Category Archives: Defence


From 04:30 to 20:30 makes it a long day and I start to feel my age, particularly when I’m required to walk any distance. I couldn’t lead my Battalion association in Brisbane because the old legs won’t last the distance at marching pace and as it took me so long to move anywhere I actually missed viewing the march as well.

Daughter chauffeured during the day and Son and his sons escorted me down to the reunion pub. The family pitch in to make it all possible and for one day of the year I stop being independent.

At the Dawn Service at the National Memorial Walk, the Catafalque Party were actually an armed patrol, dressed in patrol order and when the party dismounted they moved in patrol formation checking their arcs and covering each other as they moved through the hundreds of trees – each tree representing a soldier of the Regiment who had died on active service. They moved until they became ghostly apparitions and then finally invisible in the pre-dawn light and they had this old soldier’s undivided attention.

I am the typical Army Officer, albeit long retired, and would be expected to insist on the maintenance of long held traditions. The Catafalque Party has always been soldiers dressed in ceremonial Uniforms drilling as dictated to by the Army Drill Manual. The drill movements are difficult but significant, particularly the ‘Rest on the Arms Reverse’ as the linked DVA site mentions;

The origin of the tradition of resting on reversed arms is lost in time, however, it was used by a Commonwealth soldier at the execution of Charles I in 1649 (the soldier was, however, duly punished for his symbolic gesture towards the King’s death) and it is recorded that at the funeral for Marlborough, in 1722, the troops carried out a formal reverse arms drill, which was especially invented for the service, as a unique sign of respect to the great soldier.

The ‘modern trend’ of sticking rifles upside down into the ground as a temporary memorial to a fallen soldier (with a helmet or a hat over the butt) originated with the introduction of tanks. When a soldier fell during an advance his mate would pick up the rifle and stick it into the ground, by the bayonet, as a marker to indicate to the tanks that a wounded or dead soldier lay there; this way the armoured vehicle would not accidentally run over the body.

But as I watched spellbound, I thought what better guard than a new generation of professional soldiers in patrol formation – ready to fight.

The Party came from the Rear Details of the local battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment. Rear Details is Army talk for those left behind in Australia while the rest of the Battalion serves in Afghanistan.

They were thinking of their mates and I was thinking of mine – a generational divide is joined by young men who would rather be overseas but who accept their lot and pay homage to soldiers that have gone before them.

Damn! They look young and fit. No problems with their legs – yet.

I met a lot of Afghanistan vets during the day and if anyone thinks they don’t want to be there they are deluding themselves. All the conversations of the ‘yet to go’ mob were about their chances of getting overseas before the Politicians pull the pin and the conversations of the ‘already been there” were their chances of getting back. Of the later group the most common expressed opinion was that they fully believed they had made a difference to the people of Afghanistan.

I spoke at length to a young recce Captain (I was recce myself so we had that in common) and he extolled the capabilities of the Afghanistan military. I was a little surprised but he was adamant. On the whole, they were good troops and hard when it mattered.

I believed him.

Talking to him it was plain that our defence force is in good hands and they are as good as we thought we were, if not better.

Smith simply doesn’t respect the ADF

I started the last post with this: I’ve always maintained that the ALP do not like the ADF. Readers took to me to task and one even abused me as he raced to justify Minister Smith’s latest foray into attacking Defence.

My opinion still stands and has been confirmed by this morning’s article in The Age by MAJGEN John Cantwell.

Some extracts:

I spent long hours over many sessions briefing the then minister, Joel Fitzgibbon. It was a painful process. Fitzgibbon was out of his depth. He simply didn’t get it. Not only could he not understand what we were trying to tell him, he didn’t put in the time to try to get across his brief.
He was an auto-electrician in a suit.

But at least Fitzgibbon occasionally expressed a desire to do the right thing by the service personnel who delivered our military capability.

Not so Smith. Reflecting on Smith’s visit to Afghanistan MAJGEN Cantwell recalls;

…the abiding impression I was left with was that he merely tolerated people like me and the troops I commanded. I cast around in my mind for the element that seemed to be missing in his dealings with the men and women of the ADF who I led. Then I had it: respect. Smith had no respect for those who chose to serve in uniform for their country. It was an uncomfortable insight.

He closes with this;

I sense that the judgment I formed in 2010 was on the money. There’s no respect, and it works both ways.

Read more

ADF vs the Defence Minister and the Media

I’ve always maintained that the ALP do not like the ADF. They hate the officer system and spend most of their time in the treasury benches initiating inquiries that all seem to recommend less money while demanding the same service. As in they are currently demanding a $20 billion savings over then next decade in the defence budget.

