Lancers' Despatch 18
Website of the Royal New South Wales Lancers Lancer Barracks and Museum
John Blackberry Remembers
Sydney to Sydney
Lancers' Reunion 2009
The Seventh Light Horse
This year the only Regimental Birthday function to be held on the first weekend in March will be the Officers' Dinner. If you served as an officer and have not got an invitation, contact the Mess Secretary. If you did get the invite, check out the envelope it came in; there is the invitation card and another small slip of paper telling you the cost is $95.00.
The rest of the celebrations have been put off until September when the Lancer Squadron serving in the Solomon Islands peacekeeping force returns.
Sydney Veterans Defence Expo - Penrith 6 March 2010
The Museum will be putting on a display at the Sydney Veterans Defence Expo at Penrith Showground on Saturday 6 March 2010. If you live in the area come along and support us.
The traditional Regimental Anzac Eve celebration will be held at Lancer Barracks, 19:30 Tuesday 20 April 2010. Association members wishing to go on parade with the Regiment should wear beret, tie (Regimental of course) jacket and medals. If you have not got a tie, you can order one securely on-line from the Museum Shop, or use the form attached to your paper copy of Despatch, a steal at $20.
Anzac Day 2010
The NSW Branch of the RSL, as the organiser and controlling body for the Sydney Anzac Day March, has directed that a continuing emphasis be given to the World War 2 veterans so that they get the recognition that they have earned and deserve. The number of veterans is decreasing year by year and we need to respect this directive while they can still take part in the March. There were numerous complaints made to the RSL about last year’s March where the veterans were swamped by relatives and other participants who should not have been there at all!
There will be no change for the World War 2 veterans from last year. They will assemble for the 64th time this year at the corner of Pitt & Hunter Streets at 09:00 so as to be ready to move off at about 09:20. Veterans can have a carer to help them take part in the March but this should be restricted to one relative (preferably).
Other people will NOT be able to join this contingent. This includes relatives or descendants of veterans and the post war members of the Regiment – both of these groups have designated places later in the march. The veterans are quite capable of choosing who will march with them if they need any assistance.
The veterans will get together after the march for a reunion on the first floor of the NSW Leagues Club in Phillip Street.
Post war members of the Regiment will be able to join the Reserve contingent that is now an accepted part of the march. Once again, the whole contingent will be lead by Major-General Glenny AO, RFD, ED, the Honorary Colonel of the Regiment. The forming up point will be the same time and place as last year, that is, the corner of Philip and Bent Streets at around 11:00 – this group moves off around 11:30. The contingent has its own distinctive blue banner which will be carried again by the members of the 203rd Cumberland Cadet Unit (based in Lancer Barracks). Dress should be to a high standard including jacket, tie, beret and medals. Descendants of veterans, relatives of veterans or relatives of other members of the Regiment will NOT be allowed to join this contingent. Their reunion after the March will be with the veterans at the NSW Leagues Club or the Civic Hotel – the latter is official venue for the NSW Branch of the RAAC and has become very popular over recent years.
Descendants or relatives of World War 2 veterans will be able to join an
official contingent that will be participating for the second time under their
own banner. This contingent precedes the Allied contingents in the March. The
forming-up point will be the corner of Pitt and Market Streets in the pedestrian
mall. Participants should assemble around 11:30 and be ready to move off around
12:00. There are a number of directives to follow:
- only ONE descendant or relative is to represent a veteran
For all three contingents, one of the rules of the RSL is that NO children are allowed to take part in the March. Also, people should avoid taking part in the March more than once as has happened in recent years – the organisers are trying to keep the March as short as possible.
Dress for association members is beret, tie (Regimental of course) jacket and medals. If you have not got a tie, you can order one securely on-line from the Museum Shop, or use the form attached to your paper copy of Despatch, to re-emphasise, a steal at $20.
Please indicate in the response sheet if you will be there to let us know to look out for you - do not forget a donation for the Association and/or the Museum (Click Here for online submission Click Here for .pdf download to fax or post).
Reserve Forces Day
Reserve Forces Day 2010 will acknowledge members of the reserve who have served overseas on operations. The parade in Sydney will be in the Domain on Sunday 4 July 2010.
The past six months have been eventful. The diary General Lee kept during the Boer War that contained original poems penned by Andrew Patterson has been re-bound and de-acidified. The staghound gets closer by the day to being roadworthy. And, an appeal to RSL clubs has been launched in an attempt for us to get the funds we need to refurbish and make operational the Matilda "ACE". A number of past comrades have departed, lest we forget their contributions to our nation.
The Regiment has changed Commanding Officer, we thank the outgoing CO Lieutenant Colonel Eric Stevenson for his support of the Association and Museum, and welcome Lieutenant Colonel Chris Monsour. We look forward to his support over the next three years.
This year, for the first time since 1945, a squadron of Lancers will go overseas on operations. As was the case in 1899 and 1900 a composite group be assembled to form a special squadron. The troops will commence training in February for deployment to the Solomon Islands on peacekeeping operations. The tour of duty is set to conclude in September.
The website has been expanded slightly with the addition of a Commanding Officers' page. It was developed to cover enquiries from family members about past COs, the initial information was from the Regimental History with a few tense etc (many have passed away since 1985) adjustments. COs from thereon have been asked to contribute their own biographical notes, Colonel Long has already done so. When complete it will be a great online research tool, and a block of data to transfer to the Regimental History when updated.
In this edition we are extremely fortunate to have contributions from World War two veterans John Blackberry and Bill Richardson, both have amazing stories, don't just skim the pictures, make certain you take the time to read them, . We also have contributions from globe-trotting retired Lancers detailing their visits to old battlefields. Thanks very much to everyone who contributed: David Craven, Jack Best, John Blackberry, Alan Hitchell and Bill Richardson.
More of John Blackberry’s Memories And I say “Thank You” after 64 years.
In June 1945 the 7th Australian Division, A.I.F and support units assembled at Morotai in the Halmaheras Islands where beach landings and command exercises were practised for the proposed operations to capture the oil refineries at Balikpapan, Borneo. On 26th June a convoy of over 100 vessels sailed for the five day voyage.
