Companies, the HQ personnel and two Companies, were raised in Queensland with the remaining two from Tasmania. The reinforcements for the Battalion throughout the war would come solely from Queensland.
Such was the Military’s haste to embark the 2nd Division’s troops Private TJS embarked from Brisbane on the 24th May 1915 aboard the HMAT “Ascanius”, only twelve days after leaving his home at Longreach.
Unfortunately, he wouldn’t have had time to be photographed in his Australian Army uniform or say any ‘good byes’.
His Division duly arrived in Egypt to complete its training in preparation for joining the 1st Division A.I.F. still fighting the Turks on the Gallipoli Peninsula.
The 2nd Division A.I.F. began landing on Gallipoli on the 12th September 1915. The 2nd Division moved into positions on Courtney’s and Steele’s Posts and Russell’s Top.
The 1st Division troops, the original ANZACS welcomed the new arrivals who were cheered by the exhausted Diggers as, brothers-in-arms. Many of the fresh arrivals had enlisted from country districts from around Australia. One emaciated Digger commented; “They were a big, burly, strong, cheerful fellows spoiling for a fight”.
Their time in the line wouldn’t last long as the Australians withdrew from the Peninsula on the 12th December 1915.
Private TJS shared the privations with his mates being continually under attack from shrapnel bursts and sniper fire and living in ‘dug-outs’ cut into the cliff face.
Quinn’s Post on Dead Man’s Ridge was only 200 hundred metres from Courtney’s Post. Quinn’s was regarded the most important and dangerous position on ANZAC. Opposing forces were separated in some places by the width of a road.
In November he spent a short time out of the front line attached to the 6th Field Ambulance unit. Three days before the evacuation he was admitted to the 1st Australian Casualty Clearance Station with an ankle wound that had turned septic.
Upon evacuation on the HMS “Oxfordshire” on the 12th December he was transferred to the 3rd Auxiliary Hospital at Heliopolis, Egypt. Such was his wound he wouldn’t be discharged from the Convalescent Depot at Helouan until February 1916. He re-joined his Battalion at Alexandria on the 15th March 1916.
One week later the 26th Battalion embarked with the rest of the 2nd Division for Marseilles, France. At Rue Martl he was temporarily attached to the 7th Brigade HQ Police for a fortnight. Re-joining his Battalion, they transferred in April to the trenches at Armentieres. This area was considered a quiet area of the Front. The idea was to use this sector to familiarise troops in the routine of trench warfare on the Western Front.
It was here that the Queenslanders of the 26th Battalion and the West Australian of the 28th Battalions conducted the first raid into the German trenches ever conducted by Australian troops in France. A party of sixty, specially selected from volunteers did a special course of training and on the night of the said op went over, relieved of all identification &/or marks, with their faces and hands blackened (camouflaged). The raid was entirely successful with many casualties inflicted on the Germans and several POWs being captured and bought back.
The 26th Battalion would rightly claim in their War Diaries that they were the first into action Armentieres in 1916, right through their very last action of the A.I.F. at Montraban in October 1918.
Unfortunately, the 26th Battalion paid a heavy price as battle casualties amounted to 3,404 of which 906 were ‘Killed in Action”. This total was the second highest number of casualties of the sixty Battalions of the A.I.F.
Private Thomas John Stevenson’s luck ran out and he became one of the ‘Killed in Action’ in the 2nd Division’s first major battle on the Western Front.
The 1st Australian Division A.I.F had launched a big attack on the German lines at Pozieres, 100 kilometres south of Armentieres, on the 22nd of July 1916 as part of the big British and French offensive on the Somme.
After suffering fearful casualties, the 1st Division A.I.F survivors of the ANZAC Gallipoli campaign turned over their positions over to the fellow ANZAC Division (the 2nd) on the 28th of July 1916, who then looked to further the gains already made.
On the night of the 29th of July 1916, T.J. Stevenson’s war came to an end when he was killed in the attack by artillery fire.
A report from the War Diary of the 26th’s Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel G. Ferguson describes the action as confused and badly planned with little communication between other units and incomplete artillery preparation. (See attachment)
The 7th Brigade paid a high price being caught in enemy machine gun and artillery fire among belts of un-cut barbed wire entanglements.
The battle for Pozieres village and Mouquet Farm by the 1st, 2nd and 4th Divisions A.I.F although not a total disaster, saw the greatest loss of Australian lives (KIA) in any one battle throughout the Great War.
In contrast to Thomas John Stevenson’s 13 and ½ years in the British Army his service in the Australian Army was to last only 15 months.
He is buried in Courcelette British Cemetery 10 kilometres from Albert. His name appears on the WW1 Memorial Obelisk in Edkin’s Park, Longreach Queensland and on Memorial panel #109 at the Australian War memorial, Canberra.
My father and his siblings never spoke about the Great War or their Father which is a pity.
However, I can understand their feelings now as their mother did it tough raising a family of 5 youngsters alone.
She took in washing and ironing to supplement her meagre income until the family reached working age.
My grandmother didn’t deserve another family tragedy associated with the Great War.
Virtually nothing is known of my Grandmother’s two brothers, Joseph and Richard Cooke, who were of military enlistment age in 1914.
Richard, whom the family called; “Dickie”, had his portrait in the British Army uniform on the family living room wall alongside my Grandfather’s portrait.
My Grandfather’s family believed Richard was KIA in the Great War 1914 – 1918.
In 1946 my grandmother Susan Jane Stevenson died and is buried in the Church of England section of Longreach Cemetery, Queensland.
Thomas John Stevenson and Susan Jane – “Rest in Peace”
Barry William Stevenson, born Ingham Queensland, 23rd February 1936 is the direct Grandson of Thomas John Stevenson. His Father was William Robert, born in Quetta (India) in 1907.
Barry’s father William, born Quetta – India, died on the Gold Coast Queensland in 1985 aged 77.
Barry’s Uncle Joseph, the last surviving members of TJS’s offspring, died at Longreach Queensland in 2008 aged 93. Sometime before his death, Uncle Joseph passed on Thomas John Stevenson’s medals to Barry.
Barry has 2 sons, Bryan and Graeme currently living in Sydney NSW.
In April 2015, Barry and Bryan journeyed to Gallipoli for the Centenary of ANZAC Commemoration on ANZAC Day April 25th.
Following Gallipoli, they travelled to France and visited the grave of Thomas John Stevenson in Courcelette British Cemetery near the “Windmill Site” on Pozieres Ridge.
FREEDOM IS THE SURE POSSESSION OF THOSE ALONE WHO HAVE THE COURAGE TO DEFEND IT —— PericlesLest We Forget
The Lyons Family began in Australia when Dennis (Dinny) Lyons (a Coachman) migrated from Liverpool England 13.6.1858 to Australia from Kilbert, County Cork Ireland onboard the “Castilian”
He married Sarah Gibbons 6.2.1860 in St. Mary’s Cathedral Sydney.
This marriage produced Thomas Dennis Lyons DOB: unknown, deceased 29.6.1939 who in turn, married Eleanor Cate at Surry Hills date: unknown. Deceased 2.11.1948.
Their eldest son Thomas Denis Lyons DOB: unknown, enlisted AIF 3.8.1915 (53rd Battalion), Regimental # 3346 and was Killed-In-Action, Perrone, France 1st September 1918. He is buried Peronne Communal Cemetery Extension, Peronne, and Picardie, France. He was 22 years old. Displaying the true meaning of an Australian Soldier on 8.5.1918 he was charged with “Conduct to the prejudice of good order and Military Discipline in that he failed to carry out orders of his superior Officer”. He was awarded 7 days Field Punishment.
A document exists from the then King George held by my Father that states; “I join with my grateful people in sending you this memorial of a brave life given for others in the Great War”. (George R.J.)
He is buried at Peronne Communal Cemetery Extension (Plot 1, Row C, Grave #10) France.
Thomas had been an Army Cadet prior to joining the AIF. He served an apprenticeship with his Father as a Plumber. He was the first borne of slight stature, 5’ 2” high.
On the day of Enlistment, other members of the Lyons Family also Joined-Up.
There were 2 Brothers John William and Reginald Amond Lyons, cousin Thomas Lyons and their Brother-in-law James Iver Pederson #3392 enlisted the same time. Iver Pederson married into the Lyons family, to Dorothy Lyons, first daughter of Thomas and Eleanor Lyons.
Curiously the Lyons Brother’s Regimental Numbers are consecutive being JW Lyons #3344, Reginald Amond Lyons #3345 and Thomas Denis Lyons #3346. They were all posted to the 53rd Battalion AIF. (France)
This is an unusual anomaly as back then they tried to split family members in case one shell blast wiped-out all members of a family.
JW Lyons and RA Lyons were actually cousins of Thomas Denis Lyons but due to being orphaned at an early age JW & RA were adopted by Thomas Lyons senior and were raised by him and his wife Eleanor.
The Lyons Brothers and their Brother-in-law decided to join-up and enlist in the AIF to fight for King and Country together. The marched into the Addison Rd., Marrickville Army Depot, to sign on 3/8/1915.
A family story was perpetuated that; when the brothers presented to enlist in the Army, Thomas Denis Lyons was judged to be too small in stature for a Soldier and knocked back for enlistment. The other brothers protested and it is believed it was stated; “If you knock him back, we won’t sign-up. You take all three of us or, none at all”. The Recruiting Officer relented. They all embarked on the HMAT A14 “Euripides” on the 2nd November 1915 for England then France the Western Front.
JW Lyons was Wounded-In-Action by being gassed while fighting at Villers-Bretonneux France 17/4/1918. He was transported from 55th Field Ambulance to 9th General Hospital and further transported to England 22/4/1918.
JW Lyons Died of Wounds 3rd May 1918 – Broncho Pneumonia following poisoning (Gassed) at the Military Hospital Forvent. 24th May 1918 – He was buried at London Road Cemetery, England, Salisbury Grave # 17 Row R, (Roman Catholic section)
Reginald Amond Lyons #3345. Reg Lyons also enlisted 4/8/1915. He joined the 53rd Battalion with his brothers Thomas and John. They were all fighting in France. He rejoined his unit 12.8.1916. Promoted to Lance Corporal 19.9.1916.
He was “Wounded-in-Action” a second time 13.3.1917. Promoted to Corporal 19.2.1918. Transferred to 14th Training Bn England 11.4.18 Promoted to Acting Sergeant 11.4.1918. On the 31.8.1918 he was transferred back to his 53rd Battalion in France.
While back with his Unit, acting Sergeant Lyons, mounted an action with the Lewis Machine Gun to give covering fire to his mates that were forming a Bombing Block. He exposed himself to enemy fire and retrieved spare magazines and ammunition. For this action he was awarded the Military Medal for “Bravery-in-the-Field”.
The Citation reads as follows: Military Medal Citation. ‘During the operations near BELLICOURT from 30th September to 2nd October 1918, this N.C.O. rendered most gallant and valuable service as No. 1 Lewis Gunner. During the early stages of the attack he repeatedly rushed forward with his gun to give covering fire to the rest of his Company. He several times went out under heavy machine gun fire to collect magazines from casualties and was thus enabled to keep his gun in action throughout the operation. While a bombing block was being built. He went out and took up a position in the open from which he was able to give covering fire and keep the enemy away until the block was complete.’ Source: ‘Commonwealth Gazette’ No. 109 Date: 15 September 1919
He returned to Australia 8.4.1919 and took his discharge 18.7.1919. After being discharged, RA Lyons found living back in society difficult, as were many former Soldiers. He choose to take up residence at Jibbon Head, the southern headland of Port Hacking (opposite Cronulla).
The headland was frequented by many former Soldiers who maintained a quiet silence of their mental trauma. Today’s word is PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). He became a self-sufficient fisherman and regularly rowed across the heads at Port Hacking, into Gunnamatta Bay, with his catch and then caught the train to the Sydney Markets to sell his fish. Returning in all-weather to his humble camp.
He eventually built a considerable house from scrounged materials that were hard to find in those days and during the Depression and became an Honorary Park Ranger of the then National Park Trust of where his home was situated.
The writer spent many a holiday with other family members at his home. My Uncle Reg never spoke of the Great War, they suffered in silence. But he was a very good caring Uncle to me and I shall never forget him. RIP.
James “Iver” Pederson #3392. A Carpenter. Iver Pedersen joined up into the Australian Infantry Forces (AIF) with his 3 brothers-in-law the same day. They were all volunteers who wished to fight for King and Country, Iver was only 18 years old.
He also was transferred into the 53rd Battalion 16/02/1916, France the Western Front. He was “Wounded in Action” (AQ1806) (place unknown) in France 19/07/1916. He was transported to a hospital behind the lines then, back to England. Returned to Australia 4/4/1917. Medically Discharged with a “Deranged Knee” on 13/07/1917.
History World War I
The 53rd Battalion was initially raised in mid-February 1916 as part of the expansion of the all-volunteer First Australian Imperial Force (1st AIF) that took place in Egypt during World War I. Formed from reinforcements sent from Australia and experienced men drawn from the 1st Battalion, the 53rd was assigned to the 14th Brigade, 5th Division. Upon formation they took part in the defense of the Suez Canal against forces of the Ottoman Empire, for which they received their first theatre honour, that of “Egypt 1916”, although they did not take part in any actual fighting. The battalion’s first commanding officer was Lieutenant Colonel Ignatius Bertram Norris
Later, as the Australian infantry divisions were moved to the European battlefield, the battalion was moved to France in June 1916 where they took their place in the trenches along the Western Front. Their first involvement in the fighting came at the Battle of Fromelles in July 1916, where the battalion took part in the first stages of the Allied attack and suffered over 600 casualties, a total which equated to around a third of their total casualties for the war. They remained at the front for the next two months, before being withdrawn for a rest. Once that was over, the battalion rotated between manning defensive positions at the front and undertaking training and labouring duties in the rear areas. After spending the winter in the trenches in the Somme Valley, in early 1917 after the Germans withdrew to the Hindenburg Line to shorten their lines of communication and free up reserves, the 53rd Battalion took part in the brief Allied pursuit, culminating in them being committed to hold the ground won during the Second Battle of Bullecourt. Later in the year, they were moved to Ypres in Belgium where they took part in the Battle of Polygon Wood in late September.
In early 1918, following the collapse of Russia and the end to fighting on the Eastern Front, the Germans concentrated their forces in the west and launched a majority offensive, which became known as the Spring Offensive. As the Allies were pushed back by the offensive, the Australian divisions were brought south to the Somme to help blunt the German advance. Within this the 53rd Battalion manned defensive positions to the north Villers-Bretonneux, holding their positions even though the town fell into German hands during the Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux. When the Allied Hundred Days Offensive began in August, the 53rd Battalion was not initially involved although close to the end of the month it, along with the rest of the 14th Brigade were committed to the fighting around Péronne, with the 53rd Battalion attacking Anvil Wood during the Battle of Mont Saint-Quentin. For his actions during the fighting, one member of the battalion, William Currey, was later awarded the Victoria Cross.
The 53rd Battalion’s final involvement in the fighting came late in September when they took part in the Battle of St. Quentin Canal. Afterwards, they were withdrawn from the line along with the rest of the Australian Corps shortly after this and was still in the process of re-organisation when the Armistice came into effect. Shortly afterwards the process of demobilisation began. As numbers dwindled, the battalion was merged with the 55th Battalion in March 1919, although they were disbanded a month later on 11 April 1919. During its active service, the 53rd Battalion suffered 2,294 casualties of which 647 were killed. Aside from Currey’s Victoria Cross, other decorations bestowed upon men from the 53rd were: five DSOs, one OBE, 25 MCs with three bars, 28 DCMs, 76 MMs with four bars, four MSMs and 20 MIDs. The 53rd was awarded a total of 16 battle honours for its involvement in the war, receiving these in 1927. Western Front
Black and white photo of a group of men wearing military uniform, including helmets, in a trench. Four men are crouching on the floor of the trench and another four are standing. Members of the 53rd Battalion prior to the Battle of Fromelles; three of the men survived the battle, all wounded.
In March 1917, the 2nd and 5th Divisions pursued the Germans back to the Hindenburg Line, capturing the town of Bapaume. On 11 April, the 4th Division assaulted the Hindenburg Line in the disastrous First Battle of Bullecourt, losing over 3,000 casualties and 1,170 captured. On 15 April, the 1st and 2nd Divisions were counter-attacked near Lagnicourt and were forced to abandon the town, before recapturing it. The 2nd Division then took part in the Second Battle of Bullecourt, beginning on 3 May, and succeeded in taking sections of the Hindenburg Line and holding them until relieved by the 1st Division. Finally, on 7 May the 5th Division relieved the 1st, remaining in the line until the battle ended in mid-May. Combined, these efforts cost 7,482 Australian casualties.
On 7 June 1917, II ANZAC Corps—along with two British corps—launched an operation in Flanders in order to eliminate a salient south of Ypres. The attack commenced with the detonation of a million pounds (454,545 kg) of explosives that had been placed underneath the Messines ridge, destroying the German trenches. The advance was virtually unopposed, and despite strong German counterattacks the next day, it succeeded. Australian casualties during the Battle of Messines included nearly 6,800 men. I ANZAC Corps then took part in the Third Battle of Ypres in Belgium as part of the campaign to capture the Gheluvelt Plateau, between September and November 1917. Individual actions took place at Menin Road, Polygon Wood, Broodseinde, Poelcappelle and Passchendaele and over the course of eight weeks of fighting the Australians suffered 38,000 casualties.
On 21 March 1918, the German Army launched its Spring Offensive in a last-ditched effort to win the war, unleashing 63 divisions over a 70-mile (110 km) front. As the Allies fell back the 3rd and 4th Divisions were rushed south to Amiens on the Somme. The offensive lasted for the next five months and all five AIF divisions in France were engaged in the attempt to stem the tide. By late May the Germans had pushed to within 50 miles (80 km) of Paris. During this time the Australians fought at Dernacourt, Morlancourt, Villers-Bretonneux, Hangard Wood, Hazebrouck, and Hamel. At Hamel the commander of the Australian Corps, Monash, successfully used combined arms—including aircraft, artillery and armour—in an attack for the first time.
The German offensive ground to a halt in mid-July and a brief lull followed, during which the Australians undertook a series of raids, known as Peaceful Penetrations. The Allies soon launched their own offensive—the Hundred Days Offensive—ultimately ending the war. Beginning on 8 August 1918 the offensive included four Australian divisions striking at Amiens. Using the combined arms techniques developed earlier at Hamel, significant gains were made on what became known as the “Black Day” of the German Army. The offensive continued for four months, and during the Second Battle of the Somme the Australian Corps fought actions at Lihons, Etinehem, Proyart, Chuignes, and Mont St Quentin, before their final engagement of the war on 5 October 1918 at Montbrehain. While these actions were successful, the Australian divisions suffered considerable casualties and by September 1918 the average strength of their infantry battalions was between 300 to 400, which was less than 50 percent of the authorised strength. The AIF was withdrawn for rest and reorganisation following the engagement at Montbrehain, and was subsequently out of the line when the armistice was declared on 11 November 1918.
My Grandfather was a Regular Soldier in the British Army, Royal Artillery, Sergeant and served in the UK, and India. When my Grandfather left, he was a Territorial in the Leicestershire Regiment.My Father was born in Ireland then lived in the UK..
My Father was also a Regular Soldier in the British Army. At the outbreak of WW1, they both were ‘called – up’.
My Father was Mentioned in Dispatches for his service in France.
I do not know much about them as my Father died when I was only five years old.
At the outbreak of WW2, he was a member of the Port of London Police and was credited with helping to capture of a German Cargo ship trying to leave the Port of London. The PoL Police became part of the London Metropolitan Police about then.
I went to school at five at the start of the ‘Blitz’. The Germans bombed a railway line 30 metres from our school, children were hit by flying bricks. We saw the ‘Battle of Britain’ from our back yard and a few days later a bomb hit our house and took the roof off. We all suffered ‘coal gas poisoning’ and were saved by the Air Raid Wardens. After this, I was sent to the country with my middle brother. They did not want us as, I was too young to work on the farm, my brother ran away, he was only thirteen years of age.
My eldest brother joined the RAF (Ground Crew) and was posted to India at the time of riots and stuff and hardly talked about it.
I had two Uncles who came to Australia in 1932. One was in the Australian Army.
On the 18th February 1954, I was conscripted into the British Army and after training, was posted to Munchen, Gladback Germany. To get there, we had to board a ferry to the ‘Hook of Holland’. The worst night of my life, as half way across the North Sea we hit a storm. All in the cabin of twelve, started ‘chucking-up’. I was in the bottom bunk, there were sheets of spew (vomit) coming down everywhere. I made it out to the open deck where it was cold but better than being in the cabin.
We boarded a train for the trip through Holland to Germany. When we arrived, and got off the train, many had to relieve themselves. We asked a porter and he gestured towards some toilets nearby. When the men were relieving themselves some women also entered the toilets and some of the men wet themselves and ran out, rather than embarrass themselves, this was our initiation to Europe! Welcome to Uni-Sex toilets!
When we arrived at the camp, we were told not to get into the beer as it was very strong. Some of the boys stated that they drank eight pints a night. They found out! It was Resches Pilsener, lucky to drink two at a time.
We were sent to the Centurion tank sheds (that were new at the time) but the Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers got rid of us. We just were required to look after the old Bren-gun carriers and scout cars. At the time, the Army were testing a new gun stabiliser for the tanks. All hush-hush and armed guards were securing the new equipment. We were sworn to secrecy not to discuss this equipment, as it was the time of the Cold War.
Sport was the only recreation available. Football, Cricket, some Rugby League and Union. (strange for Londoners). I joined a Tug-of War Team and got to see a bit more of Germany, much of it in ruins thanks to our Fly Boys!
We had to do Guard Duty every two weeks that was ‘rough’, two hours on duty and four hours off, standing at the main gate at night in the middle of German winter where the temperature could drop to twenty degrees below zero! (Leave), the trick was to get a doctor’s certificate for extra time at home. On my second leave, I finished up in hospital for two weeks with the medicos pushing tubes down my throat looking for conditions I didn’t have. After this, I returned to camp I was given a new duty looking after the Oil & Grease Store.
I then took discharge. I had to serve two more weeks in Selby-Yorkshire Refreshing Course and a further three years in the Reserves.
