Lancers' Despatch 25
Website of the Royal New South Wales Lancers Lancer Barracks and Museum
A Glimse in Time 1899
A Lancer Makes 100+
Photos and text by the editor unless otherwise noted.
Sunday 3 November 2013 - Regimental Reunion, 11:00 - 14:00 Lancer Barracks, dress neat casual.
Times they are a changing. Project Beersheba is proceeding apace. The idea, I understand (and I may not have the bull by the horns) is to have an Army organised as follows: a Brigade deployed on operations; a Brigade that has returned from operations and is refitting; and a Brigade that is preparing to be deployed on operations; on an annual cycle. The brigades will be light, non-mechanised infantry with armoured and ground mobility elements provided by the Armoured and Transport corps. The armoured commitment to each brigade is to be an Armoured/Reconnaissance Regiment to consist of a Tank squadron equipped with M1 Abrahams Tanks, a Reconnaissance squadron equipped with ASLAVs and an armoured mobility squadron equipped with M113s and some Bushmasters. There is also an intention that protected mobility lift capability will be provided by the Transport Corps using Bushmasters.
As we only have two operational Tank Squadrons in 1AR, there can only be two complete Armoured/Reconnaissance Regiments, they will be provided by the Army’s ARA component. ARES component units will be equipped with Bushmasters. They will nominally function to provide protected mobility round-out.
The RAACA NT has sent me a copy of their Newsletter, DOWNLOAD HERE. Reports from 1AR and 2CAV give some insight into what is happening with the Armoured/Reconnaissance Regiment trials. Those of us who served in the 1970s will of course remember the days of the RAAC Regiment. Interesting, at that time due to logistics considerations Tanks were never fully integrated with Recon and APC squadron units because of the incompatibility of the Leopard and M113 vehicle families. Now there are four vehicle families Abrahams, ASLAV, M113 and Bushmaster; one would consider the development of a single echelon to cater for all will be a challenge.
I trust you enjoy this edition of Lancers’ Despatch. A lot of people have contributed; all get a by line. I would also like to thank Michael McGraw who contributed a number of photographs, Ross Brown, Rob Lording and Brian Walters for their proof reading.
Lieutenant Colonel Robert Lording Commanding Officer
The Regiment commenced training at the beginning of 2013 with a comparatively low tempo following the constraints which had been imposed on Army Reserve Training Salaries (ARTS) late last year. This initially limited training to just two parade nights per month and a single weekend in the first quarter, but with careful management and a modest increase in ARTS allocation, this was increased in the remaining months up to the end of the financial year. I am happy to report that our Training Activity Resource Plan (TARP) for 2013-14 has seen further increases which will enable the unit to conduct a greater number of training activities.
Training has focused on the basic tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) of the Light Cavalry capability. This has included the occupation and conduct of observation posts, dismounted patrolling and reconnaissance and more recently an introduction to urban operations. A training weekend was conducted at the NSW Police CIRT facility near Goulburn, where personnel from A & B Squadrons were trained in methods for entering and performing low risk search of buildings. This proved to be an interesting activity which highlighted the complexity of conducting operations in close urban terrain and the need to apply stringent rules of engagement that characterise contemporary operating environments. These skills will be further developed and tested in training activities focusing on cordon and search.
Importantly, the Regiment conducted a field firing range practice at Singleton in May in order to maintain weapons skills and proficiencies. The section defence practice saw the employment of all small arms weapon systems up to .50 cal to test individual weapon handling as well as the application and control of fire.
The Regimental training program will culminate in a troop competition to be conducted at Holsworthy Training Area in mid-November. This will be a very an intensive 2-day program of activities which will challenge personnel in individual skills and evaluate the training standards that have been achieved through out the year. A selection of awards will be presented at the conclusion by the Honorary Colonel.
In March, I was pleased to be able to promote two members of the Regiment. After many years of dedicated service to the Regimental Band, David Pragnell was promoted to Warrant Officer Class Two, while Christopher Reynolds was promoted to Corporal. At the same time, Lieutenant Liam Fuller was commissioned into the RAAC and posted to the Regiment after completing his First Appointment Course. He is resident in Canberra and has joined B Squadron where he is preparing for his Regimental Officers Basic Course (ROBC).
It is particularly pleasing to note that Lieutenants Bannerman, Smith and Goodwin all successfully completed the final phase of their ROBC in the first quarter of the year and are now fully qualified. Each of the officers performed with great credit on the course and LT Bannerman was the student of merit. In recognition of their accomplishments they have ‘won their spurs’ which have been presented and which are to be worn with Mess uniforms – a tradition which I hope will continue while we remain a cavalry regiment.
In early June, the Regiment received a request to nominate personnel for deployment on Op RESOLUTE, which is the ADF’s contribution to the protection of Australia’s borders and offshore maritime interests. As a result of the very short notice, all administrative preparations had to be completed in two weeks, including Navy swim tests, medical and dental examinations as well as the myriad of related documentation needed for employment on continuous fulltime service. This was only possible as a result of the excellent work done by SGT Beau St Leone, SGT Tim Hite and members of the Ops Cell.
Five members of the Regiment were eventually selected for employment within the Transit Security Element and moved to Darwin in late June to commence force preparation training. On successful conclusion of the training they will be employed in a range of activities with the Royal Australian Navy and as part of the whole of government response to border protection. Members will be eligible for the award of the recently approved Operational Service Medal. We wish them a challenging, safe and rewarding deployment and look forward to seeing them on return at the end of the year.
