The Royal New South Wales Lancers
|Lancers' Despatch 27|
Bi Annual Journal of the
Royal New South Wales Lancers Association ABN 50 361 228 724
The New South Wales Lancers Memorial Museum Incorporated ABN 94 630 140 881
No 27 - August 2014
Out of Africa - On to Gallipoli and Palestine
The Tank Battle that Never Happened Testing Tanks in Jungle Conditions Frustrations of the 2/5th Armoured Regiment Colour and Secrets
1945 Signatures The ANZAC Mounted Division Band An ANZAC Pilgrim's Tale Another Lancer Makes 90 The 2014 Regimental Dinner
The 2014 ANZAC Day The 2014 Reserve Forces Day Mr Vice's Tank Ex Yarra Yomp Departed Comrades Thank You Help
RAACA NSW Electronic Response Sheet Download Response Sheet Download Printable Newsletter
Photos and text by the editor unless otherwise noted.
ANZAC Centenary Parade
Our Parade to commemorate the formation of the 1st Light Horse in 1914 will be unique and, by bringing a significant part of Australia’s military history to the people, will tell the story of Australian mateship, self-sacrifice and volunteering in a way that has very high impact.
Location: Macquarie St Parramatta and later, Lancer Barracks, 2 Smith St, Parramatta 2150
Date: Saturday 30 August 2014, 13:00 to 14:30 and later at Lancer Barracks
Cost: Street Parade free; $5 entry to Lancers Museum; small charges for BBQ and face painting in Lancer Barracks.
His Excellency the Governor General has accepted the invitation of the Lord Mayor of Parramatta to be reviewing officer.
Make certain you wear your tie to show your support for the Regiment.
Sunday 2 November 2014 - Regimental Reunion, 11:00 - 14:00 Lancer Barracks, dress neat casual.
Not much to put in an editorial this time. The contributions to the newsletter say it all, and thanks very much to all who made the effort to submit an article or photo. The big focus for the next month is the street parade to commemorate the centenary of formation of the 1st Light Horse in 1914. Be there if you can. The guest of honour will be His Excellency the Governor General and Lady Cosgrove. He will be returning to what was once his playground when as a young gentleman, his father was RSM. The photos below show RSM Cosgrove, the family resemblance is unmistakable.
If you have not visited our Museum for a while it is worth dropping-in. Ian Hawthorn has worked tirelessly seeking and obtaining financial grants for the Museum. The grant money has been used to greatly enhance our displays. The timber display cases our forebears painstakingly built in the 1960s were found to be made in part out of Masonite, a material now known to produce a vapour that can damage artefacts. Almost all of the old cabinets have now been replaced with new metal and glass state of the art display cases with integrated low-heat LED lighting.
The displays have also been changed. Ian, Ross Brown, Jack Best and Michael McGraw have found some really exciting objects. Of particular interest is the new cabinet in the centre of the WW1 room, it contains a set of hand drawn maps showing defence plans for the Dardanelles 1916-1918 in the event there should be another invasion, and captured in Palestine.
So take a Sunday to visit, bring the family.
We must acknowledge again the contribution, not only is Joe our Treasurer in an age of increasing compliance requirements, he is also managing our ACE Matilda and Staghound restoration projects. A special thanks to Peter Sweeney who has agreed to become the Museum's honorary auditor. Peter's Army Reserve career was in the infantry, Lancer officers who sought promotion in the late 1980s will have met Peter when he was an instructor at the Reserve Command and Staff college.
The Museum was also most fortunate to receive a generous donation from the Lions Club of Parramatta. It was in memory of John Booth and Neville Kincott, both of whom were prominent Parramatta Lions and passed away recently. In their memory one of the new display cases in the WW2 room will be marked with a plaque in memory of Neville who served in the wartime Regiment, and one of the new display cases in the post war room with a plaque in memory of Jack who served with the post war Regiment and in Vietnam.
As association secretary, I can report that in the past half year we partially won on one issue and lost on another.
We partially won with respect to the Regimental Band. It will not be disbanded, though the Association will have to come up with the money to cover replacement uniforms and instruments. So far the Museum has been able supply some uniform items, in particular blues trousers. The Regiment is yet to set up the special fund to hold funds for expenditure on the Band, so hold fire on donations yet, however, if as a former senior NCO or officer you still have your blues trousers with twin yellow stripes, donating them to the Museum to pool for Band requirements can help. The Band also has an offer of generous support from the Parramatta – Castle Hill RSL.
The loss was the position of Honorary Colonel. Colonel Lee Long RFD will be the last in the unbroken line of Honorary Colonels extending back to Lord Carrington whose crest we wear. Lee’s term will conclude in September. From January 2015 we will have a Colonel Commandant whom we will share with 12/16 HRL. The first appointee with be Major General Ian Spence RFD. Ian has an excellent record, and is a former 12/16 officer. He will I trust speak out for us, however, as a soldier who continues to serve, he cannot be expected to be a radical advocate.
Since retiring from the Army and Business the editor Lancers’ Despatch has had the privilege to lead and guide tours to exotic overseas destinations where Australians fought.