The UK had problems, at the time in Cyprus, Malaysia and the Suez Canal. I nearly got into this, but it was over quickly. You could not leave the UK at that time.
I came to Australia in 1964 with my two children and one ‘on the way’ and I am still here fifty-three years later and I’m not going back.
My romance with the Royal Navy began at an early age, as a guess. I would think about my tenth year, and in the ensuing years I collected quite a memorabilia of naval items and the wall of my bedroom were festooned with pictures of warships.
As I reached the age of fourteen I had decided I wanted to enlist as a boy seaman and with this in mind, I haunted the recruiting offices, wrote to and obtained prospectus from H.M.S. Ganges and H.M.S. Arethusa, both naval training ships for boys, but all to no avail. I think with war impending and then shortly after the war commenced, a German submarine under the command of Captain Prien penetrated Scapa Flow and sank a battleship. The Royal Oak which had a large contingent of boys aboard, that this may have coloured their thinking. I therefore did “a claytons”, I joined the Sea Cadets.
It was during my sixteenth year that Admiralty sent a message to all Sea Cadet Corp that any boy who was prepared to join the Service as a signalman would be allowed to do so at the age of seventeen subject to passing certain tests, I applied and was accepted. So on my seventeenth birthday, full of elan and optimism, I started on my long journey to become an Admiral, why not, lets face it, the navy needed Admirals so why not me, and so with all sorts of thoughts running through my head and filled with excitement I arrived at H.M.S. Grenville, a shore based establishment in Stoke Poges Lane Slough, near London.
Looking back, I think H.M.S. Grenville may have been a bowling club before the war, we were housed in what would have been the clubhouse whilst what may have been the greens were concreted over to form a parade ground. There were about thirty of us, all the same age and it was at Grenville that we spent the next four weeks being introduced to navy life as well as learning signals. We were awakened at 5-00 a.m. with cries of “Wakey, Wakey, rise and shine” and then we would go for a mile run at the end of which we would’ have to have a swim in the Council baths and run back to the Grenville ready for breakfast. We then had to learn how to wash our own clothes and repair the same, scrub floors, wash windows, P/E and of course the basics of signaling. At the end of four weeks, we were examined and those that passed —the majority- were taken to High Wycombe where we were officially enlisted.
We were then sent down to H.M.S. Collingwood a permanent naval base at Portsmouth where we were to spend the next six weeks undergoing intensive signal training. H.M.S. Collingwood was a very well built brick area, we were housed very well, proper ablution blocks, adequate although monotonous, but then the British diet “was the same for everyone, my mine gripe was that I could not get “Brylcreem”.
To be a fully trained signalman in the Royal Navy is to have a very exacting and responsible job. We had to learn to transmit and receive morse code by wireless telegraphy, morse flags, flashing lights and heliograph at 90% plus pass mark, we had to learn the names of the 26 flags stored in the lockers on the flag deck, a for apples, b for beer and so on together with meanings of a combination of flags, we had to learn coding and be able to recognize the national flags of all nations and finally, fleet manoeuvres all calling for a pass mark of 80%. Discipline was very strict, for instance I was late coming back from a leave and was given fourteen days confined to barracks, the fault wasn’t mine, it was just that the train on which I was travelling from London was disrupted by bombing, but no excuses were accepted.
Eventually exam time came and we all passed but there were two items worth a mention. In the parade ground was a mast with a yardarm, I think it might have been two miles high but we had to climb the mast and walk out to the end of the yardarm on ropes attached to the underside, the reason for this was that warships had signal lanterns at the end of the yardarm and in the event of a breakdown, it was the signalman’s job to fix it. The second item was cialis from australia and that we had to jump several feet into a large vat of water, there were no ladders just smooth walls and after we jumped in a rope was sent down to us to fasten around our bodies in a certain manner and then we were hauled up, the reason speaks for itself. After all this we were then transferred to another shore based ship called H.M.S. Mercury.
Several miles to the Northwest of Portsmouth was a large estate owned before the war by Beatrice Lille, she was a very famous American stage actress before the war and eventually married into the English aristocracy and became Lady Peel, it was her property that the navy took over and it became H.M.S. Mercury and I believe it is still in commission today. The mansion became the focal point for the officers, naturally, and for administration, for the rest “Quonset” huts were provided, monsters of corrugated iron, fiendishly cold in winter and as hot as Hades in summer. We had one potbellied stove to each hut which had to be doused by l0.00p.m. and it did get very cold indeed. The ablution block was a similar hut, no showers only tin baths in which five inches of water were allowed and a guard stood by with a stick with the measurement on it to ensure no cheating, there was no hot water by the way. The food was plentiful but badly served, the practice was for the plates with food to be placed on the tables first and then the troops would be called in, trouble was the flies got there first and the food became fly blown, so believe me, Oz is not the only place with flies. Mercury was used as an intensive training camp for signalmen and a transit camp where we would be sent whilst awaiting a posting, it was from there that I was ordered to join H.M.S. Glasgow at Scapa Flow.
Scapa Flow is a body of water in the Orkneys, it is surrounded by islets which are connected together by various means to provide a safe anchorage for the British fleet, it is cold, inhospitable and to me no redeeming features, there was a canteen ashore for R & R. I went ashore once but that was enough for me. To get to Scapa entailed a trip from Portsmouth to Thurso, some 800 miles by train, it was a long tiresome journey taking forever and always filled with men from all the services, all of us wet and cold. Thurso provided me with one of those surprises, small and insignificant perhaps but one which I have always remembered, I arrived tired and miserable, wet through but immediately I was taken off the train, women took charge, cleaned me up gave me food I had not seen for yonks, gave me woolen socks, balaclavas and gloves and gave me a place to sleep, a kindness I have never forgotten. The next day I was put on a ferry and taken to Scapa Flow. The Glasgow had not yet returned from its tour and so I spent several days aboard The Iron Duke, an old battleship used for such purposes.
H.M.S. Glasgow was a medium sized cruiser of some 10,000—00 tons, carrying a complement of some 900 souls. Her main armament consisted of 12 six inch and eight four inch guns together with Oerlikons and Pompons, she also carried an Albatross bi plane for spotting purposes, soon to be replaced with Radar. Our main place of activity was on the flag deck situated just below the bridge, it was here that all our signal apparatus was situated, lanterns of all types and sizes, large boxes divided into numerous pigeon holes in which all our signal flags were stored ready for use and of course the halyards from the yardarms, just off the flag deck was a little shack for the wireless telegraphists. Above us was the bridge which was the Captains domain, an area completely uncovered and totally expose to the elements, it had a bulwark of steel about four feet high surrounding it with a glass barrier about eighteen inches high atop. The captain sat on a swivel chair on the starboard side, signalman stood on the port side, at the rear were two lookouts standing at two fixed binoculars and odds and ends of officers were scattered around. Once we left harbour we were not allowed to undress, we had to wear uniform at all times, even when sleeping as we had to be always ready for call to action stations. The call to action stations was made by bugle, one tune indicating surface vessels, the other aircraft and so when the bugle sounded we had to be in our allotted places immediately, so far as signalmen were concerned, we had three stations, the crows nest, the flag deck and the quarter deck. As communication ratings, we had separate mess deck from the rest of the crew so that we would not inadvertently discuss any signals we may have heard. The food was good and plentiful and in our case was “canteen” messing, that is to say the food was prepared in the galley and one of us would bring same down and divide it up into equal portions. We slept in hammocks at night but these had to be stowed away come morning which meant that those on night watch had to sleep wherever, on tables, benches or on top of lockers. We had a canteen aboard where it was possible to buy various sweets, cigarettes and so on, I tried smoking but found it distasteful so gave it away, we played Tombola (Bingo) and music was played continuously through the intercom.
The Glasgow was capable of 32 knots per hour and usually cruised at about 26 and for this reason was usually on patrol by herself. When a convoy left England for Russia, we did not actually escort the ships, our job was to place ourselves between the convoy and the Norwegian coast in order to be ready to intercept any surface vessels that may come out, we would watch over them until they turned right into Murmansk and then we would break of, proceed to Bear Island or Spitzbergan and then return to Reykjavik in Iceland or to Scapa Flow. Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland and stands at the head of a Fiord called Hvalfiord it was at the end of this fiord that we took shelter. Iceland belonged to Denmark and when Denmark was overrun by Hitler, Britain who had imposed a naval blockade on Germany and seeing a possible threat if Germany decided to annexe Iceland got in first and occupied that country, that did not go down too well with the people who refused to have anything to do with us. And so it went, Scapa Flow, convoys to Russia and the back to Iceland or Scapa with now and again a foray into the Denmark Straits. The Denmark Straits is a treacherous stretch of water situated between Greenland and Iceland, fog, rain, snow sleet and storms and as such was a favorite place for a blockade runner to try to get through to Germany.
First Action at Sea.
It was here that I experienced my first action at sea. Action! it was murder, the captain of the Regensberg, had he survived, should have been immediately hanged from the yardarm. We intercepted the blockade runner at night in unbelievable weather, we fired star shells over her and lit her up like a christmas tree and ordered her to stop, she did so but immediately the crew started to abandon ship and it was obvious the captain had decided to scuttle her, the crew jumped into Charley floats and attempted to make for us, but it was hopeless, we could not stop for fear of U-boats in the area, all we could do was throw scrambling ropes over the side to enable those who could make it some assistance, out of crew of 130 we saved six and we had to watch whilst the remainder disappeared into the fog and their deaths. It was a terrible sight and one that haunts me to this very day. However we finished off the Regensberg with gunfire and resumed our patrols, these continued as before without further incident except for the odd air attack and then our tour of duty ended and we were sent down to Plymouth.
Plymouth and the Azores.
O joy! O bliss!, come ye from the far corners of the earth and I will assure you that the sun does fall in England, it falls on the beer, it falls on the friendly faces of my countrymen, O Paradiso … and to put the icing on the cake we visited The Azores. The Azores are islands off the West coast of Africa and at that time controlled by Portugal, Portugal up to now had remained neutral but for some reason, allowed the Royal Navy to refuel there and enjoy R&R. It had a beautiful climate, food and fruits we had not seen for ages and the people were very friendly, especially the young kids who seemed anxious to take us home to meet their beautiful sisters for what seemed a modest amount of money, I was perplexed to hear that some of my shipmates lost something called their virginity there. The Bay of Biscay had been declared off limits to all shipping and our policy was if we encountered any vessel within its bounds, to sink at sight and so our tour of duty was to sail from Plymouth, patrol the Bay and the carry on to the Azores after which we would repeat the performance on the way back to Plymouth, a very congenial patrol until one day we had a signal from Admiralty that a blockade runner was attempting to make a run from the French port of Brest and we were ordered to intercept, which we did but the R.A.F. had got there before us and sunk the ship so we just picked up a few survivors. We then received another message from Admiralty advising us that eleven German destroyers had left Brest in order to escort the runner home, we were ordered to rendezvous with H.M.S. Enterprise and engage the destroyers. The Enterprise was a light cruise about half our size and half our fire power, our captain being the senior office took charge and off we went to meet our destiny, we hoisted the battle flag a huge white ensign it took four of us to manhandle it, its purpose of course was to enable us to be distinguished in the heat of battle. On sighting the destroyers we hoisted the flag signal “Enemy ahead, engage immediately” and with that we plunged straight into the German fleet. In the ensuing engagement, we sank three destroyers and so badly damaged others that they turned tail & returned to Brest. We had suffered some damage and a few men were killed, the Enterprise was very badly damaged and suffered a large number of causalities, We the headed for home jubilant at the days work but the excitement was not over yet for darkness had fallen and American Bombers came out and bombed us, I can verify this as I was on the end of a 20 inch searchlight sending up recognition signals, the bombs did no damage and after a while the planes left us alone and so we cruised into Plymouth dockside to a cheering crowd, we were given ten days leave whilst the Glasgow was repaired and when we returned, we resumed our patrol in the Bay. The German destroyers although smaller than the Glasgow, in sum total were just about equal in fire power, they travelled at the same speed but had the advantage of torpedoes. I think surprise and the ferocity of our attack may have given us the edge. The Americans apologized the next day.
Preparing for D Day.
We were all aware that a Second Front was in the offing but when and where was anybody’s guess, but all of a sudden leave was stopped and the Glasgow was seconded to the American Fleet, we retired to a place called Greenock which is on the Clyde river in Scotland, it was from there for some weeks that we sallied forth with the Americans to practice simulated bombardments and troop landings at a place called Lamlash. We were at that time in the company of the American battleships Washington, Nevada and Arkansas. As D-Day drew near, we were sent down to Belfast Harbour in Northern Ireland. We received a wonderful reception from the W.R.E.N.S. there who manned the signal station who were fed up with the incompetence of the American signaling system. This in a sense surprised me because I have always had a high regard for American know how, even though they did bomb us. I said before that the British signalman was a very highly trained operator, perhaps the Americans do not regard our standards as being necessary. During a given war, mistakes are made matter how much detail goes into planning a campaign the unforeseen can happen, weather, sickness, orders misinterpreted such as at the battle of Balaclava, even D-Day was a gamble with the weather. Leo Tolstoy in his epic War and Peace maintains that wars are won by the side that makes the least mistakes. In W.W.2 mistake were made, the raid on Dieppe in l942 and in particular the disaster at Slapton. Slapton is situated on the Devonshire coast, it was selected because of its resemblance to the Normandy coastline to enable the American troops to practice landings, a large area covering many miles had had all civilians removed and relocated but on this particular night As the landing barges were preparing for a simulated assault a signal was received causing the escorting warships to leave upon which a German patrol of E-boats (Motor torpedo boats) struck and caused hundreds of deaths, it was an absolute tragedy and was covered up for sometime, until an Englishman started to investigate and exposed the truth.
On the day before D-Day we embarked a company of American Rangers and during the night we set sail for Normandy, the weather forecasts were not very promising but at length, General Eisenhower gave the order to go ahead and so the invasion began. The operation was called “Overlord” and the Normandy beaches were divided up into various sectors, ours being called Omaha and Utah, we came within a mile of the beaches, dropped anchor and engaged the shore batteries whilst the Americans were off loaded on to landing craft. What followed was absolutely slaughter of the American troops, it was so bad that consideration was given to evacuating those that had survived but as history shows, they made it to the top of the escarpment, turned right and started their trek down the Cherbourg Peninsular. Let no one deride the Americans, some very brave boys went to their Maker that day and deserve the highest honours. The day itself was clear, I had expected to come under heavy air attack but it just seemed that the sky was filled with American fighter planes, the only fears we might have had were from German E-boats but whilst they caused problems in other sectors they did not worry us, and so we followed the Americans down the Peninsular giving them what support we could until they reached Cherbourg, it was there that the fighting became more intense and so far as the Glasgow was concerned, came under intense shell fire which resulted in us being badly damaged and several of my shipmates being killed, we were forced to retire to Portsmouth for repairs whereupon I was sent to barracks to await further orders. It was from Portsmouth that I was sent to Liverpool to join a troop-ship bound for Australia, I was at that time a Leading Signalman and was to join the staff of the Naval Officer In Charge, Brisbane.
The ship on which I embarked in peacetime was called “The Empress of Japan” but was code name the Jl, We sailed across the Atlantic to the start of the Panama Canal, had a short stay at St Cristobel where I am afraid some rather unseemly behaviour took place and shore leave was cancelled, we then progressed through the canal until we reached the Pacific and then started our long journey to Australia. The journey was slow and uneventful taking, in total the sum, of two months, the ship was overcrowded and there was very little to do, I did have my hair cut and shampooed by the ships barber but after being charged a full shilling realised that I could not afford those sort of prices so that was that the end of that. Eventually we reached Sydney, pulling up along Woolloomooloo wharf to quite a reception, a large crowd had gathered and gave us a rousing welcome, especially the girls, things started to look promising, however we were herded onto buses and taken up to Warwick Farm Racecourse which was to become our headquarters. It was extremely hot, the day being 17th December probably being normal weather to Australians but extremely uncomfortable to us and we spent most of our time sheltering in the grandstands. Our living quarters were tents. In Hyde Park, a building had been erected called The British Centre it was designed for us as a place to go and get information, letters. R & R etc and it was there that kind Australian families invited us to their homes for Christmas, a Mr & Mrs Parsons took me and two others under their wing and took us to their home in Camperdown where we met their daughter nicknamed Tiny. Tiny was an attractive girl and finished up marrying one of the sailors. We became frequent visitors to the Parsons home and one day Mrs Parsons obtained Mary Basterfield’s phone number of which I ultimately got hold, I rang Mary that day and some two/three weeks later I proposed and was accepted, the next day however I left Sydney to open a signal station on Manus Island.
We set sail for Manus on a ship called The City of Paris, a not too clean ship manned by natives. We were a mixed bag of communication ratings and officers and it was our job to set up headquarters on Manus in readiness for the coming British Pacific Fleet. We landed at night in pouring rain and were hustled off to our quarters on a headland overlooking Manus Harbour. We were in Quonset huts, our beds were paillasses on the ground, ablution blocks were as expected, but the toilets were a bit hairy, they consisted of a slit trench filled with hot coals over which a long plank was suspended, the plank and circular hole at prescribed distances and it was over that we sat – not too long I might add but it did induce a certain degree of comradeship and many a ribald remark tended to dissipate any shyness. Food wise was usual Navy fare until the Americans allowed us to join their mess, oh what a difference, so much food and so varied plus ice cream and coca cola, this was heaven, to get to it however, we had to go through a narrow gate where stood an American sailor, salt tablet and Atebrine tablet in one hand and a glass of water in the other and they had to be swallowed in front of him. Atebrine was of course used as a preventative against malaria but its side effect was to turn the skin yellow, was because of this that the myth arose of Japanese survivors on the Island dressed up in American uniforms and obtained entry into the mess area. Harry Mayer was a signalman and was with me on Manus and we became very great friends on Manus and after the war, He was not actually a spiv but had the ability to get things in mysterious ways And he was full of confidence, on the ship bringing us to Manus, the natives were having trouble cutting up the meat for our meals so an officer asked if anyone had experience in butchery, Harry said he had served part apprenticeship with a butcher and so he was given the job, we all ate well after that, the truth was that Harry had never worked as a butcher but had worked in his father’s newsagency before joining up. Manus also had a huge entertainment area where open air films were shown as well as famous actors from Hollywood performed. Manus was part of the then Admiralty group of islands and possessed a magnificent harbour capable of containing both the American and British fleets as well as the fleet train. In the Atlantic and Mediterranean seas, if a ship got into troubles, help was not too far away, South America, America, Canada and the west coast of Africa but the Pacific was so huge and only dotted by islands that it would be almost impossible to keep a battle fleet at sea for some time and so the Americans brought the concept of the fleet train into being. The train consisted of a variety of ships laden with all sorts of supplies and met at Manus, they then, under escort, met up with the battle fleet at some pre-arranged destination and then transferred their supplies after which they returned to Manus and thence back to Australia or where ever. In theory this could enable the fleet to remain at sea indefinitely.
A Rather Unfortunate Incident.
This period however marked a time of great distress for me, as a reader it may seem quite funny, bit of a giggle I suppose but to me it was complete devastation and humiliation. I had just been promoted to Yeoman of Signals (Petty Officer) and was sent out to take charge of communications aboard H.M.S. Resource who was the flagship of the fleet train, come American Independence Day and it was decided to “Dress” ship, in peacetime this meant covering the ship from bow to stern with flags but in war it was restricted to three flags only, one to each mast. The flags had to tied in a certain manner, hoisted to the top of the mast and at a given signal, broken free. I was the only signalman aboard who knew how to tie the flags, which I did and on the appointed day placed two signalmen to each mast and at the given signal, the flags were broken, to my horror, the signalmen at one of the masts had hoisted the American flag upside down, I was called to the quarterdeck and immediately reduced in rank and confined to by cabin, two days later the Resource sailed for Sydney and I was sent up to join H.M.S. King George Fifth, a battleship operating off Japan. The signalmen who hoisted the flag incorrectly were not punished, I took the full blame for something which should never have happened and so I was transferred to H.M.S. Arbiter for my journey North. I was transferred to the K.G.V. by bosun’s chair, that is to say a rope was fired across to the K.G.V. and then I has hauled across by another rope system. The K.G.V. was a modern day battleship carrying 14 inch guns and most blessed of all, the Bridge was completely enclosed. Nothing eventful happened whilst I was aboard, we bombarded the Japanescoast from time to time, we were subject to heavy air attacks but no damage, all just par for the course I suppose until we heard the news of the bombs being dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki followed by the reports of Japans surrender. It was over, six years of war as far as we were concerned they could have dropped a hundred atomic bombs, it is o.k. to talk of the morality of dropping those bombs from a safe distance of years but when you are there preparing for what could be a very bloody invasion, thoughts take a different direction.
Tokyo and then back to Sydney
After the bombs were dropped, we sailed into Tokyo Harbour and permission was given for some of the crew to go ashore but unfortunately the boys played up rather badly and all further leave was stopped, several days later we left for Sydney arriving there on October 3lst. One thing that I should remark upon is the rum ration, every man above 21 years was entitled to a total rum per day, it was from Jamaica and a beautiful brew but it also had a secondary importance, that of barter, you exchanged your tot for various favours ranging from a small favour where you gave “Sippers” to a larger favour where you would give “Gulpers” to the supreme sacrifice of all where you exchanged your complete tot.
A New Life
Upon returning to Sydney, Mary and I became officially engaged, I started working at Waragamba Dam until my discharge came through which it did in August 1946.
Atlantic Star, France and Germany, Pacific Star, Commoration Medal (Australia), Veteran, Arctic Emblem, Soviet Russia Medal and 1939-1945 Star.
My service in the AIF for WW2. Around 1940 I served 3 months National Service at Ingleburn Camp in the 103CC Medical Unit. After this time the medical unit decided to turn AIF where we were then sent to Greta Camp and from there we went to Gunnedah. From Gunnedah the unit was then sent to Western Australia. The unit was disbanded and we then came back to NSW and then on to Queensland where I was allocated to a new unit called the 2ns 1st Medical Stores. From there we were sent to Bougainville and that is where I served for 2 years in this unit. This was approximately around 1943-1945. I was finally discharged on 1st January 1946.
Brian Baker in the centre.
Brian Baker, Korean Veteran 3 RAR
Battle of Kapyong.