At this stage, there is still no definitive news regarding the allocation of Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicles to the Regiment. However, the impending unit establishment reviews will provide greater clarity of the role the Regiment is to undertake when converted to Protected Lift and inform revised structure, manning and equipment. In the meantime, efforts are being made to get individual members qualified as drivers, crew commanders and instructors so that we have a solid foundation to commence the transition when vehicles arrive.
The unit also received notification that the M113 upgrade project has reached its conclusion and the fleet manager has sought expressions of interest for disposal of remaining vehicles. A submission has been prepared requesting allocation of an M113 Armoured Personnel Carrier and M577 Armoured Command Vehicle to add to the Museum’s collection of historic vehicles. This has not yet been approved but we remain optimistic that it will be approved and look forward to providing an update in the next edition.
Tenax in Fide
The past six months have seen some strides with respect to our Museum. We raised the funds to have the 1904 King’s Banner, and General De la Rey’s pennant conserved and look forward to having them on display when the task is complete. Two new display cabinets grace the Boer War Room, and work continues on ACE and the Staghound. The work required and the standard reached can be seen in the illustrations below. On the left we have the Matilda’s two Leyland 6 cylinder diesel engines stripped down in an as found condition. On the right the result of our conservation team’s work.
The target for completion of both these major vehicle restoration tasks is August 2014 when we intend they will parade through the streets of Parramatta in a pageant to mark the formation of the 1st Light Horse AIF where almost all of the Regiment joined and commenced their training for World War 1.
Congratulations go to all Museum volunteers for a job very well done.
The Museum is well patronised. The most successful patronisation at least financially consisting of booked bus tours, see the illustration below of a tour group from Richmond RSL. Our vehicles and mobile Museum have also been out and about, turning up at Bunnings stores around ANZAC Day, local processions like that at Penrith on 16 March 2013 and at special commemorations like the Battle of Greece and Crete at the Cenotaph on 18 May 2013 where the Lancers' Band also contributed.
Our Association and its members have been very active in the past six months. An influx of younger members has seen us able to mount the largest unit contingents at the ANZAC and Reserve Forces Day parades. Association members Tony Fryer and Mick McConnell serve as secretaries of the St Marys and Penrith RSL Sub-Branches. Both have recently achieved milestones for their clubs. Tony Fryer organising the St Marys RSL Corridor of Honour, and Mick McConnell the completion and dedication by Her Excellency the Governor of the new Penrith War Memorial. Tony was able to access Museum photos for the Corridor exhibition (the photo on the right of the corridor illustration below comes from the Museum's collection). Penrith and St Marys have been catchment areas for regimental recruiting since the regiment was formed; sub-units being based in the area for short periods in the 1890s - 1900s and 1980s – 1990s.
You may be aware that the national body of the Royal Australian Armoured Corps Association has ceased to exist. It was a body incorporated in Victoria with chapters in most states and territories all of which were separately incorporated within the local jurisdiction.
It has been replaced by the Royal Australian Armoured Corps Corporation. This body was the brainchild of the late Brigadier Bryant, and designed to better serve the needs of serving and past serving Armoured soldiers. The state and territory chapters continue; our local New South Wales Association is as strong as ever it has been, recently launching its own website.
The Royal New South Wales Lancers Association is represented on the council. Recently we were asked to put forward a paper detailing the priorities that we consider the Corporation should pursue. The summary of that paper emphasised:
The paper goes into some detail about our Regimental, Association and Museum issues. It will be discussed at a meeting of the Corps Corporation executive scheduled for early October. The full paper can be DOWLOADED HERE.
A full press release on the RAAC Corporation can be DOWNLOADED HERE.
Major David Brown
The Graphic was a British weekly illustrated newspaper, first published in 1869. A competitor to the well known Illustrated London News it was published weekly on Saturday and became a successful rival, mainly due to its appeal to middle class readers and its use of more vivid imagery.
When the NSW Lancer contingent arrived in London in April 1899 for six months training they received some coverage in the Graphic. When the Lancers departed for South Africa they appeared on the Front page of the Graphic on Saturday 14 October 1899.
Below are images of the Squadron marching through London behind the Band of the Coldstream Guards, their arrival at Aldershot in Hampshire (where they were quartered with the 6th Dragoon Guards [now the Royal Dragoon Guards]), and their departure for Capetown in October 1899.
Some of these images proudly hang in the Officers' Mess at Lancer Barracks.
David Craven and Bert Castelleri
The 1st Australian Tank Battalion (Royal New South Wales Lancers), as we were in 1942, was a very young unit. Most of us had been called up as 18 year oIds and we transferred to the A1F when the opportunity came in mid-1942. Most of the lieutenants were 21 or 22. One of them, David Craven, said Lieutenant John Gordon (Jack) Emmott, who joined the unit late in 1942, was seen as a bit of a father figure 10 you lads. He was 29. Hardly a grey beard, but he was recognised as being mature and experienced.
Jack Emmott is still with us. On 20 February, this year (2013), Jack celebrated his 100th birthday with family and friends. He and his wife of 67years, Marion, live in the house at BodaIIa on the south coast. Witch has been their home since they married In 1946. They have one son and two daughters, five grand children, and four great grand children.
Jack Emmott had joined the militia in June, 1941, and was stationed at Goulburn with the 14th Machine Gun Battalion. He was commissioned later that year. He became a troop leader in C Squadron of the 1st Tank Battalion but when the unit arrived at Langemak Bay in New Guinea in October, 1943, he was in a very different role. Jack had been posted as one of two reconnaissance officers.