This current mob appears to have an agenda to denigrate the military in any way they can. I heard on the ABC today that one of Defence Minister Smith’s inquisitions have identified 757 cases of sexual misconduct some of which occurred in the 1950s. The 1950s FFS! Who can remember anything sexual from that far back. I’ve got another one for them. In the 70s whilst the battalion were practicing for a parade the RSM said I looked like a kangaroo dog rooting a marble.

I think a lot of the 757 cases will be at about that level.. I did hear old mate Duncan Lewis (now Secretary of Defence), interviewed and he did say some of the cases are serious. I”m sure they are but hey, it looks like we are talking about 60 years of misconduct – that ain’t all that bad. Maybe a standard week at University’s ‘O’ weeks

Jack Waterford at the Canberra Times says Diggers need just a little slack;

WAS EVER so much nonsense spoken as when politicians, journalists and feminist and ethnic icons vie with ancient generals, clergymen and academics to condemn the latest evidences that our soldiers, sailors and air persons are profane, cynical and somewhat racist and sexist young men and women?

Read more …

As if all this wasn’t bad enough, Defence has been lumbered with Smith as Minister. His opinion of the military and procedural knowledge of same has been clearly shown to be lacking. He sacked Kafer, the Commandant of ADFA despite there being no evidence that he had acted incompetently or had made an error of judgement in the Skype/sex ADFA video.

The Smith initiated inquisition found no evidence of incompetence and yet Smith has sat on that report for three months and only now does Kafer get to sit in the Commandants chair at ADFA.

Smith doesn’t give up easy though “I remain of the view that this was an error of judgment,” he says even after reading the report that categorically said that Kafer did not make an error of judgement.

and this;

Asked if Commodore Kafer had his full confidence, Mr Smith sidestepped the question, saying he had full confidence in Australian Defence Force chief David Hurley and other defence leaders

Tosser! I can promise him that the ADF do not have any confidence in their minister.

….and Smith was mentioned as a potential PM – what is it with these people?


Back of the envelope quick calculations by reader Harry Buttle indicate that;

[the ADF] sexual assault figures comes out at 5.3 per month per 80,000 persons, or to put it another way means that as a group, on this particular crime over the last 60 years, the military is in fact more than 5 x more law abiding than society in general.

No sexual assault is acceptable, but this looks like another hatchet job.

Read more

Viet Vets in trouble again

Aussie Vietnam Vets have hit the news big time. The final volume of the official history of the Australians in the Vietnam War is about to be released and the entire volume must be about Vietnam Vets and their drinking problem.

Google answered vietnam war history+alcohol abuse with 18 million hits. I had to click forward to page 12 before I found someone else other than Aussies having a drinking problem. Our alcohol abuse has been spread across the world and everyone’s talking about it.

I’m actually reasonably confident that the final volume mentions matters other than alcohol abuse but someone has obviously seen fit to underline the problem so that the people who abused us then, and still do, can add alcoholism to our sins. It fits seamlessly with shooting and killing the good guys, being US puppets, killing babies, raping women, and all the other communist propaganda inventions. Having these ‘sins’ thrown at us by Aussie uni students during breaks from collecting money for the Viet Cong ammo fund, goes partway to understanding the horrific PTSD roll from the war

Doesn’t matter – we’re used to the abuse, or at least we have learned not to take it to heart.

Considering most times I got back off patrol the first night in the boozer was effectively a wake I actually don’t care what non-vets think. Five or six cans is binge drinking? Come on…give me a break princess. Five or six cans goes nowhere near putting the black dog back in his kennel.

I definitely remember one patrol that lasted a month so there is 30 days of beer I never got. If I came back dirty,stressed and in mourning and consequently had too much to drink and someone from the 142nd Blog Comments Platoon, safe in their clean, neat, safe house finds that is cause to denigrate my service then get out of the debate.

I’m not listening anymore.

Politically incorrect Diggers

Some Diggers are in trouble for using intemperate, politically incorrect language on a private Facebook page. The Chief of Army. General Morrison is very angry as are lots of precious souls, Army haters, Multiculturists and fellow travellers.

The site refers to Muslims as “ragheads”, suggests immigrants are not welcome, and one post says “all women are filthy, lying whores”.

I can only suggest that the diggers see the Facebook page as their private space. In my days it was the diggers boozer and one could feel free to say whatever you liked so long as the other guys generally agreed. When they didn’t, when one got out of line, he was hauled back in. Sometimes with physical force.

NCOs and officers weren’t allowed in there, let alone Generals, and that is right and correct. They need there own space and having been a member of all the messes in my time I know it more than most.