This year I have led a tour to South Africa, and by the time you read this, I will be in Honiara leading a tour covering the WW2 battles that stopped Japanese attempts to dominate the South Pacific supply lines between the USA, New Zealand and Australia. This will be a novel experience; the first time I have led a tour to a location where the dominant Australian ally was not the UK.
Next year (2015) there will be a special tour to the Gallipoli Peninsula to commemorate the Centenary of Lone Pine, Bloody Angle (where B Squadron was decimated), the Nek and Chunuk Bair in August (CLICK HERE for details). In October 2017, there will be a tour that follows the fortunes of the Light Horse in what is now Israel, and will have you at Tel Be’er Sheva on the centenary of the charge (CLICK HERE for details).
When Australian forces arrived to take over the huge Japanese base at Rabaul after World War 2 ended in August, 1945, they found it included a tank park of 92 light and medium tanks which had remained grounded because there had been no transport which could take them to the fight. The RAAF and the USAAF dominated the air over the Bismarck and Solomon Seas and in particular the Vitiaz Strait between New Britain and New Guinea. Japanese forces had to transport supplies under cover of night mostly in barges. At Sio, its most advanced position in the Huon Peninsula campaign, A squadron crews of the 1st Armoured Regiment found a Japanese cargo submarine abandoned in the shallow waters of a beach.
How would the Japanese tanks and the Matildas of the 1st and 2/4th Armoured Regiments have fared in battle with each other? The Japanese built a large range of armoured vehicles but those at Rabaul did not include their heaviest types. The internet holds several very informative sites dealing with the Japanese development of tanks for various purposes and a brief account of the American experience in with Stuarts and Shermans in the Pacific Islands.
"Tank Tracks," the history of the 2/4th Armoured Regiment, records a meeting with a Japanese tank near Moem, New Guinea in May, 1945:
"Here is what (Major) Gus Cory had to say about it: ‘Where the swamp ran out to the sea at the base of Moem there was a type of Jap tank stranded. How we wished it was mobile. Of a type I have not seen before – obviously a tank with recovery attachments… weight 6-8 tonns. Crew probably three. Hand operated turret which once fitted a heavy machine gun in ball mount… V12 air cooled Diesel engine…
‘I tried a 2 pounder AP out on it at approximately 30 metres. What it did was just a shame. One shot on the turret 2 cm plate went right through both sides and for good measure through a 25 cm tree. The fragmentation was as if a grenade had exploded inside …A second shot into the hull below the top of the track had the same effect…. The one shot through the turret would have put all the crew out of action.’ "
Paul Handel’s "Dust, Sand and Jungle" (RAAC Memorial and Army Tank Museum, 2003) tells of the detachment sent by the 2/4th to Rabaul "to assist with the security of 100,000 Japanese who had surrendered."
"The first big event was a ceremonial parade to take over Japanese armour on the island. The parade was staged on the Rapopo airstrip, 48 kilometres from Rabaul. Some eighty vehicles were taken over, and in two convoys the tanks were driven back to the unit lines by a Japanese crew man carrying a 2/4th man on each vehicle. Later forty Japanese tank crew and mechanics were allocated to the detachment to perform maintenance on the vehicles." (A technology officer at the Australian War Museum told me there had been reports of the Australian and Japanese tank men holding races with the tanks but this has never been confirmed.) "Tank Tracks" says the Japanese crews and mechanics ‘did a good job'. They were amazed at the thickness of the Matilda’s armour.
B Squadron personnel under the command of Major Phillip Vernon reformed with two Matilda tank troops, four Japanese medium tank troops, each of three Type 97 mediums with 47-mm guns and a reserve of three Type 97s with 57-mm guns. A trial of Japanese Amphibious Tank (Type 2 KaMi) was held in November with "pleasing results". Only 184 of this type were built for Japanese Special Naval Landing Forces. Only 19 of another amphibious tank, Type 3 KaMi, were built and these were used as dug in pill boxes in the Pacific Islands. "Tank Tracks" says of the November trial that "the tank entered the water smoothly, the drive being transferred from the tracks to the twin screws as it floated. Sitting low in the water it resembled surfaced submarine". Three 2/4th officers went to another major Japanese base on New Ireland where they supervised the destruction of 20 tanks. The Japanese crews drove the tanks over a reef and as the tanks sank the drivers jumped into sea and swam back.
How would the Matildas and their opposites have fared in battle? The heavier guns of the Type 97s may have given them an advantage. The heavier armour of the Matildas probably would have given greater protection, but there would have been many other factors to be taken into account on the day. An interesting exercise for military history buffs. One of the studies on the internet says the best Japanese designs were never tested in combat as they were kept back in the expectation of defending the Japanese home islands.
