Lancers' Despatch 22
Website of the Royal New South Wales Lancers Lancer Barracks and Museum
From the Regiment
Forces Day 2012
Photos and text by the editor unless otherwise noted - historic photos are from the Museum's collection.
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Our political representatives:- The Hon Julie Owen MP (Parramatta); The Hon Alan Hawke MP (Castle Hill, a former officer of the Regiment) and The Hon Philip Ruddock MP (Berowra) did respond to questions from the Association and raise the Band issue with their Ministerial and Shadow Ministerial colleagues. All agreed that support for our and other Regimental Bands was essential. However, we have not seen a recision of the original minute quoting reference "DLOG-A Minute 2011/R9493034 dated 29 Jul 2011" that all support to Regimental bands is being withdrawn. The rumoured resolutions certainly indicate the Band will continue to exist; but certain questions about paying for uniforms and instruments have not been laid to rest.
STOP PRESS A late addendum to the Band situation is a letter from the Minister for Defence telling us something we do not want to hear. It would appear that we superannuants, members of the Lancers' Association are to be required to fund replacement band uniforms and instruments from our retirement incomes. CLICK HERE to download the Minister for Defence's response to my letter to The Hon Philip Ruddock MP (thanks very much to Mr Ruddock for obtaining this response). On a different matter it is pleasing to note Brigadier Philip Bridie was awarded an AM in the 2012 Australia Day honours list.
Thanks very much to our contributors Brigadier Philip Bridie, Bert Castelleri, Major David Brown, David Craven, Jeff Darke, Allan Hitchell, Nicholas Stuart and proof reader Ross Baker.
Mid December, the Regimental Association received an encouraging press release from the Department of Defence, reading in part:
"Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, Senator David Feeney, and Commander 2nd Division, Major General Craig Williams AM, today announced major reforms for Army Reserve under Plan Beersheba at Simpson Barracks in Watsonia, Melbourne.
Senator Feeney said that Plan Beersheba, a restructure of the Australian Army, will achieve a greater integration of full and part time forces and strengthen the operational capability of our part time forces. ...
The feeling of euphoria was slightly dulled as although there was an indication that "all Army Reserve Armoured units will have armoured vehicles" this had to be balanced by rumours emanating from the Defence Reserves Association that RAAC units in NSW would be reduced to one and that the result might be the Regiment becoming a squadron of the Hunter River Lancers. Brigadier Philip Bridie, past Regimental Commanding officer, and a member of the Project Beersheba evaluation team was able to offer the following assurance "The approved plan (the detail of the one just released) has both 1/15 and 12/16 as Regts providing PMV (Protected Military Vehicle, ie Bushmaster) capability. This is an important output and in the eventual key Beersheba output for the Reserve (a Battle Group as part of the READY Multi-role Manoeuvre Bde) requires the provision of two PMV tps (about 48 PMV)."
Brigadier Bridie also indicating "I hand over command of 8 Bde this Tue 20 Dec after three years. My new posting is as Assistant Commander - Capability 2 Div in which I will have carriage for the execution of Plan Beersheba outcomes." [email: Bridie - Howells dated 18 December 2011]
Further reassurance was offered by Nicholas Stuart, our Canberra Correspondent who stated in a message dated 16 December 2011 that "I actually spoke to Senator Feeney last week and asked him about this very issue. He said he was very keen to see the ARes used and resourced properly ...".
I understand we should not hold our breaths, Bushmasters are much needed in operational areas; so it may be some time before the old vehicle manoeuvre, and vehicle husbandry skills the Regiment was renown for in the past are evident again. It is, however, a start.
Major David Brown
1. New Group on LinkedIn
If you currently are a member of LinkedIn and would like to connect with other Users who have an interest in the Lancers add the group 'The 1st/15th Royal New South Wales Lancers' to your profile. The membership of the Group is open to anyone, not just those who are current or ex-serving.
2. Sattelberg Dinner
Every year the Officers and SNCOs hold a dinner in November to dine out those members of either Mess who are being posted out of the Regiment or retiring from the Army.
The event was held at Lachlan's Restaurant on Saturday 19 November 2011 and was named the 'Sattelberg Dinner' in honour of C Sqn's contribution in the battle of Sattelberg in New Guinea which was fought over the period 17-25 November 1943. MAJ Brown gave a short speech on the significance of the battle and it is hoped that the event will be known as the 'Sattelberg Dinner' in future years.
Those being farewelled included the MAJ Lording, LT Sanders, WO1 Geoghegan, WO2 Cahill, WO2 Kerney and WO2 Harrison. We wish them well in their future careers.
3. Officers' Mess Social Activities
A group of current and ex-serving officers, together with a number of guests, commemorated the Battle of Beersheba by holding a dinner in the Red Room of the Union, University and Schools Club in Bent Street on Friday 28 October 2011. Current serving officers attending included LTCOL Wayne Higgins and CAPTs Greg Barter and Andrew White. Ex-serving officers included MAJ David Brown, CAPT Simon Peisley and LT Paul Harper.
A number of current and ex-serving officers, met for pre-Christmas drinks at the Union, University and Schools Club in Bent Street on Friday 2 December 2011. Current serving officers included BRIG Philip Bridie, LTCOL Wayne Higgins, MAJs Rob Lording and Greg Barter and CAPT Dave Newman. Ex-serving officers included MAJ David Brown, CAPTs Simon Peisley and Richard Knorr and LT Paul Harper.
More of these events will be held in the future and if you are a current or ex-Serving officer in the Regiment of any vintage you are welcome to attend.
Invitations for the below events will be posted on our LinkedIn group.
Please save the dates in your diaries:
Officers' Mess Quarterly Drinks - Saturday 14 April 2012 from 6pm - Officers' Mess, Lancer Barracks, Parramatta
Balikpapan Dinner - Friday 6 July 2012 - Union, University and Schools Club
The Museum has been making great strides with restoration projects in the face of some difficulty. Project ACE, the restoration of our WW2 Matilda was disrupted as the Museum of Military Engineering workshop, where we had been doing the work was closed due to some occupational health and safety issues. By contrast the Staghound restoration has proceeded well. I would not be prepared to say when these projects will be complete, they are in good hands.