My troop was on a flat bottomed barge known as “LCT” — Landing Craft Tank. It had an American crew of seven in crowded quarters on the stern, a canvas covered bridge and two 50 calibre machine guns. We were in the open space on the hot steel decks with no cover and no comfort. However, the food was good, and plentiful, and the crew friendly and generous. The whole outfit was towed by a steel cable to a 12,000 tonne ship 2—3 hundred metres away.
At 4.00 am on Sunday, July 1945 we got an extra hearty breakfast and looked at the huge red glow in the sky ahead. But it was not the rising sun that we could see. As we made our run to the beach and moved into the correct positions, the sea was a mass of small craft forming into assault waves amidst the tremendous, earsplitting roar of naval fire and air bombardment which lives with me to this day. We landed in a metre of water — much to the relief of our tank drivers. Then Sapper “Tich” Russell and members of the 2/9th Field Coy swept a path for us with their mine detectors until we were off the beach and moved inland. In the following days the Regiment’s tanks blasted enemy strong points thus savings many Infantry lives.
Then on the 5th July, my troop received orders “Get down to the beach”. With five spare crew members and our engineer sapper weighed down with mine detector and demolition charges, we quickly moved to the beach and found three barges each capable of carrying one tank, with ramps down. In a few minutes we were away on a 15 km journey along the coast Our orders were to proceed to the Manggar River area where our infantry had come under heavy fire from Coastal Defence (CD) guns protecting the airstrip. These guns were 150 mm calibre set in concrete bunkers. Naval ships and air force bombers had attacked these positions over several days without success. Now it seemed we had the job. We landed under cover of an artillery smoke screen, then moved up the beach to the edge of the airstrip and stopped in line — ahead at what we were told was a position of cover. We dismounted and removed the waterproofing canvas and tape from our engines. It was quiet — not a sound — too quiet. Suddenly we heard the swish of incoming mortar shells and everyone took cover in, or under the tanks. There is only 30 cm clearance under the Matildas on hard ground — and this was not hard ground. It was therefore not easy to wriggle underneath — luckily we were all pretty skinny in those days. We then came under fire from one of the C.D. guns. The first shell came screaming in and hit the leading tank in the centre of the turret, sheering off the Howitzer barrel which I saw cartwheeling through the air for 50 metres. The second shell hit the turret ring of the next tank and lifted the 8 tonne turret out of its base, and slewed it from the 12.00 o’clock gun position to 9.00 o’clock. Two crew struggled out, both wounded, and fell over the side before the tank ammunition began to explode and fire took hold. They crawled under. I saw all this through my periscope (hatch closed!) and realised my tank would be next. It was a difficult situation - not knowing where the fire came from we had no target and as there were men sheltering under my tank I could not move it. I therefore told my driver to dismount and get under too. When we did so and tried to crawl under the rear of my tank we found it was only possible to get head and shoulders under because of the numbers already there.
At this stage, with a lull in the shellfire, we became aware for the first time that there was an observer concealed in a little thatched hut on top of an airfield control tower nearby. It was only 50 metres from us and not a good place to be in as it had two of its four legs shot away. He called out to us and asked about casualties. We could then hear him speaking loudly transmitting target corrections by radio and this was quickly followed by navy gunfire which seemed to be just clearing our turret tops. Good old Navy! Give it to them!
Sadly this upset the Japanese and we got more mortars followed by another shell from the CD gun which hit my tank wounding me and three others. Things became a bit vague here but I remember someone helping me to a ditch or drain about 50 metres away, near the river. I never found out who it was. Next the casualties had to cross the wide Manggar River by crawling over steel mesh rigged by the engineers under the knocked out bridge and this was not easy.
Someone then tied a big shell dressing on my bleeding forehead, effectively blinding me in the process and as my eardrums had been ruptured, I was also completely deaf. The world had suddenly become silent.
By lifting my blindfold, I noticed that there were five other tank crew wounded and later learnt that our brave little engineer sapper had been killed under the leading tank. It was his 20th birthday. While I was lying on the ground awaiting attention three things happened.
- A 6 pounder anti-tank gun (one of ours!) appeared about 30 metres away and began rapid fire at the Japanese gun positions. I wished that they would take up a firing position further away!
It was a letter from my father — a Gallipoli veteran who later was wounded in France in 1918.
It seemed that he knew I was in trouble and although I didn’t get to read it until the next day I could only wonder how it reached me amidst this chaos.
Then some jeeps and trailers arrived and our wounded, with some infantry fellows began a long bumpy ride to the casualty clearing station back at the Balikpapan beachhead area. On arrival, whilst lying on the ground awaiting attention some military police marched about 20 Japanese prisoners down the track and halted them opposite us. As my crew had just had 30% crew casualties and 100% tank casualties, I was incensed that they should be looking at us in our sorry state. Then from behind us, about 10 or 12 Indian troops appeared, all pitifully thin and gaunt, but armed with pick handles. It was an identification parade allowing the Indians, who had been prisoners of war, to even a few scores with some of their brutal captors. Several of the Japanese were identified amidst much Indian excitement and given a good pasting with the pickhandles after which the Military Police called it off and away they went. The Indians were a mass of white teeth and smiles.
Then show over, I was patched up, stitched up, head shaved and washed. Three weeks later I was returned to the unit on ‘light duties”. By now it was the end of July and the war was finished, at last, on the 15th August, 1945.
Over the years, when my war injuries brought back memories of the 5th July, 1 often wondered who that fellow was who dragged me to that ditch thereby saving me from further injuries or worse. I established that it was not a member of my unit so assumed that he must have been from the 2/14th Battalion but inquiries on many Anzac days revealed nothing — it was a dead end.
