Category Archives: General Musings

In this article in the

In this article in the Australian Jana splits with her fiance. I wish her well as I warmed to her for carrying only one flag on her victory lap – the Australian flag. It’s as it should be!

Melbourne’s CityLink is a great

Melbourne’s CityLink is a great revenue raiser for someone. This guy is up for $70,000 worth of fines, most of them accrued from CityLink travel in Melbourne.

I sympathise with him. On my recent trip I used the CityLink to get from Wantirna in the east to Essondon. The next morning I dutifully fronted at a CityLink office and said” Be gentle with me, I’m from Brisbane” The counter jumper laughed as he charged me $18.40 whilst having crack at unsophisticated Queensland. All I wanted to do was travel back to Wantirna but I was charged $18.40 for a weekend pass that I didn’t want, thus representing $9.20 for each use of the system. Queensland may be unsophisticated but a similar use of our bypass, the Gateway, would have cost me #2.20 for each trip. The weathers better too!

Interservice rivalry always has the

Interservice rivalry always has the PBI (Poor Bloody Infantry) worse off. Check these pics of the Navy and Army relaxing between missions/patrols.

On Staturday Katherine arranges for

On Staturday Katherine arranges for a ride on a ski-doo up to Kofflers Hut. The driver kept asking me if I was OK and I resisted the temptation to tell him that in my time I had driven a 50 ton Leopard tank over a creek gap at 80 km/hr and this little toy was unlikely to scare me. I enjoyed it though, and he was only being responsible. Katherine and I shared an apple struddle and coffee while watching and snapping pics of the intense activity. The weather closes in (read approaching blizzard) and we catch a chair back to the village. Sleet driven by gusts introduces me to the cold and I’m glad to get inside.

Later, Tom, the radiographer, and his delightfull wife Leanne play host as she prepares dinner. Leanne had once owned a Chinese Resturant and it showed. Mmmm…special fried rice, chinese chicken and more……so good. The village priest, Father Frank Bellet, donates a leg of pork in exchange for a dinner invitation and the already great company is enriched by his wit. Kerryn, nurse, wife and mother prepares the best sticky date pudding I’ve tasted and tells of her young son Luke sking black slopes while I think ‘Wow! – and I was concerned being near the slopes taking happy snaps’. Younger son Morgan is heading the same way. She is obviously proud of them and should be.

Later that night we went to the Whittaker Clubhouse of the Victorian Ski Club for drinks. Whereas I’m not a skier, I had slipped over on my arse earlier in the day and maybe that qualified me for entrance. The club was full of young people playing the mating game, a great spectator sport for those like myself whose marriage vows precludes running on the field. Eddie, prospective son-in-law, has to drink ten Tooheys New pots to qualify for another cap and is busy doing that while Kerrin and Katherine, my daughter, talk of men and how to mold them. Good Luck! I think. I don’t see much maleability around here. Trainability? Maybe.

To stop me slipping on the ice, Katherine had borrowed shoe chains from one of the doctors. I proceeded to put them on backwards but even then they worked a treat and the cost of $70.00 per pair was after all only equal to one visit to the Physio or an XRay or a percentage of a broken limb repair cost, so good value.

The second bottle of red I shared with Kerryn set the standard (as low) and I slept that night in what the Medical Centre staff call the Ops Room. I think after my visit they may take my suggestion and call it the ICU.

The medical Centre handles up to 80 cases per day of ski junkies injured with broken limbs and other traumas – all frantic about the fact they have paid big money to sit on the sidelines with plastered limbs.

Sunday evening we dined at Pension Grimus, a very Austrian resturant run by a very Austrian Hans There was a Porsche 4WD parked outside and we asked how much does it cost? $240,000 and the guy pays $400.00 to have it cleaned before he leaves the mountain. Earlier that day, standing back and observing the crowds, all I could see was serious money. A young mother of three with Nanny in tow, instructing the Nanny, in the manner born, to get the kids into the Merc for the trip home. I figured the clothes and gear adorning this small group would have cost more than my car let alone what a Mercedes 4WD would have cost.

The dinner was good, the red wine better and later Hans came around and offered snuff. Yes, the stuff the Poms used and now I know how they colonised the world. Man, that snuff clears the sinuses and helps concentrate the mind.

