Category Archives: Defence
Busy days. Last week at Coolangatta I commemorated the loss of my mates in South Vietnam with members of the platoon. As Recce Platoon, 7RAR we spent a year conducting long range patrols and took a lot of casualties from mines and AK 47s. We get together every year on the anniversary of one our mate’s death in action and remember them all. We are together for a week and it is great to recharge the batteries.
It reminds me that friendship’s formed in battle and the losses we suffered are forever.
A weekend with grandkids and back to work at a three day seminar with the Royal Australian Regiment Association where we try and do better at looking after our less fortunate veteran mates.
Senator Michael Ronaldson, Minister of Veteran’s Affairs, shared his thoughts under Chatham House rules and he was followed by Craig Orme from DVA.
I was impressed with both of them. With their compassion, professionalism and determination to improve the lot of veterans. They handled the crusty old soldier audience with aplomb considering there were star ranks abound (not me, of course – I only made Major)
From commemorating my mates death in action to attending a seminar aimed at helping those of us who survived, is taxing but ultimately motivational as you spend days concentrating on the less fortunate and realize there are agencies who are lining up to help and that any personal problems you think you might have, pale into insignificance compared with others.
Of course, after all day conferencing, the time comes to relax and this week gave me cause to remember that some of these older warriors have a tremendous ability to consume beer and red wine as we literally discuss the history of the Regiment from Morotai (where the Regiment was formed in 1948) through to Iraq.
The unofficial history, that is. The history that never gets written down.
We military have Chatham House rules as well.
Heady days – now back to work.
At the height of the Vietnam War, John Ali was in a team of truck drivers recruited on the orders of the then army minister Malcolm Fraser for a secret mission delivering military supplies deep into Cambodia where US and Australian forces were officially not supposed to be.
Greens senator Penny Wright told parliament last night that Mr Ali’s treatment by successive governments was shameful. He suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and lives with the debilitating effects of his experiences in Vietnam and Cambodia, Senator Wright said. “He jumps at the sound of thunder and takes about 20 tablets a day.”
Greens senator Penny Wright. Hmmm.
I wonder why Malcolm Fraser didn’t use the thousands of soldiers already in country and subject to military law. And don’t think because we weren’t supposed to be in Cambodia that we weren’t.
It’s one thing to convince a Greens Senator of outlandish claims. Let’s face it, they believe that the Earth is doomed unless we spend hundreds of billions of dollars and otherwise ruin the economy by locking coal in the ground, but it’s another matter entirely to convince the DVA and us skeptical old soldiers.
If he wasn’t in the military then any compensation is a matter for other government bodies, not the DVA. He could try talking to Malcolm Fraser to confirm the story. Oh hang on, he’s dead.
I’m surprised his problems only came to light after Malcolm was interred.
Outgoing army chief David Morrison says the focus on the white, Anglo-Saxon males of the Anzac legend has made it more difficult to recruit a diverse defence force.
Lieutenant General Morrison said that the “iconic narrative” of the Anzac story did not reflect the reality of modern Australia, nor the needs of a modern defence force.
“Some of the stories we tell ourselves about Anzac — overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly male, overwhelmingly Anglo-Saxon — if those stories are given an undue emphasis then how do you attract in today’s ranks, men and women who aren’t male, who aren’t Anglo-Saxon, who aren’t rough-hewn country lads who never salute officers, particularly the Poms, and who fight best with a hangover?”
Maybe I’m being over sensitive here but I never fought with a hangover and always saluted officers where applicable. I think that’s a put down on today’s diggers
The ANZACS were overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly male and overwhelmingly Anglo-Saxon and no amount of politically correct thinking or pushing gender equality and people of non-English speaking backgrounds is going to change that.
I might add that today’s diggers are also overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly male and overwhelmingly Anglo-Saxon. The other people in our society overwhelmingly do not volunteer for military service. They are more into Friday’s mosque rantings and place religion above all else, particularly service to their new nation.
They are yet to assimilate into our society and considering too many of them support the Islamic sub-humans in the Middle East slaughtering Christians and Moslems or anyone that stands in their way, then I’m not sure when, if ever, they will consider themselves Australian and look at service as part of their civil responsibility.
From my perspective, I’m glad to see you go General Morrison.