Then, at last, at l0.3Oam on the 10th June’ 09 my phone rang and a voice said “Is that John Blackberry?” “Yes” I replied, “and you live at 12 Koorabel St. Lugamo?” “Yes I snarled — what are you selling?” (Another one of those calls!) Then Doug Watkins, resident of Melbourne and former stretcher bearer in 2/14th Battalion revealed that his search was over- he had found me at last! Doug had visited the Tank Museum at Puckapunyal in Victoria with members of his family and saw a photograph of me with tanks and name captions which he instantly recognised. I don’t know what the photo is about — I have not been to Puckapunyal for years but Doug had carried a memory of my appearance whereas I had no conscious memory of him because of my condition at Manggar. Well, a long and costly phone call followed solving many questions after all the years since our paths crossed 64 years ago. On Saturday, 14th November last, Doug and his lovely daughter Robyn, flew to Sydney and arrived at my home where we three enjoyed lunch and solved many questions. Doug is a big handsome man with a friendly manner.
Post — war he became a minister of the church until retiring at 60 years after which he took up duties with the Salvation Army. Any ex-serviceman will remember the wonderful work the “Sallies” did, don’t we? Many photographs were taken and it was a really wonderful experience for me after all the years since our paths crossed in Borneo. After three hours the taxi returned and they were off home to Melbourne promising to return in 2010. 1 look forward to that I assured them — it takes time to thank someone who probably saved my life 64 years ago — both 22 years old then, both 87 now.
I had not adopted the habit of hugging men as is so common today but there I was with Doug hugging like brothers when he arrived and when he left — yes like brothers, which we are now. I have lived alone for thirteen years and now there is a new member in my family but I notice that my eyes are watering sometimes now — must be old age?
What memories do you have? Keep in touch.
(N211255, NX132640 Trooper Bill Richardson. OC’s Driver Fighting HQ Troop B Squadron 1st Army Tank Battalion (Royal New South Wales Lancers) 1942)
At camp in Caboolture QLD. After amphibious training on Bribie Island.
Three tank crews selected to travel to Melbourne to pick up three special vehicles. Plus a Captain in charge, unfortunately I do not remember any of the names. We travelled by train to Sydney. It was winter time so we had winter uniforms including greatcoats. Central railway station at lunchtime, the Captain goes to ATO to negotiate a train to Melbourne on the morrow so we could all go visit our parents as we were all Sydney boys.
At the ATO office: "We have been waiting for you. Have some lunch in the cafeteria and be at No 4 East Circular Quay at 16:00.". The water from Circular Quay to where the Opera House now stands was hidden behind a wooden fence about two and a half metres high, on the Opera House site was a tram depot. On arrival a sailor met us at a gate in the wall, recorded all of our particulars on a pad Name Number Rank. He then invited us through the gate, moored there was the Manoora, which before the war was a passenger vessel of about 10,000 Tonnes. We boarded the vessel and were issued with hammocks and allocated our own mess deck. We were granted leave til 23:59. So we were all able to visit our parents, mine lived at Auburn. Back on board we managed to master the hammocks.
At 04:30 heave-ho, heave-ho, all hands, all hands, came over the loud speakers. Engines started and in no time we were through the heads heading north.
At Port Stevens a Destroyer joined us and we headed due east. We thought we were going to South America. After some time we did a U turn and sailed into Cairns. We were not going to Melbourne. We were ordered to go to a camp outside Cairns and exchange our winter gear for jungle greens. When we returned to the ship it was full of soldiers .We sailed to a cove outside Cairns and winched aboard small landing craft which filled the davits around the ship.
After we sailed from there we were informed that there was some equipment in No 2 hatch for us. Consisted of Three Alligators a tracked vehicle developed in the everglades and adapted by the US Armed Forces .We could only look at them. Some days later we arrived at Milne Bay about dusk. The soldiers were disembarked first and then it came our turn. Was about 01:00 by this time. They dropped us over the side, we had to learn how to start and drive them. We were told to head for "that light over there". The next morning no one knew anything about us. Because of our vehicles "they" decided we belonged to the American Small Ships who were over the other side of the bay. We requested some LCM’s to transport us across, unfortunately they were not wide enough so we had to drive them. The American Small Ships welcomed us with open arms. We spent about a week with them and each put on about a stone (25 kg) in weight. We were told "you don’t belong here, go back to Gilli Gilli, you should be attached to the soldiers you arrived with". They were going to Lae. Using a sand map of Lae we were let know what was required and supplied with weapons to mount on our craft.
We built a camp on the edge of the bay next to the metal airstrip and were having a good time driving one of the vehicles into the bay, diving and swimming off it. One day jeep drove past our camp and the officer in the jeep recognised one of us. He was from B Squadron, and had found their missing tank crews. We were packed up and driven back to the B Squadron camp. Our camp and vehicles are probably still waiting there for us to come back. We sailed in an LST to Morobe, with the rest of the squadron; we were going to Lae anyway, we were about to embark for Lae when the order came "Abort!" Lae had fallen without resistance.
Back to Buna, then to Mime Ba,y I do not remember if we took the tanks with us, I was on the water cart, had to keep the camp supplied with water, back and forward to the water point My next recollection is being on a Liberty ship off the Queensland Coast in a terrific storm. The ship was rocking and rolling so much that the tanks in the hold were sliding from side to side and were in danger of going through the side of the ship. The captain slowed down to steerage way and had we soldiers open no 1 and 2 hatches and transfer the stores in no 1 hatch to no 2 hatch. We actually dropped the stores in between the sliding tanks until we filled the space.
Arrived at Woolloomooloo, after unloading we waited for transporters to take us to the Showground. We got sick of waiting and decided to drive them, up to William St, Oxford St, and out to the Showground. Sydney to Sydney a 12 month round trip and no action to go with it.
Another great, well attended reunion in November, check out the faces below, you may find many familiar.
Photos: Alan Hitchell
Mick Algie, Harry Crampton and Jack Best took a trip to Darwin in September 2009. It was their first visit to the top end, and their first to 1st Armoured Regiment in their northern post.
Temperature shock was the first thing noticed. It was 17° when they left Sydney, 33° at midnight when we picked up our car at the airport and found our war to the YMCA where we were to stay.
On day 1 we drove to Robertson Barracks to visit 1 Armoured Regiment, as arranged, our guide was one Trooper. We inspected the Abrahams tanks in hangars and were privileged to sit in on a gunnery instruction lesson which was an amazing display of electronics. We were introduced to the Commanding Officer who gave an open invitation for any members or former members of the Regiment to visit. Just let them know you are coming.