Florence Ella Thompson (nee Shaw), known to all as Sister Sue, was born in Sheffield England on 24 March 1911. She and her parents George and Ellen Shaw came to Australia in 1912 and lived in Mascot. Sister Sue at 19 years of age commenced her nurses training at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney. Graduating with honours and later became a triple certificated sister. She joined the Australian Army Nursing Service-NSW, going on to serve as a Lieutenant both during and after WW2 with Fortress Camp Hospital, 129th AGH, 103rd AGH, 2nd/5th AGH, 2nd/11th AGH, 113th Concord Military Hospital and 5th Field Ambulance, in Australia, New Guinea and Morati. Sister Sue joined Penshurst RSL Sub-Branch in 1961 where she served as Vice President and on the committee. She regularly attended meetings up to 2012. During her 100th birthday celebrations congratulatory messages from Her Majesty The Queen, The Governor General Quentin Bryce and many others were read. What a wonderful Lady.
Sue Thompson turned 100 years on 24 March 2011. She was escorted to and from the club by courtesy of Sgt. James Grey from the 4/3 Royal NSW Regiment at Sutherland.
I would like to add my personal experiences of that conflict. As always a story has to start somewhere so I will start when I was in my teens.
Second son of C.H.L. Fuller – Bus Proprietor – Kempsey and not wanting to join the family business, I bought into a milk run and operated it until the army forced me to sell the run and go into the forces ( compulsory) no exceptions.
After training at Bathhurst and Dubbo, I was sent to Canungra Qld. 28 days of hell and was sent to Petre camp where I became a part of 15th Btn 3rd div 29 Bge C. Coy. We sailed out of Brisbane for Bougainville, lands at Torokina airstrip. The ship we boarded at Brisbane was an American liberty ship, a steel boat especially made for troop carrying. They were poorly made and as a consequence we heard later on that four of the liberty ships broke up in heavy seas. Luckily ours held together.
I was sea sick all the way and was glad to see the smoke coming from the volcano which is a dominant feature of the island. Plenty of American soldiers around the strip. They couldn’t understand why we wanted to go into the swamps after the nips for they weren’t worrying them at the strip. However, our heads had the idea they had to be routed out.
Eventually, we made our way down to the Merino River, where we went into a perimeter already made by another coy. It was a daily routine, over the river, get shelled every time and occasionally run into an ambush not far into the jungle from the river. One such occasion I was forward scout and we were fired on, I went to ground finding a shell hole to dive into unfortunately the nips had been there just before us, one of them had done his business in the ditch, so here I am with a person firing over my head unable to move and the smell of crap all over my chest. Every time I moved, I got pelted with gun fire going just over my head. Twenty minutes went by, before word waqs sent up to get out when our Bren gun started firing, which I did. John Grant was on the gun spraying the area, upfront at random which enabled me to get out. Next day I had to be taken to hospital, I was sick as a dog as a result of the jap crap. A week at Motupena Point Base Hospital and I am back to the front – back to getting shelled and patrols out in the bad lands.
One such trip we went across a few small streams, it must have rained heavier up stream, and we couldn’t get back so we had to spend the night in a friendly native village. What a night pigs and pikininies sleeping under the bamboo floor, mums with a pig on one breast and a baby on the other. All only had lap laps. We all got back ok but with our feet water logged.
Next time I’m on the track forward scout again an opening appeared up front and two nips poked their heads up above a ledge at the edge of the clearing I could only see the top half of their body I fired a burst from the Owen gun and they disappeared I crawled up and peered over the ledge both were dead with blood forming on their shirts which looked like red flowers. The Lieutenant then crawled up to confirm what had happened and then I went back to the rear of the section as dragman.
All the time we were subjected to rain heat damp clothes and wet feet, not to mention mosquitoes, but somehow we managed our daily chores and coped with constant shelling. Night time was worst, we would be sitting on the log around the pit listening to the shells coming over, nominating where they were heading, they would whistle and by the length or shortness of the whistle you could tell which perimeter they were heading for. A short whistle was for us. It would give us just enough time to dive into the shelter and of course the mud. One such time I heard a wheeze and a thud. I thought it was a bit close being pitch black and impossible to see anything I waited till day light to have a look for any fragment holes, there it was a hole in the mud the size of a fifty cent piece. Placing my body where I had laid during the shelling. It had missed me by one inch (Lucky)
Over the river again and shelled again I dived into a hole about 18” deep full of mud and the barrel of the Owen went into the mud. After the shells stopped we advanced forward going about 500 yards we ran into a group of Nips, I had to fire, as I fired I remembered that I had just come out of the bog hole with the barrel still full of mud. It fired alright and found its mark, but it sent out a lot of smoke and mud going everywhere which attracted a spray of gun fire from the jungle fortunately the Owen started firing, and I think it was Slim (Peter Metcalfe) threw a grenade and let me off the hook.
Later on I am rear scout and that day we had a police guard with us he only had a machete. Shots were fired up front and all went to ground, no further action, word passed back, 1 Nip shot, so we moved on.
After going about fifty yards the little native boy which was with me at the time ran out into jungle about 10 feet raised the machete and I heard a dull thud. On going over to see what the fuss was about the native said in pigeon (now yellow man dead) the thud being the result of him lopping his head off. I can still see his big gold buck-tooth, looking up at me and in later years a re-occurring nightmare.
When the pamphlets were dropped over our area by the Bruscute bomber I had gone to hospital again this time we were due to go out on patrol again, I told Corporal Brusser, I was going to get some pills for a headache, I’m waiting at the first aid tent where Blue, the first aid bloke, went into the tent to get the pills. It was then everything went black and I passed out. The patrol went without me and I was sent back to base on that particular patrol I was told later they were under fire and one of the patrol threw a hand grenade, unfortunately it hit a tree branch and was propelled back towards him. The base plug penetrated his thigh and was killed. He can from W. A. and I can’t remember his name (Wallace)
After hospital I joined my platoon again at Torokina. Full dress parade was ordered, Captain Proctor came to my tent and in the company of my fellow tent mates gave me the news that he had written to the authorities recommending that I be given a medal of some sort for my efforts at the front.
The papers came back from H.Q stating that I had earned a M.I.P. medal and I was to be presented at this parade. All was a buzz with congratulations.
On parade other names were called out and duly accepted their citations, then Fullers, but it was another initial. The whole platoon was saying “go out and get your medal” and I told them it was not my initial. The said Fuller was in hospital and was unable to collect his medal. Captain Proctor came to me after the parade and apologised for not checking the correct name. However, in front of all present, declared I had earned a citation even though they had knocked it back.
We were packed off to Rabual on an overnight trip on the “Katoomba” it was smooth as glass, dolphins and flying fish dashing around the bow of the boat. We were sent there as garrison guards for the nips who had surrendered (boring job) suddenly a corppral called to me and said “are you from Kempsey”, it turned out to be Ron Steele whom I had a short period of work with (before the war) called Ron Dons men’s wear. He was looking for a driver to transport the girls from place to place to the theatre. Several months of tropical bliss, no roll calls, only answerable to Ron.
Anywhere they had to go I was the driver to take them to rehearsals, picnics, boat cruises down the harbour (I went also) couldn’t be better.
The show was called “Maid of the Mountains” Produced by Charles Cheval Cat calls each night was “she’s not the maid she’s the mountain”. It came to a sudden stop. My points came up to go back to Aust. So I was put on a Dutch ship. They didn’t know how to cook.
Finally came to “Browns Wharf” now Finger Wharf. I thought I would be out shortly but NO – sent to Singleton back to parades and roll-call (boring), one day corporal asked who was a drinker they all put up their hands bar me. “why don’t you drink, soldier” – I don’t like it, was the reply. Right follow me so I became barman in the sergeants mess – my own quarters, no roll call, because of this, I was happy. When I wanted anything, asked the sergeant, it was done. I had control on what to order and so we got on well.
Finally orders came for me to move out, I was sent on a weeks leave to find a job. Walking down Cleveland Street, waiting for a train that night, I spotted a chap I had worked for at Kempsey, so I had a job now and then – that’s where I met my future wife.
My sentiments on the army are as follows.
I WAS PUSHED INTO IT.
PUSHED AROUND IN IT.
WHEN I WAS JUST STARTING TO LIKE IT THEY PUSHED ME OUT OF IT.
I was a career soldier with the Australian Army. I served 20 years in the regular Army and served time before and after that in the Reserve Forces. It is hard to compress all of that in a few pages, but I will try.
I think school cadets have gone out of fashion these days. But, at Marist brothers Parramatta in the late 50’s in was de rigueur. That means that all boys in the senior classes, (now year 11 and 12) had to join. Every Thursday afternoon after school the cadets would undergo training and drill lessons. The company of cadets was organised as follows: a headquarters group (Teachers, administrators and trainers), and 3 platoons. The platoons were; anti-tank platoon, machine gun and finally mortar platoon. The company also had a drum and bugle band made from the junior boys.
I was posted into the mortar platoon as a number 2 (dropping the bombs down into the 3 inch mortar barrel (or tube).
We were all kitted out in WW2 uniforms. Slouch hats, gaiters, boots, trousers Khaki and jackets. We were also issued with .303 rifles with magazines and bandoliers. On Wednesdays we took our rifles home on the bus and the train ( no-one took much notice then) and that evening it was mum ironing our uniforms and me using Blanco to bring my gaiters and webbing up to scratch and Brasso to make the brasswork shine.. After training we would stop at our favourite milk bar and have a Schweppes bitter lemon (summer) or a “spider” (drink of soft drink and ice-cream) . Walking from the train station to home some nights I would hear the soft cries of “left right, left right… ) but my errant drill sergeants went quiet when I spun around and gave my most savage glare.
A 2 week camp each year at Singleton Army camp bought us up to speed with live firing and night-time lantern stalks followed by hot cocoa and a sound sleep on a straw filled mattress (a palliass) with 8 cadets per tent. I was only 16 at the time and enjoyed every minute of life in the cadets! It certainly shaped my mind in a favourable way to a life in the defence forces.
The Black Berets
After high school, I was undergoing training at the Australian School of Pacific Administration at Mosman which trained teachers and patrol officers for service in Papua and New Guinea. The year was 1960. I met a young lady and soon met her brother who was a serving member in the Reserve unit called the 1st/15 Lancers based at Parramatta. This was a Reserve Forces Armoured unit which had Ferret Scout cars and Saracen armoured vehicles.
I joined up with a view to impressing the young lady who quickly lost interest in me and turned her favours on someone less distinguished but otherwise available for escort duties on weekends. I missed the course for initial corps training and soon departed for New Guinea in December 1961.
The Papua New Guinea Volunteer Rifles (PNGVR)
I was living Outside of Rabaul , New Britain at the time I met an old friend, Wally Hendricks. Wally had been a patrol officer but had seen the future and had cross trained to be a teacher. He suggested I join the local army reserve unit, which may have descended from the wartime Pacific Islands Battalions. I joined up as a private infantry soldier and was issued my gear. The training was once a fortnight in Rabaul and a 2 week camp at Mount Hagen in the Southern Highlands every year. Our Regular Army trainer was Warrant Officer Doug Haberle- a seasoned veteran from Korea. Our Company Commander was Major Green who had only one arm which was the subject of much speculation by the lower ranks.
B Company (Rabaul) Papua New Guinea Volunteer Rifles, on parade 1964
“Exercise Barra Winga”
“Exercise “Barra Winga” in Shoalwater Bay in 1961 prepared the Battalion for service in South Vietnam. A Company Pacific Island Regiment played the part of the enemy. Shows here Lt Hoban (left) and a platoon sergeant from A Company”.
We learnt small arms drill , sub-unit tactics, formations , patrolling, ambushes and map reading. It was à mixed unit, the senior staff were all from Australia and the privates were mostly New Guineans. It all worked well and I believe we were a relatively effective fighting force for a guerrilla war setting. My lasting impressions of that era were the evidence of the Japay.”nese and subsequent Allied occupation of the Rabaul area. The 2/22nd battalion were stationed here in a futile attempt to slow or hinder the expected Japanese invasion early in the war. Many were killed and those that were captured were also killed. I understand a member from Penshurst Sub-branch was part of the 2/22nd who was captured and bayoneted many times and left for dead. Somehow, he feigned death and got back to Australia. Sadly he lost both legs on the railways but lived on as sub-branch member for some years.
I rose to the rank of section commander and promoted to corporal.
Everywhere there was evidence of the 2nd world war. At our drill hall was stationed an old Matilda tank. The Japanese had built huge tunnels into the mountains and elsewhere with hospitals, workshops etc. The wrecks of landing barges, planes and war materiel were everywhere in those days.
A Short Course at The Royal military College at Duntroon ACT.
In 1965 I decided to return to Australia. I was employed by a company called IBM as as a trainee computer programmer,but joined the Regular Army in December 1965.
The Army, in its wisdom, offered me a choice to go to Portsea Military College for one year and graduate as a lowly second lieutenant; or, accept a direct commission as a full lieutenant and be posted to the Pacific Islands Regiment to teach the soldiers English. I chose the latter.
Early 1966 saw me in the Juniper green shorts and shirt and green beret of the Pacific Islands Regimental officer with puggarees and red and green shoulder boards (called brigadiers). All officers were rostered for Duty Officer which came around at an alarming rate because companies were always out on patrol for extended periods.
The Commanding Officer was B.B. Hearne, MC and the 2IC was Major Russell Lloyd, MC who later headed the Australian Army training team in South Vietnam.
Later in 1966 I was Duty Officer when the battalion rioted. They were upset at the perceived inequity of the army and police pay scales. I will always remember trying in vain to stop droves of soldiers moving through the main gate to Port Moresby hoping to do battle with the police. Some of the Tolai soldiers from Rabaul stopped but the majority did not.
Later that year decimal currency came in and I think it gave the impression the soldiers were getting more pay (they got a pay rise following the riots anyway).
I was on duty the following year when another riot erupted. I will always remember the squeak of my boots as I walked into the huge battalion mess hall…. All the way to the servers …”
“any complaints ? I asked”. “No sir”, they replied… and a long and squeaky walk back out of the mess hall followed by hundred of eyes…
30 minutes later they were all back in town doing battle with the police.
All officers were expected to play a sport and mine was Rugby Union. The first year was uneventful but the second was. We were chased off the field by a Mekeo team that did not appreciate a hard tackle on one of their members . The Mekeos were a warlike tribe who wore their civility thinly. The Adjutant,” Golden Boots” Greg Worland said, “Everyone into the truck and lets go!” …. And so we did. We were later annoyed to find that we lost the game on forfeit.
I was involved with 2 major exercises- the first was as company 2IC to Major Harry Bell of “A “ Company I PIR. The company flew to Rockhampton and became the enemy for 2 battalions ( 3RAR and 7 RAR) which were preparing for operations in South Vietnam .
This was Exercise “Barra Winga”.Our job was to harass the battalions as they advanced to a prepared hamlet fortification. It was not hard to do as the element of surprise was on our side and the exercise umpires conspired to alert us when the battalions were most vulnerable. I recall leading one attack just as the lead elements were brewing up, we took great delight in kicking over the little hexy stoves and causing havoc.
We understood that there was a rumour among the battalions that if you were captured by the enemy (us) you could be eaten!
I hope that our efforts may have prepared them for what lay ahead.
On Patrol In Papua
In 1967 I was appointed Assault pioneer platoon Commander of Support Company. The pioneers were scheduled to do an arduous trek into previously unchartered territory in the Gulf of Papua.
I boarded the platoon onto the Army Barge AB 3000 at Port Moresby harbour. The skipper was Sergeant “Pappy” Doig of the Royal Australian Engineers (Small ships Squadron). Pappy was resplendent from the chest up as he stood on the small bridge. However, underneath he was only wearing undies and thongs as he took the parting salute from his boss.
We got to the mouth of the Kikori River on the Gulf of Papua and stayed overnight at a missionary settlement in the swamps. There was a married couple and 2 ladies. They seemed happy to see us. We left next morning ready to board our smaller craft to go upstream They were 3 flat – bottomed tinnies of oblong shape totally unsuited to the very rapid current of the Erave river. We loaded some gear into the tethered boats and saw them all quickly sink without a trace. I noticed the eyes of the Highland soldiers widen as they wondered what their fate would be. We eventually got into 2 long traditional canoes each with an outboard. I saw a large wooden house in the middle of nowhere and ordered the canoes to the river bank.
I walked up to the house and was amazed to meet a white man called Keith Tetley. He made his money buying crocodile skins from the locals and built his own hotel. Rumours were that he was a navy deserter and later a member of Parliament in New Guinea.
He was very proud of an unusual butterfly tattoo not normally visible.
We made progress up river till the river banks seemed to be sliding the wrong way. Out we got … it was all on foot from here…well we were infantry after all!
Days of walking through thick mud and slippery slopes covered by a thick jungle canopy. The heat and the humidity and leeches were unbearable and we stopped on the hour to get a breath. Mosquitoes in plague proportions and appreciated fresh bodies.
There was no food available as we had lost most of our supplies with the boats. I called for an air drop. We called the light plane in by radio and when he was close we threw red smoke. He gave us a Locstat (telling us where we were on the map) and advised he had no supplies to drop. Well at least I had a stack of tea and sugar in my kit.
We eventually hit limestone country which was very weird. The only creatures living here were leeches and snakes. We stopped on the hour to check the back of the man in front for leeches. They were burnt off with cigarettes, or removed by hand if they were fat and full of blood. You had to check all your body because the leeches somehow found every crevice to hide including between the toes. My signaller got a leech under his eyelid as he threw up the aerial to give our daily situation report. His eyelid became terribly swollen and I contemplated having to use a razor blade to release it. Fortunately for me (and him) it somehow got free.
Under the limestone we could hear massive underground rivers rapidly flowing. At night the moss glowed an eerie green. Occasionally, a massive tree, filled with rot would fall with a crash. The forward scout had to use a staff to prod the track ahead for moss covered sinkholes. One wondered if you fell in where you would exit.
We encountered 2 angry Papuan black snakes on separate occasions –both parties decided to retire thankfully.
After 5 days a resupply of combat rations –hooray; little things are important in the bush!
Another few days and the weather is cooler as we climb into the lower southern highlands. We come across a small deserted village with the fires still cooking. We wait and soon the little children emerge very slowly and very shy. They seem scared of my white face.
Then the women came out, and when the coast was clear ,the warriors emerged.
I ate a fresh cucumber from their garden and paid one shilling for it. We put on a firepower demonstration (as part of the overall pacification program ) and were given a unique applause . The men flicked vegetable gourds that covered their nether regions!
A few more days and we found a small clearing. A white man sat in a chair next to a tent which was well supplied with every luxury.
He was an engineer from a large vessel called the “Glomar Conception “owned then by the Howard Hughes Tool Company. After giving me a good sized rum , he told me that the largest reserves of natural gas in the southern hemisphere were under our feet
which, I duly noted in my intelligence report.
Pressing on, we found the forest canopy starting to let in more sunlight and more villages about. I finally met the CO at Erave. He seemed relieved that we finally made it out of that terrible swamp at the mouth of the Kikori River. That night I had my first hot shower in weeks… a few drinks and a sound sleep for a few days.
Back at Taurama Barracks in Port Moresby, a thorough debriefing by the Battalion Intelligence Officer, Brian Greene, and some time off.
Later that year, several of the subalterns were transferred to 5 Battalion for training and service in South Vietnam. I applied for a transfer to the Royal Australian Corps of Military Police (RACMP) hoping for a rapid promotion to Captain and a good chance to go to Vietnam. In March 1971 I was posted as 2IC of HQ AFV Pro Unit based at Vung Tau.
Service in South Vietnam 1971-72
Australian Army Officers at a passing out parade for the Quan Khan-South Vietnamese Military Police at the MP Academy at Vung Tau. (L to R, Lt Col Carson Gentles. Captain John Hoban, Academy Director, Maj. Symington, Captain Anderson, Lt Baertz (NZ)
All personnel posted to South Vietnam had to attend a Battle Efficiency course at the Jungle Training Centre in Canungra. The course was of 3 weeks duration and full on from the minute you stepped off the bus from Coolangatta airport. The drill instructor lined us up with our carry bags and issued instructions as to where our tent lines were. “Everyone report back here in 10 minutes in battle dress, and full water bottles!.” Then quick march, and then double time for a 9 mile route march before tea-welcome to Canungra!
We had lessons in sub-unit tactics, night patrolling, weapons (including the enemy AK 47), and battle simulation advances under live firing of weapons on fixed lines and the occasional whoomp of plastic explosives.
I do not believe that I was any thinner or fitter in my life the day we marched out of Canungra.
To Sydney airport with about 100 other re-inforcements all with trousers polyester, short haircuts and Hawaiian shirts so we would not look conspicuous . We boarded a Qantas flight to Darwin, Manila and finally Ton Son Nhut airport in Saigon. I stayed at the US officers bachelors quarters (BOQ) overnight and flew by Wallaby airlines (Caribou) to VungTau the next day. After reporting for duty and getting a debrief from my outgoing number, I visited all sections in theatre.
“US troops cleaning their weapons at the firing range below the MP lines.”
The MP HQ was in Vung Tau along with 2 MP Sections, a Detention barracks and an SIS Section. At Nui Dat, collocated with the Task Force was an MP Section under command of Lieutenant Warwick Hatcher. Its main task was HQ security and POW’s. There was also an MP detachment in Saigon.
The range of duties was diverse; security of HQ staff, town patrols, route reconnaissance, POW, anti-vice activities, co-operation with other agencies with joint patrols, meetings to plan actions with civilian agencies and other special groups.
“MP strongpoint on the Northern perimeter of Vung Tau Military Base.”
“The US army had massive manpower. There were 3 MP Battalions as part of the MP Brigade.” Captain John Hoban (right)
Capt Hoban was never to far from his Jeep 002.
Around July 1971, there was an action near the Dat and Huey helicopters arrived at the Field Hospital Helipad with Australian and VC wounded. MP’s were posted on the VC wounded before they were stabilised for a transfer to US forces for further handling. Intelligence Corps personnel were responsible for prisoner interrogation on immediate tactical matters, MP for security and identification.
Captain Rex Anderson (left) and Major Murray Symington, OC SVN Provost Unit receive from decorations SVN army.
The heavy landing craft from Sydney about to drop the front to load men and equipment from Vung Tau.