On the night of 20 October,1943. C Squadron was in a convoy moving into Langemak Bay. the officers and men knew nothing of the area they had come to, did not possess a map of it and were relying on guides they believed would meet them, says the unit history. On board one LST the C Squadron OC Major Sam Horden, under pressure from !he ship's captain who feared the Japanese dive bombers overhead, gave a last minute countdown as the landing ramp started to go down, 'Troop Leaders, take over'.
The history continues: 'A torch blinked from the blackness outside and then appeared Lieutenant Emmott, wading waist deep through the water and climbing onto the ramp. He had been with the 9th Division for about seven weeks, and his appearance at this juncture was reassuring to C Squadron…'
Jack's role was liaison and reconnaissance during the Huon Peninsula campaign he was rarely in a tank but outside, often with Sam Hordern, slogging along with the advancing infantry and shepherding the tanks. Sam and Jack were ground breaking, not literally - the tanks did that - but in proving that tanks could operate against all the odds in territory in which for much of the time they had to make their own tracks while keeping up with, and sometimes moving ahead of the infantry.
This is not to discount the tremendous task of the supporting engineers who were using their equipment and bulldozers to dear obstacles. or that of the fitters and mechanics of the 209 light Aid Detachment working in the dangerous conditions to help keep the tanks going.
As the Australians approached Sattelberg the Japanese forces on Coconut Ridge were laying down the heaviest fire that had been met High explosive fire from 75 and 57 mm guns, Juki (Woodpecker) heavy and light machine guns pinned down the infantry. Tanks were moved In and smashed a track through to the enemy positions and knocked them out later in the day. intense fire pinned down the infantry again and a tank pushed 80 metres through dense jungle to engage the enemy. ‘The growth was so thick that the crew were completely blinded and were guided by the reliable Lieutenant Emmot’ (Regimental History),
Sam Hordern and Jack Emmott continued to operate dismounted talking to the tank crews via walkie talkies. Earty in December the Japanese made a surprise attack at Lakona opening fire with rifle and automatic weapons on the infantry and causing casualties. Sam Hordern and Jack Emmott. using the walkie talkies, manoeuvred tanks to a position in jungle so thick that though separated by only 10 metres the crew of one lank could not see the others. But they were able to see the Japanese. "The battle raged furiously for an hour before the Japanese fled in disorder, leaving piles of equipment and many dead" (Regimental history)
Jack returned to Australia with the main body of the 1st Tank Battalion in August, 1944. He wasn't home very long before he was posted to a War Office Trials Detachment which went to New Guinea with a Churchill tank and a Sherman tank to test their capabilities In the tropics. They landed at Mililat Plantation, near Madang, where the rear-guard of the 1st Tank Battalion was preparing A and C Squadron tanks to be handed over to the 2/4th Armoured Regiment.
'Tank Tracks' the history of the 2/4th says reports on the trials were to be sent to the War Office in London via the usual channels, of course; it would be interesting to know where the reports are now pigeonholed, No Churchills or Shermans were acquired for Australian forces, the war was ending, unknown to anybody. The Australian Government was trying to get another50 Matildas preferably armed with the 762 mm howitzer which had proved to be the most effective weapon on the Matildas.
Page 422 in the Regimental history lists the Honours and Awards of World War 2 and show Sam Hordem having received an OBE and Jack Emmott a Mention in Despatches (MID).
We turn now to a report by Jeanne Medlicott In the south coast newspaper, the Narcoma News. recording Jack's arrival at the 100 mark.
He had begun his working life in a dairy and resumed it on leaving the army after World War 2. The dairy industry has had many ups and downs over the years but the Emmotts stuck it out.
Ms Medlicott writes:
"In 1945 Jack was in Borneo (posted to A Squadron as replacement recce officer.) His father became extremely ill and Jack applied for and obtained compassionate leave. The day that Jack returned to Australia Japan surrendered and peace was. declared. (Jack was discharged on 18 October, 1945. He was 38.)
Jack was born in 1913 in Moruya where his father had the general store. He was 10 years old when the family bought Riverview farm at Bodalla. ‘I had many happy years of that farm.' Jack said. ‘We had a rowboat on the river and I used to shoot rabbits.'
In 1926 Mr Emmott Snr had had enough of running his Moruya business and moved to Bodalla to Holm Farm and built the house Jack and Marion still live in.
Jack left school in 1927 and started working on the farm. ln 1932 during the depression things were tough so Jack started helping the farm's resident families with the milking.
‘Up until 1936 we milked by hand, then there were machines run by a small diesel motor.’ Jack said. 'The mains power didn't come through until 1952.'
Jack and Marion married in January, 1946. We set up house in my family home because his parents had moved back to Moruya. They raised three children and kept the dairy going. Jack became chairman of the Bodalla Co-operative Cheese Society from 1946 until 1983. In 1977 they sold the farm to the Bodalla company but kept the house and towo hectares around it
Ms Medlicotts story concludes: - Longevity in the Emmott family is hereditary, Jack reckons. with both his mother and father living into their nineties, and Jack'ssister May died only last year at the age of 100.
In August, 1944, the rear party of the 1st Australian Tank Battalion (Royal New South Wales Lancers) arrived at Miliat Plantation. 13 kilometres north of Madang. The tanks of A and C Squadrons and RHQ arrived shortly after and were unloaded from the ship into which they had been loaded at Finschafen. We would have preferred an LST for the job but you had to take what was available. The tanks were in good condition but minus a number of personal items which had been left on them by the crews, The loss was never explained but I understand reported to transport officers who no doubt had some interesting exchanges with the ship's crew.