We also visited Norforce Headquarters, were given a guided tour of this joint service (Army and Navy) facility and visited the Sergeants’ Mess.
Day 2 we visited the aviation museum where there is a massive B52 bomber on display, Darwin’s underground storage tanks, the botanical gardens, Litchfiekld Park, Darwin Pier (great meals at good prices), the Hot Bikini Hotel, and the Military Museum – East Point.
Mick and Harry went fishing, a rip-off.
The most relaxing spot was the Lizard Beer Garden. Whilst at the Lizard a wedding party came in. The bride was fully decked out in a white wedding gown, the males in black trousers, white shirts and thongs. What a way to go …
The only problem with Darwin is that it is full of tourists.
The 7th Light Horse Regiment was raised in Sydney in October 1914 from men who had enlisted in New South Wales, and became part of the 2nd Light Horse Brigade. Sailing from Sydney in late December 1914, the regiment disembarked in Egypt on 1 February 1915.
The light horse were considered unsuitable for the initial operations at Gallipoli, but were subsequently deployed without their horses to reinforce the infantry. The 2nd Light Horse Brigade landed in late May 1915 and was attached to the 1st Australian Division. The 7th Light Horse became responsible for a sector on the far right of the ANZAC line, and played a defensive role until it finally left the peninsula on 20 December 1915.
Back in Egypt, the 2nd Light Horse Brigade became part of the ANZAC Mounted Division and, in April 1916, joined the forces defending the Suez Canal from a Turkish advance across the Sinai Desert. It fought at the battle of Romani on 4 August, at Katia the following day, and was involved in the advance that followed the Turks’ retreat back across the desert.
The regiment spent late 1916 and early 1917 engaged on patrol work until the British advance into Palestine stalled before the Turkish bastion of Gaza. It was involved in the two abortive battles to capture Gaza directly (27 March and 19 April) and then the operation that ultimately led to its fall – the wide outflanking move via Beersheba that began on 31 October.
With the fall of Gaza on 7 November 1917, the Turkish position in southern Palestine collapsed. The 7th was involved in the pursuit that followed and led to the capture of Jerusalem in December. The focus of British operations then moved to the Jordan Valley. In early 1918 the 7th was involved in the Amman (24–27 February) and Es Salt (30 April–4 May) raids, and helped defeat a joint Turkish-German attack launched on the Jordan bridgehead around Musallabeh on 14 July.
The next major offensive was launched along the coast in September 1918, and the 7th took part in a subsidiary effort east of the Jordan. It was part of the force that captured Amman on 25 September, which proved to be its last major engagement of the war; Turkey surrendered on 30 October 1918. The 7th Light Horse was employed one last time to assist in putting down the Egyptian revolt of early 1919, and sailed for home on 28 June.
Major Peter Giudes has retired from the Army and like others of us is using his new found spare time to see the world, in particular those parts of it that where the Regiment fought in its 125 year history - Editor.
As one drives into the Gallipoli Peninsula from Istanbul, about 15 Kms before reaching the village of Gelibolu, several rows of WWII concrete bunkers stand testimony to the strategic importance of the Dardanelles, or as the Turks know the region, Çanakkale. Even today a compound of modern tanks just kilometres from the ANZAC landing site further reaffirms that the Dardanelles are indeed vital ground over the straits to Istanbul and Russia. Beyond the rocky crags of the Gallipoli Peninsula, the geography quickly changes to flat plains, still largely devoid of towns and natural obstacles.
I met my Turkish guide in the sleepy fishing village of Eceabat and he wasted no time in showing me the location of the sinking of the British lead fleet repulsed by the Turks on 18 March 1915, just over a month before the ill fated landing at ANZAC Cove, and explaining that that date is still celebrated today is a major military victory. The Turks are as proud of their achievements during the worst months of 1915, as we are of the battle that forged our nation.
The foreshore area of ANZAC Cove is now a well manicured lawn, but it is still overlooked by Walker’s Ridge on the left, the imposing “sphinx” in the centre and Plugge’s Plateau on the right. These elements of vital ground are defined by Monash Valley, Shrapnel Gulley and Reserve Gully, each of which are clearly documented in our Regimental History which I took with me and used as my guide to the battlefield.
Leaving the beach at ANZAC Cove I followed the likely path taken by the 1st Light Horse following their landing on May 12, 1915. Up Shrapnel Gully to just South of Pope’s Hill. Shortly after leaving the cemetery at ANZAC Cove you reach Shell Green cemetery where you find the resting place of TPR Sydney Brown (1ALH) who was most likely killed on the attack on the Chess Board conducted by the Regiment on 7 August 1915. He is just one of 15 known to be killed on that day. 98 were wounded and a further 34 were missing (mostly killed).
Reaching the top, you quickly approach the iconic Lone Pine Cemetery. Although the original Lone Pine tree is gone, one of its descendents is planted just outside the cemetery walls. A plaque beneath the tree states that it “commemorates the 8,700 Australians who lost their lives at Gallipoli and especially those who fought and died ... 6 – 9 August 1915.”
Here at Lone Pine, the names of 65 Regimental members who have no known grave are listed on the memorial including the brothers Stanley and Frank Villis (A SQN), both killed on the same day : also 7 August 1915. Major James Reid, who lead that attack and was killed is also named on the Lone Pine Memorial. Names of our Regiment are but 65 of the 3,268 Australians who lost their lives at Gallipoli and have no known grave.
But by far the greatest number of Regimental Graves is at Quinn’s Post. Most were killed on either May 18th or August 7th. In August, just a day after taking over the position at Quinn’s Post two Squadrons (200 men) attacked Turkish positions with instructions that no shots were to be fired. According to the Regimental history, the storming party reached the third line of trenches of the enemy’s Chess Board position. They held on for two hours before falling back under a counter attack by great forces.
A small network of trenches and tunnels still exists at Quinn’s Post to give visitors an idea of the proximity of Turkish and Australian trenches. Some positions were within 4 metres of each other. Close enough to swap cigarettes, food and water between opposing forces.