It is peak season and on Monday 4,000 kids were due from Melbourne private schools. Tom, the Radiographer told me the state school kids come up much later in the season when the resort operators do deals for children of lesser gods. Don’t get me wrong, I subscribe to elitism but when my children went to private schools it was a struggle and my wife and I worked three jobs to do it. No ski holidays then! Maybe I noticed it more because I have seldom had time or money to pursue hedonism. Good to look around though and good luck to all of them.

On Monday morning, I depart appreciating the company I had kept over the two days and also the priveledges of no-cost accommodation and free parking I had been accorded. Others have to settle for parking miles below the village and shuttle up by bus. I, for whatever reason, was issued a VIP pass, allowing access and parking in the village with all the monied folk. The VIP pass surpised my daughter who had orgainised free access only, but me, Hey! maybe the lady at the gate thought I looked distinguished (grey hair does that) or, more likely, thought I was a visiting Medico. I had said ‘Visiting the Medical Centre’ in my best “visiting proffessor” voice.

I worry about the Disco – will it start with a frozen block but she kicks in and I start to de-ice/snow the body. The Ambo driver tells me to scrape off the 6 inches of snow/ice off the top of the vehicle as police have been known to book vehicles so adorned for having an unsecured load! This amuses me but on reflection, makes sense. The trip down the mountain was slow but once we were below the snow line all was OK. I had to ask my passenger to turn on the heater in the car as living in the tropics I had never had to heat the car. The heater had never been used.

Breakfast, point the car north and hit the tow!

The last sentence of the

The last sentence of the last post reminded me of another time at the bar. On ANZAC Day 1976, as a new Lieutenant, I stood at the bar with two old and bold soldiers. The mess concerned was the Officer’s Mess of 9th Battalion, Royal Queensland Regiment. This Battalion was the first to land at Gallipoli and these two men were the first from the battalion. They argued over who was the first between them as they drank beer with rum chasers, as you do in Queensland. They were both taller than me, both had been awarded the DCM (Distinguished Conduct Medal for bravery – one step below the Victoria Cross), were in their eighties and were drinking me under the table. I had to skip the chasers and acknowledge ” You’re a better man than me, Gungda Din”.

At Wagga I stood at

At Wagga I stood at a bar with three other men, two of whom had lost one eye in Vietnam while the other was totally blind. He had a magnificent black Labrador as his companion. The dog sat at his feet all of the four days of the reunion patiently listening to the the same stories I’m sure he’s heard a thousand times before. A tiny splinter of shrapnell has severed my friends optic nerve and although his eyes are perfect the braion doesn’t know.

One of the others told me a story of a barroom brawl that had happened when he was young and angry. In the bathroom at the bar he had got involved in an altercation with a peacenik and had headbutted him in frustration. This action had dislodged his glass eye and it was pointing hard to port. He wasn’t aware of this and when he went back to the bar his good eye was pointing straight ahead while his glass eye was glaring at the rough character to his left who started another conversation with the oft-head precursor to brawls “What are you staring at you bastard?” Time to go home.

I met Kerry who I had last seen in Vietnam in the same platoon as myself. One night, whilst on sentry duty he set the standard for all sentries when he waited for the approaching enemy to come within one meter before he initiated contact. At one meter he fired, guaranteeing a hit that unfortunately struck a pack of C4 explosives the Vietcong was carrying in satchel on his chest. The explosion robbed Kerry of his eye, wounded his mate and splattered the rest of us with gore. Kerry was demobbed back to Australia and has got on with life, albeit with a one eyed view.

I met Reginald Bandy, the Regimental Sergeant Major of the Battalion in 1970. He left his home in Western Australia in 1942 to help stem the flow of the Japanese in the Pacific. By wars end he was a platoon sergeant and went on to serve in Morotai where the Royal Australian Regiment (the Australian Army’s regular infantry) was formed from battalions of the Second AIF (Australian Infantry Forces) He stayed overseas and eventually fought in the Battle of Kapyong in Korea. I asked him what part he played in this battle. He said he was a platoon sergeant but actually operated as a platoon commander because “We were running out of Lieutenants”

His mother complained to the Minister for the Army that she hadn’t seen her son for ten years and he was brought straight back home to a posting Instructing new officers. Well he could, couldn’t he. He went on to serve in Malaya, Borneo and was one of the experienced Warrant Officers that formed the initial draft of the Australian Army Training Team in 1965 that became the most decorated unit ever to serve overseas under the Australian flag. In 1970 he lent his experience to officers and NCOs in the 7th Battalion in Vietnam. If Australian soldiers have a good reputation it is because of men like Reg Bandy. At the reunion this month he played golf most days and went for a walk in the mornings. He was 80 last birthday.