UPDATE: An article by Ross Eastgate here
I gave this address at the National Memorial Walk in Enoggera Barracks at the Dawn Service. It was 5 years ago (how time flies) but is as relevant now as it was then. It is particularly relevant for Queenslanders as the 9th Bn AIF, a Qld Bn, were first ashore at Gallipoli
Good Morning – we are gathered here today to commemorate those who have gone before us – those who have paid the supreme sacrifice in service to Australia. As a nation we have been gathering on this morning for a very long time – in fact for the past 87 years as we remember the men of Gallipoli and events that happened ninety five years ago. We also commemorate events subsequent to Gallipoli and are reminded that in many places across the world, Afghanistan included, we have troops in danger.
Where and when did the custom of Dawn Service begin?
Reverend White was serving as one of the padres of the earliest ANZAC’s to leave Australia with the First AIF in November 1914. The convoy was assembled in the Princess Royal Harbour and King George Sound at Albany WA, my homeport. Before embarkation, at four in the morning, he conducted a service for all the men of the battalion. When White returned to Australia in 1919, he was appointed relieving Rector of the St John’s Church in Albany.
It was a strange coincidence that the starting point of the AIF convoys should now become his parish.
No doubt it must have been the memory of his first Dawn Service those many years earlier and his experiences overseas, combined with the awesome cost of lives and injuries, which inspired him to honour permanently the valiant men (both living and the dead) who had joined the fight for the allied cause. “Albany”, he is later quoted to have said, “was the last sight of land these ANZAC troops saw when leaving Australian shores and some of them never returned. We should hold a service (here) at the first light of dawn each ANZAC Day to commemorate them.”
Thus on ANZAC Day 1923, 87 years ago this morning, he came to hold the first Commemorative Dawn Service.
As the sun was rising, a man in a small dinghy cast a wreath into King George Sound while White, with a band of about 20 men gathered around him on the summit of nearby Mount Clarence, silently watched the wreath floating out to sea. He then quietly recited the words:
“As the sun rises and goeth down, we will remember them”.
All present were deeply moved and news of the Ceremony soon spread throughout the country; and the various Returned Service Communities Australia wide emulated the Ceremony.
Almost paradoxically, in a cemetery outside the town of Herbert Queensland one grave stands out by its simplicity. It is covered by protective white- washed concrete slab with a plain cement cross at its top end. No epitaph recalls even the name of the deceased. The Inscription on the cross is a mere two words – “A Priest”
It is the last resting place of Reverend White.
In that original convoy were local Queensland boys from the 9th Battalion, 1st AIF. Their good name, Battle Honours and subsequent deeds are held in trust today by the 9th Battalion, The Royal Queensland Regiment. It is fitting that we in Queensland place due importance on our local lads for not only are they among us in spirit and with their descendants but they were the very first ANZACs ashore at Gallipoli on that terrible morning ninety five years ago.
If the 9th Battalion was first ashore as a unit then we may well ask who amongst the 9th battalion boys was first ashore
We can never know for certain. C. E. W. Bean, official historian, concluded it was probably a Platoon Commander, Lieutenant Duncan Chapman, 9th Battalion.
The Queenslander wrote home:
‘I happened to be in the first boat that reached the shore, and, being in the bow at the time, I was the first man to get ashore.’
One of his men later confirmed this. Chapman was killed at Pozieres, France on 6 August 1916.
Bean, Chapman and the guy in the boat have been generally accepted as correct and 33 years ago today, as a young subaltern, I stood at the bar of 9th Battalion, The Royal Queensland Regiment, and heard it from the horse’s mouth . I spoke to two other men who were in Chapman’s boat and they backed the claim. Jim Bostock and Bill Clever were both in their mid to late seventies and were discussing who among them was the first ashore after Chapman .
These two old soldiers, both taller than me, one with a DCM, and one, a Pl Sergeant to Chapman, drank schooners with rum chasers . Discretion became the better part of valour and I declined the rum and undertook not to mention Vietnam…..not ever…..at least not while I was in their company. How could I – I was literally standing between two pages of sacred military history – I could only be a listener, a bystander.
Neither was I as tough as some of the younger ANZACs
Pte Gray came to the Regimental Doctor saying that he had received a wound at the Landing and, though he had been to hospital, it was again giving a little trouble. He had endeavoured to “carry on,” but had at last been forced to see if the doctor could advise a little treatment.