At the Quinn’s Post cemetery another set of brothers from 1 LH are buried side by side. Frederick (aged 29) and Harold (aged 25) Sherwood both served with the Regiment and were killed on the same day. On the day of my visit both of these headstones were covered with small Australian flags.
One of the surprising aspects of the battlefield visit is the small area of which these household name battles took place. The entire area from Anzac Cove to the Chessboard is about 1Km in depth and the front relating to our actions from Walker’s Ridge to Shell Green would be less than 2Km. This is brought home by a single photo taken from Pope’s Hill down Reserve Gully to Anzac Cove. It demonstrates not just the proximity of these locations, but also the harshness of the terrain and exposure to enemy fire even when away from the front line trenches.
After hearing of ANZAC legends and places repeated each year on 25th April, it was satisfying yet mournful to finally put set foot on the ground consecrated by the blood of so many who have passed before us. I recall that during my visit in early Autumn, it was already miserably cold. I stand in awe of those who fought in such rugged terrain and we all share a common bond of respect with the Turks and we are made welcome there.
In 1988, the then Turkish Prime Minister wrote a poem which is on display at the Gallipoli Museum. A short extract reads:
“You who died in this land you did not know
This year your editor was also able to visit a part of the world where our forebears fought. In this case it was the 2/1st Machine Gun Battalion. In 1936 when the Lancers were mechanised we became a Machine Gun Regiment. The concept was to replace horses that provided mobility to the light horse with trucks and cars. The nation was changing, the skills of a horseman were no longer required to cross our vast continent, young riders now drove. The change was made without writing manuals on how these new mobile troops would work. They had to find that out for themselves. By the time war came in 1939 the former lighthorsemen had evolved tactics where cars were used for forward reconnaissance, and trucks to deploy soldiers and heavy machine gins (Vickers .303). The soldiers would fight on foot, the heavy machine guns deploy to static positions delivering plunging and anti-aircraft fire, much as light horse machine gun sections had. The vehicles were of course privately owned and leased to the government during training, the government organising for vehicles to be painted green at public expense.
When the war commenced; as had happened in World War 1, a parallel army, the second AIF was created. If the model of World War 1 was to be followed, AMF units as such would not see service. The kernel of the second AIF was, as it had been for the first AIF, serving members of the army, permanent and citizen. Members of the Mechanised Machine Gun Regiments (in New South Wales the 1st Machine Gun Regiment (Royal New South Wales Lancers), and 16th Machine Gun Regiment (Hunter River Lancers)) resigned from the AMF and joined the AIF. Those from the Hunter found themselves in the 2nd/1st, from Sydney in the 2nd/2nd Machine Gun Battalions.
These units were part of the Infantry. The reconnaissance and mounted infantry roles inherited from the light horse were not now a part of what a Machine Gun unit did, these were to be handled by newly formed mechanised cavalry regiments and the mounting of conventional infantry in trucks when required. Machine Gun Battalions provided mobile, vehicle carried heavy machine gun detachments to deploy and support other ground (mainly infantry) forces when required.
"The 2/1st Australian Machine Gun Battalion was formed on 14 December 1939 as part of the 6th Division. In May 1940 the 2/1st sailed with the 18th Brigade to the Middle East but the convoy was diverted to Britain to help bolster defences.
The convoy reached Gourock in Scotland in mid-June. The 18th Brigade and the 2/1st travelled by train to England and went into camp at Tidworth Pennings on Salisbury Plain. The Australians remained in Britain for several months, while the battle of Britain played out about their heads. In November the battalion sailed from Colchester for the Middle East, arriving in Egypt at the end of December.
At the start of 1941 the battalion moved into camp at Ikingi Maryut and undertook desert training." (AWM)
In late 1940 after a successful invasion of Albania, Italy invaded Greece only to have its army savagely defeated and driven back by the Greeks. At this time Britain and Australia offered support to Greece in the event of a German invasion. 2 March 1941; 6th Aus DIV, 2nd NZ DIV and 1st Armd Bde (BR) landed in Greece. On 6 April 1941, the German Twelfth Army, under the command of Field Marshal Wilhelm List, invaded Greece.
"In early April the 2/1st Machine Gun Regiment left Ikingi for Greece to support the 6th Division. A few days after arriving in Athens the 2/1st headed for Gerania in the north to support different units manning the Aliakmon line: A Company joined the 2/4th Battalion, north of the Aliakmon river; B and C Companies were allocated to the 4th New Zealand Brigade; and D Company went to the 17th Brigade at Kalabaka. The machine-gunners fought alongside the infantry for the rest of the campaign and evacuated between the end of April and the beginning of May.
A small group from battalion headquarters evacuated first, returning directly to Alexandria. Elements from A Company (less a section), B Company (less 9 Platoon), and C Company boarded the Costa Rica, which was sunk by German aircraft shortly after. The men were rescued and taken to Crete by accompanying naval destroyers but most of their equipment and machine-guns were lost. Meanwhile, B and D Companies were also evacuated to Crete. D Company, which still had its guns, was sent to the 19th Brigade in the Georgioupolis area and the rest of the battalion went into camp in the Suda area. On 12 May B Company’s 7 Platoon also went to Georgioupolis and the rest of the battalion returned to Egypt.
The men in the Georgioupolis area were stationed along the beach and on to Retimo. When the Germans began their attack on Crete on 20 May the Australians reorganised their defences and the machine-gunners grouped around Canea and Retimo. Bitter fighting ensued as more and more German paratroopers landed on the island. By 30 May the Germans occupied the island; defenders were either evacuated, escaped, or became prisoners.
The 2/1st suffered considerably during the ill-fated Greek and Crete campaigns. Of 104 casualties, 77 were captured, two of whom escaped and one died in Germany." (AWM)
The tour let me follow the progress of the ill feted Greek campaign, see the preserved history of Greek civilisation and experience the hospitality of modern Greece with its many links to Australia.
We landed in Athens on 7 October 2009, toured the city; saw what had been where possible and witnessed the wanton destruction of the past in the name of religion. Today the Greek people with the help of the European Union are doing what they can to salvage and preserve what they can; their efforts are to be commended.