I see Yobbo is discussing great Australians and whereas I don’t disagree with any mentioned in Yobbos’s weblog or in others I will say I have known some great Australians and the comon theme amongst them is that they wore the uniforms of the military and all had heard the call of the bugle.

Back from travels, glad to

Back from travels, glad to be home but bouyed by the people I’ve met and the places I’ve seen. On Tuesday it occured to me that I would rather be home so I drove straight from Albury to Brisbane in one hit (1700 km). Crossing the border into Queensland I had to turn on the airconditioning in the car- Yes! I’m home. The day before I left Albury I had been at Mt Buller in Victoria where for two days I had endured two blizzards at minus temperatures. This was only made possible by the warmth of the company I was keeping, the staff of the medical centre (my daughter included), where I resided for my sojourn. This picture of the car indicates the temperature at Mt Buller. The Abominable Snowman alongside is myself.

Canada needs to join the West

Received this from Paul, a retired Army Officer and old friend. I found it interesting and maybe the first of many articles emphasizing just how serious the war against terror is and how a lot of us need to lift our game.

No longer can we plan for the enemy landing on our coastline in numbers or even small nuisance patrols inserted in the Kimberly. Now we have to plan for a style of attack that never existed when I went to Military colleges. Being attacked by a bomber fleet is easy to handle with modern weapons but a passenger taking over a 747 and using it as a weapon is another matter.

Smart and dedicated professionals are working on the problem but don�t expect quick and easy answers. We in the west will get caught again and again before we surmount the problem but one day we will. In the meantime we need to up our defence expenditure to GDP ratio or the simply face a long and costly war.
It is always good to see yourself from the point of view of others. It is good to know that some think we are trying.

The debate we are having in Australia and the letter below offer hope.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

CREDIT: Om Hanson,The Canadian Press

LONDON – The Canadian army will be stretched to the limit and perhaps beyond for the next year and a half, rotating 1,900 soldiers at a time through two six-month tours in Afghanistan where it takes over from Germany next week.

Meanwhile, Australia, which landed nearly 5,000 fighting troops at one time on Timor in 2000 and still has troops there, also made a modest contribution to the Anglo-American fighting force in Iraq. The country also dispatched 1,500 soldiers to the Solomon Islands, east of New Guinea, last month to lead a peacekeeping force that was put together so quickly it does not have a mandate from the UN or any other international organization.

There was a time when Canada and Australia both punched above their weight. Each country made immense contributions, at great cost in lives and money, in the First World War, the Second World War and the Korean War.

The reality today, as can be seen in Afghanistan, Timor and the Solomons, is entirely different. Canada spends an inordinate amount of time fretting about its shrinking role in the world, and its woefully under-funded Armed Forces, but does nothing about it. Australia acts with confidence on the global stage, using military capabilities that Canada no longer possesses to take leadership roles in peacemaking and peacekeeping.

There are many examples of the growing disparity between Canadian and Australian military capabilities. A company of infantrymen from the Royal 22nd Regiment landed on a palm-fringed beach in Timor three years ago. But those Van Doos did not reach the beach in Suai on a Canadian landing craft launched from a Canadian assault ship. Because Canada has no landing craft and no assault ships, the Van Doos used the Australian assault ship, HMAS Tobruk, and its landing craft to go ashore.

In the early going, Canada also had difficulty supplying the Van Doos in Timor. Canada’s C-130 Hercules aircraft, which are almost all more than 30 years old, were late getting to Timor because they broke down along the way.

To be fair, Canada exists in the quietest corner in the world (and has never had any qualms about accepting American protection for free), while Australia lies in the southern oceans with lots of trouble brewing nearby. But the world has taken a very sour turn lately and it is Australia, not Canada, that has been quietly gearing up to combat the new dangers. Australia obviously regards itself as the neighbourhood policeman while Canada is still figuring what is to be its place in the ugly new order.

In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the U.S. and the Bali bombing in 2002, Australia has made defence spending its top priority in planning fiscal decisions, mentioning defence spending in its 2003 budget far more than any other spending, while Canada’s budget speech stressed health care, child care, welfare and education.