In a story in the August 2013 Lancers’ Despatch (“An explosion at Madang”) I mentioned that a Churchill tank was being landed at Mililat Plantation as I was leaving for home in 1944. The tank was to be tested in New Guinea conditions for the British War Office. At the time of writing I said I had been unable to find out anything more about the test in my research. I didn’t look far enough. In recent searching at the Australian War Memorial research centre I found a typewritten account of the 2/5th Armoured Regiment’s wartime history which says that the unit provided crews for the British War Office for Churchill and Sherman tanks to be tested in New Guinea conditions. Then I came across a copy of Paul Handel’s "Dust, Sand and Jungle" (RAAC Memorial and Army Tank Museum, 2003).
In chapter 9, "Tank Testing In The Tropics," (pp 118 to 124) Paul Handel gives a full account of testing of three different marks of Churchills and three Shermans one of which was a single diesel engined tank which was already in Australia. He says, "The terrain selected for the trials included plantations of light undergrowth with ground surface mud up to one metre deep, undulating kunai grass, dense secondary growth and creek crosings six metres wide and up to three metres deep. Rain for for the trials period was over 300 mm per month.
It was considered by the trials team that overall the Churchill was preferable to the Sherman for operations in the jungle." The Australian Government ordered 510 Churchills for the army. The order was cancelled at the end of the war after six trials vehicles and 45 production tanks had been delivered.
In 1945 the Australian army undertook trials for the British War Office of two American built M24 Chaffee Light tanks which were attached to the 2/4th Armoured Regiment on Bougainville. After extensive testing in difficult conditions and including effects on crews the results stated that the M24 was "undoubtedly the best light tank seen in the SWPA … it must rank as one of the best types of recce vehicles yet produced."
The 2/5th Armoured Regiment was one of the original units of the 1st Australian Armoured Division when it was being formed in 1941. The division was being trained to fight in Egypt and Libya. The manuscript referred to in the opening paragraph of this story sets out a brief account of the disappointing experience for the members of this highly trained unit. In May, 1942 the 2/5th was equipped with General Grant tanks. Late in that year the regiment was warned to be ready to go to New Guinea but 24 hours later the 2/6th Armoured Regiment was substituted because it had the light Stuart tanks and the Grants could not be transported to the operational area.
In 1943 the 2/5th was transferred to Mingenew south of Geraldton in Western Australia. The unit was in the midst of preparations for transfer to the 4th Armoured Brigade when a Japanese convoy in the East Indies caused a stir because it was thought a raid on the WA coast was imminent. Armoured regiments in the west were put on six hours notice to move to counter enemy action. The warning order was cancelled shortly after and the move to Queensland resumed.
"To add to the versatility of tank crews Churchill and Sherman tanks were delivered to the 4th Armoured Brigade in September, 1944." This led to a detachment from the 2/5th taking part in the New Guinea tests for the British War Office. The 2/5th Australian Armoured Regimental Group was formed taking in a light aid detachment, signals troop, ordnance field park, tank transporters, workshops and reinforcements from all states. A Squadron was equipped with Stuart tanks and the others with Grant diesels.
In the last four months on 1944 and early 1945 the group carried out intensive training with infantry units, tank gunnery at Wasp Creek, experiments in negotiating water obstacles, demonstrations of tank-infantry assaults on enemy positions. Nothing seems to have been left out. In September, 1944, the unit was again warned for overseas and intended to come under command of the 7th Australian Division. In March, 1945, the regimental group was relocated to Caloundra and in the next eight weeks tank gunnery and tactical work reached a high standard. The regiment moved back to Southport and preparations for movement were well advanced when advice was received that Matilda tanks were preferred for the Balikpapan operation and instructions were issued for another regiment to take over the role. We all know who that was.
Paul Handel, who has written a much more detailed account of the 2/5th’s story, finished it thus: "In spite of the set back all ranks rallied to prepare for the next operation, which it was learnt later would have been the recapture of Singapore. However, the termination of hostilities on 15 August 1945 finally denied members of the regiment the opportunity of proving themselves in battle".
But they certainly had heart.
This rare colour photo was taken by a US Army nurse at Milne Bay on 10 March 1944. Kodachrome had only been introduced in 1936, and was not readily available in Australia at that time, the film had to go to the USA for processing. The photo includes David Donald and Barry Browne in the back row, Max Newton in the front with US Army Nurses. It was to Max that some copies of the processed photo were eventually sent, Max had also organised the girls to visit the B Squadron base.
Max joined Z Special after his squadron returned from New Guinea in 1944. Max along with George McLean and Jack Sellars had volunteered for special forces training as part of Brgadier Denzil Macarthur-Onslow’s plan to expand skill levels within 4 Armd Bde. For the training they reported in civilian clothes to a Brisbane Bank office. They had three month’s intensive training at the then uninhabited and remote Fraser Island.
George and Jack returned to the Regiment and made no mention of the training they had received. Max stayed on in Z. The WW2 record shows Max as going on the inactive list as a Lieutenant in 1AR (RNSWL), no mention of his Z Special service. The names of Max, George and Jack all appear in a book on Z Force published in 2000.
Max moved to Goulburn after the War and was reputed to dabble in exports. He passed away in 1992.
Assembled from information supplied by Bert Castellari and Reg Gunn.