The medical officer found that he had had a compound fracture of the arm, two bullets through his thigh, another through diaphragm, liver and side; and that there were adhesions to the liver and pleura. He was returned at once to Australia, where he was eventually discharged from hospital and, re-enlisting, returned to the front in the artillery.
In today’s climate there are many historians who with the ink fresh on their BA (Whatever) degree, rested from years at school and in an air conditioned office write of the Myth of Gallipoli. They write of the folly of the landing, the abilities of the British Commanders and the fact that we were fighting for another power and not our own sovereignty.
And they totally miss the point. It is not always about winning; It is not always about the commanders; but it is always about the men..their courage…their mate ship…their lives……their sacrifice.
If we follow our Queenslanders; on this morning 95 years ago 1,100 1st/9th soldiers landed at Gallipoli. In that famous first boat, along with LT Duncan Chapman was the CO Col Lee, Major Robertson, Major Salisbury, Captain Ryder, The Regimental Medical Officer Dr Butler , the aforementioned Jim Bostock and Bill Clever and others whose names history has misplaced.
The doctor was Kilcoy born and Ipswich grammar educated and he had lost some of his stretcher bearers in the deadly fire of the first couple of minutes and in Clarrie Wrenches book “Campaigning with the fighting Ninth” it is said that this fact made the doctor very angry.
So angry that he yelled “Come on men we must take that gun” and started climbing the cliff with his revolver in hand. Soldiers followed, the gun was spiked…….the Turks bayoneted.
This is the RMO we are talking about. The doctors assault force dashed from the disabled gun to the next trench, the line growing stronger as the troops caught up with the rampaging medico.
“On and on we went up the cliff to the summit where we had to pause “for sheer want of breath”
Looking below we saw the British ships shelling the Turkish positions, while the Turks replied by shrapnel over the landing place. Boat after boat was smashed under our eyes and the occupants mangled or drowned
The sight maddened us; “on Queenslanders” came the cry and with bayonets fixed we rushed for the Turkish position. Then we saw the enemy coming up in force. Taking advantage of every bit of cover available, we emptied our magazines into them again and again. The Turks fell like leaves but still more come. Men dropped and our numbers began to weaken.
Where are the others? Have we come too far? were questions in the minds of all
I don’t know about you but if that had been my first 30 minutes at war my reply to the first question would have been a resounding YES
After these first heady hours Dr Butler dusted off his Hypocratical oath and over the next five days treated or interred 515 Queenslanders.
In the lottery of life and death that was Gallipoli this figure was second only to the 7th for casualties at Gallipoli.
Not surprisingly the good doctor was awarded the DSO and a couple of MIDs
The 1st/9th went on to earn the following battle honours that generally read like the chapter headings of the official military history of the Australian Army in WW1
Landing at Anzac,
Defence of Anzac,
France and Flanders 1916-18
I have stood in the mess at Kelvin Grove and talked with the original Anzacs as they looked at the colours and described how they were won……..how their small contribution mattered……..how their mates are still there.
It will stay with me forever!
Over all, had our erudite scholar penning books on the myths of the 1st AIF followed the Queenslanders at Gallipoli and then on to the Western Front he may have had occasion to pause at the gravesides of 1,022 of their soldiers. They also suffered 2,093 wounded and 329 gassed leaving them with a terrible total of 3.453 battle casualties!
One battalion…….Some myth
To place these figures in perspective; this one battalion, the 9th Battalion, the 1st AIF, our local Queenslanders, suffered twice the number killed and almost the same number wounded as the entire ADF involvement in South Vietnam
That’s no myth
Today we will hear the traditional Ode from Laurence Binyon’s poem” To the Fallen” more than once, but a piece of verse that stuck in my mind over the years of remembering and commemorating was this verse by A.E.Houseman
Here dead lie we because we did not choose
To live and shame the land from which we sprung.
Life, to be sure, is nothing much to lose;
But young men think it is,
……………………………..and we were young.
Lest we forget
Grant Martin, a sailor during the war to evict Iraq from Kuwait wants PTSD recognized and a pension to compensate.
“I have to sleep in a separate bed from my wife because of violent fits and throwing punches all the time,” he said. “You’re on a knife edge all the time. You can’t sleep, you can’t relax, you can’t concentrate, it feels like your head’s going to fall off.”