Language was often offensive, obscene, misogynistic, racial and disrespectful. Sometimes funny, sometimes sad, often insulting but seldom malicious.

Which is what you will encounter in pretty well any group of young men socializing after work. Been drinking with young tradesman lately, with bushies in a country pub, with miners…truck drivers… ?

Clearly a lot of commentators haven’t. They seem to be so hugely offended by these posts I wonder whether they shouldn’t get out more and meet some people outside their own immediate circle. I see no big problem with the comments about “ragheads’ and “boat people” but the “filthy lying whores” quote is a bit off.

Maybe the digger had been treated poorly of late by a girl and he was lashing out. I think he thought he was lashing out in a private domain, like the Diggers boozer of old, and in effect he was until someone forced entry to the site. It might astound the genteel types but a lot of young men talk like that when they are amongst their mates – So do a lot of older men.

My reading of the matter is that the Facebook page is a private forum. It was never intended for the general public to read it and I’m sure the General wasn’t invited.

So, do they have any privacy? When I think I’m alone I can sometime say things that I wouldn’t want others to hear and I’ve certainly said things to others when I was in the Army that would horrify those genteel types who never get out. Most likely aimed at them and their politically correct ways.

I presume the incident received prominence because it involves soldiers but they are only a reflection of society generally so maybe we should all take a chill pill and concentrate on hating murderers, rapists, pedophiles and the like.

Chris Uhlman interviews General Morrison COA. Link here

Mike Kelly – soldier extraordinaire…….not

Besides running this site I’m also Webmaster for my regimental site and this morning I had occasion to post a letter from Neil Weekes, AM, MC, to Dr. Mike Kelly,AM, ALP Mp for Eden Monaro. I have written on this turkey before and to get a feel for the man and what we ex-military think of him, and conversely, what he thinks of us, you should read both posts.

He is on record as saying …..”my career in many war zones came at great threat to my life in countless situations…..I was forced to fight with my rifle in every way it is possible to use it, including butt stroke and bayonet….”

Considering he was, in my memory, a military lawyer, I thought this a bit rich.

The article quotes the Australian War Memorial, as stating the last bayonet charge by Australian forces was carried out in Vietnam by 5 Platoon 6RAR during Operation Bribie on February 17, 1967.

According to Wikipaedia however, a later bayonet attack by Australians was conducted in May 1968 at the Battle of Coral when a then Lieutenant Neil Weekes ordered his men to fix bayonets.

Even with the artillery and mortars concentrating on close defensive fire tasks, the assault was largely held at the perimeter, although they did succeed in over-running part of 3 Platoon, A Company. Commanded by Lieutenant Neil Weekes, the platoon had been hit heavily by indirect fire during the initial bombardment and had suffered several casualties. Concentrating on the gap created in the Australian perimeter, the North Vietnamese then assaulted with the support of 12.7 mm DShK heavy machine-guns. Ordering his men to fix bayonets, Weekes successfully reorganised the defences however, and called in close mortar fire to stabilise the position, resulting in heavy casualties among the assaulting force. He was later awarded the Military Cross for his leadership.[78][80]

Link – look under Second attack on FSB Coral, 16 May 1968

Nice bit of symmetry there, don’t you think? One wonders if Kelly knows of Neil’s history and if he does, does he cringe when he thinks of what he himself has claimed to have done. I doubt it.

In this article in the Townsville Bulletin he denies saying he was involved in a bayonet attack but “butt stroke and bayonet” clearly suggests to Infantrymen that he is claiming he was.

Another article in the Canberra Times entitled “Somalia to Eden-Monaro: How Mike Kelly fought a murderous warlord all the way to a firing squad’ only refers to Kelly being involved in the legalities of having a warlord executed. The article is, however, short on details of “butt stroking and bayoneting” unless that’s how the warlord was disposed.

Seems more like a puff piece by the Canberra Times aimed at getting Kelly elected.

He claims to be one of us yet deserts us when we need him – typical ALP.


Sailors to be compensated

Remember the Sailors aboard HMAS Success who where relieved of duty and flown home from Singapore for alleged sexual misconduct?

If not, read this before you go on.

More over the fold

Osama bin Laden

A great day for civilzation.

THE body of al-Qai’da leader Osama bin Laden has been buried at sea after he was tracked down and killed by the United States in a daring raid on his hiding place in Pakistan, a US official said.

No shrines in the ocean for terrorists to worship at – good move.

Well done those men!

More here

ANZAC Day bitterness

I know ANZAC Day is over but reading The Drum I am moved to comment once more on the day. The Punch, being The Punch, has dug up a conscientious objector to denigrate all that is service to the country. I am ambivalent about these people and don’t despise or denigrate them but I do think they should be starved of oxygen and allowed to wither in their bitter memories without being heard.