As the Germans advanced Reg was ordered back along the withdrawal route in his truck to Kalamata where he lined up with many others on the beach awaiting rescue. The Navy charged with picking up survivors was spooked by reports of an approaching Italian fleet. They pulled back, Reg and his colleagues spent the rest of the war in prison camps. Impressed with the attitude of the Australians he met in Greece during the campaign, he made his way here after liberation. Reg's daughter Elizabeth accompanied him on the trip. On our way to Kalamata we crossed the Corinth Canal site of a spirited delaying defence, and passed through Argos on the east coast of the Peloponnese where troop evacuations were precluded by the Luftwafe action. We saw the remains of roads used at the time of the withdrawal, narrow, one lane and un-paved tracks that would have been traversed by convoys of trucks without lights at night.
From Kalamata we travelled north to Olympia. The site of the ancient Olympic games is still moving 1400 years since the last games were held there. Worth pondering is that this institution of peace and the triumph of man's physical achievement was closed by the Christians, being regarded as Pagan. We then moved on to Delphi, more culture, and another fantastic museum to past achievements.
Moving further north, we were able to examine the sites where our Australian forces did battle to hold the advancing Germans. For a former armoured corps soldier the battle at Ptolemais is of particular interest. A force of Australian anti-tank gunners supported by New Zealand machine gunners and the infantry battalion (Rangers) from the 1st Armoured Brigade deployed astride the road south and held up the advancing Germans. As anticipated Germans moved a mobile force of 30 tanks, mainly PZ IVs to the west to outflank near Mauropye. The Germans with air superiority strafed and bombed the forward positions. The flanking force entering a planned killing ground where they were severely mauled by anti tank gunners and attacked by two troops of tanks from the 4th Hussars. With 13 tanks out of action, the Germans pulled back. The action enabled another clean break, saving many Australian, New Zealand, British and Greek lives. The site now scarred by a lignite mine (lignite, a poor type of coal is the primary fuel used for power generation in Greece) still has enough of the ground visible to trace what happened.
From there we travelled to Florina and Nike on the FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia - when you are in Greece, Macedonia is Greek) border. This is the centre of the Monastir Gap a 25 kilometre wide valley through which Alexander passed on his conquest of the Greek city states, and as did the Germans in 1941. Hearing that a group of Australian Military History tourists were in the area Brigadier General Papakonsdandino, commander of the forces manning this part of the border invited us for a briefing and morning coffee at the Officers' Mess - true Greek hospitality. His command performing the same border protection tasks in preventing drugs and illegal immigrants entering the EU as our Navy does to the North of Australia. At Vevi, the site overlooking the gap where our forces fought their first delaying defence, we found the turret of an M48 dug into a bunker; dating from the later Greek civil war, it was amazing to see technology so used.
We then travelled south, examining the sites of valiant delaying defences, and experiencing Greek culture. An overnight ferry trip to Crete, and we picked up on the last tragic act of the 1941 Greek campaign. Many units, and in some cases individuals were evacuated to Crete rather than Egypt, to defend this island. What happened was a true tragedy both for the defenders and the attackers. The Germans attacked with overwhelming force using paratroopers and air landed mountain troops. The Achilles heel was the airfield at Maleme on the north western side. There insistence by the RAF that the airfield not be cratered meant that the attackers were able to take this working field and land their mountain troops en mass; eventually this mistake cost the campaign. Elsewhere the tactics used by the German paratroopers were proving so costly that Germany never used its paratroops again. Troops were dropped from low level (80 metre) passes on positions and without their individual weapons. They were cut to pieces by the defenders. At Heraklion the Australian 2/4th battalion soldiers defending an area overlooking the airfield strung wire between two hills (the two "charlies") to bring down the transports. Even here, however, the paratroops landed in such great numbers that they eventually prevailed. Those at Heraklion won the battle and were evacuated by sea. At Retimo our troops were not aware of the orders to move south to evacuation ports on the Libyan Sea (the radio batteries had gone flat) so surrendered or scattered to join the locals as partisans. Elsewhere troops were evacuated over mountain roads, many were picked up from small evacuation beaches on the rocky southern coastline.
One moving aspect of the tour was an opportunity for those on the tour to visit the places where their ancestors fought. The task of tracing and finding these places is one that Military History Tours help their tour participants with.
A sad note is that the honour "Greece 1941" won by the gallant members of the 2/1st has been lost. Unlike the wash-up after World War 1 where by Military Order 364, August 1918 the honours won by 1st AIF units were allocated to continuing AMF units, and Australian Army Order No 117, May 1936 when a set of generic honours (in the case of the Light Horse ANZAC, Gallipoli 1915, Egypt 1915-1917, Palestine 1917-1918) allocated to units that missed out, after World War 2 there was simply a poo fight where units bid for honours. The Regiment bid for and was awarded honours for the campaigns it fought in (as those familiar with the history of the Regiment are aware, those who served on with the AMF unit in 1939 ultimately joined the AIF and were deployed to New Guinea and Borneo with the 4th Armoured Brigade) and with 21 honours, the most decorated unit of the Army, there can be no complaints, other units, however, missed out. In particular the regular units most of whom have no honours that precede their formation. I consider there should be a set of generic honours allocated to all RAAC units created after 1948 to include all conflicts where the Light Horse and Cavalry fought for those with no precedent honours, and a generic set of World War 2 honours for those units that missed out. In honour of the work of the former light horsemen who were the kernel of the 2/1st MG Bn, "Greece 1941" should be included in that list of generic honours.
For me this tour was a great experience. It was to be topped by a visit to the UK, and in particular a trip to Dorset and tour of Bovington. As I left Crete, however, I had a bit of a sniffle, this had developed substantially by the time I reached my Kensington hotel, when I returned to Australia a week later, I had pneumonia and a collapsed lung - can happen when you are 64 with a heart condition and insist on global travel. This meant my activities in the UK were curtailed, I did drag myself to the Imperial War Museum, the British Museum (to see the Parthenon Marbles) and to the Army Museum. Most impressed with the A vehicles on display at the Imperial War Museum, overwhelmed by the British Museum displays, and intrigued by the Army Museum. If you blinked you would not see any mention of Australia, Le Hamel is referred to as a "major BRITISH victory near Amiens", no mention of Australia or Monash; Macquarie is mentioned, but his role in building our nation not explained. This emphasised to me that it is up to us to preserve our own history and present it to the world (possibly with our own head of state and distinctive flag that is not dominated by that of another country which hardly mentions us in their museums and gives our citizens a third degree interrogation when entering the country - Germans walk blithely through immigration at Heathrow; I was quizzed as if I, at 64 was an economic terrorist about to steal a European person's job).