The pamphlet issued to Australian service men after Japan surrender on 15 August 1945. I have identified the names of 53 of the 55 signatures, two I was unable to decipher. We were comrades in B Squadron 1 Aust Armoured Regiment serving at Balikpapan, Borneo. The surrender which occurred over 68.5 years ago remains vividly in my memory. Of 120 Lancers in B Squadron at the end of hostilities only a few are surviving at present (17 February 2014). The youngest B Squadron survivor Leon Schill celebrated his 90th Birthday on 18 of December 2013. The two most recent issues of Lancers' Despatch noted the passing in 2013 of comrades Ken Jefferys (89), Hilary Burton (91) and Neville Kincott (91) whose signatures appear on the 1945 pamphlet.
Reg Gunn Ex Admin troop B Sqn 1 AR (RNSWL).
This piece is from the papers of the Museum's founder, the late Phil Vernon. It is worth reading if only to put into context the problems the Regimental Association and our friendly politicians have had making certain the Lancers' Band is retained.
Light horse reinforcements which arrived in Egypt in late 1916, about the end of the Sinai operations, included some twenty musicians from Sydney. They had brought some instruments with them. At the base Camp at Moascar they indulged in a bit of music while awaiting deployment. Lt.Col J.M. Arnott was the camp commandant and by chance Lt J, Crosby-Browne 5LH, was staging there after a bout of malaria. Col Arnott, knowing he was a professional conductor with military band experience in the British Army, asked him to take charge of the group and try to make a band of it.
His early problems included obtaining more band instruments and music. Some of the Regiments had brought bands with them from Australia, but during the Gallipoli campaign the instruments were stored, never to be seen again.
Good progress was made in training the band in spite of the problems. General Chauvel inspected the band a few weeks after formation and was so impressed that he seconded Lt Crosby-Browne and the Musicians to the AMD HQ and deployed it to the front with his HQ. Thus the band became the AMD Band. Funds were supplied by Division and more instruments and music was obtained from London.
Its first assignment was a boxing tournament organised by 2LH Bde (Brig-Gen Ryrie) which as resting and training a camp south of Jaffa. The Bde had been in the field for months under arduous conditions. The Band made a profound impact on the gathering. From then on, except for the occasional assignments in Egypt, the Band remained with the Division in the field.
The Band was eventually organised as a self-contained unit, with its own cook and its transport (GS wagons). This enabled the Band to be sent anywhere, at any time. The demands for horses, however was such that horses could not be spared for bandsmen. The operational demands on an inadequate source of horses meant that the Regiments were issued with a number of white donkeys for use by cooks and batmen. The Regiments were happy to assist the Band with acquiring a bunch of white Sudanese donkeys for logistical purposes. They were big and strong and able to carry the men equally as well as horses. However they were neglected and lousy. Before they could be used they had to be fumigated and dipped in the sea a number of times.
Brig Gen Cox suggested that the Band be mounted on donkeys and insisted that it be tried. By this time the donkeys had become accustomed to the music, when they stood and listened. It was a different matter when the men mounted them and tried to get them to walk in formation while the Band played. The first attempt was nearly disastrous. They certainly walked, but in different directions and the music collapsed. The difficulty was eventually overcome by simply tying the four leading donkeys heads together with their head ropes and putting the drummers, who were on foot in front to lead them. The remainder followed automatically.
In addition to fulfilling its duties within the division, the Band was made available to British Units and village dances, particularly in the resting camps such as Richon. It also entertained at the various hospitals, and a presentation parade in Egypt where the Duke of Connaught presented decorations. The Band also assisted with the forces deception arrangements at Talat ed Dumm. After the Armistice in October 1918 the band was disbanded and the members returned to their parent units for demobilisation.
Around this time last year, I was sitting at a hot, Bangkok railway station, waiting to board the early train to Kanchaniburi. For many Australians, Thailand is a place for a holiday, but for me it is the end of a later-day pilgrimage. A pilgrimage to honour the sacrifice of those men who came to Thailand, not for a holiday, but to work as forced labour for the Imperial Japanese Army, to build the railway that I was about to travel on.
Pilgrimages are meant to have a spiritual basis and this one is true to form. It is the spirits of thousands of dead Australians, along with their British, Dutch, American, Chinese and other Asian brothers that call for this journey. This pilgrimage is to honour the Sacrifice and courage of many Australians, who across the generations served the nation. Men and women ,who instead of being at home with family and friends, were overseas on missions involving hardship, danger and often death.
Men like my Grandfather George, not a bronzed bush Anzac, but a slight city boy, who at the age of 18, left the comfort of Australia and ended in the hell hole of the French trenches. He was wounded three times, the lucky last wound put him into hospital in time to miss the ANZAC Day battle at Villers-Bretonneux. It also gave him a TPI pension, but regardless of the pension, he returned to Australia, found a job and founded a family.
Villers-Bretonneux is an Australian place of memorial, a war grave and a place where the Wall of Remembrance lists almost 12,000 missing, out of the 63,163 Australians who died on active service in that great conflict. Sixty thousand men who died out of the 331,000 who served overseas, out of an Australian population of just over 3 million. This loss was a cause for much remembrance of sacrifice by the general population after the war.