The Museum has been in receipt of some small grants to help. Museums and Galleries Australia put up the money for us to have the Orange Free State Flag that had been signed by members of the Boer War Lancer Squadron repaired. The Parramatta City Council paid for a re-print of our Museum Brochures. We also received small grants from the Department of Veterans' Affairs and the New South Wales Heritage Office toward the restoration of ACE. The seeking of grants has been an initiative by Ian Hawthorn – keep up the good work Ian.
The Museum of Australia has shown interest in displaying our 1904 King’s Banner as part of the Centenary of the naming of Canberra exhibition next year. The Regiment provided a guard of honour for the Governor General at the ceremony; the guard also escorted the banner. The Museum committee has indicated it will be happy to accede to the request provided the Museum of Australia is prepared to conserve the banner, as it is in a somewhat parlous condition.
The Museum has approached Bunnings North Parramatta to run sausage sizzles as a fundraiser. We will also be deploying the Mobile Museum. Should we get the paperwork sorted out; and there is a lot, we will need volunteers who are a dab hand at the barbeque.
Beersheba Day (31 October) fell on a Monday this year not a good day for public functions in Canberra because people just can't get there. It was a fine day, sunny, and the usual westerly which can blow hard along Anzac Parade had dropped.
Attendance was small but the ceremony, though brief, was carried out respectfully, honouring the Light Horsemen of the Great War, particularly the men of the 4th and 12th Light Horse who rode to victory at Beersheba. Two members in uniform and on horse back represented the7th Light Horse . Bob Stenhouse, accompanied by John Palmer and Bert Castellari, laid the NSW Lancers' wreath. The three saluted the memorial then Bob Stenhouse made a short address and other wreaths were laid.
Roy Rae, representing the Light Horse Association, laid the next wreath followed by members of a group, mainly women, who had forbears in the Light Horse. This group included Paul and Adrienne Bradley who have been attending the ceremony for some years. The card on their wreath told their story:
"In memory of L/Cpl (Charles) Eric Fane de Salis, a member of our family born at Cuppacumbalong, Tharwa [ACT] in 1881. Son of George Fane de Salis and Mary St Lawrence Irving Smith of "Soglio" Michelago. Joined the 2nd Light Horse Machine Gun Squadron. Eric was engaged in capturing Sakarty on the Hebron Road. It had to be captured before the charge on Beersheba. Eric was killed at Tel al Khuweilfe as a result of action after Beersheba 6 November 1917. He was awarded an MM. Flowers laid by his great niece Adrienne (de Salis) Bradley."
Once again we held a reunion at Lancer Barracks. Not quite as well attended as in the past, and for this I am to blame. Concerned at cost, I did not send out snail mail reminders, using only email. Nonetheless, those who did make had a great time renewing old friendships and re-living past-times.
Reserve Forces Day in 2012 will have commemoration of the 110th anniversary of the treaty of Vereeniging that marked the end of the Boer War in 1902. In 1899, almost all Australian soldiers were reservists, of the Australian units and sub-units committed, only one sub unit was permanent. The Boer War was the first time Australian Soldiers in Australian units were engaged in action. It is great that Reserve Forces Day has taken this theme.
Reserve Forces Day 2012 was launched at Parliament House Sydney on Sunday 26 November 2012. The Regiment and Association was well represented. The Band supplying music, Harry Crampton as RSM, Ross Baker, Mick McGraw and Brian Walters carrying standards.
Politicians from the state and federal parliaments gave speeches in support of the Reserve, and John Haynes spoke of the Boer War. Those who are accessing the newsletter online can click on the images below to view the speeches; there is also a video of the parade.
The Boer War was the first time Australian forces were engaged in combat (NSW Lancers, Fighting 29 - Battle of Belmont 23 November 1899); and it was the first time our volunteer soldiers were charged with offences relating to their service. They were men, some faced with parlous economic circumstances; all who voluntarily left the security of their shores to fight in a far flung land at the request of their government; just as our soldiers do today.
At Wilmansrust east of Tshanwae (then known as Pretoria) on 12 July 1901, well into the war a new draft of soldiers from Victoria, the Fifth Victorian Mounted Rifles were attacked in camp. The policy followed by Victorian military authorities was to give combat experience to as many of their troops as possible, so none of the new arrivals, regardless of rank, had seen action before. They were placed under the command of a British Artillery officer Major Morris who was also new to South Africa. The camp came under Boer attack; poorly place piquets (Major Morris had placed each one personally) and with rifles stacked centrally, away from the men sleeping in bell tents (all in accord with King's Regulations - regulations obviously crafted for more gentlemanly conflicts), eighteen were killed in the fight. The Victorians found out that their commander General Beetson, obviously disturbed by the incident made this statement: "I tell you what I think. The Australians are a damned fat, round shouldered, useless crowd of wasters . . . In my opinion they are a lot of white-livered curs . . . You can add dogs too". On 7 July, when the Victorians were ordered out on another operation. Trooper James Steele was overheard by nearby British officers to say: "It will be better for the men to be shot than to go out with a man who called them white-livered curs". For this apparent refusal to do as they were ordered, Steele and troopers Arthur Richards and Herbert Parry were arrested, given a summary court-martial and sentenced to death. British supreme commander Lord Kitchener intervened. He commuted the sentences (Steele to do ten years gaol, the others to do one year each). Intervention by the Australian Prime Minister with the full support of the new Federal Parliament was necessary for the men to be released.
Following this incident and later the deaths of Lieutenants Handcock and Morant at the hands of a British "court-martial", our volunteer soldiers when serving overseas no longer faced the death penalty for combat related actions. However:
Just as the Regiment has consistently committed a troop to Operation Anode in the Solomon Islands; the Army Reserve 1 Commando Regiment, has had troops in Afghanistan; in this case they were working with troops from the Afghan National Army. In the village of Sikh Murgab in southern Afghanistan in February 2009, civilians were killed including regrettably some young children. There can be no doubt that the commandos involved deeply regret that outcome. The commandos were not undertaking an assassination as suggested in the media. A fierce gun battle took place in the dark and the deceased man fired nearly 100 rounds from an AK-47 at fellow Afghanis from the Afghanistan National Army (ANA) and the commandos.