Our camp was on open, flat ground with the plantation’s healthy looking coconut palms, which did not appear to have been severely damaged. to the north. The Encyclopaedia of Papua and New Guinea (MUP, 1972) describes this part of the coast as ‘slightly undulating raised coral reefs.’ The only sign of the recent conflict was an abandoned well designed Japanese tracked vehicle, unarmoured and unarmed, which could have been the Jungle version of a command car.
We were to prepare our neat1y 40 tanks to be handed over to the 2/4th Armoured Regiment. The tanks were lined up abreast in the open. The weather was dry at this time of the year, The daytime temperature was usually in the 27 to 30 degree range. The nights were still and calm much as portrayed In romantic movies. We were able to leave the tanks uncovered and open. My tank was on the end of the row nearest to the camp.
Every day we did a thorough check and maintenance and had them ready to be used. The 1st Tank Battalion Workshop (formerly 209 LAD) detachment checked the more complicated works like the epicyclical gear boxes which to us were just wheels within wheels. We were well up on our dally tasks and were soon being detailed to jobs like digging latrine pits in that concrete hard ground. However, several lakatois (native outrigger canoes) were taken on strength and in the afternoon teams were running races on the bordering river.
One night ear1y in September there was a sudden change. We were art asleep. About 01:00. there was loud bang. I woke and sat up looking for my boots wondering If this was an emergency. However, nothing. It was quiet and still again. Everyone else was still asleep and had not even stirred. There was no call out by the guard. I thought a 200 litre drum might have fallen over or something like that and went back to sleep.
In the morning straight after breakfast I went up to my tank and as I approached could see that the engines were running. Trouble. I ran up, put my head into the driver's compartment and pulled the lever cutting off the motors. There was a smell of burning and then I saw the cables running from the batteries 10 the starter motors had been burned out. I climbed into the turret. The burnt cables ran into the engine compartment. Then I found the cause of that bang In the night.
I opened the inspection slides to look into the engines and then noticed a two pounder shell case on the floor of the turret near where I was sitting. I looked to my right and saw the shell rack had been slightly damaged. I guessed that an AP round had gone off. An HE would have caused considerably more damage. I couldn't see into the rack so I was unable to confirm that it was AP. The shell case must have blown back with great force but had not hit shells in other side of the turret. The previous day I had been sitting in the same position before the inspection slides. If the round had gone off while I was there it would have hit me on the right side at chest level In which case I would not be writing this piece.
I immediately reported what I had found and minutes later the tank was in the hands of some of the workshop's fitters. mechanics and electricians and under rapid repair. I was standing by but they disregarded me and got on with the job. Shortly after I was told to report to one of the sergeants who said, ‘Get your gear ready. You're going home.’ I wasn't going to ask questions and at that moment saw a barge unloading a Churchill tank standing out in its sandy yellow desert colours. This was part of the War Office Trials Detachment to test the Churchill and a Shennan in the islands. Lieutenant Jack Emmott had been posted from the 1st Tank Battalion to work with this group.
And then I was off with half a dozen ethers to Madang to board a ship. Only we didn't It was another two or three weeks before we boarded the ‘Gorgon,' a former Dutch owned cattle boat wtth an Indonesian crew. On the first night out its engine failed and we wallowed for about 24 hours in a heavy sea.
I was not interviewed about the tank before I left Mililat. I was not called back to Mililat and no one came to Madang to see me. It didn't bother me especially as those deadly boring days passed waiting for the ‘Gorgon’ I did not think about it again until I met Harry Britten in Canberra in the mid-nineties. Harry had been at Mililat. One of the first things he said was ‘a shell went off in your tank.’ I had almost forgotten about It. We had a brief discussion but he didn't know any more, even why the guard had not aroused anybody when there was that loud bang. I asked Jack Emmott recently if he knew anything but he said he didn't know anything. Apparently nobody told him what had happened.
Since then I've had a whole lot of questions I'd like answered. Among them:
I've researched various sources at the Australian War Museum's research centre without a result. I'm not seeking a Royal Commission, but if anybody knows anything, please let me know.
Since I wrote this story I have found a report written by the 2/4 Armoured Regiment's RQM (name illegible) in September 1944, soon after the regiment arrived at Mililat, deploring the state of ordnance stores and adding: ‘Of all the Besa (7.92 mm) ammunition taken over from 1 Armoured Regt, 60% is completely u/s.’
Major David Brown
Following on from the article included in the February edition of the Despatch about World War 2 tank names, I received a letter from Mrs Coral Small, wife of NX114531 Roy Small, who was a Matilda tank driver in 5 Troop C Squadron in New Guinea, Balikpapan and in the Celebes. Below is the list of vehicle names with crew Coral has gratefully provided.
Bert Castellari also provided some interesting background to Tank names in RHQ and some from C Sqn (probably from FHQ Troop).
RHQ tanks all had names beginning with 'G' because the CO had been LTCOL Gordon and then LTCOL Glasgow.
The CO's tank was named 'Gladiator', and the 2ICs was 'Gay Cavalier'. Below is a photo of the latter taken when the Regiment did a parade with the tanks on transporters through Brisbane in 1943 before they deployed to New Guinea. The officer standing in the turret is LT Jim Hartridge who was, temporarily, RHQ Troop Leader. Leaning over is the Wireless Operator, TPR Mick Ireland. The driver's name is unknown.
Some B Sqn tanks were replaced after embarkation in 1943 with some from C Sqn (and probably RHQ Troop). Bert later crewed 'Crusader', another C Sqn tank they were given was 'Crocodile'.
Many thanks Coral and Bert for providing this important historical information.
Any help filling in the remaining gaps would be appreciated.