I flew with Captain Rowan Monteith (a friend from PIR days ) who was now OC of the 161 Recce Flight based at Vung Tau It was a small Kiowa(?) helicopter and as we traversed South West to Long Binh, we could see the huge pock marks left on the ground by B52 bombers over the years. We flew low but out of small arms range.
18 MP Brigade was an imposing unit of 3 Battalions –one in the line as Infantry, one doing convoy escorts using V-100 armoured vehicles, and one doing base security duties . All were on regular rotation- it appeared to be a good system The US MP’s were not as well selected as ours but they had better equipment.
MP officers inspect a US convey escort vehicle.
A letter from the French Consulate in Saigon responding to a request for a background check on a Vietnamese national.
Around Christmas 1971 a soldier had fired numerous shots into the Sergeants mess causing casualties. Captain Rex Anderson from our SIS section was sent up to investigate. Later, I was to go up to Nui Dat myself and place a soldier under arrest . He had shot an ARVN soldier attached to the Australian Task Force.
In the final days, a couple of our soldiers were knifed as they ate an evening meal. The local proprietor was arrested by the ‘White Mice” – Vietnamese Police. He was later sent to prison which was not a pretty place. He was chained over a hole and had to be fed by relatives- very distressing sight!
I led a standing patrol one night outside the perimeter wire. We lay in wait and after some hours spotted 2 figures in black pajamas wheeling their pushbikes. I challenged them and took them in for interrogation. It turned out that they were PF –provincial soldiers out of bounds and out of curfew and taking a short cut home.
The statue of Tran Hung Dao, a famous Vietnamese general who drove out Chinese invaders in medieval times.
In March 1972 the last of all the soldiers from Nui Dat and Vung Tau boarded the aircraft carrier “Sydney” at Vung Tau harbour for a voyage home.
“Vehicles and soldiers being prepared for loading onto aircraft carrier “Sydney”. Vung Tau Harbour Mar. 1972.”
“APC’s and vehicles being washed prior to loading onto aircraft carrier “Sydney”. Vung Tau Harbour Mar. 1972.”
“APC’s being loaded.”
“APC’s now loaded on the top deck of the “Sydney”. Note. Naval personnel in white uniforms.”
“The “Sydney” departs South Vietnam for the last time heading into a tropical monsoon in the South China Sea.”
” Landing craft from HMAS Sydney departing Vung Tau Harbour carrying the last troops out of South Vietnam in March 1972.
In the foreground are elements of cavalry troop and at the rear is an MP Captain (John Hoban) and “4 MP NCO’s””
We stopped off to let off D Company at Townsville (which was later hit by a cyclone.)
I was appointed the ship’s Adjutant for military personnel, however the voyage was uneventful except for when we turned into the Sydney heads. Over the ship’s intercom it was announced that penalties would apply for illicit goods and this was the last chance to get rid of these things. You could hear the splashing of items going overboard that perhaps may have interested Customs!
Mainly staff officer postings in HQ Training Command in the Doctrine Branch where I had a major role in writing the training pamphlets for Army training (Manual of Land Warfare). Later I was appointed a training advisor for the following army schools- Infantry, Signals, and Intelligence.
I left the army in 1985 but remained in the Army Reserves. I graduated in 1988 from the Reserve Command and Staff College and later trained as a Tactics Instructor at the Reserve Command and Staff College, Ingleburn.
More of his history will be posted soon.
ANZAC Day Address
…………It gives me pleasure to deliver the ANZAC Day address on the 97th anniversary of the Landings at Gallipoli in 1915. Today we mourn the over one hundred and two thousand service men and women who have sacrificed their lives in service of their country. We remember with equal pride all those who have served our great nation in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping duties and still live, especially those who suffer disabilities as a result of their service, and those currently serving. My focus is on the Army Nurses and to remember their contribution and sacrifice.
Army nurses have served in the Military since 1899 and are still serving in all areas where Australian troops are deployed overseas and on the mainland. The current Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps (pronounced Core) (RMNC) is small with about 250 Nursing Officers, but they exert a significant impact on morale and well-being of service personnel and provide expert nursing care when they are sick or wounded/injured. They are Army Officers first, but they are also highly skilled professional registered nurses, not ‘angels of mercy’. They wear the same uniform as everyone in the Army, khaki service dress, mess dress and field dress, the Disruptive Pattern Camouflage Uniform (DPCU) with boots and slouch hat; they are no longer hampered by dresses and veils in the field like their predecessors.
On 17 January 1900, the first 14 members of the Nursing Reserve led by their Lady Superintendent, Miss Nellie Gould, left Sydney with the second contingent of the NSW Army Medical Corps for service in the Boer War (1899-1902). By wars end in 1902, 22.000 British and Colonial troops were dead, of which more than two third died of disease, mainly typhoid, while one nurse died.
During WWI (1914-1918), approximately 2500 Army Nursing served overseas. Initially some served in hospital ships during the landing at Gallipoli, where they came face to face, for the first time, with the reality of the wounded. It made them confront the ‘limitations’ of their nursing skills and their notion of the ‘glory of war’. Others served on the Island of Lemnos, in Egypt, on the Western Front, England, Salonika & India, with about another 720 served with various other allied services. Their uniform was a floor length dark grey serge
dress, with scarlet cape and a chocolate and grey bonnet which tied under the chin. The scarlet cape became the distinguishing mark of the Australian nurses. Thirty six (36) nurses died, 7 were awarded the Military Medal (MM) for bravery under fire, 156 Mentioned-in¬Dispatches (MID); 42 were awarded the Royal Red Cross (RRC) and 139 the Associate Royal Red Cross (ARRC). (This imperial decoration no longer issued in Australia – but The Royal Red Cross was awarded to UK and Commonwealth trained nurses for exceptional services in Military nursing who had shown exceptional devotion and competency in the performance of actual nursing duties, over a continuous and long period, or who had performed some very exceptional act of bravery and devotion at her post of duty).
When the Second World War (1939 – 1947) broke out approximately 3477 Army Nurses served from in all theatres -72 died; the Area of Operations (AO) included the UK, Middle East; Western Desert; Greece, Crete, Ceylon; Rabaul, Malaya, Singapore, Dutch East Indies, Japan, The Pacific, PNG and Australia. The 6 Army Nurses captured after the fall of Rabaul with members of Lark Force, spent more time in Japanese captivity than any other Prisoners of Wars (POWs). Just before ‘Fortress’ Singapore fell in February 1942 many of the Army Nurses had been evacuated and returned to safely to Australia. The remaining 65 Army Nurses tried to escape on the SS Vyner Brooke but it was strafed and sunk on 14 February 1942. Of the survivors; 22 were herded into the sea and shot in the back on Bangka Island, Sumatra by the Japanese, the late Sister Vivienne Bullwinkle was the only survivor of this atrocity; she and the remaining nurses becoming POWs, only 24 nurses of the 65 returned to Australia, 41 perished. While in captivity they continued nursing in appalling conditions, caring for the other women and children POWs, as well as their own. They kept their incomplete, worn uniforms clean and mended as best they could ‘for the elusive day when they would go home’, only wearing them when they had to bury one of their own. So when they were liberated, those who had them proudly wore ‘those tattered grey dresses’.
One Army Nurse died when the Hospital Ship (HS) Monunda was hit during the bombing of
Darwin in February 1942 and 11 Army Nurses died when the Australian Hospital Ship (AHS)
Centaur was torpedoed and sunk by the Japanese off Stradbroke Island on 14 May 1943.
On 20 December 2009 it was announced that AIlS Centaur had been found and designated a war grave containing 268 souls. The only surviving Army Nurse was Sister Ellen Savage, who although severely wounded, continued to care for other survivors. She demonstrated the qualities of self-sacrifice, mateship and bravery and was awarded the George Medal for her actions.
During 1942 the Army Nurses were granted military rank, so instead of using the title Sister and Staff Nurse they become Nursing Officers, Lieutenant, Captain or Major but without pay parity. Most ‘diggers’ today still address the Army Nurses as ‘sister’ and can’t thank them enough for just being there to look after them when it was needed.
The Korean War (1952 – 1955) saw 30 Army Nurses serve in Korea and Japan, one of this group Lieutenant Margaret (Peg) Nicholson, was to become the model for the female services depicted in the Hall of Memories, at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
In the years between the Korean and Vietnam Wars, Nursing Officers served in Malaya, during the Malayan Emergency, Singapore, and Papua New Guinea.
During the Vietnam War (1962 -1973), 43 Nursing Officers served in South Vietnam, all were single women, because the regulation preventing women from remaining in the Corps after marriage was only changed in 1970. They wore the traditional grey ward dress, stockings and a veil during the day (which was totally impractical for the tropics because of the humidity and no starch) and jungle greens at night. Many of these women suffer PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) like the men who served during this conflict.
In June 1972 the first male Registered Nurse was appointed to the Corps and today many of them are posted to Infantry or Commando units and complete the same vigorous combat training, including parachuting.
It was not until 1988 when Corps became a Corps of Officers that it also faced a moral dilemma; the question was whether or not members of the RAANC should carry arms (guns). This was resolved when the Matron-in-Chief introduced a new policy allowing ‘RMNC members to participate fully in drill practice and parades by carrying Arms’ and
Requiring RAANC members posted to the Australian Regular Army (ARA) and the Army Reserve (ARES) field units ‘…to carry a personal weapon for last resort protection of their patients and themselves’. Although controversial at the time it has proved to be the right decision as all Army Nurses today are required to be proficient with weapons particularly if they are to be deployed overseas.
Since the Vietnam War, Nursing Officers have served overseas in East Timor (1975), Thai – Kampuchean Border, Cambodia, Gulf 1 on board USS Comfort, Rwanda, Pakistan, Bougainville, the Solomons, East Timor, Iraq and currently in Afghanistan. They also serve in Military Hospitals and Health Centres in Australia as well as providing health services to the indigenous population. In recent times they have also provided humanitarian assistance to the population of Bali, and tsunami affected PNG, Thailand and Banda Ache. The Nursing Officers, (like all of the Defence Forces), are undertaking multiple deployments and the personal toll on them especially in caring for battle casualties and the human misery brought about by conflict is immense. Why do they do it? The answer is simple ‘because they care’. But the psychological and physical effect of these multiple deployments is still to be assessed not only on the nurses but for all deployed troops. War has a profound impact on the individual, they do change after their experience and this also affects their families. Some will manage the situation, others will compensate in some way and some with be so traumatised by their experiences that they will no longer able to function as they did before. We must remember this and honour all the Military Nurses, Army, Navy and Air Force for their contribution and sacrifice; they are ordinary people doing extra-ordinary things.
The Corps Motto … Pro Humanitate – For humanity.
MAJOR Eileen Henderson RFD (Ret)
Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps – Association (NSW & ACT)
The ACESNR are a group of men and women , Australians of Chinese ancestry and heritage who served in the Australian Defence Forces, from the 1899 Boer War to present day United Nations peace keeping forces.
The association was initiated in 1996 when Australian Chinese returned servicemen decided to hold an annual reunion dinner in Sydney.
The foundation committee was Bo Liu OAM, Lionel Nomchong, Tom Cheong OAM and Les Kum Jew.
The idea of a memorial to commemorate those Australians of Chinese heritage, was suggested by Benjamin Chow, the then president of Australian Chinese Citizens Association.
The next few years were spent in seeking suitable designs and sites. Applications for grants from various Government organizations including the Sydney Harbour Foreshores Authority, State Government and the Department of Veterans Affairs, coupled with active fundraising and wonderful donations from business and community members achieved the creation of the memorial monument as an urban marker. Total cost of the monument was $280,000 and the Sydney Harbour Foreshores Authority maintains the monument on our behalf.
The site is the plaza area at the intersection of Dixon and Liverpool Streets, Haymarket. The site is part of the Sydney Harbour Foreshores Authority and an intersection to the Chinese Gardens and the tourist area of Darling Harbour and the monorail passes overhead around the perimeter of the site.
The area is fully paved and the monument is designed as a sculptural urban marker comprising 380 light rods around a central column. the circular geometry actions represent the belief in Chinese culture that death does not terminate the relationships of reciprocity. The light rods represent remembered soldiers and recall candles which are lit during the ceremony of universal salvation.
In a semi-circle around the column are eight granite slabs each containing 63 names and totaling 504 names in alphabetical order and under these slabs is the inscription
“AUSTRALIAN CHINESE EX-SERVICES MONUMENT”
THEIR SERVICE. OUR HERITAGE”
Around the base of the column are blue lights set into the ground and when switched on at dusk, they co-ordinate in intensity to give the impression that the light rods are rotating in a circular fashion.
The monument was unveiled on the 19th February 2002 by the Hon Bob Carr and in attendance was Maj Gen Daryl Low Choy AM MBE RFD and Henry Tsang MLC.
Each year, at 11.00am on 11th November, our members gather to pay their respects, wreaths are laid and poppies are placed alongside the names of those who have passed on.
On Australia Day each year, our members and the Chinese Lions Clubs of Sydney conduct a similar ceremony also at 11.00am.
From this reunion has grown the goal to create a memorial monument for all Australians with Chinese ancestry, that lists the names of men and women who, from the Boer War in 1899, the two World Wars, Korea, Malaysia, Vietnam and the peace keeping operations for the United Nations.
To our knowledge, this is the only monument of its kind in the whole of Australia and represents a most befitting tribute to Australians of chinese heritage.
President: Tom Cheong OAM FCPA
Vice President : Bob Leedow RFD ED JP
Memories of Bomber Command by Brian Milton Fallon.
I was asked to summarize a book of a deceased member Brian Milton Fallon, so an outline can be posted on the clubs website. It outlines his wartime experiences while flying with Bomber Command over Europe from September 1944 to April 1945. The book was called “Press on Regardless” and has been published by his family, based on the written memories and notes left by Brian.
The early part of the book is taken up with Brian’s early training in Australia. Then on to England and further training. Brian’s first actual mission took place on the 22 September 1944 and his last on the 9 April 1945, only 11 days before the end of the war in Europe. In all Brian was to fly 31 missions over Europe. In this article I list each mission, outlining the destination, the bombs carried and include the duration of the mission. In the book each mission is described in great detail and what stood out with me, on return is the inevitable check to see who did not return.
Heeding the Call
On the 30 January 1943, 6 days after his 18th birthday, Brian reported to the RAAF recruiting depot at Woolloomooloo. Then, as part of the Empire Air Training scheme, in April he was posted to Narrandera as pupil pilot. He past out, after completing 68 hours flying time, in Tiger Moths.
He then went to Uranqunity near Wagga Wagga for further training, this was in Wirraway training aircraft. However he did not pass as a pilot.
In November 1943 he went to Port Pirie to undergo a gunnery course at No. 2 Bombing and Gunnery School. He passed out with his “wings” and was promoted to Sergeant.
It was then into an Embarkation Depot prior to leaving for overseas.
On 27 January 1944 he embarked on the ship ‘Nieuw Amsterdam” bound for England.
There was a stop over in Durban, where he first stayed in a transit camp called Clarewood, then by ship to Freetown in Sierra Leone Then, by convey, because of U Boat activity. There was the usual “crossing the equator activities”. The ship moored in Greennock Harbour, in Inverclyde Scotland. on the 13 March 1944.
Training in England
From Glasgow they went by train to Brighton, on the South Coast. While waiting for his posting, Brian was able to visit a number of sightseeing highlights in the area.
On 3 April 1944 four of us, including Bill Fallon (no relative) decide to spend our disembarkation leave in Scotland, there was a registry of people who volunteered to put up holidaying servicemen. On the way to Scotland they had a stop in London and were able to visit a number of the historical buildings.
He was recalled to Brighton and found all air gunners had been posted. He was posted to Church Broughton in Derbyshire. But had a short detour, before going to Church Broughton, he was attached to 27 OYU (Operational Training Unit) at Litchfield in Staffordshire. It was here that the crew came together. Bill Fallon and Brian decided to stick together and during the fortnight crewed up with Denzil Huxtable “Hux” as pilot, Frank Mottershead “Bunny” as wireless operator, Frank MacCormach, a Western Australian, as bomb aimer, and Ian Harrison of Queensland as navigator. On completion of the crewing, they went on to Church Broughton.
It was here they commenced flying in earnest. The planes were Wellington 111.
On 7 May 1944 Brian went to Litchfield to attend a special course in air firing recorded by camera.
Further training was to follow, on one training mission they flew within 10 minutes of the French (enemy) coast.
A couple of days later they heard that the allied forces had landed in Normandy and were still advancing.
Further training continued included high altitudes and in spite of the cold and having to wipe ice of his mask and eyebrows, he enjoyed the novelty.
At the end of June 1944 Brian spent time in London, this was at the time when the Doodlebugs were bombing the city. They were still able to see the sights and had visits to a number of theaters to see the current shows.
They then spent a fortnight at Scampton before being posted to a heavy bomber unit at Wigsley in Nottinghamshire.
Further training followed with exams at the end, Brian topped class in cine camera shooting.
There was a short leave in London, on returning, in September 1944 he was posted to 5 LFS (Lancaster Finishing School) at Syerston for a 3 week conversion training onto Lancasters, which he was to fly into action.
The crew, that would fly together, in the plane Jo-B Baker 463 squadron stationed at RAF Waddington was
Don Huxtable “Hux” (Pilot)
Allen Waygood “Butch” (Navigator)
Frank Mottershead “Bunny” (Wireless Operator)
Len Stockwell “Cookie” (Engineer)
Fred McCormach (Bomb Aimer)
Brian Fallon (Mid Upper Gunner)
Bill Fallon (Rear Gunner) not related.
By the middle of September they were training in their own plane and carrying out fighter affiliation with a Spitfire and doing bombing runs on the range at Skegness in the Wash.
First Taste of War
On the 23 September Brian had his first taste of war with a raid on the Dortmund Ems Canal, with a target of the canal and viaduct, they carried 14 * 1000lbs bombs, and the flight time was 5 hours 20 minutes.
The second mission was to bomb Calais to help Montgomery’s army break out of the area. They carried 12 * 1000lb and 4 * 500lb bombs. It was a 3 hours 20 minutes duration.
Mission three was to bomb armament factories over Karlsruhe Germany, they carried 12 * 1000lb and incendiaries and it took 6 hours 30 minutes.
Mission four took them to Kaiserlautern Germany, they carried 1 * 4000lb bomb and incendiaries, to bomb factories and flying time was 6 hours 35 minutes.
They flew to Wilhelmshaven in Germany for their fifth mission, it was to bomb port facilities they carried 10 * 1000lb bombs and incendiaries and took 4 hours 40 minutes.
Mission six was over Bremen Germany, carrying 18 containers of incendiaries, bombing factories with a flying time of 4 hours and 40 minutes.
The seventh mission was over Flushing in the Netherland to bomb the dyke walls, 10 *1000lb and 4 * 500lb bombs were dropped. This helped open the way to the relief of the port of Antwerp. The flying time was 3 hours 5 minutes..
Eighth mission was a long flight of 7 hours to bomb the railway yards at Brunswick in Germany. They carried 1 * 4000lb bomb and incendiaries.
The ninth’s was back to Flushing to bomb gun batteries. Carried 14 * 1000lb bombs and was a flying time of 3 hours 10 minutes.
The tenth mission was a long cold 7 hour 30 minutes flight to Bergen in Norway to bomb U boat pens, the bombing was aborted because of fog and they could not locate the target.
Then they were on leave, which commenced on 30 October 1944 and extended to the 7 November 1944. Butch, their navigator, was being married on the 1st November and they were all going to the wedding. They traveled from Lincoln to Glasgow. They were able see parts of the city. The wedding was at the palatial Grosvenor Hotel, after the happy newly-wed couple left a group went on to the Plaza Dance Hall, said to be one of the finest in Britian.
On return from leave mission eleven took them back over Germany to Harburg to bomb oil refineries with 1 * 4000lb and 12 * 1000lb bombs and they were in the air for 5 hours and 25 minutes.
Mission twelve was to bomb German Army ammunition stores at Duren in Germany, they carried 14 * 1000lb bombs with a flying time of 5 hours 5 minutes.
Mission thirteen took them back to the site of their first mission, the Dortmund-Ems canal in Germany. They carried 14 * 1000lb bombs, with a flying time of 6 hours 5 minutes.
Bombing over the city of Munich was the fourteenth mission, this was a long 10 hour flight, dropping incendiaries.
After mission fifteen, Hux (the pilot) was awarded the DFC medal, this had been a 6 hour 15 minute bombing raid over the railways at Heibronn in Germany dropping incendiaries and a 1 * 4000lb bomb.
Mission sixteen took them over Geusen in Germany to bomb the railway yards with
12 * 1000lb bombs with a flying time of 5 hours 40 minutes.
A long 9 hours 40 minutes flight to Gdynia in Poland was the seventeen mission. It was to bomb port facilities with 10 * 1000lb bombs. .
On the 20 December 1944 they were briefed for an attack on Breslau in Silesia, which was to help the Russians.
This would take them directly over Germany and was considered a suicide mission. They were in their plane ready to go when the mission was called off. Over the next week they were again briefed for the Breslau operation only to have it called off.
On Christmas Day the crew was still on standby, with warnings to stay sober, however they were still able to enter in the spirit of the season.
Mission eighteen took them to Rheydt in Germany to bomb the railways with 14 * 1000lb bombs with a flying time of 4 hours 40 minutes.
For mission nineteen they dragged us out of bed at 2300 hours and we were ordered to report for an immediate briefing. In the briefing room we learned the importance of our flight. Allied troops had advanced swiftly through Belgium and Luxemburg, right up to the German border. However the enemy had launched a counter-offensive. They had penetrated to a depth of about 50 miles into the Ardennes Valley. The Ardennes Gap as it became known was proving a serious problem and was considerably delaying Monty’s program. Our target was a town in Luxembourg, Houffalize, in which the German army had concentrated big guns and tanks. We were to carry 13 * 1000lb bombs with a flying time of 4 hours 50 minutes.
Back again to bomb the Mittelland canal at Dortmund-Ems, with 14 * 1000lb bombs, was mission twenty and took 7 hours 20 minutes..