The commandos were in a mud brick room just a couple of metres away with the walls exploding around them due to the fire that was aimed at them from an adjacent room. Only a year before, commando Luke Worley had been killed in almost identical circumstances. The ANA soldiers present called on the man in his own language (Pashtu) to lay down his weapon and cease the contact. Even after he was advised that there were Australians outside he responded by changing magazines and continuing firing. The reason for this is unknown but it resulted in his death and that of others in his family.
In June 2010 Defence legal for whatever reasons decided to lay charges against the soldiers, Reserve Commandos.
In May 2011, the Judge Advocate decided to dismiss the charges. The fact that this was done at the first opportunity is not surprising and reflects the fundamentally flawed basis of the prosecution. The prosecution had no sensible explanation as to how a soldier could owe a duty to take reasonable care when in close combat with the enemy. The soldiers were very highly trained reservists who volunteered to serve their country in Afghanistan.
The prosecution was unable to say what the soldiers should have done instead of what they did. No one believed the soldiers had any other option than to defend their mates and themselves against an enemy who was trying to kill them. The soldiers were charged concerning decisions made during 30 seconds of mortal combat at night.
The soldiers, their families, the Australian Defence Force and the Australian public were entitled to think that the decision to bring such serious charges was very carefully considered.
In view of the early dismissal of the charges at a preliminary stage, serious questions now need to be asked as to why the charges were preferred at all when they had so little substance. Why have reserve members and their families been put to so much unnecessary distress and humiliation?
During the Boer War, Australians were the very kind of soldier that an example could be made of for the sake of "discipline" or political purposes helping to keep Germany out of the conflict, and adding credence to peace negotiators.
Now it would appear reservists are just the kind of soft target an ambitious legal mind with a view toward a case that might somehow make them a "reputation", that the wild colonial Australians were a century a go. In the prelude to the inquiry there were many comments in the press questioning the capability of reservists - the dismissal of charges at the "first opportunity" has hardly been reported. Soldier, in particularly reservist bashing must be "newsworthy"; early dismissal of unjustified charges - must not. And yet we are supposed to learn from history ...
[References: Wilmansrust: The Debacle in South Africa by Graham J Whitehead; Defence Reserves Association Media Releases # 8 - 2 June 2010, and # 9 - 20 May 2011]
Those of us who have scoured the Regimental History, will have noted a mention of two troopers taken prisoners in the action where Fred Kilpatrick lost his life, then escaped from Boer custody and made it to the British Consul in what was Portuguese East Africa. The reference mentions a tale of adventure, but the tale is not present. David Deasey, working on the National Boer War Memorial project sought out the tale; I think you will find it riveting.
(John) Milverton Ford was from Sydney, where he had served in the New South Wales Lancers. He was working in South Africa and in early November 1899 found himself in Cape Town when members of his Regiment landed from the UK. He was given permission to join the contingent.
At 03:00 near Slingersfontein, a few kilometres south of Colesberg on 16 January 1900 a troop of about 20 mixed New South Wales Lancers and 1st Australian Horse under Lieutenant Dowling of the latter, set out on patrol. They were engaged by a larger party of Boers. It appears all the Australian’s horses were soon shot or captured in the first few minutes, then each man built a stone krantz around him, and fought until every cartridge was expended. The Boers then rushed them and as the cavalry carried no bayonets, little resistance was possible. TSM Griffin and CPL Kilpatrick died. Lieutenant Dowling lost an eye and was captured. The following Lancers were taken to Pretoria as prisoners: WO Fisher (SHQ), Sgt McDonald, Tptr Taylor, Cpl Hopf, Tprs Daley (all of the Northern Rivers); Doudney (Parramatta), Johnston (Sydney), Roberts (Singleton), M. Ford and G. Whittington (both of Sydney). This is story of Trooper Milverton Ford:-
"From the time that we reached the Waterval prison camp reports continued to reach us giving hope that we might be released at any time. On that account many of us refrained from attempting to escape. At length three months had passed, and within the last few days about 800 more prisoners had arrived, some from Sanna’s Post and some from Thaba’nchu, along with the news was things were at a standstill.
I determined to do a Churchill for it, and chose as my comrades in the venture a sergeant of the Royal Irish Fusiliers, who had seen service in India and Omdurman, and George (Dick) Whittington, a fellow New South Wales Lancer who had been through two native campaigns in South Africa. We procured at the cost of a few pounds, some old civilian suits, 2 haversacks each containing biscuits and a few tins of bully beef, enough we reckoned to last us three weeks, at the rate of 1½ biscuits and ¼ (tin) of bully beef per diem. Added to this we each took a water bottle and a clasp knife, and for general use we carried amongst us some tobacco, matches, two tins of condensed milk, tea, and a tin for boiling water, small piece of soap, half a towel, and small housewife, containing needles and thread, mixed pills, and quinine, as we had to pass through fever country (some of these who had attempted to escape before us contracted fever, and gave themselves up soon afterwards, returning to camp only to die), two small compass appendages, and a copy of a war map of the country I had carefully made up in sections to the scale of 25 miles to an inch (1:1,584,000) in a notebook. We could not manage blankets, but trusted to walking at night to escape the cold, owing to many escapees being recaptured on the railway we determined to strike east across the veldt, and avoid it altogether until we reached the neighbourhood of Waterval Bowen, and from thence to follow the Crocodile River to Portuguese territory.