Here are several photographs I have scanned of myself with the band when WO Nichols decided we would try and take out the marching competition on ANZAC day. We had mess jackets dyed blue and we had tenor drums covered with gold emblazoned with 1/15 Emblem.
We won. But the result was Colonel Arnott was beside himself as we changed the uniform without his approval. I don’t know the result of the debacle as I left just after it.
The tenor drums were played with swings in a pipe band style as we were both from Scottish pipe bands.
I believe the drum covers are in the museum. They were sewn by my mother-in-law Radmilla Stanojevic and embroidered by Joan Harding. Both of Sefton.
The other tenor drummer (whose name I cannot remember) ended up the Drum Major of an artillery band.
I served time as drum major of 2/17 RNSW Pipes and Drums.
Our band is still around and goes from strength to strength. Undeterred by recent initiatives to withdraw support, the bandsmen of 2013 continue to serve and play better every day. They led the Association on ANZAC Day, and were the only Regimental band in support of the Reserve Forces Day parade. Supported by the CO, Bandmaster and Regimental Association. It will continue to prosper. All it has to do is learn el Abinico and Redetsky.
Jock (John) Mckenzie who served with the Regiment in the 1960s and is now a Cowra resident sent us these photos to remind all Tankies what it was like when the Regiment was equipped with Centurions.
A balmy evening in early May made for a great time to hold the annual Regimental Dinner, now a senior NCO and Officers' function held in the restored 1900 vintage drill hall to keep costs down attended by many Association members and community friends of the Regiment. Attendees included The Hon Julie Owens MP, federal member for Parramatta and The Hon Alex Hawke MP, federal member for Mitchell.
On the eve of ANZAC Day, the traditional gathering at Lancer Barracks saw some old familiar faces.
ANZAC Day 2013 was the last time our World War 2 veterans will march. Next time those that can make it will be carried in vehicles. A brave few did make it for the last year.
Bert Castelleri made it down from Canberra and reported:
We managed to get four of the usual six up front. Rod Button could not make it and Ernie Syratt had died earlier this year. We started off well enough but the band was marching at a higher pace than us. This meant that about half way up George Street the gap was widening and one of the marshalls told us to catch up. No chance. He should have told the band to ease up a little. The band had no way of knowing what was happening behind them.
By the time we reached that big space in front of the Town Hall the band was about 50 metres ahead. Photographers and TV crews saw their chance and quickly moved in front of us. One TV cameraman and journo came right up to us a shoved a microphone in my face and asked a few questions and withdrew as I was about to warn him off. This was an unnecessarily disruptive incident. As we entered Bathurst Street the band was approaching Elizabeth Street. Fortunately this did not seem to worry the people at the barriers and they received us well.
What I would like to know is what the ABC commentators said about this. We were very conscious of our role as leaders of the army in the march. While I don't think it would be seen as any more than one of those things that happen in a long march it would have been much better if the gap had not occurred. Also, television crews should not became invasive. Respect is important.
The group gathering at the Leagues Club was small but lively.
The post world war 2 contingent in Sydney was the largest single unit contingent in the parade. Preceded (well almost) by the Band, with Doctor Ron Cable leading 100 strong, in suits, black berets, and most with Regimental ties, those who served from 1947 to 2013 made a great show. If the band had played either El Abinico or Redetsky, it would have been perfect.
Reserve forces Day 7 July was another great Regimental reunion. This time the Association lined up behind our Band to be led by possibly our most decorated veteran, Donald McHattie GM (George Medal).
Don served two years in the RAAF during the closing stages of World War II. In 1947 he joined the 15th Northern Rivers Lancers in Newcastle. At 02:00 on 7 March 1954, Sergeant McHattie took part in an exercise where a convoy of 21 vehicles comprising, seven DUKWs, eight LVT(a)4s, five LVT4s and an RAE (Royal Australian Engineers) workboat headed out to sea in Stockton Bite. The weather turned sour, the wind whipping up a monstrous sea. Many of the amphibious vehicles founded, three soldiers were killed. Sergeant McHattie displayed outstanding leadership and courage in organising the rescue of his crew. Later, when the vehicle that had rescued his crew sank in the surf, he assisted four members of the troop ashore. Disregarding the high seas and knowing of the prevalence of sharks in the area, Sergeant McHattie returned through the heavy surf and remained in the water for thirty minutes assisting five other members of the troop to the beach. His complete disregard for his own safety and exemplary conduct was an inspiration to all, and an uplifting influence to the morale of the whole Regiment.
The planned after venue, the NSW Leagues Club did not work out. The parade finished in front of it so many others had the same idea. Those who needed a beer and a chin wag did get one nonetheless.
Courtesy the Public Affairs Section Department of Veterans' Affairs
The veteran and defence communities and their families are set to benefit from new military compensation arrangements passed through Parliament recently.
The changes include increased compensation, expanded eligibility criteria and improvements to existing military compensation arrangements under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act (2004) from 1 July 2013.
This follows recommendations accepted by the Government as part of the recent Review of Military Compensation Arrangements. The Government allocated $17.4 million over four years to implement 96 of the 108 recommendations accepted in the Review.
A further $14.6 million was allocated in the 2013-14 Budget in response to recommendation 25.1(a) regarding non-liability health care.
More than half of the recommendations will be implemented by 1 July 2013. Implementation of the remaining recommendations is ongoing.
For information on the Review, including a full list of improvements applying from 1 July, visit the ‘MRCA Review’ tab on the DVA website www.dva.gov.au.