One of the comments left there struck a chord. Have a read of Mr Happy.

I have never marched and as a Vietnam vet ( 3RAR 1971) I say: what a huge relief that Anzac Day has come and gone. That highly stylized ritual massaged by well fed Anglo Celtic politicians, invoking Homeric images of the bronzed Anzac warrior, delivered with the sincerity and well rehearsed solemnity of undertakers presiding over a long dead corpse. The alleged ‘sacredness’ of the commemoration never fails to obscure the alternative narrative: In 1788 British settlers became the original ‘Fringe Dwellers’ with guns. Fanning out , they destroyed an advanced and diverse indigenous society. Later , they morphed into ‘Australians’ , and volunteered – sometimes with embarrassing alacrity – in a variety of imperial ventures or were complicit in the destruction of other people’s societies. Eg The Sudan, Boer War, Chinese Boxer Rebellion, invasion of Ottoman Turkey and, towards the end of WW1, even managed to squeeze in an invasion of the fledgling Soviet Republics. Then of course Korea, Vietnam, and more recently Iraq and Afghanistan .

When this narrative supplants the state sponsored ‘dead corpse’ of Anzac Day, then, and only then will contemporary Australia achieve a measure of cultural sophistication, and embrace a more historically authentic story to commemorate service and sacrifice.

I replied;

Wow! I bet you’re a lot of fun at a party – maybe it’s a good thing you don’t join us on ANZAC Day. While we commemorate lost comrades and celebrate living ones you would be harping on the side about us invoking Homeric images of the bronzed Anzac warrior.

I bet you were a hoot in your platoon. I don’t even know who your NCO was but I do feel sorry for him.

Well written, bitter words that say more about you than those of us who served and choose to remember.

Those who choose not to march and those who prefer not to remember at all, are used by the anti-military mob to suggest ANZAC Day is pointless or losing it’s significance. As in “My uncle never ever marched”

It does nothing of the sort – it simply reflects that some are bitter, some are indifferent and some are still troubled by things they’ve seen and done.

The majority, however choose to participate and I don’t think you should denigrate us for doing so. We served, we are proud that we did and if later in life you became bitter about it or earlier in life chose to avoid service for ideological or whatever reasons, then fine.

If you despise ANZAC Day and what it represents so much then don’t talk about it. If we offend your sensibilities to such an extent that you think we shouldn’t have tried to stop Imperial Germany, Hitler, The Japs and assorted communists from taking over the world then retreat to your bitter bunker and stay silent while others secure your life style.

Even though you have served and are obviously educated you still can’t work out that to achieve your measure of cultural sophistication you need soldiers to first secure the civilization.

ANZAC Day in Albany

I am in Albany WA visiting my 92 year old mother but as ANZAC Day coincides with my visit I am also here to attend Dawn Service at the home of my fathers.

My Great Grandfather, born in 1844 to a British soldier and wife serving in what was then Van Dieman’s Land, brought the family here in the 1890s. Three of his sons went to the Boer War with two serving in the Permanent Coastal Artillery Battery in the Forts overlooking the town. One of these, Sydney Frederick Gillett, was my paternal Grandfather. These forts were developed earlier in the 1800s to counter French and Russian threats to the British Empire. French presence in those earlier days of settlement lives on in all the French named geographical points around the South West Coast of WA.

Don’t know what happened to the Russians – most probably had a revolution on board and forgot to leave any names on the map.

In 1959 I also attended the Forts at Albany. The West Australian Education dept hadn’t caught up with us pure Baby Boomers, those of us born in 1946, so all 1st Year High School kids of that year attended school in pubic buildings around town. Some went to churches, some to halls and some to the Forts. My first year lessons at high school were conducted under the watchful eyes of Grandfather and Great Uncle as they stared down from old military photos hanging in the Military Institute Hall.

In 1939 my father enlisted in the RANR and often came through his home port as he went to and fro to Asia and back protecting troop ships and convoys whilst a sailor on board HMAS Sydney and later, on board Mine Sweepers.

The first Dawn Service anywhere was conducted in Albany WA.

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.

extract from an address I gave at last years ANZAC Day service in Brisbane

Over all my years I have never attended a Dawn Service here at my home port.

Tomorrow that will be addressed.

I wish all veterans and all those who support us, a meaningful ANZAC Day and if you end up fighting battles again do it better and don’t make the same mistakes twice.

I remember all the friends of my fathers and myself whose souls we left on foreign shores – may they all rest in peace and may their widows and family be consoled by the value of their sacrifice.

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