All being ready and having the advantage of darkness until the moon rose about 01:00, we hid ourselves on Sunday 22 April 1900, in a hole specially dug out for that purpose in the prisoners’ exercise paddock and provided with small ventilation holes to the surface. It took a fortnight’s hard work to excavate it, the soil had to be carried away from this spot in small quantities at a time, and the hole covered up at night. There was a small hole only to creep in by and just room for us to lie side by side, and we had about 16 Centimetres clear above our heads. At 16:00 one of our comrades covered over the entrance to our excavation with boards, placed a towel upon them, covered the whole with sand, concealing it so cleverly that no one without previous knowledge would ever have suspected its existence. At 16.30 the guards appeared in the paddock, and at 17:00 commenced to turn the prisoners back into the compound. When the paddock was apparently cleared by the mounted men the guards on foot advanced very slowly across the paddock in an extended line at about five paces interval, searching as they went and tapping the ground with sticks. Thankfully, they walked over the top of the hole without detecting it. It seemed a life time whilst they were passing, at one point they halted about twelve metres away, and we could hear them probing a suspicious looking springhare burrow for some time. Eventually all was quiet, and we listened for the signal our comrades were to give us
We had arranged for three Gs to be sounded on the cornet when all was clear, and if there was danger ahead the regimental call of the Royal Irish Fusiliers. For half an hour life was bearable in the hole, but after that we were in agony, almost choking for want of breath, the size of the hole being 1.5 wide 1.7 long 0.5 metres high. Our mouths were opened to the fullest extent, our breath was coming in convulsive gasps; the perspiration was pouring down our backs in streams. However, just as it seemed we must succumb about 18:00 the cornet sounded three Gs, and we burst open the door of our prison, cleared the air holes and a flood of deliciously cool air poured through immediately reviving us. We lay quiet for some while, and scraped the soil from our faces and matted hair.
The night being still, and stars shining, we could hear our comrades singing hymns (we had church every evening) in one corner of the compound, the rendering of ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ being distinctly heard, whilst from the other end the cries of the penny gambling fraternity sounded clear and sharp. The houseman’s ‘Come on my lucky lads. Who says another card?’ and the Crown and Anchor boardman’s ‘Back them up my beauties, where you like and where you fancy.’ After a while we crept out from the hole, and lay flat on the ground listening. We had need of all our nerve as soon afterwards a guard left his post and walked down the paddock, stopping within 20 metres of us and listening for a minute or two before returning to it. At 19:00 we collected our kit together and crawled on our hands and knees to the wire entanglement, through which we made our way, after 10 minutes of struggling which caused much damage to our clothes. We then had to make our way through a mealie patch, between two farm houses, across a swamp, and over a river, all within a distance of about 600 metres. Until well away from the vicinity of the camp we advanced about 20 paces only at a time, and then lay down and listened for a few minutes to make sure we were not running into danger. At this rate it took us four hours to cross the railway at a point about three kilometres north of Waterval camp, we had needed to cross two ugly swamps and come through a nest of farms. Once clear of the railway line we halted for half an hour, becoming aware of the presence of some four centuries on outpost duty by their indiscreet fires at no great distance from us.
Having reached open country with few farms to trouble us we pushed rapidly on, and in another hour the brilliantly lit prisoner’s camp faded from view behind a hill. We waved our hats in exaltation and before daylight had crossed the Pinaar River and reached some bushveld, 11 kilometres east of it.
On Monday, 23 April 1900, we hid all day in some bushes, one watching whilst the others slept, seeing numerous patrols pass without detecting us. As soon as it was dark we resumed our march, remaining in the bushveldt all night, passing over a terribly rough kopje and some broken ground. We crossed a river by wading through a rapid, and soon became so entangled amongst the mealie crops and farms that we began to fear we should not extricate ourselves from the dangerous vicinity by morning. We could not rest, as dogs were barking at us and farmhouses seem to spring up everywhere. At about 04:00 we reached good shelter bushy trees and high grass, and there we camped lighting a fire which we extinguished before daybreak, as we were shivering with cold, and could hear the loud purring of some wild animal (a leopard, we thought).
On Tuesday, 24 April 1900, we had a quiet day, saw no one, and resumed our march about 15:00, halting at 17:00, as the bushveldt gave out. We narrowly missed being seen by two Boers, who were passing down a road we had to cross, and had to lie down on the grass for 10 minutes. At 1900 we resumed our march, crossing several streams and getting again in the very rough bush country. We kept falling over stones and dead timber, and at 24:00 decided that it would be better to camp for the night and whilst in that class of country to travel as much as possible during the day time. We obtained a good cover, with a fire and camped until daylight on Wednesday the 25 April 1900. At dawn we cut ourselves some stout sticks and pushed on. Soon we came to a broad, flat valley, open with the exception of a few clumps of trees, and dotted all over with farms and Kaffir huts. We watched our opportunity and made our way through with the utmost caution, from clump, getting sometimes perilously near to habitations and Kaffirs, until we again reached timber. Here I sank down almost exhausted near some fine specimens of quartz; but the sergeant and Whittington each easing my load by taking a haversack apiece, I was unable to go on. The country was now a succession of steep rocky spurs, over which we climbed wearily. A bath in a stream revived this and we walked on until it was quite dark when we struck some fine bushes in a depression. I lay down, worn out and fell asleep within a few seconds. Later on in the night when it was judged all Boers and Kaffirs would be asleep my two comrades lit a fire, I was awakened by Whittington about 02:00 to extinguish the sleeve of my coat it was on fire.
I woke at 07:00 on Thursday 26, feeling much refreshed by my long heavy sleep, and fit for a day's walking. We immediately started, but had to make why detours to avoid farms. Whilst crossing an open hill we suddenly came upon a Kaffir driving cattle. We dropped in the long grass before he saw us and he passed close by. Soon after having to make a wide detour to avoid a large farm the sergeant told as he would go no further with us, he considered we would never get out of the difficult country and and decided he would make at once for the. We divided up our stores equally, the sergeant taking the biggest compass. Parting as friends we shook hands and wished each other success. That was the last we saw him. He struck south and should have hit the railway near Bronkhurst Spruit, the scene of the cold-blooded murder in the last war of many Britishers, in a couple of days at the most according to our calculations.
My comrades and I walked until 15:30, when we discovered two large Kaffir huts and some cattle kraals in an isolated position a long way from the nearest habitation. We decided to visit them, get a good nights rest, have a couple of substantial meals by this time mealie pap would be an luxury, replenish our larder and leave before daylight giving the Kaffirs is a wrong idea of our direction and making them think we were prospectors.