JACK BOOTH (Major MJ Booth RFD ED - 1960s to 1980s) John Howells is pleased to note that Jack Booth has recovered from the scare he reported earlier and is doing well. In May Lee Long (Colonel LT Long RFD, Honorary Colonel) reported - While Jack is not out of the woods just yet, he is on a long road to recovery. The hospital has him on a soft diet (imagine everything being like mashed potato!). Jack has to rebuild his strength, gain weight and recover some level of fitness. Once he has recovered from the effects of pneumonia he will be operated on to insert a stent to address a weakness in his aorta. So he still has a challenge ahead of him. All the best to Jack and Cynthia in the trust that Jack will soon have a swift and complete recovery.
STAN BUTLER’s (WW2) wife Charlotte writes. ‘Stan has been diagnosed with bone and prostate cancer in July 2012. Pleased to say his treatment has been a success. In August 2012 he had hip replacement, but on the whole he is not doing too bad. Please give Doug Beardmore the best from us.'
David Craven unless otherwise noted
JACK CURTAYNE died on 2nd July, 2013. His given name was in fact Henry Charles, but he was known to all as ‘Jack’. As a very close mate for over seventy years, I have good memories of Jack. I well recall be joined our 1st Light Horse Machine Gun Matilda regiment on 23rd May, 1940, it was his eighteenth birthday. Young blokes turning 18 usually have a party - Jack didn't, choosing to join the army. The comment was often made, ‘What a way to celebrate an 18th birthday!’ I had been in the regiment just a short time and we so became good mates. We were in Number 1 troop. A Squadron, the militia regiment, becoming AIF and armour in 1942. He and I both gained commissions around the same time. Along the way Jack was transferred to C Squadron as a recce officer. Some other mates in our close group were Murgy Hobbs, John Barden, Neyle Cameron and John Blackberry. Thee bond continued through service in New Guinea, later in Balikpapan, Borneo and post war back in Australia Quite sadly, I am now the sole survivor.
After the war Jack married Brenda and they had three children. He joined a local brewery as NSW sales manager based in Grafton. Next, he became National Sales Manager for a large wine making company, based in Sydney. Later he was self-employed in various successful enterprises until his retirement,
All told, quite a successful and rewarding life. I personally am very thankful for my strong friendship with Jack over the many years and am sorry to lose him. My thoughts and best wishes go to Brenda and the family.
Bert Castelleri contributed this addendum to David's report.
Jack Curtayne served as both a reconnaissance and an intelligence officer in PNG in 1943/44. This meant that he was one of the on the ground tank men along with Sam Hordern and Jack Emmott.
Extracts from the unit history:
'With the enemy resisting strongly in the advance on Sattelberg "Lieutenant Curtayne, acting as squadron reconnaissance officer ... accompanied infantry patrols around Kumawa, but reported country as unsuitable for tanks ...'
But later he was back in a tank: 'A call was received from Lieutenant Curtayne in the leading tank, which was unprotected, saying the Japs were advancing on him from the left flank where a steep bank prevented him from bringing fire to bear on them. The second tank again moved into position and soon smashed the impending attack causing heavy casualties.'
Later: 'During this time Curtayne's tank had moved a short distance along the road when it was suddenly fired on by a 37 mm gun, which, despite the fact that it was in a good concealed position, succeeded in getting in only one shot before it and its crew were blown to bits by the tank's fire.'
KENNETH MOLESWORTH JEFFERYS (NX123625 B Squadron 1AR (RNSWL)).
Ken died on 25 April 2013 He was 89. He had three children and four grandchildren and had been living in the Blue Mountains for some years. Family and friends saw him off at Leura on 26 April.
Ken was part of the great intake at the Lancers in 1941/42 when a large number of us from Sydney'. coastal suburbs were called up at 18. He had been to school in Coogee and Randwick and was working at ‘The Sun’ newspaper (long since gone).
Reg Gunn, who was in B Squadron's Admin troop writes: ‘Ken was a Matilda tank crew member of No.5 troop. He served in New Guinea (10 months) 1943/44 and in Acton at Balikpapan, Borneo in July, 1945. His troop leader was Lieutenant Noel Rossiter (a career soldier) and Ewart Terrey was troop sergeant. The last time I saw Ken would have been at Randwick racecourse in the late 1940s or early 1950s.’
Reg says Ken may have been a member of the occupation force in Japan. His name is not on a list of 25 which has been available for some years, but the Regimental history says 52 members of the 1st Armoured Regiment transferred to the BCOF so he was quite likely one of them.
Ken was in the vanguard of the Balikpapan landing which was the last of the big amphibious operations in the south west Pacific. In its detailed account of the first actions of B squadron the Regimental history says: ‘At the southern end of Parramatta Ridge (a main objective) was a small feature, Hill 87, which was captured by C Company 2/10th Battalion. At the outset one tank of 1 Troop (Lieutenant Fems) became bogged in swampy ground and was out of action for some hours. The tanks of 5 Troop (Lieutenant Rossiter) in trying to get well forward to support•C• Company were impeded by the ruins of buildings in this devastated area and the broken nature of the ground. However, two tanks of 5 Troop got to the hill at 11.40 a.m. and were In action with Major Ryrie (Regimental 2Ic) spotting targets for them , and shortly after midday Hill 87 was taken by the Australians.’
B Squadron had learned about war in the jungle from the experience of A and C Squadrons in New Guinea. The Japanese had had some severe lessons in New Guinea and although lacking anti-tank guns in Balikpapan they prepared a reception with tank traps, ditches and mine fields and strategically placed machine gun posts. The ground was soggy in many places and the preliminary bombing and naval shelling had churned up the ground and prevented a clear run in what had been open ground suitable for tanks. Towards the end of July tank operations ended and three days later the Japanese broke contact ending organised resistance, The war ended in August with the dropping of the atom bombs.