The team were then on leave from the 7th January 1945 and Brian decided to take his leave with a trip to Ireland., he and Corporal Ron Richards, the armourer traveled together. In Dublin they met up with a family who put up vacationing servicemen. With the family they went on picnics and visited a number of the sights around the area
On return from leave mission twenty one took them on a 10 hour 45 minutes flight, to bomb oil refineries at Politz in Poland with 1 * 4000lb and 11 * 500lb bombs.
Mission twenty two also took them to bomb synthetic oil refineries with 1 * 4000 cookie and 11 8 500lb bombs but this time it was at Brux in Czeclosovakia and was 8 hours 15 minutes duration.
Mission twenty three was again to bomb the oil refineries at Politz in Poland with a 1 * 4000lb cookie and 12 * 500lb bombs with a flying time of 8 hours 50 minutes.
A long night time flight, of 9 hours 55 minutes, to bomb the city and railways at Dresden was mission twenty four. They carried 1 * 4000lb cookie and 11 * 500lb incendiaries.
Mission twenty five was to Rositz in Germany to bomb the oil refineries. They were carrying 1 * 4000lb cookie and 9 * 500lb bombs, with a flying time of 8 hours 55 minutes.
Flying to Bohlen in Germany, carrying 1 * 4000lb cookie and 14 * 500lb bombs, was mission twenty six, bombing synthetic oil refineries, with a flying time of 8 hours.
Mission twenty seven was to bomb a viaduct on the Mittelland Canal Gravenhorst in Germany, carrying 14 * 1000lb bombs, flying for 5 hours 35 minutes.
Again back to Bohlen, carrying a 1 * 4000lb cookie and 15 * 500lb bombs, to bomb synthetic oil plant was mission twenty eight, with a duration of 8 hours 30 minutes.
Mission twenty nine was to bomb fortifications at Wessel in Germany. The flying time was 5 hours 55 minutes and the bomb’s carried was 14 * 1000lb bombs.
Mission thirty was a daylight raid to bomb shipping at Ijmuiden in Holland however they were recalled due to heavy cloud cover.
On 9 April 1945 463 Squadron sent 12 aircraft to join 40 Lancasters of 5 Group in attacking oil tanks at Hamburg. They carried 14 * 1000lb bombs with a duration of 5 hours 15 minutes.
This was the 31st and last mission for Brian Fallon and his comrades.
Operation Exodus and Tiger Force
With the end of the war in Europe, the rest of Brian’s crew returned to Australia. In the mean time the RAF expected a large deployment of Lancasters would be required to take part in the massive conventional bombing campaign, which it anticipated would accompany the invasion of Japan. This resulted in the creation of Tiger Force. One of the squadrons involved was 467 Squadron, which Brian joined at Waddington on 5 June 1945. Over the next couple of months he was busy undertaking a number of exercises involving fighter affiliation, jettisoning of incendiaries and night cross country exercises.
He was relocated to Metheringham (Lincolnshire) on 19 June 1945. His new skipper was Flying Officer Trevor Trask (DFC), a Victorian whom he nicknamed “Lolly Legs” because of his gait when walking.
On 16 August 1945 Brian was gazetted the rank of Flying Officer. On 22 September 1945 we were assigned to fly to Bari on the Adriatic coast of Italy. They transported 25 ex-prisoners of war back to Britain. This was to be his last flight as training ceased with the dropping of the Atomic Bombs on Japan.
Pilot Officer Brian Fallon received these medals for war service in the RAAF:
English Defence Medal.
1. English Service Medal.
2. Australian Service Medal.
The following two medals were awarded in 1997:
3. 5 Group Bomber Command Medal.
4. D-Day Campaign Medal.
Every ANZAC day members of 463 and 467 squadrons meet under their banner at Hunter St Sydney. Brian was an enthusiastic member of squadron society. From 1946 he marched every ANZAC day except for one. This was when he was on his honeymoon, after marrying his wife to be Mary O’Sullivan. Brian’s last march was 2006 as he passed away in October that year.
|War Service in Australia||442 days|
|Active Service outside Australia||1486 days|
|Active Service in Australia||138 days|
|Total days effective service||2066 days|
|Appointed Acting Sergeant||12th July 1940|
|Full Sergeant||6th October 1940, following acourse at Narrellan|
|Full Lieutenant||15th May 1941, after attending Officers Training School in the Liverpool area|
R0BERT JAMES (BOB) LEEDOW RFD ED JP (LT COL RET’D) (As written by Bob)
It was at Sydney Grammar School where I had my first taste of military training. I joined the cadet corps at age 14 and remained until 1953. I attained the rank of sergeant, was a qualified mortar specialist and qualified as a cadet under officer.
In 1955 I was called up for compulsory National Service for a period of 2 years and 3 months. I initially failed my medical because of flat feet but explained that I wore boots every day at work and was accepted and ended up serving another 21 years!
In national service at 19 Battalion Holsworthy, I quickly adapted to military life and attained the rank of corporal and attended a potential officers course.
After 3 months continuous service, I was posted to the Royal Australian Army Service Corps in 125 Independent Transport Platoon at Randwick where I rose to the rank of sergeant and commenced officer training.
At the age of 20, I was promoted to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant.
BobLeedow During the next 21 years I served in fourteen different units in supplies, petroleum, air dispatch and transport and when the RAASC was disbanded in 1974, I transferred to the Royal Australian Corps of Transport.
I was promoted to the rank of major in 1965 at the age of 29.
One of my most satisfying periods of service was from 1966 to 1971 when I was Officer Commanding at 3 Company RAASC (Divisional Transport) at Liverpool Road Ashfield.
There, I had under command 3 transport platoons, a supply platoon, a transport company workshop complete with recovery equipment and a divisional postal unit, There were 15 officers and 24 senior NCOs, and a fulltime staff of 5. In total over 200 personnel and during camps and military exercises over 120 vehicles were utilised for troop, ammunition and resupply tasks.
In 1968, I had the opportunity to visit Vietnam as an observer to assist in training on my return. During this visit, I had the opportunity to travel between Vung Tau and Nui Dat in armed resupply convoys. Wearing steel helmets, armoured vests, armed and with full artillery and mortar support the entire trip, the journeys were completed with comparative safety.
In 1973 I qualified at the Senior Officers Tactics Course at Canungra in Queensland and was subsequently promoted to LTCOL.
Postings that followed were: Commander HQ 2 Div, Staff Officer Grade 2, Assistant Director of Transport, Staff Officer Grade 1 and I was transferred to inactive list in 1976.
ED (Efficiency Decoration) and bar for 18 years service as an officer. RFD and Bar (Reserve Forces Decoration) for 20 years service. ASM (Australian Service Medal) with Vietnam clasp.
ALSM (Australian Logistic Support Medal Vietnam)
NM (National Medal 15 years service), NSM (National Service Medal) ADM (Australian Defence Medal for post 1945 service)
Post Military Activities
Penshurst Sub-branch (current vice president and pensions officer 6 years) Australian Chinese Ex-Services National Re-union (current vice president 7 years) Royal Australian Army Service Corps Officers Assoc (current vice president 10 years)
As at 25th January 2008.
Mr Robert James LEEDOW RFD ED, Was awarded the following award in the Australia Day Awards on 26th January 2021.
MEDAL (OAM) OF THE ORDER OF AUSTRALIA IN THE GENERAL DIVISION For service to veterans, and to the community.
After a brief illness Robert Leedow OAM RFD ED past on the 5 February 2021.
War History of John Geordie WARD
Royal Australian Armoured Corps, Service No. 310952.
I was born in South Shields in the North East of England on the 21st November 1929 the same birth town as “The Man With The Donkey” John Simpson Kirkpatrick. John Kirkpatrick volunteered for the Australian Army for WW1 and served at Gallipoli.
I was 10 years old when WW2 started and as my hometown was situated on the River Tyne, a major ship building port coal mining and industrial area, it was a prime target for the Germans who bombed the area constantly. Although only 10 years old I and every one there were on the front line and schooling became a secondary consideration. The British Government evacuated some children away to the country as they thought they would be safer. That was not the case as the bombing started there also. My mother took my brother and I back home, where for the remainder of the war, we remained.
At the age of 14, I started working in the coal mines sometimes, up to 3 miles under the North Sea and stayed there until I enlisted in the Australian Army. Whilst in the mines at the age of 18 I enlisted in The Territorial Army (Britains Reserve Force.)
In 1952 I joined the Australian Army in London and was in the first group to swear allegiance to Queen Elizabeth11 on 25th February, 1952 (before she was crowned).
A number of UK enlistees travelled to Australia by ship taking 6 weeks to arrive in Melbourne Most overseas travelling was by sea in those days.
I was in the Royal Australian Armoured Corps for 21 years, being a Centurion tank commander and had the privilege and honour of being given a new tank naming it CLAYMORE As I was in C squadron the tank had to have a name starting with C.CLAYMORE being the name of a Scottish Highland two edged sword.
Later I did trials on and commanded Armoured Personal Carriers, both of which were used in Vietnam. The APC’s were involved in the Long Tan Battle in which some of my good mates were tragically killed and injured.
I did not go to Vietnam until later as I was posted to instruct National Servicemen who were conscripted for Vietnam. I trained 11 intakes starting with the first intakes at Puckapunya, Victoria and later at Singleton, NSW I found them all to be excellent soldiers and good men. My main regret to this day is that I do not know what happened to them.
In 1971-1972 I did a tour of duty in Vietnam in Saigon where you did not know who was friend or enemy. On one occasion a petrol bomb was thrown at a truck parked in front of the building and During the ensuing fire I grabbed the fire extinguisher and ran to put the fire out. I didn’t think that it could have been a Viet Cong ambush. Fortunately all was well and the truck had Australian beer on board.
The trip to Vietnam was by normal air travel but the return trip was by RAAF Hercules aircraft, hardly first class with no seating other than a metal seat, no padding at all. From South Vietnam and back to Darwin where we were offloaded and put onto a normal flight to Sydney.
On arrival there, we were herded out through the back door so the media and public were unaware of our return.
After I returned from Vietnam on one occasion while in the city and in uniform with my 4 year old son dressed in a miniature camouflage uniform, a man came towards us pretending to shoot us, supposedly indicating that was what our soldiers did in fighting for peace. Of course this was all untrue but makes you wonder what the media and civilians thought then of our troops serving in Vietnam and other theatres of war.
It took twenty years for the Australian Government to come to terms and organize “The Welcome Home Parade”. Too little too late for all those concerned.
Servicemen/women and their families cannot forget.
Malcolm John Mackay
Ex RA.A.F. (Sgt.)
Service no. 25187
I enlisted at Rockhampton – QLD in 1940 and received a call up in January 1941. After initial training at Richmond I received further training at Ultimo, Sydney and at Point Cook south of Melbourne. Due to shortage of armourers I was drafted from a flight mechanics course to armourers training much to my disgust. On complaining about this I was given the usual reply “You are only a number mate – you have to like it and lump it!!!!”
In September 1941 I travelled by ship to Singapore and joined No. 8 Lockheed Hudson Bomber Squadron. As we were under British RA.F. Command we were told by English doctors that no white man worked in the tropics after midday. We thought this was a great idea. On parade at 8.00am – stand down at midday. Good times never last as we were sent by ship up the east coast of Malaya to Kuantan where 8 Squadron was to operate from.
Eighty minutes before Pearl Harbour was bombed No. 1 Squadron and No. 8 were attacking a Japanese landing at Kotabaru. Eventually both airstrips were attacked. We were told to evacuate and eventually arrived back at Singapore. After many air raids on our ‘drome’ at Sembawang (Singapore) we were told that a ship would take us to Sumatra.
Whilst at Singapore I kept a time check one day on how many hours we spent in slit trenches while the Japs bombed us – eight hours -. What a way to spend your 21st birthday. A padre was in a trench by himself and we yelled at him during a short break to run to our trench. During the next bombing run his previous trench copped a direct hit.
After operating in Sumatra word was passed around to get out any way possible and make for Oesthaven which was the closest point to Java. On arrival in Java we were bombed and strafed again until early March 1942 when 8 and 1 Squadrons were combined and all except about 100 or so were to return to Australia. A few deserted English trucks were found and I volunteered to drive one to the South Coast. On arrival there was chaos. Sunken ships – thousands of men waiting to get away – and the Dutch had capitulated on March 8. Whilst we were there a high ranking officer told me the remnants of the Squadron were camped on a beach waiting for a possible rescue by submarine at night.
I drove along the railway tracks to get to a large wharf shed and loaded food, water and petrol and set off to find my Squadron. I found an exercise book in a deserted school with a map of Java on the back cover. The place names were in Dutch and Malay (native language) and I had an aircraft alcohol compass out of an abandoned Hudson aircraft.
We eventually drove the truck into the ocean at low tide as it was dangerous to be driving on the main roads and villagers had warned us that J ap patrols were going from village to village by road. We headed across paddy fields after a sighting from one hill to the next using the compass reading and memorizing land marks in between. It had to be done this way as you had to zig zag through the paddys but still finish at the compass spot. We had to be careful to get a view of the ocean to keep us on track in finding the Squadron.
I had taken the canvas canopy off the truck and cut this into sections. This gave each of us enough to lay on half and cover yourself with the other half. Night travel was impossible so we had plenty of rest. Food was obtained from villagers as we went.
Unfortunately I was awakened one night with others when we heard moaning and groaning. To our horror an English aircrew officer had broken the compass, mixed the alcohol with water and was very drunk. At daylight we pushed off – leaving him – he was almost dead and we could do nothing.
Eventually others dropped out, leaving myself and one other. We found the Squadron after swimming across a huge bay instead of walking miles around on the beach. A large rock in the middle of the bay allowed us to have a rest. Study of the high tide mark indicated we may have to stand up on the incoming tide but we were lucky. I had my identity discs on a chain so I wedged them in a crack. I often wonder if anybody found them.
Eventually we found the remnants of the Squadron, and after being discovered by the J aps were ordered to move to a tea plantation. From here we moved to Lelas, a large village, and camped in a big shed. We were now prisoners of war.
From here we travelled by train to Batavia (Djakarta), marched through the city streets and into what was known as “The Bicycle Camp”. This Camp had previously been occupied by a Dutch infantry unit which at times were bicycle mounted. It was electrically lit, had water laid on and flushing latrines. We slept on concrete floors.
Most of the work consisted of pushing 44 gallon drums up gang planks into holds of ships and standing in waist to neck deep canals scooping oil from the surface of the water into drums. This was the result of the Dutch emptying the oil into the canals on capitulation.
Some months later we boarded a ship and confined to the holds in tiered wooden compartments where you sat or lay but were not able to stand. The ship travelled from Batavia up the west coast of Borneo across to the east coast of Malaya and down to Singapore to miss the sea mines. After unloading at Singapore we moved by trucks to Changi Camp and stayed there for a couple of days. There was electricity, running water and no Jap guards inside the wire – only Indian guards. From there it was another ship to Rangoon. Whilst there it was off that ship, walk along the wharf onto another ship and then to Moulmein in Burma. On arrival we were marched to Moulmein Gaol and spent about 4 or 5 days there a month after leaving Batavia.
Just outside the gaol walls was the famous Moulmein Pagoda (without the gold leafremoved to prevent the Japs getting it). It does not “face eastward to the sea” as Kipling would have us believe. From there we moved to Tham Buzayat and then 40 kms south to commence work building a railway. I will mention only one incident that happened during that period on the railway as others have covered that period in detail. A member of the Third Motor Transport ALP., known as “Snow”, who came from my home town was with me at the 30 kilometre camp about 12 months later. The perimeter fence consisted of three bamboo rails between posts. At that time we were allowed fires between huts and Snow and I went through the fence to obtain firewood. Unfortunately a roving Jap guard spotted us coming back into camp and made us stand to attention until he finished his shift. This was about a two hour period (no hat and only wearing a “G” string). We were then marched to the guard house at the main gate and had to stand under the eaves of the hut holding a block of wood or a large stone above our heads. When the guard came to check he would scream “changey! changey!” and we would swap stone and wood block. If we lowered these to our heads we were belted with a lawyer cane across our backs (I carried those scars until 12 months after the War). We were informed through the Aussie interpreter that we would be shot later. As the Camp was on the railway eventually a rail converted truck arrived with a Jap Warrant Officer engineer asked the Sergeant Commander of the Camp to explain. Because he was senior (Japs love to pull rank) he said “No execution!” and put us on “short” rations. Snow and I looked at each other as we were dismissed and walked back to our hut without speaking. The interpreter came to the hut later and said something about “thank goodness for Jap Logic???”
When the War ended we were moved from Siam (Thailand) to Singapore by RAAF. aircraft. On arrival in Singapore we climbed on to a truck and taken to the front lawn of a colonial house. On the verandah and steps was a small group of musicians and Gracie Fields, a world famous singer, who was wearing an Aussie slouch hat. That welcome back to a sane world I will never forget!
This photo is a copy of one taken about 5 weeks after the wars end in Thailand. The person with me was a Thai university student who had been hiding from the Japs in a local village. He was exceedingly kind to me and helped me gain weight in those weeks following the wars end. This brief account covers four years overseas.
Represents Penshurst at V.E. day 50th Anniversary Celebration. 18th May 1995
Arthur Roussis was honoured after WW2 with three bravery awards for his dedicated service 1940-1945. Arthur generously donated his awards to the Sub Branch for display in our War Memorabilia Cabinets.
Pictured above, Gough Whitlam greets Arthur on the steps of the Opera House.
Sydney had not seen anything like it for 50 years! The largest crowd ever to attend an outdoor performance at the Sydney Opera House gathered to mark the 50th Anniversary of V.E. Day
Estimated to number nearly 15,000, the people represented Australians from all walks of life. There were two former Prime Ministers, Consul Generals, veterans and students from at least 15 schools.
The Australian Defence Force put on an impressive display. In addition to a 100-person tri service and a full naval band, thee was a fly over of FA18 jets and six Sea King Helicopters under the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
An article from the Penshurst RSL Advance October 1980
Penshurst RSL Member who fought with the Greek Army in World War II
A Corporal’s account of the 3rd Greek Mountain Brigade Campaign in Rimini, Italy during WWII
As a Corporal serving with the 3rd Greek Mountain Brigade under the command of General Bernard Freyberg, VC, my company was attached to the Second New Zealand Division during the Battle of Rimini.
During this campaign I was a signal Corporal and it was my duty to repair broken lines to maintain vital communications between the gunners and the observation post.
One afternoon when repairing lines I was surrounded by enemy fire. Mortars and machine gun fire peppered the area all around me. I thought my time was up. Seeking refuge in an abandoned and damaged house, I kept cover until darkness fell.
As I was returning to my unit, I noticed suspicious activity coming from a nearby house. Lights were flashing on and off. I hurried back and reported the incident to my Captain. Four of us returned to the scene and discovered the lights still flashing and heard what sounded like Morse Code being transmitted. The Captain and Sergeant entered the house whilst another soldier and I kept guard, ready to open fire if need be.
After some tense moments, the Captain returned and informed us that the house was occupied by New Zealand soldiers who were cooking a barbecue. Relieved that the occupants were friend and not foe, we returned to our unit with a humorous story to tell.
I was commended by the Captain for my vigilance and encouraged to continue to report any suspicious activity, no matter how seemingly insignificant.
Following fierce battle and sadly, numerous casualties, on the 21st September 1944; we were eventually successful in securing the enemy’s retreat from Rimini and the Greek National flag was raised above the Town Hall, claiming back Rimini for the Allied Forces.
Corporal Athanase Roussis
Arthur was recommended for the Medal of Merit in action on 26th September, 1944 and was awarded the St. Mark’s Medal by the Patriarch of Alexandria on 5th October, 1944 – also recommended for the M.C. D Class on 28th October, 1945.
Arthur immigrated to Australia in 1952 and has been a member of Penshurst R.S.L. since 1969, now residing in Millett Street, Hurstville with his wife and family of two daughters and a son.
The year 2008 is a historic year with it being the 64th anniversary of the Italian Campaign of the The Battle of Rimini.
Arthur, the 5th and only survivor of the Rimini campaign as a member of the Greek Sub Branch who fought in that campaign, remembers those critical war days and his memories go back to his forever remembered colleagues.
A personal recollection by Russell Robinson
1939 could be described as probably the beginning of the ‘golden years of cinema’ when almost all of the population went to a movie at least once or twice a week and not always at your local picture palace either. The beginning of World War 11 brought a new kind of cinema to the troops, the theatre under the gum trees!
With war clouds in Europe fast approaching, the only place one could see events unfolding in Germany was in the newsreels. By September 1939, war was a reality. Australia was nervous with anti-German feeling, but the real war was ‘over there in some further place. It was also a time when we all saluted the Union Jack and sang ‘Rule Britannia’ and ‘The King’ was always played before or after each film performance.
At that time I was still at school and my pals and I would go to the pictures as if it was a weekly ritual. In short, it was the social thing to do. Being teenagers we visited our local show as often as possible and got to know the front of-house-staff, which, upon leaving school helped me secure a position there as an assistant projectionist.
War Loan advertisements and Comfort Fund collections were held at most sessions with the obligatory newsreel starting the sessions to drum up patriotic fervour for the collection funds. The main items of news were about the fighting ‘over there.’ The AIF were going to the Middle East and in reality, unless you were in the midst of it, life at home didn’t really change very much.
Buy a Bond and be a Guest of Hoyts Theatres Ltd 20th Century Fox Films
With the Japanese invasion of Pearl Harbour in 1942, the film industry began to change considerably. Cinemas in Sydney suddenly found themselves ‘blacked out’ on the outside with restrictions on equipment and the supplies, which were very necessary for them to carry on. The Government of the day was wise enough to realise that movies were needed to keep up the morale of the population, so some things like carbons and lamps were declared essential.
Chocolate bars and Planters Peanuts. The two most important people at a cinema were the manager and the projectionist, the rest being declared non-essential labour. All male 18 year olds and over could be called up for military service. The story of the cinema in Australia during World War 2 has been told many times, but I’ve decided to write about my own wartime cinema experiences as a projectionist in the RAAF, not in palatial surroundings, but the no-frills version under a canopy of gum trees.
At Army and Royal Australian Air Force camps all over Australia thousands of men were being trained in the art of warfare. Having been an assistant projectionist at my local theatre at Bondi Junction, I decided to join the RAAF, as the projection of films was all that I really knew. First I was a driver and ended up at the RAAF camp at Evans Head on the north coast of NSW. After basic training and a number of visits to the camp cinema, I was assigned as an assistant at their theatre.