We lay up until dark, and then went towards the huts; but to our inexpressible disgust there were no fires burning, no barking of dogs or chatter such as greets you from the children round a Kaffir kraal at night. The grass about was tall and rank and at last it forced itself on our unwilling minds, the place was deserted. On our arrival we found out such was the case and the castles we had been building in the air were dashed to the ground. We recovered from the shock, lit a fire and made half a pannikin of tea apiece, ate half a biscuit, then lay down outside and went to sleep. All night long the hyenas and the Jackals howl from the hills around us, as they did every subsequent night until we reached the railway. That night was terribly cold waking up I found Whittington's coat and trousers were on fire, I rolled him over and was able to extinguish the flames with no damage to my comrade.
On Friday, 27 April 1900 we started at daylight, walking all day through very mountainous country intersected by tributaries of rivers without seeing any farms. We were sunning ourselves at 09:00 on Sunday the 29 April 1900; ruefully contemplating our boots, which though sound when we left, now had almost worn out (in fact my toes were completely exposed), when crack whet a rifle at no great distance followed by another sounding closer than the first. It became evident that someone was shooting baboons, whose barks we had frequently heard around us, we hurriedly decamped making up a narrow kloof thinking they might take us for baboons and have a shot at us. We found the kloof to have been recently fired, and tried to go through it by walking straight ahead, but a high wind was blowing in our faces and we had to turn and clamber up a cliff, on top of which we found shelter and safety although the heat and smoke all day were very unpleasant. At night we advanced over some awful country. We kept falling over stones, ant heaps and down ant bear holes but we held on and after clambering down a rocky kopje discovered ourselves almost on top of a farm outhouse with a dog barking at us. We lay low, someone came out and quieted the dog, which fortunately for us was not aggressive. We then took the first opportunity of retreating and made a wide circuit, coming an hour later to a mealie patch. We were busily engaged, as we had been on several previous occasions in tapping water melons of which none were ever to be found ripe and did not heed the barking of dogs when suddenly a Boer voice shouted and almost immediately the report of a gun was followed by the whistle the bullet close by. Exhaustion and everything else were forgotten and we put a good distance between ourselves and the mealie patch before we ventured to stop. When we did pause for breath my comrade’s chagrin was a caution to witness. He only then discovered that he had left the haversack behind containing all our tobacco, matches, soap, towel, diary, tea dish and medicines. We walked on till daylight and then lay down in a hole the thickly grassed veldt, so well hidden that a man might have passed within a few metres and not have seen us.
On Monday the 30 April 1900 we lay resting all day with no shelter from the broiling sun, our clothes full of grass seeds and ourselves harassed by clouds of mosquitoes and put out of temper by the loss of our luxuries and Whittington's diary which if found we felt sure would lead to our recapture. Making through some rough country we struck a tributary of the Crocodile River and followed it down, camping close to it. On Wednesday, the 2 May 1900, we followed it off and on all day and all that night. I had cut that portion of my boot off which protects my ankle and fastened it by means of a bootlace over the toe, otherwise I could not have gone on as the country was a mass of stones.
On Thursday the 3rd, we came in sight of Waterval Boven and after resting for some hours we made our way down a difficult and steep slope and thoroughly exhausted, lay in sight of Waterval Onder railway station. Here we decided that our only way of escaping lay in boarding a goods train bound for Delagoa Bay, as our boots were worn out, our food would only last three days and our feet were too painful to walk much further. Our hope had been to find a Kaffir’s kraal on and after squaring the Kaffirs, to lie up for a few days, replenish our stores and get some more boots or veldtschosen; but we did not find a kraal. We waited until late that night before attempting to board a goods train which arrived about 20:00 and remained there for the night.
On Friday 4 May 1900, we crept alongside the line of trucks and seeing one containing wool bales marked in chalk in large letters ‘Lourenco Marques’ we lost no time in wriggling underneath the tarpaulin and secreting ourselves as well is possible amongst the bales. It was some hours before we got away, travelling was very slow and monotonous the train sometimes stopping for hours and shunting. We repeatedly wanted to cough at awkward moments and what we suffered in trying to stifle it can be better imagined than described. Late that night we stopped at the Komarti Poort as we now know; early the next morning the Boer officials commenced to search the train. At length they came to our truck. We first heard the ropes being untied then two Kaffirs mounted on top of the wool bales and pulled the tarpaulin up on both sides. We felt certain we would be discovered, when they assured one of the officials that no one was there and replaced the tarpaulin which they had actually piled right on top of us.
We were then able to breathe more freely but after the train moved off, being unable to look out, we were uncertain until midday whether we were in Portuguese territory or not. By 17:00 we reached Lourenco Marques (now Maputo in Mozambique) and like a pair of deadbeat tramps, as soon as the train stopped crawled out and dropped between two trucks and made up the line without looking round (there were plenty of people present) and walked into the town. We seemed to be treading on air and everything looked dizzy around and we experienced buzzing in our ears. We made straight for a kiosk standing at a corner and had a glass of beer apiece the Barman stared so hard at us that we told him who we were and he refused to take payment for the drinks and immediately called his wife and introduced us to her. He advised us to go it once to see the British Consul, which we did. We had to walk however as no rickshaw boy could be found who would undertake to carry such disreputables as fares.
The Consul (Captain Fritz Crow) accepted our story, congratulated us on being the first prisoners who had succeeded out of the many who had attempted to escape from Waterval camp, gave us an order for an outfitter and another for a hotel and then sent his Portuguese clerk down with us to see that we were properly provided for. On reaching a hotel we found quite a number of British subjects there, who informed us that owing to the explosion of Begbie's iron foundry, they had been put over the border from Johannesburg. I asked after an old friend of mine who was watching the interest of his company up there and was informed that he might be put over the border at any time. Happening to turn around at the moment, I saw the very person we were talking about pass through the room. I jumped up and caught him by the sleeve. He looked vacantly at me for a moment and then his face lit up. He held out his hand, saying ‘Ford, old man you are looking dreadful; what's the matter?’ Then followed explanations, which were listened to with the greatest of interest; and then, amongst friends our troubles were forgotten. The following week was the most enjoyable we ever spent, and the relish we had for our food was simply indescribable.” Milverton Ford [The Sydney Mail Saturday 30 June 1900]
The other prisoners, all fearfully thin and weak were liberated on 10 June 1900 when in a hazardous operation a force including two troops of New South Wales Lancers stormed the camp. Trooper Ford served until Lancer Squadron returned to Australia.