Another generation and more sacrifice. Made by men like Mr Oliver and Mr Joy, both were the fathers of friends of mine. Country boys, who joined to protect Australia in its time of peril, but who spent most of their time just surviving as prisoners of the Japanese after the poorly trained, ill equipped 8th Division surrendered, with almost 15,000 troops captured in Singapore, the result of poor British Strategic leadership.
A surrender that saw these fine men suffer the horrors of Changi and the Thai Burma Railway, where 2,815 Australians out of the 13,000 who helped build the railway, died. Unlike my pilgrims trail from Singapore to Kanchanaburi, made by the relative comfort of air-conditioned (well sometimes) trains and buses, their journeys were made in overcrowded rail cattle carriages or by walking for days on end. A purgatory of endurance that saw them reach the hell of the Thai Burma Railway and the nightmare of the Hell Fire Pass. These country boys and many others endured a hell on earth, kept going by self discipline, mateship and a strong will to live.
Another generation and more conflicts with Australian sacrifice, Korea, Malaya and Vietnam. Small wars by the standards of the preceding conflicts, but for the men who fought them, wars that also called for courage and sacrifice. The spirit of ANZAC, mateship, endurance, larrikinism and professionalism helped them endure and make it back home. Many scared by their service, physical and emotional scars that to this day have yet to heal, but serve they did and they wear this service with pride.
Today’s generation, serving in new operations, both peacekeeping and warlike conflicts; Bougainville, Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan to name a few. Again courage and sacrifice in the face of adversity by this new generation of men and now women. Professionalism and luck have kept the numbers of dead down, especially compared to WWI and WWII, but still too many people have come home with physical and psychological scars. Scars that the nation that sent them to serve must take responsibility for and help them overcome.
ANZAC day is a time for Remembrance. Remembrance of Sacrifice for the Nation, Courage in Adversity, Mateship in Hard times and Endurance in the face of unimaginable suffering. Attributes summed up by the famous drawing by ex POW Ray Parkin, 'Two Malarias and a Cholera'. The drawing of two sick men carrying an even sicker mate to the poor medical facilities by the River Kwai.
Don Deakin-Bell served as a Peacekeeper. His Grandfather George survived WWI and France to live into his eighties; tending to his beloved orchards and not talking much about the war.
Ray Rutledge who served in C Squadron of the Regiment in New Guinea and Borneo during World War 2 reached this august milestone on Queen Victoria’s birthday (half-day holiday from school and cracker night for those of us who can remember) 24 May 2014. He celebrated his 90th birthday in style with a grand party given by his family at Berry Bowling Club.
The photo to the right shows Ray with his medals in front of the Berry War Memorial.
Noticing that in the photo Ray was not wearing a Regimental Tie, the Association has sent him one of our latest batch of Regimental ties as a late birthday present.
This year's Regimental Dinner was again a great function. Good food, an interesting update on where the Army and the Regiment are headed, a great chance to catch up with old friends and thank the military hierarchy and local politicians who back the Regiment.
WW2 Veterans Still in the Front Line
After the 2013 Anzac Day march it appeared that it may have been the last time that all World War 2 veterans would take part in the march and in future they would have to be carried in taxis, a suggestion received without enthusiasm. The March/April, 2014, guide in "Reveille”" however showed an assembly point for "WW2 Army" as the corner of Hunter and O’Connell Streets, formerly for many years the meeting place for Armoured Regiment personnel. This corner was once the entrance to a bank but it was closed off and it became a shelter for tank men if it was raining on Anzac Day. This year it was raining heavily and their territory was invaded and packed with veterans from other units. They were welcome but the Lancers’ banner had to be put together with great care to avoid any contacts with the pointy ends.
We had an earlier start this year. No long wait for the silent service to go through. We had been told that WW2 banners would be clustered at the point at which we entered the march and WW2 vets would form a single group. There did not appear to be a marshal in the area and when the word came (from somewhere) to form up the banners went up in the usual order (Lancers at the front) and the troops fell in behind the banners, as usual. Nobody objected. We were followed by the 2/4th and 2/6th Armoured Regiments. The numbers were certainly down. I saw for the first time the banner of the 2/1st Australian Infantry Battalion (City of Sydney Regiment) in which my late brother, Don, was a thirty niner. We still managed six – Ken Koles stood in as right marker and commander, Rod Button was back this year, Arthur Bulgin, Bert Castellari, Geoff and Marguerete Francis completing the line. It took a few moments to realise the band was the Lancers’. It was a group of tall young men wearing black berets, a white top and black trousers and standing to attention with instruments smartly held ready to swing into action. It was a good band and its drummers could have been heard well down the line.
We had a good march. The rain stopped. The public was able to come out from under the umbrellas but had to put them up again when it started to rain again as we finished. The early start saw us all back at the Leagues Club where we found ourselves in company with an army band having a late breakfast, later replaced by a big group from the Navy when the band went off to play.
Led by the Regimental Band (with a few Artillery ring-ins, the post war Lancers were again the largest single unit contingent in the march. Estimates put our numbers at 100, all in regimentally badged berets and our distinctive candy striped ties sporting Lord Carrington's colours.