All this angst because when serving on HMAS Canberra on Operation DAMASK VI following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait (November 1992 to March 1993), someone did, or didn’t issue a missile alert indicating that the Iraq military might launch a scud missile aimed at someone, somewhere.
The initial report found there was “no evidence” to support Mr Martin’s claim the Canberra took evasive action after the missile threat was announced. In contrast, the tribunal’s final decision found “there was a missile alert … (Mr Martin) perceived a very real threat from the announced missile attack”.
His subsequent illness was “war-caused”, the tribunal found, and he was “entitled to receive a pension in respect of incapacity associated with those conditions”.
A FEDERAL Court judge has backed calls for a slain commando to join his comrades on the Australian War Memorial’s Roll of Honour, despite his being killed in a botched training exercise between deployments to Afghanistan.
What sort of idiot is the Judge. If he doesn’t understand the basic tenets of the country he lives in then what is he doing on the bench?
I feel sorry for the mother, what parent wouldn’t, but wanting her son’s name on a roll of honour that is only for those killed at war is not the answer.
ONE of Australia’s leading combat battalions employed topless waitresses to serve drinks during an “Oktoberfest” party held at the unit’s Townsville base.
OMG the horror! Hetrosexual behaviour – have to put a stop to that!
The event, at which the four civilian women were encouraged to remove their clothes in defiance of direct orders from the commanding officer of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, is the latest in a line of recent military scandals.
OK, that’s a bit different then – the Corporal should be charged and punished but we shouldn’t be reading about it. A minor disciplinary matter makes the national press because of an agenda that is not necessarily in the interests of the Army.
He was charged;
During a disciplinary hearing, Colonel Bassingthwaighte found the corporal guilty of this breach, stripped him of his rank and sentenced him to 14 days detention.
but it was thrown out.
After serving his time in a cell at Sydney’s Holsworthy Barracks, the corporal lodged a petition against his conviction with a senior army officer independent of 2RAR. This review found flaws with the legal advice provided to the battalion’s commanding officer, including that he should not have been able to pass judgment on a charge of disobeying his own order. The corporal’s sentence was quashed and his rank reinstated.
I would hazard a guess that the Corporal has peaked and I can’t see him making sergeant any time soon. Not because he was involved with girls taking their tops off; not that he disobeyed a lawful command; but because he took the Commanding Officer to court and won on a legality that smells of political correctness.
That’s strange and puts aside hundreds of years of military discipline. I would have a few charges from my wild youth that I should be able to have set aside based on this finding. A lot of minor administrative matters within a battalion are detailed in what was known as Routine Orders and it was a chargeable offence to disobey Routine Orders. These orders were signed by the CO.
Is this still the case – maybe a current serving soldier could comment.
Was the senior army officer independent of 2RAR within the Corporal’s chain of command and if not, does this now set a precedence where every soldier charged and disciplined by his Commanding Officer has the right to complain to any passing officer and have offences set aside.
Seems to me that lawyers are making it harder for Officers and NCOs to apply discipline and and that can only be bad for a professional army.
Don’t you just love the consistency of the ABC. They have never heard a rumour about Aussie diggers behaving badly that they didn’t broadcast. Today marks the 100th anniversary of the Australian attack on PNG with the aim of silencing the German radio station there in what was then German New Guinea.
THE ABC claims that Australian troops in World War I took part in a “mass execution” of German troops following the battle of Bita Paka in New Guinea.
The broadcaster’s Radio National Breakfast program has obtained a single tape recording of a witness to the alleged slaughter, which the ABC says “appears to confirm the rumours” of prisoner executions.
Well good luck with that one ABC – all the article and recording prove is your anti-defence stand.
Involved in that stoush and the early attacks on German radio stations in the SW Pacific was HMAS Sydney. Sydney supported the landing and went on to sink the German cruiser Emden further north.
In the 80’s I owned an antique militaria business and one day a guy came in with a wooden plate. He said it was made by wounded Gallipoli veterans in therapy classes in Concord hospital, NSW. It was a wooden plate with ‘soldering iron” art. Not good art, but art nonetheless. The wood came from the wooden decks of the Emden as she was salvaged by the Australian authroities
He eventually gave me the plate as he said I had better claim to it than he did. I told him that I had two great uncles in the first convoy from Albany in 1914 and they would have heard of the battle as HMAS Sydney was on convoy duties when it dealt with the Emden in November 1914. My father served on the second HMAS Sydney during WW2 and I came home from my asian stoush on the 3rd HMAS Sydney.