Transcription of Trooper Ford’s article published The Sydney Mail Saturday 30 June 1900 was by David Deasy. Editing and context notes by John Howells using information from the Regimental History.
In September 2011, when returning from a guiding job in Turkey, where I had again shown the Battlefields where the Regiment first fought in World War 1 to a group most of whom swam the Dardanelles as part of the Turkish Victory Day Ocean Swim, I travelled to South Africa. I was to conduct a reconnaissance so as to be able to guide the Boer War 110th Anniversary Tour in May and June 2012.
A tour of the Boer War battle sites cannot cover every engagement. It is essential therefore to visit the sites where key battles of significance took place. In mid-November 1899, the fighting 29, those members of the recently arrived from training in the UK Lancer Squadron able to be equipped were attached to the 9th Lancers in Lord Methuen’s column advancing north on South Africa’s western railway toward Kimberley. Kimberly then a rich Diamond mining town was in Cape Colony, but a few kilometres from the Orange Free State. It was under siege by the forces of General Cronje; an astute tactician.
Cronje had deployed the first of his covering forces at Belmont, on the rail line about 100 km from Kimberley. They were commanded by General Koos De la Rey.
Lance armed cavalry were best used against infantry in the open. Wellington had adopted the lance when he had seen what French lancers could do to his infantry squares. By 1899, infantry did not form square, but they often deployed quickly taking advantage of natural cover if available. A tactic forced on those deploying from horseback when on the move, and all of the Boer soldiers were mounted.
On 21 November 1899, reconnaissance party, consisting of the 9th Lancers, including the NSWL troop and Rimington's Guides, was ordered in advance to scout the area in the vicinity of Belmont. Heading out from Fincham's Farm (about 10 km south west of Belmont, near the rail line), they spied several hundred Boers climbing up a kopje (hill) at Belmont.
Our troop were used by the 9th Lancers as a rear-guard, ready to deploy and provide covering fire for withdrawal if necessary.
The following day, the British reached Thomas' Farm, three kilometres south of Belmont. The advance party of lancers had deployed forward and was fired upon by soldiers dug in and un-assailable by the lance. The rear-guard deployed, making use of available cover to provide covering fire with their rifles. The 9th Lancers were able to withdraw successfully.
This delivery of covering fire, whilst hardly the hand to hand combat Australian soldiers were to become renown for, was the first time Australians as part of an Australian unit in Australian uniforms had engaged in combat.
Methuen ordered the artillery forward to return fire and the Boer fire ceased. At midnight, the troops bivouacked and prepared for battle. The subsequent battle was fought by British regulars mostly Coldstream Guards. It was ultimately successful. The 9th Lancers, the NSW Lancer Troop a squadron of Rimmington Guides and a company of Mounted Infantry were the only mounted troops; and were thus used to follow up the Boer withdrawal toward the Modder River and Magersfontein where Lord Methuen’s column was eventually halted.
I found it very moving to stand at Belmont and look at the hills where our first soldiers, lancers from our regiment fought.
Needless to say the reconnaissance was successful, and I will be guiding the tour in May and June 2012; and we will be visiting Belmont along with many of the other places our Regiment fought in that first war. CLICK HERE for tour detail.
References: Regimental History, and Stephen Miller Die Suid-Afrikaanse Krygshistoriese Vereniging Journal December 1996.
Articles by David Craven (Lancers Despatch August 2009) and John Blackberry (Lancers Despatch August 2007) both spoke of the amazing exploits and of the great respect and affection soldiers felt for Major Sam Hordern OBE, MID, OC C Squadron 1943-1945. Of particular note were John Blackberry's words describing Major Hordern's leadership style: "In fact the whole squadron performed with diligence and purpose and the motivation came, I believe, from the fact that Sam Hordern made it a point of taking time each day whilst the operations were under way to informally tell the troops exactly what was happening and what the immediate tasks would be." a pretty amazing statement to be made by a subordinate; a lesson to us all. Shortly before his own passing John Blackberry sent in this clipping from "The Land" Centenary Special 2011, it tells the other side of Sam Hordern's life.
"A car accident in 1960 robbed the Australian livestock industry of one of its most passionate and innovative breeders. Sam Hordern was seriously injured while a passenger in a taxi which collided with a station wagon at Warwick Farm in south-west Sydney. He later died in hospital.
Hordern, 51, and his wife were on the way back to Sydney after a visit to their showplace property, "Retford Park", near Bowral.
He was a member of a wealthy and influential family and had a privileged upbringing which included attending England's Cambridge University to study law and economic history. His wife, June Baillieu, whom he married in 1934, was also a member of a rich and powerful Melbourne family. But despite his well to do background, Sam Hordern was well liked for his sense of humour and democratic nature, two traits which served him well when he was president of the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW from 1954 until his death.
He was also popular with his men during the Second World War where he served in the Middle East and later in Papua New Guinea and Borneo where he rose to the rank of major, commanded a tank squadron and was mentioned in despatches.
After the war he returned to his career as a stockbroker but soon left to pursue his real passion - livestock breeding, including cattle, sheep, pigs, horses, dogs and pheasants. He played a key role - as a founding partner in King Ranch Australia - in the import of Santa Gertrudis cattle and quarter horses into Australia. Hordern bought a controlling interest in Yulgilbar Station on the Clarence River on the NSW North Coast in 1949 where he established a Santa Gertrudis stud (the stud and the station are now owned by his daughter, Sarah, and her husband, Baillieu Myer, and managed by the 2007 NSW Farmer of the Year, Rob Sinnamon). Like his father, Sir Samuel Hordern, and his maternal grandfather, Sir John See (who was also Premier of NSW), Sam Hordern was president of the RAS of NSW and a keen supporter of country shows.
Prior to becoming RAS president in 1954 he was the ringmaster at the Sydney Show (1949-54) when he became a popular and familiar figure dressed in jodhpurs, hacking jacket and trilby, and mounted on his horse, "Christmas".