New beginnings for our military on Anzac Day
I won't be attending the sound and light show at the War Memorial on Anzac Day. I’m sure the colour and noise will be a great spectacle and that it’s all part of ensuring the ‘continuing relevance’ of the institution; but personally, I prefer to remember those I knew in the old way. Two minutes of silence seems a far more fitting tribute than imagined, heroic images and noise of battle that doesn’t, as it happens, reflect the reality surrounding most of our recent deaths in war or the tragedy for those left behind.
I will be thinking, for example, of the slight yet incredibly strong Kellie Merritt, a young mother whose husband was killed flying in Iraq. A missile had suddenly, horrifically spiralled up from the ground to destroy his aircraft on his last mission. It was his bad luck he was flying with the RAF, because that air force had decided to save money and hadn’t equipped its Hercules planes with defensive equipment and decoys that are standard in our RAAF variants.
I’ll think, for example, of Robert Poate, who died simply because he happened to be in the wrong place when an Afghan soldier, one of the people he’d been training, decided our Diggers weren’t helping his country and turned his weapon on them. And I’ll also remember his mother, another strong and wonderful woman who I met still helping turn boys into men at Robert’s old school.
The grief of those left behind can never be assuaged. We pretend to remember those who’ve lost their lives on this one day of the year. These people live while loss touches their lives every moment. The tragedy isn’t simply that so many young men have died; but that they were killed by landmines; accidents as aircraft plunged from the sky; and in the now notorious so-called green-on-blue attacks, and in so many ways other than the images conjured up by our visions of battle. A noble cause, yes; but our government committed their lives to achieve a political objective. Was it worthwhile? Was the government they died to install in Kabul really worth it? And how long will it survive?
There are scores of others, of course, not to mention their Afghan colleagues. For them there will never be any ‘going home’ parade after a tour; they cannot expect casualty evacuation to good German hospitals or proper care after they lose a limb. Is it really any wonder they’re reluctant to press attacks home, charging across the open dash? For us that war is over. Our soldiers have returned. For them the victory is just another day of life.
But there are other deaths I’ll be remembering on Friday, too. In one of the first outposts we pulled out of in Afghanistan, a place where the soil soaked up Australian blood when an Afghan who was supposed to be guarding the parapet killed one of our soldiers – a cook – I found a nametag in the dust. It said, "Tattersall" and I thought of another, earlier loss from the years of peace and a young son marching behind a coffin; a service funeral in peacetime.
Warrant Officer 2 Frank Tattersall always did everything perfectly – he was a wonderful man and a brilliant leader. But then his life was, terribly, cut short when he was crushed in a freak training accident: an armoured personnel carrier overturned as it slipped down a muddy embankment. Will politicians still attend these funerals? The loss is just as real for the family, even if it’s not accompanied by the rhetoric of nobility that surrounds a death in battle. Tragically, this will become the new reality of military death. Reconciling this reality to heroic images of war will become the new test for the military – one not easily plastered over by references to glory.
Of the three services the army faces the biggest challenge to its ethos, one not bound up in the embossed laurels on the walls of the Memorial, but one that will nonetheless become far more real to a current generation of soldiers. Just as after Vietnam, the army’s now undergoing reorganisation and refocusing as it transits to a fully peacetime force.
A new book by a regular contributor to these pages [Nic's article first appeared in the Canberra Times 22 April 2014] (and Senior Fellow at the ANU’s Strategic and Defence Studies Centre) John Blaxland illuminates the difficulties the organisation faced as it struggled to find a role in the wake of the pull-out from Vietnam in 1975. The Australian Army from Whitlam to Howard covers the past third of this institution’s history – a period during which, notwithstanding the bigger attendances at Anzac Day ceremonies – it has become more detached from the mainstream of society.
The faces in the ranks no longer represent a genuine cross-section of the country, although the current chief, Lieutenant General David Morrison, is doing everything he can to add to the diversity of his units. The task he faces every day, however, is similar to the difficulty we have on April 25 each year.
Everyone has their own firmly held attitudes to the march, both the event and the institution. Blaxland’s book recounts much more than just the struggle the forces had to shake off the lack of focus as soldiers engaged in peacekeeping before deployments in first East Timor and later the Middle East. The Army remains at the sharp end of the way our country will achieves its strategic objectives and demonstrate its commitment to achieving outcomes. That’s fine when we all agree what these are but, as Blaxland demonstrates, discerning a way forward is difficult when there’s no clear light to reveal the path.
Reserve Forces Day 2014 in Sydney was quite a triumph for the Association.
Our numbers were not what we can achieve on ANZAC Day, but we were certainly the largest unit contingent, and the only one able to march behind its own band. Some recognition of the work of the Association in lobbying for retention of the Band, and in sending out notification by email or post to all Post WW2 Association members.
Our special thanks to the Regimental CO, Lieutenant Colonel Rob Lording for leading us on Reserve Forces Day.
In May 2014 Major David Brown presented a silver plated Matilda Tank to the Officer’s Mess.