The military historian. Dr Peter Stanley. says in a précis of the Borneo operations that arguments continue on whether they were necessary. Seizing Balikpapan had no effect on the war's outcome or even the liberation of the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia). General Douglas MacArthur was said to have promised Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands that he would retake the former Dutch colony. This may have arisen in the period of uncertainty preceding the Borneo operations, a time when MacArthur had told the Australian Government that he wanted Australian divisions matched with American units for the invasion of the Philippines. That was never to be. In a summing up on the Borneo operations, Gavin Long wrote ’the airfield at Tarakan was not useful, the British Pacific Fleet did not need Brunei Bay, and the wreckage that had been Balikpapan was of no value to anybody except scrap metal dealers.’
While this had been going on The Allied Supreme Commander in South-east Asia, Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten, was mounting a huge invasion of Malaya and an assault on Singapore (‘Operation Zipper’). The fleet was already at sea when the Japanese surrender came. It saved 'Zipper’ from disaster because the landings went ahead anyway but became bogged down offshore and would have easily been destroyed.
ANNE ROSSITER I am writing to let you know my mum Anne Rossiter passed away on the 7th of April 2013 the day after her 96th birthday. Anne received your newsletter regularly and I think attended a reunion about 10 years ago. My father was Noel Edward Lyle Rossiter who served in no. 5 Troop B Squadron in Borneo and New Guinea. My mum was also in the army. According to family records she joined the Australian Women’s Army Service and was trained as a signaller. She told us she was one of the first 9 woman wireless operators to the join the Army. Anne was posted to Caloundra, near Bribie Island in Queensland where in 1943 she met Noel. She marched in an Australia Remembers “The Woman Who Served in Australia’s Defence Forces in World War II” ceremony on the 25 July 1995 at the age of 78. Even at 96 and knowing she had been in pain for the last few weeks it was tough to see this tenacious lady go. Anne moved from Canberra and lived for the last year in a nursing home in Gerringong just down the road from my partner and me. David Rossiter
ERNEST PATRICK SYRATT 1924 to 2013. Passed away on Thursday, 31 January, 2013 aged 88 years. A most fine gentleman is how everyone remembers him.
Ernie, or Ern, or Sy, as he was often called, yearned to join the Lancers and do his 'bit' for the war effort — he even put his age up to join! As the stories were told over the years about Ernie’s childhood, it also became evident that involvement in the war provided, for many young men like Ernie, stability and a future livelihood. Such was the provision of The Defence Service, not only at the beginning but also throughout the course of Ernie’s life.
Ernest’s Time with the Lancers in a Matilda Tank, New Guinea and Borneo. Ernie was a wireless operator. He told many stories: from the initial training; to the fury of wartime events; to the situations that bordered on the near impossible where each and every man was brought to the periphery between life and death. They were stories that often left those who heard them in solemn contemplation of the fortitude of the human spirit. . In 1 Troop of C Squadron as a wireless operator Ernie knew it all at first hand. 1 troop was one of nine tanks at the forward base at the beginning of the advance on the key point of Sattelberg. The troop was to be involved in weeks of dangerous action as the campaign progressed. The story of Sattelberg needs to be told to modern Australians in an exhibit at the Australian War Museum.
Ernest always saw events through to completion. He was a determined and focused personality. Ernest cared and supported those around him. He lived life with keen observation and passed on his keen knowledge of life.
After the War Ernie had always been interested in developing his knowledge in the field of electronics, but upon joining the army, instead began an apprenticeship in carpentry to cater to their needs. He was sent to Darwin to rebuild houses and other infrastructure and it was at this point that he became focused on having his own home: on having his own family. In April of 1951, his dream of having a family became reality with his marriage to Aileen Grace Camille and the subsequent birth of his only child, Gai Camille Syratt in June three years later.
In the five short years following Gai’s birth, Ernie and Aileen’s were able to bestow upon her their long standing appreciation and passion for listening to music. They gave Gai the opportunity to start piano lessons at the tender age of five. Though neither Aileen nor Ernie played an instrument, their encouragement and support gave a Gai a gift that would sustain her throughout her life. This gift became Gai’s career—as a high school music teacher, and more recently as a director of a music school that operated from a music studio that Ernie and Aileen built as part of an extension to their own home.
Ernie worked for different building and construction firms. The final company was named Kennedy and Bird Constructions. It was a place where Ernie, as a brilliant Construction Foreman, worked for the better part of 22 years.
During 1981 Ernie had a major heart attack and was hospitalised at Westmead hospital.
At this point his first and only Grandchild, Camille, was born, 1 January, 1982. Camille was a gift from God and of course became the centre of their world.
Determined to beat this situation, during his recovery, he channeled his energies during his time in recovery with his interest in tapestry (it must have been darning all those army socks during the war years). His later creative interests were Leadlighting and stained glass art works, gardening expertise, growing prize winning orchids, and woodturning.
Ernie had never missed an ANZAC DAY march until this year. Each year he was cheered on by his family, Aileen, Gai and eventually Camille.
Ernie and Aileen remained the most devoted couple until Ernie was admitted to hospital one evening in August, 2012. Aileen, who had been cared for at home with Alzheimers, had now taken residence in Cabrini Nursing home at Westmead and there had not been a day until this point in time that Ernie missed spending time with her.
His final battle was to be fought against continued chest and lung infections. His last admission to hospital came shortly after the start of the New Year and he found peace a few days later.
While Ernest may be gone in person, his memory will live on with his family and all those who have been fortunate enough to have partaken in his life journey.