In the early 1950s he started moves to create the Equestrian Federation of Australia to represent all independent horse breeds, bodies and disciplines within the scope of the agricultural societies and was the foundation president (from 1952) of its federal council.
He built an equestrian centre at "Retford Park" and worked hard to raise sponsorship for Australia's first Olympic equestrian team which competed in Stockholm in 1956.
"Retford Park" is now owned by James Fairfax, who has bequeathed the property to the State on his death."
Vernon Graham "The Land"
The Australian Dictionary of Biography gives us an insight into Sam's military career prior to joining the Regiment. After serving for a year as a provisional lieutenant in the 2nd Armoured Car Regiment, Militia, Sam Hordern was commissioned in the Australian Imperial Force on 15 June 1940 and posted to the 7th Divisional Cavalry Regiment. He sailed for the Middle East in December and commanded the regiment's No.13 Troop in Cyprus in 1941. His democratic manner made him popular with his men who affectionately called him 'Sambo'. An unfailing sense of humour and a knowledge of humanity added force to his leadership.
Returning to Australia in March 1942, the now Captain Hordern embarked for Papua in September. He and his soldiers fought as infantry (cavalry commandos) on the Sanananda Track in December 1942 and January 1943. Posted home again, he was promoted major in August and that month joined the 1st Australian Army Tank Battalion (later the 1st Armoured Regiment - both (Royal New South Wales Lancers)) at Milne Bay, Papua, as commander of C Squadron. In operations in precipitous jungle on New Guinea's Huon Peninsula in November-December he reconnoitered enemy positions on foot and kept his tanks up with the leading infantry; his efforts minimized casualties among Australian troops. He was mentioned in dispatches and appointed OBE (1945). Having taken part in the capture of Balikpapan, Borneo, in July 1945; he transferred to the Reserve of Officers on 6 December.
Major David Brown was able to offer the following from his research, it completes the picture:
MAJ Sam Hordern CMG, OBE, MID pursued pastoral interests after the war and introduced the American Santa Gertrudis breed of Cattle to Australia. He was President of the Royal Agriculatural Society of NSW from 1954-60, a Director of AMP, a Committee Member of the Australian Jockey Club and member of the Union Club, Australian Club, Melbourne Club and Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron. He was tragically killed in a car accident near Liverpool on 25 July 1960. A posthumous portrait by Sir William Dargie is held by the RAS NSW and the Hordern Memorial Trophy for jumping is awarded each year by the Bowral Horse Show. The Sam Hordern Memorial Horse Race over 1,400 metres is held at Tabulum every November. Every year at the Royal Easter Show the Hordern Trophy is awarded to the Supreme Beef Breed.
What I found interesting about this was:
By the way Retford Park is now a posh country retreat called the 'Milton Park Country Hotel'.
I have just received a copy of the "Lancers" Despatch" No 21 August 2011 and wish to thank the Association for forwarding each issue – which I greatly enjoy reading.
It is now 17 years since my husband died – his army particulars were NX113815 FAUNT ROY, Royal NSW Lancers, known as "Pancho" to all his army mates. He was a very proud "ex-tankie" (his description).
I noted reported in this issue of the despatch (by David Craven) the death of Noel (Sorlie) O’Brien. He and Roy were in a large group of young men from South Western NSW who entered camp at Cowra NSW. Both came from the Temora district. They were in the 3rd Army Tank Battalion and later transferred to No 2 Troop, A Squadron. So many of those young men and later their wives became lifelong friends.
Please find enclosed my donations to both the Association and the Museum.
My family are greatly interested in Grandpa’s Army Years – he wrote in great detail of those times. Our son has lived in Papua New Guinea for almost forty years and is now in Lae so knows the area the tanks were in in World War 2. All my six grandsons are greatly interested as the modern young men seem to be.
Again my sincere thanks for the interest of the Association in sending me each issue.
In the late 1980s the late Hugh Hicks, Frank Holles, Bill Cross, Harry Crampton the late Reg Swadling and I had the great privilege to work for Colonel Tom Arrowsmith MG organising a series of Corps TEWTS at Puckapunyal. We knew we were working for someone whom we could recognise as an inspirational leader. We knew that his Vietnam service was exemplary and involved an incident where his leadership and courage had saved many lives, he did not tell us the story. This is his medal citation:
"Captain Thomas Arrowsmith graduated from Royal Military College, Duntroon on 11 December 1963 and was allotted to The Royal Australian Armoured Corps. He joined A Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment in South Vietnam in October 1968, and was transferred to B Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment in May 1969.
On 19 January 1969, Captain Arrowsmith was the Commander of a combined Special Air Service, infantry and cavalry ambush which had been observing an enemy 'supply route for several days. At 1715 hours a successful ambush was initiated against an enemy party. Several hours later the enemy probed the ambush site and attempted to overrun the Special Air Service position. Captain Arrowsmith calmly deployed his troop and with skilful timing and fire control extracted the Special Air Service group to safety, without casualties.
On 29 May 1969, Captain Arrowsmith was deployed in combined infantry and cavalry ambush sites on Route 328. At 2030 hours, two ambush points were initiated against a force of over 50, resulting in substantial casualties to the enemy. Throughout the night Captain Arrowsmith calmly controlled his troops in the ambush sites, reassuring his force by his own confidence, although out of artillery range and expecting an enemy counter attack at any time. Next day, in returning to base down Route 328, he again came in contact with the enemy. In close country and whilst being fired upon by enemy rocket launchers, he skilfully manoeuvred his force, completely routing the enemy, without casualties to his troops."
Colonel Arrowsmith, now retired, regularly attends RAACA NSW Cambrai dinners.
Bert Castelleri and David Craven unless otherwise noted.