My story got me bit of history and I have piece of the Emden in my study at home.
The plate and the inscription.
Yesterday, a service was held on board the minehunter HMAS Yarra in the waters off Rabaul to honour the 35 men who disappeared along with Australia’s first submarine AE1.
Same expedition, same battle. The submarine vanished without trace days after the Battle of Bita Paka and no sign has been found since. Well, not quite.
According to News.com the RAN have found it. According to an admiral quoted in the article it hasn’t. Either way we must be almost able to close that part of our WW1 history.
AE1 had a sister ship, named, withoutout an iota of originality as…wait for it…AE2
My wife’s cousin CDRE Terry Roach AM RAN Rtd was heavily involved in finding the AE2, the other submarine that had been sunk in the Gallipoli campaign. I’ve had the pleasure of discussing the expedition that found the sub over a beer at a family BBQ. It’s a great story.
From the AE2 website;
HMAS AE2 was the first Allied submarine to penetrate the Dardanelles in 1915 as part of the Gallipoli Campaign, on the very morning the ANZAC soldiers landed at Anzac Cove. After five hectic days “running amok”, she finally fell to Turkish gunfire and was scuttled. Her crew was captured and spent the rest of the war as Turkish POWs. AE2 lay, unseen, until in 1998 she was discovered, intact, in 73m of water in the Sea of Marmara. The SIA aims to ensure the protection, preservation and promotion of AE2, to contribute to an informed debate on her future and ensure that AE2’s contribution to the Gallipoli campaign is duly recognised by telling the story of her brave crew.
While good men and women commemorate the loss of men at war the ABC maintains its charter of denigrating the same men.
As a friend of mine says of the ABC; Sack ‘em, burn down the buildings and salt the ground.
Bill Shorten has no shame – during the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd debacle the government gutted the Defence budget in a vain attempt to balance Swan’s budget. The budget didn’t balance and Defence aquisition programmes were put back years.
Now he has the temerity to attack Abbott over the fact that a Japanese sub is one of many being considered to replace the Collins class fleet. His populist statements at Adelaide yesterday reflect his fighting for the unions, including the criminal based CFMEU, that were involved in the Collins class subs and has nothing to do with the defence of the country.
One union idiot shouted “Last time we had Jap subs, they were in bloody Sydney Harbour” referring to the midget submarine attack in 1942. I hasten to add that neither Shorten, nor his audience were even born then. It was another century and another Japan. Today’s Japan is a major defence and trade partner who, with the US and Australia, constitute the main Pacific area defence pact.
Shorten goes onto say; “This is a government with a short memory,” he said. “In the Second World War, 366 merchant ships were sunk off Australia.”
Short memory! From Wikipedia;
The 28 Japanese and German submarines that operated in Australian waters between 1942 and 1945 sank a total of 30 ships with a combined tonnage of 151,000 long tons (153,000 t); 654 people, including 200 Australian merchant seamen, were killed on board the ships attacked by submarines.
Even when he gives a speech he can’t get it right. There were 18 more ships sunk but they were as a result of surface raiders, both German and Japanese, but I presumed Shortens populist spray was directed at the Japanese only.
German….hmmn. Their submarines are also in the mix for selection. The cost of 12 German submarines would cost us $20 billion, The Japanese Soryu Class submarine would come at a similar cost while should Australia go Shorten’s way it would cost us $50 billion.
$30 billion cheaper – you would have to consider it and think what you could do with that money. Maybe it could go to paying off some of the debt Shorten’s mob have left us.
Due to the fact that the ALP killed Defence planning with their budget cuts we have a potential problem of having gap with no submarines at all. For this reason, and considering costs, something the ALP never did, the Japanese solution looks like a winner.
Quicker and cheaper potentially eliminating the no-submarine gap.
The decision is due later this year and I’m sure that a lot of the work will be done in Australia if the project goes ahead but from my point of view, the less union involvement the better.
A letter to the The Australian’s editor
….There is no military threat to Australia, and as a fiscal conservative, I think it obscene to spend $12 billion on unnecessary fighter jets when the nation is broke.
Fabio Scalia, Windsor, Vic
Just a couple of points Fabio; the country isn’t broke, we just have to recover from the ALP spendathon, and
there is no military threat to Australia because we do things like spend billions on high level defence equipment.