The origin of the idea came in January during a visit by Captain Tim Rayson of the Royal Russell School Cadets from London in the UK, as part of a recce for a Cadet visit later in the year. Tim mentioned offhand that he had recently had some silver plated tanks made for his Cadet Mess at a reasonable price, so I decided to investigate and potentially commission a piece for the Lancer Officers’ Mess.
Made by Peter Hicks in Wiltshire in the UK over a period of three months, the Matilda is inscribed with the following:
Infantry Tank Mk II 'Matilda'
In service with the Regiment from 1943-54
Presented to the 1/15 RNSWL Officers' Mess by Major D. Brown RY
Major Greg Barter, Regimental 2IC and PMC of the Officers' Mess agreed to the creation of a new Mess tradition that the piece be placed in front of the Dining Vice President at any future Officers’ Mess Dining In Nights to remind them of the Regiment’s rich history.
On Sunday 29 June 2014 a small group of Cadets from a number of British Army Cadet units visited Lancer Barracks to see the Museum and meet cadets from 203 Army Cadet Unit (203 ACU). Their visit was part of Exercise 'Yarra Yomp 14', a joint exercise between the Scotch College Cadets in Melbourne and the Royal Russell School Combined Cadet Force (CCF) from Croydon in London. Following on from a successful visit by the Scotch College cadets to the UK last year, Ex 'Yarra Yomp 14' included visits to Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne, finishing with a week long bivouac with AAC Cadets in the Northern Territory.
Many thanks to John Howells and Captain David Field of 203 ACU for helping to host the visit.
TAMMY COLEFAX, of Darwin, passed away 25 January 2014. Tammy served in Technical Support Squadron in the 1990s, she was married to Rick who is currently posted to Robertson Barracks NT. At the time of her passing she was OIC of 70 Army Cadet Unit. Bruce Reeding
LESLIE CRANNIE, passed away 14 June 2014 of Orient Point, near Nowra. Les served in the Regiment 14 June 1960 to 9 July 1963 with the rank of Trooper. Laurel Cranney
DENISE CRISP of Carlingford passed away 9 June 2014. Denise was the much loved wife of our friend and colleague David. David served in the Regiment for more than 30 years, and more recently has been a stalwart Museum and Association Volunteer. Those of us who volunteer for the Museum got to know Denise well. Always ready to release Dave and support him; she put up with a garage full of artefacts for many years. Denise was always there for every function, she will be greatly missed. Her funeral at the Carlingford Uniting Church had a substantial Lancer presence.
JOHN GORDON (JACK) EMMOTT died aged 101 years and three months on 28 May 2014. He is survived by his wife of 68 years, Marion, two daughters and a son, five grandchildren and four great grandchildren. Jack was an outstanding officer of the Ist Australian Tank Battalion/1st Australian Armoured Regiment AIF. His story was told in detail in the February 2013 issue of Lancers’ Despatch after he reached the100 mark on 20 February 2013.
Jack was in reasonably good health at the time, in good voice and with good hearing although he had to use a walking frame. Marion said his health had begun to decline in his last year. His funeral took place at All Saints Anglican Church in Bodalla on 5 June.
Jack was a mature and experienced 29 year old Lieutenant when he was transferred from the 14th Machine Gun Regiment to the 1st Tank Battalion in 1942. Jack was posted as a reconnaissance officer cooperating with the infantry in New Guinea. He served with distinction with C Squadron supporting the 9th Australian Division. He was on the ground with Major Sam Hordern, C Squadron’s OC, directing tank gunfire in the difficult jungle of the Huon Peninsula. Jack was awarded a Mention in Despatches.
Jack was born in Moruya and left school in 1927 to work on the family dairy farm. He experienced the tough years of the depression. After the war he returned to the land establishing a property at Bodalla on the south coast. He was an important figure in the dairy industry on the south coast becoming chairman of the Bodalla Cooperative Cheese Society from 1946 to 1983. Bert Castellari
JOHN (RUSTY) GATES, passed away Monday 23 June 2014 at Pendle Hill Nursing Home, late of Blacktown, aged 83 years.
My name is Annette Salmon (nee Gates), I just wanted to inform you of the death of my dad. He had been battling Dementia for a couple of years and passed away peacefully.
Dad was a served with the Regiment for nearly 30 years and rose to the rank of Sergeant.
I think he joined not long after he turned 18 years of age - around 1948. He was the son of a WW1 Digger who served on the Western Front from 1916. Dad was too young to serve in WW11 and I think his years with the Lancers went some way to repaying the debt he felt he owed to his dad.
I remember as a kid along with my sister Pam and brother Peter attending numerous parades, movie nights, church parades, climbing over tanks and saw mum and dad going off to formal dinners and other such activities. One particular time I remember was when the Lancers were visited by a group from the UK, dad said they were a detachment of the Grenadier Guards, I am not sure if that was true, but their hats (not sure what they are called) really impressed us kids, sitting up on the veranda of the barrack block watching the parades. We have a lot of photos of dad and his mates when they went on their 'weekend warrior' duties to places such as Puka and Singleton. Dad would regale us with stories of his times as a crew commander, the tanks - , Matildas, Centurions then the APC's which santa use to arrive on every year for the Christmas Party. I think he also did gunnery instruction.