JOHN BLACKBERRY of Lugarno. on 12 August 2011, aged 88. John joined our 1st Light Horse Machine gun Regiment in May 1940 at Randwick. Others from Sydney eastern suburbs enlisted about the same time, and they became good friends in 1 Troop A Squadron. In early 1941 there was a three months training camp at Walgrove, and later in the year full time duty began. Universal Service personnel joined in December, with Japan entering the war. The regiment became 1st Aust Army Tank Battalion with Matilda tanks issued at Singleton in September 1942. Along the way John was promoted to Corporal. He was liked and respected in A Squadron and he did his job well. With new rules applying, the regiment became an AIF unit in September 1942. In February 1943, with intakes from the 2nd and 3rd Tank Battalions, we were at full strength and ready for overseas service as part of 4th Armoured Brigade. In May, we moved to Queensland and did more training, some of it amphibious with US Navy in June and July. Then it was off to New Guinea. After time at Milne Bay and Morobe, C squadron supported 9th Div in the successful operations at Sattelberg. Then A Squadron took over in December 43 for the advance up the Huon Peninsula, also successful. They had done a good job, and had proved that Matilda tanks were suitable as infantry support in jungle country. They came back to Australia in May 1944, without tanks. which were passed over to 4th Armoured Regt at Madang.
On 1 July 1945, A and B Squadrons supported 7th Division in successfully landing at Balikpapan, Borneo. John was crew commander of tank "Assegai' in 3 Troop A Squadron. Just four days later, on 5th July, the troop went to Manggar to give support to infantry, and all three tanks were knocked out by a concealed 120 mm naval gun which was destroyed next day. A young engineer attached to us was killed, six of our crewmen were wounded; John was one of them. He was thankfully rescued by a young stretcher bearer and taken to safety. With war ended John helped restore order and take Japanese prisoners. He got home and was discharged in May 1946. Around 60 years later he learnt that his rescuer was Doug Watkins and they met up. Doug is a Major in the Salvation Army, and he conducted John's funeral service at Rookwood cemetery on 18 August 2011. Our wartime veterans there were Doug Beardmore and Bert Castellari, while other good mates were not able to make it. Post war members president included past Honorary Colonel Major General Warren Glenny, current Honorary Colonel Lee Long, Association president Len Koles, secretary Ross Baker and treasurer Brian Walters, and several others.
In the post war years John attended our reunions after they started/and other events. He joined the Lancers' Association Committee in 1983, and became Welfare Officer soon after, and he was dedicated to this duty, as he was able. He almost certainly visited more members who were sick or in hospital, and attended more funerals than anyone. He also sent sympathy cards and kept contact with widows and other members. On committee he plenty of good suggestions and opinions. In my years as secretary I foud him supportive and helpful, as well as being a good mate. John also contributed regularly to Lancers' Despatch with articles of interest. He had involvement in getting a tank memorial at Balikpapan, and also the Lancers Memorial Plaque at Australian War Memorial, which he designed and he and Ted Martin unveiled in August 2005. Several of our members attended that event, as reported in Lancers' Despatch No 10. Two special contributions were to LD 16 (memories of the 1940s) and LD18 (memories of Balikpapan and Manggar). Both are well worth re-reading by those who have back copies (for those reading this on the web, simply follow the links). In 1995 John organised the strip below our banner at the Anzac Day March which said "now 110 years old". It has been progressively updated.
In 1946 John joined the Police, serving in uniform at Darlinghurst until 1949, when he changed to Plain Clothes, serving at Albury. He was later posted back to Sydney to serve in the CIB until he resigned in 1955. He later became an Administration Officer in the NSW Public Works Department, until he retired at 60 in 1982. John married Nell Brownlee in 1957. She was known as Liz to some friends. They had a daughter that was stillborn, and unfortunately they couldn't have any more children. She sadly died in 1996, just short of their 40th anniversary. John's niece Maureen Coleman has been a very caring lady to John through the years, especially the later ones, when John used to often visit her and husband David at their farm at Tallwood, near Blaney. After having treatment for a difficult condition at Bathurst Private Hospital, John was there when he died. He will be sadly missed and well remembered by surviving mates from army days, and by other good friends and family.
JOHN HEWETT. Listed in Reveille of September/October 2011. Born in Ballina on 19 November, 1919, he was almost 92. He is not on our roll. His number was NX55456 which was outside the range of most I Armoured Regiment members and suggests he may have been transferred from another unit as a specialist or to fill a particular role. He enlisted at Paddington in November, 1941, and was discharged in October, 1944, so he probably served in New Guinea.
PETER KING of Wilcannia passed away on 9 January 2011. Peter served with the regiment for some years in the mid 1980s. He held the rank of captain, having previously served with 4/19 PWLH. He went to the Reserve of Officers when posted to Wilcannia for work reasons. (Thanks to Ron Logan, Peter's cousin for this advice)
KEITH CHARLES LINNERT. Listed on our roll but we know from that only that he lived in Burwood. He was born on 7 July, 1921, so he made it to 91. He was born in Sydney and enlisted at Greta in August,1942, transferring from the militia. He was discharged in November, 1945, and probably served in New Guinea and Borneo.
GEORGE PENNICOOK of Kincumber aged 86. George was on our list of World War 2 veterans, AWM records indicating he served in 10 Ordnance Vehicle Park AAOC in support of the Regiment. Gourge was most generous to the Museum and Association in the years before his passing. (Thanks to Lesley George's son for this advice)
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:
Brian Algie, Bill Balchin, Brian Bourke, Ron Brettle, Arthur Bulgin, Ron Cable, David Craven, Christopher Dawson, June Faunt, Peter Giudes, Kevin Hobbs, Neville Kingcott, Jack Lamb, Chris Lawley, Mark Luke, Keiran Macrae, James McCann, Joan McDonald, Alfred (Snow) McEwan, John McPhee, Sam Mifsud, Richard O'Dell, Jack Rolfe, Joyce Sharpe, Alan Stewart, William Wallington.
and the following the Museum:
Bill Balchin, Tony Beechey, Brian Bourke, Arthur Bulgin, Ron Cable, Joseph CAMILLERI, David Craven, Christopher Dawson, June Faunt, John Gates, Peter Giudes, Therese Holles, Neville Kingcott, Jack Lamb, Chris Lawley, Mark Luke, Keiran Macrae, Joan McDonald, Alfred (Snow) McEwan, Don McMillan, John McPhee, Sam Mifsud, Richard O'Dell, Peter Quilty, Jack Rolfe, Joyce Sharpe, Alan Stewart, William Wallington.
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.
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Click Here for the Museum Shop.
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.
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