And it has committed money, in addition to tough talk, pledging to increase its defence budget by three per cent annually to 2011. Australia intends to spend $14.37 billion Cdn this year, compared to Canada’s $13 billion. More telling, Australia spends 1.9 per cent of gross domestic product on defence compared to 1.1 per cent for Canada.

The other difference is that Australia spends a greater percentage of its money on combat capability. It literally seeks bang for its buck.

Canada has 32 million people and Australia has 19.5 million, but each country has just more than 50,000 men and women in uniform.

Where Canada does move ahead is with its Land Forces, with the re-establishment of the Canadian Airborne Regiment, Canada will own 10 infantry Battalions compared to Australia’s five. There are also very distinct rumours from Canberra that Australian Army intends to down size its Infantry Force to four Battalions, which includes its Regular Commando Battalion. How Australia intends to conduct operations outside of its own country will probably become non-existent.

Australia not only has assault ships and landing craft. It has about the same number of active F18 fighter jets as Canada. And, unlike Canada, Australia also has long-range F111 bombers.

Like Canada, Australia has transport and search-and-rescue helicopters, but none so old as Canada’s venerable Sea Kings. Unlike Canada, Australia also has attack helicopters, with more on order.

Australia built its own diesel submarines. To stay in the same business, Canada took what amounted to a gift of used British diesel submarines. More embarrassing still, Australian taxpayers saved huge sums of money when its air force and navy recently began recruiting Canadian pilots and naval officers whose expensive training had already been paid for by the Canadian government.

Furthermore, since the Canadian government chose not to join the war against Iraq, Canada has been excluded for the first time from the tight intelligence circle that it developed with Washington, London and Canberra nearly 90 years ago — it is another damning indicator of where Canada finds itself in this turbulent new world.

Despite decades of neglect by successive Canadian governments, the Royal Canadian Regiment, which is leading Canada’s dangerous Afghan mission, and the Van Doos who will follow them to Kabul next February, will do its duty and do it well. But they deserve far better. Australia shows Canada that a plucky country with limited financial resources can have a military that has teeth, confidence and purpose.

© Copyright 2003 The Ottawa Citizen

Departed at 4.00 in the

Departed at 4.00 in the morning heading south on the Pacific Highway to Sydney. Nearly a thousand kilometers of prime real estate. The traffic in Sydney is horrendous, reminding me of why I headed north to live when I retired from the Army. I book into a motel and have a view of Sydney Harbour from my balcony. As more than three million people settle in for the night its a kaleidoscope of colour, lights and movement. The country boy in me wants home.

I make a quick call and a couple of friends and I have dinner at Mosman on the north shore. The friends are both ladies, attractive, well groomed and pleasant company. We had become friends as we shared a terrible task of helping a mutual friend meet his maker. Strengths found in diversity are always more apparent and the friendships gained, longer lasting. Life goes on though, and the talk turns to kids and their lives and that is as it should be. When troubled and in mourning for old friends then look to the children. Ive always said listen for the sounds of a baby crying at a funeral it helps to understand the cycle of life and death.

On to Wagga Wagga next morning for the gathering of the Pigs. Wagga Wagga is some four hundred km west of Sydney and on the way the land looks great, green with plenty of water on the ground. The drought is over in this part of Australia. Some troops have arrived early and we gather at the bar reminiscing. The reunion actually kicks off tomorrow night with a happy hour meet and greet. There will be some guys from my patrol in Vietnam and I look forward to that. As I said above friendships gained in diversity..

Spoke to my wife on

Spoke to my wife on the phone last night and she was just coping with the heatwave. Back in Brisbane where we know it gets hot, the car, office and house are airconditioned and if you can’t afford some of these luxuries then a trip to the local shopping centre can cool you down. In Europe, I’m led to believe from surfing the net, there is little escape from such extremes. Normally I give little thought to the suffering of Poms but in this case people I know are involved and that makes it different. Ironic isn’t it? Brisbane pushing 20 celcius and raining while London heads for 40. The girls and one boyfriend (G’day Goldie!) went to the local pub for dinner but declined a beer. Remember they serve their beer at room temperature and lager at 35 celcius plus is not a pleasant thought.

Ladies, fancy being in London and it’s too hot to shop. I’m happy

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