The building itself was of timber and was also used as a gym, church, stadium and naturally, a cinema. As Evans Head was a bombing and gunnery school (BAGS), the day was usually spent screening training films, with a feature film at night. The Padre had quite a good idea of how to get the troops to a Church Parade on Sunday evenings. At 7.00pm the doors were opened to the station personnel and at 7.30 the doors would be closed. At the conclusion of the Church Parade you could stay for a movie. It was a case of no church, no movie!
One can look back and smile now, but it was highly amusing to the projection room staff as we were not allowed to put the screen down until the Padre had put everything away and covered the altar. The show ‘would start ‘with ‘The King’ -after which the audience would shout “What about Joe?”- being reference to Joseph Stalin, who at that time was an ally of the western world. Everywhere I went after that it was always the same, “What about Joe?” The equipment that was used was C&W P5 heads with WE sound with 6″ mirror and AC current.
As the war in the Pacific escalated, all of the Forces were moving up to forward positions, which meant more troops kept coming through recruitment centres. Evans Head was one such centre, so the cinema was used for all kinds of training films. What a shock many young recruits got when hygiene films were shown, myself included. I was only 18 at the time and I didn’t know such diseases existed, or better still could happen to me. After screening them many times I got used to the very graphic scenes. When we had a WAAAF audience we kept well back from the projection ‘ports’ so as not to embarrass the girls.
Many projectionists from Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide were also doing their bit in the Armed Forces and it would be remiss of me not to mention them. Some of the names that come to mind are George Miller from Pyrox in Melbourne, Phil Newton, Bruce Davies also from Melbourne, George Hampton and Bert Barnard from Adelaide, as well as many more from all over Australia.
My good friend Wally Grant of Hoyts served up movies for the Army in the New Guinea campaign. While returning from a circuit there he was ambushed by a Jap patrol and had to shoot his way out and at the same time help his mate who was wounded. Wal was mentioned in despatches for bravery, but would never talk about it. I’ve seen the certificate he received from HQ signed by General Blamey.
Wals system was very different to what we had in the RAAF. It consisted of a jeep and a projector with power supplied by a small generator run by the jeep’s motor. The operators who screened films in the jungles of NG certainly had it a lot harder than we did. Wal has passed on, but his mates will always remember him.
Our week would start by making up the program on Monday morning. After picking up the trunk from the previous circuit we would keep it for one week for use each night at a different situation, except Sunday. It was strange because south of the Brisbane Line (those of you who have not heard about that will have to go and look it up), screenings were permitted on Sunday in service establishments after church parade, but about the Brisbane Line, Sunday screenings were taboo.
I was finally posted to the Darwin area, once more finding myself in the projection room at Coomallie Creek at RAAF HQ North Western Area. My superior projectionist was Sgt. Bruce Davis from Melbourne. (He’s now living at Port Macquarie in NSW). This picture site was very big with the projection room built up on wooden stumps some eight feet high, well over the heads of the audience, with a wire fence around the projection area.
The equipment was two C&W P5 heads with Raymac sound heads, 6″ mirrors, carbon arcs using DC current from a 25KVA situated some distance from the projection area. The left-hand machine had a dia-scope attachment, which I helped build on the sidewall of the box. We could show glass slides on which we could warn of an impending air raid, or advise an officer is he was needed urgently.
It was not long after my arrival that the fabric screen was blown away in a storm. A temporary screen was used for a while, after which a metal screen was erected, and remained intact until after my departure from the area. As usual The King was shown first, followed by a roar from the crowd “What about Joe?” -just as had happened at Evans Head. Knowing some people in the film business, my boss and I decided to see if we could get a glass slide of Joseph Stalin from a friend who worked at Chas. E. Blanks (glass slide makers) in Sydney. A week later, on the Saturday night, the troops began calling for ‘Joe,’ and we flashed the slide onto the screen. After about three seconds a mighty roar went up, which we believe could be heard at Batchelor a mile or so away. The incident was reported in the Army newspaper. We also heard that one of the lads in NG did the same thing, with similar results.
This social Comment of 1944 was a way of getting the ladies to buy War Bonds for the 2nd Victory Loan. Cartoon by Armstrong of the Argus, Melbourne
Later, I was transferred to No. 4 Mobile Cinema based at RAAF Darwin. There we had an almost new plant, which had been on the road for only a few weeks. The equipment consisted of two Raycophone J3 with the combination C&W P6 projector heads, trans arc, and AC carbon arcs. The IOKVA power plant proved to be unsatisfactory to hold the load of two arcs at the same time, so a 25KVAwas installed.
Each Mobile Cinema was of a similar pattern, except No. 2, which was fitted with two Pyrox projectors with incandescent light source. These projectors were designed by Sgt. George Miller and were used to screen at small units scattered around the Darwin area.
RAAF Mobile Cinema 4, Darwin 1943 as used by Russell Robinson
Another circuit was a portable De Bri outfit, which serviced outlying radar units. It was operated by Sgt. George Hampton (ex Adelaide) at one of his sites north of Broome, where he was flown by the well-known Flying Doctor, Dr. Fenton, using a Walrus open cockpit pusher type aircraft.
The only landing spot was o the beach and on one occasion the Doc flipped it over on the wet sand, with George hanging upside down. George advised us that the show went on as usual.
But he was not so lucky at Snake Bay on Melville Island. George had taught some of the natives to operate the equipment, which was against regulations, while he enjoyed the balmy life on a tropical isle, even if it was wartime. George was awoken from a few zzzz’s with shouting and great confusion. His De Bri was on fire with the spool of nitrate film burning brightly. George had some explaining to do when he returned to Darwin with what was left of the De Bri and one spool less of a feature.
Some of the wartime picture sites in the Northern Territory were: –
Parap: This once-a-week picture site was located on the old Darwin airport, which was occupied by the RAF squadron of spitfires.
Batchelor: Here was an operational base unit with one screening per week in a beautiful tropical setting which was truly a cinema under the stars. Just along the Batchelor road was the Dutch squadron whose aircraft of Beaufort Bombers used the Batchelor airstrip. We screened there once a week.
4 RSU Darwin: This situation was right next door to RAAF Darwin and came about after the Japanese bombed Darwin. The cinema had its roof blown in, falling into the auditorium and leaving the projection box standing all alone on its concrete base.
The equipment survived the bombing and, as I recall, were two C&W projectors and RCA sound. It was then transferred to the first RAAF Mobile Cinema and a picture site was set up in the Repair and Salvage Unit across the road No. 1 screened there weekly.
Winellie: Winellie was a huge American Air Force station approximately three miles south of Darwin and had every creature comfort for their forces; Coca Cola, ice cream, Hershey chocolate bars and everything else that our own boys could not get. Included in their amenities was a huge theatre. It was the only American 35mm plant in the NT.
As the war moved away from Australia, so too did the Americans and they abandoned Winellie. The RAAF then moved-in a transit pool for all of those who were coming up or going down. Of interest to us was the cinema they left behind. My good friend Sgt. Bert Barnard and I were amazed that they’ had left everything. There was a fully set-up projection room complete with WE universal bases and arc lamp houses that we had not seen before. In the cupboards were bundles of AC & DC carbons and many spare parts, including two 2K (2000W) spotlights and a slide projector of unknown origin. It was now RAAF property, and Bert and I put on the first RAAF show.
A typical well equipped US navy Base theatre near Darwin complete with Coke, Hershey Chocolate Bars and Planters Peanuts
Darwin Star Theatre: This was the original Darwin cinema, but there could have been others. Pre-war, Tom Harris ran this 900-seat house. When war came the theatre was taken over by the Royal Australian Navy and screened every night for all servicemen in- the Darwin area.
This cinema was rather unique -half hard top and half-open air. The covered part was over the circle, and open to the sky over the stalls to the screen-. For those who couldn’t get a seat under cover, they would sit through a movie under their large ground sheets, wet or dry
The Star Theatre was lucky as it escaped any damage, even though the Bank of New South Wales opposite and much of Darwin was hit. The dear old Star kept going until television forced its closure in the late 60s. It’s still there but now as a shopping arcade with one of its original projectors displayed in the arcade.
My time had come to an end in the Northern Territory and after nearly two years, it was time to go south, get my discharge and return to civilian life. Epilogue
I revisited Darwin many years later in 1985 to look at our old sites, but not much remained to be seen. On landing at Darwin airport, the first thing that I noticed was that the RAAF cinema had been restored, roof and all. During my stay I tried to visit the old base but was stopped at the entrance guardhouse, which I had passed more times than I can remember.
I decided to see what was left of the Coomallie Creek site, but not one item of brick could we find. The jungle had reclaimed what we had carved out in 1942. Neither was there any evidence left of the big theatre abandoned by the Americans at Winellie.
Ah, such is time that will always win out.
Served as A/B GH Hall PJX632710
Pictured above at left with Arthur Yeo in Hyde Park, Sydney, June 1945 two (2) months prior to the end of the war
“Joined Royal Navy in December 1943 aged 171/2 and after 3 months training at HMS Collingwood was drafted to aircraft carrier Indomitable (32,000 tons) at Rosyth, Scotland.
One month of warm up exercises left for the Far East on 4th June1944 along with escorts. We heard about D-Day 6th June in Bay of Biscay and turned 18 some where at sea.
Arrived at Trincomallee, Ceylon at the end of June 1944 and from there did several raids on Japanese installations on Andaman and Nicobar Islands also Java and Sumatra and oil refineries at Padang, Sabang and Palembang were our main targets. Our fighter palnes shot down several Japanese without loss. After 6 months we left for Australia and arrived early January 1945, thought Sydney was paradise after wartime Britain and the folk of Sydney made us most welcome.
My mate and I stayed with people at Kogarah when on shore leave and in March 1945 we left for operations with the American fleet off Okinawa along with 5 other British carriers; HMS Victorious, Illustrious, Indefatigable, Formidable and Implacable. We were accompanied by 4 battleships and many cruisers, destroyers and some Aussies – a sizeable fleet.
I must mention 2 members of Penshurst RSL who served with us, Gil Howarth who seved on the cruiser HMS Argonaut and Harold Sweeney who served on the HMAS Norman an Australian destroyer that was our guard ship.
On the way to join the Americans we attacked the Japanese on Formosa (Taiwan) and Sakishima Gunto. We met up with the Americans and started intensive bombing and shelling of Okinawa. Pulled back every 4-5 days to take on oil, ammunition and spares from the supply ships. Kamikaze’s found soon found us as carriers were prime targets for them. Our fighters and anti-aircraft guns got quite a few of them but some got through. Every carrier was hit. Awe were hit twice in 5 days. My action station was NO. 7 in a 4.5”twin turret, one kamikaze struck us on the flight deck, bounced off and clipped B1 turret and exploded in the sea. Had my first cigarette that day! There were some casualties amongst the aircraft handlers and luckily the British carriers had armoured flight decks, the American carriers had wooden flight decks and so they were very vulnerable.
Kamikazes went straight through and exploded inside the ship. We got more casualties and had burials at sea. These attacks were kept up for 2 months. Some of our planes which came back damaged, crash landed, some going over the side to be picked up by HMAS Norman.
.Kamikaze plane explodes in the sea after bouncing over the B1 & B2 turrets
We left the fleet and came back to Sydney for repairs and a refit in time for my 19th birthday on 20th June. After some weeks in the Captain Cook dry dock the war ended so we left for Hong Kong with escorts for the surrender. As we approached the harbour with a squadron of fighters patrolling ahead, several Japanese suicide boats left their moorings and sped towards us but our planes blew them apart. Sent ashore several hundred marines and sailors to round up and disarm the Japanese with not much trouble. We stayed about one month then after the surrender signed to come back to Sydney with 4-500 POW’s mostly civilian Aussie’s and British women and children.
One woman later had a talk back show on 2GB and called herself Andrea. After a few weeks in Sydney we then left for the UK and arrived in December 1945. Had 3 weeks leave and had not seen my parents, brother and sister for 2 years. Fleet arm sent ashore came back to Sydney early in 1946 to pick up RN people based ashore. Brought the first RL team to play here since pre war and dropped them off at Fremantle. They played their way across the country and I believe won every match and called themselves the Indomitable’s. In June 1946 was old enough to draw my first tot of rum, I had waited 21/2 years. Was discharged in July 1947 and migrated back to Australia in September 1949”.
The Eulogy for Geoffrey Ronald Hall as given by Kim Thompson on 27 July 2016.
Geoffrey Ronald Hall, also known as Ron, Geoff, Ronny and Brother Ron. Ron didn’t know his name was Geoff until he went to school. He said no one ever told him.
Ron was born in Cardiff Wales on the 20th June 1926. The family of Mum Doris, Dad Bert, Sister Rhona and brother Derek left Wales for Birmingham England for work, during the years of the Great Depression in 1930s. They continued living in Birmingham where other family had settled.
Following school Ron began a Glass Blowing apprenticeship then, at age 17 in 1943,he joined the Royal Navy and was drafted to Carrier HMS Indomitable, which sailed for the East, based in Ceylon.
After a number of kamikaze attacks the Indomitable came to Sydney Garden Island repair. The crew were billeted out with locals. Ron stayed with a family at Kogarah, later sponsored him and his family to migrate to Australia.
Joining the American Fleet off Okinawa, Indomitable sailed to Hong Kong to take the Japanese surrender there.
From Singapore they returned POW’s to Australia and Britain. They also brought the 1st post war English Rugby League team to Australia to play here. The Poms won every match that season and called themselves “The Indomitables”
Ron recalled his 20th birthday, at last he was old enough to draw his 1st tot of rum. A Royal Navy tradition.
Last 6 months of his service was sailing the Mediterranean on HMS Cadiz, then discharged in 1947 at Southampton.
After completing his apprenticeship in Birmingham Ron and his family migrated to Australia in 1949. Sadly his father Bert died of cancer in those years at home.
Eventually they found their way to Connelly St Penshurst and to Ruth who also lived there. Ruth and Ron married in 1955. Ruth and Ron had a lovely marriage. They both loved a party, their home and each other.
Continuing on in Connelly Street they lived happily together for 47 years. Ruth described these years as “glorious years”
Ron nursed Ruth through her last illness until she succumbed to cancer in 2002.
Ron was a glass blower of scientific instruments much of that time successfully self employed.
He was a valued member of Penshurst RSL Sub Branch for over 60 years. Also of the Freemasons Carlton Kogarah Lodge for more than 50 years.
A very intelligent man, Ron had an inquiring mind ad a terrific memory. The perfect gentleman with a great sense of humour, a winning smile and a wicked chuckle. Classical music was a passion for him. Ron lived independently until 2015 when a series of health problems and hospital stays prevented him returning to his own home.
He found a happy home at Ferndale Gardens. Thank you to staff at Ferndale who looked after him so well. They came to love him and his music.
Till the end he showed good humour, which were a feature of his long and interesting life. He is already missed by his family and friends.
In the following text I have not specified my rank as it changed a bit during my service.
I completed my Leaving Certificate on 30th November 1939 and at the age of 17 years 5 months answered a call-up to my Militia Unit, the 2nd Remount Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Division, Australia Militia Force.
We went into camp at Holsworthy (Army No VE457144) and for the next 6 months we were involved in the breaking and training of horses for the Australian Light Horse and the Royal Australian Artillery. By May 1940 it was decided to mobilise the unit since the AMF & the 2/AIF were mechanised and horses were no longer required.
When volunteers for the 2nd AIF were called in June 1940, as one, all ranks in the unit volunteered. On the 25th June 1940, the day after my 18th birthday, I was enlisted in the 2nd AIF – NX54484. After initial training, I was posted to HQ 23rd Brigade – 8th Australian Division as a dispatch rider.
In February 1941 the 22nd Brigade was shipped to Singapore and in April, we, in the 23rd were moved to Darwin to “acclimatise” to the tropics and to wait for consignment to Singapore. During this time the 27th was shipped to Singapore and our 23rd were grouped into Gull, Lark and Sparrow forces to occupy Rabaul, Ambon and Timor to oppose Japanese landings. I was detailed to move to Timor on the Morna Loa on the 13th February 1942 as Dispatch Rider with Rear HQ Sparrow Force. The 2/4th Pioneers, the United States 148th FD Artillery BN and other specialised troops joined us and boarded our ships.
On Sunday night 15th February, the day the Singapore fell, we steamed out of Darwin Harbour. On the 16th we were observed by a Japanese Naval Bomber and in the afternoon were bombed for the first time. On the Tuesday morning of the 17th some 80 odd Japanese aircraft bombed us and several of our RAN escort ships were hit and sunk. The Mona Loa was hit, took casualties and the US Navy Heavy Cruiser USS Houston was slightly damaged. On the evening of the 17th we turned and began our return to Darwin. The convoy arrived in Darwin Harbour on Wednesday afternoon and I returned to my unit camp area.
On Thursday morning at 10.00am whilst on duty and in a convoy of trucks loading stores in Darwin we were attacked by 181 Japanese high level and dive bomber aircraft. We were bombed and strafed but took no casualties. Later at 12 noon we were again bombed by 54 high level bombers whilst unloading stores at the RAAF aerodrome and again, we took no casualties however, 9 US aircraft’s were destroyed and the aerodrome was a mess. We were bombed regularly over 50 times in the next 9 months.
In December 1942 whilst on morning parade an announcement was made calling for volunteers for RAAF aircrew. I volunteered and was accepted (RAAF No 439278). I returned to Sydney for transfer and after being medically examined by the RAAF doctors was accepted as an Aircrew Trainee. I did my initial training pilot training at Narrandera and Service Pilot Training (Multi Engine) at Bundaberg where I passed my final “Pilot” flying exams.
I was commissioned as a Pilot Officer-Pilot, Multi Engine aircraft and served 6 months as a pilot in Test & Ferry Flight flying reconditioned Beaufort’s from Laverton to New Guinea and returning in those that needed major service. I was then transferred on loan to the Royal Navy and flew “Sea Otters” Air Sea Rescue aircraft in support of the Royal Navy Aircraft Carriers in the Pacific for several months. My final three months was as a pilot in 99 Squadron Liberators flying out of North Queensland into the Pacific Islands.
I was demobilised on the 29th November 1945, exactly 6 years after being called up on the 30th November 1939 for “Full Time Service” with the 2nd Remount Squadron.
Created by DPE, Copyright IRIS 2005 WlLLIAM COOK -1940
PENSHURST RSL ”ADVANCE” – AUGUST 1995
During January 1942, a huge Japanese Force invaded Rabaul, and quickly overran New Britain including the Tol Plantation. On 4th February 1942, many groups of Australian prisoners were assembled with their hands tied behind their backs, and those wearing Red Cross Brassards had them torn off
Small groups of soldiers were taken away and asked whether they would prefer to be bayoneted or shot. All preferred to be shot, however, when marched to the bottom of a track, Japanese soldiers with fixed bayonets intercepted and commenced bayoneting them in the back.
Private W (Bill) Cook of 2/10th Field Ambulance Unit received five bayonet wounds, fell and pretended death, however, unable to hold his breath any longer, breathed out, and was heard by another Jap soldier who bayoneted him a further six times, the last thrust penetrating his ear, face and into his mouth, severing an artery.
The Japanese then covered three of the victims with vines and coconut fronds and left. After an hour, Bill was able to rise and eventually made his way towards the sea, where he walked along in the water to avoid leaving traces of blood. The following morning he eventually found a small party of Australian soldiers, who dressed his wounds. Although his voice was affected as a result of the wound, he was returned to Australia, eventually residing at Penshurst and becoming a Member of Penshurst R.S.L.
A most regrettable accident occurred in 1951, when Bill was run over by a train at work, and although he survived, he had lost both legs.
Many such stories still exist throughout out Sub-Branch Members, not only amongst ex P.O.W’s but those who served overseas. Fortunately, amongst our War Memorabilia, I am able to relate to the School students who visit us, many stories of our past and present Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen.
Bita Paka War Cemetery (Rabaul), on Sunday 4th June 1961.
The occasion was a commemoration attended by a number of former 2/22 personnel which included the gentleman in the wheelchair on the LHS, who I was told at the time had survived the Tol massacre, but lost his legs in a railway accident at a later date. Photo courtesy Kim Dunstan (Mr)
A WW2 story of Corporal Hope Gum Hing – RIP
Ms Hope Gum Hing was a Penshurst resident, long-term supporter and member of our RSL Sub-Branch for 23 years.
Ms Gum Hing was born in Dubbo in 1915 to Tim & Henrietta Gum Hing, the second child of a musically talented family of two boys and two girls.
Ms Gum Hing attended high school and business college and served as a Corporal with the Australian Army Medical Womens Service at 116 Australian General Hospital in Charters Towers, Qld. As the war progressed, the hospital ballooned in size from 600 to 2,000 beds and Ms Gum Hing worked at an antiquated switchboard and in administration. After hours, she helped organise concerts using the musical talents of the area.
After the war, she returned to Sydney and entered the public service, rising to the rank of supervisor with the Tax Office accounts section. She transferred to the Department of Social Security in the position of supervisor until retiring in 1979. Ms Gum Hing worked tirelessly as secretary of the 8th Australian Division Association for many years. She also belonged to the ·Australian Chinese Ex-Services National Reunion which in the 2003 year completed a monument in Chinatown, Sydney. The monument displays the names of the 504 Australians of Chinese descent who served in the Australian Armed Services from the Boer War to the present day.
Ms Gum Hing died on 14th April 2004 aged 88
D-DAY The Invasion of Tarakan
Composed by Chaplain Lewis Trelawny Ugalde VX35334
The successful invasion of Tarakan carried out on Wednesday 2 May 1945 by units of the 9th Division of the 26th Brigade. Five days previously we left the Island of Morotai bound for our great adventure. The convoy was a large one (240 vessels, 70 of which went to Tarakan and the remainder to Borneo). The LST on which we sailed was just one small unit of a large company, yet for those few days it was our world and the things that happened to us constituted the major part of the operation. True, if we paused to think we realised that in all probability the role we were about to play would be insignificant, but for most of us this belittling fact was only a hazy thought in the back of our minds.