Nonetheless I had a great time, and would recommend a Military History tour of Greece to anyone interested in what our forebears did; seeing a beautiful country steeped in history and populated with a people that must be the most hospitable I have encountered. Military History Tours Australia Pty Ltd will be taking a tour to Greece in October this year, along with tours to Egypt and Libya in March, Gallipoli in April for the 95th anniversary of the landing, May for a leisurely out of season visit, and August if you are fit enough to swim the Dardanelles (or just like to watch others go through the agony) and take in a tour of the battle sights, France and Belgium in April, and a special tour of the bases in the UK used by the RAAF in World War 2 in July. Visit the Military History Tours website for full details of the very reasonably priced tours on offer, do not overlook the fact that if you cannot make a tour in 2010, they will be available again in 2011 (bit of an advert I know, but the small change I make as webmaster for Military History tours covers the cost of the technology I need to manage the Lancers' website and produce this newsletter).
Defence Reserves Association Press Release - 9 December 2009
The Defence Reserves Association is very concerned by Army's Reserve Restructure Plans.
The plans “fly in the face of the Government's 2009 Defence White Paper” which emphasises Army as a total force with higher readiness of Reserve Forces to enhance ADF capability.
Major General Jim Barry said "Australia cannot afford to waste the investment that has been made in Reserve Forces or diminish its capacity to sustain future rotations. The Army Reserve needs to be focussed to meet White Paper requirements, and not dumbed down in capability or stripped of regular personnel".
The negative scoreboard reads:-
Army has hit Reserve morale for six. Many experienced Reservists and instructors are “voting with their feet” by taking other jobs and reducing Reserve commitments. The lost training investment is very high and makes no economic sense for Army quite apart from its diminished capability.
David Craven unless otherwise noted
JOHN NIGHTINGALE — Listed in RSL Reveille Last Post of issue July/Aug 09 as NX122868 Tpr 1st Armd Regt AIF. We have no record of him on our roll or in service file. Reference from internet confirmed the NX no, rank and regiment, also that he was born in Sept 1919, enlisted in army (N215690) at Greta on 10 August 42, became AIF and was discharged on 13 July 44. Harry Britten said he was one of the intake from 2nd Aust Tank Bn at Singleton in Feb 43. He would have served in New Guinea, and left the regiment on return to Australia. Harry also said he was not related to Les Nightingale, well known Troop Sergeant of A Squadron, who died in October 89. We can’t recall any post war contact with John, while maybe some reader may remember him.
NORMAN PENTLAND, of Canberra and formerly Wagga, on 9 August 09, aged 86. Norm was never a member of our regiment, having served in 2/14th Machine Gun Regt and later a tank crew member of 2/5th Armd Regt. He had for many years been a good mate of our members in the Wagga district, including Ted Fallowfield and Roy Jessup, and had regularly come with them to our Anzac Day Reunions, the 3rd Tank Bn Reunions and events at Puckapunyal, and we considered him an Honorary Member of our Lancers Association. He became well known to many of our members, especially of C Squadron. We were represented at his funeral by Ted Fallowfield, who passed on word of Norm’s death.
KEITH CAMPBELL. RSL Reveille of Sept/Oct 09 listed him as NX113795, Trooper, 1 Armoured Regt. He is not on our roll to receive newsletters, but he is in our service file indicating he was with us in. New Guinea and Borneo. We don’t know his squadron, or whether he was tank crew or B Echelon, and those asked didn’t remember him. There has probably been no post war contact. The Service Record obtained through internet shows he enlisted in army at Greta in July 42, N200786 when we were Militia, later becoming AIF, and was discharged on 29 March 1946. Also date of birth was 14 December 1912, so assuming he died in 2009, he would have been 96 — a ripe old age, and one of our oldest. Would any reader who remembers him please tell us more — David Craven (03)6249 3579 or John Blackberry (02)9534 2353.
GRANT TROUP of Glenmore Park, on 4th June 09, from cancer, at Nepean District Hospital, aged 86. He joined the Lancers with the large intake at Rutherford on 28th Dec 41, finally becoming tank gunner in 5 Troop A Squadron, With service in New Guinea and Borneo. He was discharged on 26th Jan 46. Grant was a loyal member of our Lancers Association, regularly attending reunions and other events, and always well dressed. In fact, in Lancers Despatch 14 of Feb 08, John Blackberry reported that at the Regimental Reunion at Lancer Barracks in October 07, he thought Grant, being impeccably dressed, was definitely the “stick man” of the day. Grant was well known to many members of A Squadron as a good mate. He was married to Yvonne for 63 years, and our sympathy is extended to her. His funeral was at Leura Memorial Gardens on 9 June 09.
PAT DONOVAN (Major Patrick Donovan AM, RFD, ED) died on Tuesday, 20th October, 2009 at the age of 74 as a result of complications resulting from a brain tumour. His funeral service was held at Our Lady Queen of Peace, Normanhurst on Saturday, 24th October and was one of the largest attendances ever seen for a departed comrade. It was a testimony to the number of lives that Pat touched in an extraordinary life.
There were several people who delivered eulogies including his brother Tony Donovan and grand-daughter Tess Donovan. The Lancers Regiment was represented by the Honorary Colonel, MAJGEN Warren Glenny AO, RFD, ED, the current Adjutant, CAPT James Brown and the current RSM, WO1 Colin Geoghegan. The Lancers Association was represented by the President, MAJ Len Koles RFD. There were representatives and other members from the NSW RAAC Association and the Lancers Association including COL Lee Long. There was also an honour guard provided by the Department of Corrective Services including Mr Steven Frey as the Guard Commander (also an ex-Lancer). A combined honour guard comprised of Corrective Service personnel and the ‘black hats’ of the Armoured Corps formed up to salute Pat’s casket on it’s last journey – something that was much appreciated by his family.