One of his close mates was Bill Simms who passed away approx 12-18 months ago, was godfather to my older sister Pam.
There were so many names that I have forgotten, but I do remember a Warren Glenny? I think he may have been dad’s CO at one time [Lieutenant Colonel, later Major General Glenny CO 1972-1975], he respected him very much. Also a Macarthur-Onslow [the late Lieutenant Colonel, Neil Macarthur-Onslow CO 1 Jul 1969 - 30 Jun 1972] dad was chuffed to know him due to his family history.
I always remember how proud he was to wear his uniform, out would come the Silvo to polish his belt so that you could see your reflection on the silver, his boots had to be perfect, polished to a high standard, and I am happy to report that his Beret with his Lancer badge took pride of place on his coffin.
My mum Joan passed away in 1987 and my dad remarried, strangely enough her name is also Joan.
Joan has asked me to pass on the news of dad's passing. She did say that there was someone from the Lancers who had kept contact with her, but she can't remember his name and if he was someone that dad knew, could the news be passed on to him.
Dad's funeral was held at Pinegrove - West Chapel - Saturday 28 June 2014 at 9:30. Annette Salmon (nee Gates)
The funeral was well attended, Major General Glenny was one of the mourners.
GRAEME HELLWIG, died in Sydney on 6 Jun 14 after a short illness. Graeme was a RAEME member of 1/15 from 1994 until he retired circa 2007. Mark Dalla Costa
KEIRAN MACRAE, passed away 26 March 2014 aged 91 of Nothgate, near Brisbane. Served B squadron 1st Aust Armd Regt in New Guinea 1943-45 and in action at Balikpapan Borneo July 1945. As a Matilda tank driver. In FHQ troop under the late Captain Norm Bent and Major John Ford. Reg Gunn
BRIAN MARSHALL, Served in the Regiment 17 April 1973 to 9 September 1976 having previously served in Vietnam with 3 CAV. Tony Fryer
PETER O’REILLY, late of Collaroy, passed away 20 June 2014, aged 76. Peter O’Reilly was well known as an Army Reserve (previously CMF) soldier with 1/15 Royal NSW Lancers having risen from the ranks to hold a commission. Following his retirement from military service he retained his military interest through the Lancer Museum at Parramatta.
Peter was well known in the plumbing and associated trades having been a plumber and later a teacher of plumbing and Head Teacher at North Sydney TAFE. He authored a respected text book on plumbing. Peter’s trade background also led to him working for the then Water Board as an inspector.
Peter was a keen surfer and very proficient on a surf board and on a surf ski. He was a member of Dee Why Surf Life Saving Club and a member of its jet boat crew and his sons and grandchildren followed his surfing interests and have/had membership of several Northern Beaches Surf Life Clubs and board riding clubs. Peter spent the last years of his life living at Wesley Heights Home at Manly. His health was indifferent for the past few years.
Peter’s funeral was held at Mona Vale at 12:00 on 30 June 2014, there was a strong Lancer contingent present. Terry Boardman
Thank you all very much for your assistance in supporting the Museum and Association financially in the 2013/14 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, John Arnott, Max Bell, Kenneth Brown, Arthur Bulgin, Arthur Bulgin, John Burlison, Rod Button, Ron Cable, Joseph Camileri, John Carruthers, Bert Castellari, Alan Chapman, Leslie Cranney, June Faunt, Bob Gay, Peter Giudes, Guy Graham, Reg Gunn, John Haynes, Graham Hodge, Paul Jankovics, Jon Laird, Albert Martin, Alfred (Snow) McEwan, Sam Mifsud, Don Morris, Craig Muller, Bill Philip, Doug Pollard, Joyce Sharpe, Margaret Sheppard, Alan Stenhouse, Alan Stewart, Norma Swadling, Gloria Warham, Gloria Warham, Roy Young.
and the following the Museum:
Valerie Boyton, David Brown, Arthur Bulgin, Rod Button, Joseph Cameleri, Bert Castellari, Alan Chapman, June Faunt, Reg Gunn, Terry Hennessy, Therese Holles, John Howells, Paul Jankovics, Brian McEvilly, Sam Mifsud, Don Morris, Craig Muller, Bill Philip, Margaret Reid, John Rodwell, Joyce Sharpe, Margaret Sheppard, Alan Stenhouse, Gloria Warham, Roy Young.
Yes we really do need your financial assistance. No amount too large, no amount too small.
Donations to the Museum and Association are now possible securely using PayPal from your credit card or PayPal account:
Click Here to go to the donation page. Donations to the Museum are tax deductible.
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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, email@example.com Tel: +61 (0)405 482 814, Fax: +61 (0)2 4733 3951.
© New South Wales Lancers Memorial Museum Incorporated ABN 94 630 140 881;
Linden House, Lancer Barracks, 2 Smith Street, PARRAMATTA, AUSTRALIA