It was 0430 hours on Wednesday 2 May 1945. We have been called to general quarters to await the dawn and to be ready to meet any emergency which may swoop upon us during these dangerous minutes of half light. We are rather surprised to find that we are quite close to land. The Island of Tarakan looms low in the moonlight and at a distance of no more than two miles. Our objective is the Linkas area only 31/2 miles away. Suddenly a lurid light jumps into view as we round the south west headland. This proves to be a burning oil well (tank) and it shines as a beacon, guiding us to the invasion beaches. The ships of the convoy move as stealthy shadows and the escorting destroyers are silent sinister shapes gliding through the gloom.
We feel that we are experiencing the quiet before the storm and must be forgiven for the strange tingle invading our spines and the napes of our necks. It is hard to realise that we are so close to Jap held territory and that no shell fire is directed at us. Now the sky begins to lighten over the island and we must surely be plainly visible to the enemy. I wonder what they are thinking. Here we are a large invading force more than 70 ships – right on their doorstep. What a sight to look out upon first thing in the morning.
There is an alarm and the news flies around that there is an enemy submarine in the harbour and that already it has loosed two torpedoes. We are on tip toe now, waiting for something to happen. As if by magic, several MTBs appear upon the scene for they were not with us last night. They surge here and there at great speed through the ships, looking for some prey to blast wide open with their depth charges. Nothing happens however, and we soon settle down again to our previous state of expectancy. The sky is much lighter now the time is 0630 hours. The preliminary naval bombardment begins. Both north and south of us the Destroyers of our escort are belching flame and smoke in the feeble light of dawn.
On the little island of Sadu a battery of field artillery supported by a troop of Bofors were landed yesterday and now we can see the flashes from their guns as they support the warships. The corresponding flashes on shore show us where the shells are exploding. The din is increasing and a most of smoke shrouds the foreshore. Rising through it and reaching high in the sky is a thick column of black smoke from the burning oil tank. Meanwhile, LCMs loaded with infantry steal through the dawn light mustering for the assault.
They move in from all directions to a small, speedy control boat and the scene is for all the world like a tiny bantam hen fostering her brood of chicks. Now this simile changes and the control boat is like a sheep dog, patiently yet quickly sorting his flock. Everything is now ready and the LCMs, each towing a collapsible boat, move to their appointed positions to await the signal to storm the beaches. The bombarding naval ships stand close in and are hurling shells onto shore installations and defence posts. Other billows of black smoke are several hits on fresh oil dumps. During a momentary lull in the shelling, we hear a new sound and a seaplane from one of our warships skims noisily over head. She is reccing and OPipping for us and at her signal, the bombardment continues with greater fury. Some of our transport ships are at anchor and all the while sloops move in and out amongst us on constant watch for enemy submarines and mines. We proudly hail the Aussie crew on one of them as she slides swiftly by.
The destroyers not actually engaging targets stand by with loaded guns ready to instantly silence any shore batteries should they open fire. Dawn gives place to daylight and we see something of the destruction on shore up to date. No words can adequately describe the mess. Leaning drunkenly on ridges and knolls there must be fully a dozen burnt out oil tanks, grotesquely battered and riddled with gaping holes. Their lines and curves and angles would give any geometrician a nightmare. Large areas around them are fire blackened and utterly a mass of rubble. One tries to imagine the inferno which must have raged there as the blazing oil flowed down the slopes. A little to the south are piles of twisted metal which were once buildings and a few fire gutted sheds still standing. The walls and heat twisted roofs are perforated like colanders. A Dutchman standing by me (his full 67 towering) points to one and says that was once my warehouse. For the rest Tarakan looks what it is, a tropical island of swamps and dense vegetation. There will surely be some tough jungle fighting before this show is over.
A haze of smoke hangs over all ah, here they come, our planes droning through the morning sky. This is what we have been waiting for; the real fireworks will begin now. Wave after wave of heavy bombers sweep in from the south bent on destruction. Amazingly, there appears to be little or no anti-aircraft opposition and they roar on in formation, giving perfect demonstrations of pattern bombing. They are concentrating on the beaches and are terribly accurate. Terrific explosions rend the air as debris of every kind is hurled high all around. Now huge bellows of dense smoke envelops the whole area obscuring everything from our sight. We know that it must be thick with flying bomb splinters and everything above ground must be sliced or blown to pieces. Here and there great columns of black smoke gradually push up through the lighter coloured pall indicating that more oil dumps have been hit. The first wave of assault boats move closer in shore. Just as I turned my head, there was a terrific grandfather of an explosion. The atmosphere seems to open and close invisibly and a colossal bellow of dirty white smoke surges hundreds of feet into the air, like a huge mushroom. Whether its flames, terrific atmospheric pressure waves or heat waves I do not know, but the outside curve of the umbrella glistens like molten silver.
Oh boy, what a sight. The curve turns out to be a huge ring of pressure emanating from the centre of the explosion and one could feel it hit your body. It disperses still further and persists for quite a while before merging with the ever thickening smoke clouds. Surely nothing could live through that. It must have been an ammo dump. The din is deafening and the air seems as something alive, pulsing and throbbing in the throes of a fever.
Still the bombers come Liberators, Mitchells and others and threading its dauntless way through the blast and smoke is the navy seaplane. Her work is extremely important and dangerous. Hats off to her pilot and observer. Tis broad daylight now and we can gaze directly at the orb of the sun as it rises round and white through the curtain of smoke.
Another bombing run by Libs is made along the beach further north and again we feel successive waves of heavy air pressure as the reverberations come to us across the water. It is a peculiar feeling to be sure, just as if with each explosion a sudden increase in blood pressure distends ones head and body, or like the throb of a bad headache (without the ache) extending from head to toe. Never before have I seen, from the giving end, such concentrated bombing for every square yard has been blasted. If only you could see the scene. An immense impenetrable wall of dense smoke and flame extending for a mile or more along the water front, and rising hundreds of feet into the air. Each wave of bombers adds to the destruction; a fresh eruption of debris belches forth with every bomb. Sodom and Gomorrah have nothing on Tarakan.
Almost as startlingly as it commenced, the bombing ceases and a strange quietness as of the dead settles upon the scene. The last echoes die away in the hills and the crackle of burning buildings interspersed with sporadic explosions is all we hear. Suddenly, a bright flare shines out against the dark smoke and as it traces its erratic course downwards it leaves behind it a meandering trail of white smoke which hangs as a ribbon from the sky. This is the long awaited signal and the moment for which so many careful plans have been made.
The assault is on! Dimly through the smoke we can see the landing craft driving ashore. Each one disgorges its load of grim faced Aussies who charge onward through the mud and water with fixed bayonets. How like their forebears of Gallipoli fame!
Now they gain a footing, engineers move forwards to blow the obstacles and command troops surge onward to dry land. Actually there is nothing that can be called a beach, but just mud and slush. Now they are topping the ridge above the waters edge and crouching low expecting trouble and finding it. How much opposition they are meeting we dont know but they appear to be dealing with it effectively. Once again planes lend their aid and this time strafing as a couple of Lightnings roar low with blazing guns. Having finished one run they soar up again in a spectacular turn and swoop in again on another run. Perhaps they are giving some fleeing Japs a bit of hurry-up or maybe silencing machine gun nests.
To our right are some strange looking craft crawling shorewards through the water. They are a kind of amphibious tank called crocodiles. Their tracks are fitted with scoop-like flanges and two plumes of water are thrown out behind them as they move slowly forward. Coming into shallow water they gradually emerge with dripping sides as though some great monster lumbering ashore to fulfil whatever role is theirs.
The smoke is drifting away and we can see a little more plainly that our lads are well ashore and are scrambling onwards to higher ground. There is the steady sound of small arms fire and a few deeper reports which may be grenades, but there appears to be little opposition. If only we could see things more clearly and know exactly what is happening. A couple of Catalinas come in and hang steadily in the air before alighting. They are here, winged instruments of mercy, to fly serious casualties back to Morotai immediately. How irrelevant is this thought of mercy when we have just witnessed a scene rivalling hell itself. Even the Devil must be envious of such fury and destruction.
Again there is a lull which comes as a respite and breaks the tension and excitement but it is only short lived. Away to the south a destroyer opens up and once more we eagerly search the island for her target. She is shelling the south-western tip and her barrage gradually creeps north along the coastal belt. Like a bolt from the blue she finds what she is searching for and there is a gigantic explosion and once more huge billows of dirty white smoke soar skywards. This time however, the formation is more like the plumes of the Prince of Wales feathers. The thunder of the explosion is just as great as the previous ones and literally rocks us. Perhaps tis another ammo dump, for combustion is instant and total and the smoke quickly disperses leaving us a lingering black column to suggest oil or some other comparatively slow burning material.
The fury of the battle subsides a little but immediately our attention is diverted to another quarter where further waves of troops are moving towards the shore in LCIs. As we watch them closely the ships drive practically to the waters edge, their landing ramps are lowered and hundreds more khaki and green clad Aussies pour ashore. These immediately take up positions to support the first wave and comprise the main body of the assault troops. We believe rightly or wrongly that we are now fairly well established and that everything is going to plan. This means that in addition to the initial landing party, the 48th and 24th Battalions are ashore and the 23rd Battalion is being held in reserve. The crescendo and tempo of the battle is rising again and we have the feeling that fiery forces are gathering strength for a further all out effort.
Suddenly another large building bursts into flames which lick hungrily skywards red and furious. For some reason or other I think of a lust crazed madman running amok in the midst of a veritable inferno of hatred and vice. Now a Destroyer opens up but her shells are bursting some distance inland. Perhaps the infantry are calling for artillery support to help smash a strong point or break up some strong pockets of enemy resistance. They certainly got it and there is something steady and reassuring about the little warship as she stands there pounding away. All about us the noise is terrific. In addition to naval guns, P38s are continually roaring in strafing and bombing. Somewhere or other Bofors are coughing away as hard as they can go and from amidst the smoke ashore comes the steady pop of HMGs, the rattle of the LMGs and the rattle of rifle fire friend and foe in hopeless confusion, but all adding to the din which is war. Every form of human energy is boosted to the highest pitch and is being extended to the upmost limit. The hellish fiery roar about us is a fitting accompaniment to the raucous song of human hate. I wonder how long flesh and blood can survive at this pace.
While all this is going on the first LST moves into the beach. She manoeuvres into position and then races to the shore at flank speed. This is full speed plus anything extra the engines can give. Huge pontoons are floated from her sides to the bow doors and preparations are made to disgorge her cargo. Five others follow quickly and then our turn comes. As we move inshore and jockey for position it becomes abundantly evident that there is a very strong current running southward along the shore. We are ready for the drive. The engines pound, the whole ship vibrates violently from stem to stern. But at the critical moment a silly little LST decides to cross our bows. There is a muttered curse from our Captain as the engine rooms telegraph rings and the imperative order Full astern is passed. The vibrations cease for about 2 seconds and then the old ship threatens to shake to pieces. We shudder to a standstill and then move astern avoiding collision by a fortunate few yards.
Before we can resume our attempt to beach, it is considered that the tide is too low so we abandon any further efforts. We withdraw some distance offshore and drop anchor. Sporadic shelling continues through the day and sappers are at work blasting away underwater obstructions and adding their contributions to the general noise and destruction. The excitement of the landing seems to be over and we can compose ourselves to await developments. As the afternoon draws on the sound of heavier weapons fades out and we hear only the crackle of rifle fire as our Infantry move further inland towards the town of Tarakan and north along the coast towards the airstrip. The tide is low and those LSTs already beached are high and dry, sitting squarely in the mud, their hulls, screws and rudders appearing naked and unashamed and entirely out of their element. The bow door of each is open like the gaping mouth of a tiger shark going in to attack and vehicles, guns and other equipment pour out.
After tea a destroyer opens up once more, sending over four ranging rounds and then several full salvoes. She is quite close to us. Wham!! the roar of her guns broadsides are deafening. Each gun belches flame and in the half light of dusk the game little craft is momentarily wreathed in fire. She presents a grand spectacle. While this is going on our ship stands too and the ensign is dipped. This ceremony is the sailors retreat and it is fitting that our remembrances of fallen comrades is to the accompaniment of the roar of naval guns and the crash of bursting shells.
Night is upon us and a brilliant searchlight slices the darkness pointing its finger of light into all the nooks and crannies along the shore. Sometime before midnight our ship beaches and as there is no necessity for us to disembark at present, we settle ourselves for the night.
Through the night of darkness the battle continues and some mortar fire comes back to us along the shore. Most of us, however, got a few hours sleep in readiness for the morrow.
So ends for us one of the most remarkable and exciting days of our lives and D-Day, upon which the Australians and a very few Dutch, successfully invaded the Island of Tarakan.
A personal recollection as written by Warren Bedford
Leading Aircraftman (LAC) No 74399 RAAF
I had an aptitude test with the RAAF for admittance to join the Air Force. All men at 18 years were required to join the Army – conscription for training. The Navy and Air Force have preference over the Army. The Army notified me to attend at Victoria Barracks on 18th December 1942 and I was discharged later in the day. I had papers with me from the Air Force to present myself at Bradfield Park RAAF on 23rd December 1942.
Other men and I had a medical test and then blue uniform kit bags were issued. I stayed there for 3 weeks, no leave was granted at the weekend. The first Saturday and Sunday I was on fire picket, 2nd guard duty. No rifles were available and I was given a sapling (part of a tree). Third weekend I was posted to Adelaide and went there by steam train from Central. At Albury we had to change trains as the lines were wider in Victoria. Travelled down to Melbourne, then on to Adelaide and undertook 3 months training.
We were billeted in a condemned building, but at least weekend leave was granted. I spent most weekends with my cousins, travelling to different places including picture theatres each Saturday night. Our pay was given to us every fortnight, 6 shillings and 6 pence per day seven days a week.
We were given a leave pass and guards were on duty. We had to show our pass when entering or leaving our billet. A cheer up building was available where free meals were given and there were billiard tables and dancing.
I completed the basic training and was posted to Ascot Vale race course in Melbourne to commence a 3 months course for a fitter general. Our sleeping quarters were in the grandstand, seats were removed. Plywood partitioning was erected and we had steel framed beds with hessian covered straw palliases. Three weeks later we transferred to Adelaide to finish the fitter general course. The workshop was near the Adelaide station.
One day I had to attend a medical appointment. While I was walking back to the workshop a RAAF service policeman took me to gaol for 4 hours as I didnt have an identity card. He thought I was AWL. After finishing my training, I was on stand-by waiting for a posting.
Whilst waiting for my posting, I had to load goods on a train. The sergeant in charge of the guards did not arrange to pick me up till after dark. When I returned to quarters, tea was finished. I attended another medical at 7.00 pm and then went across to the cheer up hut for a free meal. I showed my first leave pass to the guard on entering; the sergeant took my second leave pass the previous morning as I was still in bed.
At 7.00 am he said I should be on parade, and he charged me with being absent that night. The next day I was on a court marshall charge. The officer asked me for an explanation I said I was on the premises of the medical centre at 7.00 pm. When my name was called out by the sergeant, the officer asked me How did I get in past the guard the previous night when I had a free meal. I said I walked past the guard. The case was dismissed.
A few days later I was posted to Amberley Airbase 3 Aircraft Depot (AD) in Queensland. I travelled by train to Brisbane and changed trains to Ipswich. I was then taken by covered truck to the air base. My pay was increased to 11 shillings a day and later when an LAC went to 12 shillings a day. I was issued with a khaki uniform, leave was granted every 3 months. Worked every day in a workshop which was an aircraft hangar using hand tools and machinery. Came home by train on leave for a fortnight.
In 1943 was sent to another air base 30 miles west of Toowoomba Oakey (6AD) it is now a helicopter army base. The huts we slept in were just out of town. Every day after breakfast we had to march to the workshop about two kms away. I applied for a course on propellers at Mascot (3 weeks), with a free pass for train, tram and bus.
Returned to air base at Oakey, stayed there until beginning of January 1945 when I was sent to Wonga Park, east of Melbourne for a 3 week commando course. Different groups of airmen were trained for war to defend our country. All I did was swimming in Upper Yarra River where the current runs fast. Also marched to a rifle range for shooting practice at targets I didnt fire a machine gun.
We were then sent by train to Darwin train line stopped at Alice Springs (tracks were 1007mm or 36 apart). A truck then travelled north to the goods line 300 miles south of Darwin. We boarded the steam goods train and reached Darwin 12 aircraft repair depot (ARD) then on by open truck. Torrential rain was falling, so we all got wet. The Japanese bombed Darwin in February 1942, which destroyed the air field so there were not any workshops. After 3 days, had to return to the air base at Gorrie 14 ARD, 300 miles south on the goods train. Living in 4 man tents, half a kilometre from mess, further away was the workshop. No power or light, diesel engines and generators were used. ISOLATION!
No leave, no entertainment; twice a week a mobile truck showed pictures on a screen held in between two trees, weather permitting. (See our page “When Cinema went to War”). Airmen played cards or two up no where to go. No alcohol or beer, home made soft drink was available. Japan surrendered in August 1945, 2nd World War over, no celebration.
Several weeks later at weekends, 8 airmen and I went by truck to the Roper River cattle station where we slept overnight. Dug a trench in the sand. Crocodiles (freshwater) were swimming in the river. They pulled cows into the water and they were drowned no white men were eaten by them.
Later we were taken by train to Darwin, 12 ARD. Along the track temporary air strips were built. Aircraft were kept under trees as there were no hangars. Airmen slept in tents nearby. My boss where I worked as a wood machinist before enlisting got me an occupational discharge to work on his farm. I waited on the air strip for 2 days, came back to Amberley in the bomb bay of a Liberator bomber. Other airmen on board were injured by the Japs. Caught a train to Sydney, Bradfield Park, where I was discharged on the 6th November 1945. Was paid extra money (5 pounds per week) at the beginning of 1946 as a wood machinist.
We at Penshurst RSL Sub Branch wish to recognise the tremendous contribution of women in our armed forces in wartime and those who served our country in numerous other ways in these times of conflict.
In particular we recognise that our women were confronted with hardship, danger and treatment at the hands of the enemy that would never been considered in their peacetime.
Women served in the following Services: –
Australian Army Nursing Service
Australian Army Medical Corps
Royal Australian Air Force Medical Service.
Royal Australian Air Force Nursing Service.
Womens Royal Australian Naval Service.
Following is an abridged version of His Excellency Rear Admiral Sir David Martin KCMG, AO the Governor of New South Wales at the unveiling of the Council of Ex-Servicewomen’s Associations (NSW) memorial on the 16th February 1990
We have always had a great tradition in Australia of our women getting on with life without any fuss and doing the job very well indeed. Our women have always shared the stress and very often the hard physical labour, in creating our nation and keeping it going.
The woman’s particular role has been to hold it altogether. In early days, the men did most of the work in setting up the commercial, industrial and rural enterprises of our young country. Their work would have been a waste if the women had not built the home and the family and helped create a stable community.
In World War II, the role of women changed. It was no longer sufficient for women to keep the home fires burning, to tend the stock and care for the children because there was a desperate need for more Australians in the armed services. Women were in need and they came forward at once. We need a reminder (the memorial) for those women who served in uniform; it helps them to remember those dark days, to recall the teamwork and spirit, which held them together, to remember their achievements and to remember those who have since died. It is a reminder to today and tomorrow’s generations who will, I hope, look, pause and ask – Who were these women? – Why did they join the services? – What did they do? – Who were they? Women, Australians. There is no other and no better way to describe them, they were the world’s best and they still are.
Why did they join up? They had a sense of outrage that the security of the world community and the future of our own country was threatened by a greedy enemy. They wanted to do their bit to beat that enemy. They wanted to make their contribution to restoring peace, to defending this country, and defeating the bullies who were threatening the free world. Most of them would’ have gone anywhere to carry out their duty and were willing to serve overseas.
What did they do? It would take me a long time to run through the list of all the tasks undertaken by these wonderful women. They served in intelligence, in tracking and reporting aircraft movements, they were transport drivers, electricians, instrument repairers, dental and nursing orderlies, x-ray technicians, search-light crews, gun crews, cooks, parachute riggers, clerks, fitters, mechanics, meteorological assistants, telegraphists, code and cypher operators. They served all over Australia and in hospitals, hospital ships and sick quarters in the Middle East, Ceylon, New Guinea, Borneo and elsewhere.
They were driven by the same sense of service to their country as the other Australians in uniform. They were part of that large group who served and sacrificed, who took risks and gave of themselves unselfishly so that we in Australia may have a future, as we must remember why they made that sacrifice and we must be worthy of it. We must make Australia a safe, successful, happy place, which plays its part in the whole world community. We must encourage the development of the sort of Australians who can do great things at home and abroad. Nowadays the roles of women in our whole community have changed enormously and this is noticeable in the armed services also nobody is surprised to see a female in uniform mid and we all know that our servicewomen work in aircraft, in ships and in various active roles in the army.
I was born on 2nd march 1936 and grew up during the years of World War 11. Like most children of that time I was very patriotic and joined the Junior Red Cross and later the St John Ambulance Brigade, I was always interested in nursing so later on when the opportunity arose I joined the Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps in the Citizen Military Forces in1954 and was discharged in 1957.
A new company was being formed of which my sister who was a registered nurse and a lieutenant on the reserve of officers list joined the unit to form 4 Company RAANC which I also joined.
We all swore allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 2nd and in doing so we were prepared to serve Australia in time of need if necessary fortunately that need did not arise during my time of service.
Our company spent our annual camps at Singleton NSW, when the school cadets were in camp so there would be nurses to look after any cadets should they become ill.
Our quarters were under canvas surrounded by a hessian fence. We slept four to a tent on camp stretchers with a pallias; we did have sheets and blankets which of course as nurses we had to use making our beds with proper hospital corners.
Each day there would be an inspection of Quarters. Routine Orders came out every day and we had to take turns at various tasks including cleaning the latrines and ablutions which were built for male troops kitchen and mess duties and most important raising the flag ..
After breakfast on to the parade ground for drill etc, then on to lectures training and nursing duties.
During the year as well as our weekly parades at Victoria Barracks Sydney we had some weekend duties at 2 camp Hospital Ingleburn for further training where we lived in the barracks with normal rooms and beds.
Unfortunately at the time when women were about to marry the regulations did not permit them to remain in the forces so we had to be discharged, now in the 21 st century we have women not only married still serving but women with children on active service as well.
I enjoyed my time with the army and would highly recommend the reserve forces to all Australians.