Just a short summary of Pat’s life was that he was born and raised in Adelaide; he attended Adelaide University in the early 1950s where he completed a degree in science. He worked for a number of commercial businesses all over Australia including Unilever Australia and Albright and Wilson (Aust.) – he became the general manager of the latter one. Later in his working life, he became a consultant to the Department of Corrective Services. Pat was awarded an Order of Australia (AM) for services to industry.
Early in his adult life, he married a local Adelaide girl Gillian and they had four children together. Pat was definitely a ‘family man’ and had great relationships with each of his eight grand-children and obviously adored every one of them.
Pat transferred to Tasmania from South Australia as State Manager of industrial Chemical firm, Albright and Wilson in 1969.
He was subsequently seconded to the vacant position of Battery Commander, P Battery, 6th Field Regiment RAA.
Approval was given for MAJ Donovan to continue to wear the black Armoured Corps beret.
He proudly wore the black beret when leading P Battery at the freedom of the city parade through Launceston in June 1970. Perhaps the only such time that a RAAC beret has been worn at such an important RAA occasion.
Following his three year posting as Battery Commander, MAJ Donovan served as an instructor on the Tactics Wing of 6 Training Group before being transferred to Sydney as State Manager of his firm. MAJ Donovan continued his service with the RAAC, mainly 1/15 RNSWL until his retirement from active ARES Service.
Pat was well known to many people in the Lancers’ Regiment, the Lancers’ Association and the RAAC Association. He had a lifelong association with the Australian Army though the CMF and Army Reserve that began as a National Serviceman in the 1950s with the Adelaide University Regiment. He served with a number of cavalry regiments including the 3/9 SAMR, 4/19 PWLH and the 1/15 RNSWL; he attained the field rank of major and served as second-in-charge of the Regiment (1/15 RNSWL) during a long and distinguished career. On his retirement from the reserves, he became Honorary Secretary of the NSW RAAC Association for a number of years. As a final tribute to his service to Defence, the RAAC Association awarded him Honorary Life Membership three weeks before his death.
Through his commitment to his work and the Australian Army, Pat Donovan was a classic case of ‘twice the citizen’.
Well done, good and faithful servant. Brian Walters
RSL Reveille, under Last Post, lists the following members:—
DOUG ROSS. Doug was on our roll and received newsletters, but was not on the service file, so didn’t serve in Borneo. Info from Veterans Affairs, from the internet per Bert Castellari, shows he joined our militia regiment in 1940, became AIF with the rest of us, and was discharged in May 46. Bert knew him as a tank driver and fellow member of RHQ Troop, HQ Squadron, and said Doug was known as “Panny”, and got on well in the troop. Bert agrees he wasn’t in Borneo, and why he missed isn’t known. It seems there has been no post war contact. He was 86.
ROBERT MacDOUGALL. Known as Robbie, aged 85. He came to the regiment with the intake of December 41, and became a tank driver of 5 Troop A Squadron, with service in New Guinea and Borneo, and was discharged in September 46. He was on our roll and got newsletters. John Blackberry remembers him and said Robert had a twin brother who was in B Eschelon of A Squadron. We have no record of Graham at all, and it appears there has been no post war contact with either of the brothers.
CARL NOBLE, of South West Rocks, on 12 December 2009, aged 91. Carl was a tank mechanic in our wartime LAD atached to A Squadron, and served in New Guinea and Borneo. He was a likeable member, with many good friends and well regarded in the squadron for his skill in tank maintenance. ile was also a good boxer. Post war he returned to his trade as a motor mechanic, and operated a garage at South West Rocks, where he lived for years, with the last of them in a local nursing home. Carl came to Sydney to many of our reunions and events over the years.
Thank you all very much for your assistance in supporting the Museum and Association in the past year. Our records (and they may not be perfect, human data entry has been involved) show the following supported by donation, the Association:
John Anderson, Denis Avery, Bill Balchin, Norman Bice, John Booth, Ray Butterfield, Ron Cable, Lisa Cameron, David Craven, Trevor Darby, Ted Fallowfield, William Falzon, Reg Gunn, William Ireland, Norma Jamieson, Jack Lamb, Chris Lawley Alfred (Snow) McEwan, John McPhee, Sam Mifsud, George Pennicook, Doug Pinnington, Joyce Sharpe, Alan Stewart, Russell Townsend, Don Watson, Wilma Wilson, Betty Wright.
and the following the Museum:
Bill Armstrong, Denis Avery, Ross Baker, Bill Balchin, Gwyn Bent, Norman Bice, John Booth, Ray Butterfield, Ron Cable, Lisa Cameron, David Craven, Geoff Cuthbert, Trevor Darby, James Dick, Ted Fallowfield, Reg Gunn, John Howells, Alan Howitt, William Ireland, Norma Jamieson, Jack Lamb, Dorothy MacArthur-Onslow, Albert Martin, Alfred (Snow) McEwan, John McPhee, Sam Mifsud, Don Morris, Gordon Muddle, Ron Muddle, Parramatta Heritage Centre, George Pennicook, Doug Pinnington, Eddie Polley, Mike Ribot de Bressac, Joyce Sharpe, Judy Spadaro, Alan Stewart, Russell Townsend, Don Watson, Wilma Wilson, Betty Wright.
Yes we really do need your financial assistance. In particular the Museum, where running costs are biting heavily into our pockets. 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 activate the donation form. Donations to the Museum are tax deductible.
Don't forget your memorabilia, the online shop also has secure payment facilities using PayPal. Click Here for the Museum Shop.
This year the RAACA NSW Branch's annual Cambrai dinner was held at Lancer Barracks. This all ranks dinner was a great affair as always and a chance for our Museum patron Lieutenant General O'Donnel to give our displays a once-over.
Membership of the RAACA 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 email email@example.com.
"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
Lancer Barracks, 2 Smith Street, Parramatta NSW 2150, Australia
Telephone +61 (0)405 482 814, E-mail: email@example.com
For Regimental enquiries call: +61 (0)2 9635 7822