Gai Day (nee Syratt)
GEOFFREY WILLIAM WHITBY (NX161957) formerly of the 2/4 Armoured Regiment who served from 14 May 1943 till his discharge in 10 Oct 1946. I understood his unit was joined to the Light Horse at some stage but I am sure that you would know more about the history that I do. I have had good intentions to email you for some time but it was one of those little things that I had put to one side then promptly forgot. I know dad used to receive the Lancers’ Despatch and read through it until his eyesight failed him.
Dad passed away on 16 Sep 2011 in Bega, NSW. Max Whitby
ALEC JAMES MILLER. 91. (NX143904 C Sqn 1AR (RNSWL)).
Surviving members and families have given help over the years in telling who our departed members were.
Ted Fallowfield, 92, (formerly of C Squadron) describes himself as the only Lancer left in the Riverina. Ted lives in Wagga Wagga. He said Alex was farmer living on 'Glenbury' via Adelong. Alex, aged 91, died on 17 March this year. 'I lost a very close friend,' Ted said. 'Alex spent some time in our squadron in New Guinea but after a few months was called home to help on the farm. Alex was a very good shearer often handling 200 sheep in one day.'
Ted also remembers Jack Haines as well deserving of 'his three stripes while being in charge of the kitchen staff of our squadron while in New Guinea I remember helping him get the cooker going in very wet conditions at Milne Bay.’ Arthur Bulgin also formerly of C Squadron, recalls Jack Haines. ‘How good were the cooks? We're all still alive.’ A vintage joke but Arthur speaks highly of the dedication of the cooks and their assistants in their efforts to get food through that dangerous jungle to the tank crews. The Regimental history says that in the ‘temporary disorganisation’ after the landing at Langemak Bay some personnel were so exhausted they slept on the spot where they were as best they could. It continues: ‘Sergeant Jack Haines awoke later to find he had a large snake, a spades of adder, for a bedfellow. What happened next is left to our imagination.
NEVILLE HENRY BROOK (NX114645 C Sqn 1AR (RNSWL))
Ted also remembers two other members of C Squadron who have died - Neville Henry Brook (NX114645) and Albert Graham Clarke (NX114651). 'I remember Nev pretty well because he and I were the only ones with a blood group of B3 on our dog tags. This out of 120. Neville, like myself, was a driver. Albert Clarke was known as "Happy". If my memory serves me right Happy was a talented musician, very good with a set of drums.'
Other departed comrades (WW2 1AR (RNSWL))on whom we are seeking further information are:
We also want more on Sergeant
Thank you all very much for your assistance in supporting the Museum and Association financially in the 2012/13 financial year. Our records (and they may not be perfect, human data entry has been involved) show the following supported by donation, the Association:
Bryan Algie, Botany RSL Sub Branch, Phillip Bridie, Arthur Bulgin, Rod Button, Ron Cable, Joseph Camilleri, Bert Castellari, Paul DeGeorgio, Peter Giudes, Reg Gunn, Jonathan Herps, Frank (Snow) Irvine, Alfred (Snow) McEwan, David Meidling, Margaret Reid, Jack Rolfe, Joyce Sharpe, Zac Waqatairewa, Graham B. Ware.
and the following the Museum:
Bryan Algie, Max Bell, John Booth, Botany RSL Sub Branch, Valerie Boyton, Phillip Bridie, Arthur Bulgin, Stan Butler, Ray Butterfield, Rod Button, Ron Cable, Joseph Camilleri, Joy Canham, Bert Castellari, Alan Chapman, David Craven, Paul DeGeorgio, Ted Fallowfield, Kevin Franklin, Peter Giudes, Reg Gunn, John Haynes, Paul (Higgy) Heginbotham, Jonathan Herps, Therese Holles, Anthony Huntley, Frank (Snow) Irvine, Mary Lamb, Rob Lording, B McEvilly, B McEvilly, Alfred (Snow) McEwan, David Meidling, Parramatta RSL Sub Branch, Eddie Polley, Margaret Reid, John Rodwell, Jack Rolfe, Joyce Sharpe, Bob Stenhouse, Zac Waqatairewa, Graham B. Ware, Gloria Warham, Albert Zehetner.
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Membership of the RAACA NSW is free to all applicants over 75, and only $20 per annum or $50 for THREE years for those who are younger. The RAACA NSW newsletter complements Lancers' Despatch, providing news of events in the wider corps community. If you wish to join the RAACA and receive the newsletter, drop a line to the Association at Building 96, Victoria Barracks, Paddington NSW 2071, or visit the website: www.raacansw.org.au.
"A regiment is not solely the men who presently comprise its strength. It is an entity stretching back in time to its beginnings. It is all the men who have served in its ranks, with their traditions and achievements. The serving unit, like the tip of an iceberg, may be the only part you see, but underneath, supporting it, there is a great deal more." (These words, often quoted, were introduced by our Patron, Major General Warren Glenny, AO RFD ED, during his term as 2IC of 1st/15th Royal NSW Lancers in the 1960s)
Lancers' Despatch is Published in February and August each year by the New South Wales Lancers Memorial Museum Incorporated ABN 94 630 140 881 and the Royal New South Wales Lancers Association. All material is copyright. John Howells - Editor, New South Wales Lancers Memorial Museum Incorporated, Linden House, Lancer Barracks, 2 Smith Street, PARRAMATTA NSW 2150, AUSTRALIA, firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: +61 (0)405 482 814, Fax: +61 (0)2 4733 3951.
© New South Wales Lancers Memorial Museum Incorporated
ABN 94 630 140 881 - - - Site Updated December 2018
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