Now as members of the RSL both my husband and I work as volunteers for our Sub Branch as welfare officers to be of assistance to our fellow veterans when the need arises we find this very rewarding.
Vera Marjorie Ward
2 March 1936 – 4 April 2022
Funeral 20 April 2022
Beverly Hills Baptist Church
HISTORY of Marion Gibbeson NF456025 Australian Womens Army Service.
After I had my parents permission to join the AWAS I was taken to a room at the Victoria Barracks, Paddington and the oath was administered and I have to admit I did not realise how much that entailed. I had to do what I was told and as I had no previous experience of uniforms, never ever having been a girl guide in my youth due to my parents having a firm hatred of uniforms and emblems due to their anti-fascist views, even their dislike of police, so I was surprised as we were marched to the showground and soldiers standing by en route shouted youll be sorry.
When we arrived at Kapooka in the winter having been told we were now soldiers and I was allocated to be a member of the 52nd AASL Battery, we were introduced to drills, and I being the largest woman in the group, as well as having two left feet, I was always placed as a Marker. I never ever managed to present arms properly with the 303 rifles, we had those rifles because we were in the artillery branch of the army and I was a Gunner. On leave, we had to walk miles to the Uranquinty rail station to board a steam train to get to Wagga Wagga, where I met up with new friends, usually at Carmodys Hotel.
In my civilian life I had never been inside a hotel so I learnt a lot and had a really good time. When our induction as soldiers was over, we were sent to Clarendon racecourse where we lived in the grandstand and proceeded to be taught the intricacies of the searchlight and its maintenance and at night time we put the light in front of the aeroplanes coming in by plot from the Richmond air base.
After several weeks of learning about radar installations (very secret then) we were put on a steam train with many soldiers and transported to Townsville. En route, we were constantly shuffled on to side tracks whilst the American forces were sent down south for whatever reason (I dont even want to contemplate), but it was a miserable ride with constant harassment from our fellow passengers, but we were always supervised by an ex girl guide person who made sure we did not succumb to any of the soldiers charms!
On arrival at Townsville we set up the lights at various locations, including Castle Hill and other suburbs, and it would dismay you if I detailed all the excitement I experienced there. Sufficient to say I quickly became disenchanted with staying up all night with the lights and then cleaning them all day, so I got myself a job in the orderly room where I became expert at many jobs there, including the e4xcitement of a fire in the quartermasters store, which resulted in a court martial for our CO and I had to give detailed evidence of the management procedures within the orderly room.
When our Battery was considered redundant after the Battle of the Coral Sea, I found myself in the main street of Atherton in the small office of the Army Hirings Service. From there my future was being driven about the tablelands whilst the army was practising for Borneo and I was on hand to record all the damage an army and air force can do to farmers cows and their properties. The Italian prisoners were located in some of the farms and I met those happy chaps who sang constantly, being safe from the Middle East.
When we heard about the bomb on Hiroshima we were glad to leave far north Queensland with its constant rain and the curtailment of our freedom. I found myself at Marrickville discharge centre taking in the equipment of the soldiers being discharged and I worked under a horrible Sergeant Major who got me on an A4 (disciplinary charge). My only crime in the army was to lose my pay book and this was when the war was over.
Because of my points being as they were, I couldnt get a discharge from the army until April of 1946 when at last my boyfriend was able to get his discharge and we were married without any great celebrations, no cameras, no organised reception, but a great party at my parents home we stayed married for 53 years, no pack drill for all of those years.
War History of Lt Dennis A. Ryan OC 12 Platoon, B Company 2/43 Australian Infantry Battalion
A Busy Day for 2/43 Battalion at Beaufort, Borneo
On the morning of 28 July 1945 our Company was ordered to relieve the pressure on D Company. First of all we had to find them by skirting around the firelight area.
By midday the Skipper said, there is supposed to be a river near here. The maps we had were practically useless. Of course Big Mouth (me) said if he gave me a couple of blokes wed find the river. We ultimately did and took it in turns to have a wash, as we hadnt washed for days – one watching out for Japs and one watching out for crocodiles which were numerous in that area.
With hindsight 61 years later I realise that was a stupid thing to do, and also admire the bravery of those two young kids (the same age as myself) who followed an idiot who volunteered to venture into an unknown area. When we arrived back at Company HQ we proceeded down a narrow track leading along a narrow wooded ridge.
In the late afternoon we suddenly came under very heavy machine gun fire, it was like horizontal hail. Naturally, we all hit the deck. I remember thinking just for a nano second I wonder if we are going to get out of this; after that I got too busy to think of such ideas.
Then things started to get exciting and interesting. Les (Tom) Starcevich, the Bren gunner, called out to me that he was running low on ammunition. He knew and I knew that if he stopped firing he was dead. He threw his empty magazines to me and another chap and I (and perhaps another) refilled his magazines with our spares.
That done, Les stood up and firing flat out from the hip walked towards the enemy positions and wiped them out. The rest is history: -See following: –
Recommendation for the Victoria Cross at the end of this history.
Not unexpectedly, there was more excitement waiting for us a few hundred metres further on. We finally arrived at the end of the ridge which had 3 steep slopes down to the valley below.
A few minutes later wham we were under spasmodic artillery fire 25 pounders from our own Artillery who were ranging on our position. I called out to the Sig (signaller): Tell the silly Bathtubs theyre firing on the wrong hill- it stopped.
One of the men who was looking down the track called out to me Come and have a look at this and down below were a party of Nips apparently setting up a Woodpecker (heavy machine gun). They started firing and the bullets hit the tree just above my head. Fortunately, the angle of the slope made it difficult for them to range any lower.
By then it was approaching darkness, so we set up our alarms – FOR (forward operational rations) tins on strings, between ourselves and the Japs. It was so dark we really couldnt see our hands in front of us (thats fair dinkum). So the only thing to do was to sit in the middle of the track with a fixed bayonet and listen keenly.
And so ended the Day.
RECOMMENDATION FOR VC
WX11519 PRIVATE STARCEVICH
SWORN STATEMENT BY WITNESS NX 128960 LT RYAN OC 12 PL
(Abridged version taken from the official document)
NX128960 RYAN DA being duly sworn at 2/43 Aust Infantry Battalion 3 July 1945
On the afternoon of 28 June 1945 at about 1700 hrs, No 8 section was leading B Company down along a very narrow track, the Company having been ordered to break through the enemy and establish contact with D Company.; 300 yards after having set out, the forward elements of my Platoon came under heavy LMG (light machine gun) fire from two well concealed positions near the track, only about 20 30 yards in front.
While I was assessing the situation, I saw Private Starcevich, the No 1 Bren Gunner of the leading section, with great courage, fortitude and promptitude, get to his feet and move down the track straight into the enemys fire. He moved right down on top of them before they broke and tried to get away, but he succeeded in killing several of them.
I then ordered the Platoon on, but shortly afterwards we again came under fire from the front and right flank from LMGs. One sounded like a SMG. I evolved a plan of attack at once, in the form of an outflanking move by No 7 Section. Whilst this plan was being put into action, Starcevich neutralised the enemys fire by very accurate and sustained fire from an exposed position on the track.
The section went into action across almost impossible ground, and immediately came under fire from the enemys position. Private Starcevich, seeing this, without any hesitation or regard for his own safety, again walked down the track in the face of the enemys fire and continued even though his No 2 was wounded alongside him. He showed great boldness and courage and his firing was extremely accurate.
He killed the occupants of the post on the track and then engaged the other position until the enemy fled. No 7 Section were then able to advance and mop up the area. I was very busy, of course, and have really no idea of the number of enemy killed or wounded by his fire. I do remember seeing quite a number lying dead along the track when we went on.
The conduct of this soldier was a superb example of integrity and high courage. The detraction of the enemy was calculated, deliberate and ruthless. He has always been an inspiration to his Platoon, and indeed to the whole Company.
Had it not been for this soldiers conspicuous bravery, resourcefulness and initiative, my Platoon would have suffered many casualties, and I am quite certain we would not have been able to proceed any further that day owing to the time and nature of the terrain. As it was, we were able to keep the enemy moving once he had broken and, I understand, greatly relieved the pressure on D Company.
(Signed) DA RYAN, Lt
OC 12 Pl B Company 2/43 Australain Infantry Battalion
(Signed) HN LANGFORD, Capt
Officer taking statement on oath
Signed 4 July 1945
Nomination to the Australian Government, Department of Veteran Affairs
Commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of the end of World War II 20th April 2005
Name: James McAlpin Short
Rank: Cadet, Merchant Navy
Service No.: Merchant Navy
DVA: NSWP 538
Date Enlisted: 28th Sept 1944
Date Discharged: 24th Sept 1945
Missions: Papua New Guinea & Hawaii
|Victory in the Pacific|
(Dec 1941 – Aug 1945)
| New Guinea Final Campaigns|
(Oct 1944 – Aug 1945)
(May 1945 – Aug 1945)
|Malaya /Singapore||o||Aitape – Wewak||x||Tarakan||o|
|India / Burma||o||New Britain||o||Labuan||o|
|Darwin||o||Port Moresby||x||Air Support||o|
|Papua New Guinea||x||Milne Bay||x||Z Force||o|
|Dutch New Guinea||o|
|East Indies 1944 – 45||o|
Service Medals, Honours & Awards
Briefly summarise your wartime experiences during WWII:
At 16 years of age, I joined the crew of the S/S Montoro which was engaged in carrying troops, munitions & supplies to New Guinea & bringing wounded & other troops back to our home port (Sydney)
The Montoro was an armed merchantman and in June 1945 I obtained a gunnery certificate to enable me to operate Vickers, Lewis Oerlikon machine guns.
What are your most memorable experiences from the war?
S/S Montoro would usually travel in convoy escorted by Naval corvettes. Watches would be doubled and duty hours increased when we were in dangerous waters. The threat of mines, torpedoes & enemy aircraft ensured maintaining an alert lookout.
There was a marked difference in the fresh troops going to New Guinea and the spent troops returning to Sydney. At Aitape we collected a group of nurses that had been mistreated & degraded by the Japanese. The ships crew were overwhelmed with sympathy & concern for this sad group as they were brought back to Sydney. Did any of your close relatives have operational service? If so, please give brief details (e.g. name, service no, unit, theatre of war if known)
My father was one of a group in the army known as retreads having served in World Wars I & II. Darrell James Short NX41829; (1897 to 1982). He served in France in World War I & Egypt in World War II.
Outline your life after the war?
(e.g. Occupation, family, interests, involvements in the veteran community)
1944-1950: Cadet 1944-1947, Deck Officer 1947-1950
1951-1960: Self employed, general storekeeper
1961-1968: Sales Manager
1968-1989: Administrator Handicapped Childrens Centre NSW
1989-1993: Manager St George Home Care Service
Family: My wife of 55 years died on 10/8/04. I have two married daughters, 3 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren. I worked part time as a Civil Marriage Celebrant from 1977 to 2003. I was appointed as a J.P. on 1/11/61. I received a 50 years continuous service award from RSL on 31-5-1995. I am a life member & Past President of Two Diggers Bowling Clubs viz. Hurstville Diggers & Penshurst RSL
Signed on 20-04-05
Here is a brief summary of my war time service in England during the dark days of World War 2
I enlisted in the Auxiliary Territorial Service ((ATS) the day I turned 17 and a half. Two weeks later , and 2 weeks later started basic training. After learning the basicsd of soldiering, (drill, marching, barrack life, learning the Army regulations etc) I was posted to the Isle of Man on an Army Signals Course.
When we first arrived in Douglas on the Isle of Man, it was impressed upon us we must never talk about our job or mention it in any way to family friends or anyone. We trained for 5 months. Course content covered Morse code, more Morse and then a lot more Morse!
The emphasis was on receiving, German field radio procedure and basic radio functioning and electronics.
At the end of our course we were categorised as Special Radio operators and posted to Harrogate. We were then divided into the 4 watches (shifts) working at the wireless station at Forest Moor. WE were trucked out to the station from the camp when going on watch (duty).
We worked a rather strange shift pattern, ie.
1 p.m.-7 p.m., 7 a.m.-1 p.m., 12 a.m.-7a.m., and 7p.m.-12 a.m.; all in 3 days with the 4th day off
Our primary job was to intercept radio traffic from German Army Group(s) Headquarters and we were assigned a specific Army Group when we mounted duty. Sometimes we were able to work on the same Group for a while which had the advantage of getting to know the tone and individual sending characteristics of each enemy signals operator in the Army Group. We got to know them from the general mish-mash of operator traffic and static.
Night shift was really difficult, because there may not be much operational traffic and we had to twiddle the dial searching for enemy transmissions on various frequencies in case the enemy operators changed frequency to avoid our monitoring – a game of cat and mouse.
WE knew that the recorded radio traffic that we had monitored was whisked away at the end of each shift by Don R (army speak for Dispatch Rider on a motor bike)-we did not know where.
Later, we found it went to the Code breakers at Bletchley Park. Only recently ,when all the information about the code breakers became public , we realised all the ramifications of what we were a part of. As a feeder station to Bletchley we were part of a TOP SECRET operation that eventually cracked the German High Command secret operational codes.
After VE Day we were stood down, posted to other signals units and demobilised.
Commanding Officers of the Battalion
Lt.-Col. B. C. E. Herring (later Brig.-Gen). C.M.G., D.S.O., V.D.
Lt.-Col. S. L. Perry, D.S.O, M.C.
Lt.-Col. A. S. Allen (later Maj.-Gen.), C.B., C.B.E., D.S.O., V.D.
Lt.-Col. C. M. Johnson, D.S.O.
Lt.-Col. N. M. Loutit, D.S.O. and Bar.
Lt.-Col. E.E. Herrod, C.M.G., D.S.O., VD
Major J. R. Scott, D.S.O., V.D.
Lt.-Col. W. A LeRoy Fry, O.B.E., V.D.
Lt.-Col. W. H. Douglas (later Brigadier), V.D.
Lt.-Col. J. A. Rena. E.D.
Lt.-Col. A G. Morris, M.C., V.D.
Lt.-Col. P. A. Cullen (later Maj. Gen.), AO. C.B.E., D.S.O. E.D.
Lt.-Col. G. S. Cox (later Brigadier), D.S.O., M.C., E.D.
Lt.-Col. J. C. Burrell.
Lt.-Col. W. L. Speight, psc
Lt.-Col. R.B. Digby.
Lt.-Col. J. S. Whittle, M.B.E.
The 45th Battalion History
The history of the 45″ Battalion can be divided into three distinct phases. The first phase concerns the 45″ Battalion with the AI.F: the second, the 45th Battalion between the two wars: and the third, the Battalion in the post-war period.
After the evacuation of Gallipoli, the Australians returned to Egypt and carried out defensive duties in the Suez Canal area. There were then in Egypt about 40,000 Australian reinforcements not allotted to units. General Birdwood decided to split in halves Ute sixteen battalions that had served on Gallipoli and to bring them up to strength with reinforcements.
Thus, in March, 1916 the 13th Bn. Created its daughter battalion, tile 45th, by simply handing over “two splendid companies.” The Battalion’s first C.O. was Brig.- Gen.S.C. Herring, and the unit formed part of the 12th Bde, Of the 4th Division. Within four months it was in the front line on the Western Front at Fleurbaix.
The unit’s first real test came on the heights of Pozieres between 5th and 15th August, 1916, when the Germans were launching determined counter-attacks to regain lost ground. An idea of the intensity of the attacks can be gained from the 345 casualties that the 45th suffered from shelling alone between 5th and 7th August. In all, it suffered 448 casualties during its first nine days in the line. Thus, Pozieres became our first battle honour.
There is not space here to record all the glorious deeds performed by our parent unit on the Western Front between 1916 and 1918, but an idea of the suffering they endured to such a magnificent end can be gained from the historic battle honours emblazoned on our Regimental Colour: Pozieres, Bullecourt, Messines, Polygon Wood, Passachendaele, Ancre, Amiens, Albert, Epehy and Hindenburg Line. These actions cost the 45th 2,397 casualties from the 3,665 men who passed through the unit, and won it 210 decorations, of which 134 were Military Medals.
Of a typical action, Messines, in June, 1917, the Official War Historian writes: “The 45th had kept its spirit to the last. It bad entered the battle in greater strength than any other Australian battalion and come out the weakest, having lost 16 officers and 552 men.” World War I ended and the Battalion returned to Australia and disbanded. In 1921, the 45th Bn., A.M.F. was established in the St. George District and took over the King’s and Regimental Colours from the 45th Bn., A.I.F.
Success between the wars
It naturally sought to keep up in peace the tradition and the glorious record that the parent battalion had built up with so much devotion and sacrifice in war. Becoming one of the best AM.F. units in Australia, it won outright the Mrs. H. Gordon-Bennett Cup for Ceremonial (winning three years in succession) and also the Murdoch Challenge Cup (Vickers M.G. Championship of N.S.W.). It also won for three consecutive years the 2th Divn. Efficiency Trophy (Champion Battalion). Its other trophies and awards are far too numerous to list.
The St. George Regiment
In 1929, the unit adopted the title “45th Battalion (The St. George Regiment)” and the new unit badge, with the motto, “Quo Fata Vocant”- “Wherever tile Fates May Lead.” This motto is also that of a famous British unit, the Northumberland Fusiliers. In 1934 Ute battalion was allied with another famous British unit, the Welch Regiment. In the same year, the unit trooped the King’s Colour in Rockdale Park. This was the first time that the ceremony had been carried out in Australia. In 1938, it trooped the Regimental Colour. Bother ceremonies called for training and efficiency in ceremonial of the highest order.
Word War II
On the outbreak of World War II, the unit was called upon to guard vulnerable points in the La Perouse area. The Battalion spent various periods in and out of camp and was heavily drained of manpower as its members went to fill the ranks of the 2nd A.T.F. and the R.A.A.F .. On the outbreak of war with Japan, the unit was mobilised for full-time duty and was responsible for the defence of the Cronulla area. In 1942, through reduced manning levels in the Militia units, a number of battalions were either disbanded or amalgamated. The Machine Gun Company was transferred to the 5th Machine Gun Battalion with most of the remaining personnel transferring to the 133 Heavy A/A Battery of the 103rd Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, the Battery later serving in the Northern Territory. The residue remaining with the 45th was transferred to the Ist Battalion, the combined unit being renamed the 1st/45th Battalion. This amalgamated unit was disbanded in 1944.
The Unit Reforms
In April, 1948, the raising of the post-war Citizen Military Forces was commenced, and the 45th Battalion was fortunate enough to be included in the A.M.F Order of Battle as a machine-gun battalion. As such, it had the distinction of being the only machine-gun battalion in tile British Commonwealth. 1951 saw the unit revert to an infantry battalion, and also saw the first intake into the unit of National Service personnel. These two changes were of great importance and the unit was able to undertake realistic training with an almost full establishment.
The standard of the unit was kept at the high level that bad been made traditional since 1916. Evidence of this was the winning, in 1953, of the coveted Heath Trophy-the annual award to the most efficient C.M.F unit in the Commonwealth.
In 1960, the National Service Scheme terminated and this, combined with the reorganisation of the Australian Army, caused the 45th Battalion to be removed from the A.M.F. Order of Battle. As a result, the unit disbanded and the Colours were laid up for safe keeping in the Garrison Church of St. Paul, Princes Highway, Kogarah.
The Vietnam War was Australia and New Zealand’s longest conflict, it lasted ten years, from 1962 to 1972. An initial commitment of military advisers grew to include a battalion in 1965 and, in 1966, to a task force of brigade strength. In 1968, the formal integration of Australian and New Zealand infantry regiments as ANZAC Battalion continued the tradition of joint military effort.
Australians and New Zealanders served throughout South Vietnam in a variety of roles but the majority spent their war in Phuoc Tuy province at the Vung Tau logistics base or the Task Force base at Nui Dat. Some major battles such as Long Tan and Fire Support Bases Coral and Balmoral were notable for their ferocity and scale. Most encounters with Viet Cong or North Vietnamese soldiers, while no less intense, were generally smaller affairs.
The Vietnam War was the first major conflict widely seen by people ‘back home’ watching television. This coverage fuelled the anti-war protest movements that provided the context for the decision by the Australian and New Zealand governments to withdraw their forces from Vietnam in 1972.
The anti-war protests and general unpopularity of the war left a burning legacy for many Vietnam veterans. There has been much resentment amongst Vietnam veterans at the perceived lack of recognition of their service.
On 3 October 1992 the Australian Vietnam Forces National Memorial was dedicated on Anzac Parade in Canberra. Five years earlier 25,000 veterans of the Vietnam War had participated in the Welcome Home Parade in Sydney. A similar parade was organised in Wellington in 1998 but it was Tribute08, held during Queens Birthday 2008, which provided the occasion for New Zealanders to fully acknowledge their Vietnam veterans. For the veterans themselves such occasions provided a time for reunions as well as an emotional step in a long personal journey from their war service to recognition as veterans.
Published in Digger magazine edition June 2020 No. 71.
Authors: Ron Morcom with Graeme Hosken and Heather Ford.
Sourced for Digger by Barrie Stevenson
At the general meeting the members were unanimous that Mrs Frances Greene become the sub-Branch Patron.
On the 12 December 2021 after our general meeting members moved into the club auditorium for the annual “Christmas Cheer”
President John Hoban spoke in glowing terms how fortunate we were that Francis had agreed to become our Patron. John then presented Francis with a Patrons brooch.
In response Mrs Greene said.
I am very honoured to be the first patron of the Penshurst RSL sub- Branch. My father, Brian Fallon, was a member of the sub-Branch from 19__ to 2006. I am very lucky that he survived WWII as a gunner in a Lancaster bomber in Bomber Command and that he joined the Penshurst RSL sub- Branch. It was in my formative years that the sub- Branch had a significant influence.
The RSL movement focused not only on its members but on their families. Families were supported with several sporting activities as well as social events. It was through this movement that I was given opportunities and influences that would have a significant impact on the rest of my life.
I represented Penshurst RSL in Athletics, Squash, Physical Culture, Netball and was given the honour of opening and welcoming guests at one of their concerts at Morana Hall.
I owe a great deal to the volunteer coaches, my fellow teammates, the families I met through my involvement with Penshurst RSL sub- Branch. Thank you.
Vice President Keith Pratt then proposed the “Toast” to our Patron.